“I’m Helping Grandma”

The timer dinged just as Sara was writing “Mom” on the cake. She finished the word, swiped her fingers on a dishcloth and grabbed some potholders, hoping the brownies hadn’t burnt around the edges by now. She opened the oven door and gave them a gentle poke in the middle. Ah, just right. As she set the brownies on a rack to cool their scent mingled with the smell of caramel squares and cinnamon cookies.

Sara looked around, satisfied. The chocolate icing was made and could be spread in a moment once they’d cooled. The cinnamon cookies sat in a plate on the table, as artistically displayed as she could manage. The other squares were iced, cut, and waiting for the brownies to join them on their platter. The teapot and kettle were ready for action. Now she could take a short break.

Her eyes returned to the masterpiece: the cake for her mother-in-law. Covered in blue icing, it read “Happy Birthday, Mom” in bright pink letters with an icing bow across the top and scrolled pink loops around the edges. She grinned, delighted that her nervousness didn’t show up in squiggly lines and loops. Surely her mother-in-law would be pleased.

Sara glanced at the clock. Another half hour until the guests would arrive, forty-five minutes until Dad brought Mom to the party. There was nothing left to clean; she’d been up early polishing her kitchen and dining room until they shone. Time for a breather. She’d leave all the food here in the kitchen until the ladies arrived.

Before she left the room she took her mother-in-law’s gift down from the fridge and set it on the table, too. A gift-wrapped box with a big bow on top, it would have been too hard for Kyle’s little fingers to resist. But he was napping now and likely wouldn’t wake up until the door bell started ringing.

Just to be sure, Sara peeked into her three-year-old son’s bedroom. Kyle was zonked out. It was safe for her to rest awhile. Then she grabbed a magazine, sat in the recliner, and put her feet up. She thumbed through the glossy pages of Parents Today and came to an article for making play dough. It was accompanied by a photo of play food, including a birthday cake. She thought of her cake, smiled with satisfaction and put her head back.

She was decorating cakes in her dream when a thump from the kitchen woke her up. She glanced at her watch. She must have dozed off for ten minutes. But she hadn’t heard the doorbell; anyway, it wasn’t time for folks to come yet. She let down the footrest and listened.

Then from the kitchen came Kyle’s voice. “Mommy. I’m helping Grandma.”

If there were a record established for ‘broad-jump from a sitting position’ Sara broke it. Could she make it in time?

She flew to the kitchen, then stopped.


Kyle sat on the floor amidst shreds of wrapping paper, pulling Grandma’s new sweater out of the box with chocolate-covered hands. Grandma hadn’t arrived yet.

He beamed up at her, his face slathered with pink, blue and chocolate icing. “I’m opening Grandma’s present for her so she won’t have to.”

Sara’s jaw dropped as she looked around the room. How could two little hands accomplish so much destruction in such a few minutes? Cookies and squares were scattered across the table. He’d found her spatula and cut a corner off the birthday cake with it, leaving pink and blue icing smears in his wake.

Sara didn’t trust herself to speak — or she’d screech. Which wouldn’t change anything, right? She glanced at the clock, took Grandma’s sweater from Kyle’s colorful hands and stuffed it back into the box. Without a word she scooped him off the floor and headed for the bathroom sink. She still had ten minutes.

As to Grandma’s sweater, well… Sara thought of how Grandma always said as Kyle snuggled on her lap, “Enjoy your children when they’re little.” Now her words would be put to the test.

Since I missed posting Fiction on Friday, I’ll post my tale today. Hope you enjoy it. Need I say this story is based on an all-too-true incident. I’d be glad to hear how you’d react if you faced the situation Sara did.



Wise Words for Moms on Father’s Day

“Wait Till Your Pa Comes Home”

by Edgar A Guest

“Wait till your Pa comes home!” Oh, dear.
What a dreadful threat for a boy to hear.
Yet never a boy of three of four
but has heard it a thousand times or more.
“Wait till your Pa comes home, my lad,
and see what you’ll get for being bad.”

“Wait till your Pa comes home, you scamp!
You’ve soiled the walls with your fingers damp,
you’ve tracked the floor with your muddy feet
and fought with the boy across the street;
you’ve torn your clothes and you look a sight!
But wait till your Pa comes home tonight.”

