The Colors of Autumn

September 30, 2009 by Rieshy
Artist at work.

Perhaps "washable" and "indelible" are actually synonyms?

My proud minimalist next to his "pièce de résistance" entitled "Red."

Black and White and Brass.  Doesn't she sound great?


September 28, 2009 by Rieshy

Some Mondays seem maliciously and anthropomorphically bent on proving what a small person I am.  Today was such a Monday.  True suffering, and momentous calamities, are different from mere aggravations, yet there is something peculiarly difficult about quantity of small troubles regardless of their quality.

Aggravations on top of aggravations can lead one to entertain thoughts representing smallness of mind:

 1. Recalcitrant math student? One might be tempted to respond, "Fine, double-digit addition with carrying is stupid, don't learn it!"   

 2. 8 yo with flu symptoms?  One might picture a backyard quarantine-yurt.

 3. More month than money?  One might idly wonder how much is in the 3 yo's piggy bank.

Monday, in anthropomorphic glory, saved it's coup de grace for the afternoon mail.  A letter bomb arrived- well, actually a post card from a dear friend.  The picture was of a beautiful vacation spot on the Adriatic.  As soon as I saw the picture I was there, sitting at a cafe in loose white clothing while a waiter poured my drink.  Greg inexplicably had a dark moustache.  I could feel the heat of the sun on my skin, hear the water and sounds of the children playing  at a distance while their nanny carefully looked after them.  

Zap. Then I remembered I was in my dining room setting out bowls of cauliflower soup (yuck, but the kids like it) on a tablecloth that hadn't been properly cleared since breakfast.


I love the sender of the post card.  She is one of my oldest friends, and the most beautiful of people.  I'm so happy that she's on vacation as a celebration of finishing her Master's thesis.  However, my first reaction was of utter jealousy instead of joy for my friend.  That's the definition of smallness.  

Smallness, meet me.  Me, meet Smallness.

Did God know today would knock me flat?  Is that why during my morning shower the hymn, "Be Still and Know That I am God," kept coming to my mind?  God, the antithesis of smallness.

I'm glad tomorrow is Tuesday...

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Toy Storage

September 26, 2009 by Rieshy
I woke this morning with the energy of several women. Too rainy for yard work, so I decided to tackle some deep house cleaning.

I have a million reasons for why I don't vacuum under the sofa with great frequency. For starters the sofa weighs approximately 777 pounds and only has 2 inches of clearance. It's not like much can get under it, right?

Cleaning under the sofa was sort of like a twisted Christmas. First there was surprise, and laughter, and the call to, "Come take a Photo!" Then there were the comments like, "Oh, look, it's a whisk, I love this kind." Or squeals of, "A knight toy, I want to play with that!"

I'm pretty sure that if I pull the stove and fridge out, Halloween would be the holiday that would come to mind.
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Jack Sprat

September 24, 2009 by Rieshy

Part of the fun of having a rare condition, and an unnamed one at that, is that you have to take responsibility for researching your own medical care.  In Jack's case, his research skills are just not up to paar.  The momma, namely me, has had to take responsibility for his medical care. Why, oh why, didn't I major in Chemistry?  

One of the many things that I learned while reading the FODsupport website is that for many FOD kids, fat intake may need to be restricted.  After Jack's initial crisis and preliminary diagnosis he was started on some medications before he had his first "real" appointment with his geneticist.   I asked about fat restriction during that first appointment, but the geneticist felt Jack looked pretty good with no evidence of the type of damage too much fat can cause in FODs, and he didn't want to change Jack's diet for the time being.  It made sense.  Sort of. 

This Spring, after the addition of a prescription medication of medium chain triglycerides, which is a fat, I became concerned enough to start wondering  just how much fat was in Jack's diet.  At the time I was still journaling all Jack's intakes and blood sugars so it was just a matter of picking a normal week and entering the info on a handy-dandy nutrition website.  I discovered that even with the prescription oil, not only was Jack's normal fat intake fairly low (good momma), but I noticed he actively disliked and avoided most sources of fats.

So along we cruise a few more months.  Since the Spring, Jack's appetite and food repertoire has increased in an upward curve that corresponds with his dramatically improved health .  So much so that in June I stopped journalling his food and I became lazy about his diet (bad momma).  Twice this Summer we ended up with whole milk for a few days.  Whole milk paired with a new love of chocolate chip cookies resulted in a much higher fat intake (really bad momma).  The effect was dramatic. 

