Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Autumn is Here,... ?

According to the calendar, Autumn is here. It arrived yesterday, with overcast skies and hot, humid temperatures. Threatening rain that never materialized, today's thunderstorms also haven't happened. Today Jim helped me get another small portion of the yard re-landscaping finished, getting weed and ivy roots pulled up and the ground tilled, raked and seeded for grass. The humidity and gnats insured that the small task was tortuous anyway, and we couldn't finish fast enough.

I suppose that the Summer being wetter than any we have experienced accounts for all of these gnats. There are so many that breathing and even blinking become hazardous activities. Once we have a frost they should be done- I hope. Sitting around the fire at night they aren't a problem, so that outdoor activity is still available to us. But the clouds of gnats are making anything else so unpleasant that we'll just stay inside as much as possible.

What a wimp I am. Chased inside by clouds of aggressive gnats. Yuck.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


I normally don't mind too much when I come down with a cold- after all, when else do I get a break from the hectic routine than when my body enforces it with fever, chills, and aches? But this week I simply don't have the time. This illness is inconveniencing not only me, but the family that we invited to dinner for tomorrow and now need to cancel, for the second time in two weeks; the yard work for which the weather is finally perfect; and the bake sale to which I was supposed to deliver muffins- which would be a biohazard if I made them now. I will miss a second consecutive week of church and Sunday School, to which I was really looking forward this week.

The house is quiet, for now, and I have some time alone with my feverishly swimming thoughts. Catching up on my reading might be a possibility, if I could hold a consistent train of thought long enough to insert new information in the messy filing system of my brain. Fortunately there is already homemade chicken soup in the fridge.

I'd better make a phone call now, before I slip away into a Milo-induced nap. Let's hope next week will work for this dinner... (put roast into freezer....)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Spontaneous Turn of Events

Last Tuesday my Mom, who lives near San Antonio, had her second knee replacement surgery. Having waited until she could bear it no longer, she finally has a working pair of knees. When she returned home from the hospital, however, she discovered that her husband, who is quite older than she, could not care for her as she needed. She called on Friday not long after arriving home and asked if I could possibly come down to help. I had a discussion with Jim and Kate, and called Mom back to let her know that both Kate and I were coming, and while I could only stay for the weekend, Kate would continue on with them for another couple of weeks. We booked a flight and arrived within 24 hours of her first call. Indeed, a miracle of modern times.

Mom's utter delight as we walked through the door was enough to justify the trip. Her little home is full to overflowing and she could hardly get around, especially with a walker. Kate got right to work in the kitchen while I worked on clearing mom's room and hallway. I am amazed with Kate. I didn't have to say a word, she pitched right in and worked until almost midnight that first night. Waking up at 6 am is normally out of the question for my sweet Kate, but she hopped right up in the morning to continue on her project while I visited with Mom and continued the cleaning in her room. I was so proud of my daughter as she embodied what I had read only that day on the flight down to Texas:

"…of Christians something even more is required than to show a cheerful countenance and to render their duties pleasing with friendly words. First, they must put themselves in the place of him whom they see in need of their assistance, and pity his ill fortune as if they themselves experienced and bore it, so that they may be impelled by a feeling of mercy and humaneness to go to his aid just as to their own." (Calvin, in Book II, chapter 7:7 of his Institutes of Christian the Religion)

I am now flying home to be Mommy and Wife, and the several other titles I sometimes wear. Kate had a moment of "overwhelm" as I was leaving, but had recovered by the time I called her from the airport. She will have the use of Mom and Fred's car in order to make trips to the store, which will also allow her to stop in at Starbucks and hop online occasionally. Aunt LaRue has graciously agreed to give Kate an afternoon of respite- no small task, since the drive is almost an hour for her. I will return at the end of the two weeks to spend a few days again as Kate finishes up. Meanwhile I am praying that she will be given wisdom, grace and peace from God as she labors in His name to serve her Grandmommy, that she would not grow weary in her task, (Gal. 6:9). We have never really lived close enough to my Mom for my children to get to know her personally, beyond phone calls and occasional visits. I pray that this is a blessed time for them learn more about one another and seal their family bond. (I'm sure Kate will hear lots of stories about my childhood which she has not had occasion to hear as well… oh boy.)

