This week has been the very devil of a week. It has been an emotional roller coaster. And it has been a long week, with lot’s going on. Who knows if we’ll even get to it all.

Let’s start where we left off. Last week Ryan’s Dad (a.k.a. “The New York Papa”, a.k.a. “Papa Doug”) fell from a ladder at work. The ladder was leaning against the face of a mow (which is a stack of hay bales) and the stack gave way, the ladder toppled and my dad fell and struck the one spot in the floor that wasn’t covered with a thick layer of loose hay. Trust a Kraeger to find the hardest thing around to crack his head against.

And he literally cracked his head. He has bilateral skull fractures, broken ribs, bilateral collapsed lungs, and his pelvis is fractured in four places. Since then he has not regained consciousness.

My Dad is still unconscious, still in ICU. The care team meeting was a rather emotional event for all of us, but the plan remains essentially unchanged. They did the surgery today (Thursday) to repair his pelvis and it went perfectly, better than they thought it would. It may seem strange to repair his pelvis when he hasn’t even regained consciousness, but it was such a minimally invasive thing, and in the event that he ever regains function, this will give him the best chance for whatever mobility he is neurologically capable of.

The chest trauma seems to be healing really well. The collapsed lungs are re-inflated, the drainage from the chest tubes is minimal, and those will be downgraded in the next few days to weeks.

The real question mark remains his neurological status. He still has diffuse axonal injury (DAI), with several areas of stroke. He has not regained consciousness, but now that they let my mom visit once (don’t get me started on that bureaucratic nightmare) he has begun to show signs of increased responsiveness. He briefly opened his eyes yesterday.

We simply don’t know what the outcome of this is going to be. The neurological insult was pretty intense, and medically speaking there is no way to predict whether he will recover, partially recover with some deficit, minimally recover with profound disability, or never recover at all. As far as I know, there is nothing we can do, medically, to influence the outcome either way. We are looking into Skilled Nursing Home options, since we anticipate he will be at the limit of what the hospital can do for him some time in the next couple weeks.

The most important thing is, thank-you all for your prayers. They have supported and strengthened and guided us. Whatever neurological progress we make in the future I attribute specifically to prayer. The family has begun the novena to Joseph the Worker yesterday, as St. Joseph was always my Dad’s favorite saint. Please feel free to join us in that if you feel so led (today would be day 2).

And now, on to the pictures. Let’s just do a gallery, since that’s the easiest way to get through them.

Why were we moving hay? As the oldest brother, Ian, said, “Because that’s what Kraegers do. We work.”

It’s ironic, in the hay moving pictures, we were all there because of an accident that happened to our dad while moving hay, but Ian needed us to come help move hay on the farm. He explained that whoever it was that built the face of the mow that collapsed under Dad, it wasn’t my Dad. his faces never collapsed.

It was odd to watch Ian working, like a very slightly stockier version of Dad, carefully setting the bales, interlocking them, gently building his mow from the outside wall in, all the while explaining the peculiarities of this particular cutting, from the soil it grew in, to the seeding, the weather, the mowing, baling, and mowing (the first mowing is pronounced to rhyme with “rowing” and the second is pronounced to rhyme with “plowing.”)

Then Daddy flew home. It is good to be home, although the whole family still has a long row to hoe.

And that is all for this week. Please keep us in your prayers.

God Bless!

Last Friday, when Mommy got home from work, the girls were insistent that they needed to make supper. So Mommy let them, while she went and put her feet up with a good book and a nice glass of Martinelli’s sparkling white…


Right! Because those two can totally be trusted in the kitchen, cooking, by themselves. Nothing could possibly go wrong with that plan. As always, when kids decide to help it’s actually more work for the grown-up involved.

I suppose it’s rather the same when we decide to “help” God. He shakes His head and thinks, “more work for me,” but He never discourages us from trying.

It was an outdoors kind of weekend, last weekend. The weather was nice long enough for Mommy and Daddy to get our taxes done (I know, boring grown-up stuff, right?) and then get home and get some things done outside.

It was a Saturday, of course, so that means all hands on deck.

Moving straw bales for our straw bale garden.

It’s never too early to begin building muscles. Big Sissie hauled the straw bales across the rough lawn in her little read wagon all by herself! Not bad for a scrawny little five year old!