Now since I’m the Pa of that daily threat
which paints me as black as a thing of jet
I rise in protest right here to say
I won’t be used in so fierce a way;
no child of mine in the evening gloam
shall be afraid of my coming home.

I want him waiting for me at night
with eyes that glisten with real delight;
when it’s right that punished my boy should be
I don’t want the job postponed for me.
I want to come home to a round of joy
and not to frighten a little boy.

“Wait till your Pa comes home!” Oh, dear.
What a dreadful threat for a boy to hear.
Yet that is ever his Mother’s way
of saving herself from a bitter day;
and well she knows in the evening gloam
he won’t be hurt when his Pa comes home.

From Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest,
©1934 by the Reilly & Lee Co

One day in a store I overheard a frustrated mother say to her misbehaving boy, “Your father’s going to kill you when we get home.”


What a HORRIBLE thing to say to a child. As Mr. Guest points out in this poem, that father wouldn’t have appreciated the role of murderer one bit.

If she’d say, “Your dad’s going to punish you,” it might have been fitting. But kill him? Thank God she was lying! You may say it’s just an expression, but it is a lie.

Someday, about ten years down the line, I can hear her telling her son, “Don’t do drugs. Drugs will ruin your life. They will kill you.”

Will he believe her?

(P.S.: This isn’t fiction; got my Chrisses crossed today.)


Reaching Functionally Illiterate Adults


©2007 by Alice Kuipers (text) and Kath Walker (illustrations)
First published in 2007 by Macmillan Publishers Ltd
My copy was published in 2008 by Macmillan Children’s Books.

I picked this second-hand book a few weeks ago and found it a quick read, being only a few sentences per page. However, it’s a very poignant story told by means of a string of notes written between a mother and her fifteen-year old daughter, Claire.

Mom — a doctor in a busy practice — is forever rushing out to tend others’ ills; Claire leads an active social life. So they converse at the refrigerator door. Mom’s notes are straightforward; Claire usually illustrates hers with teenage scribble-art.

The book starts with everyday communications: Claire should buy some of this and that; there’s a casserole in the fridge for supper; Mom’s forgotten to leave Claire’s allowance again; Claire laments that Mom is “never home anymore.” Then one day Mom indicates she has something serious to talk about.

They try to get together on it, but after a few futile attempts like clinic emergencies and school projects that must be done with at a friend’s place, Mom finally leaves a note: “I’ve found a lump in my right breast… I don’t think there’s anything to worry about…” Claire’s shock comes through clearly in her note, with another lament that “I never see you anymore.”

This book is well worth reading. In one way I found it a sad commentary on modern life for a single mother and our society’s “crazy busy” rush through life. But the writer makes her point in these brief spurts: we need to make time for each other before it’s too late.

Mulling over another problem, I suddenly saw a certain brilliance in the way Alice Kuipers has told this story. This writer with her fridge notes is onto something that we as Christians could get a handle on.

A survey done in Canada about twenty-five years ago revealed that one quarter of our population — folks born right here — are functionally illiterate. Back then it was just a statistic to me, but it’s become a reality as I help a relative to cope with life when she can barely read and write. Bank statements, bills — even phone books — are great trials for her Grade-four education. Most religious tracts are so far above her.

You could say she’s from the “olden days” when not all children had access to adequate education, but a lot of children growing up today aren’t learning the basics, either. Texting is partly to blame. A fellow writer told us one day that her niece, in Grade Four, can’t spell the word “are”; she just makes the letter R. So our writer friend has been helping her learn to read and write after school.

I helped at school one year; we had a six-year-old girl who’d been in & out of the social services’ system a couple of times already. I doubt she’d ever seen a book; she had no idea of color names, no concept of numbers or counting; she didn’t know left and right. It took months to teach her that her jacket was blue and white, that three items on a page were written 3, that if you add three balls: ooo and two balls: oo you get 5.

Someone told me I should give my elderly relative a children’s Bible story book; it would be easier for her to handle. But even these tend to have solid blocks of text, plus the illustrations are more suitable for a small child. Being handed a children’s book to read can be embarrassing for an older woman, so I’d like to find something that’s written for adults.

Last night as I was thinking about the many who have never learned to read well, and the need to present the Gospel to folks like that, my thoughts went back to Alice Kuipers’ book and suddenly it looked like a method we could use.

