Saturday, December 30, 2006


Alas, poor HP, I knew him well...

Our computer, the main one that I use, has kicked the bucket. When I went upstairs to turn it off and get ready for bed the other evening, the blue screen of death was glowing from the monitor, mocking my agonized cries. I'd had no warning, so the photos stored on the computer aren't backed up, (take heed and back yours up now, those of you who feel so safe...) which just has me ill. Now we have decisions to make, and somehow will be procuring a new computer- hopefully soon!

I can still use Kate's laptop to access my email and, obviously, this blog.

More later, when Kate isn't breathing down my neck waiting to use the laptop!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

A Very Merry Christmas to All

Merry Christmas morning! I don't know why exactly, but the kids insist on lining up in age order to proceed to the tree...

Our first stop is the Nativity set, where Isaac reads the account of Christ's birth from the Gospel of Luke as Erin sets the baby in the manger. This is the Nativity set that I made in the ceramics shop on post in Germany way back when I had one child. And he is now away from us for the first Christmas ever, serving our country.

Nathaniel may be away, and not able to communicate much, but he was able to get online last month and order gifts to be sent to his family! Isaac received from his brother the first Lego Star Wars video game for his birthday, and now the second game for Christmas!

Rebekah is rather tickled with the "pillow fight!" t-shirt we found for her online.

Those who have seen Kate "dance" will fully appreciate the humor behind her, "allow me to explain through interpretive dance" shirt. You go, dancing queen!

Isaac, a recent convert to Eagles "fandom", loves his official Eagles chair.

Erin, always a fan of the comfy-cozy, loves her pouffy chair!

Erin picked out this cute jewelry hanger for Bekah.

Kate bought this beautiful pair of hand-carved onyx bookends from India during our trip to Ten Thousand Villages, much closer to us than India.

The girls love their gift sets from Bath and Bodyworks which Nathaniel ordered.

Bekah picked out this cool kite, made in Bangladesh, for Isaac. It is a hand-painted dragon. We can't wait to fly it on our windy hill!

This giant present was one of the first to be wrapped and placed next to the tree...

And it is a gorgeous mirror with hand-painted frame, made in Indonesia, now hanging in our front entry, so we can have a last check before running out the door. Simply beautiful!

Not to be forgotten, our pup just loves her rawhide candy-cane! She took it to the dining room to enjoy it under the table in peace.

The candy-cane was down to cigar shape by lunchtime, so we set it aside to give her tummy a break. She was carrying it everywhere she went. We called her to the basement to see the "big gift" that was awaiting the family down there...

An Air Hockey table! Oh, is this ever fun! The tournament we will play! This will be a terrific wintertime diversion when it's too icky to play outside. Like, for instance, on Christmas day, when it was drizzly and rainy all day. Snow would have drawn us out for at least a bit, but rain when it's this cold is just yucky!

For our evening feast we set the table with the holiday plates. With the Nativity set and the candles the room was lovely.

Our feast was inspired by the December issue of Bon Appetit. Rosemary seasoned standing rib roast with two mushroom pan sauce, potatoes au gratin, roasted tomatoes with feta cheese and steamed asparagus. We all agreed that this meal is a keeper. The sauce on the roast alone made the meal, oh, so scrumdiddlyumptious!

Other gifts of note, for which we have no pictures, are numerous books including "the bible of Italian cooking" for Bekah as well as Julia Child's "My Life in France" to inspire our future chef. Jim will enjoy reading Newt's book on Rediscovering God in America while I can't wait to start my Carlyle history of the French Revolution. Papaw sent the yummiest friut and nut candies which we will endeavour to enjoy sparingly, so to make them last, (right). Grandmommy sent lovely pieces of jewelry for all the girls and a warm Steelers blanket for Isaac as well as an apron for me which clearly states the obvious, "Skinny cooks can't be trusted!". Being movie buffs, I can't fail to mention here that we now have the new Superman movie as well as the newest movie from our favorite writer/producer/director; M. Night Shyamalan's Lady in the Water! Whoo-hoo!

Another movie for our Christmas collection that we've recently discovered is a French film, Joyeux Noel. We rented this movie from Netflix and fell in love with it. It's the true story, drawn from eyewitness and written accounts, of the spontaneous Christmas Eve truce in the trenches of World War I. The film focuses on one area where the Germans are facing French and Scottish troops. The director points out in an interview that while the "fraternizations" happened all down the entire front, they have condensed several of the stories into the one. Something that did happen in many instances was a shared Christmas mass, which is portrayed in this movie with such tenderness and beauty. While the men speak three different languages and come from such different backgrounds, they share a common faith which in the mass is understood by all in Latin. On Christmas day they agree to bury the dead who've been left in the "no man's land" during the hostilities.

I couldn't help but marvel at the differences between that war and this in which we now find ourselves. The most basic, fundamental need of our race is expressed in our relationship with our Creator. In the first World War, though enemies, the men facing one another across the front lines shared an understanding of God that had stood firm and sure through the centuries. On the eve of the day which celebrated the birth of their common Savior, they laid down their arms and celebrated His birth together. We now face an enemy that would slaughter us for those very beliefs which led to the truces in WWI. With such beliefs held in common there was hope for, (and eventually it came to pass) a more lasting peace among those who fought. The enemy we now fight will abide no such peace, ever. Nor can we surrender our beliefs to accomodate their demands and attempt peace on their terms. So we must stand firm, as a nation, and as Christians, in the face of open war. We must never downplay the reality that what we believe about God makes a difference in how we understand our enemy. And we must trust that the true King of the universe alone will bring lasting peace.

