Monday, December 17, 2007

In Response...

...to your comments.

I have decided to paste your comments in the body of this post, because they have stirred in me a lengthy response that is more suited for this format rather than the comment section.

I'll start with Tom:

patterns of ink said...
SQ,I just happened upon this and can't comment at length right now, but I am so thankful for the update. It sounds like you have been busy investing in very important things and showing the kind of love only a grandmother can pour out.I had mentioned that www.hope139.com site some time back. This may or may not be beyond the sort of help they can provide. We'll continue to pray for you and your husband as you meet this need. I loved your alertness to the dorky pajamas--good call!If you ever have time to read—understandable if you don’t—my project is wrapping up but has probably suffered from a lack of your kind, editorial prodding.Don’t mention this at POI because my mom reads there, but her cancer is worsening and she has resumed radiation and chemo (though she had previously decided not to). She thanked me over Thanksgiving for making her feel like her life made a difference (by writing about it). I share this only to say that what you are doing for your grandson is making a huge difference! It's a wonderful story of love.

December 06, 2007 10:02 AM

I was so very sorry to learn that your mother's cancer has returned, Tom. She has been on my mind ever since I read your comment. I will surely keep her in my prayers. I have had so many family members and friends come down with cancer. Most of them died from it, but not all. After my father went through surgery and then further treatment for his colon cancer, it returned and attacked his liver. He didn't survive in the end. I wish I could say otherwise. It would be wonderful to still have him around to shoot the breeze with over the phone each day which was our practice. But I must say that in many respects I feel closer to him and also to my deceased mother since their deaths.

I did check into the Hope139 website, but feel that it is not what is needed for our Nik at this time. Thank you for bringing it to my attention though, and if you have any other ideas please share them with me.

Once Christmas is over I plan to visit your blog and catch up on your continuing story about your parents. As I recall the last entry I read was about her being pregnant. I love your story about your parents. Tell your mom for me that indeed her life has made a difference and in mostly hidden, far reaching ways. This seems to be the case for most of us. We don't always know the good we do. I would say that rarely do we recognize when we truly have been an instrument of Providence. I like the way that works, because then we are not tempted to become full of ourselves.

About Nik, my husband and I have even thought about trying to home school him ourselves. Our daughter can't because she has to work in order to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads. I just don't know if home schooling would be the right thing for Nik though or if we would have the energy for that task. He doesn't like school work. That has been his major problem in the school setting. But the school he is attending now passes a wand over each child before they enter the school in order to detect any weapons on them I assume such as knives and guns. So, I ask myself if that is a good environment for Nik to even be in. Maybe homeschooling would be a better choice. I don't know if my husband and I could handle it though. We will have to wait and see how things work out for Nik in this new school environment. The people who work with him seem to be very nice according to my daughter.

J_G said...
Gosh Susie I'm so stuck for words beacuse I know some of what Nik and you have been through. As I have told you before my brother has a similar type of learning disabilty and there was no one that could help him like you and your husband have helped Nik. I still keep Nikolas in my prayers a couple of times a week and will continue to do so. You and your husband are very special people.
December 10, 2007 11:40 PM

Jenni, I remember your talking to me about your brother and the problems he has had over the years due to his learning problems. I hope the educational system is well enough equipped in the end to help our Nik and deal with his "yet unidentified "learning disability. I don't have much faith in the system at this point. Although there have been well intentioned people all along who have worked with him over the years, I think it has been a case of too little too late. I have always thought that what he has needed is less medication and more therapy. Therapy is hard work and time consuming though for both parties. Thanks for your prayers and continued interest.

wreckless said...
I have visited and thought of you often, imagining but yet knowing you were doing exactly as you described. Grandparents do have a magical calm. My nephews still gravitate to my parents still after they were the only ones confided in in a nasty divorce years ago.Quiet, refuge, stability, structure, and consistent focused atttention are all found in your place.He is blessed to have you.I will continue to pray and think about you.
December 11, 2007 7:37 AM

Wreckless, it is true that Nik does best in a structured, calm environment. He is eleven now, but when he was about seven a social worker was visiting our daughter's home each week trying to help her gain some control over Nik. At that time he was pretty unruly. In that regard, he is much better today. The social worker stressed, among other things, the importance of structure in his day. She also stressed the importance of consequences when he misbehaved which is essentially the same thing as punishments except it sounds nicer. My daughter was teaching at the time. With papers to grade in the evenings and four young children to take care of, she could only dream about being able to provide the kind of structure to Nik's day that the social worker seemed to think he needed at home. It was also very hard for her to enforce consequences when Nik misbehaved, because of the time it took to do it. This has been part of the problem. There has not been enough time at times or enough human resources (enough helping hands) in the household. Thanks for your prayers.

Susie Q said...
Dear Susie Q...you are a blessing to this young man. I am no expert at all but the consistency and quiet and structure you give is just so important.How lucky he is to have you two.I will keep you all in my prayers and thoughts...Hugs,Sue
December 12, 2007 9:19 PM


Thanks for your prayers, Sue. I am no expert either. I have had to rely heavily on instinct or my gut much of the time in dealing with Nik. Of course, I touch him a lot. Give him lots of hugs and pats on the head and arm and hand. I tell him I love him. In turn he is very affectionate with me. We had all the children with us this weekend because our daughter was going to be out of town for the weekend. She dropped them off at our house Friday evening. When the doorbell rang and I opened the door, Nik was standing there with a big grin on his face. He said to me, "Finally, I get to hug you!" So, I have been affectionate with him, but also I try to explain things to him in order to help him understand the true consequences of his actions or lack thereof. He listens to me and usually he ends up seeing things in a different light one that is enlightening.


Paul said...
He's really lucky to have that support from you and your husband. I've seen that happen quite often as a school counselor - grandparents playing key roles in this sort of situation.
December 16, 2007 11:04 PM

Paul, when I was bringing Nik to the behavioral hospital so that he could participate in the day program there, I noticed that many of the other children had grandparents who had brought them there too. Grandparents are so important in a child's life. But I never dreamed that I would be playing this vital a role in the life of any of my grandchildren. I am ever so grateful that my husband and I are able to be there for Nik and our daughter. I do not know what our daughter would have done without our help all these years. We have been able to help her in many ways and we are glad.

I thank everyone for your prayers and support. I still plan to lay off blogging till well after Christmas except I might sneak over to Tom's blog and read the rest of his story about his parents. Aside from Nik and our daughter's needs, I have so much to do around here. I can't believe I have allowed things to get so disorganized in my house. I am a prime candidate for help from Operation Organization (think that's the name of the TV program).

May your Christmas celebration be blessed with joy and may all your wishes for the new year come true.

Nik is in the forefront of the photo. He is wearing a yellow shirt. Rachel is seated in the rocker. Erik is to the left in back and Jakob is to the right in back. They are all very sweet children.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Update on grandson and family

(Edited)

I want to thank you all for continuing to be concerned about my grandson and our family. I thought you deserved an update. Plus writing about it will be therapeutic for me.

In my previous post of October 27, I said that my grandson Nik was no longer able to attend his regular school due to his deteriorating behavior. He was in Special Ed there. They were not able to give him the type of therapy he needed. His school district remains responsible for his education though so an alternative school was found. He started attending this alternative school on a Monday. Two days later he was suspended and could no longer attend there. He had gotten upset and tried to run out of the school. When he discovered that the door was locked then he tried to kick it in. With that he was told he could no longer attend there.