Observations From Air Travel

I love to fly. Getting onto an airplane means that adventures are ahead. Whether those adventures are in new places, familiar places, with family or alone, if I must fly to get there, I am already enjoying myself. This adventure was with family in that Kate was traveling with me and we were going to see Mom. Now I am flying home and my husband and three of my children await my return.


The flight from San Antonio to Chicago was relatively comfortable, there being enough room on the plane that not every seat was filled- I had two seats all to myself and didn't need to disturb anyone when I had to make those trips to the lavatory. Starbucks coffee was one of the beverage selections, and I was a happy camper, (Fred's Folgers coffee leaves me wishing I had chosen against a morning java). At the gate waiting to board my flight I stopped to shake the hand of a young soldier with the 101st and thank him for his service, as my own son is now in Kuwait. Three rows ahead of me there was a Mom travelling with her three young children, the oldest maybe 5 years old. I overheard her telling another passenger that her husband is serving in the Military. Her youngest had a difficult time getting to sleep- yelling a bit as he worked his way down- but who am I to get picky over that? I've travelled with small children myself. He was soon asleep and his sisters by turns sang "Shine, Jesus, shine…" and squealed with delight as the plane banked in a sharp turn to line up for landing.


The weather was clear and lovely as we approached Chicago and once we began our descent I enjoyed the view. I suppose Chicago is considered the upper Midwest, and the landscape was beautiful. Like a quilt with blocks of varying shades of green and brown, stitched together with clear, bold seams of roads, the farmland soon gave way to Suburbia with the blocks becoming studded with neighborhoods of homes, the streets ending many times in neat little cul-de-sacs. From the air it all looked so clean, peaceful, and orderly. At ground level I am sure that is not the case.


As we taxied to the gate and were given the all-clear to unlatch our seatbelts, everyone stood to begin the process of gathering luggage from overhead bins and go on with our lives. The pilot, however, interrupted us with a request from the airport authority to re-take our seats. Puzzled, we sat. Then the announcement that "Chicago O'Hare International Airport and the FBI are proud to welcome Congressional Medal of Honor winner, Patrick Brady, Mr. Brady, please stand and be recognized." As this hero, seated quietly in the middle of the aircraft, rose to his feet, the applause began, and continued as he left the plane first, turning to wave in appreciation. What a moment!


By my count, there were several heroes on board today. A gentleman who has proudly served his country and has been awarded the Medal of Honor; a young man who is serving his country in uncertain times; and the wife of a soldier, serving at home by raising her three precious children while her husband fights for us overseas.


God bless them, each and every one.

Monday, September 14, 2009

New Beginning for a New Bible Study!

September has arrived, the kids have started school, and a new Bible study for the women of Covenant church has begun. This year we are studying the Book of Hebrews. Rather, we are beginning in the Old Testament to build a foundation upon which we will study the Book of Hebrews. Along with the women who accompanied me last year in an exploration of the Attributes of God we have some new faces around the table. The study guide we are using was written by my teacher and mentor from Florida, Toni Barnhill, and this will be my first time through it myself. Hebrews offers a look at Christ through the lens of the Old Testament prophecies about Him. After the crucifixion, on the road to Emmaus, the risen Lord explained to two downcast disciples how it was shown in the Scriptures that the Christ had to suffer and die in order to accomplish salvation. I imagine His exposition of the Scriptures may have looked something like the book of Hebrews, written later by an anonymous apostle.


