Saturday, September 16, 2006

Does Nathan Count?

While a nurse's aide was trying to insert an IV yesterday, she was attempting to engage my daughter in conversation to distract her. She asked about school, and what grade she was in, and what books she liked, and if she had any siblings. When the lady asked, "So how many brothers and sisters do you have?" Maggie was stumped.

This confused the nurse. The IV-victim should not be stumped! After all, most kids know how many brothers or sisters they have. It's an easy question.

But not for Maggie. Finally she said, "Well, I have two sisters. And three or four brothers." The IV-lady was puzzled. But it all became clear to me when Maggie leaned over and whispered to me, "Does Nathan count?"

I guess, at Children's Hospital, they don't run across many patients with brothers-in-law. :-)

Copyright Laws and the Unity of the Church

I went to a hymnal workshop today. We heard a lot of good things about LSB. We sang a fairly representative sample of what's in the new hymnal. (Let the reader understand.) But it was the discussion of copyright laws and licensing fees that most captured my attention.

It is amazing to me that a publisher can claim ownership rights of the collects that have been in use in the church for centuries, even prior to the Reformation. It is amazing to me that a publisher can claim ownership of the words of the catechism, words that many of us carry in our hearts and souls, words that fall out of our lips in many a conversational venue.

It is stunning to me that a publishing house can say that people must request permission to use material from a 65-yr-old book, even though it says in the book itself that people are free to use the material in that book in the worship life of the Church. Likewise, it is stunning to me that making tapes of the Divine Service so that the shut-ins can hear the sermons, the readings, the prayers, and the hymns is something that is considered copyright infringement.

But the thing that I'm pondering now is --
What will this teach us?
The moral of the story seems to be that you have to keep reaching into your pocket if you use somebody else's words. So maybe you ought not use everybody else's words. Or anybody else's words. Forget doctrine -- maybe the WELS and the ELS and the LCMS and the ELCA all need different hymnals because none of us can agree to let the other be the "owner" of the words. Who knows when the hymn-cartels would jack up prices on hymns or liturgy? Maybe each pastor needs to translate the catechism for himself to teach to his parishioners, so that he doesn't have to pay a copyright holder for the use of those words. Maybe each pastor needs to develop his own liturgy so that he won't get in trouble for making tapes of the Service for his shut-ins.

Conservatives usually recognize that taxing any behavior discourages that behavior. It seems to me that "taxing" the use of the Church's common liturgy, common hymns, common Creeds, common prayers, will discourage use of those common words. It will push people in the direction of "every man did what was right in his own eyes."

I'm not in favor of open communion. I'm not in favor of praying with Buddhists and Sikhs in Yankee Stadium. But there is a place for a proper ecumenism, and that is found in holding to the liturgy that's been handed down, the creeds, the collects, the canticles, some of the hymns, etc. It seems to me that we should encourage the use of these words Christians share.

One-fourth of the workshop was on copyrights and licensing and paying for rights to use the materials. It makes me paranoid -- like I should quit whistling hymns on my paper route, quit singing hymns as I work in the church office. Oh no -- maybe I'm breaking copyright laws by giving a "public performance." Oh no -- maybe they'll catch me and fine me $500 for each hymn that escapes my lips.

Churches can buy an annual license that covers nearly all uses of copyrighted material. It was ironicly amusing that one of the few hymns that is not covered by the blanket license (and thus requires extra trouble and extra cost if someone needs copyright permission) is entitled "Where Charity and Love Prevail."

Friday, September 15, 2006

Plans for My Elderberries

Once upon a time, I had a son who was obsessed with Redwall books. He loved the action and the moles' accents and the plots and the food. We actually bought a few elderberry bushes because he wanted elderberry wine. (What kind of a mother plants shrubs so her pre-teen can commence to growing fruit to make wine someday???)

Years later, the day arrived to make elderberry wine. It was our first attempt at wine. It turned out quasi-okay. (Hey, that was better than our attempt #2 at wine!) The problem was that it seemed like such a big hairy deal to make wine. We used it as a chemistry experiment, testing the amount of sugar, testing the amount of alcohol, testing the pH level of something or other. But overall, it was an experiment with big hairy instructions, using big hairy science-words instead of my kind of simple English. And on top of all that, there were all those sulfites we were putting into the wine for germ-killing. It's the sulfites that give me headaches.