After my daughter picked up Nik from the school that Wednesday, she talked to the school psychologist at his regular school. The psychologist thought Nik needed to go to the crisis center and be assessed. The therapist at the crisis center talked to Nik and decided that he would benefit from the day program at a behavioral hospital in our area. So the following week he began participating in the day program at this hospital.


Transportation to alternative schools is provided by his school district except not in this case because it is a hospital. My daughter had to provide the transportation for him. My husband and I offered to drive him to and from the hospital for the duration so that our daughter would not have to take off precious time from work for that purpose. The hospital was less than 30 minutes away from us. It was more convenient to have Nik stay with us during the week for the three weeks he was involved in the day program at the hospital. So he did. I drove him to the hospital in the morning and my husband picked him up in the afternoon when the session ended. Nik went back home to be with his family on the weekends. The first morning I took him to the hospital to participate in the program I hated to leave him, because I knew he was frightened. He had such a worried look on his face.

At the hospital he was part of a group of about a dozen other children with similar problems and in his age range. He received group therapy and individual therapy there. About two hours of the day was devoted to school work.

Every day the hospital sent home a sheet of paper which showed how Nik had done in the program that day. He was awarded points based on his behavior in a variety of categories such as respect, group participation, working on goals, staying on task and so on. Actually he did quite well and often received the maximum number of points for the day. In turn, I completed the other side of this sheet of paper giving him points for his behavior at home in a variety of categories already established by the hospital. Each morning I returned this sheet of paper to the hospital so that they could see how he was doing in the home environment. Except for one day when I had to dock him a few points due to a minor infraction, he received the maximum number of points for his behavior in our home. He did very well here. In fact, we could not ask for a better behaved child.

It was such a joy having Nik in our home for those three weeks. We adore him. He is a beautiful child. A sweet boy. He is kind, sensitive, artistic, bright and funny. But he is a boy with lots of anxieties that at times can cause him to get frustrated and then angry and then he acts out. But not once while he stayed with us did he lose his temper or even come close. This was due in part to the fact that our household is very quiet except for our dog's occasional barking. There is little commotion. Things are calm around here. In fact it is so quiet here that I wondered if it might be boring for Nik hanging out with a couple of old people in such a quiet house. So I asked him about it one night at supper. He said that he liked the quiet in our house and wasn't bored at all. In the end he was proud of his behavior with us. It gave him confidence that he could control himself.

I was hoping this good behavior here would carry over when he returned to his own home. But it didn't at least not at first. He is coming along though and getting better about controlling himself. I got a phone call from him the first night he returned home which was a Friday after being here for a week. He was crying. He asked to come back to our house. I could barely understand what he was saying, because he was crying so hard. Later when I talked to his mother I learned that something minor had taken place between him and his sister that upset him, and he lost it. Then he felt bad about himself. Whenever he loses control he gets mad at himself and that just seems to make it worse. I told him that night that he would be coming back to our house on Sunday. It seemed to satisfy him. As I see it, he wanted to come back to our house because he would not have to deal with conflict here and could feel good about himself and his behavior.

Nik liked being here in our home with us. Well, we have a comfortable home and a nice collie that makes a kid feel loved and protected. Nik doesn't watch much TV, but he thoroughly enjoys playing a particular computer game. So we let him download the game on our laptop which is in the family room. That was his source of entertainment here, that and drawing. And then I make the best oatmeal in the world which just happens to be Nik's favorite cereal. Every morning I had a big bowl of it waiting for him on the kitchen table.

Of course as any good grandma will do I doted on Nik to excess and to his delight. He complained the first night here that the pajamas I asked his mom to send along with him made him look like a dork. Nik was right. They did indeed. He is a tall lanky boy and those pajamas only accentuated his lankiness. So the very next day I went out and bought him new pajamas that would not cling to him and I bought him some of those cool lounge pants the boys are wearing these days, those and brand new white undershirts to go along with. Well, he was thrilled with his new clothes.

When I noticed that Nik didn't have a good sense of time and had difficulty remembering what day of the week it was , I decided to buy him a wristwatch with a digital read and one that also tells him the date and day of the week. It was a good investment and I think it will help Nik to develop a sense of time.

We have four bedrooms in our home. Since I am a light sleeper and my husband snores a lot, I sleep in one bedroom and my husband sleeps in another. A third bedroom is devoted to antique furniture. A fourth bedroom which is rather large has our exercise equipment in it. This is the bedroom I used for Nik. In one corner of it, I placed a pop-up trundle bed. Next to the bed I placed an end table and next to the table a rocker. That cozy corner became his bedroom. He was proud of his "bedroom" and had to show it off to his cousins who popped in to visit. I have kept everything in place in the event that he needs to return here for an extended period of time.

At night at bed time, Nik and I read from the Spiderwick books for about 30 minutes. He sat in bed and I sat in the rocker nearby while Max our collie laid sprawled out on the floor pretending to be listening as we read. Nik would read three pages to my one page. While he was with us he managed to finish book one of the Spiderwick series. This was quite an accomplishment for Nik as it was the first time he had ever read a chapter book all the way through. This made him very happy.


Something else we did as part of the bed time ritual was to kneel by the side of the bed and say an evening prayer after we were done reading. He had never before knelt by his bed to say prayers. So, this was new to him and he was eager to participate. In the beginning he had nothing to say and left all the talking to God to me. But as time went by he began to pray a little to God himself. Finally one night he prayed and thanked God for his life. I just thought that was wonderful. He is being raised Catholic, but lately he has been refusing to attend his religious education class on Wednesday evenings and refusing to attend Mass on the weekends. So I thought it was important that we say evening prayers together while he was with us.

I said he is bright, yet his reading level is well below what it should be for his age. He is eleven. It took him a long to to learn to read and he still struggles with it. We are pretty certain that he has a learning disability, but no one seems to know what it is. I believe he is going to catch up in his reading however. Even though he struggled with some of the words in the Spiderwick book we were reading, he was patient with himself. I think he felt safe with me and this is why he could be patient with himself.

Nik started attending another alternative school last week one that uses physical restraint when called for. He has a bad habit of trying to run, usually out of the school building, in order to escape his anxieties when they come on. It is that old fight or flee thing that happens when a person gets anxious and the adrenalin starts flowing. He seems to be doing well at his new school. His mother (my daughter) is pleased with this school so far and the way they communicate with her daily about his behavior. They are able to give him the amount of therapy he needs right now in his life. The goal is to get him to the point that he can return to the regular school setting. Usually that takes one to two years.

I feel better about Nik's short time future now that he is settled in a school that seems to be able to give him what he needs for the time being. I am encouraged. But he has many challenges. There are some other things I want to do for him that hopefully will help. Once the holidays are over, I plan to get involved again in my daughter's household, if she will have me, helping her out with the children and all.
I will be keeping my blogging activities at a bare minimum consequently.

I welcome any suggestions, ideas, thoughts, direction any of you might have to offer here that I might use to help our Nik along.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Keep us in your prayers

As many of you have noticed, I have curtailed my blogging activities lately. I have been busy helping one of our daughters with her family. This is likely to continue through Christmas.

This daughter is a single mother who works full time. She has four children. One of her sons has emotional problems that became worse when school started this fall. When several other problems erupted about the same time for our daughter, it became apparent to all of us that she had more than she could handle by herself. My husband and I decided it was time to pitch in and help her out temporarily.

