Saturday, September 29, 2007

One of Those Days

My daughter-in-law, Kelsey, had "one of those days" on Thursday. One of those days that stretches a mother's patience and energy to the very limit. Sweetpea (who, by the way, is getting close to two years old) was testing her in a major way. I sympathized with Kelsey as I read the first part of her blog, but by the end, she had convinced herself, once again and without a doubt, that Sweetpea is a terrific kid, and that she loves, more than anything, being her full-time mama.

The year Chris was born, he was one of ten new babies born to our small church congregation of around 100 people! And we, the mothers, were a close-knit group. Since most of us were full-time moms, we all experienced days like Kelsey described on Thursday. I think days like those were what prompted us to devise a plan, whereby each one of us would have one child-free day every month. We put our names into a matrix, so that each month I, for instance, would babysit someone else's pre-school aged child(ren) for one day; and someone else would babysit mine for a day. It was up to each mother to arrange her day off. If she didn't make arrangements to use her day one month (that seldom happened), it was gone - no stockpiling. We didn't keep track of hours or number of kids. It was just a FREE DAY once a month for each mom. Not only did it give the moms a day off, but it gave the children two play days a month - one at their own home, and one at someone else's - with a variety of friends.

I wish I lived closer to Kelsey, so that I could give her a day off at least once a month. That would, indeed, be a two-way blessing!

Just look at this child. How could someone with a face like that be any trouble at all? And, by the way, have you noticed how tall she's getting?!

(Pictures by Kelsey)

Friday, September 28, 2007

When Takashi Came A-Calling

Wednesday, when I was down with this cold, someone rang the doorbell. I almost didn't answer, knowing that the house wasn't "visitor-ready" and that I looked even worse than the house! But I did answer it, and it was my sweet neighbor, Lorraine, bringing me some fruit from her backyard trees.

Every now and then drop-in guests do come to the door, and (unless I'm sick) it's a wonderful surprise. The most surprising drop-in guest we had came on a Saturday, in the Spring of 1990.

I had gone to a funeral that morning; the wife of a work colleague had passed away. Dan had not been able to attend with me, because of some prior commitment. I can't remember where Chris was, but Tim, who was 14 years old at that time, was the only one home.

Returning home, I parked the car in the garage and came through the door that led into our family room. Tim met me at the door. "Takashi just called, and he wanted to talk with you," he said. Takashi had been back home in Japan, attending college, for nearly a year by then.

"Oh, that's too bad. I'm sorry I missed his call," I said.

"He was really mad that you weren't here," added Tim.

"Well, does he expect me to stay home all the time, just in case he might call?" I responded with a little irritation in my voice.

Just then, Takashi stepped around the corner. "Hi, Mom," he said, with a big grin on his face. He and Tim had cooked up this little surprise homecoming scene just for me.

Takashi had come all the way from Japan, to spend less than 36 hours in Oregon. During the last few weeks of his year as an exchange student, he had dated a girl named Jessie. And Takashi had just crossed the Pacific to take Jessie to her senior prom! From Japan, he had called a Newberg florist to order a corsage; and he had brought a tux with him. The prom was that night; and he would be departing from the Portland Airport, returning to Japan, on Sunday evening.

After lots of hugs and laughter, I asked "Why can't you stay a little longer?" I was sad to think that we'd hardly get to see him on this brief visit. It turned out to be quite a story. He had asked his parents, who lived in another city, if he could come to Oregon for the prom, and they had told him he could not, because his college grades were not so good. But Takashi was determined that he'd somehow scrape together the money (money was seldom an issue with Takashi) and go, with or without his parents' help or approval - or knowledge Smilies. He had originally planned to come several days before the prom, since that week was a school vacation in Japan. But the day before he was to leave, who should surprise him with a visit, but his mother! (Now, don't you suppose that this visit was strategically designed, by Mother, to keep Takashi from traveling to America?) So, frustrated, he endured her visit of several days and then, with all of his vacation gone, and only a weekend left to make the trip, Takashi rushed to the airport to catch a flight to Oregon.

He did, however, make the most of his 36 hours. He spent the afternoon visiting with us, and then got ready to take Jessie to the prom. Of course, it was late when he got home, and the rest of us were sound asleep. He didn't go to bed. Instead, he stayed up the rest of the night preparing a French cuisine meal that he planned to serve us for our Sunday noon meal. He had been working a part-time job in a restaurant in Japan, and was learning from the chef how to cook continental style meals. When morning came, he got cleaned up and dressed for church. It was a warm homecoming there, as well, for he had made many good friends at church, during the previous year. After worship we came home, and Takashi put the finishing touches on the delicious meal he had prepared for us. Late in the afternoon we drove him to the Portland airport, and sent him back home to Japan. He hadn't slept a wink since he arrived on Saturday morning.

That was the first of Takashi's visits. He came back a few years later, while we were still in Oregon, and then made a third visit while we were living in Juneau. He tells me he will come see us in New Mexico sometime. I hope he'll stay more than two days; I hope we'll have a little notice that he's coming; and I hope he still likes to cook!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Keeping My Cold Germs at Home

Yesterday I woke up with a cold. It had actually been coming on for a couple days, but I had been hoping it was just fall allergies. Yesterday it felt like a cold, and I stayed home to rest and to avoid spreading my germs around the office.

I'm not normally one to complain about being bored, because I never seem to find enough time to do everything I want to do. But yesterday, when I only felt like lying on the couch, I did get bored. I tried reading, but that made me sleepy. I tried using my laptop, but it gave me a headache. I tried watching TV, but there wasn't anything worth watching. The best thing I found to do was sleep.

Speaking of watching TV, we have been selected to be a "Nielsen family." Soon to come in the mail will be our one-week diary, in which we are supposed to keep track of everything we watch. They gave us a $10 gift card (usable anywhere) as a "thank you." I'm actually really happy to do this. Our household's one little voice is insignificant, I suppose, but at least it makes me feel like someone cares enough to ask.

This morning I'm planning to go to work - still not feeling great, but at least I did get a good night's sleep. I only have to make it until 12:30, the end of my work day. So I'm off to give it a try.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

On a "Mission"

We are in the market for a couple of living room chairs. We'd like to get something in a Mission style. Yesterday, after Dan got off work, we met at a store here in town, called Simply Stickley. In case you aren't familiar with Gustav Stickley, he designed houses and furniture in the mission style, back around 1900. They say he had a lot of influence on Frank Lloyd Wright. Here's a link that shows you a Stickley chair, in the style that we are hoping to buy. However, we'll probably find ours at JC Penney, not at Simply Stickley. We knew, before we went to their showroom, that each piece of their furniture is made to be an heirloom; and we aren't prepared to pay the price for an heirloom. Still, we wanted to experience the real thing - see it, sit in it, and even smell it (the aromatic scent of wood and leather permeates the store). Now it's back to Penney's (and back down to earth) for the one they have on sale, and which most certainly won't ever become an heirloom.

