Friday, August 29, 2008

There Once Was a Farmer From Leeds by Anonymous

There Once Was a Farmer From Leeds

There once was a farmer from Leeds,
Who ate up six packets of seeds,
It soon came to pass,
He was covered with grass,
And he couldn't sit down for the weeds!

I know this picture isn't of weeds, those are down at the bottom of the post. This is just a cute naked baby picture of Elizabeth.

Okay time for another newsy post. Elizabeth is doing well. She has two teeth, and more may be on the way (She certainly acts like her mouth hurts). It's hard to get a photo of them because every time I get the camera close enough to her open mouth, she tries to eat it.

A week or so ago, I posted some video of Elizabeth almost and just barely learning to crawl. Well, now she's an old pro, and her world has become much bigger all of a sudden. It only took a day or so of that mixture of creeping on her belly and standing on her tiptoes to be replaced with real hands-and-knees crawling. It's like once she felt the forward motion, her brain said, "Oh! so THAT'S how it works!" and she was off. When she has somewhere to go, she does it efficiently -- but when she's just browsing her toys, she still does the kneeling/tiptoe thing and kind of makes her way around the room by doing a series of turns.

She seems to have gotten a lot more clever since she started crawling -- though maybe it's just that she couldn't reach the things she wanted to play with. Take, for instance, the springs on the backs of the doors that keep the doorknobs from punching holes in the wall. She crawled over to the one in her bedroom, and grabbed for it, and was delighted when it sprang back with a twang. Now, she will sit and twang it over and over, and find the springs on the back of other doors too. She wanted to know what was in her closet, so she made her way over, and pushed the door open to peek around the edge. She really likes peeking around the edges of things -- especially when her Daddy's around. She likes to watch from her bedroom as he makes breakfast in the kitchen, and she genuinely lights up when he comes home from work. Here's a video of her initiating a game of peekaboo with him, then crawling over to him at the end. It's fun for me to see how Peter reacts to this sort of thing. He's pleased as punch and is so proud of his little girl, he's about to burst.

Another clever thing she does is figure out what game I'm playing. In this clip, she will wait for me to build a block tower, then reach out and knock it over, and ignore the blocks till I build another. She's not really interested in the blocks as blocks, but she likes interacting with me while I play the game. She seems to want to be with me a lot more now that she's crawling too -- though again, it may be that she's just able to act on those urges. She'll happily crawl around the room playing with toys, then crawl over onto my lap. I'll pick her up and give her a hug, then set her down in my lap and she crawls off again. It's like she just has to tag home base every so often. It makes me feel special to know that I'm home base and I make her feel safe.

Because Elizabeth likes watching the birds at Grandma's house, I thought I'd give her a treat at the park on Friday. The pigeons there know what lunch looks like, and so when the bigger kids finish eating their crackers, they all fly down to pick up the crumbs. When that happened, I put Elizabeth on the ground, and dropped as crushed cracker in front of her. Fifty or so birds all came to fight over it -- not intimidated at all by something as small as a baby. Here's a video of Elizabeth excitedly trying to catch a pigeon. Amazingly, she did catch one eventually by coming up from behind and grabbing his wings and tail. Even more amazingly, I happened to take a photo just then!

Well, I've gotta go. I hired a Realtor at last, and one day after she listed our house on the MLS, there are TWO other Realtors who want to show it to their clients!! This is GOOD NEWS! I need to finish the landscaping in the back yard this morning though, so I'd better go do that. There's more pictures on Picasa, and there may be a bonus video over at my youtube site.

Okay, I'm back. We spent all morning getting everything all ready and just perfect, and nobody showed up. The Realtor even called and confirmed yesterday that they were coming today between 2:30 and 3:00. It's hard work living at this extreme pitch of cleanliness, and I don't think it's fair to make me get the house all perfect (including shining the faucets with Windex and lighting a scented oil candle to make the house smell inviting) and then not show up.

On the positive side, I did get the landscaping in the back done. I dug up all the gravel, pulled out the grass and as many of the horrible roots as I could find, transplanted the Jasmine, added Zinnias and some Dollar Store bulbs (that may come up as a pleasant surprise one day), and covered the dirt with some bark chips to dissuade the cats from pooping there. I also recently lengthened and straightened the flagstone and gravel path. The whole area really looks a lot nicer than it did when I started. Here are some before and after pictures.

