Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bitter Sweet Parting

Last week I parted with my precious little charges. Bitter because I love them, and they love me. But sweet because they now get their mommy's undivided time. They are blessed beyond measure to have such parents.

But I will miss their adorable faces, kindness and affection, and beautiful personalities.

Always the pensive one.

Always the dramatic one!

My life has been blessed by these two munchkins. I'm thrilled to see them continue to grow and I can't wait to see the men who they will become.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Burmese Days

Since my brother became a career bookman I have uncontrollably bought every book that looks appealing. This has resulted in a large pile of unread (but very enticing) literature. Unfortunately I've been buying more books than I can read, so the pile only grows. Since my mother moved to Boise in April (moved, I might say, into the room with the TV, satellite, and wii), I have made a renewed effort to minify this collection.

My strategy is twofold. Read more books, buy less books.

Among recent conquests (and books that I would highly recommend): A Thousand Splendid Suns, How The Irish Saved Civilization, Devil in the White City, Rashomon and In The Grove, and most recently, Burmese Days.

Just when I thought that George Orwell was going to pull out a happy ending, to allow the protagonist a perfect, romantic and content Happily Ever After, he turns everything upside down, allowing evil to win, the hero to meet his demise, and selfishness to be rewarded with prosperity.

Thanks George.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Chickens part 2

One chicken down. Darn those coons.

Then Hancocks, who so graciously provide boarding for my chicks, have decided to name the remaining two chickens Jem and Katie.

Monday, August 16, 2010


Everyone in my family has always had a soft spot for Stanley, ID. Before I was born my family spent two summers living there, my father working as the pastor of the single church in Stanley.

Earlier this summer I eagerly bought a trail guide to hikes around Stanley. I thought "I would love to hang out more in the Sawtooths this summer!" So I relished the opportunity to spend last weekend camping at Little Red Fish Lake.

The weather was sketchy, but the company was delightful!

Melody - "Um, I think that's a huge storm headed straight towards us on the top of this mountain that we just hiked up. Maybe we should hike down!"

Nathan and Hilary

Run away! Before we get crushed by that typhoon! (Melody and Mrs. H, great hiking companions)

Little Red Fish Lake - This was basically our view from the campground.

Friday, July 30, 2010


According to the Portland Mercury magazine, urban chickens were the pet trend of 2009 (the new trend for 2010, apparently, is urban goats). Granted, I'm fashionably late on this one, but I've wanted chickens for, like, as long as I can remember. That counts for something, right?

Artamis, Deborah, and Troute joined our family in April.

They fit right in.

After living in my bathroom for 6 weeks they moved to the Hancock's backyard. They survive there 'til this day, just waiting until they can supply me with homegrown, fresh and tasty eggs!

Pictured on right side, their new chicken coup (what, you think that this is just an excuse to show off Sam? I would never do that!)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Mary Liked To Go To Funerals (Fife Lake, May 2, 1903)

Mary Murphy wept as her tormented brother opened his eyes and cried, "Hold me down, Joe, my feet will come up."