Our daughter doesn't live that far from us (about 45 minutes). But she needs our help early in the morning, in the evening, and some in between. The distance and traffic are too much of a challenge for us under those conditions. Not to mention the cost for gas. So, we decided the only solution was for us to spend several days and nights with her during the week in order to help her out at those peak times. My husband is able to commute from her home to his work with a little extra time added to his drive, but it is tolerable. Our dog comes with us which eliminates the need for someone to take care of him in our absence.

Recently, our grandson's behavior reached an intolerable point at his school. The school felt he would be better off in another learning environment. So on Monday he will start attending an alternative school which is designed for children who have emotional challenges. There he will receive therapy on a daily basis. His story is a long and sad one that began when he was about four years old shortly after his father left his mother.

Our grandson has been on medication since Kindergarten except for about eight months when he was taken off medication for a brain imaging test. He did so well off the medication that the doctor kept him off. He behaved like a regular child during that time span. But when he changed schools after the family moved, the new school wanted our daughter to place him back on medication to make the adjustment go smoother. I have seen how the various medications have affected him all these years. It has been dreadful at times. In my opinion, the drugs have done more harm to him than good. From what I have observed and I have been very close to him, much of his undesirable behavior has been drug induced. This infuriates me. I have read up on these medications and I know what the side effects look like and how the doctors try to counter these side effects with other medications that come with their own set of side effects. What I could tell you.....

Anyway, I wanted to let all of you know why I have been absent from the blogs. Please keep us in your prayers, in your thoughts. Thank you all for the kindness you have shown me.

Monday, October 01, 2007

The Search For The Twins - Part IV, The Final One


(Part III of this story ended with Rebecca rushing to tell Julia, who was resting on the porch, that the twins were missing. )

"The twins. They've disappeared, Julia. I can't find them anywhere." Rebecca gushed.

Of all the children, Julia found the twins the hardest to manage. They were happy little boys infected with rich imaginations that enabled them to craft a make believe world for themselves that could keep them busy for hours. But they were too inquisitive. They were curious about everything and they were not afraid of anything. As if that wasn't bad enough, they had this uncanny talent for disappearing from sight in the blink of an eye. "There isn't a nook or a cranny anywhere on this farm that those boys have not tried to investigate." Julia told David one night as she vented her frustration with the twins.

Julia had been especially uneasy about the twins ever since that one incident that happened the week before. So when Rebecca told her the twins had disappeared, that incident leaped into Julia's mind. At first she was weak from the adrenalin that coursed through her body. But soon she felt this boost of energy that reminded her of ice on her skin. She jumped to her feet. The Sears catalogue that had been in her lap dropped to the floor. "Quickly, Rebecca, go fetch David at the threshing machine and tell him to get to the pasture as fast as he can." She knew that David would understand.

"LOUISE." Julia shouted toward the kitchen. "Come quick and take the children." Louise hurried out of the kitchen and onto the porch. The two women exchanged a few words. "You stay here and Let ME go, Julia." Louise insisted. "No." Julia responded firmly, and she left.



Julia's heart was in her throat as she ran toward the pasture. How she wished Jacques was there. The dog seemed to know instinctively when to fill in for Julia and David and watch the twins when they could not. But shortly after that incident last week, he had taken off to be with his lady love for a while at the Boudreau farm and he had not returned yet.

Was it happening again? She asked herself. "Oh, God....please not again." She prayed. That frightening day the week before was in the forefront of Julia's mind now in vivid detail. David had gone to town that morning for supplies and had taken the oldest child with him. Rebecca was in the house with the other children except for the twins. They were outside with Julia. She herself was out in the garden hoeing a row of carrots and assuming that the twins were right behind her playing under the oak tree. All of a sudden she heard Jacques yipping incessantly in the distance.

Julia looked up and there were the twins just on the other side of the fence in the pasture and, what looked to be, only yards away from the bull. He was showing his muscled broadside to the twins which Julia knew was a sign that he would be turning any moment and charging the twins. She raced toward the pasture with the hoe still in her hands thinking she might have to use it to beat him off. As she got closer she could see that Jacques had placed himself in between the twins and the bull. He was yipping and dodging back and forth in front of the bull as if to distract him.

When she got to the twins , she quickly coaxed them under the fence to safety and then called to Jacques to come to her. The dog slipped under the fence but continued his yipping. The bull flared his nostrils and looked at Julia in a way that would haunt her dreams for years to come. She began to think he might try to bolt right through the fence. Slowly she moved the children to in back of her. She knew not to turn her back on the bull or move too quickly as this could incite him to charge. Slowly she walked the children backwards hoping to reach some kind of cover close by. But the bull's interest in Julia and her children waned suddenly and he turned and sauntered off as if nothing had ever happened.
That evening Julia and David sat on the edge of the twins' bed and talked to them. "Now I want you to promise never to go near the bull again." David said to them firmly as Julia plumped up their pillows. "But we want to ride him, Papa." They chimed in together. You would have thought that their freshly washed faces bronzed by the summer sun and exuding all their childlike glee might have inspired heaven to make the beast gentle enough for little boys to ride. You would have thought. Afterwards, as Julia and David sat at the dining room table sipping cups of coffee from what remained in the pot made that morning, Julia asked him once again to get rid of the bull. He agreed and said he would look for a buyer.

They had not had the bull that long, but from the start the bull had shown signs of aggression toward human beings. Fearing that he could hurt someone on the farm, Julia wanted David to get rid of the bull right away once they discovered this about him. He was supposed to be a good breeder though and, for that reason , David decided to keep him. "We will just have to teach the children to stay away from him." He had told Julia. But Julia knew that this was little more than wishful thinking, and she was right.

The clamor of the threshing machine had turned into a soft hum as threshing activities came to a halt. There would be no more threshing as long as the twins were unaccounted for. Threshing machines were dangerous back then with their long wide belts that could suddenly slip out of control. David had shut down the threshing machine before heading for the pasture along with some of the other men to look for the twins. It was shortly afterwards that Julia slipped, twisted her ankle, and fell to the ground.

Louise was holding the baby and watching with Marie and the other children from inside the fenced yard by the house. She saw Julia fall. "Oh, no, Marie. Look what's happened to Julia." She gasped. "I have to go to her. Here, Marie, you take little Phillip." Louise tried to hand the baby to her, but Marie backed away.

"Oh, I'm no good with children." Marie said as she backed away. This is what she always told people whenever anyone invited her to hold a baby or take care of a child. When it came to children, she kept her distance. But her reluctance was due to the pain she experienced when her only child, a boy, passed away at three years old. It was just too painful for her to hold another person's baby or play with other people's children.

"Take him." Louise responded angrily. "I have to go and help Julia. Take him." She demanded as she shoved Phillip at Marie who clumsily accepted him into her arms.

"Now you've gone and done it, Julia. You've gone and done it." Louise said as she helped Julia to her feet. "Let's get you over to this bench. And you stay here. I'll go hunt for the twins." Julia did not object. Instead she sat there in pain on the bench, while the minutes seemed to hang on forever, hoping the twins would show up by some miracle all of a sudden.


Louise went on to join Rebecca and a number of men who were combing the farm looking for the twins and calling out their names. "Leon......Leonelle." They would call. While David and some of the men were looking for the twins in the pasture, the others looked in the barn and its hay loft for them. They were looking in the carriage house, the chicken coop, the tool shed, the milk shed, the orchard, down by the creek, in the fields. They were looking for them everywhere always calling out their names. But they had not been able to find them yet.