Before Side Yard -- Nov 2007

After Side Yard -- Nice straight path, plenty of gravel, no weeds or grass on my side.

Before(ish) Back Yard-- Notice the gravel, horrible grass and weeds just past the point where I stopped.

After Back Yard -- Pretty zinnias and jasmine with nice red bark on top.

The Elf and the Dormouse by Oliver Herford

The Elf and the Dormouse

Under a toadstool crept a wee Elf,
Out of the rain to shelter himself.

Under the toadstool, sound asleep,
Sat a big Dormouse all in a heap.

Trembled the wee Elf, frightened and yet
Fearing to fly away lest he get wet.

To the next shelter—maybe a mile!
Sudden the wee Elf smiled a wee smile.

Tugged till the toadstool toppled in two.
Holding it over him, gaily he flew.

Soon he was safe home, dry as could be.
Soon woke the Dormouse—"Good gracious me!

"Where is my toadstool?" loud he lamented.
And that's how umbrellas first were invented.
--Oliver Herford

This poem was in Come Follow Me, a book of poems and stories about elves and fairies. Aunt Shirley gave it to me when I was two years old, and I still enjoy reading and looking at it today. It's not a very complicated poem -- just a bunch of rhyming couplets - but I do love the rhyme in the last set.

In response to crafty posts from my sister and sister in law, I thought I'd post some of my homemaking accomplishments too.

I've been trying to pretty up my yard for potential home buyers, so I decided to harvest all the veggies in the garden and pull up the dead vines and leaves. So here they are. One pumpkin was really nice, and the other is pretty stunted. I wish they could have stayed out there another month, but since the vine died, I guess they're done. I got plenty of zucchini (I hope to get around to making bread in the next few days). And then there's the carrots. Like the pumpkins, I had mixed results with the carrots as you can see from the picture. The next time I plant, I'll have a better system for watering them, and I'll also ask if anybody knows how to tell when carrots are done.

Peter's parents gave us money for a second car seat as their baby shower present for Elizabeth, and we finally bought it in June. It's fully convertible, and should last till she's done needing a car seat at all. I've really liked having a quickly removable car seat cover for the little portable one we've been using. When Elizabeth makes a mess, it's nice not to have to take the whole thing apart to clean it, and so I don't get as frustrated with her. With that in mind, I made a cover for this seat. I didn't use any pattern, so I feel pretty special for making it work as well as it does.

Mom bought this doll, and another Strawberry Shortcake one at the Goodwill. Blueberry Muffin here was missing her jacket. She had a white tank top on, but she looked cold every time I saw her, so I decided to crochet this sweater. The tough part was getting the neck to look small enough, yet be big enough to pull the whole body through (There's no way it was going over that HEAD). After I got the sweater the right size and shape, it needed something more, so I got out some tiny yarn and a smaller hook to do the trim at the borders and the lazy daisy in the middle. Now she looks nice and warm.

Getting back to our poem for the day, Heather's elf shoes were so cool that I just had to make a pair for Elizabeth. I've got both embroidered, and one assembled. I didn't realize just how much embroidery floss it would take to do all that stitching, so I ended up running out. I'll have to go to Jo-Ann's and get some more to match. While looking for the pattern online yesterday, I found some other cute ones, so expect to see more in the future.

Friday, August 22, 2008

On Laws (The Prophet, Chapter 13) by Kahlil Gibran

On Laws (The Prophet, Chapter 13)

Then a lawyer said, "But what of our Laws, master?"
And he answered:

You delight in laying down laws,
Yet you delight more in breaking them.
Like children playing by the ocean who build sand-towers with constancy and then destroy them with laughter.
But while you build your sand-towers the ocean brings more sand to the shore,
And when you destroy them, the ocean laughs with you.
Verily the ocean laughs always with the innocent.