Life on the Refrigerator Door tells a poignant story in simple words. Could we use a Gospel on Scrolls or similar approach for the many who can’t follow complex sentences? Just a few notes per page with a lot of white space, simplifying the Good News Jesus came to share with us? (Note: not whiting out doctrines, but explaining them simply.)

Does such a book exist already? If so, where would I find it?

Kids and Chores

Christine Goodnough:

When I was young, my mom had a job at the hospital and worked a lot of hours because we needed the money. I hardly remember her being home in those first ten years. For me there were no routines laid down; I had no chores other than to look after myself. Being a child I never thought about work unless I was specifically told to do something.

So I grew up thinking life was school, play, reading, and swimming in the summer. It was only after I was married that I leaned about housework — and that it wouldn’t get done at all if I didn’t do it. Now I’m the one to advocate routine chores for children, such as they can manage.

Originally posted on Photos, Hodgepodge and Miscellany:

According to researchers, our children are more dependent and needy than any previous generation of Americans. They are developing attitudes of entitlement and expectation, rather than habits of self-reliance and independence. As they grow, too many young people want the privileges of adulthood — freedom and resources to make their own decisions — but not the responsibility that goes with it.

Why is this? One theory is that kids no longer are required to do household chores. By living as the privileged class in their own homes, kids today grow to expect that things will be done for them, and that they are entitled to be coddled and indulged.

Giving our kids an “ideal” childhood

Some parents look back on their own childhoods believing that they had it rough, and decide they want an easier life for their children than they themselves experienced. Their attitude about chores for kids is…

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The “Drowning” Rainbow

One day a young boy was playing on the sidewalk in front of his house when he spied something intriguing. He dashed into the house, calling, “Mom, Mom. Come quick!”

Mother turned from her work. “What’s the matter, Todd?”

“I found a rainbow – and it’s drowning! You should come and see it.” Todd grabbed his Mom’s hand and led her toward the door.

“A drowning rainbow?” His mother frowned. “But it’s sunny today; there won’t be any rainbows in the sky.”

“It’s not in the sky, Mom. It’s in the water. Come and see” He tugged her arm.

His mother shook her head, puzzled, and allowed him to lead her outside. He led her to the street where yesterday’s rain had left a big puddle beside the curb and pointed. Sure enough, a swirly little “rainbow” was glistening in the water.

Mother smiled. A few drops of motor oil from a parked car made a film of oil on top of the puddle and this was acting like a prism to reflect the color spectrum.

“Told you.” He looked at her with shining eyes. “It’s neat!”

She put her arm around her son. “Yes, it is a neat rainbow. I’m so glad you found it.” She gave him a big squeeze. “I hope you’ll always see the rainbows in life’s puddles.”

(Retold from an actual incident)

Diary Notes:
Our days are continuing sunny and warm; bare gravel roads are appearing out of the whiteness.

The ladies met at Church for Sewing Circle yesterday; we had a good turnout. Driving home a little bird flew off a post and crossed my path. I’m sure it was a meadowlark.

First robins were sighted Sunday morning; a friend north of here has spotted some returning cedar waxwings, too.

Clear A Forest One Tree at a Time

One Dollar Per Member Per Month

When the mission work of our church began to spread in Haiti and small congregations became established, It was decided that each member should give a tithe of $1 per month toward the expenses of the Church as a whole. Money to pay the expenses of a general conference would come out of this as well as other administrative costs.

So everyone tithed their dollar a month and things went fairly smoothly, but you know how we people are. Eventually this subject came up at a yearly conference and some members questioned how they were going to pay this $12 per member per year. Many Haitians had very limited opportunities to earn; it was all some could do to eat every day and a $12 yearly “conference tithe” seemed impossible.

The issue was debated back and forth until one elderly brother rose to his feet and addressed the group. “I guess I don’t know what you people are talking about,” he began. “I don’t remember that we ever decided on a $12 per member per year tithe.”

Members looked at him in surprise. “Of course this was our decision.”

“No,” he countered. “Our decision was ONE DOLLAR per member PER MONTH. If you leave it until the year end and then try to come up with $12 each in your household, it will be a serious hardship. It will be a lot easier if each one just pays the one dollar per month. That’s not an unmanageable sum, is it?”

