Car, interrupted

The CD player in our Honda has been out of order for a while now.  It will take a CD, but just make a disturbing flapping sound and sit there.  Which is a problem, because, especially on eight-to-ten-hour drives, being able to put on some appropriate mood music for the girlies can come in very handy.  So, yesterday, we took matters into our own hands.

There are instructions on the internet for disassembling your car.  With photos.  So Craig removed the top dashboard piece, the one with the air vents in it.  And the case around the gearshift, and the “not an ashtray”, and the pop-lid storage thingy, and finally, (finally!) the control console.

Car dash

Car dash II

As we removed the the CD player, we heard the problem.  Rattle.  Rattle.  Jingle.  Hmmm.

Craig and CD player

Craig was able to get the two nickels out before leaving the car.  But one stubborn quarter wouldn’t fit through the hole it was able to reach.  So the CD player was transfered to the operating room (the kitchen table).

At which place Craig disassembled it further (we had quite a pile of screws by now) and finally got to that pesky quarter.  (Craig objects to the use of the plural subjective pronoun, but I did remove one of the screws, as well as fetch the various screwdrivers.)  After an hour of researching and an hour of tinkering, Craig started putting things back together.  And lo and behold, it worked!  I was very, very excited, which left Craig a little confused.  After all, it is just a CD player, right?

Oh no, it is my sanity.  Restored.

We had a talk with Lucy.  She was saving the thirty-five cents for later.

thirty five cents

And she promises never to put coins in the CD player again.
I had a talk with Craig, and reiterated my concerns with the girls playing in the car without very watchful adult attention.
And we learned a few things:
-Don’t let the girls play in the car.
-It’s amazing what you can find on the internet.
-Owning a variety of screwdrivers is useful.  (Good thing we were at my parent’s house!)
-It’s not that hard to take apart your car.
-Craig learned the names of all those parts he took out, but he’ll have to tell you those, because I was chasing babies by that point.
-A very small, thin piece of metal controls the gears in our car.
And for the eight-to-ten hour drive home, we are a little more prepared.

Mother knows best

So Lucy likes to take down the spices (and extracts, and colored sugar) from the spice rack and smell them.  This is usually a harmless passtime, which possibly develops her sensory awareness, so usually I let her be.  There have been a couple of spills (sesame seeds come to mind), but, as I say, it’s all usually harmless.

So yesterday, I noticed Lucy pouring the orange sugar from the bottle into the bottle cap and eating it.  I questioned her, and she denied eating it.  I warned her that the things on the spice rack go in foods, but aren’t very tasty by themselves.  (Not true of colored sugar, but it was a general statement.)  I walked away.

I heard screaming.  I returned to Lucy, who had an empty bottle of peppermint extract in her hand.  She reeked of peppermint.  And she was screaming.  She claimed she had not drunken it all, (I’m not sure how much “all” was to start with) but it was gone.  So I hugged her, trying not to laugh but failing miserably, and poured her some water.  Thus ended Samantha’s nap, and Lucy and I had a discussion about listening to Mommy and the proper treatment of things in the spice rack.

When we told the story to Craig, I asked Lucy if she would be eating anything else from the spice rack.

Sheepish smile.  “No.”

Intense! I mean…

Craig: “Lucy, why are you so intense?”

Lucy: “I’m not intense!”

Craig: “Yes, you are!”

Lucy: “I’m not in tents, I’m right here!”

Louisiana Sweet Oranges…or not

My heart is broken.  The six (and only six) oranges left on the tree we planted last year are gone.  We weren’t really expecting any the first year, so we were really excited when we had a ton of buds, then hundreds of tiny green oranges, which diminished slowly until eight were left.  Two split and we removed them.  And when I went to check the one that had started to turn yellow this morning, they were all gone.  Even the ones in a bunch that I contrived a pvc-and-rag contraption to hold up since they were too heavy for the little orange tree branches.

What’s funny is, this weekend I was saying how I’d like to plant a fruit tree in the front yard for people to take from as they pleased.

But not the tiny little tree in our backyard, not our first-fruits!  Not all of them!

Am I being selfish?  Part of me says, “Share!  Why do you need those oranges, when you have a basket of Satsumas that were given to you?”  But I really, really, really wanted to taste those oranges.  They could have left us one!

I’m telling myself that if I had a huge tree overflowing with oranges, I wouldn’t have even noticed, much less minded.  But they’re all gone.  Maybe next year there will be enough for us to get some.  But I don’t want to wait another year!  It makes me wonder about people.  Harumph.  And then I just feel bad for being grumpy.  It’s not fair.


Before I forget, (since I’m not keeping track of all this anywhere else!) Samantha has a new tooth, which we noticed a couple of days ago.  Bottom, left of the two front ones.  And she now loves to walk, and wants to start writing.  Sigh.


Today’s lesson: how the bread machine works.  Including discussion of the heating element, the rotary motion of the mixing paddle, basic and more elaborate bread ingredients, etc.  The bread machine then got a good scrubbing.  What subject does that go under?  : )

They Must be Bored

This is the email I received from one of our senators today:

“Dear  Friend,

I was outraged when I found out the Obama Administration  wanted to give Guantanamo Bay detainees  the H1N1 vaccine while millions of Americans – including  pregnant women and children – are still waiting  to get the H1N1 vaccine because of massive shortages.

