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!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

We Have a New Dog!

She looks just like Vali, snuggles just like Vali, naps and plays just like Vali, but this dog is obedient and good. All it took to get this dog was a small investment in an electric collar with a remote. I put this marvelous new collar onto a bad doggie and she is transformed into a good doggie! I could just skip all the way through our morning walk. We knew that Vali was smart, we had no idea that it would take a mere two zaps, (instead of the recommended two weeks) to train her to this new device, (and no, I don't have it cranked to "cattle prod"!). Now instead of a constant tug of war, our walks are pleasant fo both of us; my arm isn't pulled out of joint and Vali can sniff stuff and trot along without hauling me down the road.

When I tried her in the backyard it was as if our runner had been exchanged for a loyal, hang around with the folks dog! I showed her the boundary, clearly marked by flags where the non-working invisible fence is, and if she gets too close to it I zap her once with the remote. Now she has the freedom off leash to run with her sticks and chase her kids. Watching her run and play like a dog should was almost overwhelmingly joyful. Now she can enjoy our new home too! We have room for her to really stretch out and run, unlike the teeny back yard in Coral Springs, with leaves and sticks galore to romp in and play with. What a relief. The kids spent nearly an hour playing with her in the yard after school. They'll all sleep well tonight!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

What a Treat!

Something that we're learning about living in a community that is actually a community is that what were, for us, mere blips on the calendar, are occasions for fun and togetherness. Take for example, say- Halloween. Now, there are as many opinions about how or whether to "celebrate" Halloween as there are people we know. We've done it every which way, trick-or-treating/ not trick or-treating but handing out candy and tracts/ ignoring it altogether while candy seekers fruitlessly ring the doorbell/ going to a church event instead... As much as I'm tempted to go on with all of the reasonings and editorialize, (you have no idea how much I've already deleted) I'm just going to tell you how we joined in the fun.

In this area, Halloween is seen as an opportunity to dress up in fun costumes, many of which are planned months in advance, and go with friends from house to house soliciting candy while having fun. Fun is the whole point. Last night my children dressed up in their Texas gear and went trick-or-treating with the neighborhood kids with whom they ride the school bus. There are more kids right near us than I suspected. We all gathered at the home of the twins, across the road from our back yard. I got to meet Moms as we all, armed with flashlights hit up the homes in the immediate vicinity. The first house started the pattern of the whole gang being either invited into the home or admired and "treated" on the well lit front porch. Once the homes right here were visited we headed for Fawn Road to embark on the big adventure.

Being such a rural area, some streets have become the gathering places for events such as this, and Fawn Road has earned a great reputation for fun and hospitality. At the top of the hill gangs of kids and their Moms wait until 6:30, then they go from one driveway to the next all the way down the hill. The homeowners all have a candy station set up at the end of their driveways, some are in costume, some not. One family had a whole Philadelphia Eagles tailgate party going on with their decorated truck and everything- boy were the Dads impressed!

Among the roving candy seekers was a Dad driving his lawn tractor pulling a wagonload of costumed preschoolers. We also saw a pair on horseback dressed in black cloaks. All the way we followed our group of kids, who were wearing glo-stick necklaces and wristbands. Meeting the other Moms was nice and we swapped stories all the way. Once we reached the bottom I learned that the Dads have parked their cars and trucks at the bottom to transport heavy laden families home with their spoils. Our neighbor had room in his truck and drove us back up the hill with his son. The kids rode in the back checking out their booty and cramming as fast as they could before I called a halt to the sugar consumption. Good thing there's a crash soon after the rush!

All in all, Halloween here is fun. We had fun. I'm glad we participated in the fun. Now what will we dress up as next year??? (Time for a Snickers!)