Sunday, September 27, 2015

Death and Life Don't Mix

Today, technically, I became the mother of a teenager.

I have to qualify it with "technically" because Keren has been dead for six-and-a-half years. Her next sibling recently turned ten, and while we often feel that hormones have hit us, there is an awful lot we don't know about living with a teen. Even if Keren were here we wouldn't really know. She would probably still be giving us bone-cracking hugs and squealing excitedly in our ears. It's quite likely we would have added dealing with periods, but with diapers. And food would still go down a tube. Our lives would be a blend of doctor visits and therapy, all juggled around the crazy schedules of three younger siblings. We'd be in Michigan and Kraig would still be at his consulting job, and I'd be fully integrated with a thriving Trisomy community, discussing scoliosis and feeding and special education with friends I've known for thirteen years, and new acquaintances added each year.

At least, I suppose this is what our world would be like if Keren were still here on earth instead of celebrating her thirteenth birthday in Heaven. How does one celebrate a heavenly birthday? I have no idea. I doubt it's important when one is living in eternity. It's only here that the years tick by with significance.

I'm sure some who read this will feel guilty that they didn't remember it was Keren's birthday or remember to reach out and let us know they remembered. Trust me, we don't hold it against you. I'll be more annoyed that you feel guilty about it. It's hard enough to remember the birthdays of family members and friends who are living than the date of one who is no longer here. I remembered because it's etched in my body and brain, it's part of me...and Keren's picture is on this date on our family calendar. But I don't remember all of the time. My remembering comes in moments.

I remembered this past week as those September dates in the twenties ticked by.

I remembered last night when a friend asked if today was Keren's birthday.

I remembered this morning when Jon ran out to show me that his top front tooth finally fell out. We did a happy dance and I told him it was pretty cool it had fallen out on Keren's thirteenth birthday.

I remembered when we were driving home from church and the kids were talking about snow. I remembered a day full of sunlight and snow-bright air a year after Keren died when friends and teachers and family came together to remember. It's not a sad memory because it's so infused with light.

I remembered when I felt a bit depressed riding home today, Kraig and I silent in separate thoughts, and I wondered if it was because it was Keren's birthday.

I remembered when my Mom sent a note to say she was thinking of us and thanking the Lord for the gift Keren was.

I remembered when Jon and I made a chocolate birthday cake and we all enjoyed it and sang "Happy Birthday!" It was good cake. Keren might have deigned to taste a crumb.

There was a moment this week when I focused and thought about Keren. Really thought. But I wasn't thinking about her living self. I was thinking of the loss of her and the other losses that came because we lost her. I thought of the teachers whom we loved so much. We tried to keep connected, but life and time distanced us (not all on our side). I thought of the Trisomy friends whom I still "see" in Facebook posts. Some still have living kids, and I love to see their posts. But I don't get excited about discussions on feedings and doctors; it's not my world any more. I thought of the pain of losing Keren--that awful day. But I didn't stay on that thought for long. I can dredge it up and the grief will surge up with it, and to what purpose? To feel grief? I know it's there and I can tap into it as needed. I don't need to go looking for it.

And I guess that's the point I've come to. My life is full of life right now. I am continuing to learn and grow. God is stretching our family in completely new ways in our life here in Guadalajara and Kraig's new work of teaching. I am busy each day with kids who ask questions, test boundaries, throw tantrums, giggle uncontrollably, and lose teeth every time we turn around. If I spend my days refreshing the grief that death brought us it will paralyze me and I'll be of no use to the living. Life moves on, and I am moving with it. God has brought us to a new place. Death and Life don't mix, and "I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living" (Psalm 27:13).

