Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Cat with Eight Lives

This cat, since it was a Halloween decoration, was probably an odd Christmas gift to being with.  Probably, that is why Glimmer decided to steal into my craft room one evening and paint his lower half red.  After Glimmer's ministrations, this cat looked like he had been stabbed in the neck and was in immediate need of an ambulance.  When the adults in the house first saw Glimmer's alterations, we stood with our mouths open and a stunned look in our eyes.  Then we were hit by the humor of the situation.

My only regret is that we did not take a picture of him before Flash and I fixed him.  If you need any rewards for Glimmer, I recommend buying her paints and offering to let her paint at the end of the day.  I have never met such an enthusiastic painter.

Hermione promised to take good care of this cat since he has used up one of his lives and has only eight remaining.

Love to all,

Prairie Smoke

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Four Things Children Really Want for Christmas

1)  Relaxed time with the family

2) Realistic expectations about gifts

3)  An evely paced holiday season

4)  Strong family traditions

From Unplug the Christmas Machine by Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock, William Morrow and Co. 1982

Wilbur's Christmas List

1)  More bullets for his nerf gun

2)  Ferrari

3)  Warm weather

4)  World Peace

NOW do you see why he is so hard to shop for???

Sunday, December 02, 2012


Orville Senior picture

When Orville was born, I got tired of hearing about how spoiled he was going to be as the only boy out of four girls. Few relatives or acquaintances could resist favoring us with this very unoriginal opinion.  After hearing this for the fortieth time, I remember turning to one of my aunts and saying, “We have every hope of turning him out creditably.”   I don’t know that our efforts produced Orville’s sterling character and personality.  I’m just glad he is the person he is, no matter how it came about.
About 18 months old

Front porch of Jefferson Hills house

Orville was anxious to get underway.  At 8 1/2 – months he took off walking.  Boys tend to talk a little later than girls, but I could see that Orville understood everything that was said and what was going on. 

During the summer after he was born, he became used to having an entertainment committee, comprised of his sisters, around.  For a couple of weeks after his sisters returned to school in the fall, he was very cranky about the lack of provision for his amusement.
Easter Sunday age 3

April 5, 1996 

Monopoly Man costume - Orville's idea

A guy has to be tough when he is the youngest of five by four years.  Orville figured out how to express his disapproval and gain the upper hand:  biting.  He was the child least likely to be intimidated.  When my other children would not come with me, I would tell them they could just stay there but I was leaving.  They would hurry and catch up with me. Not so Orville.  Around age three, he adamantly refused to come at the conclusion of Petunia’s basketball game.  I got in the car and drove away while he calmly watched me from inside the school fence.  I think he was glad I was taking his siblings away so he could play with his friends in peace.   Yes, I did go back for him.

Orville never cared a snap about playing with action figures, Legos, or cars.  He liked sports equipment.  If he couldn’t throw it, skate on it, run with it, ride it, catch it, or bat it, he wasn’t interested in it.  Once we had a man who had played baseball with the Chicago White Socks at our house chatting.  The man told us how so many parents think their children will be great athletes when actually the children don’t have the talent.  He started throwing a ball to six year old Orville to show us some of the ways he tested kids to show their ability.  After a few minutes of this, he turned to me and said, “Congratulations!  You have an athlete here.”  I already knew it.

Orville never found a sport he didn't like (well, maybe wrestling), but he specialized in soccer.  Since he didn't play in the “pay for play” league, he should not have been good enough to play first string in High School.  But he did.  Since he did not play on Sundays, the “pay for play” league shouldn't have wanted him to play on its premier team.  But it did. He should never have been eligible to compete for a berth at state tennis tournament because he only practiced during season.  But it happened.

More important than talent is character. Evidence of his quality character is that he accepted his father’s stipulation that he not play on Sunday, and he never acted like a jerk about it.

Besides sports, Orville discovered he loved music. He became first chair trumpet and played the piano.  Between his Junior and Senior year, he talked to me about music camps.  He thought it would be terrific to go Interlaken.  I told him that he should try out for that camp if that’s the one he wanted.  I had no idea the camp was eight weeks and cost several thousand dollars.  Being a seventeen year old guy, Orville never thought this information was worth mentioning.  I remember being dumbfounded when he was accepted to the camp and I discovered the details.  The camp was worth it, though.  Here Orville learned succeeding was less about talent and more about work. 
It was a good lesson to learn, and he has put it to use in many areas of his life: learning Korean, serving a mission, becoming an engineer.   