Visiting Simply Stickley, though, brought to mind some memorable pieces of furntiture we've owned. Here are three I thought of:

The gold couch. When I finished college, Dan and I moved to Juneau, and rented a small condo that my parents owned (they had recently moved to Anchorage). When we arrived at our new home, there was a brand new gold upholstered couch, sitting on the green carpet in the living room (green and gold - it was the '70s!). Mom and Dad had purchased it and left it for us as a house-warming gift. We'd been married two years, at that time, and the couch was our first piece of "new" furniture.

The maple rocking chair. When I was pregnant with Chris, Dan bought me a maple rocking chair, with wool tweed cushions on the back and the seat. That rocker sat in Chris' nursery, then in Tim's, and eventually in our living room. In that chair I rocked the boys to sleep, comforted them when they were sick, fed them when they were hungry, and read hundereds of story books to them.

The "lion chairs." When Dan's aunt and uncle, Lauretta and Wiley, began clearing out their home, in preparation for selling it, we inherited two wooden chairs, with lion carvings on the back and the arms. One is a rocker and the other is not. Those chairs originally belonged to Dan's mother's dear friends in Seattle, the Phillips, when Dan was a small child; and they hold good memories for Dan. I'm proud to have them here.

What I found interesting, in this mental exercise, was that the pieces of furniture that were most meaningful to me were not necessarily the most beautiful or expensive ones. But they were memorable because they represented, to me, the love of some very special people in my life.

[Below are some pictures of one of the lion chairs. I think they're very unusual, and thought you might enjoy seeing one of them.]

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Spending Money; Finding Money

The Spending Money Part:
I tease Dan about his shopping habits, and it's not really fair, because mine are almost as bad. We both tend to wear our wardrobes almost to rags before we go shopping. Then, of course, we have to replenish nearly the entire wardrobe at once!

So this weekend it was my turn; I headed to the mall to find some fall clothes for work. Those of you who know me probably realize I can't just pull any old item from the department store racks. I'm "sized-challenged," and it's not always easy to find clothes that fit all three ways - fit my body, fit my taste and fit my pocketbook.

I was really excited, therefore, to discover that a new store has opened up at the mall. It's called C.J. Banks, and it has the prettiest clothes, in my size, at reasonable prices! Someone* once said, “Whoever said money can't buy happiness simply didn't know where to go shopping.” I'd have been happy to take home half of that store's merchandise, but I restrained myself. I thought their jackets were especially pretty, so got three new jackets and three sleeveless tops to go underneath. Then I found a couple pair of slacks at Penney's that went well with the three jackets.

And that brings me to... The Finding Money Part:
As I walked through Penney's, I happened to look down and see on the floor what looked like a piece of white paper wrapped around some money. I picked it up, and sure enough, it was a sum of money that would have bought me another jacket at C.J. Banks! It was wrapped in an ATM slip. I first looked around and, not seeing anyone who looked like they were frantic over losing some money, I hunted for a store clerk. I noticed one check-out counter where two clerks were talking and where there was no line. I walked over there and explained that I had found some money on the floor. The first clerk said, "Finders keepers, I guess!" But the second one said, "No, let's call a manager." To make a long story short (and it did take about a half-hour of my time before it was over), I ended up meeting a manager at the catalog counter. He took the money and wrote down the information I gave him about where I found it. I thought maybe, if no one claimed it after a reasonable amount of time, that the "finder's keeper" rule might then apply. But no. Penney's policy is that if the money isn't claimed after 30 days it is given to a charity chosen by Penney's.

After talking it over with Dan, I agreed with him that it would have been better to take the money and the ATM slip to the bank. The bank probably could have determined who had made the withdrawal at that time and location, and contacted the person who lost the money. Next time, which I doubt will ever come, I'll know better.

*(Bo Derek)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Whine On, Santa Fe

Abutting Albuquerque on the northwest is the city of Rio Rancho. Most people here just think of it as a suburb of Albuquerque, but it is an incorporated city of its own. And it's a growing city. Recent estimates by the US Census Bureau indicate that it is now the third largest city in New Mexico, having bumped Santa Fe to fourth. (Albuquerque and Las Cruces are numbers one and two.)

I heard on the radio this morning that Santa Fe is whining that the numbers aren't fair. Why? Because the estimates didn't include the 13,000 undocumented (that's P.C. for illegal) immigrants who live in Santa Fe. Smilies

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Bumper Crop

When we first moved into this house, four years ago in May, there was a little bush in the corner of the yard, near the deck. I didn't know what it was until the end of the summer, when it put on some teensy-weensy peaches. There were lots of them but they were about the size of walnuts. Harvesting them was useless, since there wasn't much more to each of them than fuzzy skin stretched over a pit.

Each summer I've checked the fruit, and it was the same - not worth picking; one summer it didn't even put on any fruit. But this year . . . voila! I have real peaches. They are tennis ball size. Saturday, I went out and picked a few. They didn't look quite ripe, but they were falling off the tree, so I thought a taste-test was in order. I cut into one and we sampled it. JUICY and SWEET! The ones that have already fallen on the ground won't go to waste, either, because the cottontail bunnies that frequent our yard have already discovered them.

[I snapped a quick shot of this baby cottontail resting in the back yard last evening, after feasting on peaches (not a very good photo, I know).]

Saturday, September 22, 2007

"Earth laughs in flowers" (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Have you ever come home to find a surprise that just brightened your day?

Last night Dan and I went out for dinner. When we came home, there was a pretty vase of flowers on the kitchen bar - from Tim to me. Just because.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Laundered Money

Tim's new job seems to be a good match for his skills, and everything is going well.

Regarding the apartment search -- Tim has found a nice apartment complex, close to work and not far from where we live, either. The problem is that there's not an apartment available right now. The manager will know, by the first of October, if he'll have one opening up by November 1. We all have our fingers crossed. But the good thing is that the longer he stays here, the better his bank balance is looking.

Tim and money. That combination takes me back to another time.