Do you remember the ad campaign of a frying egg and the caption; "This is your brain on drugs."?  This is Jack on Fats.  Puffy and listless.  I took this photo of Jack playing because I wanted to be able to show it to the geneticist on our next appointment.    This photo wasn't taken at a low point during the day- this is how Jack was after just a few days of a higher fat diet.   This is a flash back to the Jack we knew pre-crisis and pre-medication, the easy-to-mother, low energy and low key child that the geneticist never met.

I'm tempted to take Jack off all his meds. before his November genetics appointment so the geneticist can see how Jack is without medical intervention, so he won't be tempted to wave our questions and concerns away.  But Greg and I remember Jack's baseline and we won't risk it.  I'll just schlepp a couple of photos with me.   

In the meantime,  I'll keep trying to learn what I need to know to help my boys live healthier lives- and, "Jack Sprat should eat less fat..." 

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Say What? No, Don't.

September 22, 2009 by Rieshy
We have a large family by most standards.  O.K., by any standards other than the Duggars.  However, an increasing problem has been caused, not by family size, but by the age range.  For instance, just how do we choose a family movie that will please our 18 year old and our 2 year old?  "The Muppets Take Manhattan... with Machine Guns?"  Or, at mealtime, how do we discuss worldviews at one end of the table while scatalogical humor reigns at the other end?

In recent attempts to spend quality time in an age appropriate manner we've split the children into groups for occasional special outings; the Big Kids, the Middles, and the Littles. Rebekah, the 10 year old, resents being a "Middles" - but excepting doing away with someone - she's pretty much stuck.

Sunday, Greg and I spent the afternoon taking the Middles out to lunch.  The trip was made longer by way of getting lost trying to find the entrance to the Natchez Trace Parkway.  While messing with the map and talking to Greg,  the mom part of my brain, in it's ever-monitoring glory, overheard a conversation between the Middles that was rather alarming; "Ben, don't stick your head out the car window or it might get stuck again." 

Say what?  Where was I when that happened?  Never mind, I don't need to know everything.
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A Common Life

September 21, 2009 by Rieshy
A Common Life
by Ray Lindquist*

 Waiting for a lab report,

Dependent on mysterious authorities,
Gazing at my daughter in hospital,
Her mother and I sharing a hard fellowship
I know a timeless, tribe-less circumstance:
I drive to the hospital in an eternal procession,
I eat in the snack bar among the whole human race;
My tears began 100,00 years ago
And will never stop.

A few years ago I would have found this poem depressing, but now I find it surprisingly comforting.  I add a mental addendum; God the Father has shared in every single tear parents have every shed over their children since the beginning of creation, and God the Father knows that ultimate pain of losing his only child.

*I found this poem with a collection of poems my mother collected- I have been unable to find any information about the author.  If anyone knows anything, drop me a line.

Silly Similes, S'Aliteration

September 18, 2009 by Rieshy

Gray days, for days on end, get me down, make me cranky.  Time to look at silly, sunlit, Summer photos.  Tennessee Teen Takes Toddler from Tuba would be a great headline.
My 15 yo daughter (who, minus the toddler, plays above-pictured Tuba) was given a writing assignment to compose a poem using similes, but instructed to strictly avoid cliches. She too gets cranky and contrary on gray days.  She just couldn't resist.  If you make your teacher smile does that off-set doing an assignment exactly wrong?

A Poem of Cursed Similes 

The blue of the sky,
was as blue of the sea.
The clouds were as ships sails, 
waving o'er to me.

The green of the grass,
was as green as sea-weed,
Those greeny masses
that came and then flee'd. 

The brown of the tree-trunks,
was as brown as the mast,
from which a sailor,
was crying, "Avast!"

The red of the flower,
was as red as the face
Of the red coated Marine
yelling, "About face!"

The black of the cannon ball 
was as black as the earth.
To which they would go,
not long after their birth.

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The Rest of the Story

September 16, 2009 by Rieshy

  Last Good Friday Jack and I found ourselves in the E.R., not with an emergency, but because Jack had gotten ill and his on-call pediatrician wanted him seen immediately to rule out pneumonia.  Off to the E.R. we had to go.

Waiting in the E.R. is boring.  Most of the time when I take Jack we don't have to wait.  A small sort of blessing; Jack's metabolic condition gives him a through pass when he is in crisis.  This particular visit the waiting room was empty save us and two boys, one who looked to be 17 and what appeared to be his 12  year old brother.  They caught my attention not only because they were there without any parents but because the 17 year old looked so incredibly sick to his stomach.  I sat Jack as far away as possible.

