Friday, January 26, 2007

Busy week!

This was a big week for us. Erin, who alone among the kids has inherited my tendency toward crooked teeth, finally got braces! Her top 6 teeth are the initial concern and so instead of a mouthful, the Orthodontist just wired those few. While she's now getting past the soreness, the novelty is still fresh. Learning different eating habits will take a while. She's up to the challenge though. We bought soft foods for her initial painful few days, but she's back to solid foods now.

I got to have a special day on Wednesday with my new friend Cheryl. Our mutual friend, Sue, introduced us when I moved up here, just 45 minutes from Cheryl. She and I met for lunch once when we first lived here, then she came here for lunch before Thanksgiving. Yesterday was my turn to go to her home and what a treat that was! The drive was lovely, I can imagine it's just beautiful in the summertime. I drove through several quaint old villages with the "main street" look to them, and worth exploring when it's warmer. The soup was yummy and the fellowship sweet. What a relaxing day.

While there I got a very excited call from Kate. She had checked her email at school and was overjoyed to find a response to her application to L'Abri in Switzerland- she's been accepted for the fall term! As we have been exploring Kate's options for post-high school plans, the idea of sending her to college right away has come more and more into question. Rebekah has a more solid idea of what she wants to do in her adult life than does Kate, why send her off to college now when she's not sure of what she wants? Launching her out without a plan is equally unwise, so we prayed for wisdom and direction. Her friendship with Laura became the key which led us to L'Abri. Kate's artistic bend and desire to see and photograph Europe, coupled with her love of Theology and philosophy mesh well with what she could learn at L'Abri; just how does all that work in the real world? The following is from the L'Abri website, describing their history and vision:

L'Abri Fellowship began in Switzerland in 1955 when Francis and Edith Schaeffer decided in faith to open their home to be a place where people might find satisfying answers to their questions and practical demonstration of Christian care. It was called L'Abri, the French word for "shelter," because they sought to provide a shelter from the pressures of a relentlessly secular 20th century. As time went by, so many people came that others were called to join the Schaeffers in their work, and more branches were established.

There have been perhaps four main emphases in the teaching of L'Abri.


First, that Christianity is objectively true and that the Bible is God's written word to mankind. This means that biblical Christianity can be rationally defended and honest questions are welcome.


Second, because Christianity is true it speaks to all of life and not to some narrowly religious sphere and much of the material produced by L'Abri has been aimed at helping develop a Christian perspective on the arts, politics and the social sciences etc.


Third, in the area of our relationship with God, true spirituality is seen in lives which by grace are free to be fully human rather than in trying to live on some higher spiritual plane or in some grey negative way.


Fourth, the reality of the fall is taken seriously. Until Christ returns we and the world we live in will be affected by the disfigurement of sin. Although the place of the mind is emphasized, L'Abri is not a place for "intellectuals only".


We are as concerned for living as we are for thinking and from the beginning the concern has been that the truth is as much exhibited in everyday life as it is defended in discussion. We do not do this perfectly of course but depend on the Lord to bring forth a measure of reality in our daily life.

Bringing forth a measure of reality in daily life- that's what Kate is looking for, and her parents too!

Today Kate is on a field trip in New York City with her art class. I've already gotten a couple of excited phone calls, sharing with me what she's doing and seeing. They've just left the Metropolitan Museum of Art and are on their way to Rockefeller Center for lunch. The temperature in NYC today was supposed to hover near zero degrees- but I've not heard any complaints about the cold! I can't wait to see the pictures and will be sure to post some here as well. I may even persuade Kate to be my "guest columnist" once again.

I've got to run now. Tonight we are hosting the couples' Bible study and it's time to do some picking up. I'll be making a main dish for the dinner we'll share and everyone else will bring the rest of the meal, salad to dessert. The ground outside is covered with snow and the sun is shining, what a beautiful day!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Winter is here at last!

We finally have a gentle introduction to winter! On Friday we awoke to a dusting of snow and the kids went wild! This morning the schools had a two-hour delay because there was more snow. Not enough to build a snow fort, but enough to be very careful on the roads.