When Tim was in grade school, he got an allowance of $1.00 a week. (Now wait ... it was the '80s you know, and that wasn't so bad!) My rule was that the boys were to empty their own pockets before tossing their Levi's into the laundry. I had "salvage rights" on any treasure left in their pockets. Tim, bless his heart, often forgot to take his dollar out of his pocket on allowance day. I would wash and dry his clothes, and find a laundered dollar bill in the dryer when I pulled out the clothes. I believe the record was five weeks in a row that he got back the same dollar bill - just a little cleaner and a little limper - on allowance day.

But these days Tim seems to have a greater appreciation for the dollars he earns. Besides, he does his own laundry now, so my treasure-hunting days have come to an end, anyway.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Update on the Triplets

I just received word that our little great-nieces - the triplets - who are approaching their three-week birthday, have faced some major challenges this past week. Two of them have just completed a series of antibiotics to help their little bodies fight off an unknown infection. Amelia, the smallest, was the first to come down with it, and had the roughest time. Claire seemed to come through the ordeal with less distress than Amelia.

They are overcomers, though, and are now back to their job of gaining weight and growing stronger. Claire and Ella have actually surpassed their birth weight now; and Amelia has regained the weight she lost, and is back to her birth weight again.

The family is grateful for your continued prayers on behalf of Amelia, Claire, Ella and their parents.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Salinas Pueblo Missions - September Photo Shoot

[Warning - this is pretty lengthy. If you don't want to read the entire post, please click here to see my photos, anyway. Maybe they'll tempt you to read about them :-) Click on first photo, then click "next" to see another. Be sure to go to page 2.]

On Tuesday Sherry and I initiated our "Monthly Photo Shoot Adventures." This month Sherry planned the day and provided transportation. She came by my office at noon, and we grabbed a quick bite to eat, then hit the road. The weather couldn't have been better - sunshine, blue skies, and only about 80 degrees.

Our route was:
I-40 east from Albuquerque to NM 337 (at Tijeras); south 54 miles to Mountainair
From Mountainair, Highway 60 west (about 40 miles) to I-25
North on I-25 to Albuquerque

We first stopped at the Tijeras Pueblo Archaeological Site. This was not impressive. Sherry and I, at the end of the day, agreed it had been 30 minutes of time that would have been better-spent elsewhere.

On our way south, on 337, we passed through a half-dozen small villages of, probably, 50 residents or less. We found lots of picture-taking opportunities, and pulled over to take advantage of them. Our first stop was an old abandoned "little house on the prairie," with a rusted-out shell of a car parked in front. It was just south of Tijeras and was such an interesting little place. I say "little", but as we went on around to the rear of the house, we saw what was hiding behind the overgrown trees and bushes. The house had obviously grown with the family, for there were three attached structures. The front and rear were stucco, but the center section was a log cabin. (There was some evidence that there had been stucco on these logs, too, at one time, but it had deteriorated and fallen off.) On the rear section hung Christmas decorations, and we wondered how many winters they had seen, since it was obvious that the house hadn't been lived in for many, many years. It was on private property, and was behind a wire fence, so we weren't able to see the inside, though our curiosity was killing us.

We also stopped at probably a half-dozen old cemeteries along the way. Some were interesting, but they were not as old as we had hoped, most of the people having died in the mid-20th century. We were on the lookout for snakes all the while we roamed these burial grounds. We didn't see any, but saw their holes everywhere, and at one place found a l-o-n-g snake skin, molted and left lying part-way in and part-way out of its hole. Sherry also spied a small tarantula, which I got a rather fuzzy picture of. It was high-tailing it down its hidey-hole, and wouldn't stop to pose for us.

In Manzano we were grateful to find a small grocery store (the only one we saw on the trip down), where we purchased a cold drink and a snack, and used their restroom facilities. It was a nice, clean little store, and the clerk was friendly. I bought some Carrizozo Cherry Cider there, and it was very good.

Finally we arrived at the first of the Salinas Pueblo Missions, known as Quarai. All of the Salinas Pueblo Missions were built in the early 1600s. They were abandoned in the 1670's, probably due to a severe drought in the area. The missions were built by the Catholic Church, near the pueblos where the Native American people already lived. Surrounding the missions are also some surviving ruins of these pueblo dwellings.

When we arrived at Quarai, the caretaker told us we had only 25 minutes until it closed. We had spent so much time in the grave yards that we would have to cut our time here short. What a shame! Because this was an astoundingly beautiful place. We walked up to the ruins, the walls of which rose at least 50 or 60 feet high. Visitors are free to roam anywhere they wish - in and out of the mission itself, into the labyrinth of small rooms built beside the church, where the Catholic priests lived and studied. It is a totally hands-on experience. We noticed a path that led to a copse of trees, where there are picnic tables. We were determined, after our brief 25 minutes were up, to bring Keith and Dan back and explore this place in more depth. And we'll bring a picnic lunch to eat under the trees.

From the Quarai ruins, we drove the 8 miles on to Mountainair. Keith and his partner (DBA: Eagle Custom Homes) have been building some homes in Mountainair, on a beautiful piece of wild country, called Deer Canyon Preserve. Keith was there, so we drove out to Deer Canyon to see him. We took a tour of one of his custom homes, which is nearly complete.

When we left Deer Canyon, in Mountainair, we headed to a second of the Salinas Pueblo Missions, known as Abo'. It is about 9 miles west of Mountainair. Although it was past the official closing time, we decided that closing time only applied to the visitor center, for the ruins are wide open, with no gate or barrier. When we first arrived, some people were there, sitting in their car, while their children ran and played around and through the ruins. They soon left, and, as the sun was setting, Sherry and I had the place to ourselves. The setting sun made it difficult to get pictures from the front of the mission, but we got some nice ones from the west side, where the last rays were lighting up the rear of the mission. This structure was not quite as complete as Quarai, but, none the less, amazing. There is a trail that leads to the pueblo itself, but because it was getting dark, we had to pass that up this time. There were numerous old adobe ruins within sight of the mission, though, all a part, I assume, of the pueblo dwellings. We must return to this one, as well, with Keith and Dan.

We had no time to drive to the third of the Salinas Pueblo Missions, Gran Quivira. From what we read, we believe Gran Quivira has a completely different type of construction from the other two missions. It is about 25 miles from Mountainair. What was amazing to both Sherry and I was that there were no crowds of people visiting these missions. At Quarai we saw one couple, and two other ladies, one of whom was in a wheel chair. At Abo', after the two children left, we were completely alone. Granted, it was a week day, but for the most part I think these jewels are off of the tourists' radar!