But what of those to whom life is not an ocean, and man-made laws are not sand-towers,
But to whom life is a rock, and the law a chisel with which they would carve it in their own likeness?
What of the cripple who hates dancers?
What of the ox who loves his yoke and deems the elk and deer of the forest stray and vagrant things?
What of the old serpent who cannot shed his skin, and calls all others naked and shameless?
And of him who comes early to the wedding-feast, and when over-fed and tired goes his way saying that all feasts are violation and all feasters law-breakers?

What shall I say of these save that they too stand in the sunlight, but with their backs to the sun?
They see only their shadows, and their shadows are their laws.
And what is the sun to them but a caster of shadows?
And what is it to acknowledge the laws but to stoop down and trace their shadows upon the earth?

But you who walk facing the sun, what images drawn on the earth can hold you?
You who travel with the wind, what weathervane shall direct your course?
What man's law shall bind you if you break your yoke but upon no man's prison door?
What laws shall you fear if you dance but stumble against no man's iron chains?
And who is he that shall bring you to judgment if you tear off your garment yet leave it in no man's path?
People of Orphalese, you can muffle the drum, and you can loosen the strings of the lyre, but who shall command the skylark not to sing?
-- Kahlil Gibran

I was looking for a poem about weddings and found that there are far to many of those for me to find a single good one quickly. To narrow my search, I went to the Wondering Minstrels site because I think they have good taste. I was quickly rewarded with this poem which talks, not merely about weddings, but about laws too.

I like the way he talks about how civil laws cannot restrict moral agency, and that having laws but not obeying them is ridiculous. I agree that laws should not be too strict, and should allow for individual differences. Yet the overall impression I get from this bit (which may be taken out of context) is that he's a bit of an anarchist, and doesn't think we really need laws at all. Yes, if everybody followed the basic rules of loving God and loving their neighbor, we wouldn't really need all the multitudes of laws we have, but until then, I do think that society needs rules.

And that brings me to my main topic for today. With the upcoming vote on a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman here in California, we've been asked, by the First Presidency, to help with the campaign. It's gonna be tough for me -- they want us to make phone calls and/or go out door to door -- but I believe that when the Prophet calls us to action, we should obey -- even (especially) when it's hard.

Anyway, the whole issue of gay marriage is a thorny one. If you say you're against it, political correctness says you're just being mean and denying other people the chance to be happy. At the same time, I know it's wrong. It violates God's plan, and weakens traditional marriage, which is already under attack.

My friend Jocelyn posted a link on her blog to a statement from the Church telling just WHY it's wrong, HOW it violates God's plan for his children, and WHAT some of the consequences could (and will) be for religious liberty, education, morality, and society as a whole. It also punches holes in the not-quite-right logic of the "tolerance" and "it doesn't hurt you" arguments that are used by advocates of same sex marriage. I highly recommend reading this, as it will not only give you a clear position to use in respectful dialogue with others on this topic, but also help clarify in your own mind why you feel the way you do about the topic (I'm assuming that the people who read my blog feel the same way I do -- and if you don't, then you should read the statement to find out just why I believe this way).

One of the documents referenced in the statement is the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I didn't know this document existed (though I suppose it makes sense that it does), and was curious to see what it said. The preamble is a bit wordy and flowery, but once it gets into the rights, it is very readable, and I found that I could wholeheartedly agree with pretty much everything it says. I was surprised that something that came out of a committee as big as the UN was that right-on, but I suppose that it helps that it was written in 1948, when political-correctness hadn't yet reared its ugly head. I also find it interesting that the United States did not at that point meet even the bare-bones standards of this document with regard to equal protection under law and equal pay for equal work without discrimination based on race or sex.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Much Ado About Nothing Act 4, Scene 1 by William Shakespeare

Much Ado About Nothing Act 4, Scene 1

CLAUDIO: O Hero, what a Hero hadst thou been,
If half thy outward graces had been placed
About thy thoughts and counsels of thy heart!
But fare thee well, most foul, most fair! farewell,
Thou pure impiety and impious purity!
For thee I'll lock up all the gates of love,
And on my eyelids shall conjecture hang,
To turn all beauty into thoughts of harm,
And never shall it more be gracious.
--William Shakespeare

You'd think there would be all kinds of famous poems that used locks and keys as a metaphor about love, but for the life of me I couldn't find them today. Oh well. This bit from Much Ado is pretty poetic, and it does use the word lock...