Boredom may have made me nosey, or maybe I am just nosey to start with, but I kept an eye on the boys since their parents weren't there.  I half expected the older boy to pass out.  He looked so much like my oldest son that I found it especially painful to watch him looking so miserable.  The younger brother radiated nervous energy and though vibrating, he kept to his seat. 

After about 20 minutes a large man, an older version of the two boys I was watching, entered.  He was that kind of man I'm used to seeing in TX.  The clean-cut, quiet version of country.  The kind that could run a ranch in his spare time while also being the principal at the local high school.  He looked muscular and tough and grim.  The waiting room was small,  there was no way I could avoid hearing what passed next.

The man went and sat in front of the older boy, their knees touching.  The older boy became even more still and didn't look up. 


"Son, first I want you to know that it is serious, but your brother is going to be fine."  Here the man paused then said gently, "Look at me." The boy looked up at his father.  

"I want you to know that it wasn't your fault,"  at this the boy seemed to start breathing for the first time in the long evening.  

The man continued, "I'm sorry if I appeared angry, I was really worried about getting here fast enough but I was not angry with you.  These kind of things just happen."  


At this point I remember them hugging. I know the older boys face was transformed with relief- but in retrospect,  if they were like the men I knew in TX, the hugging is just an embellishment of my imagination.  They probably just slapped each other on the arms. 

The three of them left to go see the injured brother and Jack and I left to have Jack's chest x-rayed.  That was the last time I saw them. It reminded me of listening to Paul Harvey as a child with my mother, and having to get out of the car before the end of his radio show.  What was the Rest Of The Story?  

I thought about how my face often looks grim when I'm worried and how my own children sometimes misinterpret that.  I mostly thought what a great dad this man appeared to be; he showed his love through eye contact, physical contact, and loving words.  That's what everyone waiting in any E.R. needs.

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Home Again, Not

September 13, 2009 by Rieshy
After several weeks of keeping the little boys home from church services in order to keep them from getting sick I posted; "Home Again."  I asked the question; Where do faith and intelligence intersect?  The next morning, with no way to blame the crowds at church,  Jack woke up sick.   I think my answer is; II Corinthians 5:7 "... for we walk by faith, not by sight." 

Wednesday night we took the whole family to services.  I lagged behind the kids on the way to classes and had to do a last minute check to make sure we hadn't lost anyone.  Jack was not in his classroom.  Concerned, I peeked into other class rooms until I spotted Jack sitting in a class down the hall with older children. 
"Jack," I whispered from the hall.  "Jack, this isn't your class."
He answered, "I want to be in this class."
"No Honey, come out and let's go to your class,  Gabriel and Mary are there."  
Jack looked thoughtful for a moment. "No," he answered, "This class is going to give out chocolate."

Faith and intelligence may not intersect but evidently intelligence and chocolate do, if you pick the right class room.
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September 11, 2009 by Rieshy

Think of all the words and phrases you say each and every day.  What percentage are repeated constantly?  How many could you simply keep written on cards to hold up at the inevitable appropriate moment?   I can think of many things I find myself repeating constantly.  Some positive, some not.  Things like:

I'm tired.
Coffee's ready.
Luke, I woke you up 20 minutes ago, get up Now.
Who spilled ice on the kitchen floor?
Tipton Children, load-up.
Yes, I'll read you a book.
You have to eat some of everything.
Come inside.
Go outside.
If you don't clean your room my head will explode, and that would make your room that much grosser.
I love you.

The sudden introduction into our family of chronic illness has changed many things, one of them being my "phrase bank" of repetitive sentences.  Our sons'  illnesses have introduced new and often bizarre phrases I never before imagined coming out of my mouth.  Sometimes I hear the things I say and it makes me laugh to think how I must sound to innocent bystanders.  Here's a few, with translations in italics:
"Come here I want to take your blood" 
Well, with hypoglycemia, that one is obvious. It's most effective with a Vampirish accent.

"You can't play until you've eaten your whole brownie." 
We bake medicine into brownies for portability on errand days. 

"Eat your Jello or I'll spank you."  
O.K., not my best mothering moment.   I'm not sure its replacement, "If you won't eat you will have to go to the hospital and get poked." is much better. Still working on expressing urgency in an age-appropriate manner.

"You will Not throw-up!"  
Emphasis is mind over matter.  Vomiting can precipitate a metabolic crisis.

"That potty is oval, but it won't hurt you."   
After a botched catheterization Jack decided that since the hospital had oval toilets, oval toilets were what made him hurt, therefore, all oval toilets- anywhere, are forever suspect.  