The supremacy of the atonement accomplished by Christ on the cross was pointed to in so many ways throughout the Old Testament, and so far outshines them all, and yet, they almost missed it. Hindsight being 20/20, we marvel from our point in time at the confusion of the disciples and Pharisees who were standing right in the middle of the events of our salvation. They not only couldn't see the forest for the trees, they couldn't see the tree for the bark! Of course, it takes the same power now as it did then to open blind eyes to the truth- the power of God, (Matt. 16:16). Now the Book of Hebrews lays it out clearly for us all to see, from the Pentateuch through the Prophets, how Jesus shines out in the pages of the Old Testament. The first question in chapter one of our study will be answered over and over again as we go through the Word this year: "what was God's original plan for His creation"? The answer: "With God there is no plan B". Christ stands at the fulcrum of history, accomplishing the salvation that we so desperately need, after having proved our utter inability to gain it for ourselves. We have the blessing to look back across 2000 years and see the cross and the plan of salvation with clarity.


All praise and honor and glory to Christ, our risen Lord.

Yard Work


We have finally done it! Since we have lived in our home here in PA there has been an area in our backyard that has been at best, sorta moist, at worst, a swamp. This has interfered with using our yard to its full potential since it is right in the middle of the flat, clear area where we had envisioned a volleyball net and other backyard games. (Not to mention the nuisance of having to pull the lawn tractor out of axle-deep mud when we get too confident and try to mow it…) Since he has the time now, Jim rented the equipment that he needed to excavate a couple of drainage ditches to redirect the watershed from the hill. Gravel was ordered—44 tons of gravel—which was deposited in the driveway. Pipes and connectors were also delivered. Then came the machines; a backhoe for the first day, then, when that proved insufficient for the job, a larger "excavator" and a Dingo to haul the gravel and dirt. The anticipated two days turned into a week, and the kids and I joined Jim in turning the yard inside out.

The work was exhausting, overwhelming, and dirty. Just about every plan for the week was pushed aside in order to finish the yard. Our house developed a dirt floor. And every bit of the effort, exhaustion and dirt was worth it. Before we finished pushing the dirt back into the first ditch the wet spot was drying up. Now the entire lower yard has a new layer of dirt raked across it, (it had to go somewhere!) and is seeded for new grass and covered in straw. The rain and the sprinkler have been moistening the seed and in three weeks we hope to see an even blanket of new baby grass sprouting across the 4000 square feet of the future site of our lawn games!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Getting Away

As a last blast for Summer, and a break from the hectic craziness of Jim's return, we took a quick vacation right before school began. For months we had anticipated that the kids and I would be joining Jim in Dubai for a month and had gotten passports and cleared our calendar to that end. Since things changed so drastically and Jim came home instead, we certainly weren't going overseas, but still needed some time away to re-connect and just be together.

A little internet research and several phone calls later and we had reservations to go to two places nearby that Jim and I have wanted to visit our whole lives. Colonial Williamsburg is a history buff's dream come true. Jim has wanted to spend time there for as long as he can remember and it is only a few hours from where we now live. The islands of Chincoteague and Assateague in Virginia have been a lifelong dream for me, since my Mom bought me the "Misty" books when I was a child, and they are only a couple of hours from Williamsburg! Perfect!

Our time in Williamsburg turned out to be a delight for each and every one of us. There was more to do and see than we anticipated and we had to carefully guard against going too fast from one thing to another. The weather was certainly hot but many of the indoor spaces were air conditioned to the point of freezing- so there was a respite from the heat. From garden tours to candlelight concerts, to house tours, to interacting with the period characters, everything was fascinating. We had the opportunity to see, do, photograph and taste what life was like in the 18th century.

Isaac did an apprenticeship program where he learned what it took to become a gunsmith, cabinet maker or wig maker. (The wigs were creepy) The girls and I toured the gardens of Williamsburg and learned the necessity of having a kitchen garden as well as the delights of formal "pleasure gardens" that reminded the colonists of home in England while living in the wilderness of Virginia. Jim participated in a debate with the likes of Patrick Henry on the choices between loyalty to the Crown or joining the Revolution- you know he loved that. We saw George Washington address the troops with words of encouragement and on another occasion watched as Benedict Arnold criticized the townspeople for their part in the Revolution and warned them of the potential consequences of having an elected body making and enforcing laws,... (many of which sounded frighteningly familiar and had us ready to yell, "God save the King")!