I went to the ward beach group with Elizabeth on Monday. We had a good time. I brought a bunch of kites, and all the kids had fun flying them (only two flew away, and we retrieved one of those). Elizabeth crawled in the sand, played with shovel and bucket (though just holding, chewing and whacking them -- not digging), and enjoyed the surf with Mama. After pushing all our stuff back up the gigantic hill in the stroller, loaded everything into the trunk and went to unlock the Driver's side door and noticed that the end of my key was missing! Evidently, I had broken it off in the trunk lock without noticing.

I had a spare key with me (actually I had two: one in my purse, and one on the car -- I don't like being locked out and stranded), so I used that to get home, and did other things until Elizabeth went down for her afternoon nap. I called Daddy (what else does a girl do when she has car problems) and he suggested either using a coat hanger to jimmy the mechanism, or get into the trunk through the back seat and pull the emergency release handle. I picked the second option because I had no idea where the handle was, and knew I'd get frustrated fishing around with a coat hanger.

I began by yanking on various parts of the seat cushion, and found that the bottom part folded up and forward, exposing three bolts that held the back part on. My little Ikea monkey wrench wasn't strong enough to loosen the bolts, but luckily, Daddy had bought some socket wrenches with a ratcheting handle and left them in my tool bin the last time he was here. I got these out, found the right one, got the ratchet clicking in the right direction, and pulled the bolts off. Peter arrived home about this time, and helped me wiggle the seat back off of the three hooks that held the top part of it on.

Then there was still some corrugated plastic dividing the seat from the trunk, but we made short work of the pins holding that together, and we were into the trunk. Peter was a big help at this point, wrestling all the beach gear and stroller out of the trunk (it would have to happen on a day when the trunk was full, huh?), and I crawled in and pulled the handle (which was situated in a way that would have made it impossible to pull with a hanger -- even if I had known where to look).

With the trunk open, it was easy to find the lock cylinder, and disconnect it from the pole that transmits the movement to to latch. It was not so easy to remove the U shaped piece of metal that held it tight to the trunk. I pulled and wiggled it. Peter pulled and wiggled it. We tried to wedge a screwdriver in to get it off -- but nothing worked. I called a locksmith to see what they would charge to fix the lock (since I was sure they could get the piece off) and they said it would START at $185, and go up from there! I wasn't willing to pay that, so I went to the auto parts store to see if they had a special tool to get it off (Daddy says it's always cheaper to buy the right tool), but the guy there said I should just take a vice grip and maybe bang it loose with a hammer. Daddy had also left vice grips in my tool bin, so I went home and used them to yank it off.

With the cylinder out of the car, I came inside to see if I could get the piece of key out. There were several challenges. First, a couple of the spring loaded tumblers wouldn't stay in the open position to let the key through, so I had to wedge something into the recessed area where they were to keep them pushed in. I used a paperclip, and a wooden tool for shaping clay from my craft box.

Next, the key itself needed some urging to move downwards. There was a hole on the front of the lock near the top where I could see the tip of the key, and push it down with a paperclip, but the hole was so small that I couldn't get a good angle with the paperclip to push it all the way out. I managed to bend the paperclip into a gentle curve that would let me get in through the hole without running into the side or top.

Finally, there was the door at the bottom. This is the spring loaded door that keeps water out of the lock so it doesn't ice up in winter. It's easy enough to open with something like my Safety Pin of Usefulness (tm), but then the safety pin is in the way, and the key can't get out. So I had to push it open, then wedge another paperclip in from the side of the lock to hold the door open.

None of the steps I've described above is particularly difficult, but doing them all at once, when several of them are spring loaded, and you need to keep your paperclips at just the right angle, and maneuver things in a tiny space, is not so easy. I had just called Peter to come give me an extra pair of hands when I managed to shake the key loose and get it out the door!

After gloating a bit, I took it outside and reassembled everything (no mean feat in itself it remember where all those screws and bits go). Boy, when I put the lock back in the trunk, and turned the key in it, and it opened up, I was SOOOOO proud of myself! I made Peter come out and admire it for a while before I put the seat cushion back on.

