Monday, October 31, 2005

Everlasting Mercy

To get the whole world out of bed
And washed, and dressed, and warmed, and fed
To work, and back to bed again,
Believe me, Saul, costs worlds of pain.

John Masefield

Does any other mother relate to this quote like I do this morning?

Friday, October 28, 2005

Attention all cooks

Anyone have an excellent chili recipe to share? It's such a great time of year for that sort of comfort food, and I haven't ever found a recipe to stick with. I need vegetarian and carnivorous suggestions please.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Joy Ride

I,not my husband, own a 1959 red Ford truck. I named her Sally. Some of the red is the actual manufacturer's paint on her body and rust makes up the rest. I've mentioned before she's quite difficult to drive mostly because the brakes have never quite worked and a tire is always going flat. There is no inner tube in the tire and one has to fervently pray filling it with air. One must plead with the Almighty that the tire won't explode and kill the poor soul watching it expand to it's drivable round shape. While we've had both the brakes and tire have been repaired, no permanent fix has taken hold. I love the romantic country way the Sally looks, but she's not a practical vehicle since she's rarely ready to roll.

The tow truck pulled up today to drag my old girl away to the garage again. The driver asked a question which caused to me to laugh out loud. We'll keep that question a secret till the end of this post.

This particular tow truck driver must be assigned to our house specifically. The same large tattooed man has lumbered to our farm several times for Sally and other times for another vehicle in need of repair. One can distinguish the big black towing monster's rumble as it winds up our long gravel driveway.

Last year when Sally was towed away for repair at Carter's Garage in Sweetwater, TN, I got a phone call.
Mr. C: "You missin' a cat?"
Me: "Pardon me?"
Mr. C.: "You missin' a cat. When me and the tow truck driver done opened the truck's hood, a big ole'cat jumped outta the engine."
Me: "There were some wild cats living under the shed where the truck stays parked. Maybe one of them jumped in there and took a ride to your garage."
Mr. C.: "It was wild. Cain't catch it."
Me: "Don't worry about it Mr. Carter. I'm glad that wild cat's gone then. Thanks."

I hung up and casually went about my daily business. I began a reading lesson with Wise One and I spied Janet, our pesky cat, out of the corner of my eye. Noticing her gave me cause to poke around and find our other cat, Patches. Patches is Peace's best friend in the world. After I searched inside and out I asked the children, "Have you seen Patches anywhere? Help me find him." After a while of looking, the color began to drain from my face with the sad realization that Patches may have taken a long free ride from home.

I phoned Mr. Carter.
Me: "Mr. Carter, what color was the cat which jumped out of the truck?"
Mr. C.: "White with brown patches like."
Me: (trying to keep panic out of my voice) "The wild cat was grey and black. The white and brown one you saw is a family pet, my son's cat. He loves that guy more than anything in this world. Can you try and catch him again? I'll be right there to pick him up."
Mr. C.: "I done tried and hit won't come nigh."

I dashed around the house scooping up children, shoes, jackets, and began shouting orders,
"EVERYONE in the van now. We have to go look for something really important."

Tator asks as we clamber into the van, "What is it mom?"

I mustered a happy mommy voice to say, "Don't worry now. We will find what we are looking for. It seems Patches got in the hood of the red truck and hitched a ride to see Mr. Carter at the garage."

"Dear God, pllleeeaasssee let Patches be okay." Peace cried out in terror. He caught the seriousness of the situation immediately. He knew Mr. Carter's Garage sits on a terribly busy highway, and his best friend was horribly lost and in danger.

The children literally prayed for safe keeping for the cat, and we all tried to comfort Peace's broken heart on the fifteen minute drive.

When we arrived, Mr. C. Pointed yonder and told us, "I ain't seen that cat nowheres since hit jumped and tore off thataway."

