Thursday, November 29, 2007

What do I want to be.....

I've taken a break from the blog to try to determine what my blog "personality" is. I feel a bit "multi-personality" right now. It may result in my withdrawal from the blog world and just keep my own family webpage going. I'll let you know the result once I decide. I'm thinking that since I am very much an in-person kind of girl, the voyeuristic aspect of the blog world may just not suit me. I like face to face (or at least voice to voice) , tennis match volley, conversing type conversations. I'm finding blogging is like those BC comics where the guy writes a sentence, sticks it in a bottle, sends it out, and hopes for a response.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

A little taste of sweetness

Whatever your view of Halloween is, you can't help but love the little ones all excited and dressed up! Our own personal Pirate Princess, Alice in Wonderland, and Ballerina Princess (of course)!

Sorry about the blurriness, but I wanted to capture the beauty of this pumpkin. Anna chose the design and my husband freehand drew and then carved it. Wow.

Our pumpkin collection. Since we were gone to our church's Trunks with Treats celebration these three cuties were all the trick or treaters to our door were treated to. Fortunately we didn't get any tricks!

Emily is an endless supply of stories for y'all. She has the biggest sweet tooth in Florida and last night was in candy heaven, as you can imagine! Apparently all that indulgence caused her to have trouble sleeping last night. Mike was woken sometime around Midnight with a light shining on the patio outside our room. He went into the living room to investigate and found Emily happily playing with her toys out there. He shooed her back to bed and we all went back to sleep. This morning she denied any knowledge of her nighttime adventures and then went into her room and came out with this outfit on. She is turning into quite the fashion Diva. Incidentally, the ladies that help with the YMCA childcare area told me that she seems tired today. I wonder why?!!!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Tennis Shoe

We've had a cold tear through our home in the last week. It started with Sarah, who got over it the quickest, and then moved to me, Anna, and Emily. I love the whole family sharing thing - just not this particular variety.
You might be wondering why I am sharing this with the world but it is some important background info for what I'm about to tell you next.
We were driving to school the other day and I hear from behind my seat, where Emily sits, "Mommy!! I need a tennis shoe!!"
I replied "We didn't bring your tennis shoes, Emily, you Crocs are on the floor where you dropped them".
She replied back "Mommy, I NEED a tennis shoe!"
To which I replied "Emily, you don't need a tennis shoe, we are just taking the girls to school and then going home".
"Mommy, I have boogers!! I need a tennis shoe"
Then Anna pipes up "She means a tissue Mommy, her nose is running!"
There you go. When your nose runs, you need a tennis shoe. Now I get it.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Gluten Free Pantry

Yep, you are actually looking at my pantry. After a long, long, long, prayerful search for what has been causing our Sarah's health issues (belly, gut, and growth related) we have decided to try the non-invasive non-traditional-medicine route. Earlier this year she was tested for Celiac Disease - she had the pint of blood taken and also a small bowel follow through and biopsy. Celiac disease is an auto-immune disorder where the proteins found in wheat, barley, and rye cause your body to turn on itself, destroying the small intestines. Thankfully, she does not have any visible intestinal damage but she had enough lab work elevated just enough to make you go "hmm??" in addition to having one of the main genes for Celiac. We pondered our options all summer and starting in August removed all dairy proteins from her diet. Since we knew she was milk intolerant as a baby we thought this was a good place to start. After two months with minimal changes for her we made the decision go ahead and take the plunge to full blown gluten-free. The decision was solidified when we realized that I also have genes for gluten intolerance AND Celiac and my mother has multiple food allergies including wheat, corn, soy, and rice.

So, Sarah and I are strictly gluten free until at least early January. We're going to give it a three month trial to see if it makes any difference. We've been at it one week and two days. It is a major change but I'm getting the hang of it, slowly. The best part is that I now have a beautifully clean kitchen. It kind of felt like the Jewish Passover when I was cleaning and sweeping my house of all leavening (not to make light in any way of this very holy practice for Jews). Apparently to do it right is a major undertaking where no surface that touches food is left uncleaned. This is just about what I did to make my kitchen "gluten-free". So, the benefit to me is that my drawers, pantry and cabinets are now the cleanest they have been since we moved in (maybe even cleaner). I even had to get rid of a few items that couldn't be assured of being cleaned of all gluten. So, I got the pleasure of replacing some items with brand new. Aside from the cost, it has been fun to shop for cutting boards, colanders, etc... again since I really haven't had the need since we got married 10 years ago. For the record, we're gluten free at home and in the car (have you ever seen a minivan without a whole loaf of bread in crumb form on the floor?) but only Sarah and I adhere to it outside of our house.

The downside is that gluten free flours and packaged products carry a significant premium in price and some are not really good replacements for the old gluten-filled favorites. The upside of that is that were eating more whole and unrefined foods which is better for us anyway!