So that's the story of how I saved us a couple of hundred bucks yesterday. I owe a lot of it to Daddy who supplied the tools and advice. He also taught me how to use them when I was little, and even more important, taught me that I could probably figure out how to take something apart, find the broken bit, and put it back together again. That confidence is something I hope to be able to pass on to Elizabeth as she grows up.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Natural History by E.B. White

Natural History

The spider, dropping down from twig,
Unfolds a plan of her devising,
A thin premeditated rig
To use in rising.

And all that journey down through space,
In cool descent and loyal hearted,
She spins a ladder to the place
From where she started.

Thus I, gone forth as spiders do
In spider's web a truth discerning,
Attach one silken thread to you
For my returning.
-- E. B. White

Long before he wrote Charlotte's Web , E. B. White wrote this poem as a love note to his wife. I heard it on NPR's In Character Podcast, and was very impressed. I knew he could write excellent prose, but I didn't know he was a poet too. Another part of the podcast I thought was touching was that when he read the book aloud for the audio version, it took him seventeen tries to get through Charlotte's death scene without breaking down in tears.

When asked whether kids have a problem with Charlotte dying, they said, "No, it's the adults that do. The kids just ride the wave." I thought about why it was okay for Charlotte to die, and realized that she knew from the start how much time she had on this earth (relatively). She didn't sacrifice her life for Wilbur. Nobody killed her. She would have died whether she was a great friend to him or not. There was no way to save her life, but she could save his, and so she did. She took the time she had, and made it matter. The world was a better place because she was in it. That's why it's okay for her to die -- 'cause everybody dies sometime. She showed us that we can decide what to do with the time we have.

And what I'm going to do with the time I have right now while the baby is asleep is tell you all about how Elizabeth is doing. It's been nearly four weeks since I did a blog post about her, and boy has it been eventful!

We've spent a lot of time at Great Grandma Helen Stay's house, and though Elizabeth is not thrilled with sleeping away from her own crib, she does like several things at Grandma's house. First, there's the clocks. She likes watching the pendulums swing and listening to them tick (if I sit her in front of the grandfather clock, she can see her reflection in the pendulum). She gets very excited when they chime, especially if she happens to see the cuckoo bird.

Then there's the real birds. Elizabeth loves to sit and look out the big glass sliding door and watch the birds come to Grandma's bird feeder. She is also often content just to look at the flowers and the wind in the trees. One day, while we were birdwatching, a hawk swooped down and tried to catch one of the sparrows, but missed. He flew over and sat on the wall, glaring at everyone and looking very displeased for a few minutes before he flew away. Grandma gets doves, sparrows, hummingbirds, and some pretty reddish and yellowish little birds that might be some kind of finch or tanager. None of these birds like to eat the big pieces of corn in the birdseed, so they just toss it down onto the ground, and make a big mess with it.

Elizabeth is also enthralled with Grandma's walker. It's shiny and red and made of metal pipes with brake cables running down the side and it has screws poking out here and there for interesting sucking. Best of all, it's got plenty of handholds for her to stand next to it and practice her balance. Sometimes she'll just stand there for twenty minutes or more, bouncing and grabbing and sucking. It's pretty funny.

We've been having fun at the park with our ward's weekly playdate. She tried the swing for the first time, and seemed to enjoy it well enough. She was pretty tired that day, so she looked like she was in a trance in the swing. She's also getting big enough to entertain herself on a blanket on the ground, and interact with some of the other kids. All in all, she likes going outside, and taking walks in her stroller. Peter and I take her out for a walk nearly every evening before bedtime.

Another thing that has Elizabeth enthralled is electronics. From cell phones to cameras, to remote controls, to computers, Peter and I have a lot of them, and use them frequently, and Elizabeth WANTS her share. I resisted at first, but then I realized that it's a little silly to give her a toy rotary telephone, but not a toy cellphone. So I got one for her and she's THRILLED! She especially likes it when she accidentally pushes the buttons and it makes noise. I also got tired of trying to distract her from Daddy's mouse, so I took an old broken one, shortened the cord (because she LOVES cords) and gave it to her for her very own. It's pretty funny how happy it makes her. With the success of those two toys, I've requested a keyboard from freecycle, and when I pick that up and clean it, she'll be set for life! (or at least a few more months)

Elizabeth was far grumpier than usual on the 4th and 5th at Grandma's house. On July 8th, I figured out why. She's teething! Her first tooth cut through on the bottom left, with the right one following a few days later. The sore gums make it hard for her to eat and sleep sometimes, but she's mostly good natured about it. Though she fights me when I want to put Oragel on them (since I only do it when it hurts the most and she can't be calmed any other way), she does look surprised and calms down within seconds. It's hard to get a photo of the little tooth nub, but if you look very closely, you can kind of see it here.