Swine flu is a very real concern for all of us across  the country.  Currently, the H1N1 vaccine is only being provided to  certain high-risk segments of the population.  The vaccine is in short supply,  and, as such, there are millions of Americans in these high-risk groups still  awaiting the vaccine.  We should save the vaccine for those who need it  most, and as of today, women, children and other at-risk individuals should  fall squarely in line under that category.

Last week I introduced a Senate resolution with  several of my colleagues asserting that the Obama Administration should not  provide Guantanamo Bay detainees and terror suspects with the H1N1 vaccine  before the H1N1 vaccine shortage is addressed and all American citizens  prioritized as vulnerable to H1N1 have the choice to obtain the H1N1 vaccine.

Rest assured as your Senator, I will keep fighting so that terrorist suspects and detainees do  not jump to the front of the line while millions of Americans vulnerable to  H1N1 are waiting to take the vaccine.

David Vitter
U.S.  Senator”

And this is the letter I wrote back to him:

“I would like to express my disappointment that you would waste public time and money by introducing a resolution to keep Guantanamo Bay inmates from receiving the H1N1 vaccine ahead of American citizens.  While I, too, would like to see all those at high risk from the various strains of flu provided with access to vaccines in a timely manner, squabbling about less than 300 vaccines does not seem particularly helpful to fulfilling this purpose.  Furthermore, I think we must keep in mind that inmates in prisons are most certainly in the “high-risk” group.  In fact, because of their close proximity to other inmates, guards, and other staff, those in prisons are, because of their incarceration, automatically at greater risk, regardless of their personal health.  Further, those at Guantanamo are not criminals; they are suspected of terrorist leanings and activities.  It is bad enough that they have been held so long without proper trials, will we now deny those who are at our mercy access to simple preventative health care?  By taking them into our prison, we, the American people, have taken on the responsibility for their health.  If we want to continue to claim the moral high ground (if that is even possible anymore!), I think it is necessary to show that we are willing live up to just these sorts of responsibilities.  In the future, I, as your constituent, would prefer you focus on bringing affordable healthcare to all Americans, rather than wasting time trying to deny it to a handful of people under our care whom you think are not worthy of healthcare.”

It really bothers me that people can be so self-righteous about making other people suffer.  Vitter is saying, “These guys don’t like us, so let’s let them get the flu and die.  That’ll show them!”  His web site brags that he and his wife are lectors at a parish in Metairie.  Sigh.

Lucy’s Tower

Lucy got some new blocks while we were in Texas, and has been quite busy with them.  Her favorite constructions so far are all sorts of towers, the taller the better.

Lucy's Tower

I think I learned how to turn the pictures and forgot.  Sorry.

Happy Birthday, Samantha!

Ok, it’s a couple of days late, but that was so that I could get the pictures up.  I can’t believe she’s a year old already!  I had to go back and re-read her birth story as part of the celebration.

We had broccoli pasta and apples and squash, both of which Samantha could eat and really, really enjoyed.

Samantha's birthday dinner

Samantha's birthday dinner II

We had apple pie instead of cake, since she can’t have eggs.  (There are eggless cakes we like, but the pie is really good!)

Apple pie

We’re planning a joint birthday party for the girls…sometime.  Things are little tight with Thanksgiving and Craig has a retreat this next weekend, so it may be closer to Lucy’s birthday.


Sorry, everyone, for the long silence.  It’s been a crazy couple of weeks, and I promised myself I wouldn’t write until I could be reasonably sure I wouldn’t be immediately interrupted.  We spent most of last week in Texas, because on October 21 my father passed away.  Even though we knew he had cancer and this was possible, it was not expected at the time or in the way that it happened, so it has still been a bit of a shock.

The Thursday before he died, Dad was feeling really well.  Then he started running a slight fever, which, because of the chemo, meant he had to go to the hospital.  They kept him over the weekend, and I last talked to him on Saturday.  He sounded good and was watching the Texas-OU game.  I didn’t call Monday or Tuesday to see if he was out of the hospital yet, and on Wednesday Mom called me.

When Mom left the hospital Tuesday night, Dad was fine.  He had not gone home yet because his white cell count was low, and when it got back up, his platelet count was still low.  Wednesday morning the hospital called Mom to tell her that Dad had had a fall during the night, and was now in the ICU.  She rushed over, and found that the hospital staff had spent most of the night trying to get Dad back to consciousness and figure out what was wrong.  This went on until around 2:30 in the afternoon, when he let go with my Mom, his brother, and his brother’s wife and daughter at his side.

I missed Mom’s call the first time, but something (my angel?) told me to check the cell phone just a few minutes later, so I talked to her before they had even finished taking out all the tubes and IVs and such.  I took the girls outside and we waited for Craig.  (Actually, I called several people to try and tell him not to go to his Campus Ministry meeting, but it had been canceled anyway.)  I must have explained to Lucy twenty times that Grandpa had died while I pushed her on the swing.  I think that helped it sink in, having to say it over and over to her.