The children and I called his name, "Patches, Patches, kiiiittttyyy. Come, here boy. Paaaatccchhhes" as we hoofed the surrounding neighborhood in the direction Mr. C. indicated. We went to dozens of peoples houses and knocked. We talked with anyone who would answer the door. We pleaded our "cat finding case" and left our phone numbers for anyone who would take it. After an hour of traipsing about Sweetwater, I announced, "We will not give up until we find him, but we're going to drive around instead of walk for a while."

As my bunch headed back to Carter's parking lot/junkyard to our van, Pooh Bear, who was three years old at the time giggles, "There he is." We all turned our bodies to locate what on earth she saw, and there, lo and behold, the wayward cat proudly emerged from under the wrecked heap of a torn up car. Peace ran to scoop up Patches while sobbing with relief. "I was so worried about you. Please don't you ever leave me again." He buried his tears into Patches fur. Mr. C. Stepped out of his office overhearing the commotion and spoke, "Son, you don't have to cry. He looks like he ain't hurt or nothin'. Gracious, such a fuss over a feline."

Patches, who doesn't enjoy car rides, mewed nervously the whole ride home. My clan returned home with hearts and cats intact. In fact, our hearts expressed thanks for answered prayer about a prodigal stowaway.

This is why the tow truck driver's knowing question about the old red truck today produced laughter from me.
"Got any cats in there?"

Sunday, October 23, 2005


Bright Minds Publishing Company has successfully convinced me that my children need to think critically. Most days my children have logic puzzles as an academic assignment. Not owning the most logical of brains, I muddle through with the children. However, at times, I am forced to ask them to wait for Buck to come home and tell them how to proceed. I just can't always figure things out. This is precisely why Hillary Clinton wrote the book _It takes a Village_, which I never intend to read. The title tells me what I already know. My brain cannot do all things on its own; I NEED other folks helping me and teaching my children.
My husband found a website which has an array of logic puzzles- He handed the boys new sudokus (number squares puzzles)each day. Wise One loves this type of thing and asks for more at every turn. Friday Buck printed up an easy one to have us all race filling in the numbers. Buck finished light years ahead of us all, me second, and Wise One third. Peace quit before he was finished. Little did Buck know that he'd unleashed a sudoku passion in me when asking me to race. Since Friday, I print up a new easy sudoku in every spare moment. While dinner cooks, I work on these sheets. After picking the garden, I puzzle. I do a sudoku between brushing my teeth and flossing.
I'll know I'll quit after I get past the easy puzzles, because I'd rather read. I just haven't found the right book to start just yet. I like book my husband would deem "girl books"- Amy Tan, Barbara Kingsolver, Jane Austin, Gene Stratton Porter. Any suggestions for my next book? I've got to wean myself from these sudokus somehow...

Our new chicks growing into hens

Friday, October 21, 2005

For Thicket Dweller

Finally a veiw from the front porch.

Wise One Picking Peppers

I took this photo in the garden. Butterflies are all over the second batch of zinnias.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Logic verses Truth

An illuminating conversation with some excellent thinkers yesterday led me to these comments.

Logic eludes me at times. I become stubborn and unteachable. I don't remain open to different ways of learning. However, I do value logic. Logic is a great path for a bright mind to follow, but I recognize its limits. There is no inherent beauty in it. In fact, the path can even conclude at nothingness, harshness, even stark despair. Someone I love does not love me. I hurt and there is no way out of this pain. I envy. I can't change. Sometimes logic lacks something essential at its core- mercy.

There is an alternative with exceeds logic. Truth. Truth has a fundamental beauty. In truth there is purpose, meaning, love. Even if the truth is difficult, one will find hope linked alongside it. Someone dear does not love me, but I can still freely and deeply love. I will not hurt forever. I have all I need; I lack for nothing. I can find the help I need to change.
Truth offers hope.

Buck and his fancy MiMi knitted hat.
True Vyne Garden, on this late day of the season.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Another Secret

I'd like to become a famous movie critic, but I'm not so sure I have the talent for it. You decide...

