Saturday, June 28, 2008

In Honor of Summer...a Classic Poem from my Childhood

Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle Received from a Friend Called Felicity

During that summer
When unicorns were still possible;
When the purpose of knees
Was to be skinned;
When shiny horse chestnuts
(Hollowed out
Fitted with straws
Crammed with tobacco
Stolen from butts
In family ashtrays)
Were puffed in green lizard silence
While straddling thick branches
Far above and away
From the softening effects
Of civilization;

During that summer--
Which may never have been at all;
But which has become more real
Than the one that was--
Watermelons ruled.

Thick imperial slices
Melting frigidly on sun-parched tongues
Dribbling from chins;
Leaving the best part,
The black bullet seeds,
To be spit out in rapid fire
Against the wall
Against the wind
Against each other;

And when the ammunition was spent,
There was always another bite:
It was a summer of limitless bites,
Of hungers quickly felt
And quickly forgotten
With the next careless gorging.

The bites are fewer now.
Each one is savored lingeringly,
Swallowed reluctantly.

But in a jar put up by Felicity,
The summer which maybe never was
Has been captured and preserved.
And when we unscrew the lid
And slice off a piece
And let it linger on our tongue:
Unicorns become possible again.

John Tobias

And the recipe, just because I always wondered how you could pickle watermelon. Watermelon Pickle, a recipe from Diana Rattray .

(A nice piece by Felicity Hoffecker in The English Journal, if you subscribe or would like to purchase the article. Otherwise, a nice first page of the article. And a second one, by John Tobias also for subscribers.)

Friday, June 27, 2008

A Completely Different Subject: Head Lice

OK, I know lice are gross, but as I was pondering which pearls of wisdom I would share with you today, I became fixated on the idea that very few people know how to eradicate lice naturally. I've helped with friends' foster children's infestations and "trained" the staff at my kids' old school. I have picked lice and nits off of enough kids for several lifetimes. I am sorry to say, I am an expert. An amateur expert. Here's to hoping my overabundance of experience helps someone out!

To help this conversation go smoothly, here are some definitions: lice = the bugs, a louse = a single bug, and nits = lice eggs.

Now, why not just use the medicated treatments available over the counter? Several reasons.
  • Over the counter lice treatments are insecticides, poisons.
  • Skin is semi-permeable. Chemicals can soak through. The scalp is skin.
  • It doesn't work . That's right. The wee beasties just walk right on through the foamy poison. One peditrician told me that you have to leave RID or NIX on for at least an hour. Even then it doesn't work. Trust me on this: lice are IMMUNE to the stuff.
  • The prescription stuff doesn't work much better.
  • It is really expensive, especially because re-infestation is common so you need to buy the treatments several times.
The super-natural solution? Just let His people go! (Joke. Kidding. On to the natural solution...)
1. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so avoid "risky" behaviors.
If you work with children, eventually one of those children will have lice. When it happens, try to avoid physical contact, but be kind. I don't mean you can't interact with the child, but avoid hugging, touching his head or shoulders, and leaning your head down next to theirs. Keep your own hair pulled back, out of the way.

While it's fun to share, lice aren't fun, so teach children to avoid sharing certain things. Don't share combs, brushes or other hair stuff. Don't share hats, sweaters, coats, scarves, helmets, headphones, pillows, or stuffed animals.

When in groups, don't stack coats, hats, or backpacks with others. At school or church have your children hang their coats so that they do not touch another person's coat or put their coats in a backpack or plastic bag. Be sure your children use their own sleeping bag and pillow when sleeping away from home.
2. Early detection is important. If you have school-aged children, check hair daily. For kids with really short hair (military cut), you can check while jogging by. But for longer hair, boy or girl, check daily. Lift the hair at base of the neck and look for tiny critters (sesame seed sized or smaller) and/or very small white/grey/yellow/beige things stuck to a hair shaft. Repeat with the hairline around the ears. Do an extra check in good light if you see anyone scratching-even just a little. A quick check now will save you dozens of hours of nit-picking later. Here's what you are looking for.
Nits on dark hair:

Nits on light hair:
Notice that the nits look very different on different colors of hair. If you see something, don't panic, just touch it with your fingernail or a pencil tip. It is most likely a little dandruff. Could be sand. Dandruff or sand will move when touched. Nits need to be scraped off in order to move.
OK, so you saw something. It didn't move when you tried to move it. It is probably a nit.
Oh no! Something moved! A louse:
What now?