And they all agreed. That wasn’t such an unmanageable sum after all.

Being an avid procrastinator, I’ve always been inclined to wait until the day before something is needed, then got at it full steam, even work into the wee hours of tomorrow to get it ready. So I’ve been trying to keep in mind this brother’s advice. Projects are a lot easier to accomplish when you take them in small chunks.

Small bites, that’s the ticket. Marla Cilley, a.k.a. “The FlyLady” is right: you can do anything — any household task, no matter how tedious — for fifteen minutes. And fifteen minutes a day can make a big difference, plus the task becomes a habit in time and a person doesn’t get so far behind.

A few weeks ago I abandoned my “Devotional Thoughts for Women” blog but I haven’t felt at peace with that decision. I still feel like I need a place to share small inspirations and personal news of the day – lest I forget. So I’m going to try doing this blog again, setting aside ten minutes a day to share something cheerful there and hoping my readers will find inspiration in these thoughts, quotes, scriptures, and stories, too.

The address is christinegoodnough.wordpress.com

This morning I posted the above story on that site — and shared this news of the day:

I cooked at Silverwood Villa yesterday and invited our children & grandchildren, Jay & Ruby W and their son and daughter, plus Chris B and her daughter. A good time was had by all.

Earlier in the week it was stormy, lots of fresh snow; a few days ago it was -25 at 9 am. Now the past few days have been above freezing and the snow – we have a lot! – is softening, sliding off roofs. Ah, spring!

Our daughter told us she’d seen a robin in their yard this morning. Amazing! Spring only arrived yesterday and already the robins are here.

We live not far from a train track and I watched a train went by this morning. It was a relatively short one, three engines pulling 88 cars (hopper cars for grain and oil tankers.) The engineer must go slowly on the crossroad by our place as the track isn’t the best. I saw a school bus come up to that crossing right when the first cars were going through and the bus had to wait…and wait… Wonder what the students were doing as they all waited for the train to pass?

Called By My Name

He calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.” John 10:3

To be called by a wrong name always brings a disturbing aura with it.

A Mr. & Mrs. Schmidt, due to become first-time parents in several months, moved from one large city to another some distance away. They were strangers there, and commented on it that their phone would seldom ring; their friends would all need to call them long distance.

No sooner were they moving into their house when the phone rang. “Hello, Mrs. Glover?” asked a strange voice.

“I am not Mrs. Glover,” said Mrs. Schmidt, and went back to her unpacking. Time and again the phone rang with the same ‘Mrs. Glover’ being targeted, a lady who had evidently been elderly and very genial.

Looking in the directory, the Schmidts became aware that there were numerous Glovers in the area. It became a family joke as the Schmidts daily tallied the calls. Their phone rang more often than it ever had before. However, the incidents did lessen toward the time when their baby was due.

One early morning the baby came, a big boy with a healthy squall. Mrs. Schmidt was exhausted. She and her husband exulted over him for a little while, and then she dropped off into a well-earned sleep. Hours later she awakened, longing to hold her little boy. She rang for someone to please bring her the baby.

The nurse appeared in the door, the baby in her arms. “Here’s your girl, Mrs. Glover,” she said brightly.

“I am NOT Mrs. Glover!” Mrs. Schmidt fairly shouted, “and I DON’T have a girl!”

When Jesus calls us there is never a case of ‘mistaken identity.’ He knows who we are and everything peculiar to us personally. To Him we are all unique and He calls us in ways suited to our particular needs. He is a Friend who knows us, and our characteristics through and through.

Have you ever found yourself in a crowd holding a hand, thinking it was your husband’s…only to discover, much to your chagrin, that it belonged to some other man? When we walk with Jesus, with our hand in His, we are promised again and again that we shall “not be ashamed.”

When the Lord speaks MY NAME, it is tailored for me, and for my need of the moment…even if there are million Margarets in the world!

He does the same for you. Listen for Him today.

Written by my friend, Margaret Penner Toews;
first published in Canaquest Friendship Newsletter for Women

Washday on the Homestead

According to the Laws of Feminine Paradigms, Monday was Wash day long before the prairies filled up with settlers. Homestead wives brought this tradition from their far-off motherlands and planted it into the cultural soil of Western Canada. As Saskatchewan writer Robert Collins says in his book, Butter Down The Well, “To wash on Tuesday, say, or Friday, would violate God’s ultimate plan for the universe.”