On the food front, she's still not very interested in eating from a spoon. I think that she doesn't like it coming near her sore gums. When I offer it, she generally clamps her mouth shut and turns up her nose. Sometimes, if I'm eating something, she'll want a bite, and lately she's been kind of impressed with shaved ice from frozen baby food, but only in small amounts. I bought some baby cereal puffs that kind of melt in your mouth, and she likes to pick them up (with a pincer grasp no less) and maneuver them to her mouth.

Elizabeth's biggest accomplishment lately though is learning to crawl. She's been trying hard to figure it out for months, and she finally got it! The videos below show the day she first made real progress (I got the camera out after her first feat, and she wouldn't do it again) and a day or two later when she was getting good at it (I found a little tripod for my camera at the dollar store, and it makes this last video so much nicer to watch). She still tends to flop down on her tummy after each movement, but she's getting faster and stronger, and it's not safe to leave her in the middle of the floor anymore.

On the 13th, when I was at Grandma's house, showing off her new tricks, Elizabeth crawled over to get something, then pushed up and sat back on her legs to get back to a sitting position! I had been watching for this move, because she often goes from sitting to almost crawling and back again, but she hadn't gotten her legs back underneath her after being on her belly before. She's getting so smart! It's like once the ball started rolling, she could just keep learning new things. I have a video of this, but she doesn't start doing it till about half way through, so you may want to skip the first bit which is not so interesting. The other video, which I took the same day, has Grandma's caregiver, Fawn, making noises to make Elizabeth laugh.

Well, that's it for today! BTW, there's more pictures over at my picasa page.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Thank You, God, For Everything by Helen Steiner Rice

Thank You, God, For Everything

Thank you, God, for everything,
The big things and the small.
For "every good gift comes from God"...
The giver of them all.
And all too often we accept, without any thanks or praise,
The gifts God sends as blessings, each day in many ways.
And so at this Thanksgiving Time, we offer up a prayer...
To thank you, God, for giving us a lot more than our share.

First, thank you for the little things
That often come our way,
The things we take for granted
But don't mention when we pray,
The unexpected courtesy, the thoughtful, kindly deed,
A hand reached out to help us in the time of sudden need.
Oh, make us more aware, dear God, of little daily graces
That come to us with "sweet surprise"
From never-dreamed-of places.

Then, thank you for the "Miracles"
We are much too blind to see,
And give us new awareness of our many gifts from Thee,
And help us to remember that the Key of Life and Living
Is to make each prayer a Prayer of Thanks
And every day Thanksgiving
--Helen Steiner Rice

Without Peter to help me carry Elizabeth and her things in church today, I considered (just for a moment) either not going to church at all or staying only for Sacrament Meeting. While at church, I told one of my young-mother friends that I brought the giant stroller with me to do the carrying even though it's not particularly maneuverable in crowded hallways, she said, "Yeah, sometimes I wonder if it's even worth coming at all. I mean am I really gonna get anything out of it?"

Well, even though I was holding a teething baby with nobody to spell me or haul her stuff, I got something out of all three meetings today, some of them, really profound personal applications of the doctrine we were studying. As part of my New Years resolution to notice, write down, and share the tender mercies I see in my life, here are the things I learned in Church today.

The first was in the High Council speaker's talk (as a sidenote, because the assigned speaker was injured yesterday, he only had a couple of hours to prepare to speak while he was getting ready this morning, so his talk was disorganized -- several times he led right up to what seemed like it was going to be a very interesting point, but then he'd move on to the next subject without actually bringing the pieces together. I was able to catch some of them, but being distracted with Elizabeth, I'm sure I missed a few.) Anyway, the bit that I found interesting came in the context of talking about the Iron Rod in Nephi's Dream. He had looked up the word "canon" in the dictionary and found that it came from the Greek "Kanon" which was their word for a measuring rod which also came to be the word "cane" or a rod to help you walk. So the word of God in our canonical scriptures is literally a rod that measures our obedience and helps us to walk the strait and narrow.