With hope only in Christ, we wish you all peace and joy this holiday season.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Bowing to Pressure

Here's the highly requested recipe for the much-loved Jalapeno Pepper Bites! (okay, only one request- I fold easily)

Jalapeno Pepper Bites

1 16 oz can sliced jalapenos, well drained

1 lb Monterey Jack cheese, grated

4 eggs, well beaten

Grease 8” square pan with oil. Line bottom of pan with peppers. Combine cheese and eggs, pour over peppers. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes. Allow to cool 10 minutes, cut into small squares and serve on toothpicks.

Enjoy! I'll probably post other recipes now and then since I love to cook again. My wonderful kitchen and the cold weather are luring me back to the old cookbooks and even the new recipes in various magazines. Christmas day I'll be making a standing rib roast from last month's issue of Bon Appetit. The picture looks simply marvelous. I'll have lots of help in the preparation, so we'll cook up a feast!

Monday, December 18, 2006

A Holly, Jolly Weekend!

Another busy weekend, but with more to show for it than just exhaustion on Monday! Where to begin,...

Friday was the Christmas party for our new Bible Study group, at the Sallade's home. Jim got home from Philadelphia just in time to change and leave with me. We were worried that he might need to meet me there, since I needed to drop Erin off at a sleep-over party on the way, and therefore needed to leave promptly at 6. We took jalapeno pepper bites along to share at the party, and they were a hit. I have taken those to almost every party we've been to in the last 10 years, and if these folks hadn't liked them we might have had to change to a different group- compatability you know. It was a very nice get-together, but it did highlight for us again just how very much we miss our dear friends in Florida.

Saturday morning we dropped Kate off to carpool to her Lacrosse game with the rest of the team so that we could take the others Christmas shopping. Erin had enjoyed her party and was ready to go when we picked her up at 9:30. From there we hit the stores, not in a mall but a large plaza with a good variety of stores at which we regularly shop. Each year the children have bought gifts for one another; some years it's been at the dollar store, others at school. This year since we are still "setting up house" we went to the real stores for things we'd probably be buying anyway- but it's much more fun to unwrap them on Christmas morning!

After a Chik-fil-a lunch we picked Kate up and went to Ten Thousand Villages for the not-so-practical gifts. This is the store with the coolest stuff from around the world. It was started as a Mennonite Mission to help people in poor countries worldwide to sell their handicrafts. The items in the store range from handmade musical instruments to clothing to toys. There's a whole section for beautiful rugs and tapestries from Pakistan. This time of year there are Christmas ornaments and hand-carved nativity sets from villages worldwide. Each item is labeled with its country of origin and some come with an explanation of how they were made. To learn more about this unique place and see some of their goods just visit the website,

Enough sales pitch, we've just fallen in love with the place...

After we unloaded the van of all the purchases- only Jim could see it all- we grabbed the saw and went to the tree farm! There must be a dozen tree farms in the area and we went to Sheerlund Forest, which is one of the closest. As we were driving in past one field of trees we saw a familiar looking family hunting for a tree. It was one of our new church's elders with his kids- small world! After learning how to go about getting a tree we headed out to find the very best one! After a bit of searching we found it, and Jim, Isaac and Rebekah took turns at the saw and felled our tree! Within an hour the tree was home and in the tree stand having a long drink.

By then it was time for Rebekah to go to her friend Katie's house to get dressed for the Christmas Dance at school. Kate took the van to pick up Laura, who was getting ready here. Then it was all girly giggles upstairs while they beautified themselves- not a difficult task. Instead of straightening their hair they opted for curls- my preference- and then donned their dresses which they'd bought the week before. Once they left those of us at home could breathe a sigh of relief.

Jim found the boxes of lights and ornaments and some wrapping began. I picked Rebekah and Katie up from the dance and Kate brought Laura here after everything finished for them and we settled in for a shorter winter's nap than we would have liked. But bright and early the next morning we got ready for church, except for Jim and Isaac, neither of whom felt well. So the girls went to church while the fellas slept in.

Fortunately they felt better in the afternoon because we had a concert to attend and a tree to decorate! Rebekah's concert choir at school was putting on the Christmas concert yesterday with the orchestra and two other singing groups. It was a lovely show, with songs celebrating the birth of Christ, the Hanukkah miracle and wintertime. In this choir Bekah is one of 220, and they sounded magnificent.

Once home again it was back to the tree. Getting the lights on is always the hardest part and Jim helped a lot. Once the lights were up and the stockings hung, (by the chimney with care!) we settled in for a Christmas movie. Kate and her friend Tyson went to youth group- every other week it's for 10th to 12th grade only (?). After they returned Tyson stayed to hang out while we finished decorating the tree. The ornaments all hold such dear memories and it's such fun for the kids. Since we had given them hot cocoa earlier they were a bit hyper, so it really went quickly!

I'm so glad that we've broken the "having friends over to hang out with the family" barrier. It began with girl friends, but now that Tyson has been here, and not run screaming into the night, I think there's hope. We've wanted to be the home where our children's friends come to play or "hang", and now that we have a home big enough it's a matter of getting into that groove. With Nathaniel we merely needed to provide the snacks and the TV, then sit back and enjoy as the fun unfolded. As far as boys go, they're easy; if you feed them, they will show up. What we're learning with Kate is that the potential for embarrasment can be fatal to any gathering. She's as skittish as a deer, but I think last night helped a lot. We proved ourselves to be just normal enough- nobody picked their nose or started a belching contest, so we're okay, socially acceptable even!