When Julia married David and became a Catholic, she completely embraced his faith rich with all its religious symbols, its patron saints, blessed statues, holy medals, holy water. It was what she turned to in times of trouble when things seemed beyond human control. The winter before last everyone in the household had come down with the flu and she was too sick to cook and take care of them. With a raging fever, she pulled herself out of bed one day and went through the house with her vessel of holy water and sprinkled it everywhere. Everyone recovered. Was it a miracle? Who can say? What is a miracle anyway? Who can say?

Then there was the tornado. David was helping another farmer deliver a calf the day a tornado hit and cut a wide swath through the farmland in their area. It brought down trees and demolished barns and homes. Julia was home with the children by herself. When she noticed the stark stillness of the leaves on the trees that day and saw that foreboding clouds were starting to swarm in the darkening sky in the west, she grabbed the crucifix from off the wall and set it in the kitchen window. Then she gathered up the children and rushed them down into the cellar.

The storm arrived. The doors to the cellar began to slap against each other and their frame violently from the force of the wind outside. It stirred up dust in the cellar and dispersed it into the musty air causing Julia and the children to cough. Surrounded by root vegetables and mason jars, Julia huddled with the children. She pulled out her rosary beads which she always kept tucked in her pocket. "Our father who art in heaven......." She began to pray that day in the cellar.

Except for the hickory tree that blew over and landed on the chicken coop, no one was hurt that day. Even the chickens came out of it unscathed.

And so it was as Julia sat on that bench after twisting her ankle and waited for word from David who was still looking for the twins in the pasture, that she reached into her pocket and pulled out her rosary beads and began to pray. Her eyes were closed and she was just beginning the second decade of the beads when she heard that familiar wonderful sounding "yip." It was Jacques. He was standing in front of her. He had come home.

"Jacques!" She squealed as she bent over and threw her arms around him. "I'm so glad to see you, boy." With both hands, she grabbed the fur around his neck and roughed it up. "Where are the twins? Come on boy, go find the twins." She said excitedly. But Jacques already knew the whereabouts of the twins. He began to coax Julia in their direction. As she limped along behind him, he would stop now and then to let her catch up always throwing his head in the direction of the twins as if to say, "Come on, follow me." He was leading her to the ice house where Marie had parked her spring board so that it would not be in the way.


Julia was a few yards away from the spring board when she heard that familiar wonderful sounding "giggle." Then she watched as one curly dark head popped up from inside the spring board followed by the other. It was the twins. They were safe. She kissed the rosary beads still in her hand and dropped them into her pocket. Her joy was so intense that she forgot about her twisted ankle and tried to run. She could not wait to wrap her arms around her boys.

Julia reached inside the spring board for them and pulled them toward her. She started kissing their faces, first one then the other. Over and over again she kissed their faces while she gushed in French "I love you. I love you." Finally, she heaved a sigh of welcomed relief. Then some thoughts began to cross her mind. Surely, she thought to herself, they had been able to hear everyone calling for them. So, she asked herself, why had they not answered. As glad as she was to find them and know they were safe, it was time for her to start asking questions.

"Everyone has been looking for you for a long time. Where have you been?" She asked them.

"Here." They answered pointing to the inside of the wagon.

"Did you know everyone was calling for you?"

"Oui."

"And you didn't answer?"

"Non."

"And why didn't you answer?" She folded her arms and waited for their response, but they said nothing.

"Mon enfants, je te parle (My children, I am speaking to you)."

The twins hung their heads, because they knew they should have answered when they were called. Julia put her hand over her mouth; she was fighting a grin. She tried to appear serious and shook a finger at them. Then she lifted them out of the spring board. "You march right into the house this very minute." She ordered, and she gave them a symbolic smack on their bottoms to send them off. They scampered toward the house. She rushed after them and gave them another smack on their bottoms adding, "And no pie for you today."


Before going into the house, Julia waved to Louise who was coming out of the barn at that moment. "You can call off the search, Louise." She yelled, "I found the twins and they are okay. Get word to David."

When Julia came into the house, she could hear singing in the living room. She walked through the dining room and into the living room where she found Marie down on the floor with her skirt hiked up to her knees singing and playing patty cake with little Phillip who,it was obvious, had taken to Marie. "Oh, Julia, I see you found the twins and they are safe. Thank the Lord." She said cheerfully as she rose and picked up Phillip from the floor. Her hair was mussed up. A good sum of it had come loose from her bun. It was obvious that Phillip had been interested in her hair and pursued that interest with gusto by grabbing a big handful of it.

"Julia, I was just thinking about something." Marie continued while cradling Phillip. She was indifferent to the hunk of hair that hung down on one side of her head. Julia found this indifference a refreshing departure from Marie's usual prissy self. "I was wondering.....well, would it be all right with you, Julia, if....um......I came by here maybe once a week, maybe more, and, uh ......well...um......helped you with the children? "

Julia opened her arms wide and embraced Marie warmly. "It would be a blessing, Marie." She replied.


EPILOGUE

What is fact about this story and what is fiction? Well, it was a fact that the twins were hiding while everyone on the farm was looking for them and calling for them that day. As the story goes, they were hiding under a buggy and watching the whole thing take place and apparently having a good time of it.

It was a fact that Julia was a religious woman. I remember hearing the story about the time Julia dealt with a tornado and used some religious object, perhaps a crucifix, to ward it off. One other fact about Julia is that she loved her family. As you can imagine with all those children, their descendants grew to be many. Julia kept a mental record of all their marriages, births, names and on and on in the family. On her death bed, she was attempting to recite this mental record. What a precious woman!

Most everything else in the story is fiction. But there may have been a bull in which the children took a dangerous interest. There may have been a dog. Perhaps his name was Jacques afterall. And there may have been small miracles take place in Julia's life at least what she thought of as miracles.

The photo above is of Julia and David and their eleven children. My grandfather Leon is in the back row just left of center. The man with the white hair and glasses and seated in the front row is my Great-grandfather David. When I was a little girl of four or five and he came to visit, he would offer to pay me a nickel if I would sing him a song. I was more than happy to oblige him. Everyone liked David. According to my cousin Lloyd who I consider the family historian, David was a good, honest man.

One last thing. As you can readily see, no one in this photo is smiling. There must have been a law back then against smiling in photos. This photo does not reflect the happy dispositions which members of this family possessed in actuality. If the photo were to reflect that, everyone would have huge grins. This was a very affectionate, loving family too.

CREDITS: A few of the farm photos, representative of the historic Kline Creek Farm in DuPage County, Illinois, are the works of Michelle Benedicta. Also, I must give credit to my husband for taking a series of photos of Kline Creek Farm himself. I have used several of his photos too.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Search For The Twins - Part III

"Now you just sit right here in this rocker, Julia, on the porch so you can catch the breeze, and you rest, child." That's what Louise DuBois said to Julia after she helped her off with her corset that day and got her settled on the porch.


Louise DuBois was a stout, matronly woman with a stern look and a commanding voice that could be heard a mile away when she gave it full rein. But she had a heart made of pure gold. She had no qualms about taking charge when the occasion called for it. That morning was an occasion that called for it.

Julia had managed to feed the men their breakfast before Louise got there, but she was close to exhaustion afterwards. Not a morsel of the breakfast meal remained that could go toward the midday meal coming up next. Work on the farm in those days was extremely hard. A farmer had to consume between 6,000 and 8,000 calories a day in order to have the energy needed to do the work. A large man might need to consume close to 10,000 calories a day.