So, if you will, please pray for us that we receive clear indications of whether this new avoidance diet is beneficial for one or both of us. It is totally ok with me to avoid gluten forever if it means Sarah will be as healthy as God designed her to be.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A weekend in Alabama

The Girls with their Granna and Grandpa on Cheaha Mountain

The gathered Strange Clan

More views from Cheaha

The Theme for the weekend was Pirates.
I think my girls make very credible pirates, don't you?

We spent last weekend at the Strange Family Reunion in Alabama. It changed locations and dates this year. Instead of the blazing hot Alabama summer it moved to the kind of warm Alabama fall. We also moved from Oak Mountain State park to Cheaha State Park. The change of venue was awesome. Here are a few pictures to share. For those who've never been to Alabama, Cheaha is the highest point in Alabama and had some really cool views. The Strange Family is doing well and it was good to see everyone again. Some day soon maybe I'll catch up at home after being gone 5 days in the middle of the school year.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Happy Birthday Grandma Nickell

Mike's Grandma Nickell is the same age as my Granny. She turns 80 this weekend. She is a wonderful woman who lives alone now since her husband, Grandpa, died a couple of years ago. I'll never forget, the very first time Mike introduced me to them, Grandpa walked right up to me on their big porch, gave me a hug and a scratchy kiss on my cheek and said "Michael I can tell why you love her, she's looks sweet enough to eat!"
Grandma still lives in an old "company" house they had moved to a piece of property on the outskirts of Seguin Texas. It has those seams in the walls you see on a mobile home except it isn't a mobile home. I am quite certain that nothing has changed significantly in that house in at least 20 years. She lives the epitomy of the simple life. Whenever we are at her house we feel the peace of not having to rush around. The food is often homegrown and homestyle, the entertainment is conversation for the grown ups and exploration for the kids, bedtime is a fun time in her huge old tub (no shower) and then bunking up all together in one room with the window unit. You would think our girls would mind but they love Grandma Nickell's because she loves them. It is all that matters. We wish we could be there to help honor her 80 years of loving.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A favorite picture

This is Sarah in August 05 - she was just three. Her teacher sent a wonderful mid-term progress report home today. Her teacher recognizes some of Sarah's best traits - "I love Sarah's sweet heart. She will raise her hand in class just to say "I love you, Mrs. B" She is an excellent student, diligent in her school work. When we play games she does very well." This describes Sarah at home as well.

We are praying for some answers related to her tummy troubles and feel we have a direction to go now, but we are continuing to pray as well that the Lord would heal her and not have her feel any discomfort anymore.

By the way, the bran flax muffins were awesome but next time I'm going to make the carrot shreds smaller - Anna wasn't so crazy about the idea of eating carrots in muffins so I'm hoping to hide them in there better.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Menu Monday

Taking an idea from Living to Tell the Story Blog here is my menu plan for the week:

Monday - shrimp scampi over linguine with green salad
Tuesday - pot roast with carrots and potatoes
Wednesday - picnic with turkey sandwiches on italian bread, chips, fruit
Thursday - kung pao chicken on lo mein noodles
Friday - homemade pizzas with olives, italian sausage, onions, bell peppers, mushrooms
Saturday - Kindergarten fellowship potluck - not sure what I need to bring for that yet...
Sunday - grilled chicken over green salad

I also plan to make Bran Flax Muffins as an alternative to store bought granola bars for breakfast, as well as apple breakfast bread for a snack, and maybe a flourless chocolate cake (if I find the time).

My grocery gaming is going fairly well so far. I've saved about $250 this month compared to the average of the last 12 months for us. My per trip percentages are at about 30% off shelf price but I think I am shopping smarter too which is helping. I'd love to get my percent savings even lower but we may go gluten-free soon for Sarah so I don't know if that will be possible with needing to buy some specialty foods. I think at the very least I should be able to save in other areas to help off-set the cost of gluten free foods and even more produce.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Let Heaven Rejoice!

There is another soul marked for heaven as of Wednesday this week - our sweet Sarah prayed to receive Jesus as her Savior!

In quite the round-about fashion it started while Anna was at ballet and I had just gotten back in the minivan with Emily and Sarah. Before we had even pulled out of the parking lot Sarah started by telling me that her school prayer partner told her she is an "angel". Before I knew it she was saying she wanted to "pray that prayer where your sins are gone and you get to go to heaven, Can I do that now Mommy?". Then came a few more questions like "Will Jesus take me to heaven from the van?" "How does Jesus get into your heart?"

All this is taking place in our minivan on the way to Wednesday night church. Sarah was sitting in the third row and Emily was chattering away in the middle row.

She had asked a similar question several months ago, again while we were driving, and I had asked her if we could wait until we got home and Daddy could be with us. She agreed but then had completely forgotten about it by time we got home so we didn't press it. This time I didn't want to put her off. I only asked her if we could wait until we got parked so I could pray with her right next to me.