With all seven of our stockings hanging by the tree we are reminded again that Nathaniel is not here to help hang ornaments on the tree or to enjoy any of the activities that are keeping us so busy. We are still so proud of him, but we sure miss our boy. His presents for us arrived last week and ours are on the way to him, but it's not the same without him here. Watching his face as he opens the funny gift is one of my favorite things. We'll have to settle for the delayed reaction this year.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


No, I'm not speaking metaphorically- we really had an earthquake yesterday! At 2:07 pm there was a 2.5 tremor centered about 5 miles from our house. Vali and I felt it, Erin and her whole classroom felt it, Kate thought it had something to do with the construction going on at her school. Here's part of the story from the local news station, WFMZ TV:

"At this point, we've received no reports of any injuries or serious damage. Berks County is no stranger to earthquakes. There have been at least five over the past 12 years. The most recent was last April when a 1.2 magnitude quake shook Sinking Spring. The strongest was back in January 1994 when a quake measuring 4.6 on the Richter Scale centered on Spring Township."

And we thought we were moving to a "Natural-disaster-free zone"! Well, we did, this is clearly not on scale with California. Kinda cool actually. When it happened I thought a big truck had crashed outside our house. There was an audible booming sound and the shaking, so I looked outside for signs of a crash. Later I was in a store where I overheard someone mention "earthquake", but didn't think anything of it until Kate piped up with, "oh yeah, did you hear..."

Something to talk about,... since there's no snow yet.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Operation Cookie

Amazing. Something else that has kept me busy this past couple of weeks has been an outpouring of love, and cookies, for Nathaniel and his buddies in Iraq. We recieved a letter from him a couple of Fridays ago in which he answered my question, "what can we send you?". His answer was simply, "can you bake 20 soldiers-worth of cookies?". Now exactly how many cookies are there in "1 soldier's-worth", and then multiplied by 20...? I've watched my soldier in action, and it seems that the answer is somewhat like, however many cookies are in reach. So I went out on a limb and emailed a few select friends who I know are likely to be baking cookies this time of year already and asked for some help. Low and behold, the forward function was applied to this email and the guys in Iraq aren't going to know what hit them!

People I've never met are baking, packing and shipping cookies. Several teachers have made it a class project to send cookies and notes of encouragement. One family is making it their family gift to Jesus this year. Daily I recieve emails from folks far and wide who are asking for tips on shipping the cookies or simply letting me know how they have responded and what it means to their family. So many people are grateful to have something tangible that they can do for the soldiers that they hear about in the news. Many have added Nathaniel and his unit to their prayers.

I had no idea it would go this far, and I am overwhelmed by the response. Every day the news briefly mentions another car bomb or similar attack on the American forces in Iraq. There will be a number wounded, another number killed. Behind every number is a name, and behind every name a family whose world has been torn apart by the news. Every day in America, families are visited by an official from the Armed Services delivering the news that their loved one has paid the ultimate price in defending our country. Yet all we hear or see on the nightly news are numbers.

I've learned through this week that being given a chance to show love and appreciation for the soldiers so far from home is more than a duty, it is a priviledge and a blessing. And this mother is blessed by the outpouring of love and cookies.

The guys better find a supply of milk! They are going to need it!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Busy Week

It's been such a busy week, with issues on the blog site that didn't allow me to upload photos, and one day without internet access at all, (horrors!) that I've not been able to take the time to blog at all. But I'm back in the saddle and ready to type!

First of all, for those of you who have been vicariously following Mifflin Football, they lost the big game on Saturday the 2nd in State College. While it's sad, and the players all shaved their mohawks, it's also a relief in a way. Now they can get on with normal life again, knowing they did their best and secure in the memory of totally creaming their main rivals, Wilson.

This was also the week that the Barties flew home to South Africa. Kate and her friends spent most evenings with various "lasts" and farewell parties for Joanne and Ron. Wednesday was a party at Jo's church, Thursday was Laser Tag, (see photo) Friday the girls finished a video of goodbyes from friends and teachers and Saturday morning there were phone calls from various airports as Joanne and Ron made their connections on the way to their transatlantic flight. What a sweet friend Jo has been for Kate. With the internet they'll stay in touch. Now Kate is wanting to go to South Africa after graduation. Oh yeah.

Tuesday night at Cub Scouts Isaac handed out invitations to his birthday party, inviting his whole den to come yesterday to celebrate. Not knowing more than two Moms meant that we were really counting on response calls to know how many we'd have here. The very next morning one of the moms that I already know called to say that her son could come, and would I like to go with her to a neat little store that she'd found? Wow, girl time! Since I was stranded without wheels that day, (Kate had the van) she picked me up and we explored a neat little shop owned by a lady who's into herbs and neat ways to use them. I found a few Christmas gifts, but the best part was just hanging out with a friend.

Heidi is from Tennessee and just as bubbly and energetic as anybody I've ever met. Our sons are in scouts and school together and they live a street away from us. She's been here for a number of years, with a three year stint living in Hong Kong in the middle, so she knows the area very well- from an "outsider's" point of view. People who have lived in one place their whole lives know it thouroughly, but not with the eyes of someone who's new. So when I'm finally ready to find a hairdresser or a plumber, she's who I'll be calling.

Wednesday Rebekah sang in a benefit concert at school. She is part of the Ladies Ensemble, a small group of 12 girls. The songs were lovely and our sweetie was so beautiful, (center, with darker hair,). Today she is auditioning for a role in the Spring Musical!

Erin came home from school on Thursday sick. I recognized the symptoms as something we'd dealt with a couple of years ago in Florida and called the doctor's office right away. Something else we've been doing these past two weeks is getting everybody in to see the new Doctor and begin establishing ourselves as patients with the practice. Erin is the only child not yet in thus far. They were able to squeeze her in Saturday morning. Thus our Saturday went from "rather full" to "insanely full".