Mary Murphy, a kind, friendly and gentle person, loved to dress up for social occasions. And few social occasions in backwoods Michigan at the turn of the century equaled a funeral. A funeral, often the only occasion that brought an entire family together, was usually an almost festive wake that gave hardworking farmers an excuse to relax and their wives a chance to dress up.
Mary Murphy seemed to enjoy going to funerals, and death hung on the black taffeta dress, black hat, and vail she wore so many times. By the time she arrived in Fife Lake in 1899, she had already attended a sorrowfully impressive list of funerals. Mary's first husband, James Ambrose, died suddenly in 1887, and she also buried all her children from that marriage - three who died in infancy and two who died of diptheria at ages five and seventeen. Shortly after Ambrose's death, Mary married Ernest McKnight, and in 1889, the couple moved from Alpena to Grayling. Mary's father died in 1894, and, in 1898, second husband Ernest died.
After Ernest's death, Mary sold their property, moved in with her mother and a mentally retarded niece at the family's Fife Lake farm, and added to the funeral list. In late winter, 1903, Mary's brother John, his wife Gertrude, and three-month-old baby daughter moved into the farmhouse while John built a new house nearby. On Monday, April 24, 1903, Gertrude left the baby with Mary, a trained nurse and midwife, and went to help John at the house. When the young couple returned later that afternoon, Mary sobbed that the baby had tragically died of sudden spasms. John consoled the two grief-stricken women for several minutes then left for town to buy a small coffin. When he returned five hours later, Mary tearfully told him that Gertrude had died of an epileptic fit brought on by the baby's death.
A little more than a week later, on a cold and blustery May 2, John Murphy lay on his back across his bed, his twitching legs protruding stiffly from his gray flannel nightgown. Sweat rolled over his closed eyelids and down his red face, and foam bubbled from the corners of his moth. Joe Battenfield, a friend and neighbor who had been summoned by John's mother, moved to John's side and moved an open bottle of camphor under the stricken man's nose. Mary Murphy wept as her tormented brother opened his eyes and cried, "Hold me down, Joe, my feet will come up." Battenfield pressed his knees against Murphy's legs, and John's body twitched and heaved uncontrollably for two more agonizing minutes before he mercifully died.
The sympathetic and kind folks of Springfield Township felt that three deaths in a little more than a week was more than any family should have to bear. So did a suspicious Grand Traverse County prosecutor, E.C. Smith, who ordered John's body exhumed and sent the dead man's organs to Ann Arbor for analysis. A week later the report came back; the strychnine found in John's stomach would have killed ten men.
Smith then launched a thorough investigation into Mary Murphy's past and compiled an appalling report.
-James Ambrose, Mary's first husband, died in agony, his limbs twitching convulsively.
-Mrs. McKnight, the first wife of Marys' second husband Ernest, died, in Alpena, in July, 1887, after experiencing severe convulsions while under Mary's care.
-Two days after Mrs. McKnight's death, Mary's niece, baby Teeple, also died of convulsions while under Mary's care.
-In Grayling, after drinking tea with Mary in May, 1892, Eliza Chalker, another niece, foamed at the mouth and died.
-Nine months later, also in Grayling, Sarah Murphy, Mary's sister, died, also after drinking tea with Mary.
-Ernest McKnight, Mary's second husband, drove his wagon to cut some hay and, shortly after eating a lunch prepared by Mary, became violently ill but made it home. By the next morning, he had recovered, but that night, Mary reported, he died in his sleep..
-In 1896, Mrs. Carey, a relative of Mary's, mysteriously died.
-Dorothy Jensen, a child in the care of Mary, died on Good Friday, 1902, after uncontrollably twitching and foaming at the mouth.
Prosecutor Smith added the names of John, Gertrude, and baby Murphy to the horrifying report and continued his investigation. He ordered bodies of Gertrude and the baby exhumed, and the Ann Arbor medical examiner found large amounts of strychnine in both. A neighbor, present when the baby died, told Smith she had seen Mary give the baby a pill shortly before it went into spasms and died. Shortly after that, according to the same witness, Mary gave Gertrude a pill for her nerves, and Gertrude immediately fell to the floor, her limbs twitching horribly until she died.
Smith arrested Mary, and she admitted that she had given her brother and his family homemade strychnine-quinine pills but only to soothe, not kill, them.
Forty-year-old Mary Murphy McKnight was tried, found guilty of murder in the first degree of her brother John, and sentenced to life imprisonment. She spent eighteen years in the Detroit House of Corrections before being paroled.

Story courtesy of the Fife Lake, MI museum. Author unknown.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


On a family vacation these last two weeks my aunt informed me that she checks my blog regularly and is getting tired of my old posts. I informed her that I only know of like 3 people who read my blog, so if she's going to be critical of my blogging schedule she should at least leave me comments to encourage me that I do, indeed, have an audience. She said that leaving comments is too hard.

This one goes out to you, Auntie! I miss you already.

My cousin taking a picture of my other cousin while their brother (also my cousin) plays in the sand. Glen Lake beautifully framed behind the model. Josiah thinks that Sleeping Bear, the biggest sandbox he's ever seen, is super cool.

Hiking over the dunes to Lake Michigan. A Peter Wierenga family tradition. (I thought that it was just a Wierenga family tradition, but my cousins all informed me that they've only hiked over the dunes like once, leading me to believe that it's really only my immediate family. My dad arrived at Glen Lake and promptly asked when we were hiking over the dunes.)

Cool barn, as seen from the dunes.

The face I make every time I jump in the water to wakeboard. Thanks for capturing that look, Anna!

Famous Glen Lake sunset, the view from our cottage.
It was wonderful to spend two weeks in such a magical place surrounded by my family. We got to meet our new cousin Kim's family and hang out with them for a few days while celebrating Jon and Kim's marriage.
This year we introduced the lake to Kim, Mia, Honnah, and Jess. They all approved.
Uncle Thom and I found about 45 petoskey stones through several expeditions to The Cove and Lake Michigan.
Everybody says that Aunt Mary and I are twins. Ben would say "they're, like, the same person."
The 7 single women of the family shared a camper affectionately dubbed "the nunnery." When I arrived in Chicago to spend two nights with Uncle Tim's family there was a sign saying "the nunnery" on the bedroom door that 4 of us girls shared.
Josiah is one cool Pistachio. And he rocks all games involving blue yarn. Props mom!
These two are my favorite accessory with any outfit. I did have to share them, however, with about 30 other family members.
Sonorah and Josiah played beautifully together, practicing sharing and helping each other out. Hopefully pictures forthcoming from Sarah.

A beautiful vacation with some of the world's most awesome people.