Big Sis’s other job was picking up the residue of the green manure after Daddy mowed it down.

(Don’t worry, it’s not actually manure. Green manure is the term for a cover crop that is grown only to be chopped down and composted or mulched in place. This did not make her like the job any better.

Little Sis is only minimal help in the pushing department, as of yet. She is much better at picking up twigs.

In fact, she spent almost an hour trotting back and forth with little fistfuls of twigs until she had cleaned almost all the sticks up off the lawn and built a pile in the fire pit.

Big Sissy helped, but she only likes moving the big sticks. She gets distracted with the little ones and leaves them scattered all over the yard.

See Daddy?! I’m using my muscles!

Mommy also got in on the outside working action, insisting upon climbing up and taking the covers off the rain gutters, since, now that we have the patio cover, the rain that rushes down over the gutter cover is a bit of a nuisance.

Yes, I did let my pregnant wife get up on a ladder. Get over it. She’s pregnant, not an invalid.

Afterwards she went in and made some delicious breads. While Daddy and Uncle Adam got to work on the two main projects of the afternoon. One was building a planting box around one of the pillars of the patio cover.

Edmund is a budding young “soil relocation engineer.”

They got the footer dug out quite nicely, while Daddy worked on cutting the boards.

Borrowed the guide-clamp and the saw table from Papa, who has all the best tools. They worked great, except we still couldn’t manage to cut the corner posts to precise 45 degree angles with just the clamps and a skil saw.

The other project of the day was the straw bale garden. Daddy already had the bales out and in position, and the posts driven. Then Uncle Adam put up the trellis.

This is an experiment for us, this year, as we have never done a straw bale garden before, so we are not sure how it will go. Stay tuned. Don’t bale on us now. We’ll keep you…


The other exciting happening was the discovery that the neighbors across the back fence bought a pair of goats to mow their back yard for them. When Ellie first caught sight of them she came running across the lawn:
Ellie: Daddy! Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!
Me: What is it, Ellie?
Ellie: I so scared of that! (pointing at the goat on the other side of the fence.)
Me: Ellie, do you know what that is?
Ellie, fearfully: No I don’t.
Me: Those are goats.
Ellie: Oh! I hate goats!
Me: No, you can’t hate goats. They’re delicious!
Ellie, cheerfully: Oh! I love goats!

I guess it’s true, we fear what we do not understand. An hour later all four of the cousins were ripping up our brand new tiger lily shoots and trying to feed them to the goats through the fence.

Sunday was a very quiet, stay-at-home kind of day. So quiet, in fact, that we even watched “The Quiet Man” (our favorite RomCom, as the kids call them these days).

Daddy also fried up a mess of butter-beets… and ate them all. Turned out Mommy wanted some too, but was busy playing Pretty Pretty Princess with the two exceptionally good looking Royal Girl-Children.

When Daddy makes a snack he doesn’t…

beet around the bush! 😀

Then we had more beets for supper, along with chicken, beans and bacon (not to be confused with bacon-n-beans), and risotto.

It wasn’t until Wednesday that Daddy and Little Sis were able to get up to Deedee and Papa’s house again to cut the corner pieces for the planting box. What Daddy and Uncle Adam couldn’t accomplish with hours of puttering with skil saw and a clamp, Papa was able to show Daddy how to do in twenty minutes on his table saw.

Right tool for the right job.

And then Wednesday night Daddy and Mommy got it put together after work, just in time to rush out to Ash Wednesday Mass.

And that’s all for this week, folks. Have a great weekend. Keep us in your prayers. Have a wonderful lent. God Bless!

Happy Friday, Y’all! This is a great Family Friday because Mommy has the day off today!

She asked for the day off months ago when we had plans to go camping this weekend. However, most of the people who were going to go camping with us had other things come up, so we ended up cancelling our camping plans.

Just as well because we have a good deal of work to do this weekend. Just like last weekend.

It was great last week. The girls stayed over at Deedee and Papa’s house on Thursday night so Ryan and Kathleen could have a date. Then when Ryan went up to pick them up on Friday he got the chance to do some man work for a change. He turned this…

Into this…

It was also the weekend of Kids Camp at the Swiss park.

So we went and met Mommy there after supper. Our kids are too young for Kids Camp yet, but Kathleen has been going there for 22 years with only one miss, and old habits die hard. (We missed last year because we were at the beach, watching Evie meet the ocean for the first time).