Above all this, death is not the end. For that truth, I'll keep living.
I believe in the holy shores of uncreated light
I believe there is power in the blood
And all of the death that ever was,
If you set it next to life
I believe it would barely fill a cup
'Cause I believe there's power in the blood.
            ~Andrew Peterson, "Lay Me Down"


Friday, August 28, 2015

It's (Not) All in the Sign

The balcony of our apartment looks down on the entrance of the "coto" (gated subdivision community) next door. Beside the entry is a pretty fountain, that adds pleasant splashing to the usual shriek and rumble of traffic noise. The other day, though, I noticed that not only was it not running, but the water had been completely drained from it. I wondered idly why and figured it must have something to do with cleaning or a leak. It wasn't till this afternoon that I noticed a sign posted over the fountain.
"Si tu Perro se hace/Tu no te hagas"

As far as my woefully limited Spanish and Google translate can tell me, this says (literally), "If your dog makes, you do not play." 

I'm hoping my friends who are much more fluent than I can shed some light on this sign, because obviously there's something missing in my translation. It reminds me of street signs like this one:

I can't help but think of everything that is implied. We must assume that the dogs are doing something in the fountain. What are they doing? I have a guess, but I think I'll leave that to the imagination. And is it that while the dogs are doing this, "you" don't get to enjoy the fountain? Or is it that the fountain is not playing as long as the dogs are doing this? I just don't know.

I'd be tempted to point to this sign as an example of how Spanish is full of assumptions, but that would be a faulty, not to mention low, blow. After all, it didn't take me long to remember our American "slow children" and how that must make non-native English speakers scratch their heads. 

Language is a funny beast. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Schizophrenia Hits Home

Steam engine at Greenfield Village, Michigan
Last Saturday the kids and I returned to Guadalajara after spending six weeks back in the States, mostly in Michigan. Kraig spent the first three weeks with us, but had to return for a conference and university requirements. The kids and I, though, weren't bound to his schedule, so we sent him off to his solitude (poor dear) and stayed on to get some of the stateside work and visiting done. It was well worth it. We binged on family and friends, gorged ourselves in fact. I think all of us laid up stores of memories that will hold us well in the coming year. It was time "at home." It was familiar, so familiar. It was also a little strange because...well, because it wasn't all home....

Greenfield Village with Givens-side cousins
Greenfield Village with Warnemuende-side cousins
Meramac Caverns with Grandma & Grandpa Warnemuende
Kraig and me enjoying steak in Oklahoma with his bro & wife
So Kraig picked us up at the airport Saturday night. We stepped out into the familiar night of Guadalajara and were soon zipping along the road that would lead us...home.... Each part of the road was well-known to me. I knew the exit well. I knew the trick of how you need to watch the traffic to make sure you aren't run over. I knew the buildings and could read a lot on the signs (which gave me a little thrill of pleasure). The road in front of our apartment building was as bumpy and pot-hole filled as ever (actually, more than it was a month-and-a-half ago since there's been that much more of rainy season to erode it). But I know that road.
Apartment, sweet apartment with a good view of road

The apartment was the same old place, just lacking some of the knickknacks I'd put away for while we were gone. The cupboard in the kitchen had the same hitch that you have to work around to close it properly. The bed felt just right since Kraig had put our foam pad back on the mattress. There were eggs, bread, and milk waiting for us in the fridge. We were home.

But the day before I'd been home. Home in my parents' house that I have known for longer than any of the homes I've lived in since Kraig and I married. I drove down Lilley Road and looked at corners that I've driven by for more than thirty years. I had visited Greenfield Village, Henry Ford's collection of homes and buildings from various periods in American history. I'd talked with dear friends and hung out with family.
The mall on the corner with its ever-changing front

We've been back in Guadalajara for a week, and slowly the split feeling is fading. I'm more here now than there. But I'm still both. I can think of the two places simultaneously as if I belong in both, or as if I am in both, even when I'm not. For the first couple days back it meant treading carefully. I had to hang on to my mind to make sure I stayed present in the place where I was, not the place I'd been a few days before.

I don't envy the schizophrenic mind. It's hard enough figuring out where home is without dealing with a brain which convinces you that you are in two places.