3. Check every member of the family. Everyone will need to do the oil treatment, but knowing who is infected is important information.
4. Tell people. I know it's hard, but bite the bullet. Call the school, call the play group, call the person in charge of the children's church activities. Send an anonymous note if necessary. Ask them send out a neutral email to all of the people who meet in your building. [Simple sample: There has been a confirmed case of lice in the church building/classroom/school. Please check your children carefully.] Not only does this protect the uninfested, it notifies the parent whose child infested your child, and it decreases the chances your child will become reinfested from the original source.
5. Go to the store... and buy shower caps for every member of your family (pay up--buy the nice ones), a big container of olive oil, a metal lice comb (if you want) and extra vacuum cleaner bags. Rent a new movie. Pick up anything you are going to need for the 24 hours; you are going to be busy and your kids are going to be bored
6. Olive Oil Time! Have your child get into old comfy clothes. Apply a liberal amount of oil to the hair. You want every hair to be completely saturated. Cover with a shower cap. Place an old towel over the shoulders to catch any drippies.
Repeat for the entire family. Leave oil and shower cap in place for at least 18 hours. Really, 18 hours. Do you want to do this again and again and again? 18 hours.
[A side note: some people like to use mayonnaise. It works, but mayo goes rancid much faster than oil, so I stick with oil.]
7. Clean the house. I know. I'm sorry, but it must be done. Lice don't live long off of their human hosts, but they live long enough to reinfest you. Do it while you are housebound with your doofy-looking shower caps.
  • Soak all brushes, combs and hair accessories in hot water for at least 10 minutes. I prefer to run it all through the dishwasher, but the soak should be adequate.
  • Machine wash all bedding and dry in the drier on hot (repeat in three days). Start with the infected family member's beds.
  • Vacuum couches, chairs, carpets, car upholstery. Throw away the vacuum clearer bag after you finish. Use a new bag tomorrow. Throw it away.
  • Machine wash anything that comes in contact with hair that can be machine washed: cloth baby swing seat covers, high chair covers, car seat covers. Dry in the dryer on high if possible. Line dry, if you must, but it's not as effective.
  • Any stuffed animals or clothes laying on the floor or in beds should be washed and dried on hot.
  • You can bag up anything that cannot be washed in an airtight bag for thirty days, but I don't trust that method. Our family's introduction to the joys of lice came from a couch pillow at a friend's home that had just been taken out after its 90 day airtight quarantine. Vacuum any quarantined items before putting them back into use.
  • Mop hard flooring.
8. Time to wash hair. After your 18 hours of olive oil and shower caps, wash everyone's hair thoroughly. Depending on your hair type, this may take several "rinse and repeat"s.  I use about a tablespoon of baking soda combined with regular shampoo to get the oil out more quickly. You will have lovely, soft hair. That's good. You'll be touching it a lot.
9. Nit removal. Good news: nit removal only needs to happen to the infected members of the family. Now, in theory, after 18 hours in oil, all the nits should be dead. Do not believe theories. Get every one of those nasty nits out. If you caught it early, there shouldn't be too many of them.
They sell several kinds of nit looseners. Don't waste your money.
There are several kinds of nit removal combs. Choose a metal one with very fine teeth. Combs work best on straight hair that has thick individual strands.
Bad news: Most children have hair too fine for a nit comb (including the three examples pictured above). Each hair that has a nit on it will need to be individually scraped. Sorry, I wish it wasn't true.
Here are the scraping procedures:
  • Gather your equipment: a cup of water, a chair for the victim, something to hold the sections of hair you are not working with (elastic bands, banana clips, etc.), a nit comb if you are going to use one.
  • If at all possible, go outside into the sunlight. You will see the nits much better. If outside isn't available, use a very bright light.
  • Start wherever you want, you'll get to it all eventually. Separate a small section of hair. Secure the hair that is not being examined.
  • Look for nits.
  • When you find one, very slowly, carefully, using the nails of your thumb and forefinger scrape the hair shaft. This will slide the nit off without hurting your child. The nit is now located under your fingernail. (Do this for any dead lice you run into too.)
  • Put your fingers in the cup of water and agitate them lightly to so that the nit (or dead louse) falls in the water.
  • You will get a rhythm going.
  • Repeat until you or your child can't stand it any more.
  • Take a break.
  • Every time you stop, empty your cup of nitty water into the toilet or sink. Refill when you start again.
  • Continue until your child's entire head has been searched and all nits have been removed, taking as many breaks as necessary.
You will need to check for nits and lice every morning and afternoon for a week, in bright light, outside, if possible. Remove any nits you may have missed. Then after that you can go back to your casual daily check. At about two weeks post treatment, do one more thorough check. (If you see any live lice, repeat the entire process. You have been reinfested.)
With chemical treatment, reinfestation is nearly universal, but every family I know who has used this process has had no reinfestation. And no reinfestation is good. Very, very good.
Best of luck and sorry to gross you out prior to your need. (My head is ichy. How about yours?)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Hypnotic Effect of Numbers