Saturday, December 9:
8 am: Erin to Doctor.
8:45 am: Attempt to drop off prescription, learn that pharmacy not open till 9.
9 am: Back at house to get everyone out the door asap, which is never soon enough.
9:45 am: Drop off prescription and run.
10 am: Arrive at church for membership class with the Pastor, for which Kate, Bekah, Jim and I must be awake and attentive.
Noon: Leave church in separate vehicles; BA with girls and Isaac to buy cake and goodie bag stuff for party, Jim and Erin to hospital to drop off "sample" for lab test and pick up prescription.
12:45: BA and crew pick up Laura, (German Exchange Student) to spend the day with us, comisserating with Kate over Joanne's departure.
1 pm: BA and crew arrive with barely enough time but plenty of hands on deck to accomplish last minute party preparations.
1:30 pm: First guests arrive- we party till 4.
4 pm: Parents arrive promptly, (miracle of miracles!) to take their boys home, Isaac enjoys the gifts, parents enjoy the silence.
5 pm: BA begins preparations for Sunday's lunch, we're having the Pastor's family over after church.
5:30 pm: Former neighbors Sara and Ryan come over to play for a couple of hours.
6 pm: Kate leaves to get Laura and go to Brad's house to "hang out", (parents present) and watch a movie.
8:30 pm: BA remembers that we forgot Rebekah's Sunday School Christmas party which began at 1pm.
10 pm: Kate calls as her curfew arrives to say that she's gotten lost leaving Brad's house, (entirely believable here- I've done the same) and Tyson has come to the rescue and is leading them to a familiar road.
10:15 pm: Kate and Laura arrive with tales of adventure on the dark, winding roads.
Day over!

Fortunately, Sunday was calm and restful, as it should be. We very much enjoyed our visit with our Pastor, Wendell Stolzfus and his family. We made meatloaf and pasta, they brought homemade bread, yum. The conversation ran from family to church and back again. We look forward to a long relationship with them. Their little daughter even surprised everyone by overcoming her reluctance around dogs and ending the evening with a goodbye hug and kiss for Vali, who'll take all of that she can get!

Today everyone is in school and I'm back into the routine. Having sent out our annual Christmas letter I feel a bit less stress. On to the next thing!

Friday, December 01, 2006

My High School Movie Day

by guest columnist Kate Kelly

Today I felt more than ever like I was living in one of those cliche high school movies.
Our football team has a HUGE game tomorrow that's 4 hours away, and today was quite a bit of build up of school spirit. during our homeroom period (the first period of the day) The cheerleaders walked/marched through the hallways singing and cheering and doing their cheerleader thing. In my math class (my math teacher is the head football coach) things were hardly focused on math... I think we did about 5 or 6 math problems. Mr. Vechio is hardly the "Politically Correct" teacher that I am used to in FL. He goes around the room and grabs the shoulders of students not doing their work and yells and hollers but then he gives the world's biggest grin and laughs. He has a big booming voice that would make me wet myself on the football field... thank God for my estrogen.

I have a couple of the football stars in my third period government class and basically the whole football team shares an interesting characteristic -> a mohawk. Well, Mr Hole (our Govt teacher) promised that if we beat our rivals last week he would let them shave his head to match theirs... well needless to say, we won... Mr Hole is quite proud of his hair, (or lack thereof) though I can't say as much about his wife... It is quite strange for me to see a teacher dressed in a suit with a mohawk on his head... I'll certainly never forget it.

We have started Hamlet in my English class. Some of the same football players from my government class are also in this class (they are also some of my buddies). Joe (the football team captain) is so excited about acting the play out in front of the class every period that he got most of the guys in the class riled up as well. They all insist on being at the front of the classroom and make all the entrances and exits quite dramatic. My friend Jon sits at the back of the room and makes sound effects and everything. As the actors read from their books the awkward "Olde English" a word or two are often mispronounced, causing the room to errupt with laughter... most of the time I can barely contain myself. They all jump around and cry out when it is appropriate (and inapporopriate)and cause even our teacher to double over in laughter.

Today in my PE class we started Ping Pong. Now I know what you are thinking; ping pong is not physically straining... that is until you play with my friend Laura. She is a German exchange student and one of my best friends up here. She knew all of the rules and everything and pretty much beat me to a pulp. for half of the period I was running through the gym trying to catch up with our ball. It was obviously a defective ball because it continually lunged at me with incredible force and flew to the ceiling after ricocheting off of my paddle (which I have determined is for self defenseive purposes).

After school today there was going to be a pep rally/send off for the football team. (they are driving up tonight and staying in a hotel). Laura and I really wanted to go to say good luck and goodbye to our friends on the team but when we got to the gym we couldn't find anyone. we spent 10 or 15 minutes wandering around the school looking for someone who could tell us where the pep rally was. in our wanderings we passed some of the football players who had just finished the meal that the mothers prepare for them in the cafeteria. We got to give hugs and good luck wishes to them before they left. As we were walking out to my van we heard a lot of voices yelling and chanting and realized that the pep rally was outside! A large group of students and cheerleaders and parents and teachers were lined up on the street right buy the buses for the team. Streamers and posters and balloons were everywere as the guys loaded the bus. the cheerleaders had made a banner to stretch in front of the bus that read MUSTANGS STAMPEDE STATE COLLEGE. As the bus drove through the banner and the streamers everyone let go of their balloons and watched as the school colors flew into the sky.

After the buses left so did Laura and I. We drove to my house where we met my mom at the door. she was heading out for some reason or another, and mentioned the muffins she had made. Laura and I rushed into the empty house and into the kitchen. as we searched through the fridge and on the counters we realized how hungry we were. Laura finally spotted the muffins in the far corner of the kitchen; convieniently concealed in the shadows of freshly cleaned pots and pans. we rushed over and indulged our tastebuds on heavenly applebutter muffins. I ran up to my room and changed into an old t-shirt and grabbed the dog leash. Laura and I left to take Vali to the pet shop for a bath.