But the girls like playing on the old school play ground (all metal and wood, because Swiss people don’t replace anything until it has fallen apart three times).

It’s a great place to get them all… “tired” out!

They also like seeing the decorations for the play that the kids do on Sunday,

and Evie is fascinated by the Schwingen Pit.

“Daddy! Come wrestle with me!”

Kathleen comes from a long line of Fondue serving ladies.

Get it? A long line? Cause there’s a long line of ladies in the picture?

We have begun harvesting beets this week. They have not been doing so well, but we got enough for one good meal of butter beets and carrots.

It is one of Ryan’s favorite summer dishes. Super easy, you just cut up some fresh raw beets and carrots, and either steam them and then fry it in butter, or just fry it in butter without steaming until it is tender and delicious.

The weather has been fairly hot and dry, which is perfect for homemade popsicles and playing in the pool.

We have transitioned from “time outs” to planking for Evie as a disciplinary measure, since she listens better while planking than while sitting. The better she listens, the faster she gets to recover. This will probably not work for Ellie, however. She thinks planking is a great game, and she is actually really good at it (comes of being shorter and more compact than her sister).

Look at that form!

We have been having a great time outside, but sometimes it’s too hot to play out there for little girls born and bred in the Pacific Northwest. Then legos inside is a great option.

Then on to the main event for the week. Daddy and the girls went up to Deedee and Papa’s house to strip their bean plants of the last of the beans (Deedee already canned all she wants for this year). Ellie loves working in the garden and is actually pretty good at picking, for not being two years old.

Evie does not like working in the garden, but she thought the Velcro effect of the leaves was fun.

We picked a lot of beans.


And Mommy bought another 25 Lbs from the Greek produce store near her work.

Fortunately she got off work a little bit early on Wednesday so she had about 10 Lbs of it snipped by the time the rest of the family got home, and was able to get started canning while Daddy and Evie snipped more beans.

Evie does not like being made to work, as we have said, but she agreed that if she lives in this house and eats food with everyone else, it is only fair that she do her share of the beans.

And boy is she proud of herself when she finishes her pan of beans!

And that’s what we are still up to today, canning beans. Kathleen had one batch going before the girls got up, then Ellie helped wash more beans…

Ellie always wants to help.

While Evie and Daddy made muffins for breakfast.

Looks like we will have 31 quarts when they are all canned.

That’s all for this week, folks. Have a great weekend, and pray for us.

God Bless!

Hello, Folks! It’s time for another Family Friday! We hope you have been having a great week. Ours has been… productive.

Any time you enter the week riding on a great black concrete bear, you know it’s going to be a good one.

It has been a busy week, but more of an odds-and-ends kind of busy, not so much a major event kind of busy. Laundry,



That’s just the first pick, since then we’ve been getting about 1.5 quarts per day.



Kathleen found a recipe for Peony Jelly and decided to try it. It turned out tasty and a gorgeous color but didn’t jell to a full jelly consistency, more like a warm jello consistency.


Okay, let’s be honest, cleaning impacts our schedule pretty minimally because we don’t do very much of it. Sweep the major floors (as opposed to the minor floors, right?) every couple days, and mop maybe once a fortnight-ish. We begin to see the wisdom in our ancestors’ division of labor, with one of the spouses primarily in charge of the outside, and the other primarily in charge of the inside.

But, welcome to America in the 21st century, where we both work outside the home at least 40 hours a week. And when we talk about the 40 hour work week, which became the American standard in the days when you lived within walking distance of your workplace, we don’t necessarily consider commute times which varies in Ryan’s case, but for Kathleen adds another 1-2 hours to her day, depending on traffic.

And of course, the small people continue to insist that we feed, clothe and shelter them. Or at least they would insist upon it if we ever fell far enough behind in these tasks for them to feel the pinch. Well, maybe not the clothing part. Ellie, for one, would be perfectly content to roam around in her diaper all day in this nice weather. And she has some rather colorful diapers, so it could potentially be borderline socially acceptable, and might save us about 1.5 minutes in the morning…


But who are we kidding? The one who takes up all the time in the morning is Evie. Sometimes all you can do is just keep them contained while you knock out a few quick tasks…

But I digress…

Deedee’s birthday was on Monday so we went out to all you can eat buffet on Sunday evening. We didn’t take any pictures of that, because, let’s face it, one AYCE buffet looks pretty much like any other. But we did take a picture of the girls playing in the mall play area afterwards.