With six kids, there are few things that hold my undivided attention for long. The old grey matter ain't what it used to be. Off-hand, I can only think of three occasions of spontaneous, sustained concentration that have occurred since becoming a mother.

1. The night my first baby learned how to roll over, my husband and I sat on the couch and watched her figuring it out, for hours, joyously fixated. We've repeated the event another five times, but none were as delightfully addictive as the first.

2. The night my first E-Bay listing had a bidding war during the last hour. During the last few minutes, the item went up $100 which doubled its sale price. I re-loaded the page a bizillion times. Couldn't get enough of it. By the last five minutes, the whole family stood around the computer, giggling and cheering each new insane counter-bid.

3. Then there's last night, when I went for my daily visit to Times and Seasons and was reading along. Then I glanced at the sidebar. What? A link to my baby blog? Sorry T & S, but I immediately ditched you and ran to Stat Counter.

I had been pleased that I had gone from a daily visitor count that could be counted on one hand to one that required double digits. I enjoyed checking in. It was fun. At 3:30 pm yesterday, things were running steady. I was at about 20 page loads and 15 visitors. Maybe I'd hit twenty; that would be nice. Then Kaimi worked his magic.

By midnight, I'd hit 89 page loads and 67 visitors. I watched their lurking stats show up, hypnotized. Ooo, look, someone from England. Hm, a Buckeye. Canada, eh? Ooo-ah, that one read about the demon squirrels that must die. And the trend continues today. How addictive!

Here's the summary from 1:30 pm today.

I know I talk a lot, but I never would have guessed the fact that I am not talking about something would be news. Soon the link will be pushed off the list for more current ones, which is as it should be. Overall, I would rate this ride excellent. Well worth the cost of admission.

[Other news in the La Household: J-Teen was evacuated from his Boy Scout camp, because one of the Nor-Cal forest fires was a-comin' their way. You know what that means, don't you? That means he got to see the stat page too. ]

Update! Breaking News! Moment of Fame Over! Mother Returns to Normal Life!

OK, it's only 9:30 am, but I believe I can safely say that the statistical surge is over. Thanks, Kaimi. It's been fun.

Monday, June 23, 2008

SOCKS! for barefoot me

A long time ago, I signed up for a socks exchange. A crazy socks exchange. A soxy sox exchange. A sock exchange hosted by the one, the only, Elastic Waistband Lady!