When a parent is pleased with his/her children, the parent never really knows this:   Did they develop into such great people because of me or in spite of me?  I don't know.  I do know my children were who they were before they were born.  I am just grateful for Orville and my four other great blessings.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


Eglantine Senior Picture
When she was born, the hospital nurses had the audacity to label her "Twin B,"  but Eglantine never bought into the idea that she was second to anyone.  Although she weighed in at 6 lbs 6 1/2 oz, she was an inch taller than her twin.

Money was scarce when Eglantine and Hermione were born.  I remember being stunned when I took them for their six week check up and the pediatrician billed me double.  Knowing that our insurance wouldn't pay for well baby visits, I ditched the pediatrician visits and began weighing the twins at the grocery store.  As I would check out at Buttreys, I would ask the checkers if they would weigh my babies on the produce scale at the register.  The checkers were all women, and they always happily agreed to weigh my twins for me.

Eglantine AKA Sweet Pea
When she could crawl, Eglantine used to roam the house in her nightgown, sucking her fingers. She reminded us of a character on a cartoon show named Mr. Magoo, so we started calling her Sweet Pea.

I will never forget how stunned I was when Eglantine was around four months old.  She and Hermione were sitting in their baby chairs on the kitchen table when Eglantine started making  sounds resembling her twin's name.  I thought I was imagining it, when my mother said, "She is trying to say Hermione!"  

There are some children with self esteem problems, but Eglantine was never one of them.  If someone was unkind to her, she felt so sorry for that person.  Obviously they had something wrong with them.   When Eglantine was around eleven years old, Wal Mart called, and she lined herself up for a photo session.   I was caught by surprise when Wal Mart called me to pick up the pictures, accompanied by a bill for $35.  My understanding was that she had won a free photo session as a prize. Similarly at age six, she received mail soliciting her to buy mail order plant books.  With the help of her sisters, she signed up.  I didn't know about it until the bill came.  

Petunia and Prudence screamed bloody murder when they saw Santa Claus.  Eglantine surprised me when at age three she insisted that I take her to the mall for a portrait with the jolly old elf.

Around eleven, Eglantine participated in a city-wide track meet five miles away.  She would have won the 200,  but she had never run on a track with lanes before.  No one had explained to her that runner must use only the lane they start out in.  She didn't let that initial frustration stop her, though.  She rocked at track.  She won medal after medal in several different sprints, although she was mainly a 400 runner.  As a Senior Eglantine tried High Jump and medaled at divisionals.  She walked away with the sixth place medal at state in an event she at participated in only a hand full of times.  I knew Eglantine was a sprinter, so I asked her why she didn't ask the coach if she could run the 200.  "Oh, " she said, "everybody wants to run that." She wouldn't ask the coach if she could run too.  In the last few meets her Senior year, the coach had Eglantine enter the 200, where she would come in second to the team's top runner.  George Harper was so disgusted that she had not been in that race since her freshman year.  "The only reason she's second, "  he told me, "is that she hasn't had any experience with the starting blocks!"  She took second in the 200 at Divisionals and earned the sixth place medal at state in the event also. At state in 2000, she took 2nd in the 400 and first in the numerous relays she ran.  Eglantine was a big part of our town's first girls state championship in track.

State Girls Track champs ride the fire engine around town.

Besides being a fine athlete, Eglantine was an A student.  She took a photography class and photographed the most interesting pictures.  She would only put up with so much boredom in school, however.  I remember her getting bored with French.  She decided not to study for the final and earned a C in the class.  She didn't care.  She just wanted to be done with that BORING class.  

Eglantine was a friend collector.  She had numerous friends in High School and college.  Some kids are mortified when other laugh at them, but Eglantine loved at good laugh.  She never thought the laugh was at her expense because only a moron would not realize how cool she was.  She's fun and always thinks of fun activities.   

Generally, Eglantine likes people.  As an adult, she organizes activities, kids, and groups so that people get together and have fun.

 I love that Eglantine is my daughter.  Seeing her strengths and abilities makes me happy.  Energy + Enthusiam + Excellence = Eglantine!