You can see Deedee’s hands hold a phone on the right. Does this count as a picture of the birthday girl?

Happy Birthday, Deedee!

With the nice weather we have been having a little more success with our gardening. The cone flowers we planted back in march have come up.

Only two have come up, which means we probably put them in too early when the ground temperature was too cold and most of the seeds rotted. These two represent the survivors.

Ellie is getting bigger and more accomplished as a climber. She can now climb up in the net at the play ground, she can climb into the first crux of the Japanese maple by the deck, and she can climb out of her crib without assistance. She still can’t open the door of her room, but that’s a-comin’.

She had to join Daddy on some frantic errand running yesterday while he desperately (and unsuccessfully) tried to pull together all the stuff he needs to go out for annual training next tomorrow. The major piece of equipment he was looking for wasn’t ready, so improvisation will have to occur.

As usual.

But it was the Army’s birthday, and they had cake at Military Clothing and Sales, so that was a win!

She was done after 3 bites. Not much of a sweet tooth, that one.

And that’s all for this week, folks. We hope you have a wonderful rest of your weekend. God Bless!

Keep on trucking!

Holy Manly Weekend, Batman!

Last Saturday Ryan got to do some good old-fashioned Man Work for a change. Uncle Adam had a stand of douglas firs on the front of his property that he wanted to take down. He has done a lot of research and thinks that oaks will grow quite well in their spot, providing more shade, and, eventually, acorns for food for humans and animals, so he decided to take down that line of firs to mill them into lumber.

Okay! Everyone, look manly!

Adam wisely enlisted the aid of the Betts brothers who have taken down a good many trees in their time. Specifically, they are far more familiar than Ryan and Adam are with the tall, straight pines of the Pacific Northwest. Ryan and Adam have only ever taken down the short, squat, deciduous trees of the Northeast, and we quickly learned that there is a world of difference between taking down a 40 foot maple and taking down an 80 foot pine.

Dane and Brennan showed us how to cable the tree to guide its fall. Their expertise was invaluable and enabled us to fell and log all six trees in just a few hours without any injuries or property damage.

The big logs we laid to one side, Adam plans to mill them with an Alaskan saw mill he can borrow from an in-law.

The small logs will be cut, split and stacked for firewood at a later date, and the brush will either be mulched or burned for a bonfire this summer.

Meanwhile, all the womenfolk (except Kathleen and Margie, who couldn’t be there) made scrumptious lunch and kept an eye on the kiddos. The kiddos kept an eye on their dads.

According to Aunt Maryanne, it was just as noisy inside as outside, with all the kids tapping on the window and yelling, “Daddy! Daddy!” at the top of their lungs.

The next day, Sunday, Uncle Adam and Aunt Maryanne came over to our house to visit.

We had supper of lasagna and then the grownups played Settlers of Catan, while the kids watched Disney’s “Robin Hood!”

The rest of the week has been pretty much ordinary. Mommy and Daddy have both been super busy with school and work, with Mommy working all day and Daddy working from mid-morning until late into the night. Daddy’s time with the girls is at breakfast…

Ellie is a huge fan of toast and jelly.

While Mommy’s main time with them is from just before supper until bedtime.

But we still make time for silliness:

And try to enjoy our weekends as much as possible.

And that’s all for this week folks. Have a great weekend and God Bless!

Short Family Friday this week, not because nothing much happened, but more because so much happened that we didn’t take many pictures. Most of it was boring anyway, stuff like work and deployment. For the amount of work we do, we grownups, we certainly don’t seem to get a whole lot done. Kathleen has been struggling to get her new ultrasound lab set up all by herself. Ryan has been struggling to get memos filled out and signed, health and welfare issues sorted out, fingers stitched back together…

Ellie says, “Too much struggle, not enough snuggle!”


She’s probably right. All the work we do is important, don’t get me wrong, not the least since it enables us to keep making an Evie and an Ellie (they, like the rest of us, are not finished being made yet). Still, it’s easy to get lost in the grind and forget the important for the sake of the urgent.

She finally has enough hair to brush! (Lucky her!)

