Saturday, May 31, 2008

Now Blooming!

Taking a stroll around the yard this morning I find such loveliness in the flower beds. My heart just sings at the variety of textures and colors with which God has painted His flowers. Last year I bought some sad past-bloom irises on clearance and transplanted others already in our yard. Now they are rewarding me with glorious blooms and colors.

Other shrubs and flowers are also showing their colors now, such as,
And Columbine.

"Every good thing the people of God enjoy, they enjoy it in God's love, as a token of God's love, and coming from God's eternal love to them, and this must needs be very sweet to them." -Jeremiah Burroughs, in The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Memorial Weekend Camping Trip

Wow! What a weekend! we joined a large group from our church who have been camping together on Memorial day weekend for a number of years. Since they have it down pat, and we are novices with the whole family camping thing, we figured it would be a great way to get started. Boy, were we right!

An added bonus to our trip was that Alex, who took Kate to the Army Ball a few weeks back, drove up from Ft. Bragg to join us for the weekend. We enjoyed getting to know Alex in such a relaxed atmosphere. No errands to run, phone calls to make, appointments to meet. Just hanging out, smelling like smoke, eating excellent camp food, (from grilled salmon to donuts- oh yeah!) and enjoying nature. Erin recruited the infantryman to go for a run with her two mornings of our trip, Isaac got to have a tent buddy and football teammate, and I had someone else to help with the dishes- YAY!

Not only did we enjoy meeting Alex, our church friends also got to meet him and appreciate his contribution to the weekend- especially when it came time to cross a stream during our group hike!

One unpleasant incident that was turned to good- providentially speaking- was when Rebekah and some of the other children from our group were harassed by a couple of guys also camping there. Jim and Alex went to find the creeps- er, guys- and "explained" to them, (without ANY physical contact) just why their conduct was so very wrong. Then they called the Park Ranger, who interviewed all of the kids who encountered these guys, found the creeps, and evicted them from the campground. Not only was a point made and the camp made safer for their absence, it was a significant "bonding" opportunity for Jim and Alex. Our younger ones also were able to witness just how a pair of godly men confront trouble- not by losing control and pounding the dirt out of the guys, nor by passively letting it slide, but by pursuing a disciplined- and legal- course of action to effectively protect those they love.

The following slideshow captures some images of our weekend- you'll have to fill in the absolute peace and relaxation yourselves! Enjoy!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Fort Mifflin!

This weekend was camping at Fort Mifflin with the Webelos! I have to admit that originally, I wasn't too keen on the idea, but it was a blast!

When we arrived we discovered that not only was it near the airport, the Fort was directly in the flight path for landing aircraft! Every 4 minutes, like clockwork, another jet flew right overhead... After several hours we barely flinched anymore.

Sleeping overnight in a national landmark, Revolutionary era Fort, is fascinating enough. Learning that it was the subject of an episode of "Ghosthunters" on the Sci-fi channel is just a teeny bit unnerving. We had the choice of tent camping in the grassy area or sleeping in the barracks. I chose the barracks since our family is sleeping in tents next week. Then, right before we went to the bonfire and S'mores, Wayne the caretaker regales us with stories of the "other" inhabitants of the fort- one of whom supposedly occupies the room almost above where I was planning to sleep- alone. I don't believe that ghosts have any power to harm me- but I am susceptible to a good case of the "willies" now and then- and this was a tailor-made case!

Cassandra Trostle was kind enough to join me in the room for the night and we weren't disturbed once- slept like babies.

Enjoy the slide show- pass your mouse over the individual photos to see the captions! (some of them are cut off- sorry)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Army Ball, Mother's Day and stuff...

As expected, Kate had a marvelous time at the Army Ball in North Carolina. Seeing Steve was such a treat and Alex was just as nice in person as on the phone. From going to the movies, to taking them to get their hair done to midnight snacks of Ben & Jerry's a great time was had by all. The Ball itself was, according to Kate, more like a High School dance- with plenty of booze- so it didn't quite live up to Jane Austin's descriptions. But getting all dressed up and being escorted by a handsome and gentlemanly, (and sober!) soldier made up for what was lacking in atmosphere...