In Sunday School, we were talking about Alma 40-42. This is where Alma is talking to his son Corianton about resurrection, justice and mercy. The teacher used a credit card as an example of the debt of sin Christ's atonement pays off to mercifully meet the demands of justice. To get the class thinking, she asked, "Is that fair? if somebody else pays your debt are you going to learn anything?" To respond, I raised my hand and shared the following personal story:

A few months ago, my husband Peter lost his job when his company laid of 40% of their employees. We had a small amount of money in the bank, but we spent most of our savings to put a down payment on a house a year ago. When we looked at our budget, even with unemployment insurance, we knew we couldn't meet the mortgage payment ourselves. Peter's family sent us some money, my family sent us some money, I took extra work, and the church helped out with food from the Bishop's Storehouse, and we were able to pay our bills until Peter found a temp job.

Justice said we had a debt to pay, and we couldn't do it ourselves. Was it fair to ask other people to pay the debt that we owed that month? Not in the strict sense if he word. On the other hand, would it be fair for us to lose our house and credit rating because the company executives made bad business decisions? No, that's not right either. So that's why our loving Earthly and Heavenly parents are willing to sacrifice to provide a way for Mercy to cover the demands of Justice.

At the end of Sunday School, the teacher came over and thanked me for sharing in class. I thanked her for teaching the earlier material and asking questions in such a way that helped to bring the Spirit into the room and helped me to think of this example. Until she asked that question, I hadn't put the two ideas together. And as the lesson moved on to talk about repentance and righteous living, I thought of something my mom had told me when I asked for financial help. "It will be a lot easier for your dad to send money," she said, "if Peter is working at any job at all -- even if it's part time work that's far below his skill level." I realized that my dad was once again being an example of Christ. He knew that Peter couldn't earn the money we needed. No matter what Peter or I did, we didn't deserve the gift Dad was going to give us. But Dad also knew that for us to grow from this experience, we had to do all that we could do before he would made up the rest. As with the atonement, it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.

In Relief Society, we had the lesson on Establishing the Cause of Zion from the Joseph Smith manual. The teacher talked about how the Lord uses the term Zion to mean a specific place, his people, the church, and even a state of mind. So I started thinking about what Zion means to me.

I grew up in rural Ohio, where there's not a lot of LDS youth. That, and my native personality, made me feel like an outsider in many situations. I was privileged to go to EFY in 1992 when the theme was "A Time to be of One Heart" referring to Moses 7:18 "And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them." During that conference, with hundreds of other LDS youth, I finally felt like I was part of something larger than myself. There we were, all in the same place for the same reason, supporting each other in our faith and commitment to God. I knew that I would be willing to work hard to feel like that again.

When the teacher asked what we could do to build up Zion, I told that story, and said that we need to work hard to get that feeling of being "Of one Heart" but it's possible. If we fulfill our callings, go Visiting Teaching, actively participate in class, come to activities, fellowship with the Saints, etc, we can make a Zion community in our Ward and Stake. It's hard work, but I know it's worth it.

PS: the photo is of Elizabeth and her friends in our Friday playgroup -- one of the ways that my friends and I are trying to create Zion in our ward.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

A Flea and a Fly in a Flue by Ogden Nash

A Flea and a Fly in a Flue

A flea and a fly in a flue
Were imprisoned, so what could they do?
Said the fly, "let us flee!"
"Let us fly!" said the flea.
So they flew through a flaw in the flue.
--Ogden Nash

Ogden Nash is a master of wordplay. I love how he uses homonyms (including homophones like flea-flee or flue-flew, and polysemes like fly[bug]-fly[leave quickly]) as well as basic poetic devices like rhyme and alliteration. I often come away from his poems thinking that he is just plain clever.