On our way home, we stopped at Los Lunas (on I-25) for dinner. Keith, who was also on his way back to Albuquerque, met up with us there. It was about 8:00 when we sat down to dinner, and every bone in Sherry's and my bodies ached. We had tromped around and through abandoned houses, old gas stations, cemeteries, patches of wild flowers and ruins; and climbed into and out of her SUV innumerable times that day. But it had been so well worth it. I'll be planning the October photo shoot adventure, and I have a tough act to follow!

Okay - be sure you view the pictures here!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Just a Teaser

Today Sherry and I spent the afternoon and evening on a photo shoot. Here are a couple places we visited. I hope in the next day or two to have lots more photos ready, and some narrative to describe them. For now, though, I'll let you wonder about these marvelous New Mexico ruins.



She Didn't Hear the "Beep"

Recently our favorite Albuquerque grocery store chain, Raley's, was bought out by another supermarket chain that Dan and I are not very fond of. So I have been trying out other stores in the area, in the hope of finding one I really like.

Friday, I went to this store that's not far from our house, for just a few items. As I watched the clerk ring up my purchases, I noticed her scanning one thing over and over, and on the screen I could see that I was, indeed, being charged over and over. I called it to her attention. "Well," she said, "I couldn't hear the beep." She deleted all but one of the charges for that item. Once those items were removed, and the screen scrolled a bit, I could see another item showing up multiple times. I mentioned it to her, as well. "Well, I can't hear the beep!" she said again, this time as if it was my fault. Finally she finished, and my total was $60 and some change. I'm pretty good at estimating the cost of my groceries, and I thought the charge should have been more like $40, but she shoved the slip at me to sign, and it wasn't itemized; she was holding the itemized receipt in her hand until I signed the charge slip. I signed it, but told her that I wasn't sure it was right, and that I wanted to stay there and look over the receipt to make sure. She shrugged, handed me the receipt and began helping the gentleman behind me.

When I reviewed the charges, I saw that there were two other purchases that had been rung up multiple times. In my head I calculated about $17 of overcharges, in addition to the ones she had deleted in "round one." I thought it was pretty funny that the two scrawny chicken legs I had purchased from the deli, for my lunch, ended up costing $9.48! I stood and waited until she was between customers, showed her the errors, and waited for her to ring up a refund slip (as she mumbled something under her breath, again, about not hearing the beep).

When she was done, she handed me $13 and some change, in cash. I knew the erroneous charges came to more like $17, so I asked to see the itemized refund slip. The refunds each had a negative sign in front of them; all but one of them. That one "refund" had mistakenly been rung up as a charge. So now, I explained (I could see the bewilderment in her eyes) she would need to first refund the amount of the new charge, and then refund it again, since it was supposed to have been a refund all along. I felt bad that we were holding up the progress of the express lane. When the clerk finally figured how much more she owed me, and handed me the additional $3.58, the next person in line grumbled, loud enough for me to hear, "I would have given her $4 if I'd have known that was all that was holding up the line." I told him I was sorry, but that it wasn't $4, but $17. "Well," he said, "I guess that's a little different."

I left the store with my cart of groceries and $17 in cash, grieving over the demise of Raley's in Albuquerque.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Sweetpea's Makeover

Sweetpea is sleeping in a "big girl" bed now, so she can get up by herself when she wakes up. A few days ago, after her nap, Kelsey heard some noise in the bathroom. Sweetpea had gotten into Kelsey's make-up, done up her face (mostly with mascara, it appears), slipped her feet into her high heels, and was ready to take her dog for a walk. (Edit 11:20 a.m.: If you click on the picture, you can see it at a larger size - and see the facial artwork a little better.)

Kissy-kissy! - Photo by Kelsey

[Two month anniversary of my blog]

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Could Be Worse

I don't know which is worse - forgetting to be someplace (like I did yesterday) or . . .

When my mom and dad were living in Newberg, Oregon, there were some people they had known from Alaska (Mr. and Mrs. S), who lived in another Oregon town, about 40 miles away. Mom and Dad had been invited to this couple's 50th wedding anniversary celebration. They hadn't been particularly close friends with this couple, but they felt they should make the effort to attend, anyway. The party was on a Sunday afternoon, so Mom and Dad had to really rush to get there after church. As I recall, they even left before the service was completely over to make it on time.

When they got to the couple's home, they found they were, apparently, early, because their car was the first one parked on the street. Feeling good to have gotten there in such good time, they walked to the front door with their wrapped gift and rang the doorbell. No answer. They rang again, and finally someone opened the door just a crack. It was their friend, Mrs. S, in her robe and her curlers! This just didn't feel right!

"Oh, are we early for your party?" Mom asked a little sheepishly. Mrs. S managed a smile, and said, "Yes. It's next Sunday."

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Organizing Grandma

My life used to be a lot busier than it is today. When the kids were home and in middle and high school, I didn't carry a purse. Instead I toted around an organizer. It was a large three-ringed binder type, with little plastic zippered pockets inside, and a leather cover that also closed with a zipper. It had a place for my driver's license and credit cards; a place for my checkbook and cash (what cash?); but most importantly it had daily calendar pages for me to keep track of the entire family's appointments and activities. It was great because, no matter where I was, when someone would ask if we were free for something or other, I could whip open the organizer and tell them right then if we had that time available.

Once the kids were grown, and I no longer needed to keep up with school events; church youth group events; doctor, dentist and orthodontist appointments; Takashi's baseball practice, Tim's Kung Fu and Chris' part-time job schedule; and so forth, I abandoned the organizer. It was scary at first, but eventually it gave me a sense of freedom.

And that brings me to the present. I got a call today, around noon, to see if I was going to make it to a "secret sisters" kick-off. I had forgotten all about it, and it was too late to get myself ready, drive across town and arrive on time. This was the second thing that I forgot to show up for in the past year or so. (My friend, Joycelyn, if she's reading, will know what the other missed appointment was.) It's really not like me! And I find it embarrassing.

I think it's time to go buy an organizer again, but not such a monster one. Maybe just a small purse-sized date book will do the trick. Sadly, in September it's probably going to be difficult to find them on the shelves for the current year. I'm pretty sure they're marketing 2008 calendars by now. But I think the wise thing is to hop in the car, right now, and make an effort to find one. If I put it off . . . I might forget.

[Edit (6:29 PM): I found one! No more forgotten appointments :-)]

Friday, September 14, 2007

Who Was Juan Tabo?