Julia was just starting to clean off the table outside on the lawn when Louise pulled her spring board up to the ice house in back so that it would not be in the way. The two women had not seen each other for more than a month. Louise had been up north helping a niece with a new baby. "Yoo-hoo, Julia." Louise called as walked into the yard. Julia seemed listless to her.

After embracing her warmly, Louise pulled back and placed her hands squarely on Julia's shoulders. She tipped her head first to the left and then to the right as she studied Julia's face intently. Then she dropped her right hand and placed it on Julia's abdomen. "You're in the family way." She announced. Julia nodded yes. In those days pregnancy was referred to in delicate terms such as that.

In 1900 half the babies were delivered by doctors. The other half were delivered by midwives. Louise had been a midwife for over twenty years. She knew all the signs. Yet, it was not unusual back then to find a married woman of child bearing age pregnant. It was almost a given if her youngest child was a year old or more. Indeed, Julia went on to give birth to a boy, Armond, the following January in the dead of winter with the ground covered in lustrous snow and Louise present to assist in the birth.

"Morning sickness?" Louise asked as she started to gather up the stacks of dishes on the table.

Julia brought her apron up and wiped the sweat from her brow with it. "Almost all day I am sick and want to throw up. Everything tastes odd to me. I get tired easily." She replied.

"Let's get you in the house, child, and get your corset off. You need to rest a spell. And the children? Where are the children today? "

"My sister Rebecca is watching them. She's taken them down to the creek to look for crawfish."

*****************************


The Corset. It had been around for centuries. Although it often provided support for the mid section especially the back, its main purpose was to prepare the female figure to receive the fashion of the day. So, the corset form changed with the fashions.

A woman living in Julia's time wore her corset everyday just as today's woman wears her bra everyday. A woman back then hoed the garden in her corset. She did the laundry wearing it. She prepared the meals all corseted up. It may have been a matter of propriety to wear a corset and inappropriate, perhaps even seen as immoral by some, to go without one in public.

Regarding pregnancy, it was considered inappropriate, even immoral, to be seen in public if you were pregnant and showing. The longer a woman could wear a corset while pregnant and conceal that fact, the longer she could be seen in public before the baby came. But Louise advised Julia that day not to wear her corset during the pregnancy, because she had heard that there was a growing concern in the medical community that corseting up could harm the developing child in the womb. In fact there is reason to believe that some women, upon finding themselves pregnant back then and wishing they weren't, tightly laced their corsets in order to deliberately cause a miscarriage.

******************************

"But there are chickens to cut up and fry, Louise." Julia said as she struggled with her corset.

"Now, never you mind about the chickens or anything else. I'll manage just fine in the kitchen without your help. You just rest."

"I don't feel right about leaving all that work to you, Louise."

"Lands sake, I'm fit as a fiddle. The Pelletier baby isn't due for 'nother week yet best I can figure and I'm free as a bird today. " Louise replied as she helped Julia get back into her dress.

With Louise close behind, Julia came down the steps and walked out onto the screened-in porch off the dining room. She eased into the rocker that David's mother had given her earlier in the summer. Julia had whitewashed it and set it on the porch in the corner by the hydrangea bushes.

"I stopped by the Boudreau farm on the way here and Zelia sent you a big pot of beef stew plus several loaves of bread for today's dinner meal." Louise said as she placed a small pillow behind Julia's head. "She said to tell you she's sorry she could not come here herself and lend a hand," her voice trailed off as she headed for the kitchen, "but her youngest is all a mess with poison ivy and her man is down on his back again with something."

"That was kind of her to send the stew." Julia called to her from the porch. "I'm sorry to hear about her man being down on his back again."

Louise chipped a few pieces of ice off the block of ice in the ice box. She drew water from the hand pump at the kitchen sink and carefully washed the saw dust off the chipped ice. Then she plopped the ice in a glass of water and walked back out to the porch with it. "Besides my pies, Julia, I brought along some of my pickled beets and a kettle of ham and beans too. Why, dinner is almost ready for the men."

Louise handed the glass of water to Julia and said, "This should cool you off right nicely." Tucked under her arm was a Sears, Roebuck catalogue she had grabbed off the table on her way through the dining room to the porch. "Here, Julia, look at this while you rest." She said as she handed over the catalogue to Julia.


In the evenings by the light of a kerosene lamp Julia would comb the pages of her Sears, Roebuck and look at everything a person could buy. Augers. Bailing wire. Oil chandeliers. Commodes. Divan couches. Chewing tobacco. Shaving soap. Plum pudding. Rolled oats. Vanilla extract. Chocolate. Men's dancing shoes. Ladies mufflers. Ladies ribbed drawers. Bustles. Buckles. Butcher's apron. And on and on. It was like touring a fantasy land of goods.

Julia wanted to take the twins to the new photographer in town to get their picture taken for their fourth birthday. So, she was particularly interested in what Sears, Roebuck had to offer in boys' clothing. She found an outfit for the boys which she favored. It was inspired by the Little Lord Fauntleroy fashions of a few years earlier. The shirt, or blouse, had a wide ruffled collar to it and long sleeves with ruffled cuffs. She decided upon a big floppy bow, too, in a red plaid for the boys that went under the collar and tied in front. At the time these bows were especially popular in America. Julia used her egg money to pay for the twins' outfits.

While Julia rested out on the porch, Louse busied herself in the kitchen finishing up some of the dishes Julia had started to prepare for the dinner meal. She glanced out the window at one point and then quickly called to Julia "Well would you look at who is comin' up the lane, Julia." She wiped her hands on her apron. "Sweet Lord, it is Marie Chouinard...and she's wearin' a hat of all things. Must be thinkin' it's Sunday."

Marie Chouinard was tall and thin with a mouth that rarely turned up at the corners and usually laid in a narrow abbreviated line right under her nose.

Whenever she spoke, the tip of her nose wiggled like a rabbit's nose. This made it difficult to take seriously whatever she was saying if you were looking right at her. Prim and proper, she was always snooping around looking for something that did not meet with her approval and she usually found plenty that did not meet with her approval. Despite Marie's shortcomings, Louise managed to get along with her and even liked her although at times Louise was forced to set her straight about certain things.

Louise rushed out the kitchen door to greet Marie who was struggling to carry two large wicker baskets. "What have you there, Marie?" Louise asked cheerfully.

"Oh, I thought Julia could use some spiced peaches and pound cakes for the men's meals." Marie replied then added snidely. "I don't suppose she's done much cookin' for the men with all those youngins runnin' round."

Louise shook her finger at Marie playfully, "Now Marie, let's not start that." She said. Louise knew where that was coming from. Marie had given birth to only one child, a boy, who died from pneumonia when he was three years old. That was twenty-five years ago. After the boy died, bitterness set in and never left Marie. It determined her attitude toward everything.

Julia was standing in the kitchen by the sink trying to wash some dishes when Marie walked in. "Oh, Marie, I am so happy to see you." She wiped her hands on her apron and went up to Marie. The two women embraced.

"Well, I know how hard it is to feed a bunch of farmers at harvest time, and I thought you could use some help Julia."

"What are you doing in here, Julia?" Louise squawked when she came through the kitchen door from outside. She set a basket down on the table. "You get right back out there on that porch." And she took Julia by the hand and led her through the dining room and back out onto the porch.

When she returned to the kitchen, she found Marie examining the curtains hanging in the kitchen window. "I wonder when the last time was that these were washed." She remarked as she fingered them.

Louise rolled her eyes and walked toward the sink. "Marie, help me wash up these dishes here, would you. And take off that hat, please."