Women who know...know that I don't wear socks. Pretty much ever. So what possessed me to swap socks? I guess I just don't get out enough, 'cause it just sounded fun! Shopping for crazy, weird socks for a total stranger. Getting crazy, weird socks from different total stranger.

I do have a sock-loving bunch of daughters, so I hid my membership in the girls-without-socks club and signed up. Then I went a-huntin' & found the weirdest socks in town at the Dollar Store and Big Lots. I shipped my bizarre finds out to Elastic, my sock buddy. Meanwhile, my other sock buddy, Glittersmama, searched the world over, travelling to the tropics to search for my socks, and then, like Dorothy, she discovered that there's no place like home for finding cool socks to go with ruby slippers.

without further ado,
I share the pictures
that I'm sure you scrolled down to look at
without reading my long-winded commentary:

Charming rainbow socks.

Black socks with white and pink stripes!

The stars and stripes go girly socks!

I also scored a nice card, some yummy lip balm and two pretty notepads.

Thank you for the goodies, Glittersmama!

Thank you for hosting, Elastic!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

takes talent

Here's one of my favorite poems which I came to mind when I read this post over at Navel Gazing at Its Finest.

takes talent

there are two
kinds of human
beings in the world
so my observation
has told me
namely and to wit
as follows
those who
even though they
were to reveal
the secret of the universe
to you would fail
to impress you
with any sense
of the importance
of the news
and secondly
those who could
communicate to you
that they had
just purchased
ten cents worth
of paper napkins
and make you
thrill and vibrate
with the intelligence


(For those of you who are unfamiliar with archy, he was a cockroach/poet who lived in Don Marquis' office. He typed his poems by jumping from key to key on Marquis' typewriter. Unfortunately, capital letters require pressing two keys at once and were beyond archy's gymnastic abilities.)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Oh CRUD! or Just slice me in half, would you?

Not again! Another marriage = a man + a woman political campaign supported by the church. Here's a copy of the letter to be read in Sacrament Meeting (our main worship service) on the last Sunday of June 2008.

There cannot be an issue on which I am more conflicted. I know and love many gay people. If my friends ask me if I believe that homosexual sex is against God's will, I have to say that I do, but I also believe that God loves all of his children regardless of their sexual behavior. I like the recent comments by the church on same-gender attraction.

On the one hand, I feel very unhappy actively opposing the choices of my friends. On the other hand, I feel very unhappy actively opposing the commandments of my God and the request of his prophet. Arg!

Then I have the "stop the decay of the English language" response. I believe that people should all have the same legal rights, but why mess with "marriage" as a word? So many perfectly wonderful words have already been corrupted. "Lovers" can't be used to refer to a chaste couple who are wooing. Do we talk about a woman being the "mistress" of her home? "Gay" has already been hijacked to the point where it can't be used to mean happy and bright. What next? Will people's names be commandeered by popular culture to refer to private things? Oh wait, never mind: a gal named Fanny? a guy named Dick?

Live and let live? Follow the prophet? Save the English language? Dagnabit! I hate this sort of nonsense!

OK, I've made my decision. I'm playing dumb. (Issue? What issue? Huh?) After this post, I am not talking about it and you can't make me.

Friday, June 20, 2008

A Time to Kill

When V was born, I bought an almond tree and planted it with great care and ceremony in the birth tree spot. The almond tree has flourished and brought forth abundantly.

However, I have yet to eat a single nut from the beloved tree. In it's third year it bore a plentiful crop; the squirrels ate every last one, as they did in the tree's fourth year. They attack before the nuts are ripe enough to harvest. Last year, I decided to tackle the issue early and I picked them all early, before the fuzzy charmers got to them. I laid them neatly out on screens where they rotted. This year the squirrels got them again. Curse their furry little hides!

Wednesday, my husband said, "Look! It's a squirrel!"

"Kill it quick!" I shouted.

"But it's cute and furry. It can be the kids' pet."

