Early learning

This week at ParentDish, I’m thinking about letters, and words, and taking risks, and the strange, whooshing sound the snow makes as it slides off the green metal roof.


I just got my first review for Roadmap to Holland,

from Publisher’s Weekly:

Montana wife and mother Groneberg traces in her tenderly moving account the life-changing realization after the premature birth of her twin boys that one of them, Avery, has Down syndrome. Utterly unprepared for the emergency C-section of the seven-week-early preemies, Groneberg and her writer husband, Tom, the parents of a four-year-old, are devastated by the news about Avery, and they must gradually alter their easygoing future plans about raising their kids. They reject the notion of adoption, suggested by a well-intentioned nurse at the hospital where the babies are ensconced in the neonatal intensive-care unit, and embark on an exhaustively trying, ultimately enlightening journey to care for the needy babies, especially Avery, and educate themselves about his condition. Rising from the shame of feeling that their family is “broken,” and letting slide hurtful comments by a grocery-store clerk or neighbor, Groneberg devoured books and information from the Internet, and began to foster their son’s development by seeking out physical therapists and specialists. Small gains in Avery’s motor skills were causes for celebration, and the beginning of speech the greatest gift the parents could ask for. Groneberg affectingly delineates these gradual, hardwon stages during Avery’s first year toward love and acceptance. (Apr.)

For those of you who have asked…

1) The water heater is fixed.  No one knows why it broke, or why it works, but as the ranch forman said, “I’d rather be lucky than good.”  (Which I love.  I’d rather be lucky than good, too!)

2) Recently, the first heifer gave birth.  A heifer is a cow that has never had a baby before.  I shook my head and said, “First babies! ”  There is nothing so hard, bovine or human.  

 3)  The hats!  I have photos of all the hats, as requested, by my main enemy right now is the dial-up.  My computer crashes whenever I try to add them to a post. 

4)  We are here.  Here, is it home?  I don’t know.  But I appreciate, so much, all your thoughts, and imaginings, and support.   Happy Sunday!


I wrote this in an email to a friend back home, whom I miss very much…and I’ll share it here, too:

What I’ve mostly been doing are the daily tasks of life, now the water heater is fixed but no washer, yes dryer so I’ve been washing things by hand. We have to feed the massive wood stove every hour and there is lots to do with keeping warm. And too, the cleaning, which seems endless: as soon as something is tidied up, the stark comparison with all that’s around it means there is just more to clean.

But! It’s not all bleak. We had a fresh snowfall in the night and there is a lovely sledding hill here. And like magic, this old house provides what we most need…there was a blue plastic sled in the cellar. Who knew? So the kids and I had a happy afternoon of sledding, then hot cocoa, and there was a moment, sitting in the kitchen with my 3 frosty-cheeked children, when I felt completely filled with gratitude, and I thought, What more than this? What more could I possibly need?

Hats in the attic

Tucked away in the eaves of this 70-year-old log house we’ve taken on the job of making inhabitable are a half-dozen hat boxes, filled with vintage ladies’ hats.

Now I will tell you that in the basement is every glass jar this family ever used, saved in boxes.  There is an old table, missing a leg, that I’m sure was a “project” that was never finished.  There are pickles canned in mayonaise jars, jelly in recycled mustard jars.  Boxes and boxes of saved baby food jars; three (3!) Speckleware canning pots on a shelf.

But.  In the eaves above it all are the most beautiful hats I’ve ever seen.  A delicate white straw summer hat with hand-sewn silk roses in reds and pinks and peaches.  A blue felt fedora with a matching silk ribbon trailing from the hatband.  And a black hat with two black feathers lifting into a perfect V, a dramatic, surprising exclamation point to any woman’s face. 

Inside the hats are the labels:  from hat-makers in Seattle, San Fransisco, Chicago, New York, even Paris. 

I can’t make sense of the woman of this house, who saved bread bags and old furniture and scrimped on canning jars, but splurged on these hats, which are each of them, works of art. 

Or maybe I can.  Maybe she’s just like me.

MotherTalk Blog Book Tour: Persian Girls

I read Nahid Rachlin’s Persian Girls: A Memoir in the dead of a Montana winter. The rush and glow of the holiday season had passed over us, and we were left with long, gray days and even longer, darker nights. So it was with much relief, and fascination, that I dove into this book, and let Rachlin’s words transport me to a world of warmth and sunshine, hot evenings spent sleeping on rooftops, meals of chicken and pomegranate sauce with saffron rice and Shirazi chopped salad.

I loved this world and found myself reading when I should have been working, or folding laundry, or emptying the dishwasher. Like all the best books, it called to me even in my sleep. I dreamed about Maryam, and Nahid, and Pari. And even though I knew how the story ended, I had to keep reading. Such is the power of Rachlin’s storytellling.