As we walked into the shop I realized just how many of my friends work there. Vali dragged me around and I finally got her to the dog washing station. A few of my guy friends came over to meet my dog and one ended up having to pick Vali up and set her into the tub becasue she was too scared to walk up the ramp. Because it is a self service sort of deal my friends had to leave meimmediately Vali shook as much water off of her and onto us as possible. The two of us being girls, startled screams and protests were inevitable. Every now and then my friend David would check up on us after hearing a splash followed by a "AH! NO VALI!". After we rinsed and dried her off, unhooked her and put back her onto the leash, Vali tried to take off, but became distracted with a box of crickets. I dragged her through the store and soon saw David. He walked over and at that moment I realized that Erin needed bird feed. I asked him where the bird feed might be and he smiled and pointed to both sides of us... we were standing in the bird aisle... wow, did I feel stupid. He checked us out and thanked us for the visit and revealed that it was usually the most boring place to work... unless of course two inexperienced dogwashers come in with a protesting pup.

I dropped Laura off at her host parents' home and began to head home with my freshly cleaned and exhausted puppy sitting next to me. I turned the radio on and playing was that classic, old time movie romance music. The violins and oboes and a soft flow to the moon. Outside the van large gusts of wind blew fallen leaves all around and across the road and through the moonbeams shining through the forest.
I had one of the most pleasant and calming drives of my life listening to that music and the distinct feeling that I had seen this somewhere on a screen.
It is days like this that make me pinch myself to make sure I am realy living it. I feel like I am in a movie or dreaming... Thank God I am Not <3

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Normal Life

Now that the big rush to get somewhat settled before Thanksgiving is behind us we can calm down and be normal for a while. Normal, in this case, means sick kids, paying bills, and morning routines becoming actually, well... routine.

Monday was a day off of school, first day of Buck Season and all, so some kids slept over at friends' homes and others slept here. After a slow start to the day and waffles all around we did a bit of winter church clothes shopping before going to see a cute fuzzy movie. At least, we thought we were seeing a cute fuzzy movie... Ugh. Happy Feet is, as World magazine put it, a "bait and switch". (shoulda read the review before spending the cash!) It is nauseatingly cute for about 30 minutes, then the narrow-minded, King James English spouting, oppressive party-poopers show up, followed closely by the not subtle message that humans are destroying the planet, and it's all downhill from there. What a waste. Kate went to see the a different movie with a friend and enjoyed her evening much more.

Shortly after we got home, our too-quiet Isaac threw up. Poor thing, not very tolerant of discomfort, he began yelling, "call the hospital!" But he wasn't dying, he was just sick. We got him settled comfortably with a bucket and he was only sick twice more before falling asleep. Since he spent the entire next day in one spot I'm certain that he was genuinely sick. Which gives me hope that Erin and Kate will now recover quickly, because he is now bouncing around feeling fine while they moaned the day away at home today. Nothing a little homemade chicken soup can't handle!

This morning I spent much more time than I expected on the phone, (groan) with our new Doctor's office getting our information put into their system. Fun stuff like birthdays, insurance card numbers and social security numbers. That doesn't include the forms I'll fill out at each first visit, beginning tomorrow. But it's progress toward really being here.

Once I was able to get off the phone I went to visit a new friend, Joan, from church. We had a neat time talking and laughing together. Getting to know new people can be intimidating for me sometimes, but Joan is an easy-going friend. I can tell that getting to know her will be a blessing.

Our morning routine has normalized enough to add family devotions again. We gather at 6:45 for a Psalm and prayer; praying for one another. To hear Isaac pray for his brother brought tears to my eyes. He actually prayed a lot of the same concerns that I've privately been praying for weeks now. Most of us are NOT morning people, so making the time and holding to it has never been easy, but it is the least flustered time for us all to be together now that Scouts and sports have been added to our lives.

It's time to turn our thoughts and plans Christmas-ward, so some shopping has already been stealthily accomplished. Writing a Christmas letter and getting the annual photo printed will hopefully happen soon and there are cookies and feasts to plan. We will miss the parties we went to every year in Florida and the Church Pageant, and especially our dear friends with whom we shared the holidays. It is our prayer that in the midst of the holiday bluster we are able to keep focus on our Lord and the greatest gift ever, our Saviour. We are living in our biggest "gift" purchase this year, and gratefulness for this home is still a daily phenomenon. Now,... where to put the tree?...

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Day After Thanksgiving

Middle Creek Crossing

Yesterday was such a splendid day, spent with old friends then ending in a bang! We have known Jeff and Leigh for almost 15 years now. They lived near us in Grove City and are some of the best people to relax and share a meal with. When we found out that we were moving back to PA they invited us to spend the day after Thanksgiving with them on the family farm near Gettysburg. Used as a get-away home for the family and a hunting haven the farm is such a beautiful relaxing place. Driving in through the trees we crossed the creek not by a bridge, but by a shallow ford that creates a lovely waterfall in view of the house. Vali joined us for the day since they had their dogs too, and she had a wonderful time running around with her new friends, Lightning, Casey and Charlie.

We took a walk through the woods to a pond with a fishing deck where we sat in the sun and watched the dogs play chase. No agenda, just sit and visit. Lovely. Jeff and Leigh's son Jonathon and his wife Amanda were also there and our kids taught them a new card game that they played after lunchtime turkey sandwiches. Then Jim and Jeff with a passle of kids went outside to play with Jeff's toy, a flintlock rifle. Jim shot once, then Rebekah shot, and then Isaac lit off some gunpowder on the ground. After an early dinner we took a walk around the field with the dogs who scared up a deer that nearly ran over the kids! Leaving was not easy, but knowing that we are close by again and more visits are possible, we scooted out at 4 pm to get back home for the football game. As soon as we were back on the road Vali collapsed into a semi-coma for the whole drive home. She hadn't stopped once the whole day. Ditto for the kids!