A Very Long Engagement=A Very Long Movie

Ordinary Day

The sky is almost white today from the bright light of fall.
Why does fall produce such a brilliant shimmer and not as much heat as the summer sun? I do understand our position on earth is farther away from the sun and not as warm, but why am I blinded by it's light in the fall like no other time of year? It has not been cold enough here in Tennessee yet to wrestle the green out of the leaves and splash the landscape with egg yolk yellows, blazing reds, and bursting oranges. The burn of summer is on its way out the door so far leaving behind a fading green. The bell peppers and tomatoes in my garden still produce daily; so far we've experieced no freezing temperatures at night. New volunteer seedlings spring up from the ground- zinnias, dill, tomatoes, melons, beans because of the plants which I allowed to go to seed. It'll be a little sad to see all those cute babies wiped out from the first frost. My lettuce has rejuvenated in the cool, and our family will have some nice salad if the bugs don't beat me to it first.

The sweet smell of baking fills my house. It's a cooking day. Have I mentioned before that I love to grow food, but I don't like to cook? In fact, I'm a bad cook. Though my step father while I was growing up was a chef(!), I was too full of attitude and arrogance to learn anything from him. Flavoring food does not come naturally to me. I don't know how to pick recipes from cookbooks or magazines which will taste good. I don't have a knack for inventing or following recipes. I secretly pick my friends on the basis of the excellence of their cooking skills- the better the cook, the closer the friend. I even keep friends who won't read my blog (Helen)if they invite me over to dinner now and then.

I'm forcing myself to cook for three reasons today. I'm making a meal for a friend's family of six boys while she is out of town for a week. Six boys will be too hungry to care about the quality of the food as they gulp and guzzle. I'm baking cookies to benefit a bake sale for another friend's trip to India. She'll interpret sign language for a doctor on a medical mission for the poor in April. If I adhere strictly to the instructions on the Nestle's chocolate chip package, I can make a mean Tollhouse cookie someone will actually enjoy. I'm also cooking for my own family. Please never let the proverbial cat out of the bag that other children do not have to suffer through such bland and tasteless meals. They'll find out soon enough on their own that their mother lacks gourmet talent.

In the evening, I'll meet my Uncle W at soccer practice for Wise One. I'll take him a plate since he works here during the week but lives out of town, and he'll compliment my supper. He's a kind man. His wife, my Aunt Gaye, is one the best southern belles and southern cooks of all time. She, however, does all her cooking after midnight and I couldn't possibly stay up that late to learn the fine art of frying chicken and canning apples.

I don't want to leave the impression that my shortfalls inhibit me from inviting people over for dinner. I don't let burned buns and boring casseroles stand in the way of time with dear friends. Stop on by when you're passing through TN. I'll serve something, and we'll spend the rest of the night emmensely enjoying ourselves together in conversation.

Friday, October 14, 2005


I thought I'd share a few things from this day.

While I'm getting my blog and chocolate fix this afternoon I have this little converstation as my little girl twists herself up in the long linen tan with roses curtain on the window next to my computer.

Pooh Bear: "Mommy, will it ever be night in heaven?"
Me: "Dunno, but I sure love stars."
Pooh Bear: "The stars ARE the light for heaven, mommy."

Earlier, I found Peace off task from his homescool again. He's eleven, but I practially have to stalk the boy to keep him on track with his academics. Peace is the kind of guy who would rather build forts than perform fractions, make a sword from cardboard and masking tape than sit write a paragraph. Around noon, I found him sitting with Pooh Bear going through Brain Quest for kindergardeners. I kept out of sight and listened.
Peace: "How many legs does a spider have?
Pooh: "I don't know."
Peace: "Eight, say Eight."
Pooh: "Eight."
Peace: "Correct. What's wrong in this picture?"
Pooh: "Humpty Dumpty is on a log not on a wall."
Peace: "Correct. You get a star!"
He leads her to an envelope he'd prepared with stars he cut out for her.
Peace: "What's missing on this picture?"
Pooh:"The horse doesn't have it's tail, silly." Giggle.
Peace: "Correct. You earn another star. Let's count how many stars you have."