At any rate, big events this week…

Definitely the biggest event by far was Ellie’s birthday! 

“What? Who, me?”

That’s right, Miss Ellie is now one whole year old! She can walk, she can say Mama and Dada and Papa, Hi, Yes, and All done.

Everyone came and had frozen yogurt to celebrate Ellie’s big day!
“What is this on my head? I can’t see it. Deedee, let go of my arms so I can grab this thing on my head and taste it.”

She loves her some frozen yogurt. The presents did not impress her much…

(Bet you can’t guess who gave her this one!)

But she just loves to tear wrapping paper!

She is still our happy, snuggly baby girl, and nowhere near as “contra mundi” as Evie has always been, but she is still starting to develop a mind of her own. 

Mommy’s eyes and Daddy’s half-smile. I think it’s a great combination.

She likes to try things that Mommy says “no” to, just to make sure that Mommy really does mean “no.” The funny thing is she does it with a less… pushy? sassy? attitude than Evie used to. Ellie does it a couple of times to see whether it is always “no” or only sometimes “no.” But then she does what you tell her to. She also doesn’t say “no” yet, whereas that was one of Evie’s first words, right after Dada.

Where has Evie been in all of this? 

Well, Miss Evie has been ever so busy, rehearsing for her school concert. She got to sing and dance with her friends in front of everyone! (Well, sing with her friends, dance by herself.) 

Of course, our child is the one who can’t keep still. It reminds Ryan of a home video of Kathleen from about that age, in which little Katie stood up on a stool in the middle of Christmas present opening and called out, “Now quiet, everyone, I am going to sing!” 

(I am sure it also reminds Grandma Ann of a few moments from Ryan’s childhood as well. He was never accused of being shy until he became all teenagery and angsty and introverted).

Of course, all that glamour takes its toll. Poor Mommy had to wrangle an over-excited, high-as-a-kite Evie into bed that night, which was not easy. Getting her out of bed the next day was not easier. 

Ellie is early to bed, early to rise. Evie… not so much.

Alas, Evie got Daddy’s hatred of going to sleep, and Mommy’s hatred of getting up. The worst of both worlds. We’re sorry, child. We hope you will overcome someday!

And then of course, Thanksgiving. Daddy was able to go to Mass, but still had to do some work. But at least he was able to skype in for the big Thanksgiving Meal at Aunt Dude’s house. 

I thought I got Evie in one of these pics, but I guess not. She was just moving too fast.

Everyone loves playing with Aunt Susie!

Ellie decided to help Papa out with his Thanksgiving snacks. She carefully walked from the coffee table to his chair carrying one piece of party mix at a time and gently placing each one in his hand. 

“Here you go, Papa. It’s yummy!”

She even tasted them before she gave them to him, to make sure that they were only the yummiest! What a great baby girl!

That’s all for this week, folks. Happy Thanksgiving, and God Bless!

Welcome back to Family Friday. It has been a fairly laid-back week at the Kraeger House. Evie and Ellie have been enjoying having Mommy at home all the time. Family Friday 181 (2)However, we told them not to get too used to it, because Mommy starts her new job on Monday!

Family Friday 181 (6)
Kathleen’s Co-workers hosted her going away party at Enigma Escapes, and they successfully busted out of the puzzle room.

Evie and Ellie have had colds this week. Evie likes to tell people that she “has just a little cold” and which of her classmates she got her sickness from (it’s a different classmate every time she tells it).

Poor Ellie has a cold, but French Toast can make it all better.

She doesn’t want to eat with her fingers anymore. She wants to use her silverware, so she can be big like Mommy and big sissy.

Family Friday 181 (1)
She’s a big girl now!

Family Friday 181 (9)
See? Ellie can do medicine too!

Ellie gets a lot more Mommy time than Evie right now, because Evie is at school all day. They did a school project about what the kids were thankful for.


Her answers are always surprising.

She is also learning some classic musical repertoire, to which she adds her own characteristic Evie twist…

This has been the week of Getting Into Things, apparently.

Family Friday 181 (4)
“Oh, Hi Mom!”

No, she is not allowed to climb in the refrigerator. She is not even allowed to open the refrigerator without permission.

Not to be outdone, Ellie is now tall enough to reach Daddy’s night stand from her pack-n-play. Mommy came in to get her up from nap and found her eating Daddy’s dog tags. (He never wears them, so he didn’t bother to bring them on deployment with him).