With a big beaming smile she said she wanted Jesus to clean the sins from her heart and to come live there forever. We got to prayed together which was a moment I'll never forget. Right before she bounced off into church she asked, in typical Sarah fashion, "Can Emily pray that prayer so she can have Jesus in her heart too?".

My heart is full to bursting with joy because another of our daughters has made the most wonderful choice of her (now eternal) life.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Budget, Groceries, and other Ugly Stuff

I am a close cousin to the Ostrich. The kind that bury their head in the sand when they are in danger (which is apparently a myth, but anyway...). The area of my life that consistently has me eating and breathing sand is in the area of budgeting. When things are moving along well in our financial world, I don't mind keeping my budget up to date. When unexpected things pop up and our budget starts to blow its borders I get more and more reluctant to even look at it. I'll find all kinds of excuses to not work on it. I know in my brain that not looking at it isn't going to make it any better, but that Ostrich in me likes to pretend it does. Usually it results in the problem getting worse. Isn't that true in all things?

Last week I finally gave in to the internal prodding (Holy Spirit's conviction!) to "unbury" myself both figuratively and literally. The desk area was looking more like the recycle bin every day. What I found at the bottom of that pile was not pretty. We use Mvelopes for our budgeting (based on Money Matters from Crown Financial Ministries, a cash/envelopes based system). I had to zero out every. single. category. We are a "carry no-credit" type family. Not that we don't use credit cards, but we don't carry credit from month to month. This means that what is in the checking account must cover what is on the MasterCard. This month that means that all our backlog of savings disappeared. Yikes. I'm glad I "unburied" my head now before we were paying the interest.

This prompted several changes in our household. The first of which was to take advantage of the bundled savings through Verizon for phone, Internet, TV. Should save us about $50-60 a month. The second was to start figuring ways to shave the grocery bill. A friend in Texas had started doing the Grocery Game. A friend in Texas had blogged about how she was saving significant money on groceries and household items by using the Grocery Game LIST to maximize coupons to stockpile things at rock bottom pricing. I've been doing it about 2 weeks and have saved about 30% so far (doubled my previous per trip savings) and it looks like I'll manage to save even more once I have collected more coupons. Lastly I'm looking to figure out how to save on our next biggest expenditure - gifts. Our biggest gift giving season is right around the corner - a ton of birthdays and, of course, Christmas. I'm praying for some good sales and some good ideas to come within the next few weeks!

So, how do you save on your expenses? Have you cut something you previous thought was a necessity? Have you started knitting? Do you sweat it out at 85 degrees in your house? I want to hear!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Betty the Beta

In honor of a friend, who recently acquired a new Beta family member, I've been inspired to share the Betty the Beta story.

To paint the picture in our house at the time: It was 2004 and we had just pulled up roots and moved from Texas to Florida. We had been here about 2 months. The boxes were finally unpacked and the empty ones collapsed and put away. 3 year-old Anna was in her two day a week preschool but 20-month old Sarah was having a difficult time adjusting to the move still. Completely on a whim while at the Pet Store (a great place to kill time when you know nobody and your kids are driving you crazy) I decided to bring home a fish. Not that I had any knowledge about fish, not that I actually had a huge affinity for fish, not that we really needed another pet (fish aren't great companions for dogs you know), but just because. I was thinking of a cute little goldfish in a round bowl a la Stanley on Playhouse Disney's Dennis. The Pet Shop lady told me goldfish are dirty fish and need their bowls cleaned all the time if they aren't in a filtered tank. She talked me into the Beta "who only needs to have his bowl cleaned once a week. Some people even keep them in a glass vase under a plant". Famous last words, right?

My husband definitely thought I had lost my mind. I told him it was because the girls were begging to have one. This was probably true but I think he was more right in his assessment of my reasons than I was.

Have you ever realized that the cheap $2 fish is really not just $2? There's the bowl, the food, the net, the special water, the bowl decorations, the special rock for the bottom, aquarium salt, etc, etc, etc.... about $25 later (it might have been more) we had what we thought we needed. Anna named him Betty and since she was only 3 we didn't belabor the point that Betty is a girl's name and the fish was actually a boy.

Thus began the crazy routine of making sure his habitat was clean and satisfactory. He needed his tank cleaned twice a week without fail. He needed special distilled water which I had to remember to pick up from the grocery store. We fed him his special Beta food and watched him make his beautiful bubble nests. I chased him around his bowl to get him out and into another container so I could clean his tank, fake plants, and rocks, then put him back in and hope I hadn't stressed him out too badly. I'd heard that they'll accidentally commit suicide by jumping out of their bowls so I was always paranoid he'd flip out and Bella the Whippet would be on him like a flash, licking her chops before I could even blink. Anna and Sarah would be right at my elbow every time Betty needed attention, eager to help and watching my every move.