Almost every city has streets named after famous people in history. For example, in Portland, Oregon, where we lived for a long time, there is a street named Couch (pronounced kooch) Street. It was named after a 19th century sea captain who was an early resident and founder of Portland. And in Juneau, Alaska, where we also lived, Seward Street runs through the center of downtown. Seward Street is named after William Seward, Lincoln's Secretary of State who negotiated the purchase of Alaska from Russia -- for two cents an acre!

So, when we moved to Albuquerque, and I saw the name of a major north-south road, on the East side, called Juan Tabo, I was curious about this (apparently) Spanish gentleman. I figured he must have been very important in Albuquerque's history, especially considering all of the businesses also bearing his name.

I took Spanish in junior high and high school, so using the rules of pronunciation that I'd been taught, I figured this name was pronounced Juan Ta'bo, with the accent on "Ta." Nope, I was quickly corrected by my very nice neighbor, Lorraine. It is Juan Ta-Bo' - accent on "Bo." Ever since, I've been trying to figure out where this mysterious sort-of-Spanish-sounding name came from. And what I've learned is that it is an Albuquerque mystery.

As I suspected, people agree that the last name, Tabo, does not appear to be Spanish. But no one knows for sure who Juan was. Everyone, however, has a theory:
  • Some people say Juan was a Pueblo Indian shepherd who pastured his sheep in that East Mountain area (near where the road is today), and that Tabo was his nickname, not his real last name.
  • Some say he was a Spanish priest, but the name doesn't appear in early church records.
  • Some old-timers here say that Juan was a guy from Carnuel who walked along the edge of town with his cows, sheep and a bunch of dogs, and sold tortillas and tamales to the townspeople. They say this shepherd's route later became a well-traveled road, and was named after Juan. The tough part of this theory, though, is that Juan Tabo Blvd. is located many miles from where "town" would have been back "in the days." I don't think he'd have had many tamale customers.
  • Others claim that the name Tabo came from the Toboso Indians of Texas.
  • I read one person's theory that Juan Tabo was the Spanish Conquistador Francisco Vazquez de Coronado's pet cat! (Not a likely theory, but someday, if I ever have a cat or dog, I think I might name it Juan Tabo.)
  • Another person claims that Tabo is a Spanish word in the Philippines, meaning "cup made from coconut shell." Now that really clears things up, doesn't it?
And here's an interesting piece of trivia - there is also a road named Juan Tabo in Tucson, Arizona - this little shepherd-tamale-salesman-priest guy got around!

I'll keep asking questions, but I've learned that Albuquerquians just seem to pick their favorite Tabo story and claim it as truth - or make up a new story to add to the collection. I might mention here, though, that if you come to Albuquerque to visit, you'll probably want to go to Juan Tabo Blvd., and take the cutoff up to the Juan Tabo Picnic Area. It's really a beautiful drive, especially in the evening when the sun is setting, no matter who it is named after!

The cutoff road going up the mountain to Juan Tabo Picnic Area


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Confessions of an Only Child

I grew up an only child*, which meant I had to be more creative than other kids.

For instance, I loved playing Monopoly, so spent many a rainy afternoon competing against myself. I would move from one side of the table to the other, rolling the dice and moving around the board, buying properties and charging rent to myself. I even borrowed from myself when, for instance, my race-car-man ran out of money and my top-hat-man was demanding rent. Borrowing added a new dimension to the game; I was able to prolong a game for days. It's really surprising that I didn't become an accountant, considering the complicated record-keeping I had to do for each of those Linda vs. Linda marathon Monopoly games.

When it came to creativity, though, my magnum opus was the imaginary family I had for a couple of years. In that family, I was one of twelve children, including two sets of twins. Each season, when we received our new Sears & Roebuck and Montgomery Ward catalogs, I would lay claim to the old catalogs and cut out head-and-shoulder pictures of my "brothers and sisters." I then glued each of them to a wallet-sized piece of poster board, thereby creating a complete set of current family photos! It delighted me that some of the fashion models conveniently showed up season after season, so I could actually use the same ones for the same siblings, and watch them "grow up." I kept my imaginary brothers and sisters very private; I don't think even my mom knew about them. But one day, years later, when my two sons were squabbling about something, I decided it was the right time to share with them the story of my imaginary family, in the hope of encouraging brotherly appreciation. What a mistake! The lesson was totally lost on them, as they broke out in robust laughter. To this day, at the most unexpected moments, one of them (I guess that would usually be Tim) will mention my "catalog family," and provoke yet another round of merriment at Mom's expense. (But I know you both love me!)

[* I was not always an only child. My little brother, Bobby, four years younger than I, died when I was seven years old. ]

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Two Pictures - Worth 2,000 Words

(Original photos by Kelsey, Photoshopped by me - I especially love the second one.)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Tag, You're (not) It!

(Or, "It's My Blog, So I'll Rant if I Want To!")

I heard on the radio, the other morning, that a growing number of school districts around the country have banned kids from playing tag on the playground. Their reasons? First, the kids could get hurt; and second, "it causes self-esteem issues among the weaker and slower children." (FOXNews)

Now, I'm the first to be there, scooping up some kiddo who has fallen and hurt herself, wiping tears, plastering band-aids and offering kisses. Who doesn't hate to see a child get hurt?! On the other hand, scraped knees are as much a part of childhood as runny noses. And isn't tag a pretty benign introduction to the concept of winning and losing? ABC News did an unscientific poll of youngsters: Should tag be banned at school? Their response was a resounding "no." One kid summed it up this way: "You'll have nothing to do if they ban tag, because it's just not fun without tag." (ABC News)

I don't think anyone invented tag. No one has to teach it to a child. Running and chasing are instinctive activities to human children. Playing a game like tag helps kids learn to resolve disputes and to problem-solve on their own, not to mention the physical activity it encourages. I remember, for instance, all the rules that evolved on the playground because we, the kids, saw a need, agreed upon a solution and, then, enforced "our" rules. And if a child really is stressed out over tag, won't he/she naturally gravitate away from that game and on to the monkey bars, jump rope, or some other playground activity?

I feel sorry for kids today, in many ways. The "carefree days of childhood" are becoming a thing of the past (I know this is a generality, and not applicable to every mother's child). Their days, now, are over-scheduled, over-managed, over-analyzed and over-tested (don't get me going on that last one). Their days are lacking in free time, down time, spontaneity, and adventure.