He stayed guiding Pooh gently through fun and learning activities for half an hour.
I certainly did not interrupt to redirect Peace back to his lesson list. It felt like I was smack in the middle of the Priceless commercial.

Wise One happens to have the dream personality for the homeschooling mother. He gets his work out the night before it's due and begins. "I want a day off tommorrow, so I'm doing my homeschool tonight." In the morning, before I'm out of bed, the boy is handing me his completed lessons for checking. He's spent this day building with the erector set after he made his corrections.

Tator moans when I assign his language work. He grunts and sighs when he's working on math. "Why do I have to take another spelling test if I took one with Dad yesterday?" and "Why does anyone care about denominators anyhow?" He'd rather be running the United States of America than doing schoolwork. I ask him to put down Peace's copy of _The Hobbit_ and later Wise One's _Mrs. Piggle Wiggle_ and get back to HIS assignments.

I've spent the day successfully pushing the nagging thought from my mind, "I should get everything out for an early dinner." We're taking the boys and some friends to see Matt Redman and Chris Tomlin in concert. I would much rather and willingly make a home cooked meal for Matt and Chris then gather in our living room with instruments than rocking with 2,000 other people in a crowded auditorium. Since we actually don't know these men, but just feel like we do through their music, we'll have to settle for the latter.

Thursday, October 13, 2005


It's a fact that mothers can tell the difference in the cries of children. One cry means "I'm mad", another "I'm annoyed". Still another means "I need to be close to you." I recognized right away yesterday when I visited Nadine, my 43 year old cousin in a persistent vegetative state, that she was in pain by her cry. Her body uncomfortably curved in a parentheses to the right. Her face, resting on a towel to catch drool and tears, nearly touched the bed rail, and her blood shot eyes squinted and strained in the opposite direction. She grunted and slightly verbalized a puff of the sound "bbbbbuuu"- a sound I've heard from unattended children in a crying spell. Her ruddy expression drew all her facial features tightly together and nearly matched the color of the short auburn curls on her head.
"Nadine, can you talk to me with your eyes? I want to help. I'll ask as many questions as it takes."


"I can see you are really hurting, but I am willing to try anything if you can blink for me to tell you what you want."

No change. My plans instantly blown to really give her some time the way she might like it. She was hurting too much, been like that so long, she couldn't or wouldn't respond.

On the hundred mile drive to the nursing home, I lectured myself. Nadine has no choices about her own life, and today I will try and give her something she asks for. I will put aside my inadequacies and insecurities and find a way to be with Nadine for the afternoon. I carefully constructed sentences I hoped to convey to prevent rambling on nervously as I had last visit. I drew deep breaths thinking about the tension I'd feel with simply sitting and being with my friend. I will simply ask yes and no questions until...

I packed a fingernail kit, a Countryside Magazine, _Chicken Soup for the Mother's Soul_, _What's so Amazing About Grace?_, _Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe_, _Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintainance_, and lotion into my deep purple Chinese silk book bag. The Plumeria lotion, a special gift from my workout buddy Cecily, had been given to me just for Nadine. Cecily had massaged her own dying mother with this particular brand, and Cecily couldn't since bring herself to use the lotion herself due to the memories which flooded her when she opened the cap. These tools were specifically selected in hopes for me to connect with Nadine.

I visited with her mother, Willa, first and asked if she'd like me to wheel her to Nadine's room for the visit with me. "True, they've moved Nadine to the room attached to my bathroom. I go sit with her all the time. She's going to get better. In fact, she has more feeling in her limbs than ever. She can't talk, but she grunts now." This was great news to me. Before,though they were placed in the same nursing home, Nadine and Willa could have been miles apart because of the long hallways Willa was physically unable to navigate through to get to Nadine's room. Nadine now has the tender and constant love of her mother just beyond that wall every single day. It also occured to me that Willa's generous spirit might draw kindness out in the staff tending Nadine.