Shortly after we got him he started to have this weird white stuff hanging off of his body. I jumped on the internet ( and quickly became a Beta Fish Nurse. We were committed to this little guy now. Sarah and Anna jumped out of bed every morning and had to say Hello to Betty first thing. They loved him. I couldn't let him just get flushed (of course it was past the warranty time frame). I had to run down to the specialized fish store . This all came to light on Saturday morning, of course, and after some frantic phone calls around town I finally found this place open and with someone who sounded like they knew what they were talking about . So I drove an hour, round-trip, to get fungus medicine which had to go in his bowl every third day. I hovered and watched over that silly critter until he got better. Every time I passed by his bowl I had to look to see if he showed even the smallest amount of improvement. My life was being taken over by a fish. I felt totally responsible for his little fishy life because I was the one who brought him home.

I've had this problem my whole life. Last weekend we were at the beach and I let Anna and Sarah bring home a real live Sand Dollar. I've felt guilty from the minute we got home because I know that it meant they have died from our hands. No matter that they are no different than a perch we might catch and eat. I couldn't eat the crawfish I caught with my grandfather when I was 13. I could never hunt. The movie Bambi upset me every time. I'll even fork over a fortune in medical care for our crazy dog that regularly strews trash around my living room floor if left out of her crate when we've left the house. Guilt can be a horrible thing . I'm sure I need therapy.

After a while the fungus cleared up and Betty was happily making bubbles at the top of his bowl again. Here is the part where I shake my head and take all responsibility. It was another Saturday morning. Anna and Sarah in their toddler and preschooler ways were up way too early for a Saturday morning. We got them settled with a little video and some toys and slipped back into bed for a few more minutes of a light snooze. After a little bit we heard some rustling noises in the kitchen and a lot of whispering. We came in to investigate only to find poor Betty in a plastic cup of extremely cold, straight from the fridge, regular water. I can only imagine why his poor fins were shaggy when two small people were trying to wrangle him out of his bowl. I swear he looked at me and squeaked "help me!". The girls grinned at me, unaware that I was horrified, and said "Mommy, we're helping you clean Betty's bowl!". I got him back into warm, distilled, slightly salty water as fast as I could but he swam kind of sideways the rest of the day, barely moving, and by the next morning was belly up. I was completely devastated.

Hoping to instill a lesson in the hearts of our children, we thought that rather than flush him, we'd have a "funeral". Anna decided that was a fantastic idea and went to work to make a little decorated box to be his "coffin". She had way too much enthusiasm. I honestly think they couldn't make the connection between what they had done that morning and the death of our fish. We had a little ceremony in the back garden and said goodbye to Betty. Mike made me promise NOT to buy any more fish to replace him. His opinion is that any more fish in our family need their own filtered tank that only needs the rare water change.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Book Meme

I had no idea what "Meme" stood for before I saw this the first time on Coffeegal's site. From Miriam Webster's site:

Main Entry: meme
Pronunciation: 'mEm
Function: noun
Etymology: alteration of mimeme, from mim- (as in mimesis) + -eme
: an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture

Since I always like to have something to read laying around, I'll join in.

What are you reading right now? Best Friends by Martha Moody but it's not so great. A random library pick. Ii may not even finish it. Also the books in my side bar.

Do you have any idea what you’ll read when you’re done with that? I think I'll pick up The Seamstress, another Holocaust survivor story I got from the library. I've read two so far and had to take a break with some lighter fiction for a bit. The stories are so interesting that I don't want to just take them back to the library yet.

What magazines do you have in your bathroom right now? Mommy magazine - a local newspaper-y publication, several catalogues, and a book called Everyday Talk - a great one for learning to weave conversations about God into our day to day living.

What’s the worst thing you were ever forced to read? Watership Down Someone told my parents when I was about 8 that this would be a great book for me to read. It was kind of a rabbit version of Secret of Nimh crossed with Lord of the Flies. I hated it. I tried reading it again last year and it definitely did not improve with time or maturity.

What’s the one book you always recommend to just about everyone? Aside from the Bible, definitely Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges

Admit it, the librarians at your library know you on a first name basis, don’t they?
No, I do frequent a couple of libraries but the one closest to me probably recognizes me due to the noise my kids make when we come in. I've learned to request my books online and just come pick them up quickly.

Is there a book you absolutely love, but for some reason, people never think it sounds interesting, or maybe they read it and don’t like it at all? Not in general (or that I've been told anyway), but recently I tried to get my oldest daughter interested in Little House on the Prairie (I gave her my original boxed set) and she told me it was boring. That hurt!

Do you read books while you do other things? How many times did I get in trouble for this when I was a kid?! I still do it but I've discovered that it is much harder. I still enjoy the bad habit of reading while eating, but not when there is someone to converse with.

When you were little, did other children tease you about your reading habits? Not that I remember. I was just really quiet.