Expert bag searchers
But I can't be in both places at once. The first night we were back Kraig asked Evie if she was glad to be home. "I am," she said. "I want to be here with you. But I kind of wish we could be here and in Michigan at the same time."

I understand this. I love Michigan. I've come to love things about Guadalajara. One has been home, but isn't totally now. The other is becoming more of home, but never will be completely.

If there are ever moments when I long for my final home in Christ it's in transition times like this. To be truly home, to be single-minded, to be with friends and family from here and there (and there and there and there....). That's something to look forward to. It's nice to remember in these schizophrenic moments that it won't always be like this.

For now, though, I will pray I can be present here--as much as I need to be.

Rainy season sky in Guadalajara

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Ways to Look at a Day

There are days, and then there are crazy days, and this one certainly fit into the latter category. If one could epitomize reality, or life as I live it, this day would be the prime example.

I've been in hyper-awareness mode most of today for a rather large reason: It is the sixth anniversary of the death of our daughter Keren. Usually I hate January because most of the month is a time of dreaded anticipation. The Day is approaching and there is nothing I can do about it. In Michigan this is compounded with short, dark days and cold, cold weather, or worse, murky, cold-ish weather. 

This year I could see the date approaching on the calendar, but it always took me a little by surprise. I guess there are advantages to sunshine and short-sleeve weather. On top of that, Jon had a stomach bug and was out of school Monday and Tuesday, so my mind was preoccupied with him. And there have been more shifts this January in our already crazy shifting season of life. So, yeah, all that to say, I wasn't depressed about the imminence of January 28.

And today was not depressing. Insane, but not depressing. It was one of those days where half the time I was looking at God and saying, "So, can we just stop and go on to something else?" At the same time, because I was paying close attention to everything today I saw God there in the midst, working in amazing ways.

Here are some of the details:

Con: We got out the door late to drop Jon and Ev off at school. This is not unusual, but it was worse than the norm. Breakfast took longer than expected to make, etc., etc.... I was frazzled as a result, mostly because this was Wednesday and I go straight to Bible Study after drop-off, so there was even more pressure to get out the door in good time. 

And yet, even though we got to school late, we still managed to miss a tardy.

Con: Jon was in tears because he didn't want to go to school after two days off. Yesterday he had an awesome day because he was past the sick point, so of course the idea of school today was anathema. 

And yet, he had a good day and even ate extra at lunch.

Con: Traffic was extra-awful today, and on one of the roads I grated the car over a huge pothole I couldn't see due to the sun being directly in my eyes.

And yet, the car was fine, we got everywhere we needed to go, and one of the main roads that's been under construction is fixed now and actually had much less traffic than usual.

Con: I had to make a Costco run after Bible Study and when I went to check out I discovered I had left my membership card in my other purse.

And yet I was able to get a new card made at the store within fifteen minutes for no cost.

Con: When everything was rung up, my bank card wouldn't go through even though I knew we had more than enough money in the account and I just used it yesterday. Not only that, my credit card was also in my other purse, so I couldn't use that. The lady told me that I needed to call the bank and I could only stare at all the stuff I'd just bought, try to decipher her stream of Spanish, and look around helplessly wishing someone would materialize who could speak English.

And yet God took my panicked wishing as prayer and in my daze I turned to see one of my acquaintances from church saying hi to me. She saw the panic in my face and not only stepped in to speak Spanish but offered to use her card for the order so I didn't have to try to make phone calls right there. This was the huge neon-light point in the day where I suddenly saw that God was right in the midst of it with our family. This perspective changer helped immensely considering the day was only half over....

Con: Back home, when I lifted one of my bags off the counter the strap caught our butter crock and sent it with a smash to the floor.

And yet I just looked at it and laughed instead of blowing up because I couldn't help but see that the craziness, by this point, was inevitable. It was also fun to watch Clare pick up the broken pieces and spend time trying to fit the "puzzle" together. 