Some of this reduced freedom is unavoidable and even prudent, because of dangers in today's society; I certainly understand that. But, as the adage goes, let's not throw the baby out with the bath water. Teach the kids about stranger danger. Be diligent in supervision. Know where your children are. Know their teacher, their friends and their friends' parents. But, for goodness sake (no, for their sake), let them play tag!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Old Men at Midnight - A Book Report

Years ago I became interested in the writings of Chaim Potok, a rabbi and author who wrote novels about modern-day Orthodox Jews, trying to find their identity, their way and their place in today's society. Three of his books that I read were The Chosen, My Name is Asher Lev, and Davita's Harp. I just finished reading Potok's final book, Old Men at Midnight - his final book because it was published not long before he died, at age 73, in 2002.

Old Men at Midnight is different from his other books, in that it is actually three distinct novellas, connected by one recurring character, Ilana Davita Dinn (known as Davita), and several recurring themes. Of his books that I have read, I found Old Men at Midnight the most challenging.

The stories themselves are not so much about Davita as they are about three Jewish men she meets at different times in her life. In each case, Davita becomes the catalyst who helps these men remember and tell their stories. To one of the men, Davita says, "Without stories there is nothing. Stories are the world's memory. The past is erased without stories."

The first encounter is with a young boy, named Noah, who is a holocaust survivor living in America with his aunt and uncle. The second is a Russian Jew who is a defected KGB officer, haunted by his involvement in the purge of Russian Jews during Stalin's regime. And the third is an aging American-born Jewish professor and expert in war history, who struggles with repressed memories as he tries to write his memoirs. War, connections, the human conscience, memories, and the importance of telling one's story are among the themes that are woven throughout the three novellas.

Although they are compelling stories, written in simple language, and with occasional glimpses of hope; they are also rich in symbolism - some of it enigmatic - and deal with disturbing topics. I found that a single reading of the book left me with as many questions as it did answers; it deserves a second reading. This book won't be everyone's "cup of tea." It is not for those who prefer a book with a beginning, a middle, and a neatly-wrapped-up conclusion. But for those who enjoy thought-provoking reading about the complexities of the human psyche, I would recommend it.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Dan's Fortune Cookies

Friday night Dan and I went out to dinner at one of our favorite places, Chow's Asian Bistro. We really love their Pot Stickers, and their Fireworks Shrimp Fried Rice is delicious. Dan's favorite is the Mongolian Beef.

Besides the good food, another reason I like going to Chow's, or to any Chinese restaurant, for that matter, is the fortune cookies. Now, fortune cookies, in and of themselves, are a fun finish to a meal, I guess. But fortune cookies ala Dan are much more entertaining.

For several years, now, when Dan opens his fortune cookie, inside is an installment of an on-going serial story! (Unlike my fortune that always say something like, "You like Chinese food.") I don't know how they get so many words on that little slip of paper, but he reads them to me, so they must be there. After all, I've heard that the national anthem can be written on a grain of rice, so who am I to doubt Dan?

To briefly bring you up to date, the current serial story is about a little girl who was abducted by a space alien and taken to his space ship. So, on Friday night, Dan broke open his cookie and read to me, from his fortune, the next installment which went something like this:

"'I want to go home,' cried the little girl. The alien said to her, 'One day, when you're grown, some man will promise you the stars and the moon; but he won't really be able to give them to you. If you stay here with me, I can give you the stars and the moon.'"

To be continued . . . join us for dinner the next time we go to Chow's, and you, too, will find out the little girl's response.

Sometimes I wonder what the other restaurant patrons think when they see Dan intently "reading" his fortune, and going on for a minute or two. But I don't really care. It always makes me laugh, and laughter is an even better finish to a meal than dessert!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

The Burning of Zozobra

Old Man Gloom a.k.a. Zozobra burning at Fiestas de Santa Fe, September 8, 2005. Photo by Jeff Weiss

Did you wake up yesterday morning with a renewed feeling of hope? Did it feel like some burden had been lifted from your shoulders? Well, the people of Santa Fe would tell you that your relief came from the burning of Zozobra, on Thursday evening.

Every fall over 40,000 people go to Fort Marcy Park in Santa Fe to watch Zozobra, a 50-foot tall effigy (also called Old Man Gloom) burn. Zozobra's burning kicks off the Fiestas de Santa Fe, a three-day festival that started in 1712 and originally celebrated the retaking of the city, in 1692, by Don Diego de Vargas after the Pueblo Revolt in 1680. Zozobra, though, was a late-comer to the festival. His burning has been a part of the Fiestas for only 83 years - since his first appearance in 1924.

Zozobra is a giant, animated marionette that waves its arms and growls and moans all day before he is set afire. He is grotesque looking, as Old Man Gloom should be, I suppose. According to the tradition, as the flames devour Zozobra, they also devour all of the gloom of the preceding year, leaving everyone with a fresh outlook on life.

I've never gone to Old Man Gloom's burning. I saw him one year, and heard his mournful growls, while he was hanging and awaiting his fate, but didn't stay in Santa Fe for the evening festivities. This year I thought maybe I'd go up for it (a challenging picture-taking opportunity). But it turned out that Zozobra was torched on the same night as the Evening of the Arts, which I didn't want to miss.

In New Mexico's 300+ years of recorded history, a culture rich in Native American, Spanish, Mexican and Catholic influences has evolved. Zozobra is a prime example of this cultural potpourri. As fascinating as it is, and despite the festivities and the lore surrounding Zozobra, I wouldn't want to leave the impression that the burning of a 50-foot marionette, made of wood, cloth and paint, has any real power to dissipate gloom or renew life.

Oh, but wait . Here's the good news. There is a way that leads to such a new beginning: "We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life." Romans 6:4

Friday, September 7, 2007

No Ribbon at the Fair This Year

The New Mexico State Fair opens today. But last night Sherry and I went to the fairgrounds for the "Evening of the Arts," a time when all the artists were invited to a preview of the winning entries in all of the artistic categories -- including Photography.

Although I had high hopes, there was no Blue, Red or White ribbon for me this year. I was pleased to see, though, that both of my entries were on display, as were two of Sherry's four. A limited number are shown, and they are selected based upon the scores awarded by the judges. So Sherry and I felt like "winners" even without ribbons. And, if you can believe the name tag they issued me, I am now officially an "artist."

(Last name intentionally blurred.)