I'd snuck in some contraband homemade chocolate cookies for Aunt Willa, because she's on the diabetic diet, and she savored each one. Willa, and probably everyone else there, hates the nursing home food. I don't blame her one bit; the stuff on her lunch plate didn't look more enticing than what I feed my dog everyday. Aunt Will offered me pale greens and diabetic fruit punch a number of times. "No thanks. I've eaten." I was thinking that what I ate yesterday counted as "I've eaten" as I spoke the words. I cut and filed Aunt Willa's nails and read a passage from a book she wanted to share with me. We talked about family members and our lives with one another. Then I walked the ten steps to Nadine's room.

That's when I found Nadine sobbing. My plan failed so quickly, and I sat there wishing I could do something, anything, to ease her pain. A nurse's aide entered, and queried the normal,"You her sister?"

I asked, "Cousin. Last time I visited she didn't seem like she was in so much pain. Is there anything we can do?"

"No, she cries like that all the time. She'll get some pain medicine in her IV when it's scheduled."


The nurse mumbled something about me leaving the room for a few minutes, and I obeyed. I moved next door back into Aunt Willa's room who matter-of-factly answered my inquiry, "She cries like that, because she wants us to know she's still all there and trying to get back to us." My aunt is one of the kindest people I've ever met, but I was terribly uncomforted by this reply. Nadine wants us to know she is hurting and can nothing about it.

When the aide opened the door again, Nadine had been straightened from her curve to a more upright position, and the nurse was dragging out a garbage bag. Nadine wasn't sobbing anymore, and it was obvious to me her crying had been a way to ask for repositioning or a change of pads! I flashed with anger thinking how the caregiver couldn't or wouldn't make this simple deduction. Nadine held a squinted gaze on some dorky daytime soap opera on the television above, a show neither she or her roommate could have chosen to watch. I moved to make eye contact to communicate with her again. If I wasn't not terribly mistaken, Nadine looked miffed. I tried to meet her pupils with mine but she looked beyond me with her the slit of her one open eye.

"I can tell you aren't hurting anymore. Would you like to try and talk with your eyes? I've brought some books and I wanted to know if you'd like to listen as I read one?"

No response.

I open _Chicken Soup for a Mother's Soul_ and read a sappy story. I tried two more hokey stories as I watched for Nadine to look my way. Again, no response.

I chided myself for reading such dumb material to her. The stories were about mothers who could get out of bed, feed themselves, go to the grocery store while Nadine unwillingly required all this and much more to be done for her. She couldn't will her own twelve year old daughter Rose to visit much less bake cookies for her.

"Nadine, I'm going to read from one of my favorite books now. I wonder if you've read this."

I lifted the cover to her and cracked open _The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe_. I jumped in reading in my excellent theatrical voice with Chapter I "Lucy Looks into a Wardrobe". When I looked up for a response this time, Nadine was staring directly me at me. She didn't look mad anymore and her eyes were opened much wider than they had been. I lost my place in the book as I quietly celebrated joy and relief that I finally found a moment directly with her that day. I skimmed to find my place and continued reading about Narnia, fauns, lampposts, snow, sleighs for quite some time. I placed my hand on Nadine's arm and stroked it gently as I read. A nurse stuck her head in the door, and blushed that I noticed her. "Uhhhhh, hello" she stammered and quickly popped her head back out the door. Nadine listened intently and never averted her gaze from me. I paused as another nurse came into remove Nadine's feet and hand splints. These were on her to help prevent the natural atrophy which occurs in paralysis over time. It was the opportunity I'd prayed for to massage Nadine with the lotion. "May I put some lotion on her hands and feet?" I asked permission from the nurse.

"Sure. I bet she'd like that."

I uncapped the bottle near Nadine's nose and said, "This is Plumeria scented. I hope you like it."