"Dude, they are eating my flippin' nuts! They need to die! If they were eating your nuts, you'd want them dead too." (Well, it's true!)

I SO need a magic wand! So I can turn this little bugger:

into this useful kitchen tool:

Lacking magic powers, I may to go for a paradigm shift. (Oh, how wonderful. The squirrels won't go hungry this year!) Yeah, right.

Does anyone know where I can hire a hire a hit on a squirrel?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Gastric Bypass

Sh! I'm going to tell you a secret: I'm fat. No one knows but you and me so try to keep it under your hat. OK?

Two weeks ago I went for a check up and weighed in at TWO HUNDRED EIGHTY POUNDS. 280. That is a whole person overweight. Granted I was fully clothed, my shoes were on, and I had my wallet in my hand. BUT STILL! 280.

So the time has come for faux surgery. Today is the day. At noon, I am undergoing an intense psychologically-deranged pretend surgery. I have a close family member and several friends who've undergone the real thing and it has worked out well for them. The thing is--surgery hurts, both in the wallet and in the gut. So I'm wimping out and going for a mental fake out. I am going to print the following picture on a size 3x t-shirt and wear it at mealtimes.

There are some anticipated side effects. First off there is the family's reaction (confusion and disbelief). There will also be mockery from my friends. Then there will be hunger, since pretending that eating more than a mouthful will explode your stomach only works in The Little Princess. (You know when she gives her food to a beggar and then imagines her remaining food is a feast. Hm, maybe if I give my extra food to a beggar...) Then there is the remote possibility that I will lose weight. I think the benefits outweigh the risks. Don't you?

I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Admit It. You Need More Poetry In Your Life.

Robert Frost

When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the line of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy's been swinging them.
But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay.
Ice-storms do that. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust—
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:
You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
But I was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows—
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one he subdued his father's trees
By riding them down over and over again
Until he took the stiffness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For him to conquer. He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches;
And so I dream of going back to be.
It's when I'm weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig's having lashed across it open.
I'd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate wilfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth's the right place for love:
I don't know where it's likely to go better.
I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Results Are In

Fine, you pink haters, you! You win. You have overwhelmingly voted for me to de-pink-ify the blog. Fine. Barbie is turning over in her toy box. How about brown--boring enough for you?

By the way, does any one have any idea how to make a dash (the punctuation mark) in HTML? This double hyphen thing is getting me down.

It's all about MEME

Tracy M's inspiring me again.
If you like memes consider yourself tagged,
if you hate them feel free to blame Tracy.

Answer these questions.

What were you doing ten years ago?
  • 1998, I was living in Auburn, CA with my husband and three children, moaning about gas prices hitting $ 1.50 a gallon, wondering if I'd ever be able to buy a van and a house. I was new homeschooling mom, with E in Kindergarten.

What are five things on your To-Do list today?

  • Buy new tires for the van.
  • Shower
  • Go to the library
  • Shakespeare in the Park
  • Clean the kitchen

What are your favorite snacks?

  • Ice Cream, any, but good vanilla with rolled oats on top is my favorite
  • Cookies
  • Cookie dough

Places you have lived?
  • Dayton, Ohio
  • Davis, California
  • Provo, Utah
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Sacramento, California
  • Auburn, California

Five things you would do if you were a billionaire?

  • No debt for me and my family plus a house and a car for each of us. (Is that like wishing for more wishes?)
  • I would buy and renovate every house in my neighborhood.
  • I would buy every vacant lot in town and landscape it.
  • I would get a pedicure every week.
  • I would hire Alice to come live with La family to keep me company and to do the hard work. (And I'd pay her a fortune.)

Five people you want to know more about?

(If it was six I'd choose my kids.)

  • My aunt E
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Fanny Alger
  • My husband
  • My father's twin
What are your favorite scents?
  • Cinnamon
  • Vanilla
  • The Ocean
  • Right Before a Rainstorm
  • Good Compost

What are your favorite games?
  • Othello
  • Quiet as a Mouse
  • Free Association
  • What would you do if you were a billionaire?
  • Broom Hockey

Now go do a Youyou (and let me see).