So yesterday, during Mag's MRI, I was trying to make a dent in my magazine stack. I'm already up to summer 2004; I've made great headway this summer. In issue #88 of Backwoods Home I found instructions on making wine. Not like all the other instructions on making wine, with campden tablets and pectic enzymes and titration kits and sulfite powders. But just fruit and sugar and water and yeast. Like my kombucha brewing. It sounds reasonable just to set the fruit and water and sugar to ferment with a bit of yeast. Like it might even be do-able -- as do-able as my kombucha routine. Assuming, of course, the elderberries ripen at a convenient time.

Philip may get to taste the elderberry wine that the mice drank in Redwall Abbey after all.

So, Are We 'Catholic' Now?

A package arrived in today's mail. My daughter's mother-in-law had sent us a copy of the DVD from the wedding. Pretty cool! My husband popped it into his computer. A few of the kids gathered around to watch. I was busy in the kitchen, bottling kombucha and baking cookies. (Now, how's that for oxymoronic behavior???)

Pretty soon, they all laugh at the invocation. Good grief, what on earth could be so funny about "In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost"? So I scoot out to the dining room and ask my husband to back up the video just a smidge.

At the invocation, there was a whole mass of people crossing themselves. I mean, a lot of people! There was the groom's family, the bride's family, everybody in the chancel, college friends, and all the ladies-in-waiting (also known as Mouthhouse friends).

It's kinda nifty, kinda comforting, kinda encouraging, to know that in this place -- a place where there were once complaints about the crucifix, complaints about the chasuble, and complaints about every-Sunday communion -- to see a whole congregation full of Christians making the sign of the cross. Granted, lots of them were visitors, but that's okay. It's nice, now and then, to be part of the norm instead of being the oddball.

And Lu, thanks for the video!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Hospital Update

One of the reasons I started blogging was Jane's incessant prodding. However, the other reason to start blogging was for my convenience of passing along upcoming medical news that some of y'all want, but that I'm not going to be able to repeat to everyone like I ought. So, for those of you who've asked to know what's happening, read on. For those of you who don't care diddly, click the x-button in the upper right corner.

Maggie's MRI and MRA was today. It was a long appointment, nearly an hour and a half in the machine. The initial comments from the consulting cardiologist are

1) the wall of her right ventricle is quite thickened, which should be a not-so-good thing. Nevertheless the RV is pumping very well, and the thickening doesn't appear to be giving her any problems.

2) the pulmonary artery is thin and needs replacing. (Not news.) However, the branches of the pulmonary artery are big and open and clear and well-developed. (Yee haw!) The PA valve is leaking, but minimally and continues to need no drugs to regulate the leakage.

3) concern for her pulse. As soon as the test ended, the cardiologist was full of questions about heart irregularities, and arranged for Mag to get over to the heart center for an EKG immediately. (It seemed to me that there was a bit of a sense of panic that they were trying to cover over. But maybe it would be better to assume that it was pushin' 5:00 and they just wanted to go home to supper and thus were rushed for happy reasons.) Doctor was pleased -- and a little slower and calmer -- when he saw the EKG. Her heart was regular, and the print-out looked lovely. I hauled out my handy-dandy notebook that we take to all her doctor appts, and I rattled off her pulse rate for every cardiology visit for the last two years, and that reassured the doctor somewhat, finding that her pulse today was only elevated by about 10-15% over normal (not nearly double, as he was thinking).

Now, for those of you who have asked about praying for her. The one thing I want in the next surgery is for another phenomenal valve. It's just a desire for a temporal gift, but I do want this. The scientist/humanist in me wants for God to guide the surgeon's choice of an artery like He did the last time, and get another valve that doesn't leak for a good long 10 years. That unbelievable valve has made our life so much simpler than it should've been, and until recently I just took it for granted. And I want God to give us another one of those.
However, the reality is that it probably wasn't so much in the artery chosen that particular day in 1996. The reality is that God has given us "daily bread" in sustaining that artery and valve in a way that is almost beyond belief to the doctors.