Kate and Alex

One major highlight for Kate was the day after the Ball when the guys took the girls to the shooting range! Kate had a blast- ahem- learning to shoot a 9 mm handgun and a Colt 45. In fact, my baby did rather well and fairly impressed those Airborne Infantrymen! Steve declared that she could snipe with the 45 after watching her grouping her shots so nice and tight. Takes after her Momma... Those boys sure know how to show a girl a good time!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Mother's Day was a whole weekend for me, thanks to my sweet family. Flowers arrived on Saturday, sent by Nathaniel from Hawaii! Such a beautiful arrangement, they are still beautifying the dining room. When he called though, his voice seemed strained, and it turns out that he had broken a finger two days before while playing football! He went to get it checked out and wrapped up. Another vivid reminder that my firstborn is out on his own and taking care of himself now. Wow.

Sunday morning I was surprised by a number of gifts awaiting me outside. Springtime being planting time, and our home being ours, I've been planting things that will last a long time. My dear children helped that cause along by choosing shrubs that I've been eye-ing in others' yards which will now adorn our yard as well! Not only things to plant, but a birdbath for our feathered friends too! We set it right where we can see it from the windows in the front of the house.

...and Whoopie pies too!

Dappled Willow, cute little multi-colored shrub.
Bird Bath!
Scotch Broom, the flowers are a favorite with Hummingbirds and Butterflies.
Azalea with yellow/orange blooms- unusual!

And speaking of our feathered friends, I caught a photo- through the window, of our little neighbors who have moved into the gourd on the lamp post! Isn't he cute?

For dinner Sunday, Bekah made a baked French Toast dish with pecans, which was fabulous! So nice, not just to have a weekend off-duty, but to relax with the kids and enjoy one another. We had made a point to "schedule" absolutely nothing for the weekend so that it didn't fill up with running hither and yon the way most weekends seem to. Relaxing, refreshing and simply nice. Aaaahhh.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Flying Away!

I dropped Kate off at the Harrisburg Airport this morning for her flight to Fayetteville, NC. She is going to the Army Ball at Fort Bragg tomorrow night with a young man to whom she was introduced by our friend, Steve, who is in the Airborne Infantry. Steve and Alex are in the same unit and recently returned from Afghanistan. While there, Steve introduced Alex and Kate via Facebook and before long, Alex asked her to accompany him to the Ball. He even called Jim to ask his permission! Since we know and trust Steve, and he vouches not only for Alex's character, but also his Christian profession, we have sent Kate with our blessings.

Where else in America is a Jane Austin fan to go to attend a Ball?!?! This ought to be a wonderful week for Kate- we can't wait to hear all about it and see the pictures! I'll share some once she is home.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Weekend of Fun and Fellowship

This weekend was a blur of activity, but all good and rewarding. Friday evening we again hosted our small group Bible study for a meal and discussion, which is always a treat. The kids helped me to finish the flower beds by scattering mulch over the dirt and around the plants.

Saturday actually began calmly and slowly, which was very welcome since recent weeks have been rather hectic. We discovered that a pair of House Wrens have chosen to set up housekeeping in the little gourd hanging from our lamp post. We wired it securely to the post during one of their absences since we have seen it blow off in the wind in the past, and they continued to busily build their nest. Another Springtime discovery was that there is a young family of Cardinals in another tree, so we set a step-stool near it to facilitate observation.

In the evening we went with our friends, Dave and Sue Yoch, to meet an Amish family with whom they have been friends for a number of years. They met when Sue's sister was a Nurse at the Hospital and cared for the Riehl's eldest son after his appendectomy. Gideon and Malinda have reared four children thus far, and their youngest, Reuben, still lives at home. At 27, Reuben is clean shaven, wears "English" clothing, drives a car, and worships in a church that is more Mennonite than Amish.

Our evening was splendid. We began with a buggy ride while it was still light out, and enjoyed ourselves immensely. Gideon enlisted the kids' help to get Maple, their Standardbred, brushed and harnessed. We were able to talk about a number of things during the drive- from keeping bugs out of one's teeth, to misconceptions people have about the Amish and "English" Christians when only learning about them from outsiders. Once the buggy ride was over Gideon saddled Maple for the kids to each have a ride.