Hershey's Kiss Costume

Prom Senior Year

Sunday, November 18, 2012


After Hermione and her twin sister were born March 11, people would say, "Ahh!  Beware the Ides of March."  Hermione's Apgar score was a 10 at birth, the highest they give children.  After noticing she held her head to one side all the time, I took her back to the pediatrician who found she had torn her sternocleidomastoid muscle during birth.  Hence all the crying and the Apgar score.  

Hermione was born when we lived on Diamond Springs Drive, 13 miles out of town.  Because of my blood pressure the doctor informed me, my babies needed to be induced that day.  I asked him if I could go home first, and he agreed.  I went home, had lunch, fed and watered the chickens, and arranged for childcare.  When I got back to the hospital, the nurses said, "Where have you been!  Dr, Whitesitt has been here waiting for you."  Oops.  My blood pressure was cause for alarm, but I didn't realize the seriousness of the situation.

Originator of the rabbit costume:  sleeper PJs and tights on your head.  Oct. 1983.
Hermione and Eglantine slept in the same crib for two or three months.  Then we moved them to their own room.  They may have been twins, but their personalities were never alike.  When Hermione objected to something, she objected 100%.   As a child, she did not believe in taking things lying down.   She hated her bath and water for several months.   She has since learned a boatload of coping skills and gained perspective.  As an adult, she doesn't let things get to her.  She bathes regularly, too.

Age 3

Playing Cowgirls at Grandma R's

Hermione has always had an appreciation of the beautiful.  I remember her playing in Grandma R's pink bedroom.  She arranged a table setting with play dishes and placed a rose petal on each plate.  Her Grandma loved seeing the beautiful arrangements she created.  Grandma R would always remember to peek into the playroom after Hermione had left to see how artistically Hermione placed things.

Speaking of creativity, she liked to write and won a state-wide PTO story writing contest.   "Keep writing!" encouraged the judges.  When she was old enough, she became the piano teacher's pet because of her enthusiasm and talent for the piano.  She scored several superiors at state music festival.  She was always an A student too.

Hermione LOVES nature.  Need a hiking or skiing partner?  This is the gal who wants to go.  I loved having her home between jobs or school because I always had a hiking partner. 

In addition to loving the outdoors, Hermione truly enjoyed college.  Or maybe I should say she enjoyed learning.  It was satisfying to pay tuition for someone who was fascinated by so many of her classes.  When she went back to school for her masters after serving a church mission, she put her love of learning into action again.  She became a tip top clinician.  

Because we had five children, it often seemed like many people in the school and the community looked down on Dad and I.  It was almost as if they viewed us as irresponsible.  Others often seemed to think our children didn't have as many opportunities or receive as much  attention as children in two child families. It is true that we divided our attention by five.  Also true that major vacations to far away places were way beyond our means.  But when you have a child who becomes the person Hermione is, you have hard time making a case that our our family construction was a bad thing.

Sunday, November 11, 2012


Prudence age two.  Picture taken by Joe S.

Prudence was born a week after her due date. It's the last time she was ever late for anything. She was the kind of kid any parent would be glad to raise. As a matter of fact, after age four she probably didn't need parents at all. I have no doubt she could have raised herself without any interference from adults.

She was born on Father's Day. Since she was the largest baby born that day, weighing in at 8 pounds 1 oz., the Cow Belles, a group of  agricultural women, presented us with an 8 lb 1 oz roast.
Prudence 3. Portrait taken at Jim Darcy School
Early on, I thought Prudence would be an athlete because her eye-hand coordination was so incredibly good.  Her dance teacher was sure she would end up being a gymnast.  Prudence did  like gymnastics.  She wanted gymnastics to be a sport she participated in for fun.  The gymnastics club had trouble coming to terms with that, but it was a good decision for a nine year old when Prudence decided not to be on the team.  None of us would have been happy with three practices a week and meets all weekend taking away our family time. (Besides the idiocy of committing a nine year old to that schedule.)  Prudence's good eye-hand coordination was used to be a fine pianist and musician.  Her band teacher once commented, "She was playing the flute.  Then I needed an oboe, so she picked up the oboe and started playing. She is one talented gal."