My mother-in-law talked of scrubbing clothes clean on the old washboard until after WWII, when they applied for a washing machine. For some years after the war consumer goods were restricted to those deemed most in need and she was crippled, so they got their machine.

Grandma Vance, too, would have done her fair share of scrubbing on the board as a housewife in the nineteen-teens. With Grandpa running a threshing machine, going from farm to farm, there would have been grease and chaff-clogged coveralls to scrub clean. Likely they needed boiling as well. Mom Goodnough told me that whenever her brothers went on a threshing crew they always came home with lice, so all the clothes had to be boiled.

Before the wringer washer appeared someone had invented a washing barrel with a stick agitator. One of the family worked this stick back and forth; this would turn gears that would crank the agitator back and forth to agitate the clothes. Tubs of water were heated on the wood stove and dumped into this barrel together with Fels Naptha flakes that the housewife had shaved off a hard yellow bar.

In summertime clothes were pegged out in the sunlight; this heavenly bleaching agent could be counted on to get diapers and linens extra clean. They came in smelling of fresh breezes, ready for the flat iron — Tuesday being likewise universally decreed as Ironing Day. In winter the laundry was hung out to get the benefit of the sunlight and breeze, then carried in stiff as boards and hung to dry on makeshift clotheslines strung up all through the house.

The gas-powered wringer washer was welcomed heartily by hard-working wives, but you had to be so careful when feeding the clothes through that you didn’t get your fingers too close to those rollers. It happened many a time; I recall hearing of one little girl who got her arm in the wringer right up to the elbow.

One day Mom F told me about an incident from back in her youth when she was brave enough to tackle the washing herself. She’d wet the bed one night and woke up so embarrassed and afraid of the consequences that she jumped out of bed and grabbed the sheets off the bed. She was big enough already that she was able to heat the water and fill the washer. In went the evidence.

I’ve gotten the impression that Grandma was a strict disciplinarian and Mom was seriously afraid of the punishment she’d get for wetting the bed. When Grandma got up she was really surprised to hear the washer chugging away, but Mom told her she’d decided to get the washing started early this morning. I wonder if Grandma ever suspected the real reason?

Hopefully it was a Monday morning.

Grandpa Meets His Match

Christine Goodnough:

Two days ago I posted an old-time article about families who boarded the teacher, sharing my Grandmother’s story about coming to Spy Hill, Sask, to teach. Today I’ll share my grandfather’s story of homesteading at Spy Hill.

Originally posted on Vance Turner Connect:

Allen Vance and his father Sam arrived in the Northwest Territories in the fall in 1899 to check out the area. Sam’s brother was already homesteading near Neepawa, Manitoba; no doubt the prospect of 160 acres for $10 was appealing. Allen would be 21 in two months and could then file on for a homestead, too, and the two of them could work their land together. Mary (Mrs. Sam) and sixteen year old Will were left behind in Ontario to manage the farm there until they got back.

Sam and Allen would have trekked through an undulating land mostly rich in softwood trees, birch, poplar, and Manitoba maple with occasional patches of “tall grass prairie” until they reached the valley of the Little Cut Arm Creek, where the trees gave way to grassy hillsides. Allen picked out his quarter right beside this stream, not far from the town of Spy…

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Boarding the Teacher

Originally posted on Vance Turner Connect:

Spy Hill, Bavelaw School District SK Spy Hill School, Bavelaw School District SK
Left to Right: Gladys Vance, Pearl Riddall, Wayne Riddall, Steve Vance
Photo: E. Whitney collection

How Grandma Met Grandpa

Our Grandmother, Emily Priscilla Turner was hired to teach at Spy Hill, SK around 1904, and was to be boarded with a local family, as was the custom of the time. According to Uncle Steve, she was hired by the school board of the newly formed Bavelaw School District for a salary of 20 dollars a month. The Barclay family were to board and room her for $10 a month.  (“I am quoting these figures from memory so I may be out a dollar or two.”)

Emily later married Allen Vance and they lived at Spy Hill.  Their children attended this school.  Today the school is gone and there is a cairn remembering it.

One old timer shared his memories in a prairie history…

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