Inside the house, Malinda served mint tea, made with the mint grown in her garden, while we visited. She shared her little photo album - that's right, photos!- of her Grandchildren, some of whom live in Kansas. They told us stories and answered lots of questions about how they live and what they believe. My heart overflowed when Gideon asserted that he was certain that driving a buggy was not how he would get into Heaven, but that Christ's death on the Cross in his place was his only hope. That led to such a rich and encouraging discussion of Spiritual matters and the beliefs that we share in common. We have no doubt that when we stand among the multitude before God's throne, worshiping Him for eternity, Gideon, Malinda and Reuben will be there with us!

One of their funniest stories had to be about their trip to Florida, when they also went down to Key West. People would turn and stare in amazement as they passed them in the street- one can expect to see a lot of things in Key West, but an Amish family?! They thought it was quite funny as well.

Sunday after church we went to have a backyard cookout with friends. Rob and Sue live quite a way South of us, yet still make the trek to our church- dedication in action! The Wisniewski's joined us as well which made for a busy bunch of kids. They all did their thing- hanging out and talking, while the grown ups (and I usually hesitate before assuming that I'm one...) visited on the back porch. The sun had come out and it was a perfect day.

Hop-a-long boys!

Always good food at a backyard BBQ!
Sue, Barbaranne, and Piper
The Grill-Meister, Rob
Manly men discussing Manly Things.
Sweet Kate- please don't fall!
Once home, Kate and Bekah went to youth group. At 8 pm they called to tell us they were on their way home and they had invited friends for a campfire and S'mores! College friends are beginning to trickle home now that the Semester is wrapping up, and it was time to do some catching up! So Jim and Isaac got the fire started, the girls stopped for marshmallows and other "nutritious snackage" and the evening went late into the night as we visited and laughed around the fire ring. Sorry, no photos for this, but much fun was had!

Monday evening was the Soup-er Bowl fundraising event for Opportunity House, a local outreach to the homeless and hungry in Reading. Erin had chosen to have her birthday party be part of this effort and she and her friends made bowls to donate. Michelle and Erin Bleacher joined us as we waited in line with hundreds of others for the doors to open! Bowls made throughout the area by High School and College students, as well as many workshops for others, were on display for choosing. For each ticket, we were allowed to take home one hand-made bowl. Hundreds of beautiful bowls + hundreds of people = very crowded conditions! It was like Christmas Eve at Wal Mart! But what a neat idea.

Once we found our bowls of choice, we made our way to a table, then chose samples of soups donated by area restaurants. So yummy, so many choices, so warm and filling! Even our little Vegetarians were satisfied. Isaac had put up a bit of a fuss about coming, but thanked me for making him before the night was over- there were strawberries and a chocolate fountain after all!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Flowers, S'mores, and Nobel Peace Prize

I finally have photos, inadequate as they are to capture the glorious beauty, of some of my flowers. I look at the pictures and think, they're far more beautiful than this! I got a few more planted today, and started a bed of Spearmint! That mint will spread and spread without a solid border, so we planted it in a small bed up against the house and bordered by a concrete sidewalk. I can't wait to have fresh mint sprigs in my iced tea again!

The green backyard

Amazing Azaleas

The front flower bed
Sweet Pansies
Dogwood blossoms

Meanwhile, the time has come to start having campfires in the backyard again- and what are campfires best for, but making S'mores!

S'more Joy!

Last night Kate and I served at the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce and Industry's annual dinner at Franklin and Marshall College. The event was huge, over 2500 guests in attendance and about 170 servers working. Once we had finished the serving of appetizers, cocktails and the meal, we were able to sit in the back and listen to the Distinguished Guest Speaker, Nobel Peace Prize Recipient, Muhammad Yunus. No photos, but a lasting impression...

Here at home, Milo has been banned from our room since Jim prefers breathing to not. So our cuddly Kitty has found alternate arrangements... The "cuddl-ee" in this photo would be severely aggravated if her (oops) name were released to the press, so she shall remain anonymous.

And lastly, Isaac has discovered a talent heretofore unrealized...
Ciao for now!