Well, we packed up and went to Baton Rouge and Craig’s parents’ house for the night, and then drove on to Fort Worth Thursday.  We were able to see Dad that evening, then he was cremated and there was a graveside service the following Wednesday.  We think there were between seventy and a hundred people at the service.  Apparently that is a lot, but I didn’t have anything to compare it to, since I had never even been to a graveside service before.  For some reason, my parents thought they could sneak their funerals by without anyone noticing.  My dad taught almost everyone in our town, and two and even three generations of some families.  Sneaking by was really not possible.  The ladies at St. Peter’s put on a nice lunch for the family and a few of our friends, and the next day we drove back to Baton Rouge.  The girls and I stayed there, while Craig went back to N.O. for school on Friday, then joined us in B.R. for a baby shower, birthday party, and Trick-or-Treating.  And finally we are home again, the house is back in some semblance of order, and life is returning to “normal”.

Those are the basics of what happened, but there was so much more.  The outpouring of love, plants, prayers, and food was nearly overwhelming.  (And thank you for all those things!)  Knowing how much my Dad was loved and respected is wonderful, but in some ways I think it makes it even harder to miss him now, and to wonder if I appreciated him while he was here.  Believe me, it’s hard to write, or even think, anything of substance without tears.  There are a thousand little things to miss.  I know I haven’t even discovered so many of them yet.

I wrote down thoughts as all this was going on, on a note card which I’ve pinned to the bulletin board above the computer screen.  They are some of the things I’ll be thinking about and working out over the coming weeks.  But the most glaring thing I’ve noticed is, how can anyone grieve with little children around?  When they aren’t keeping you busy with diapers and other basic demands, they are snuggling, laughing, and doing outrageous things that keep your mind from wandering.  There is little room for moping, or sitting and thinking.  I’m having to devise a new way of grieving, both for a new kind of loss and a new situation.  It’s different.  I feel almost guilty for the hours I spend without a thought of my Dad, and the joy that wells up so often in spite of what I think I “should” feel, but the moments of realization are strong and effecatious.  I’m sure that is the wrong word, but I can’t think of anything closer.  And I remind myself that maybe now Dad’s enjoying watching Samantha walk (which she started doing in earnest in Texas), and Lucy run and laugh and learn more than he ever could here on earth.

And I question why I ever wanted to be so far away from my family, what pride made me think I was too good for my hometown and needed a bigger, better place.

Meanwhile, Samantha is walking.  She’s a different baby (toddler!) from when Dad last saw her.  Craig got a part-time youth ministry job in B.R. at his parish from high school, St. Jean Vianney.  Which means our ends really do meet again, and our schedules will be getting tighter.  The JustFaith group I was possibly going to lead fell through, which in light of Craig’s new job may actually be a blessing.  Life goes on.  This might be the hardest part to deal with so far.  The world doesn’t stop when someone dies, even someone very special and very important, at least to me.  My girls keep growing, the boys Craig teaches keep being boys, bills are still due, Fall keeps marching towards Winter.  The Saints keep winning.  We still need groceries and diapers and soap.  And tomorrow is Samantha’s first birthday.  It is difficult to keep it all in perspective, or even to hold it in (or near) my mind all at once.

So for now, we press on.  It seems anti-climatic, and maybe it is.  Where is the climax to this story?  Where was the climax to Dad’s story?  I’m not sure he thought he had even reached it yet.  Do our stories even fit the narrative structure we learn in literature classes?  Maybe it’s not the building to a climatic moment, but rather the small, quiet nows that make up a life.  The story might not play well on screen, but it wasn’t designed to.  It was designed to play in a human body, in a family, among friends and a community.  There is an online guestbook attached to the obituary in the newspaper, and there are so many people who commented that Dad touched them as a teacher or principal.  They were just small moments for him.  But clearly each of those small moments, each of those few words, each of the smiles he gave so generously made a difference.

If it is the small moments that matter, I have a lot of work to do.  If our magnum opus is not so much a single tower as a meandering pathway made of small, carefully laid bricks, I must be much more careful how I make breakfast in the morning, how I speak to my girls, how I welcome my husband home, how I treat the lady working the check-out.  Merton, among others, speaks of focusing on living in the “now”, being present to the people and situations around us at a given moment.  That seems especially hard right now, but also especially important.  I can’t change anything I said to my Dad, no matter how much I dwell on it.  But I can still decide how I treat people today and tomorrow and the next day.  I can make them feel special and important like Dad did for so many of his students.

It’s good to write, even if it gets to be rambling.  I don’t realize what I’m thinking sometimes until I see it on the screen, and there it all works itself out.  It’s a strange way to think.  But anyway, thank you for your patience, and especially for your prayers.  Please keep praying for me and my family.  We are missing a large part of our selves right now.  But I don’t doubt that the prayers help.  I know that they are that little push I get when I need it most these days.  So thank you.  Believe it or not, I don’t have anything else to say!