The two women proceeded to work side by side at the long, trough-like sink covered in a sheet of metal. Marie leaned toward Louise and said quietly, "I see that Julia is not wearing her corset."

"Yes, that's true." Louise replied. "She's in the family way and exhausted right now. I advised her not to wear her corset anymore until after the baby is born. It could harm the baby, Marie. That's what the doctors are saying."

"I'm sorry, Louise. I try not to be judgmental, but...it is not right. It simply is not right. It is immoral, I do believe, to go without your corset in public." Marie replied smugly. "And here with all these men about on the farm today. When the other ladies hear about this, they will be shunning Julia for certain."

Louise began to vigorously pump the handle up and down on the hand pump up at the sink. Water gushed out. "MARIE," She bellowed as she pumped, "I'VE A GOOD MIND TO REMOVE MY CORSET THIS VERY MOMENT RIGHT HERE IN THIS VERY KITCHEN IN FRONT OF THIS VERY SINK. ....AND WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT?"

Marie stiffened as she stood back. Her face glowed red. "Huh,...well.....I never." She muttered.

Julia heard the commotion coming from the kitchen, but just about that time she saw Rebecca running up the road toward the house from the creek with the baby on her hip and Eugene and Albert close behind her.



Rebecca leaped onto the porch steps and swung open the screen door to the porch. "The twins. They've disappeared, Julia. I can't find them anywhere." She said breathlessly. Meanwhile the humming of the threshing machine in the distance could be heard.

To be continued....

********************

EPILOGUE:

I know everyone is eager to find out what happened to the twins, and I was hoping to reveal that in this installment, but it got too long and I ran out of mental energy. Next time, I promise you will find out.

Forever there has been a sisterhood of women to help each other out like these women were helping Julia. In any group of women, too, there is bound to be a Louise and bound to be a Marie. I am sure these stereotypical women existed in Julia's group of women back then.

In researching Sears and Roebuck, I found a site devoted to their 1902 catalogue. I was amazed by the variety of things that one could purchase through this catalogue. If you are interested, you can purchase a CD of the 1902 Sears Catalogue
Here

Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Search For The Twins - Part Two

Even though it was still early in the morning, the day was already fulfilling its promise to be hot and sticky. Julia was thankful for the healthy breeze that was blowing through the window giving her some relief as she labored over the stove in the kitchen. Shortly after Eugene had appeared that morning, the twins had trailed down the steps, too, in their night shirts. Except for baby Phillip who was still sleeping in his crib upstairs, the children were in the dining room with their Aunt Rebecca eating their breakfast cereal of oatmeal. It had their favorite topping....cinnamon sugar.

In those days meals were served in the dining room. The small table that might be in the kitchen was reserved for food preparation. In fact the dining room was always humming with activity, aside from eating, of one kind or another in the household. Children did their school work at the dining room table. They played board games there such as checkers and chess. With her sewing machine nearby in the room, Mother used the dining room table to cut out pattern pieces to that dress she might be making for herself. Father sat at the table and paid the bills and made entries in his farm journal. It was a room that served many purposes.

As she watched over the potatoes frying in the skillet that morning turning them at just the right moment of crispness, Julia fingered the letter in her skirt pocket. It was from her cousin Emily. She had received the letter the day before. Emily wrote to say she was coming in the fall all the way from Vermont to spend a few months with Julia. The cousins had not seen each other since 1897 shortly before Julia and David married.

Emily's letter brought painful thoughts of the past to Julia's mind. "We are sending you to Vermont to live with your Aunt Leonia for a while." Like ghosts the words Julia's father spoke to her that day so long ago returned to haunt her. They laid like heavy weights upon her chest once again to the point that she could not breathe even after these many years later. That entire chapter of Julia's life began to seep into her mind as she stood over the stove preparing the day's breakfast for the farmers.

************************


"Papa, no!" She pleaded.

"My dear child, your very soul is at stake." Her father insisted.

"But I love him, Papa." She cried.

"Julia, I can not permit you to marry this man and leave your church. I must insist you go and stay with your aunt. Your train leaves next Wednesday for Vermont."

Tears washed over her cheeks as she rushed out the door and to the haven of the old oak tree in the corner of the yard far from the house. This is where Julia always went when she was troubled and needed to think and find peace. She leaned against the oak and began to sob as she slipped to the ground. The rough bark snagged her Sunday dress. She did not care. She prayed for peace.

Peace did not come to Julia that day although like a trusted friend it sought her out through the protective canape of the old oak, the soft breeze, and the sweet scent of lilacs. But it could not penetrate her anguish which imprisoned her spirit.


The following Wednesday Julia boarded the train for Vermont. Her heart broken, she waved a somber goodbye to her parents who stood on the platform outside the train station. The engine chugged along slowly at first then picked up speed. She felt so alone. Whenever she glanced at the strangers on the train, she saw no one but David. She caught herself sighing again and again. Wishing the world would disappear she closed her eyes and fell asleep for a while.

Suddenly there was a jolt and she was awake. The train had stopped to pick up more passengers at the next station. Once it was underway again, Julia allowed the countryside the train passed through to become a meaningless blur for her. She looked down at the purse that laid in her lap. Her mother had made that purse for Julia out of a remnant that came from her own wedding dress.

People were frugal back then. Nothing went to waste. Everything was recycled and used again and again in one form or another. Women were highly skilled at sewing and altering clothing. Their husband's old suit was cut down to fit Junior. Wedding dresses became purses and Sunday dresses for the little girls in the family. Worn tablecloths became tea towels, napkins, and hot pads. Every piece of fabric that still had thread life to it and could not be used in some other way became part of a quilt.


Julia loosened the strings of her purse and carefully reached inside. She pulled out a lace handkerchief that she had neatly folded earlier before she left home. She unfolded it and stared down at its content. It was the rose that David had given her. She had pressed it between pages of a book for a keepsake. He had picked it off one of the rose bushes on the Langlois farm the night of the square dance when they met for the first time. She closed her eyes and let the train rock her back and forth into a twilight state where she began to remember what it was like the first time she saw David.


Julia knew of him before she met him. She had heard that his first wife had died after giving birth to a son who survived. But she had never met David or seen him before that night. The moment she laid eyes on David that night she was smitten with him. He was a beautiful man. Tall. Muscular. He had strong features and the darkest of eyes.

Toward the end of the evening, David was smitten with Julia, too, by all indications. After a few dances, they had slipped away together from the crowd and the clatter. They found a moonlit path to walk along where they talked and talked to each other. Their courtship progressed rapidly after that first night.

Julia's parents were not pleased with her new suitor, because he was Catholic. But it was not until Julia started talking about becoming a Catholic herself so that she and David could marry that her parents decided to intervene and send her off to Vermont in order to separate the two.

After Julia arrived at her aunt's home in Vermont, a series of letters began to go back and forth between Julia and her father. Her letters always started with "My dearest Papa,..." and ended with "Your loving daughter, Julia." Letters from her father started and ended in a similar fashion. Then one day a money order arrived for Julia from her father with a letter instructing her to purchase a train ticket and come home. The issue was resolved. The quarrel was over. Julia had prevailed. She was free to become Catholic and marry her beloved David. She had her parents' blessings.

****************************


When she reached for the jars of jam on a high shelf in her pantry, Julia was still deep in thought about Vermont and what had happened years ago. The sound of horses' hoofs hitting the ground outside in the farm yard as neighbor farmers started showing up to help David with the threshing distracted her from what she was doing. Suddenly a jar of jam too close to the shelf's edge toppled off and crashed to the floor below. "OH, NO!." Julie shouted.