 My family is in a good groove dealing with the littles' medical conditions.  We haven't had any new phrases to incorporate for a while. Yet, last night, sitting at supper, a sentence came out of my mouth that surprised me.  Jack was having a "zone out".
  "Jack... (no response), Jack...,  Jack... (still no response),  Jack- what are you doing?" I asked.  
He snapped out, looked at me, and answered, "Nothing," perplexed at my urgency because he only heard me the last time.   
I snapped back, "Well, don't do Nothing. It's weird."

Life and language are not static.  Family phrases come and go and change with circumstances.  I'm sure I would find the "family phrase cards" of my neighbors just as strange as they might find ours.  I think part of good mothering is being the resident editor of oft repeated sentences.  As long as the greater balance of my "family phrase cards" are funny or loving we are probably doing just fine.


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Sneakers, Swords, and Taillights

September 9, 2009 by Rieshy

Fall is shoe buying time.  With 7 kids obviously we try to squeak by with the cheapest footwear we can.  When I happen along on a sneaker sale it's a happy day.

All my newly shod boys are fast now.  They'll tell you that repeatedly, if you can catch up with them.  The 7 year old wanted a non-sale sneaker, until my husband remarked that if he got the same kind as his brothers they would look like a kind of team, or even a group of super heros.  Spin-it Baby-Parenting at it's best.

We have a family friend who is a sword maker.  Yes, I said swords.  Noble Armory has a faithful following of Tipton children who are always willing to try out the new models.  The normality of it for our children has led to some unusual angst.  Ben, when he was 4, announced that when he grew up he was going to stay at home and "make" his wife go to work.  When I asked why, with tears of anxiety sparkling in his eyes he said, "Because I don't know how to go on airplanes (his own Dad travels a lot for work), and I don't know how to make swords."

Fast forward to yesterday.  The three youngest boys in their new sneakers battling with neighbors.  Evidently the level of testosterone in the body is directly linked to the newness of footwear.  An epic sword battle in the driveway led to the death of my van's left taillight cover.  Mayhaps it was a burning one-eyed dragon? 

Cost of sale sneakers + cost of new tail light cover is still cheaper than cost of regular priced sneakers.  If you figure in the amount of energy expended outside (and by definition Not inside), the character developed upon coming inside to confess the injury of said van, the level of hand eye coordination developed with the self correcting feed-back of physical reality... I'm way into black ink.

Home, Again

September 6, 2009 by Rieshy
Home again, Home again, 
Jiggety Jog.

The littles are laying a train track that goes around my desk and chair legs.  Actually, Jack is constructing and Samuel is deconstructing.  At some point fisticuffs might ensue.  The littles and I are at home not because we are sick but because we are trying not to get sick. 

 Greg and I decided to try to keep Samuel and Jack home from church services until at least the beginning-of-the-school-year illnesses start to wane, and maybe even until the end of the flu season.  There have already been several school closings in the area for the flu and strep.  It's enough to make a parent of a child with metabolic issues crazy.  

How much precaution is too much precaution?  Where do faith and intelligence intersect?  Anyone have a chart?
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Old Papers- The End

September 5, 2009 by Rieshy

It's been encouraging to get to read through these "Old Papers" of my mom's, 20+ years after she wrote them, and 16+ years after her early death.  Below is the conclusion of the talk she gave on Suffering and Joy to a group of women at a retreat in 1986- I've been posting them serially under "Old Papers".   I hope someone else finds these words encouraging as well.

So What Are You Going To Do About The Joy?

First of all get it.  We talked about the first step--that of putting on Christ.  Then what?

Look for it everywhere and in everything.

Two weeks ago in "Snoopy" Lucy was counseling Charlie Brown in her out-patient clinic.  She was holding Charlie Brown's cloud, turning it around and around.  She said, "Yes, every cloud has a silver lining."  She turned it around again and said, "But you, Charlie Brown, have a defective cloud."  Not so.  You just have to look for joy a little harder.

Oh, it is easy to have joy when things are going good.  The kids are well, yours and your husband's jobs are going good.  Joy abounds then.

That about when it isn't?  Then where do you find joy?

That is when one may want to have a treasure hunt.  Hunt until you find something in the situation that gives joy.

You may have to go to far limits to find joy.

Joseph found treasure in his situation.  He was hated, mistreated and sold into slavery by his brothers.  Then the good in Potiphar's house was followed by being cast into prison.  Finally he became a person of extreme power when he was made ruler of Egypt.  But he says in Genesis 50:20 to his brothers, "You meant it for evil against me; but God meant it for good to bring it about that many people should be kept alive as they are today."  All his family enjoyed his treasure.