The Big Game between Mifflin and our rival Wilson was predicted to draw a giant crowd, and it sure did. Over 8,500 people filled the stadium area while more tailgated and camped out on the hill beyond the endzone. In the first game of the season Mifflin beat Wilson 14-12, allegedly because 7 of Wilson's players weren't able to play. Those 7 were on the field last night yet their game didn't improve at all. Wilson made the first touchdown and had to be content with that as our team dominated the rest of the game, allowing them one consolation score at the end. We won 47-13! We began the game standing in the back of the student section- poor planing on my part. The only way to see more than kids' fannies was to remain standing on the seats. Every touchdown they crowd literally went wild, jumping up and down and screaming/ waving/ tossing one another around/ blowing or shaking noisemakers. I thought for sure the bleachers would collapse under the strain. Once the Wilson fans started leaving in the 4th quarter, (what was the point of staying?) we were able to actually sit down between amazing plays. Next week's game will be played on a Saturday, 4 hours from here, against a team from State College, PA.

As welcome as a slow morning at home would have been, we were off and running early this morning. Jim took Isaac on a Scout field trip and I took Kate to a Lacrosse game. The boys had fun and Kate played well. She is feeling more confident and it shows. No players were beaten up today like last week!

I've got to get moving and bake a cake for tonight. We joined a dinner group at church, in order to meet more people, and our first dinner is tonight. We are also having company for lunch tomorrow, so I'm hoping to work some leftover magic and whip up a couple of Turkey Pot Pies.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

Another Thanksgiving feast has been accomplished and, once again, I can't believe how full I feel! I really did eat less than last year and no nibbling while cooking,... okay, not much nibbling.

Our preparations began yesterday with cleaning the house, thawing the turkey and baking the cornbread. This morning I was up getting coffee and breakfast made as I put the turkey into the oven. Then we all swung into action with all hands on deck, slicing, dicing, mixing and mashing. The sink was in constant suds as we washed more dishes in a morning than we normally do most weeks. By noon the bird was out of the oven and the dressing was in- including my Great-Grandmother's now World-Famous Oyster Dressing which was published in Rachel Ray's magazine thanks to my world-famous Aunt LaRue! Rebekah mixed and rolled the pie pastry while Isaac mixed the pumpkin filling, Kate stirred together the pecan filling and Erin mashed potatoes, (not for the pies). Our guests arrived in time for Joanne to help Kate arrange the pecans on top of the pies. After a last minute flurry of side dishes and table setting the feast was ready and together we thanked God for His bountiful blessings before digging in.

Our guests, the Barties, are from South Africa, where there is no National day of Thanksgiving for a holiday. We were blessed to be able to share our day and feast with these new friends. The differences between and similarities with our countries made for very interesting conversation. They will soon return home to South Africa and they have enjoyed their time here very much. We had planned some games and activities, but found no time for them as we enjoyed one anothers' company.

They've gone now and we are settling in for a quiet evening. Jim and the kids started a fire and are playing a game. I feel as if I might explode, and I didn't even have any of the fruit salad with the mini marshmallows,... I think it's calling me...

We are so very grateful for the blessings we've been given this year. A wonderful vacation this summer to meet and visit with relatives in Texas and Louisiana, including several days on a Dude Ranch; friends in Florida dear enough to miss terribly now that we've moved away; moving to a beautiful area into the house of our dreams, (don't wake me!); the internet with which we keep in touch; a new church, with a Pastor who faithfully preaches the Word, that is beginning to feel like home; good schools and good friends for the kids; Knowing that Nathaniel is right where he is supposed to be, pursuing his calling and loving it; the birds at the birdfeeder and the parakeets that are so enjoyable to watch in the family room; a sweet dog who sleeps on Isaac's bed every night because he's still not used to having a room of his own; knowing that God is good, and He is faithful, and He's watching over us every moment of every day.

I could go on, but the long day and the triptophan are getting to me. (I'll be adding more pictures from today later.) Good night.

Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon His name; make known His deeds among the peoples!
-Psalm 105:1

Monday, November 20, 2006

Go Team!

What a game Friday night! Jim was able to join us to watch Mifflin win again, 35 to 20. Isaac and his buddies had little megaphones- like they needed those- to cheer on the team throughout the evening. Three times the game had to be stopped for injured players, (theirs) and there were several flags against the opposing team for their rough tactics. In fact, it appears that our quarterback has broken his hand... But don't tell that to the school we play this week! Friday will be the ultimate match-up, so I'm told. The neighboring school and ours have been rivals since their inception, and now they are coming to "our house" for the third round of playoffs. Kate called from school in a panic this morning because the tickets were selling like wildfire, so I ran into town and bought tickets for our family. I must say, we are really enjoying this whole "school spirit" thing!

Saturday morning Kate played in her first ever Lacrosse game. Fortunately for me, I sat in front of a Dad who knew enough about the game to explain what was happening, (huh?). And the girls did very well, tying 11-11 against a well organized and more experienced team. Kate did get reprimanded for running another player down, she's such a bully on the field! Actually, she probably tripped into the girl- she felt terrible. But nobody was injured and they all had fun, so it ended well.