Con: I tried to call the bank to figure out what had happened with our card and couldn't get through on any of the numbers. Everything looked okay online, but I needed to make sure the card was okay, so I had to go over to the bank on campus to solve the issue.

And yet this meant some extra exercise, and it turned out that nothing was wrong with the card. I also now know the correct phone number to call and should be able to get a person who speaks English.

Con: I managed to send Evie into tears when I reprimanded her for doing part of Jon's homework (tracing patterns). According to her I yelled at her, and she had no idea that what she did was wrong. She thought they were just trading off with him.

And yet she forgave me and we were able to talk through strategies for how she an let me know I misunderstood something, rather than her running off in tears. We also had time to sit down together and read a book which she's been wanting for a few days now.

What else? Oh, the list goes on. Ev announced when I picked her up today that her class is having a party tomorrow and she needed to bring food to share. Thankfully I had a new bag of chips in the cupboard. Jon has to take lunch for his class and we almost didn't get the tote bag that the school provides, but thankfully we realized it before we left the school. I am writing this now at 10:30 because I spent the past couple hours putting the pieces together for the class lunch. And yet, I am sitting here with a working computer, with Kraig across the room busy on lesson prep, and three kids sound asleep. Tomorrow, as Anne Shirley would say, is a new day with no mistakes in it yet. I'm not so silly to assume there won't be mistakes, but I pray that I am wise enough to know that no matter what tomorrow brings, God is in it with me, and He's got it covered. 

Tomorrow is in His hands just as much as was that Wednesday six years ago.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Digesting Christmas

I thought of calling this post "Pondering Christmas" but that was slightly blasé, and this title, "Digesting Christmas," was stuck in my head. The literal feasts of Christmas are long-digested, and that's a good thing. I'm back to daily treks up and down the flights of stairs to our third floor apartment, and that is also a good thing. But I am still digesting our Christmas experience--treasuring the beauty and craziness of it even as I yawn and look for a bed or frown when a bit of emotional reflux hits. I am full, still very full.

We were able to experience a bit of a Guadalajaran Christmas for the first part of December (or even part of November if you count the fact that they were selling live Christmas trees in stores by mid-month). The kids spent a bit of almost every day in November and December practicing for a class dance, and all the classes put on a show on the final day of classes before Christmas. This shindig involved costumes, and I happily plunked down some cash when the class parent of both Ev and Jon's
classes announced they were getting a seamstress to make the "disfraces" (costumes) so all would be the same. The results were much better than anything I could have cobbled together. Clare's costume was adequate, and despite her voiced hatred of the song her class was performing, and her disgust in having to wear a tutu, she put it on with a will on performance day and almost enjoyed herself.

Obviously we had no snow, but the coto (gated community) beside us put up Christmas lights (which are still up--it makes me happy) and poinsettia blossoms adorned every bare inch of landscaping. We didn't get a tree, live or plastic, since we were headed to Michigan for Christmas, but Clare suggested we create a paper one. We did, and the results were terrific. We even strung lights on it as well as festooning lights on our quilt wall-hanging. It was amazing the difference that ambient light made in the apartment. Up till getting the twinkle lights all we've had are the fluorescent ceiling lights. Between the decorations, the school program, the songs at church and the excitement of going "home" for Christmas, we were pretty festive.

 We headed to Michigan on the 19th and were able to stay there through the 3rd of January. It's impossible to know what all to expect from a trip like this, particularly when it is one's family's first return trip. It was incredible and lovely, and so, so hard. At times it seemed like we had never left. But emotions ran wild and off the track like my dad's electric toy train when the kids turn the power knob too high. We saw so many friends and family and the two weeks overflowed with good conversations...and at the same time there were so many friends and family we couldn't or didn't see, and we were bereft with the loss.