What’s the last thing you stayed up half the night reading because it was so good you couldn’t put it down? I read The Secret Life of Becky Miller by Sharon Hinck all in one day that way. To me some novels are just really hard to put down and I'll neglect other things until I finish it. That is why I have to be choosy about when I start a new book!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Patience is a Virtue

There are some funny videos out there. This is one I found at the girltalk blog. Patience is a virtue, remember.

Click underlined link to go to youtube to see the video.

No Dragons Here

A funny little story from the grocery store this morning.

But first, a little background.

I can never seem to keep up with trimming my girls' fingernails. Every time I turn around it seems like their nails are long and jagged with dirt caked under them. For three days in a row I told them "Remind me when we get home to trim your nails". (Because we always seem to be out of the house when I notice them.) The problem is they don't want me to trim their nails.

Anna wants to maintain the status symbols of being more grown up than her little sisters. "I'm not a baby anymore, Mom", she tells me. To her, having longer nails is a symbol of being grown up.

Sarah just doesn't remember stuff like that unless it is a promise of something fun later. Nail trimming doesn't fall into that category for her. She forgets on the way to the bathroom from the kitchen what she intended to do once she got there and it is only a distance of a few feet. I can hardly blame her, that happens to me regularly too.

Emily simply doesn't want to have to sit still that long.

So, back to my story. When I finally got to Sarah's nails a couple of days ago she said "Mommy, why can't I leave my nails long?". To which I replied: "Because your nails are like daggers and are scratching things and other people". Which created a new discussion about what daggers are while I finished the much needed grooming as Emily looked on.

This morning, while waiting for the deli lady to finish my order, I noticed that I still hadn't trimmed Emily's nails yet. I said "Remind Mommy, when we get home, to trim your nails". Then she looked at me with an innocently puzzled look and said "But why Mommy? There aren't any dragons on them.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

It's time for a good laugh

A really great Ebay auction listing

This is a very good one! I found it on the girltalk blog as their Friday funny this week.

Thanks Coffeegal for helping me make my link look nicer.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Difficult Days

"Mama said there'd be days like this, days like this, days like this, my Mama said"
I stayed up too late last night finishing a book. Woke up early to look presentable for my busy morning. Flew out the door 20 minutes early so Sarah could have a half of a pint of blood work drawn. Dropped off Emily with a dear sweet friend. Headed to the ole "annual exam". Got the van cleaned, polished, and fumigated. Paid for the all day crop that's tomorrow. Then, I received a call from a friend who needed someone to talk to right away. Immediately my 'difficult' day paled immeasurably in comparison.
My heart is hurting for my friend. I want to fix it, take some of their pain away, scream right alongside them at the injustice of it all, shake someone else in the hopes of "knocking some sense" into them. It just hurts and is plain rotten. What I can do is pray without ceasing, love without expectation, try to be a living breathing example of God's love for them. Help them keep their focus on the One who never changes, never disappoints, never fails, is ALWAYS GOOD. It is a very real reminder to me that happiness, apart from God, is fleeting, temporal, fickle. My sights need to be set on Him.
We are such a hard headed people that it is often the difficult times that remind us to turn our eyes the source of all hope and joy. God.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Two Amazing Ladies