"Mama?" One of the children said in a small worried voice. It was Leon. He and his twin Leonelle were standing in the doorway of the pantry. "Are you hurt, Mama?" He asked.

"Oh, my hearts of love. No, mama's not hurt." Julia replied warmly. "Come here to Mama." She bent down and kissed each of them directly on the mouth which was the custom in her family. Then she rose up and pulled them toward her and pressed them tightly against her body. "Mon beau enfants (My beautiful children)." She whispered as she thought of what could have happened years ago and what might not have ever come to be today.

(To be continued....)

Epilogue: It is true that Julia's parents sent her to Vermont to be with relatives after she expressed a desire to become a Catholic. They were Protestants even though they were French and had come from Quebec which should have made them Catholics.

The detective in me has concluded that Julia wanted to become a Catholic so that she and David could marry. The Catholic church would have been very strict about mixed marriages back then. Plus there would have been influence coming from David's Catholic family. I believe her parents were trying to separate her and David by sending her to Vermont hoping that the two would forget about each other. At least it is a romantic thought.

The fact that Julia returned home eventually and became a Catholic and married David suggests to me that some communication was taking place between Julia and her parents while she was in Vermont and that letters most likely flowed back and forth between them giving Julia an opportunity to change their minds.

And surely there was the rose that she pressed between pages of a book, the rose that David gave her.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

The Search For The Twins

When the twins disappeared that day on the family farm and everyone was looking high and low for them, it was the dawn of the 20th Century.

Teddy Roosevelt was president of the United States. The
American flag had only 45 stars. The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower. In 1901 Queen Victoria passed away and the Victorian Era officially ended. There were only 8000 cars in the U.S. at the time and only 144 miles of paved roads. More than 95 percent of all births took place at home. The average life expectancy was forty-seven. There was no Mother's Day or Father's Day around the turn of the century. Only 8 percent of the homes in the U.S. had phones. The population of Las Vegas, Nevada was around 30. The crossword puzzle had not been invented yet. That did not happen till 1913. Coca Cola contained cocaine. Coffee cost 15 cents a pound. There were only about 230 reported murders in the entire U.S. in 1902. My grandfather, Leon, and his twin brother, Leonelle, were four years old at the time.

My knowledge of what happened that day on the farm when the twins disappeared is limited. So I poked around history to find out what life on the farm was like back then and I reviewed my genealogy records and refreshed my memory about family lore in order to add flesh to the skeleton of this narrative. I wanted the story to come alive for the reader. I have created an account of what I imagine might have happened the day the twins disappeared.

This story is a blend of fact and fiction then with photos to enhance the reading experience. Some of the photos are a bit deceptive though. They suggest that Great-grandma Julia may have lived in a darling Victorian farm house with copious manicured flower beds surrounding it when in actuality she probably lived in something austere by comparison and only daydreamed of having flower beds like that. But since she was a good woman all her life and deserved to live in a darling Victorian farm house, I am allowing her that luxury in this story.




It was a day in July. Harvest time. Winter wheat. As was the practice back then, several nearby farmers were coming that morning with their wagons and their teams of draft horses to help David with the threshing.

Julia was expected to feed all the men and tend to the children as well. Mrs. DuBois down the road promised to come later in the morning with an assortment of her pies for which she was famous in the county. She had won Blue Ribbons galore at the County Fairs with them. Julia's sister Rebecca was on hand to help. In fact she was spending the summer there helping Julia with the children and the household and Julia's share of the farm chores.

Life was exceptionally hard on rural women during those times. Their days were long and filled with tasks that were labor intensive. This often exhausted them physically and mentally. A helping hand was much appreciated and needed especially if there were many children in the household. At that time, Julia had five children in tow...all boys with the oldest no more than six.

Julia was in the midst of preparing for the day in the kitchen that morning just as the sun was about to appear and chase off the haze that hovered over the ground here and there like magic carpets. The roosters were nearly finished with their morning ritual announcing the arrival of day. A strand of her dark wavy hair had escaped from the bun she had hastily made on top of her head that morning. The strand swayed back and forth as she worked with another batch of biscuit dough under the dim light of the kerosene lamp nearby.

"Careful, Julia," she could hear her mother's words echoing in her mind, "not too much, or they won't be flaky....won't rise nice." How many times, she wondered, had she made biscuits and heard the echo of her mother's instructive words. Countless times, she decided, and every time. The echo was always in French. Her mother had emigrated with her family from Quebec to the rich black soil of the Illinois prairie. She never did master English. David's parents, who also were French, had come down from Canada too. Consequently, Julia and David were able to speak both French and English fluently. Sometimes they spoke in French. Sometimes, English. Sometimes both in the same day. As a result, all their children grew up bilingual.

Julia caught a whiff of the biscuits baking in the oven of her wood burning stove. She was especially proud of that stove. It was a wedding gift from her parents. Her astute sense of smell in the kitchen told her the biscuits were ready to come out of the oven. She quickly dusted the flour off her hands, bunched up the lower part of her apron with her hands, and opened the oven door to remove the biscuits.

"Ah!" She exclaimed when she saw her biscuits. "Parfait (perfect)!" Mama would be proud, she thought. The hot air from the oven rushed at her turning her face rosy red. She pulled out the biscuits and closed the oven door. About that time, she heard the screen door open in the back hall. It was her husband David. He was finished with milking.

David walked into the kitchen. Fresh milk sloshed against the inside of the pail he was carrying adding to its white froth on top. "Just set it on the pie safe for now, David." Julia said as she slipped the hot biscuits onto a waiting plate. "Coffee?" She asked.

"Oui, mon petit Shulee (yes, my little Julia)." He replied. Practically everyone called her "petit Shulee." Indeed she was so petite that when she was carrying the twins she had to use a strap of sorts to hold up her belly toward the end of the pregnancy. She was small, but she was spirited. Some people described her as downright feisty especially when it came to politics. She was a woman with an opinion, and she was not afraid to express it.

Quietly David moved toward her from behind then bent down and kissed the nape of her neck. She jumped. It gave her goose bumps. It always caught her by surprise when he did that even though he had been startling her like that every day practically since they got married. She turned around briskly and pretended to shoo him away all the while with her face beaming.

"How 'bout some of these biscuits, too," David said as he reached around Julia and snatched one off the plate and popped it into his mouth, "with those strawberry preserves you put up last month." He added while munching on his mouthful of biscuit.

David and Julia were wed in 1897. She was twenty and he was twenty-six. His first wife had died giving birth to a son who survived. Julia became a mother to little Albert then the instant she married David. She and David went on to have ten children of their own. The twins were the first to be born. That was in 1898.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Breakfast was to be served to the hungry farmers later than morning outside under the shade trees at a makeshift table which consisted of several wooden planks resting on wooden horses. Benches flanked the table.