It was a fun experience, and now I've got an entire year to go out and shoot a winning photo for next year's State Fair competition.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Takashi's Prans and Hoggy Days

Takashi, as the year went on, grew more and more fluent in English. But he still struggled with certain phonetic sounds. I want to preface this story, so that you don't think I'm ridiculing our Japanese "son." Here's what you need to know. After Takashi left us and went back home to Japan, I began taking lessons in the Japanese language. I studied for six years, and, although I became moderately-fluent, there were still Japanese phonetic sounds that I had not perfected. The Japanese "R" was the most difficult. It is sort of a combination R-L-D sound, and very difficult for English speakers to master. And the Japanese "F" sound is a mixture of an English F and H. So the famous Mt. Fuji is something between Fuji and Huji (try saying the "F" in "Fuji" without letting your front teeth quite touch your bottom lip). It's no wonder, then, that native Japanese speakers have problems with these same sounds, only in reverse! I totally empathize. None the less, some of those phonetic faux pas are humorous, whether they are made by an English speaker attempting Japanese, or by a Japanese speaker attempting English.

One time Takashi met a young girl at a church youth rally. She lived in Portland, rather than in our small town of Newberg. Takashi took a shine to her, asked for her phone number, and a couple weeks later worked up his nerve to call and ask her on a weekend date. He went back to the bedroom that he shared with Chris to make his call. Talking in a second language on the phone is even harder than in person, and I knew he was extremely nervous about this call. Not long after he had dialed her number, he came stomping down the hall (he was often a "drama king"), with a look of frustration on his face. "MOM," he demanded, "Talk to her. She can't understand my words."

So I went down the hall, to the bedroom, picked up the receiver and said, "Hi, Tina, I'm Linda, Takashi's host-mom. Can I help out here?" She sounded almost as frustrated as Takashi was. "Well, he wants to make a 'pran' with me, and I don't even know what a 'pran' is." I had to laugh. Making a "pran" (otherwise known as a "plan") was one of Takashi's often-used expressions. I stayed by his side as he finished making his "prans," and that weekend he successfully met up with Tina and spent an enjoyable Saturday afternoon with her in downtown Portland.

Another time, on a fall morning, we awoke to a heavy blanket of fog covering our peaceful Oregon valley. Takashi looked outside, while we were all at the breakfast table, and declared, "Oh, look, 'hog' is outside." And in response to our puzzled looks he tried to clarify by rewording his sentence: "It's a 'hoggy' day!" Although, by then, we all understood his intent, the kids couldn't erase from their minds the picture of hogs (or pigs) falling from the sky. They really did know better than to laugh, but couldn't completely hide their amusement. I think it may have been Chris who first responded in jest, "Yeah, look! It's 'piggy' outside, Mom!" Luckily, Takashi was in a good mood that day, and after an explanation, he, too, saw the humor in what he had said. From that day to this, on those mornings when the mist lies low to the ground, someone in our family is sure to remark, with fond memories of Takashi, "Sure is piggy out today."

[Note: For those who may be wondering -- because I haven't used the language in the past ten years, I am no longer fluent in Japanese. Use it or lose it, they say. Sadly, I've lost most of it.]

Wednesday, September 5, 2007


Some people are afraid of spiders (yes, that would be me); some are afraid of the dark; and, as a child, Tim was afraid of balloons. Yes, those little, round brightly colored, celebratory symbols of joy and happiness - he was terrified of them. Dan and I never could figure out where the fear came from; we couldn't recall any balloon-related trauma that happened when he was a baby.

If you've never had a child afraid of balloons, you might not realize how prevalent they are in society. By four years old, Tim had pretty well identified the places of business that he didn't want to enter -- Fred Meyer, the bank, the Hallmark store, certain restaurants, to name a few -- knowing that he'd have to pass by a bouquet of balloons at the check-out counter, or that some unsuspecting soul would try to hand him a balloon on a string. And by then I had given up trying to convince him to go to birthday parties.

On Tim's very first day of school, Mrs. C, his teacher, called me at home (we knew each other well, since I was a regular volunteer at the school). "After recess Tim sat down in the hall, outside the classroom door, and he refuses to come back into the room. I can tell he's upset, but he won't tell me what's wrong!" This was not typical behavior for our sweet-natured, easy-going little son, so I had a pretty good idea of what must be happening. "Are there any balloons in the room?" I asked. Mrs. C, always looking for fresh and creative teaching methods, had mounted a number line above the chalk board, the numbers representing the days in the month of September. Over each of the numbers was tacked a balloon. Each morning she planned to pop one balloon so the children could see what day of the month was hiding beneath it. And that morning, the first day of school, she had popped her first balloon.

Mrs. C. and I talked, and we agreed that it might be helpful if the school counselor, Miss. B., could chat with him, and, perhaps, help him over his fear of balloons. So Tim started making a weekly visit to Miss B's office. It was a pleasant time for both of them. Miss B called me at home to tell me that she looked forward to her time with Tim each week, because he was such a lovable child. They did a lot of talking. Her plan was to work up, in baby steps, from blowing soap bubbles (no problem there), drawing pictures of balloons (a little resistance), holding uninflated balloons (didn't much like that), and all the way to fully inflated balloons (never got that far).

One morning I received another phone call from the counselor, Miss B. She said she had to share with me what she thought was the funniest story. She explained that Tim came to see her that morning, for his regular visit, and sat down in the big easy chair she had there in her lamp-lit office. Before she had a chance, Tim initiated the conversation. "Miss B," he said, "Why don't you use that light on the ceiling?" Miss B told him that she really preferred a softer light than the ceiling light. "Oh," said Tim, very thoughtfully, "Are you afraid of bright lights?" It was at that moment that Miss B realized she was being psychoanalyzed by a six-year-old.

I don't know if Miss B's sessions had any effect on Tim's phobia. He eventually was able to tolerate the sight of balloons, but he never made friends with them. Interestingly, he never had the same reacation to Mylar balloons, so we feel it definitely had to do with the loud noise associated with a popping latex balloon.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Girl Friends, Episode 5 - Sherry

I love Tuesdays. Tuesday is the day that I meet my friend Sherry for lunch after work. It's not the lunch, of course, but the company that makes the day so special.

I met Sherry about four years ago, when we first moved to Albuquerque. She and her husband, Keith, reached out to us, inviting us out to Sunday lunch several times, and then to their home for Frito pie, made with Sherry's delicious homemade chili. It didn't take long for us to know that we had found some forever friends.

Sherry is from West Texas. She has the sweetest southern drawl. Whenever we want to ask a clerk or a server for a favor, I always make Sherry ask, because her soft-spoken charm wins them over every time.