Gerda Weismann Klein

Martha Washington

Since returning from my trip to DC to see my dear friend Carrie I've read on two topics that really capture my interest while I was there. My favorite Smithsonian, the National Museum of American History, is closed for renovations until late next year or I would have spent a lot of time there. In its absence I thought I'd enjoy seeing something new. So much has been added since I moved from that area in 1990 - The Korean War Memorial, several statues were added to the Vietnam War Memorial, the FDR memorial, and the WWII memorial, to name a few. My two favorite stops were diametrically different from one another.
One of them is the National Holocaust Memorial Museum. It was heart wrenching. I knew it would be, but experiencing the museum was unforgettable and is very difficult to explain.
Visitors enter the permanent main exhibit by elevator and are confronted with enormous images of concentration camp prisoners right away. Immediately my eyes were welling up and I wondered why Kleenexs weren't issued with our little booklets about a real holocaust victim. It wasn't long though before the overwhelming amount of horrific stories eclipsed my emotion's ability to process it all. I was in a state of shock as I read the sequence of events that led up to this unimaginable attempt at annihilating a whole people group. My biggest impression was that an enormous evil was set loose in Europe through Hitler, but he was by far not the only perpetrator. The blame for this tragedy need to be equally shared with the people who allowed his atrocious policies to come to fruition. From the government who gave him power, to the lackeys who carried out his orders, to the people who turned away and did nothing when they saw the horrible injustices being forced upon innocent people. At so many points it could have been stopped. Satan and his minions were given nearly absolute free reign throughout the German Reich's empire.
When we emerged from the exhibit, three hours after entering, I had such a strong desire to hear more personal stories. Of people who survived and what happened for them after. I wanted to see some glimmer of good that was pulled out of such tragedy. I made a mental note of the some the biographies in their bookstore and used my local library to find some of them. The book "All But My Life" by Gerda Weissmann Klein is one of those stories. Her story, and the way she wrote, had me riveted until I had finished the book. It was a story of courage and hope. Through all she endured she never let those go, even though she was sorely tempted.
The hope that we keep in our hearts and minds has power to keep us strong through even the worst circumstances. The hope I have in Jesus is just that kind of hope and is what gave me encouragement after I left the museum. Jesus has already won the battle. My job is to put on the full armor of God so that I can stand my ground when the day of evil comes. I have my belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, shoes of the gospel of peace, shield of faith, helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit (Eph 6:14-17). When I have this armor on I can stand my ground against the rulers, authorities, and powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. My hope in Jesus' work on the cross and the promise of my place in heaven give me the hope to stand strong. I want to be strong enough to make a stand against evil and not be afraid when it happens.
My next favorite place to visit was a nice contrast to the Holocaust Memorial Museum. I got to visit the beloved estate of our First President George Washington. I was fascinated with the house and all the out buildings associated with it. There were little houses for the kitchen, for visiting servants, for laundry, smoking meat, storing food, "the outhouse", and the stable. I have always loved history and especially history that has a real human element to it that I can relate to. My very favorite novels are novels that weave an interesting story through a period of history. It makes history come alive for me. So, I found myself wondering what kind of woman was mistress of this large estate. During the tour they told me that the Washington family had a steady stream of visitors all the time. Every room had the ability to be turned into sleeping quarters. When I tried to imagine what it would be like to entertain visitors constantly and keep a house running in an era without a corner grocery store, electricity, washing machine, etc.... I figured Martha Washington must have been a remarkable woman.
So, when I went to the library I found several books about her and her time. Colonial Virginia in the 1700's was much different than the New England Puritan area of that time. She was not a perfect woman but some things really stood out to me about her life. No matter how full her house was or how much she had to do, every morning after breakfast she had a time in her room to have a quiet time with her Lord. She read the bible and prayed. That is a great example to me. She was known to have a "sweet disposition" that wasn't usually down for long. Despite many losses of loved ones, including all of her own children, she put her trust in God and kept her joyful spirit. She genuinely cared about others and was known for her generosity in spirit and in deed. She loved her husband and was trusting in his judgement and leadership. She had to be super organized and good at managing a household full of servants and slaves. Not that I would wish for slaves to help me, or even servants, but considering that her husband was often away for lengthy periods of time, she must have been a great at handling all that arose. The two children who lived to adulthood were apparently somewhat spoiled but were also absolutely loved. She took a vested interest in them and also in the two grandchildren they volunteered to raise after their father (her son) died at a young age.
I know I'm not doing either of these subjects complete justice, but these are a few of the things I've gleaned from recent readings. I've also managed to avoid the big black hole in our living room this way. I haven't watched TV in more than a week!

Monday, August 20, 2007

First Day

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Mama Duck

Last week I was attacking the weeds that took up residence in our landscaping while we were waltzing across the southeastern US. (It's a job I don't enjoy but if we don't do it pretty regularly the Florida sun, water, and sand will conspire to create a lush jungle full of plants we didn't pay for and don't want. You can stick nearly anything in the ground here and it will grow and grow and grow.) That morning I had would I would call a "critter filled" experience. I got a half dozen fire ant bites (my own fault for not wearing shoes), several mosquito bites, and a bee sting- OUCH! The highlight of the morning, though, was finding a nice clutch of duck eggs hiding under one of my palms in the front bed.

Now, you need to picture this scene. We completely re-landscaped our yard about a year ago. The previous owners had a haphazard arrangement of a very motley (and somewhat unusual) assortment of plants, bushes, trees, and palms around our house. When we finally decided to completely re-do there were a few plants we were reluctant to touch. One is a plant we've affectionately named the "cactus palm" because it is about 7 feet tall. The two trunks are covered with cactus spines with a tuft of palm-like leaves at the top. It is right outside our front door. We've figured any door to door salesmen could be dispatched pretty quickly just by causing them to step back into it. Right next to it is another palm with horrible, long thorns that grow at the base of each it's fronds. I really dislike weeding in that area. It is also known to harbor a few good sized fire ant beds from time to time. All around these palms are some beautiful pink flowering Ixora plants and some Agapanthus.

So, here I am, pulling weeds near these well armed palm trees when duck runs scurrying out and into the grass. It startled me because she was so well hidden but then I noticed she had been sitting on a clutch of about half a dozen eggs. I quickly called the girls out to take a look while cautioning them to not get close and to never touch them. (Always take the opportunity to share a real life science lesson, right?). This Mama Duck deserves some "Great Mama" points. She picked a really great location to protect her babies. Not too many people or animals are going to venture in there to investigate with those palm trees around. Even the hawk perched on a light post the other day apparently wasn't interested.