The other thing I've noticed is that Maggie is more nervous this time. Her last surgery was shortly before she turned 6. And that wasn't an open-heart. Today, she really tensed up and got scared when they put in the IV. I think we need to do some Lamaze-type lessons with her, teaching her to relax and breath. She is also full of questions about what's going to happen, but doesn't have the ability to understand the answers very well. The "Imperfect Homeschooler" posted on Sept 4 about kids with disabilities who are "invisible" as to their disability. I saw the problem with that today. The nurses and aides are helpful and kind, and everybody at Children's really impresses me as folks who make a hospital easier for kids. But many of them are talking over her head, which they wouldn't be if she looked like she had Down Syndrome. Five years ago the ENT told us that, in decades to come, people will begin to recognize the facial "look" that goes with VCFS, but they don't yet. It's going to be harder to comfort someone who's more aware than she's been for previous surgeries, and yet who can't understand a lot.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Pokey Soap

By bedtime Monday, I was cranky. It was one of those days that seemed like everything went wrong. But as I lay in bed late in the evening, thinking on it, overall the day went pretty well. It started off smashingly, as another looper (Cheryl) was nearby vacationing, so she and I met early for coffee at Paneras. Oh, boy, that was a great start for a bright-looking day. As the day progressed, we seemed to fly through schoolwork, accomplishing a lot, without much belly-aching (not from the kids nor me).

I decided that I was going to reserve part of the schoolwork for the afternoon, and do it while I stirred soap. I had made a trial batch of homemade soap last spring. Too many of us here are allergic to the regular grocery-store soap, and [sorry, Jane and LaRena] the Melaleuca is out of my budget. The homemade soap was wonderful. It lasted longer. It lathered well. It left our skin comfortable and un-itchy. So, every week for the last sixteen weeks, one of the high-priority things on the to-do list has been to make another batch of soap. I want to get several batches made while the weather is still okay for working with the lye outdoors instead of in the kitchen.

Okay, so it took sixteen weeks. Did I ever claim to be speedy on my to-do list? Hmmm??? Did I? Oh, by the way, yesterday I bought my first planner ever. It's entitled "Do It Later: A Planner (or Non-Planner) for the Creative Procrastinator." And going off further on my tangent, I should probably admit that I procrastinated three weeks on buying the thing in the first place.

Okay, I'm done procrastinating on soap-discussion now. Getting back to the point...

The first time I made soap, the instructions said I was going to have to stir the slimy concoction of fats and lye for 30-40 minutes. But you have to watch (!) because it could be as little as 5 minutes or as many as 60. The first batch took 100 minutes of stirring. I was mad. I could've watched a movie. But no, I sat there bored, stirring, and stirring, and stirring, thinking that blasted soap was going to saponify any minute now.

So I was ready this time. I planned for an hour of reading aloud from our current history book. I planned to do trigonometry with Paul. I expected a long stir-time, and was going to multi-task like a good female-human. And I did. We finished off everything on the school to-do list while I stirred.

And then I stirred some more.
And then I stirred some more.
And it wasn't done.
So I kept on stirring.

It took THREE and A HALF HOURS for that soap to get finished. Three and half hours! Now, come on! Who wrote these instruction books that told me to expect half an hour, but that the stirring might take "up to an hour"?

Well, once the soap was set in molds and I was fuming over the amount of time this project took, I thought it might behoove me to take a gander at some websites that discussed trouble-shooting for soap-making. And you know what I found? It matters how fast you stir. Nobody told me that. In fact, several books told me the opposite. So did one real-life soap-maker at Old World Wisconsin.

Somehow, the waste of those three and a half hours seemed to take all the "good" out of what started as a good day, and turn the day upside down, out of control, messy, and disappointing. And all for want of a little correct information.

I'm buying a hand-held blender to use on the next batch.

The Genius-Child Dance

Now that the disclaimer is out of the way....