Talk and fun with the Grands over Mexican Train.
My friends Laura and Jen tried to create a magazine-perfect pose
while we made cookies with our kids. This was as close as we got.
To tell the truth, Laura couldn't keep a straight face long enough
and my camera kept jiggling because I was laughing so hard.
Jon and Aunt Carrie relax after Christmas dinner.
Cousins!!! (At least some of them....)
One reason it was hard was because it was a homecoming, and yet Michigan is not our home right now. This was particularly tough for the kids. They can't see the big picture like Kraig and I can and they don't have a way to put our time in Michigan within a framework of a year or two or more. To them, Michigan is home and they asked frequently why we had to return to Guadalajara. Michigan is the place where grandparents are and good friends. For Clare this was most tough because she hasn't found good friends in Mexico and she has long-time ones in Michigan--friends who take her as she is and have fun with her rather than expecting her to meet some unspoken criteria. 

The future is as mysterious as unopened Christmas presents.
We spent the two weeks talking through the future and evaluating. Kraig and I have both felt that if he was offered a second year here in Guadalajara with the same package he should take it. We knew that the package could be offered for a second year. A second year here would help us get our feet under us and know what the best path is for our family after that. What we didn't expect was the proposal he was given just before we left by his department head and another department head he's worked under for the past semester. There has been a staff opening in the department and they wanted Kraig to take it. It would be a local hire position, though, which means a significant pay drop and some other big changes for our family. In all, it didn't seem like a great idea; we haven't been here long enough to really know which end is up for a long-term decision. But we were concerned about relationships with the staff at the university; would Kraig seem ungrateful and greedy if he took the one-year contract extension instead? Would the door to the position have closed if we came to the end of a second year and felt we would want to stay? We've had some clarification since we've returned, but during our time in the States it was a huge discussion point.

School for the kids has been a major factor, too, in our ambivalence about a future here. While we've been very happy with the care and diligence of the staff at the kids' school, the actual education provided hasn't fit how our family has experienced education up to this point. We're used to interactive classrooms and challenges for the kids, and so far that's not what we've experienced here. We decided after talking long and hard over the two weeks that we'd go ahead and pull Clare this semester and homeschool her--a huge change for us. We'll continue to evaluate Ev and Jon's classes this semester and make more decisions later.

On January 3rd we said goodbye to Michigan and flew back "home" to Guadalajara. Goodbye to one home, hello to another. We are a split family, not divided physically, but divided emotionally and culturally. Life is not as straightforward as it was before we moved to Mexico.

It is a truth that will take time to digest.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Blessing of Totato Soup

It's Thanksgiving Day, and our hearts and minds fly to friends and family who are gathering today to feast and celebrate. I love Thanksgiving; even with all of the food prep it is essentially a lazy day. There is no big agenda. The goal is to be. And to be together.

Of course, here in Mexico it's a regular day. The kids are at school and Kraig is giving exams. I went grocery shopping this morning and the laundry is running. It's hard to believe it is Thanksgiving when one looks out on green trees and grass. There's a nip in the air, but that's as close as it will get to cold. I'm glad it's not blatantly obvious what we're missing, but at the same time, I am thankful that we're looking forward to a gathering on Saturday with our friends from Ajijic. There will be turkey and green beans, and I'm bringing pumpkin pie. I found real whipping cream this morning, which I would say is the icing on the cake, but that's a misplaced idiom for this. It's the whipped cream for the pie--literally and figuratively.

Yesterday my sister Jessie who lives in Singapore wrote about the joy of being invited. Even though in some ways it's easy to forget these American holidays when one is in another country, there is still a longing. It is a longing for place and family, but it is also a longing for gathering, particularly with like-minded folks. We can always reach out and bring them into our homes, and as Jess put it, we do that. We were raised to do that. But when someone else turns and says, "Please come, " it means a ton. So we were warmed when Blair and Barb said, "Would you like to come? We don't make a big deal about Thanksgiving, but we like to have something with friends."

When I think of the blessing of gathering it is always associated with food. The best gatherings have food that brightens the eye as well as feeds the stomach. Good food encourages conversation. It can also be said that good food is best when shared. Every time I tell the kids I'm making a certain family favorite, there first question is, "Is someone coming for dinner?" They've already made the association. I wish I answered in the affirmative more often.