So, we check on Mama Duck several times each day to see if she is still there and if we spy any signs of some cute little chicks. Mama Duck, I think, seems to have gotten used to being viewed like a zoo animal because she doesn't usually run off anymore but she does get puffy and hisses a little when she see us. Fair enough, I say. I've already had to convince Anna that Mama Duck is the best one to care for her little babies, no she doesn't need to come inside when it is raining, and she can find food for herself just fine because God made her that way. It has been very cute. Anna is the one who decided several weeks ago that she is going to have a science club after school this fall.

So now we anxiously await the arrival of the babies. I'm sure Mama Duck will eventually parade them around the neighborhood on the way to one of the several ponds near our house. I'll try to grab a picture when she does.

By the way, the Craigslist sale of the crib and dresser was successful. A brand new mom, due in October, bought them for the very nice sum of $425. Now Anna can get her new desk and bookcase. And maybe Sarah can have her new bedding too. The best part is that it's a baby boy that will sleep in it. That will be a first!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


In answer to a poll over at La Vida Dulce:

The best piece of advice I have been given, that I can remember at this moment, was to throw out the word 'divorce' from my vocabulary. To view my marriage as a covenant I have made for life what no matter how mad I might be. It has caused us to look for ways to resolve the conflict or problem earlier than we otherwise might. When I know I'm "stuck" with this husband I am very motivated to make my marriage the best it can be. Besides, it is miserable to bump around in a house together still mad at one another. I wish more people would make that decision. We are starting to see marriages of friends and acquaintances unravel. Being a witness to the destruction that causes is truly heartbreaking to me.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Bye Bye Baby

"She's a big girl now". If I were a song writer I'm sure that would lend itself to a cute little ditty. Today I put the crib and dresser set all my girls have used on Craigslist. The picture was taken right before it was disassembled and stuck out in the garage.

I can remember standing in the showroom of the baby furniture store in Ft. Worth, pregnant and so excited to be making the plans for our first nursery. We looked at all the cribs they had to offer, shopped at several different stores, and came back to this model that was "perfect" for our first little baby. Mike's mom AKA "Granna" bought the crib and we purchased the matching dresser. Mike went to go pick it up when it arrived and had it all assembled when I got home from work one day. He was as excited as I was. We posed for a picture at Christmas in front of the fully made (gender neutral!) crib, in the almost completely equipped room, all ready for the baby that wouldn't arrive for another 4 months. Such is the work done for a first child.

I remember the first night when we put Anna down to sleep for the night in her crib. All by herself, all the way across the house from us. (Never mind that the house was only 1600 square feet and we could hear her slightest cry without the supersonic monitor we installed in her room!). She was five weeks old and she felt so far away. I remember getting up several times that night just to look at her and make sure she was ok. Now don't get me wrong, she had napped in there, I just wasn't ready to let her stay in there all by herself all night yet.

Anna was bumped out at age two to make way for Sarah's arrival. She was so excited to sleep in her big girl toddler bed in the same room as Sarah. However, Sarah didn't actually sleep in it until she was probably 3 or 4 months old. Sarah just didn't sleep well for a long time..... and then, when she was just shy of two, she figured out how to jump out. So, we put the crib under our bed to get it out of the way. It was within a few days of doing so we realized baby number 3 was on its way. Good thing we had a good, strong, sturdy crib! Finally, Emily got her turn when she was about 8 weeks old. I was so unsure of how to make the room arrangements for the girls that Emily slept in the pack and play in our room until I finally decided. The only thing I had known for sure up until then was that she was going to have "girly" bedding! When we discovered her gender I completely embraced the idea of being a mother of girls. But, poor Emily's room was actually our office for the first 8 months of her life. The romance of a "nursery" had long worn off by then. In fact, even when the office moved out, her bedroom became the official guest room as well and wasn't completely finished before she changed bedrooms. Ah, such is the life of the third child.

Emily stayed in the crib the longest. She was nearly 2 1/2 when she launched herself over the side rail by herself. Considering she has been potty trained for several months now we figured she might as well have a big bed too. Now we're on to the next transition for our family of having three rapidly growing girls and no babies. They each have their own room and their individual personalities are really starting to show as we see how they arrange their own spaces.