There's this silly dance I do when I'm all excited about something the kids have achieved. Y'know, when somebody wins the local geography bee. Or somebody gets a job or a raise. Or somebody passes another CLEP test. The dance bubbled out of me again this week.

Paul signed up for his first college course. He's taking an electronics course at the county tech school. It's the most basic course, the one with no prerequisites. It's self-paced. He works through lessons on the computer, with their lab equipment, and with a knowledgeable teacher available to assist when needed. After two and a half weeks of class, he informed us that he was getting all 100s and 90s on his tests. [This homeschool mom breathed a sigh of relief and smiled a smile of pride.]

And then
a few days later
Paul came home
and informed us that

he hadn't started the class yet. Twenty percent of the way through the 15-week class, and the professor stumbled onto the fact that Paul wasn't taking the class he'd signed up for. The profs had given him the wrong key-card, and thus he'd been accessing the wrong computer-taught lessons. The bummer part of this is that he needs to start over at the beginning of the coursework that he should've begun on August 22. But the very very cool part is that he'd been working his way through a 300-level class

without the prerequisites

and still getting all A's!!

I think maybe he has a knack for this electronics stuff.

Disclaimer Notification as Prequel to "The Genius-Child Dance"

I think my kids are great. They're nice people. They're unique. (Boy, are they unique!) I enjoy their company.

And I love them. Not only that, but I love them unconditionally. If they don't get good grades or earn high salaries or garner awards, that's okay. My love for them doesn't depend on their "success."

However, now and then, I just want to brag about them. There's this little theological niche deep down in me that says I oughtn't be so proud of their achievements. After all, I love them unconditionally, and not based on merit.

But I wanna brag anyway. After all, momming is a left-hand kingdom occupation too. Right? And in the kingdom of the left, hey, a whole lotta stuff is based on merit. Just ask the guy who signs your paycheck....

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Upgraded from Techno-Dunderhead to Techno-Challenged

The guy I live with looked at me last night and wanted to know where his wife was and what I'd done with her.

Seems he can't believe it any more than I can.

Before going to the Higher Things conference, I bought a Tracfone. No way was I going to spend money on a "real" cell phone. It's hard enough for me to even make one of those contraptions work. Sure, after an hour of lessons, I learned to answer the phone or place a call. But to check messages or voice-mail, that's beyond my limits. Hence a tracfone that I can turn on and off, and which I can pretty much ignore unless I have an emergency. If my kids would dare to call me when I wasn't expecting it, though, I probably wouldn't find the message for a month. Well, today my phone was due to expire. So yesterday I managed to recharge the phone all on my own. (If you can't figure out why I'm so proud of myself, you don't know me very well, do you? And if you do know me, you're laughing at me now!)

I managed to set up the blog with virtually no help from the kids. I wanted to put a few links on my blog, but my eldest daughter (who does know me well)told me to hold off on that until she was available to help. Well, today I managed to figure it out all by myself.

Next thing you know, I might be able to figure out how to program the VCR or set an alarm clock. Then my husband will surely be on the phone with the authorities, asking for reports on UFOs abducting humans....

Sunday, September 10, 2006

For Jane

Well, Jane, I have finally succumbed. What with thinking of things during vacation that I wanted to blog about, and with your persistent prodding for many a year, and with getting my feet wet on MHMoms, I finally decided to go to blogger and see if I could figure any of this out. And I am figuring it out! Woo hoo!

We have a mama wild turkey in the backyard, and three babies. It's been fun watching them. They grow so fast. Amazing that the cat hasn't had a raw-turkey snack yet. I guess she's getting spoiled in her old age, and prefers her turkey roasted and deboned from her slave (that would be me). I suspect that the baby turkeys are raiding my blackberry canes for their vitamins and sweets. Oh well, it's not like the crop was very valuable this year anyhow.

Tomorrow morning I have a date. I've been wanting to meet Cheryl from Loopers for a few years. She and her family are on a brief vacation nearby. You know I must really want to meet Cheryl because I'm actually looking forward to dragging my sorry hide out of bed at an entirely unreasonable hour tomorrow morning so that we can have coffee and pastries at Paneras, and then get back to the mommy-duties we each have. Oh, this is gonna be fun!