Yesterday was our Church's thanksgiving dinner with the Chinese congregation. What a neat time of fellowship and learning about another culture. Many of the Chinese folks don't speak English, but we had the pleasure of meeting a man who has lived in America for 40 years so we were able to speak freely. The Chinese church brought the appetizers; homemade eggrolls and sushi, and our congregation brought the turkey and fixins. Instead of buffet-style waiting in line with plate in hand, everybody was seated and the youth group served the tables. After dinner we shared a joint worship service, Pastor Stolzfus leading and translated by one of the Chinese ladies. The hymns we sang together, yet each in our own language. The service ended with a time of prayer, everybody invited to pray in his own language as he felt led. This was the most beautiful time of all. Short, simple prayers were offered from all around the sanctuary from young and old. Even children participated, which was so very humbling. Once the service ended it seemed as if, now that we'd worshipped together, there was more warmth and openness in the fellowship as the church slowly emptied. People were simply reluctant to leave and stood about in groups chatting and laughing. What a beautiful foretaste of "every tribe and tongue" in heaven...

And now I'm preparing for our own Thanksgiving feast. It only occured to me yesterday that T-day this week means that Christmas is right around the corner! We are putting together a package to send Nathaniel for Christmas- not being certain how long it will be in transit. The boxes in the house yet unpacked will be stowed in the basement now so that we can decorate for Christmas. I will be spending more time in the basement working on the stuff there, but it's out of our living spaces for now! Jim finished the painting in the dining room this weekend, so I can finish in there! Yay!

So much to do, so little time! Bye for now-

Friday, November 17, 2006

Busy few days

Wow, adding sports to our life has sped things up around here! Taking Erin to diving practice two nights this week, (the third practice is cancelled due to time trials at the pool) Kate to Lacrosse and Isaac to Scouts- some of these being overlapping commitments, has been a bit of a (an?) hectic adjustment. They each are so very excited about what they're doing, so it's worth it.

This was also teacher conference week, so I had the opportunity to sit with teachers and learn how well our kids made the transitition to PA. The general verdict is that they are each doing wonderfully well. It's always such a blessing to hear from the teachers what terrific children I have, by the grace of God. A new aspect to the conferences is that I was able to tell the teachers what wonderful schools and kids they have! Every one of the teachers with whom I spoke is from this area and their only teaching experience is right here. They have no idea what, in contrast to Florida, an improvement for our family these schools have been. So I think that I was able to give a bit of encouragement right back this week. Last night I met with a few teachers at the high school; not every teacher wanted a conference. It's a good thing that the girls weren't listening in, or they'd be rather puffed up today. Actually though, I'm pretty sure that they know their teachers love them. Especially Kate's Algebra 2 teacher, the school's head football coach. Mr. Vechio just smiled from ear to ear as he told me how happy he is to have her in class.

To illustrate the "small-townishness" that we are enjoying I have to mention that Rebekah's World Cultures teacher is a nephew to Rebekah's Sunday School teacher... We discovered this through a project he assigned soon after our arrival for which Bekah needed to take photos of the culture around her in which she included a picture of our new church. Small town/ small world.

Back to sports; specifically Lacrosse. Now, I'm already handicapped in that I don't regularly follow any sport, (just tell me when we score). But I ask you, Lacrosse? People running around with sticks,... Obviously no Mothers were present at it's inception. After watching Kate's first practice, which was mostly a lesson for many of the new players, I left wondering how anybody could have stuck with it, nay- survived- long enough to actually become good at this sport! The guys team has been playing for a number of years evidently, and the sticks, (or whatever they call them) appear to be extentions of their own bodies as they run, throw and catch the ball. Once they're good at it it's neat to watch, mesmerizing even. But it still baffles me. I'm so glad that Kate is having fun and wants to be involved. I'm also glad that standard gear includes a serious piece of eye protection and a mouthguard!

So we have had a busy week. I haven't even mentioned the power outage, finally meeting the PTO queen whose son has become one of Isaac's best buddies, the fact that she took Isaac and Erin with her kids to Chuck E. Cheese and I didn't have to go (yay!), and the preparations for a Thanksgiving dinner with our church family and the Chinese congregation that shares our church's building (Chinese appetizers! yum!).

Monday, November 13, 2006

New Things

Wow, what a weekend! We're all still sore from raking an abundance of leaves and the other yard tasks we were able to complete on Saturday. The weather was amazingly mild for us all last week and it was actually in the upper 60's and low 70's on Saturday- notice the t-shirts we were wearing! Sunday dawned rainy and so it remains today. Clearly time to stay inside and focus on interior things.

Before I go any farther I need to announce that we have heard from Nathaniel! A month went by without a peep from him and I was growing increasingly concerned. A google search for his Camp in Iraq had taught me that it's not as safe a location as he'd assured me and his silence was causing a little lost sleep here. Well, he emailed Kate with the sad tale of a bad internet connection and I cried tears of relief. Now I'm ready to break his kneecaps! If the internet's down, pick up a pencil! Oh, that boy of mine...

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we had guests from church over to enjoy a Cuban feast after church yesterday. They were kinda test subjects, as we aren't entirely finished with painting, shelving and unboxing in a few areas. But they're the couple who work with the youth group, so we figured they would be flexible. We enjoyed our afternoon getting to know them, enjoying a meal and playing Apples to Apples. You learn a lot about people in that game... It felt so good to relax with company at last. We are looking forward to sharing our home with lots of folks now that we're (mostly) settled in.

I hope you're sitting down, because this next bit was unexpected for me too. Kate has joined the girl's Lacrosse team at school. Take a moment to re-read that sentence. You got it, Lacrosse. Of course, she'd never even seen it played before the match she went to on Saturday, but she's got enthusiasm and to spare, so hopefully that counts for something. Erin begins with the Diving team today, having had lessons in Coral Springs. I'll also be signing Erin and Isaac up for Spring Soccer as soon as I confirm that there will be no Sunday practices or games.