The girls and I had a little reminiscing moment right before they helped me disassemble the crib. I told them all the special little memories and reminded them of how welcomed and special each of them are. The emotions and memories tied up in that one piece of furniture are precious. I can't think of any other single piece of furniture in our house with so many wonderful memories for our family. I pray that the next owners have memories just as sweet.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Six states, 29 days, 4,862 miles

The Short Version:

Our family trip started June 30th. We took off from our home in Florida to our first stop outside of Birmingham, Alabama. Mike's dad and his wife just moved into their new home this spring. It is set on a beautiful hilltop with gorgeous views. We celebrated his Dad's 60th birthday and enjoyed hanging out with Mike's sister, Lauren and her family. Next we headed out to Mike's Mom's new lake house, under construction, east of Corsicana, Texas. The girls caught their first fish off of their pier on the lake and we got to spend lots of time with Mike's brother, Daniel and his girlfriend. From there we went to Boerne where Jessica's whole family was having a big 80th birthday bash for Granny Bert. Granny was so thrilled to have everyone there to celebrate. We ate and ate and ate! At the end of that week Mike had to fly back to Florida to work. Jessica and the girls went on short visits to see Shannon and McKayla and also Maria and her kiddos. Then it was off to Shenendoah, Texas to chill out and shop since the lake house was so muddy. After a brief afternoon at the Dallas Zoo with the McBrooms, Anna and Sarah got three days with their grandparents at the lake again while Emily and Jessica hung out in Fort Worth with a few friends. Mike flew back to Dallas on the 26th and we began the long journey to get home by the 29th.

The best parts (in no particular order):
Getting to see some really great friends and catch up in a way that you can't do so well over the phone.
Seeing nearly all of our families and getting to hang out and relax together. Some we haven't seen in a couple of years or more.
Granny's birthday party was a wonderful way to show her how much everyone loves her. She was so happy that weekend and I am so glad we got to be a part of it.
Getting away from the everyday routine.
Experiencing seeing our kids through other people's eyes. They were so sociable and friendly, very flexible, complimented by everyone at every turn, really showing love and grace to everyone we saw. I am so proud of their conduct during a trip that required great flexibility and a lot of patience.
Our van held up remarkably well. We are now at almost 171,000 miles on our '98 Sienna!
Making it back to our Florida house safe and sound.
Praise God for providing for us and for making our trip such a blessing

For those who like stats and are on the edge of their seats thinking I forgot to share......I counted 42 different state license plates, including Alaska, and 3 different Mexican state plates while we were gone. I won't include NJ which I actually didn't find until we had been home a day and half. Most of the out of state plates were on Florida interstates. Mississippi had the least variety.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Off We GO!!

The car is all packed. We're headed out for a whole month to visit friends and family in Alabama and Texas and we leave tomorrow morning. Early. All the possible preparations that could be done have been done (I think). We've got all the half eaten bags of snacks in the car so they don't get gross before we get home. We've got the cute outfit to take pictures with the cousins in. We've got the camera to take some more cute pictures along the way. The tires have tread, are aired, balanced, aligned and rotated. The oil is fresh and new. There are movies, games, books, colors, blankets and baby dolls loaded up and ready to spring all over the car and spill out onto the pavement when the doors open. The new, aerodynamic, hardsided (read: rainproof) car top carrier is loaded with luggage, a portable bed for the two year old, the stroller, suitcases, and the life jackets for lake play.

We get to celebrate a 60th birthday, an 80th birthday, our nation's birthday, two brand new retirement dream homes, a raise and promotion, and the love for our family and friends. We are all so excited!!!!

So, check back in this month and I'll try to keep you updated on our travels. I've heard Texas is one big lake so please pray for our safe travel and the safety of the family we are traveling to see. Last time we we took this trip it was about 4000 miles on the old minivan - we expect to hit that mark again. We're also going to keep track of license plates. Last year we got 3/4 of the list knocked out before we even left Florida.

Happy Traveling......

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Little Cutie Sarah

This past year at school Sarah acquired the name "Little Cutie Sarah" and now there are whole families that call her by it. She was one of the shortest in her K4 class and is so loving to those she knows so it didn't surprise us too much. I've often called her My Sweet Sarah. Last Friday she became even cuter in our eyes when she got these darling little blue glasses.

She turned 5 on June 4th and then on June 8th we took our two oldest to have eye exams for the first time. We always knew that, at a minimum, one of our girls would need glasses. The surprise was that she's farsighted! It's a low prescription and she really just needs them for up close work. The best news of all is that she should outgrow it. Our prayer is that having the glasses helps Sarah with some of her sensory issues since not seeing well must have an impact on that as well. The irony is that we had only been "glasses free" in our house for about a month. Mike had Lasik last year and I had Lasek this spring.
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Sunday, June 03, 2007

Marathon girl

Disney Marathon Jan 7th
Time: 5:55
glad to finish!
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Sarasota Marathon March 4th
time: 5:18
Hurray for a reasonable time.
No races on the schedule for a while while speed increases. No more 5+ hour marathons. My friend is one of the wonderful people who has trained with me all year. We've ran every big race together so far. Running friends are awesome and deserve lots of credit!

Minnie is just two

The cutest little two year old Minnie you've ever seen. All dolled up for her birthday on February 8th.
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A freshly minted 7 year old

March 31st
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Tiny Ballerinas

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Dance Recital night June 2nd. The best performances given were from these two brave ballerinas. They outshone all the stars on the stage or in the sky.