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Good Children from Perfect Parenting

I freely admit I was a know-it-all, one of those women-girls you kind of just want to swat. I knew that when a child was old enough to discuss their diaper, it was time to potty-train; when a child could undo their mother's buttons, it was time to wean. "No" was a word that should be used rarely to maintain its power for important stuff, like not drinking poison. When a child spoke to you, you should stop what you were doing and look her in the eyes, focusing on her words and body language.

Not only did I know it all, I was happy to share it, with my friends, with my babysitting clients, with my dates, with my mom, with anyone who stood still long enough to let me spew my wisdom on them. To all of you who knew what the battle was like on the ground, forgive me please. If you will forgive, I promise not to swat any of the young mothers, newly-married wives, or brainy teens who tell me all about perfect parenting.

My parenting world is filled with questions. Where I once knew exactly what the appropriate parenting choice was for any given situation, now I am unsure about so many things. One of the most basic of all parenting issues--helping your child be good--fills me with consternation.

What is a "good" child? At this point in the game, I really define good as peaceful and quiet, but I'll share this quote from Alfie Kohn's Unconditional Parenting that has set me to thinking:

Good is an adjective often laden with moral significance. It can be a synonym for ethical or honorable or compassionate. However where children are concerned the word is just as likely to mean nothing more than quiet--or, perhaps, not a pain in the butt to me...this is what many people in our society seem to want most from children: not that they are caring or creative or curious, but simply that they are well behaved. A "good" child--from infancy to adolescence--is one who isn't too much trouble to grown-ups. (page 2)

Mr. Kohn (I always want to call him Alfie--such a great name) goes on for the two hundred some-odd pages discussing parenting, loving without controlling and a bevy of other thoughtful, logical ideas. I read and think "Yep, mm-hm, you go Alfie!"

Then home life as it really exists comes flaring into my mind and I have very little idea of how to stop the fratricide without defying all the principles of excellent parenting. How can we make it to the ethical, honorable, compassionate kind of good if we don't start out by mastering the not hellions at home or in public kind of good? Still working on that one. Oh, how I wish I still knew it all!

Update! Now showing at a Visitor's Center Near You!

Great news for those of you Californians who cannot make the Saturday's film festival in San Francisco to see "Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons." There will be a free showing at the Oakland Temple Visitor Center at 7 pm on Sunday, June 15th.

For those who missed my first post on this movie you can read it here.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

OA or J-Boy is Being Tortured Even as I Type

The Order of the Arrow

The Order of the Arrow is the "honor society" of Boy Scouts. A boy is elected by his troop to become a candidate for the Order and then must undergo an "ordeal" to be accepted into full membership. Thereafter, the boy participates in various service projects and fun activities.

So one day I was reading one of my favorite blogs, when suddenly a guy named Justin comes out with this:

Speaking of the Order of the Arrow, when are state CPS agencies and police going to do something about the little camps of horror euphemistically known as Order of the Arrow “Ordeals”?

When, as a young scout, I was being silenced, essentially starved, hazed by other scouts, ordered by leaders to march for unknown distances in the darkness through the woods, subjected to bizarre campfire ceremonies put on by strangers wearing faux–and creepily indecent–Native American getup, commanded to spend the night in an open field (without any protection from bears, badgers, wolverines, chupracabras, or the natural elements), and forced to perform hours of manual labor (in violation of all child labor laws) at one such Ordeal, did anyone respond to my calls for help? No.


I immediately began a Mama Bear freak out and posted the following request for information:

To OA Survivors:
So…my son has just been invited to become a member of the Order of the Arrow. Ordeal? Secrecy? He was recommended by nice guys in our ward. Will he come back in one piece? Will he be broken in spirit and body? What’s the deal?