Our weekend was busy, following a rather full week. On Friday I took Erin to the doctor for the second day in a row trying to determine the source of the spots covering her body, oh yeah, all over her trunk. To make it more interesting, the neighbor girl, also named Erin, with whom our Erin spent the night a couple of times over the previous weekend, was also afflicted with this mystery illness! After blood tests and throat swabs all known contagions were ruled out and the puzzle was solved when the doctor asked if they'd been in a hot tub. Bingo! Hot tub folliculitis, (sp?) it is! Non-contagious, self limiting, and a result of sitting in a hot tub. So Erin did a week's worth of homework over the weekend to catch up for returning today.

Something else that came out of our doctor visit is that Rebekah's spine has a 21 degree curve which warrants a specialist's attention. Our Bible Study leader, John Sallade, is a Physician who has a number of orthopedic and physical therapy practices in the area, the office closest to us manned by a spine specialist who often deals with scoliosis patients. We're making an appointment with him today to pursue treatment.

Friday evening Jim and I joined the Sallades and a woman from our study for dinner and a concert. The Woman's Club of Reading hosts free concerts on a regular basis and Friday we enjoyed the (world renowned) Mendelssohn Quartet. We are learning that Reading is quite friendly to the Arts and there are a number of venues to access concerts and exhibits year-round. The quartet was splendid and well worth a costly ticket, yet offered for free. What a treat.

Saturday found us going in various directions as Kate went skiing with Laura's host family's church youth group. Jim and Isaac headed out early for the annual Kub Klondike scouting event where they participated in a number of events from shooting to sledding to cooking in the frozen outdoors. (That's Isaac in the red coat- what a ham!) The afternoon was spent working on the new shelving that Jim is putting in the laundry room which will make us a bit more functional and is a small step into making the house our own through "renovations". For the evening Jim, Isaac and Erin went to watch the Reading Royals ice hockey game with the rest of the scout pack. Bekah went to a youth group party and BA enjoyed a quiet evening at home cooking up some Bolognese sauce for our Sunday lunch.

Yesterday we had the Heinly family over after church. They are not only part of our Bible Study group, but the very first people that we met at church. They have three sons, 16 year-old twins and a 14 year old, and a 10 year-old daughter. We enjoyed a lovely afternoon of food and fellowship.

Now the kids are almost all off to school, this delay throws me off as well! I need to get back into a walking routing with my sweet Vali, but there are many phone calls to make and doctor visits to arrange. Life is full, wonderfully full!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

This is Winter?

As we watch the news about the Denver airport getting snowed in and the midwest in a state of emergency due to snow and ice storms, we can't help but wonder why it's still so warm here! Okay, so we're not asking for disasterous snowfall and loss of power, but something in which we can go sledding would be nice. We were fully expecting to have a family of snowmen in the front yard by now. This past weekend was absolute pea-soup fog. Yesterday I had some chauffering to do and there were places where we couldn't see the houses from the road. I dropped Kate off on one of the trips to take photographs in a graveyard that, with the church, dates back to the early 1700's- very interesting with the fog I'm sure. I could barely find her when I went to pick her up 15 minutes, (and 1 1/2 rolls of film) later. Our one tree outside that we put Christmas lights on in December is still decorated, awaiting a blanket of snow through which to shine- I love that. But lately it's simply been a beacon to guide us into the end of the driveway!

On the kitty front, all's well with our puddy-tat. She is finally breathing without congestion and her appetite has therefore returned. We stopped giving her the medicine when it was apparent that she was recovering as the ritual was causing her to regard us with suspicion every time we picked her up. She has claimed the bay window for herself and spends most of her time there. She can't be sunning herself, there's no sun, but the feline attraction to windows holds strong. She and Vali are making nice and will even cuddle now and then. Emmi wears a bell on her collar, so no matter where she is, we hear her when she goes somewhere. Vali hears the bell and runs to escort her wherever she goes. Vali has offered to play with Emmi even, certainly not understanding why she's being refused.

In other news, on Friday I learned from our new doctor that my Cholesterol is rather high. I already knew that of course, as I'm genetically loaded for it on both sides of my family. However, the dietary changes that I need to make, while not drastic from the way I eat already, have me suddenly craving everything fatty and cheesy! It's not like I have Mcfood on a regular basis- in fact, I avoid that stuff passionately- ick! But just thinking about exchanging real creamer for the fat-free stuff in my coffee and choosing brown rice over mashed potatoes has me climbing the walls. I know, I know, if this is my biggest problem... I have only just finished reading Julia Child's autobiography, and was anxious to start in on her cookbook, oh the irony, the injustice, the flavor!