Colorful patchwork quilts eventually covered the tabletop that morning. As an added feminine touch, Julia ended up placing a vase of freshly cut flowers right in the middle of the table mostly to remind the men to watch their manners as ladies were about, especially a young one...her sister. Rebecca who was only seventeen and had been given the task of chasing the flies away from the food while the men ate.
The breakfast menu that morning was to be bacon, smoked ham, eggs, fried potatoes, mounds of plated biscuits, milk gravy, sliced tomatoes and white radishes from Julia's garden, peaches Julia had canned the year before, a generous assortment of Julia's jams and preserves, and plenty of sweet creamy butter which Julia had churned herself. Last but not least, a big pot of coffee to wash it all down.
After breakfast there would be dinner to start working on. It would be served around 2 in the afternoon. Julia had killed and plucked some chickens the day before. They were waiting in her icebox to be cut up, floured, and then fried in lard. After dinner, supper would need to be prepared. The host farm wife was expected to feed the crew of farmers, who had come to help, three meals plus a snack that day. It was often the farm wife who encouraged her husband to invest in the new labor-saving farm implements so that she could be freed of the burden of feeding so many people at harvest time.
In a huge iron skillet on top of the stove, the thickly sliced bacon sizzled angrily as if in defiance. It spat at Julia when she was turning it, and hot grease hit her arm. "Ouch!" She squealed as she recoiled and rubbed the affected area. That was one thing she disliked about cooking. She was so engrossed in her quarrel with the bacon in the skillet that she almost did not notice the tug on her skirt or hear the small voice say, "Mama, I go wee." It was little Eugene standing there in his night shirt with the telltale spot.


(To be continued...)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
DISCLAIMER: Although I have tried to be careful when researching farm life and farming practices that took place in the early 20th Century, I can not guarantee that I have been accurate.
CREDITS: Some of the photos I have used in this story are the works of Boliyou.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Photo Prelude

September 1 update: The photo show is not working at this time. I am in the process of trying to repair it. I think the problem exists with the source itself which is the Walgreen's Photoshow site. (Well, whadda ya know, it is working now. How 'bout that!)

This is a short photo prelude, set to music, to the story about my grandfather and his twin brother when they were children.



The photo show, which is similar to YouTube, is a new element I am introducing to my blog. I am hoping my readers will welcome this enhancement. Personally, I am excited about its creative possibilities.

For those of you who rely on a dial-up connection, the load time for the photo show may exceed your connection capabilities. I hope not. High speed connections should be able to handle it fine. In any case, if after activating the photo show, you receive an error message and you are told to "try again", do just that and you will be taken to a larger screen where the load time should be tolerable.

The musical piece, Blessed is the Man, which I have selected for this photo show is performed by the St. Eliyah Children's Choir of Kyiv. Their young voices remind me of angels.


Please give me some honest feedback on the photo show enhancement so that I will know whether or not it is a good idea to incorporate it into a few of my posts now and then.

I hope to have the story itself completed by the weekend. I have been trying to do a little research on the early 1900's and farm life back then.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Twins' story delayed...

....due to problems with my high speed Internet connection. Again, for the umpteenth time! Consequently, I can't download those adorable photos of my grandfather and his twin when they were children until I get it fixed. Tomorrow a technician is scheduled to come to the house and fix it. I hope he is successful, because I am beyond sick of this.

In the meantime, allow me to indulge myself and let off a little steam that has built up inside of me due to my computer problems. Allow me to indulge myself by picking on a few TV cooks...specifically Sandra Lee of
Semi-homemade Cooking and Robin Miller of Quick Fix Meals.

These women are NOT believable. They are impostors who only claim to be in love with food. Now understand that I watch these ladies practically every day, and I have printed off I am sure more than 95% of their recipes some more than once, in fact, although by accident. But, come on, these women deal with food all day long in their profession. Yet I have seen rails that had more flesh on them than these two. They look like they haven't eaten since 1997. It makes you want to jerk them right out of that TV set and force feed them biscuits and gravy, ham and eggs, and cornbread soaked in honey.

No, these two women are not authentic cooks. Even Martha Stewart with her steel will could not resist eating what she prepared and putting on the pounds which she tried to conceal under those big shirts. Remember the big shirts?

Give me the real thing, the full-bodied, well-endowed real McCoys in TV cooks like Paula Deen of
Paula's Home Cooking and the Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten. Paula Deen, for instance, isn't satisfied unless she's put a stick of butter in whatever she is cooking. She's my kind of woman. All about comfort. I know butter has a bad reputation and is sinful, but can you think of any food other than chocolate that can make you feel that happy? So maybe you can. Well.

These women are authentic cooks. There are others like them too, who proudly wear their profession around their waists and on their thighs...God bless them. When they say on TV that they can't wait to dig in and taste what they have just cooked, you know they mean it. Not so with the spindly Sandra Lee and the twiggy Robin Miller.

If these two want to be skinny, I suppose it is their business. But I wish they would not pretend to salivate on TV when they lift that fork to their mouth to sample their recipes. This is insulting to their TV audience. Don't you know that as soon as the commercial comes they spit it out.

Okay, I think I may have gotten it out of my system...all that built-up steam. Now tomorrow I will turn on the TV and watch Sandra Lee and Robin Miller and dream of being that skinny.


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August 19 update: It occurred to me after some comments were posted that I did not make my actual intentions for writing this piece entirely clear. I meant it as a humorous piece with a a slight element of truth to it.
Then Nancy left her comment in which she pointed out how these super thin women on these TV cooking shows serve as poor examples to our young girls who may struggle with the notion that only ultra-thin is an acceptable body size. I realized that Nancy is right and my piece more true and serious than humorous. As it is with myself, I have several granddaughters. Three of them (ages 16, 10, and 7) are already too focused on their weight and body size when they have no reason to be at all.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

SANCTUARY III - The Finale

I am late getting this final segment of my Sanctuary series published. What can I say in the way of excuses! Been busy, busy, busy with family, family, family. Last night for instance, we had my sister and her husband over for a steak dinner. Ooh! Those T-bones were to die for.

I am highly motivated to get this final segment published. Today I have been going through boxes upon boxes of family photos which belonged to our (my sister and me) parents who both passed away several years ago. After the funerals, which were weeks apart, my sister ended up with the boxes of photos. She brought them with her last night so that I could eventually sort through them and preserve the important photos on CD's for family members.

Well, I ran across three adorable photos of our grandfather and his twin when they were children. The twins were born in 1898 just to give you an idea of the time during which these photos were taken. Finding these photos brought to mind the story which I had heard again and again through the years about the day the twins came up missing on the farm during harvest time. My next post after this one is going to be about that incident. You will love the photos of Grandpa Leon and his twin Lionelle, and you will get a huge charge out of the story. And now to finish up with the Sanctuary.

Flowers, flowers, and more flowers. But these are potted ones on our deck. Be sure to click each photo to enlarge it so that you can get up close and personal with these beautiful flowers. The enlarged view is breathtaking. Let the show begin.

This is our deck. Want to stay for supper? There's a chicken on that rotisserie. Watch your step...don't trip on that extension cord you see laying across the deck floor.

Above: Supertunia Mini Blue Vein
Above: Euphorbia Diamond Frost

Above: Million Bells Yellow Calibrachoa hybrid by Proven Selections. This has been a very hardy and prolific flower this year. I have this particular flower in another pot in front of the house and the blooms just keep coming.

Below: Yellow Hibiscus and Impatiens



Above: Pink Geranium

Above: New Guinea Impatiens blended with Elfin Impatiens.

Note the small angels figurine sitting in the one pot. The spring after
our parents passed away, I discovered this figurine at a garden center. I was drawn to it, because our parents loved nature and all their flowers. I think of our parents every time I look at the angels.
Above: Begonia Elatior 'Kristy Fringed'

No one here gave any indication that they had spotted Woody our mischievous woodland gnome. Well, he was in a miff for a few days over that, but I was able to calm him down. I assured him that, indeed, he is a fascinating creature, but of course mostly just to children and grownups who are still children at heart.
Above: Woody says, "Hee...hee, come again!"

And please do come again!