I was pointed to this thread, which relates the various privations and labors the boys were forced to endure and most specifically this comment, which relates a herd of horses trampling a set of OA candidates as they slept under the stars in an open field.

I was decided. No way was this mama bear letting her cub go to such an INSANE experience. I informed my J-boy of my decision. And it was his turn to say:


The boy was having no part in being babied. I ran it past my husband who helpfully said, "Whatever. It's up to him." I forced J to read the entire thread on OA horror stories. His reaction?


"Wimps? Dislocated shoulders, concussions, starvation? Son, are you INSANE?"

"OK, the horse thing was bad, but for the rest of it, I just kept thinking, 'What wimps.' So I'm going right?"

And reluctantly I agreed to let him go. Yesterday night I drove him, his buddy D, and a car full of grumpy munchkins two hours to their ordeal. When I suggested they bone up on their sign language in preparation for their day of silence, D came up with the sign for "Horses coming. Beware."

We arrived at dusk. After a minute of going over paperwork with the friendly OA grownup in charge, I turned to perform my good-bye ritual: a hug, a kiss, the warning to wear sunblock and bug repellent, and the assurance that I was sure he'd do great.

Too late. He was gone. Off to become a man.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Happy Belated Mother's Day

Last August I heard Billy Collins on The Prairie Home Companion, reading one of the most amusing and touching poems I have heard in a long time. "The Lanyard" instantaneously became one of my most beloved of poems. So even though I am almost a month late, I wanted to share this poem with all of the mothers I know.

To my own mother who lovingly accepted from my little hands tiny fake flowers within an upside down baby food jar complete with gilded lid, I give my love, thanks, and some grandkids.

The Lanyard

by Billy Collins

The other day I was ricocheting slowly

off the blue walls of this room,

moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,

from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,

when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary

where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist

could send one into the past more suddenly—

a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp

by a deep Adirondack lake

learning how to braid long thin plastic strips

into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard

or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,

but that did not keep me from crossing

strand over strand again and again

until I had made a boxy

red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,

and I gave her a lanyard.

She nursed me in many a sick room,

lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,

laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,

and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,

and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.

Here are thousands of meals, she said,

and here is clothing and a good education.

And here is your lanyard, I replied,

which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,

strong legs, bones and teeth,

and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,

and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.

And here, I wish to say to her now,

is a smaller gift—not the worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,

but the rueful admission that when she took

the two-tone lanyard from my hand,

I was as sure as a boy could be

that this useless, worthless thing I wove

out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

A Once in a Lifetime Opportunity

Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons is a documentary about African American Latter-day Saints. The project is headed by Margaret Young and Darius Gray, authors of several award-winning books and articles about Black Mormons, and by Danor Gerald, a promising new filmmaker.

Few people, Mormon and non-Mormon, are aware that there has been an African American presence in the LDS Church from its earliest days, that the vanguard company of Mormon included three “colored servants” who were baptized Mormons, and whose descendants remained active in the Church for several generations. This documentary talks about that little-known legacy, and confronts the hard issues which surfaced in the most turbulent years of the Civil Rights Movement, when the Church restricted its priesthood from those of African descent. It discusses how that restriction was lifted and what the lives and challenges of the modern Black Mormon pioneers are.

I am thrilled that there will be a showing of "Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons" at 10th Annual San Francisco Black Film Festival. I have been watching this documentary's progress for some time now and have heard nothing but raves from those who have been lucky enough to see it.

Margaret Young (of BYU fame) and Darius Gray (mentioned in Dean Hughes' Hearts of the Fathers series) have worked long and hard to cover a sensitive topic with testimony and honesty. They will both be available for a question and answer session after the showing on the 14th.

I would not recommend this film for young viewers, as it is intense. Bring your hankies, my friends, and expect to be filled with sorrow for the trials of our brothers and sisters and filled with joy at the mercies of God.

In-depth Analysis of the Gas Crisis

gas prices
at the
cheap station.