There was no question, though, that the first time I was able to make Totato Soup* here in Guadalajara we were going to have guests. For one thing, one pot of Totato Soup can feed a small army (or in this case, our family of five and our Ajijic friends who have four kids, three of them teenagers). For another, it is a melding of flavors that accomplishes everything I have stated good food should do. It is a pleasure to share it.

(yes, it really is that red)
I had to wait for our shipment to make the soup because my big pot was in the shipment. In the waiting time I scoped out stores to be sure I had all of the ingredients. Some items were easy to come by: a chicken, carrots, celery, onions, garlic and canned tomatoes. I had a rosemary plant and thyme, so no need to search for those herbs. Small white potatoes are a staple here; almost as flavorful as Yukon golds. Other ingredients were a little trickier to come by. Sausage here, chorizo, has little variation. In the States I use breakfast sausage with sage for the soup, but here there is basically one kind of sausage and it all has red coloring so cooks up to look rather fiery. It's flavor is not unpleasant, but it is distinctive. I found decent frozen corn at Costco (a lot of corn here is field corn, so tough). I haven't discovered chicken stock or broth in cartons (I expect if I did it would be too expensive), and I didn't have time to make some, so I went with dry bouillon which is available here by the bag.
powdered chicken bouillon

Once I got my pot it was a matter of putting the ingredients together and setting a date for the feast. I was a little apprehensive that it wouldn't taste right--I hadn't been able to find loose sage ahead of time, and I just wasn't sure whether the sausage would be right. But the magic of the recipe worked. The aroma of the bubbling soup filled the apartment and taste-tests freed me from anxiety. I shared some with Rosa our cleaning lady because I couldn't wait to spread its wealth. Our friends came and by the time they left the pot was lightened considerably. And best of all, it had been enjoyed along with good conversation.

I'm already plotting my next pot and am figuring out with whom we will share it. The blessing of Totato Soup has come to Guadalajara.
"papas blancas cambray"
*My Michigan friends can attest to the power of Totato Soup which originated, of course, with the Rabbit Room. They have tolerated my love of all things Rabbit because of blessings like Totato Soup. I can't take any credit for creating it. Hutchmoot chef, Lewis Graham, got the idea for it after reading the first book of The Wingfeather Saga, by Andrew Peterson. Lewis made the soup, and knew it was made to be given to others, so he shared the recipe:

I cooked the chicken in my crockpot this time
One 3 to 5 lb. bag of the small Yukon gold potatoes, sometimes called butter potatoes.

Two boxes of Kitchen Basics chicken stock.

One package Jimmy Dean sausage with sage.

One whole chicken, already roasted at your local store (or baked at home).

Three ears fresh corn (or one bag frozen corn), two whole carrots, three stalks celery, two medium yellow onions.

One large can of whole, peeled tomatoes (or two small cans diced tomatoes).

Fresh garlic, dried thyme, sprig of fresh Rosemary, two dried bay leaves, kosher salt, cracked black pepper, and a healthy pinch of red pepper flakes.

Directions (in Lewis Graham's words):
1. Two or three glugs of good olive oil in Dutch oven. Make warm, add sausage. When the sausage is done, remove from pan but save the grease.

2. Cut potatoes in half, and rub well with sea salt (About one tablespoon is plenty for the batch). Heat the saved grease up in the pot, add potatoes. Let them sit awhile, frying the skins a little.

3. When potato skins have browned a little, add fresh veggies, chopped up of course. Cook them a little; when the onions are translucent and celery pliable, add chicken stock.

4. Add chicken, pulled from bones, sausage, tomatoes, and everything else.

5. Let that bad boy cook awhile. When it boils, reduce the heat and let it simmer.

Lewis concludes: "The rule with soup is the longer it sits, the better it gets. Mind it occasionally, stirring to keep anything from burning in the bottom. Fresh bread is always good. Be sure, absolutely sure, to do a little celebration dance after each taste, each seasoning."