Petunia and Prudence.  Taken at Grandma and Grandpa R's.
Prudence was never the kind of person to look around and see what others were doing.  She just didn't care.  She was absorbed in her own pursuits and wanted to excel in them.  What others were doing was irrelevant to her.  I remember the day in 5th or 6th grade when she mentioned, "I think I'll get straight A's."  Already, Prudence  was a very good student.  Straight A's at our school meant achieving 94 % and above.  And she did it, apparently without fuss, muss, or bother.

Prudence had a knack of finding good people in High School and making good friends.  I never worried about what she was doing. I could always trust her.  Because she learned to play the oboe, an unusual instrument, she was in the band, drafted into the orchestra festival, and played in the orchestra for the big theatrical production.  She seemed to enjoy doing all these things.  

Later, Prudence discovered exceptional talent for languages.  Her French teacher, realizing the curriculum didn't come close to being enough for Prudence, allotted time to speak French with Prudence outside of class.  Later, Prudence enrolled in Spanish and was advanced from 1st year to 2nd year after a week.

About the only thing that ruffled Prudence's feathers was unfair behavior from adults and friends that let her down.   I remember Prudence being devastated when she learned that her best friend from first grand until 8th grade tried alcohol in the parking lot after an 8th grade dance.  Prudence was not at the dance, but she was sooo disappointed when all the kids told her about their "adventure."

       In Junior High Prudence had the rare treat of dealing with a girl who was consumed with jealousy.  I was disgusted with this girl's nasty behavior.  It was particularly distressing because Prudence was just minding her own business and did nothing to warrant the girl's malicious comments.  While Prudence was hurt and baffled by the girl's behavior, she did not have ill will toward the jealous little twerp.   Like her father, Prudence does not hold grudges.

Sometimes you work hard and your children turn out well.  Other times, you're blessed to have that child in your life.  Prudence was a blessing.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Some of My Greatest Blessings Call Me Mom

For November and  December, I plan on blogging about each of my children.  Forgive me if I repeat blogging about someone, and you haven't been featured yet.  It will be easier for me to start at the beginning instead of looking back through my posts to figure out who I have already featured.
Petunia 3 weeks old.  The quilt underneath her was made by her great grandmother Miller
Petunia is my Fall blessing, born September 15.  She got the brunt of inexperienced parenting but turned out to be spectacular anyway.  Her Aunt Colleen made her a yellow baby afghan with animals.  She would smile at that afghan.  As soon as she could see color, she probably decided yellow was her favorite color.

First birthday cake
Petunia was full of delightful surprises.  At about 3, she locked herself, and the car keys, inside little Vega we had while I pleaded with her to unlock the door.   You might think it was an accident, but you weren't there to see the expression on her face.  She also locked me out of the house when I went to feed the chickens on Diamond Springs.  I was about six months pregnant with twins.  Climbing down the hatch to the wood room door so I could get inside the house was no small feat. 

The year she took dance lessons, the dance teacher was convinced she would end up as a professional ballerina.  Transitioning to sports was a healthier alternative.

Petunia's  2nd birthday.  Back: Rachael, David, Deon  Front: Petunia

We were lucky enough to have Grandma Latour in Town and Aunts and Uncle not too far removed from Petunia's age.  Birthday parties, Christmas, and Thanksgiving were all fun!

Petunia was fun!  She has a great sense of humor and a fabulous imagination.  She and her Dad would sing their way through the Walt Disney Songbook every night when she was around two. I knew she had a mind of her own and would do her own thinking.  I knew she wouldn't let other people lead her around or give way to bad influences.  School was always easy for her.  I remember one night in the early summer after Kindergarten when she called me into her bedroom saying, "I can read!"  And she could.

Petunia didn't suffer foolishness gladly.  I remember her pouring shampoo into her sister's mouth because her sister was singing in an annoying way.  She and Orville should go down history for remarkable rooms they kept as teenagers.  Remarkable in this case means appalling:  think what is left in the wake of a tornado. We truly didn't know weather to vacuum or roto-till.  I remember once when I couldn't find even one clean towel in the house.  When I insisted Petunia clean her room, the problem was solved.

All Petunia's extra-curricular teachers wanted to claim her talents for their particular venue.  The extra curricular mentors each saw  her as a great: ballerina, pianist, volleyball player, basketball player, and singer.  It must be annoying to have so much talent.  I should have such a problem.
I'm glad she was born.  I wouldn't have missed her for the world!