No response, but she didn't turn her eyes away either. First, I noticed all Nadine's nails had been recently neatly trimmed. Nadine's limbs jumped a bit sometimes as I rubbed in the cream. I took a while lingering on each joint remembering a yummy hand massage the manicurists gave me last time I got my nails done. The Plumeria scent mixed in with the not-so-pleasant nursing home smells stayed with me until my shower the next day.

I leisurely finished another chapter of Narnia after the massage, and offered my love and a kiss on Nadine's forehead.

I stepped next door to gave my goodbyes and hugs to Aunt Willa. I promised to bring my children and dear husband to see her soon.

The nursing home took me to another world very outside my own. The time there always seems to stand still, and yet it feels sacred. It is my joy to step out of the chaos of four children, a farm, being a wife to simply chat in the calming presence of my dear Aunt and share a story with my cousin.

On the long drive home, Buck and I talked on my cell. He explained a crazy water leak in the yard, and I jolted back into my daily grind. Not to worry, I'd escape the daily grind again and enter another world with my own children when we snuggled together on the couches under the cover of comforters to read another chapter of _Christy_.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


This blog is part of an idea found on Thicketdweller's blog- I don't know enough blogs to tag yet, so I just gave the questions a whirl...

What were you doing 10 years ago?

In '95, I blundered my way through the first year of my son's life as a brand spanking new stay at home mother. I'd never been so flabbergasted by an occupation. Previously I tutored twenty energetic children from project housing and dragged them on field trips all over creation. Somehow I managed fine. When one wrinkly newborn birthed to me, I fell to pieces. Thank God for a dear friend, Anita. It was her first year of motherhood too, and her steady hand guided us both through the great turmoils of babyhood. We joined natural food co-ops, cooked almost every meal together, and made up workout classes for moms with babies.
Buck and I decided it best we find another baby (I never wanted to give birth again), so I wouldn't focus all my neurosis on just one poor creature, our son Peace. So, we began and completed foster-to-adopt classes ending with a foster newborn in our care.

What were you doing 5 years ago?
Our family moved from the downtown city to try out the 'burbs. We bought the most gorgeous cedar shingled home with stained glass windows, fantastic landscaping, hardwood, front porch swing on a the dead end of a perfect street. Perfect lasted a month or two... I also discovered true love that year with the birth of my daughter Pooh Bear, my fourth. I think an article of mine "Catechesis of the Good Shepherd- a work of joy and wonder" may have been published in Montessori Today and Tommorrow's Child that year.

What were you doing one year ago?
Two years ago we fled the 'burbs and bought a little farm. Soon after I hopped when I should have hipped in my dance class and ended up tearing my knee to pieces. I ended a loonnggg rehab from that incident last year. I also took up the creation of Truevyne Garden- a home to many fairies, organically grown veggies, and fragrant flowers. I also acted as midwife to my first goat kids ever.

5 snacks
chocolate chip cookies

5 songs I know all the words to-

My husbands wants to know if I have to know all the RIGHT words to the song for this to count?

White Coral Bells- Lori Berkner
Secret World- Peter Gabriel
We Belong Together- Rickie Lee Jones
Been a While- Stained
Stronger Than Pride (entire Sade album)

5 things you would do if you had a million dollars
HARDWOOD FLOORS all over my house
build a guest cabin and fancy barn
pay off debt
live in Xian, China for a year and buy plane tickets for family and friends to visit
fully support TRIBE ONE of Knoxville's staff

5 things you like doing-
something physical
CGS with the little ones and adults
watching great movies

5 bad habits
biting my nails
being short tempered with those I love most
making up words when I can't remember the right one
judging harshly
never checking my cell phone voice mail

5 things I would never wear again
Goth duds
Puffy lavendar bridemaid dress
Spiked heels
Jumpers with watermelons embroidered on them