If you don't see Bekah in the sports line-up, never fear, she's still with us, just not athletically motivated yet. She is busy with youth group, culinary pursuits and never without a book. She fell in love with mowing the lawn Saturday and has claimed the task as her own. (you go girl!)

Jim has been invited to go Bear Hunting with a friend from church a week from today. He grew up hunting in Western PA and hasn't had a chance to pursue the sport really since we've been married. This invitation, from the first couple we met at the church, is quite exciting and I sure hope he can go. Of course, deer season opens soon, and he wants a piece of that action too. Now if he gets a bear I'm hoping for a rug to lay in front of the fireplace. A deer on the other hand, while plenty neat, will be expected to be cooked and eaten... Man-o-man, here comes Mister "I killed it, you cook it"! Heaven help me.

I'm headed to the basement today to start organizing that mess. We want to get a game area sufficiently clear so that this winter the kids can play down there when the weather doesn't allow for outdoor play. The lady we bought the house from left a great dartboard on the wall down there and we were given a foozeball table which has already seen much use. once I get some order established there I can set up my scrapbooking and get busy with that all over again.

So much to do, and a lighter heart with which to do it! Thank you, everybody who's praying for Nathaniel. You have no idea what a lift my heart has been given.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Friday, November 10, 2006


The mascot and the band kid in the funny hat.

Kate with friends Ali and Tyson.

Our newly adopted home team has made it to the playoffs, and in a curious twist of weather, tonight's game was the warmest we've yet attended. Once again the stands were packed with folks from the community, from grandparents to infants, with everybody cheering on the Mustangs as they won by a single point in a terrific game, (14-13). Now I don't understand anything about football beyond touchdowns, (my Texas relatives must be so ashamed...) but when our guy has the ball and is sprinting for the end zone I'll jump to my feet and yell with the rest of the faithful.

Erin sat with me, Kate was with the Seniors, and Isaac ended up playing a little ball himself with a group of boys next to the stands. He ended up covered in mud and grinning from ear to ear. Friday nights are really a blast here.

There's a local station that has a show every Friday night, "The Big Ticket", that replays the highlights of all the local high school football games, just like the big leagues. There's a cameraman at every Governor Mifflin game and tonight was no exception. We watched the show tonight and not only were the great plays shown, but also a shot of the Seniors in the stands, jumping up and down and cheering their team, with Kate and her friends! How cool is that?

Jim and Rebekah were not at the game with us tonight because one of Bekah's church friends was in a school play and had given her tickets. So they enjoyed a Father/ daughter evening in Reading, appreciating the arts, while the rest of us were enjoying the psuedo-neanderthal sport of football.

And a marvelous time was had by all.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

On Mowing...

Now that I've experienced the joy of mowing a portion, (yup, portion) of our yard, I feel the need to pause and express these thoughts:

Push doesn't mean walking the land behind a machine, it means pushing said machine across the land.

Pushing has meant hard work for me in only one other context. Did that five times and considered myself done, thank you.

Yelling, "Push!" at the bag of clippings while attempting to empty it is an ineffective means of persuasion.

(Is thinking that an inanimate object needs persuasion an early warning sign of mental instability, or is it too late for me?)

When the chopped leaves and grass start shooting out from under the mower on every side, it's time to empty the bag, ... again.

The bag needs to be emptied at least once every trip around the yard.

"Self-propelled" means that the mower will propel itself up the hill, not that it will drag me too.

I'm going to need new shoes...

Gazing upon a (portion of) yard that I've just mowed all by my little self brings a glow of satisfaction that makes it all worthwhile!

And now back to the laundry!

Big Spenders!

Oh how Lowes must love us! The change in state, climate, acreage, and therefore lifestyle has made neccesary several big-ticket purchases. These items, while not actually "fun" in a sense, are indicators that life has changed for the better in a blessed way.

Last night we ran on out to our new favorite place to finally purchase a lawn mower, (with bagger) after much soul searching over the "to push or to ride" question. We have at this point elected to push. Since the yard only has one serious mow in it before winter sets in, but the leaves do need to be gathered to one spot to R. I. P., (rot in peace) and another $1000 for comfort isn't in the budget, we now have a lovely new push mower. People pay twice what this mower cost to get memberships to gyms that won't give them the benefits of all the fresh air I'll be sucking in as I push this baby around our yard! Yeah!

We also bought a new washer for our mountains of laundry. Our old faithful, which we moved from PA to FL and now back to PA has finally given up. And it walked all the way across the laundry room floor to tell me so! The new machine is a front loader, which will save our septic system from the hundreds of gallons of water we've been pouring into it since we arrived. (shhh- don't tell the neighbors!) The delivery guys are downstairs now installing this gleaming addition to our family.

So you see, our purchases aren't for fun playthings, but they indicate that we have a great big wonderful yard to maintain, and we have the strength and ability to walk the property pushing a mower. We also have lots of space for the kids to run around and play and dirty their clothes which will need frequent washing. And I have a laundry room in which to wash them! (here's where the choirs of angels sing!)

In other news, I've been meeting some wonderful neighbors on my morning walks with Vali. People here are very warm and welcoming. One dear Christian lady authored a book which she gave us as a gift upon our arrival. Jean often walks on our street and I see her husband out running every morning. Another girl has lived here only a couple of years and it looks as if her boxer and Vali will be good friends. There are others who we see during the day or as we're driving and they always wave. It's a "waving" neighborhood, so neat.

That's all for now, I've gotta give the new washer a "spin" and rev up the mower while the weather is still pleasant!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Chasing Sticks!

Vali loves her sticks...

Catch me if you can!

Go get it!

Good girl!

Room to run and play.
I'm still getting the hang of posting photos with captions... These actually begin at the bottom here and end at the top. Still, we had fun whichever way you look at it!