Family Friday 181 (2)
She was very disappointed when Mommy took them away. And they were so tasty! Especially paired with Daddy’s Father’s Day Card.

And last but not least…

Family Friday 181 (3)
Don’t even ask me how she got stuck in the ottoman.

Family Friday 181 (8)
Who me? I’m too cute to get into trouble.

Life is always an adventure with these two around.

Daddy, meanwhile, has been extremely busy, but is now enduring a four-day weekend. He thinks the Army should save up all the days off and stick them on the end of the deployment so we could go home a month earlier.

Family Friday 181 (1)
That’s a great idea, Daddy!

But the time has allowed him to pursue a slow, careful, gradual rehabilitation program since the injury. He is coming along pretty well, and even recorded his first muscle-up attempt, successfully, less than six months post op!

Evie wanted to help write Family Friday this week.

She says, “Mommy, I love you too. And Mama, when I love you, something can come true. And please write a picture to me, Evie, who is your best friend. And when you write a picture to me, then I can help with Family Friday.” That is Evie’s contribution.

She also told Mommy last night: “Mommy, I don’t think I am going to like this.”

Family Friday 181 (11)
Literally all her favorite foods.

Daddy’s comment, “Oh, I am sorry. We must have mistaken you for the toddler who lived on this for her second year of life.”

Family Friday 181 (10)
Two minutes later…


That’s all for this week, folks. Keep us in your prayers, God Bless!

In one of Fr. Dwight Longenecker’s recent posts he explores the problem of rage that is currently dividing and consuming our nation. This is an excerpt (which I originally read in his book on Praying the Rosary for Inner Healing) that has given me pause many times before this.

In my book Praying the Rosary for Inner Healing I explore the roots of our emotions and suggest that our adult emotions are rooted in the earliest experiences of our lives. Here’s an example: I was once asked to help a fifteen year old boy who had suddenly become irrationally angry and rebellious. He had been a sweet looking kid, sang in the church choir and had been delightful. At fifteen he became a “Goth”. Black hair, black leathers, eye make up…the works. He also started stealing cars. We asked him why he did so. He didn’t know. We asked if he knew that he would go to jail. He did, but didn’t care. He was in a tailspin, and there was no rational explanation. He said he was mad at his Mom and Dad and found external reasons, but they were all groundless.

In an attempt to discover the roots of his rage we asked him mother about his early years. She said he was adopted, and that he was conceived in the back seat of a car when his mother was fifteen. She carried him for nine months in an attitude of rage, frustration, rebellion and hatred. The other priest I was working with realized that in some strange way the boy was acting out not just his own rage, but the rage and rebellion of his mother. He was working through and acting out (according to the priest’s theory) the disturbing circumstances that lay at the very foundation of his personality

The first experiences of life take place while we are still in a sub-linguistic and sub-rational existence. For the infant, and certainly for the unborn child, life is nothing but a stream of emotional and instinctive stimuli and reactions. We exist in those pre-rational and pre-linguistic years in an emotional and instinctive soup, and the reason this is important is that just as in these early years our mind and body is forming, so our emotional life and emotional resources are forming.

This is why God ordains that we are conceived in a moment of self giving and beautiful love between a man and a woman, and that this conception takes place within the sacrament of marriage so it is also blessed and inspired by God. Likewise, the first nine months in the womb are to be a time of peace, health, love and happiness for mother and child. As the child receives nourishment from the mother, so he also receives love, confidence and peace. These contribute to a healthy and confident child. If the atmosphere is also one of spiritual nurture, prayer and worship, then the child’s spiritual life also receives a healthy and confident foundation.

I happen to agree that the pre-conscious and pre-linguistic period of formation in the life of a child is of incredible importance in the shaping of that child’s later emotional resources. I know, for instance, from my studies in neuroscience, that metagenetic mechanisms preferentially select more or less functional stress reaction pathways (cortisol and its related enzymes, to name one specific mechanism).

Now, I want to avoid the appearance that I am suggesting anything remotely deterministic. I am positing that the pre-conscious and pre-linguistic experience of every human influences their subsequent development in profound ways. Nor do I wish to suggest that these alterations are necessarily unmanageable or cannot be overcome by better later life environment, training and decisions (c.f “The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains” as well as numerous more scholarly researches on the role of neuroplasticity in overcoming negative behavioral and cognitive patterns.)