5 favorite toys
art supplies

Friday, October 07, 2005

I ask a dangerous question

I've asked the question of my children, "What makes me different from other moms?"
Here are their unedited (yikes!) answers.
1. You don't let us watch tv.
2. You don't let us have game systems.
3. You homeschool us.
4. You make us eat broccoli, but we like it.
5. You've been China without getting arrested.
6. We have to get our academic work done by 12, or we don't get special privileges like computer time.
7. We don't get real allowances from you. We get money for work when most kids get allowance for things like getting up in the morning.
8. When you do let us watch tv, it's Extreme Makeover Home Edition, but not to mention we haven't seen it in five weeks.
9. You took us to see Star Wars episode three on opening night.
10. You know how to milk a goat and taught us how to.
11. You let us have the second biggest dog in the world- a Great Pyreneese. Most moms would freak out when they see our dog Ripley.
12. You're so good at gardening we've still got tomatoes today, October 7.
13. You get drunk from half a glass of wine, but I've never seen you do it.
14. You bought soap molds a long time ago and have never made soap.
15. You told us not to name our chickens, but Dad named a few.
16. Your son is a Star Trek Nerd.
17. You always change the color of your hair.
18. You go the gym.
19. You cry at every single movie, including the previews for Narnia. I saw you cry at the ballet The Nutcracker.
20. You won't let me get a paintball gun.
21. You laughed the whole movie of Elf.
22. You let us go to Dollywood, and you'll go on every ride.
23. You are a daredevil.
24. You like to bake chocolate chip cookies.
25. I can't remember a meal you cooked that I didn't like.
26. You're really bad at baseball.
27. You make the best Shepherd's pie.
28. You always ask me to fix the eyes on the electric garage door openers.
29. You always wreck the lawn mower.
30. You love a clean house.
31. You allow swords in our house but no real guns (or cowboys).

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Riding the relative circuit

My family attended the christening of our new little nephew over the weekend in Cincinnati. Buck was honored to become the godfather of the sweet little pumpkin, Baby Peter. Peter is the kind of infant who is mostly content and smiles at the slightest possibility of love. I bet he even smiles when a cat accidentally brushes its tail up against his chubby cherub legs. I swallowed a giant dose of cuddles and snuggles to ward off the nagging "I want another baby" monster. Simply smelling soy formula again worked magically to keep the dreadful beast in its iron cage. The odor triggered sickening memories of the gallons I spit up I swiped off my boy, my back, neck, hair, ears, floor, ceilings, cats etc. during my own Boodle Tator's foster babyhood.

I took up some toddler chasing with my two year old cutie niece, Meg. She's obsessed with how all things work. It took quite a bit of coaxing to lure the girl out of the gargage before testing the gas cans, weedeater, bike tires and gears, tools of all sorts. The grand finale ended with her climbing upon Uncle Jake's Harley and annoucning, "MINE!".

Our children enjoyed the heck out of their cousins, and I recognized my 9 year old niece, Beth, truly loves spending time with my daughter and myself. Beth has entered the developmental stage of loving horses which seems to always precede turning utterly boy crazy.

Our oldest nephew, Jake, cracked us up with his fourteen year old answers.
Me: "What do you like to do all summer?"
Jake: "Talk to my friends all day on computer."
Buck: "What was your homecoming date's name?"
Jake: "Logan."
Buck: "Logan is a boy's name. Was your date a boy?"
Jake: "NO!"
Buck: "What was her last name?"
Jake: casually "I don't know."
Buck: "Don't know your date's last name. How do you know she wasn't really a boy?"

Buck and I swam our way through the tensions and turmoil of extended family time. We wrestled our way to setting a half day limit at a relatives house bringing to a minimum exposure to the nutso elements such as sharp tongues or skewed opinions. While Bucks family would amuse most any sociologist, if Jerry Springer met me, he'd sink down on one knee and humbly beg me to round up my relatives for his show. The man would get top ratings and at least a year's worth of material from anyone with my genetic make-up. Both our families put the FUN in dysFUNction.