My mother was very ill for two weeks before she died in 1988.  My four sisters, my brother and I were all there in Texas together without our spouses.  That was a first for us.  We had always had husbands, kids, or someone else around.  We fellow-shipped, cried and prayed together.  It was a real bonding time that we will always remember with joy.  Particularly for me.  I am the youngest of the family and have always lived in the Northeast seeing them only once a year at most.  So my mom's death became a precious memory along with the sad.

I didn't have to hunt too long for the treasure Wednesday morning.  I was making coffee in the kitchen while Jim and a guest were showering and shaving.  The water started dripping down on the kitchen cabinet from the upstairs guest bath room.  Made a mess but now the Seminary will have to replace the telephone booth style 1930 shower stall with something a lot better.

I hate to exercise... I fell down 4 stairs and it hurt.  Still hurts, but I can't exercise or vacuum.  Some Treasure.

I would still rather have my son alive at 20 in his sophomore year at college.  I would rather be paying college tuition.  But it would be dishonest of me to say that Jim and I don't enjoy the freedom of having finished that.  One treasure for us is the freedom earlier than we had expected.

Does this sound crude to you?  Far fetched?  Straining to find something good in bad?  Why not.  We got the bad without any wish or desire of our own.  We should find joy anywhere we can.

One of my sister' eldest daughters was killed in a car wreck when she was 30. My niece and her mom had had many bad times.  At one time when my niece was 25, my sister had had to say, "You can't live in our house any more because you are a disruptive influence on your younger sisters."  God was good and healed the relationship between my sister and my niece.  God pulled her back to a faithful relationship with Him also.

But after her death, my sister confided in me that she felt guilty in the joy of not being afraid of the phone ringing with bad news in the middle of the night.

Her joy had guilt.  She was afraid of her treasure.

Peter denied our Christ three times and turned that horrible experience into a powerful treasure by following Christ's command to, "feed my sheep".

And of course, the ultimate example of treasure found comes from Christ's suffering.  there we have our greatest joy because we are freed from the final death and suffering.  Hebrews 12:2  "Looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfection of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."

Are you asking, "Do I have to go through what Peter, Paul, Joseph, and even you and Mary & Andre went through to get Joy?

Thankfully, we can say No!  but use the trials--- the sufferings you have everyday to get the joy from living.

What treasure comes from your sick kids?  You get to hold them more...

Your washer and dryer broke?  You may find out that things can be worn twice before having to be washed... so in the end you learn another way to save on utilities.

Your husband's job is to be terminated?  You may get the chance to move from NJ to your dream state.  You may find out that money doesn't make happiness and Joy???

Your family does not understand your love for Christ?  Your faithful witness may draw them to God.  I have learned to know some of your sufferings while being here and I have no pat answers for you, for where you with God's help is going to find your joy.  But you can.

God has given us that much used passage in Romans 8:28 "God works for good with those who love him."  That is a cause for joy.  since we love Him, everything that comes our way will have a treasure for us.

Go treasure hunting everyday!

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September 2, 2009 by Rieshy

I threw out my back this morning.  I wasn't doing anything remotely interesting or heroic, merely reaching down to pick up an afghan that had slithered off a bed.   I was under the impression that Samuel spent the entire morning crying, "Momma In!" outside my bedroom door while I was "resting" my back.  Evidently between plaintive cries he found time to pile up chairs along with toys and pillows.  Ethan Allen brand Lincoln Logs.  I don't know why, neither does he. Though, by the look on his face, he clearly knew that all his hard work was not going to have a net positive effect.

He's a very busy person.  Lately we've had issues with folded dirty laundry being discovered in dressers drawers.  Big family mystery.  Yesterday Samuel was in the mood to clean so I quietly observed while he collected some laundry from the bathroom hamper, took it to the laundry room and set it on the floor.  He then collected different dirty laundry into a basket, took it to the living room where there was clean laundry set out for folding.  He dumped the dirty laundry on top of the unfolded clean laundry and returned the empty basket to the laundry room.  Seconds later an older child came to the living room and began to fold the pile without noticing that the laundry pile had grown in their absence.  In fact without noticing that the pile had grown with smelly, damp, and dirty laundry.  Mystery solved.

It made me think of how I can be a busy person without any net positive effect.  Proverbial wheel spinning, running in circles, carrying coals to Newcastle...  I don't doubt that some of my "hard work" is equally as ridiculous as Samuel's in God's sight.  It makes me doubly thankful that my God is the Creator,  the Poppa and Momma of us all.  Overwhelmed and thankful that my God loves me enough to say, "As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you..."  Isaiah 66:13

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