Though it’s a memoir, I’d recommend Persian Girls for the same reasons I love novels like Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent, or Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns. The richness of the language and the descpriptions of the characters drew me into the story, and I never tire of contemplating themes such as love and loss, mother/daughter relationships, or examining what makes a life well-lived.

Persian Girls touches on issues that are frequently discussed by some of my favorite bloggers, too: the feelings Nahid has about her birth mother, which makes me think of Dawn at This Woman’s Work. Pari’s decision to leave her husband, all but ensuring that she’ll lose custody of her infant son, reminds me of Suzanne Kamata’s blog, Gaijin Mama, and in particular, her new novel, Losing Kei. I think of the culture of giving birth, and I make a connection to Kim Gutschow’s work and her blog, Buddhist Mama. And Nahid’s youngest sisters are twins, one born with developmental delays, which makes me think of my own babies.

All of these things are reasons to recommend this book: but perhaps my best endorsement is that I don’t want to keep it on my bookshelf. It’s a book that deserves to be read again and again, so that the pages become soft and worn. I want to share my copy with you–if you’re interested, leave your name in the comments and I’ll select a winner at random. And to read what other MotherTalk book bloggers are saying, go here.

AND WE HAVE A WINNER!  It’s #1, Kristen of From here to there and back.  Email me at jennifer (at) jennifergrafgroneberg (dot) com with your address and I’ll ship it off!  Thanks for playing, everyone!


This is a rambling sort of story, so bear with me: Carter, now that he’s 9, was going to open a savings account. As I was making the plans for this (does our bank have savings accounts for minors, what paperwork is needed, what time do they open, will they take a piggybank full of change?), it occurred to me that Carter might get a kick out of seeing the vault. Which meant that I’d need to find our safety deposit box key.

Thinking about the safety deposit box made me remember what was inside–papers and legal documents and a ring from my mother, another from my grandmother, both would make nice gifts for my future daughters-in-law, should I be lucky enough to have them.

Then I began to fret. Three! I needed three rings to pass along! I thought harder about what was in that box. And then it came to me; I remembered a third ring, from my mother’s mother, my Gram, a pearl for June, her name and my birth month. With that settled, my mind returned to the tasks of the day.

The full importance of this chain of events didn’t come to me until later. Three. Not so long ago, the thought of passing along any jewelry to my sons would have sent me into despair. I would have wrung my hands and thought, Oh Avery, poor Avery!

But no more.

Somewhere there is a family raising a beautiful, lovely, cherished little girl, the girl who will become part of our family, and us part of hers. Somewhere, a mother braids her hair, or helps her into her ballerina costume, or asks her for the thousandth time, Please drink your milk. She’s out there waiting for us, and we are waiting for her. My grandmother’s ring will be perfect on her finger.

A roar for powerful words!


Niksmom of Maternal Instincts shared this award with me, described here, and from the post:

A Roar For Powerful Words is the chance to scream from the mountains the good news about the powerful posts that are produced every day in the blogosphere, despite what some mainstream columnists and journalists claim. This is also a good chance to examine exactly what it is that makes writing good and powerful.”

One of Avery’s favorite books is Where the Wild Things Are; he dresses himself in his lion costume and turns through the pages, then roars at the monsters, and at his brothers, and even at me. If my words roar, it’s because Avery shows me how, nearly every day.

The best part of this award is that I get to pass it along–thank you, Niksmom, for giving me the chance to mention other writers whose words roar. I have 3 in mind:

Vicki Forman, because her Literary Mama column, Special Needs Mama, never fails to make me think, and because her post “The Mother at the Swings,” remains one of my all-time favorites on the Internet;

Kathy Soper, because she’s currently working on her own book (and I know the struggle!) and because her post, “Bitter, Sweet,” also at Literary Mama, is raw and true and full of heart;

And Anne, who blogs at Archie’s Room, because of this post, and this one, and this one.

The award also asks that I explain 3 things that make words roar, for me: that’s easy. The writing must be clean, and clear, and honest–all these writers’ words are all those things.

Another reason to support genetic diversity…

New research by Roger H. Reeves, PhD, a professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, shows that the genetic roots of Down syndrome may protect against cancer. The full article, “Down Syndrome May Curb Cancer,” reads, in part:

“If there were no such thing as Down syndrome, we probably wouldn’t have found this because it wouldn’t make a lot of sense to take these oncogenes that we thought were genes that cause cancer and try to express them at high levels to try to prevent cancer. But that’s what happens” in their experiment, says Reeves.