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Planning Ahead...Or Not

A few weeks ago I helped out in Evie's class. Her teacher has wanted to do something special for Thanksgiving and figured Evie and I could give some input there. Why yes! The class decided to do a feast, and I volunteered to make pumpkin pie--real, homemade pumpkin pie. I wanted them to know there was something more to life than the pies one buys at the supermarket.

Thankfully when I promised this I knew that it was possible to get canned pumpkin, though perhaps tricky and expensive. Friends who have lived here longer spoke of finding it at local Wal-Marts, or even finding whole pumpkins to make it that way. I hoped to go the canned pumpkin route. Unfortunately I didn't see canned pumpkin in the local markets, but thankfully our friends in Ajijic were able to go to one of the big ex-pat stores there and found three big cans for me. The price was worth it. I figured I'd do a big pie-baking bash next week before the kids had their feast and before we had a Thanksgiving dinner with church friends.

Yesterday when I picked up the kids I saw Ev's teacher. "I have the canned pumpkin!" I said. "Good!" she answered. "Our feast is tomorrow!"


I was sure I had heard wrong, but Ev assured me that they had parceled out different types of food to the kids in the class, and as I promised, I was assigned pumpkin pie.

This is not the first time something like this has happened at school. Jon's teachers are notorious for sending home sweet little notes asking for Jon to bring something in the next day. Things like "gel in a bag" and "napoles, cooked". Half the time I'm scratching my head as I try to figure out exactly what the item is, and then have to figure out how in the world we are supposed to find it before the next day. I thought at first that these last-minute requests were because Jon's teachers are fairly young and inexperienced, but apparently not. Clare hopped into the car one day after school and said, "I have to do a poster for tomorrow on a topic." A poster, as you know, requires poster board. I don't usually stock up on poster board. Thankfully, that particular time I had just bought three for another project I had wanted to do and hadn't gotten to yet. All this to say, I shouldn't have been surprised when I was asked to bring in pumpkin pie for two second grade classes (about 36 kids total) the following day.

There was no help for it. We needed evaporated milk, pie tins, and whipped topping of some sort. I knew evaporated milk was easy to come by, as were disposable pie tins. What I hadn't seen was any sort of whipped topping (Cool Whip is not a staple here). I also had faint hope of finding pre made pie crusts, so it looked like I was going to have to make those from scratch as well. I can make a decent pie crust, but they never look as nice as the prefab ones, and a bunch of second-graders weren't going to be concerned with the quality of the crust's flavor.

I hate driving out after school because that's when the traffic builds up, so the kids and I decided to walk down to the corner market, about a five minute walk. Sure enough, we found plenty of evaporated milk and pie tins, but no pre made crusts--sigh! As for whipped topping, I found something that said "whipped topping" in a freezer chest. The box looked like one that would have whipping cream in the States. My hope was that it would suffice. We trekked home and got to work on the pies. Clare put together the innards and Ev and Jon helped me with the crust. Unfortunately Ev didn't realize the water I'd put out for her had to be measured and she dumped it all in before we realized. My shortening was gone, and the crust was now unmanageable. I saved it--we'll see if I can make it work for a cobbler. My patience had about hit its limit, but thankfully Kraig arrived home just then and suggested hamburgers for dinner from a restaurant a stone's throw away. Wise man. He and the kids traipsed off for those while I made new pie crust...with pure butter.

The pies turned out beautifully, and the little bits of crust I tried melted in my mouth. I sent three in with Ev today and we kept one for us. I'm not about to give up all of that pie crust! The class had their feast this morning and the pies were a huge hit. The other teachers got to have some, too, so I think that makes the butter worth it. However I told Kraig last night that from now on I am going to plan for the unexpected. Because apparently that's what one must do here to survive.

How much canned pumpkin do you think I'm going to need?