I also want it to be understood that a stress-free environment for a child, even if such a thing were possible in this world, would most likely be just as bad as, if not worse than, an environment filled with fear and neglect. Stress in the right types and amounts provides an adaptive function in nature, especially in human nature. Just as bones that are not stressed in childhood are weak and brittle, so are personalities that are never stressed. Problem solving is developed as a response to stress, and is absolutely essential to functional existence in society.

Nor, finally, do I want to suggest that these modern insights into some (likely only a fraction) of the possible mechanisms for this reality represent any real increase in knowledge. We have ALWAYS know that it was bad for children and babies to be in fear for their lives, to be treated with neglect, contempt or abuse, or even to be simply unwanted, unloved or uncared for. We have always known that the role of the family is to provide a stable, nurturing, and challenging environment for children to develop stable, nurturing and challenging selves. These three qualities are prerequisites for learning to love, and love is the only goal worthy of a human person.

It does, however, cause us to think and to re-evaluate what is most important in our lives. The only thing that matters is teaching children how to love, or providing a space for other people to teach their children how to love. It puts my own profession into perspective, at any rate, or rather professions (i.e. warfare and medicine). My warfare is pointless self-aggrandizement and thrill seeking if it does not help someone, in America or Afghanistan or wherever, live at peace and raise their children free of warfare. My medicine is meaningless unless the people I treat are real people instead of Medical Record Numbers or lists of signs, symptoms and diagnoses. My task is not to make them live longer but to help them live well.

And of course, both of those professions are meaningless if I am not there for my own family, within the limitations of doing my duty to others. It means that my ability to protect another man family’s right to raise their children in peace flows directly from my family’s sacrifice of peaceful time with me at home. Whether it is crippled or empowered by that sacrifice remains to be seen.

Which brings me to one of my favorite quotes from C. S. Lewis, with which I will close:

The State exists simply to promote and to protect the ordinary happiness of human beings in this life. A husband and wife chatting over a fire, a couple of friends having a game of darts in a pub, a man reading a book in his own room or digging in his own garden — that is what the State is there for. And unless they are helping to increase and prolong and protect such moments, all the laws, parliaments, armies, courts, police, economics, etc., are simply a waste of time. In the same way the Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose. (Mere Christianity)


As we said in our last Family Friday, a lot has changed since the last time we went to New York.


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The old Kraeger farmhouse

Ian has been working hard to dig out the dirt around the house and prop it up on cribbing, preparatory to building a foundation and basement.


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I-beams and cribbing supporting the dining room.


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Supporting the kitchen door.

Unfortunately, while we were visiting, more storms and rain came through. On Friday our friends, the Daly’s had a tornado come right across the road from their house. It took part of the roof off of the neighbor’s barn next door.

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Mostly abandoned barn, they just use it for storage.

And deposited it in the woods next to their lawn.


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And it ripped half of the top of one of their old maple trees off and dropped it partly on the lawn and partly in the road.


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The Daly’s called Ian in to take the tree apart.

That’s kind of the crazy thing about the area my family still lives in. It is not a prosperous area. They pay roughly six times what we pay in property taxes. All but three of the smaller dairy farms that used to be the beating heart of the region’s economy have been forced out of business since we were kids. The three that remain are struggling to make ends meet. The only farming left in the area that breaks even are the factory farms. Most of the industry has left the region. Pohl’s feedway is shut down. The local racetrack is within a few dollars of closing its doors. The only industry left is the milk-processing plant and it employs fewer people and moves less milk than it did before.

Milk prices are low and unstable, land taxes are high. Ian is out of the dairy business after the barn fire a few years ago. Now he is working full time for the town to make a salary and insurance benefits, working another full time on the farm trying to build it up into a beef operation and sell some hay on the side. He is literally working to keep a roof over his family’s heads (or more accurately, a floor under their feet).

In this kind of economy, money takes a bit of a backseat as the medium of exchange. It ends up being replaced by a barter system, which is built on a foundation of relationships. These relationships are based on reputation for dependability and competence. They take time and effort to build, and they are always mutual. Ian has spent the last ten years or so putting down roots in the area, talking and working with other farmers and workers in the area. He borrows tools and equipment worth more money than he could come up with in a decade. He can do this because he has a well-earned reputation for dependability and competence. People in the area know his reputation and they know him. They know he will use their equipment well and return it in good condition.