My point in posting this poem today (apart from its inherent cleverness, and the fact that it's been on my list since I started this project) is to tell you about the hassles I've had with bugs this week. You may recall from other blog posts that I often have obsessive fears when I'm stressed, and that one of those fears is of bugs. Rationally, I know that most bugs can't hurt me, and that the few that can probably won't, and if they do, it's unlikely to do any major or permanent damage. At the same time, I was scarred by some experiences as a child (most notably the grasshopper tapeworm incident, the beetles and grubs in my croutons incident, and the whole range of June bug shells and beetles that the boys threw at me), and bugs really upset me.

This week, I've been mildly stressed by spending two days taking care of Grandma while Elizabeth was especially fussy, waking up at 4 the next morning to take Peter to the airport (he's at Wordcon this week), and generally being all alone with all the responsibility for days and days. We still haven't found anybody willing to sell us health insurance, and I've decided to fire our realtor because other than posting an ad on Craigslist (which I could do myself), I can't see that he's doing anything at all for the commission we'd have to pay him if he sold the house.

I woke up on Thursday, and found that the ants, which I successfully fought off a year ago when we moved in, have invaded again. They made an initial sortie on Sunday, but I killed the ten million that were in the kitchen with Totally Awesome Lemon cleaner, and blocked their entry with a paper towel soaked in the stuff while Peter sprayed Raid on their line outside. I started seeing scouts in the computer room the next day, but never more than a couple at a time, so I couldn't find where they were getting in. Well it seems that Wednesday night, the long range scouts hit the jackpot. They came in through the wall of the computer room, marched all the way across the carpet, down the hall, across the kitchen floor, up the side of the refrigerator, and found the honey jar. It was easy enough to dispose of the ones in the kitchen, but it's harder to kill them and wipe out the line on carpet, so they just kept coming.

While I was trying to figure out what to do, I took a break to play with Elizabeth and noticed a tiny black speck in her hair. I brushed at it, and it jumped off onto my pants. I had seen this black jumping speck a few times before, and I had my suspicions, so I used a baby wipe to capture him and put him in a ziplock bag. There I confirmed my worst fear: he was a flea. Our mobile home park has a problem with stray cats (and pet cats allowed to roam free), and most of them think my garden is the nicest litter box in the area. They don't even bother to bury their droppings -- they just leave them on my nice clean dirt. This smells, and attracts flies (I think that's where the stinkhorn egg came from), and now it seems that they bring fleas too. I have only seen one flea at a time, but I have seen one flea on four or five occasions in the last week or two, and it's hard to imagine that it's all the same tiny bug.

So here I am, all alone (except for the baby, which just makes things worse because I have to take care of her, keep her away from poison, and not leave her at home when I go to the store to buy things), having to deal with one of my worst nightmares -- invasion of biting insects. I wanted to just bomb the place, but I didn't have anywhere to go for the six hours that are mandatory, let alone the twenty four hours that the pediatrician said I should wait before letting Elizabeth crawl on the residue covered carpet. I don't even feel comfortable looking online for answers because the ants are crawling all over the floor of the computer room and I don't want to let them get on me. I'm on high alert all the time because every tiny little itch has to be treated as a possible bug-on-me incident, and dealt with immediately.

Eventually, I decided that my first step would be to do what I should have done WEEKS ago: buy some Cat-away powder (it's made of coyote urine and other predator scent markings so the cats think something big has moved in and they should stay away). At the garden center, I also asked the lady about what I could use in the yard to kill the fleas (not holding out much hope about killing off ants), and she suggested Diatomous Earth.

I had seen pictures of Diatoms in my science textbooks, but I didn't know that they're a great natural pesticide. Evidently, the diatoms are like teeny tiny pieces of glass which scrape through the layer of wax on the bug's shell, and that makes the bug dry up. It's safe enough to eat (in some places they just dump it into grain to keep the bugs out), and it's less dangerous to breathe than road dust or baby powder. Since my flea problem is not overwhelming at this point, I decided to give it a try -- and as a bonus, it might just kill the ants too!

I finally gave in and sprayed raid on the spot where the ants were coming up through the carpet in the computer room, and that seems to have stopped them for the moment. So between a lot of cleaning and a lot of worry, and a little pesticide, and a generous sprinkling of diatomous earth and Cat-away, I have averted catastrophe (for now).