On a serious note, we were at the doctor on Friday for Rebekah's annual physical. A couple of years ago during a routine school screening for scoliosis a bit of a curve was spotted in her back. Our doctor at that time chose to wait it out and see how her continued growth upward would affect her back. Our new doctor took one look at her back and ordered an x-ray to measure the degree of curve. She was able to point out how, if you look for it, you can even see how Bekah's shoulders aren't held straight because of her back. Now, it's not severe, but it is worthy of checking out and maybe even some kind of corrective action. Even a slight curve can cause pain issues now and down the road. I'll update as we find out more.

To end on a high note, we had a special treat last night. Kate picked up her friend, Laura, to come hang out for the evening. On the way here they went to the store and Laura bought the ingredients for a German meal which she then cooked for us! She prepared Schnitzel, (breadcrumbed and fried pork cutlets) and potatoes with peas & carrots in gravy. Yum! (Vytorin, here I come!) What a treat to have a guest chef for an evening. We'll be having her host family to lunch on an upcoming Sunday and I'm already planning a special menu for our sweet German. Perhaps Spaetzle with Jaeger Schnitzel, be still my heart! I'd better survive on broccoli until then.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Life with Emmi

Took Emmi to the vet yesterday and none too soon. The poor thing has a cold- probably a virus- that she picked up at the shelter. She is a tiny little snuffleupagus, sneezing and hacking all the time. Just breathing she sounds like a grown man snoring. We're giving her a liquid antibiotic twice a day to prevent secondary infection. Some of you may not be familiar with cats, but imagine dosing a scared and miserable yet strong little thing with 4 scimitars at the end of each fast and flexible extremity... yeah, we bought band-aids. We are perfecting our technique, but then so is she. Just hoping she doesn't hold a grudge.

Meanwhile, she and Vali are still getting to know one another. The other night, (before Emmi's cold was so bad) while Vali was resting on her chair we settled the sleepy and cuddling kitty next to the big strong dog. Vali's body was suddenly inhabited by a chicken and she was shaking so much it felt like someone had dropped a quarter in the chair and pushed the vibrate button! We held her in place while Emmi snuggled in next to her housemate. Poor Vali, the kitty was purring and snoozing away, obviously plotting nefarious tortures in her dreams. Vali eventually resigned to her fate and calmed down just a bit and we could let go of her. She has been calmer around Emmi since then and has even invited her to play on occasion. Unfortunately Emmi's cold has her focused mostly on breathing, so playing is not on the agenda. But we are on the way to a happier pet family, for which we are grateful.

This past weekend was so warm; 67 degrees on Saturday, that we were able to do our outside stuff without even a sweater. Seems nice, but the plant life is confused. Lots of northern plants need a winter freeze for their seasonal cycle, others kick into springtime mode once it warms up a little. We have been eagerly anticipating the Spring so that we can see what is planted and where in our very carefully landscaped yard. The previous owner spent lots of love and time in her yard, planting and tending a wide variety of shrubs, flowers, ivy and grasses. Now a lovely ornamental shrub is budding and blooming lovely red flowers, which will be frozen off once the cold weather actually arrives. So I cut some of the branches to bring in to enjoy while we have them. I'll get out later today and more fully investigate what else may be pushing up early.

Today is colder and sunny and beautiful. We are supposed to have temperatures closer to the norm for January next week. We have bought snow boots and snow pants, so once it does snow we are prepared. It's terrific to have a legitimate reason to cook cold-weather foods like soups and stews and we're baking more breads, rolls and muffins. Many evenings we have hot cocoa and a fire in the fireplace. Once it gets really cold I'll make the hot-spiced tea for which I bought the ingredients in early December. It must be truely cold for that tea- yum! In the meantime I'm curling up with a kitty in my lap and a good book when the opportunity arises; my happy place!

Friday, January 05, 2007

Here, kitty, kitty, kitty...