Well, this storm is an example of the reasons why Ian has that reputation. When the Daly’s called, he grabbed a chainsaw, and he and I hopped in the truck and were over in less than 10 minutes. He had the branch chunked and dragged off the road in a few minutes, and then we swung by the farm of the owners of the barn, to see if they were doing okay. They weren’t home so we headed back to the farm and back to work.

But it wasn’t over yet.

The next day I was making pizza at Grandma’s house and I found I had forgotten to bring the pizza pans. I ran back to the farm to get them, and it was raining cats and dogs and had been most of the day. There were three spots where water was flowing across our road, something none of us had ever seen in all the years we have been living at the house. When I got to the house I heard Ian’s voice down in the basement and when I went down the stairs I saw this:New York Flood 2017 (7)When Ian dug the basement he laid a 4-inch tile to drain it. The tile was still running. It was not plugged, it was pouring out a full 4-inch stream down the side hill, but water was running into the basement faster than the tile could handle it. New York Flood 2017 (8)The water was running down the road in a river from the field, pouring over the driveway into the basement. At the time I took this picture, the water was less than three inches from the electric motor at the bottom of the furnace, and from the concrete floor that the two freezers were sitting on. In a few inches the water was going to short out the furnace motor, and fry the freezers and ruin a few hundred pounds of meat. He had already thrown a sump pump into the water but it had risen too fast and shorted it out. He was thinking about going to work to borrow one of the town’s pumps, but the water was rising too quickly and it would have been over the furnace motor by then.

I looked at the stream coming in from the road and said, “And there’s no where you can divert it to.”

Ian thought for a second and then said, “No, but I know what I can do.” He sprinted for the backhoe parked in the corner and drove to the river of water rushing into the basement. There was a large pile of clay piled up next to the driveway that had been dug out from the basement. Ian started scooping up bucket loads of clay and throwing them down in a dike over the river.New York Flood 2017 (9)He was working quickly. From the time we were down in the basement, only five minutes had passed.

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He dropped a dike right across the stream and the water going into the basement shrank to nothing. New York Flood 2017 (11)Now the water was diverted to the lawn and running down the side of the road.


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The first iteration of the dike.

And what do you know? It worked.

New York Flood 2017 (13)The water had come up and actually brushed the bottom of the furnace and crept over the edge of the concrete pad that the freezers sat on, but had stopped half an inch shy of the motor, and then had begun to recede. In another five minutes it had dropped the three inches you can see on the lowest level of cribbing above.

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We got more rain a few hours later and the water began to creep around the upper end of the dike. Ian had to move the tractor and round bailer and extend the dike further up the driveway, but the danger was passed.

The next day (Sunday) Ian was up with the sun and had done a walk around the farm before I was even out of bed. He was inspecting the fences for flood damage because the last thing he needed on top of everything else was for thirty beef cattle and a couple of horses to be running loose all over the neighborhood. Only a few of the fences were down, just the ones that crossed the creek, so after Mass all the menfolk were out in the creek cleaning up.


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Getting ready to work.



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The stump had ripped a few crossing wires out and then gotten stuck on the fallen branch.



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Matthew and Layn pulling a branch out of the creek.



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Laying a new fencing wire.


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Layn helps too. Because he is a man.

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It was fun. I haven’t worked like that in a long, long time. Too much sitting around in the classroom, book work, gym work. There is something about doing real work with your hands that just brings out the manliness in you.

That’s how Ian and Melissa keep making ends meet no matter how tight it gets. When you don’t have cash your real wealth is in relationships. Around our area a man’s word is still his currency, and his ability to take care of his house and family depends largely upon his ability to maintain strong relationships with his neighbors. Those relationships are based upon his history of being dependable, trustworthy and competent. He owes all of them something, and they all owe him something to a point that is beyond simple mathematical monetary value, and in the realm of real interdependence.

I have the mixed blessing of living and working in a world where cash is the currency. This simplifies things, but it also tends to distract from the real values of community, neighborhood and good old-fashioned manliness. That’s why it is good to go back once in a while and remember where I came from.