Sherry and I are different in a lot of ways. She is a decade or so younger than I am. She is a passionate dog-lover, whereas I haven't had a dog since I was a teenager. Sherry is really careful and particular about what she eats, whereas I eat anything that tempts me (and then go back for more if I enjoyed it). But differences like those are what make a friendship interesting. And, really, what makes the friendship work is that on the important things, we do see eye to eye.

Sherry and her husband, Keith, have taken a number of day-trips or weekend trips with Dan and me, exploring some of the beauties of New Mexico. And last summer they both came with us to Alaska, where we played "tour guide," showing them the sights and introducing them to other good friends.

Recently Sherry has become my photography-buddy, as well. Last Tuesday we started making plans to make one photography shoot together each month. Sherry will be planning the September shoot; I'll plan the October one. I'm sure I'll be blogging about these outings, and sharing a photo or two each time.

Sherry and I feel safe confiding in one another; we trust each other to never take advantage of a vulnerability. Sherry is one of the good things about living in Albuquerque. And today is Tuesday; so I'm looking forward to the noon hour, when we'll meet and share a hug, a meal, some laughter and some heart-to-heart conversation.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Labor Day Picnic

We had a wonderful day today, at a picnic at the home of some friends from church. They live out in Edgewood, up on the top of a hill, on a 5-1/2 acre piece of New Mexico land. Really beautiful. They have some nicely landscaped areas as well as some trails that wind through the natural terrain. Birds are everywhere!

The weather was perfect. Warm, but partly cloudy, so no one had to sit in the hot sun. The food was delicious. (You should have tasted that peach cobbler, made with fresh peaches out of the Honeycutt's orchard. It was still warm from the oven!)

It was just a delightful day, with good friends, good food and the wonders of nature all around us.

[Edit (09-05-07): We heard tonight that the official count of attenders was 72 -- a great turn-out!]

Family News! Welcome Amelia, Claire and Ella

Our niece, Melanie, and her husband, Greg, are the proud new parents of triplet girls, Amelia Lauretta, Claire Lela, and Ella Lynn. They were born Tuesday, August 28. They ranged in weight from 2 lb. 5 oz. to 2 lb. 15 oz. The news we've received is that all three are doing well, and are off the respirator.

At times during the pregnancy, the doctors were not so sure that the babies would all survive. But prayers, from all parts of the country, were offered up for Melanie and the babies. Oh God, great is Thy faithfulness!

Congratulations, Greg and Melanie!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

OK - Here's a piece of trivia for you

Yesterday I was proofreading the Birds and Bees blog, before I posted it. I couldn't decide if the little word, meaning "all right" should be spelled OK, O.K. or okay. I've seen it all three ways. So I went to to see what the preferred spelling was. I found it was correctly spelled either "OK" or "okay." But while reading the definitions, I found this side comment from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. I thought it was kind of interesting:

OK is a quintessentially American term that has spread from English to many other languages. Its origin was the subject of scholarly debate for many years until Allen Walker Read showed that OK is based on a joke of sorts. OK is first recorded in 1839 but was probably in circulation before that date. During the 1830s there was a humoristic fashion in Boston newspapers to reduce a phrase to initials and supply an explanation in parentheses. Sometimes the abbreviations were misspelled to add to the humor. OK was used in March 1839 as an abbreviation for all correct, the joke being that neither the O nor the K was correct. Originally spelled with periods, this term outlived most similar abbreviations owing to its use in President Martin Van Buren's 1840 campaign for reelection. Because he was born in Kinderhook, New York, Van Buren was nicknamed Old Kinderhook, and the abbreviation proved eminently suitable for political slogans. That same year, an editorial referring to the receipt of a pin with the slogan O.K. had this comment: "frightful letters ... significant of the birth-place of Martin Van Buren, old Kinderhook, as also the rallying word of the Democracy of the late election, 'all correct' .... Those who wear them should bear in mind that it will require their most strenuous exertions ... to make all things O.K."

While reading this I couldn't help thinking of how fond Takashi was of "OK." We always got a chuckle out of his non-committal response to "How are ya' doing?" (and other similar questions) which was, usually, "Pretty OK."

Saturday, September 1, 2007

The Birds, the Bees and Chris

Chris is our older son. I can't remember just what age he was when he started having questions about the birds and the bees, probably around first grade. But this story happened a little later. We'd already had a few "discussions," but his knowledge was pretty limited.

So, one day he accompanied me to the drug store, where I picked up a prescription. "What's that for?" he asked, as I was preparing to pay for it. Well, since this story is about the birds and bees, you might guess what the prescription was. I didn't think standing there, at the counter, in Fred Meyer, was the place to have such a discussion. "I'll tell you when we get to the car," I responded.

He didn't forget.

When we got into the car he asked again, "So what's that medicine for?" I told him, as delicately as I could, that since Daddy and I thought our family was perfect just the way it was -- with a daddy, a mommy and two boys -- that this was some medicine I took so we probably wouldn't have another baby, unless, of course, God thought we needed one.

I looked over at him, to see if I could read his face. It was all crinkled up. He was thinking hard. "Yeah, but," he started, "You couldn't have a baby unless . . ." [there was a l-o-n-g pause, you might call it a "pregnant pause" I guess - heh heh] "Oh!" he said, slumping forward. Now his face was kind of white and I thought maybe he was going to go into shock. I could tell he didn't want to talk about it any more right then. His body language clearly screamed, "I know how babies are made, but . . . surely not my mom and dad!"

Not long after, I bought a really neat little book to help explain things a little better. I sat down with him one afternoon, while Tim was taking a nap, and we read the book, and he asked questions and I answered them. He seemed pretty cool with the whole thing, and when both of us thought his questions had been answered adequately, he gave me a hug and went outside to play.

Minutes later he dashed inside to get a drink of water and to ask if he could play in the cul-de-sac with Big-Tim, who, I had seen, was waiting for Chris in our front yard. (This little guy, younger than Chris but older than our Tim, was known in the neighborhood as "Big-Tim," while our Tim had been tagged, "Li'l-Tim.") "OK," I said, "And by the way, everything we talked about is between you and me and Daddy. Be sure you don't talk about it with any of the other kids." I looked over to see if he was listening. He finished gulping down his glass of water, wiped his mouth with his sleeve, then said, rather apologetically, "Whoops."

I shook my head, closed my eyes and sighed heavily. It was time to give Big-Tim's mom a heads-up phone call.