We've gone and done it. We have adopted a kitty from the Animal Rescue League. For years we told the kids that once we had a home of our own we'd think about it. Well, we now have said home. Rebekah has especially been campaigning for the fulfillment of that promise, being the least allergic of our tribe. We have learned that with a dosage of Claritin even our sniffliest kid can hang out with a kitty sans sneezing. Having talked it over with Jim, I researched adoption facilities online and found one literally around the corner from home. So yesterday Bekah and I went to take a look. To make a long story short, we came home with a very affectionate two year-old stray female domestic short hair. Her eyes are the most beautiful green, so we have named her Emerald- Emmi for short.

To introduce her to Vali I took a cue from "The Dog Whisperer" and had Vali in a posture of complete submission before bringing Emmi out of the carrier. Vali was so excited, even while on her back, that she was trembling from nose to tail. Emmi, meanwhile, took almost no notice of the big quivering dog. Our biggest hurdle would have been if Emmi flipped out over the presence of a dog, and, thankfully, that is not the case. She seems willing to tolerate, even befriend Vali, if Vali could take a valium and settle down enough to let it happen. On their own they seem to be working out an understanding. When Emmi goes anywhere Vali will follow her and then settle somewhere nearby to watch. Already Emmi is comfortable enough to nap cozily, even while Vali is watching just out of paw's reach.

Now the logistics of who gets her at night need to be worked out... She can only sleep on one bed at a time, and three of the kids want her!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Phone Call from IRAQ!

What a great way to start the day! At 4:30 am my cell phone started ringing at my bedside. Through the haze I initially thought it was my alarm going off, and why is it buzzing too? But once I figured out that it was a call, from a strange number, I answered to hear, "hi Mom!"! We were able to talk for an hour and 20 minutes. Everybody was pulled out of bed to have a chat. He is well and safe and feeling like a pirate king with all the cookies and packages they have recieved. No, they don't have real milk, just stuff engineered to have a 100 year shelf life and brought in from Kuwait. All of the goodies they recieved were divided among the whole platoon and shared. He said that if they'd left it all in the 15 Uniform office it would have been impossible to get in there. There was not a single complaint that cookies arrived stale or broken- since their dining facility isn't the greatest and he resorts to Chef Boy-ar-dee rather often the cookies are quite wonderful regardless of their state upon arrival.

There are still a few kinks for him to work out of their newly built network, but he sounds quite proud of it. His Mac laptop is, apparently, the best computer among his network buddies' machines so he is enjoying the benefits of their internet more than the rest. He actually was calling over an internet connection available on base, not their own- that's coming- but not needing the calling card that I sent. After speaking with us he was going to call his connection in London for further parts needed to fine tune the connection.

After we'd spoken for awhile he asked if anybody else was around, not realizing what time it was for us. When I told him that everyone was home and easy to find because they were in bed he was surprised and apologetic, but I didn't mind at all. I will be needing a nap later-oh boy- but right now I'm as high as a kite!

Thanks again for your prayers and your packages for my soldier, they abundantly appreciated!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Calm Now

The children are all back in school and Jim has gone to work. Vali and I had a nice long walk this morning and then I made various phone calls and folded laundry. Something I want to do this year is work more with our parakeets to better hand-tame them. They're much more pleasant when they can come out and play.

In fact, Cutie-pie is playing with her bell swing on the table next to the computer as I write. But Baby-blue seems to be hiding somewhere... They were both here a minute ago, but when I left the room momentarily I returned to only one bird. The Christmas tree is still up, but thus far I haven't seen him among the boughs. After searching all the hiding places that I can think of, crawling around on my hands and knees, I've decided to wait him out. He and Cutie-pie will start chirping at one another before long and his position will be given away. I sure hope!

While yesterday was quite foggy and somber outdoors, today is gloriously sunny and bright. Cold at the bus stop this morning is giving way to a warmer feeling. The kids are so anxious for snow, but days like today are so few in winter that I'm certainly willing to wait for snow. When the sun is shining throught the windows it helps keep me going with what I need to do throughout the day.

Something else that has lifted my spirits was finding an email from Nathaniel this morning, and he apparently has his new server built and running. He is well, but has reported that none of the multitude of cookies sent have survived. They were all very well appreciated.

I hear chirping, so I'd better run!