Chincoteague was a welcome rest from the doing and seeing of Williamsburg. We arrived on the island expecting ponies, but were delighted to find that there is much more to the community than that. Assateague is the barrier island that protects Chincoteague from the Atlantic ocean and is home to wild ponies that have lived there for hundreds of years. Until Marguerite Henry wrote her book, Misty, in 1947, The islands were a quiet fishing community with an annual pony swim to raise money for the Volunteer Fire Department by auctioning off the colts. Now Chincoteague is a fishing community that is overrun by pony-seeking tourists, and yet still manages to be a relaxing place. The pony swim took place two weeks before we were there and drew 40,000 people from all over. Am I glad we didn't go then!

As it was, there were still quite a few tourists there, but we weren't crowded or hurried at all. We took an early morning boat tour to see the wildlife on Assateague, and were thrilled to see two groups of ponies besides the many beautiful birds that call the island their home. In one group of ponies we identified one mare that was injured, and our boat Captain called the Fire Department to alert them to send someone to check her out.

The Atlantic Ocean means one thing to my kids- beach! We planned to spend some time relaxing on the beach, but learned that Hurricane Bill was also coming to town. As it happened, the storm only blew past, stirring up some big waves and keeping people out of the water for a day, but not seriously ruining the beach time. when we did get out for some sand and surf, the kids discovered something else had been stirred up. From the ocean depths the waves carried hundreds of whole conch shells to within reach! We and the people around us were bringing them up by the armload. By the time we finished we had gathered 46 shells from which to choose our souvenirs. We narrowed them down to about, oh, say- 40, and hauled them home the next day with the rest of our treasures, sunburns and memories.

What a wonderful week we had together. Dampened only by the absence of our Nathaniel, we felt as if we were scouting out the trip for when he can come along with us.

For more photos from the trip, see the albums that I uploaded to Facebook. There was so much to see and photograph, between the beauty, the experiences, and my family, I was one happy photographer!

Colonial Williamsburg

Chincoteague and Assateague

First Day of School!

It's that time again! School began Monday and in an uncanny turn of the weather, it suddenly feels like Fall! The temperatures are down, the light has changed, and there is just a feeling in the air that makes me want to cozy up with some apple cider...

But I digress. Rebekah, Erin and Isaac are back to school. Rebekah is a Senior this year and more excited about school than we've ever seen her. This will be her third year in the Culinary program at the Tech and she is thrilled to be at the top of that heap. The lessons in the kitchen get more interesting and involved and she will be given more responsibility as well. Maybe she'll even teach me to properly fillet a fish! Bekah is also driving, so she is quite happy not to be riding the bus, on days that a vehicle is free, that is.

Look who's got the keys!

Leaving early enough for the parade.

The first day of school for Seniors was rather special. They were to meet in the school parking lot early to decorate their cars for a parade around town! then they had a Senior Breakfast in the cafeteria. Bekah drove my car instead of the van so that she'd have a nicer vehicle for the parade and came home sporting "Seniors 2010" all over the windows. We are glad to encourage her enthusiasm and pray that this year gives her a good launching pad for her future.

Senior 2010!

Erin is now a Freshman and is still finding her way around the High School. She is still involved in Student Government, so that takes the edge off of being at the bottom of the food chain. Her personality won't allow herself to feel at a disadvantage once she gets a feel of how things work at the school. We are confident that she'll be running the place soon.

Isaac is in 6th grade at the Intermediate School, which is completely renovated and looking like an entirely new building. This year he has his first male teacher, with whom he seems pleased so far. We have learned that Rebekah is technically too young to be picking him up after school, so until we iron that wrinkle out he will be getting home around 4:30 on the bus. Yuck. I sat down with Isaac last night to go over his math homework and already he is breezing through terms and operations that are entirely foreign to me- and it's only review!

Waiting for the bus.

Off to school!

Friday night is the first football game of the High School season, so we'll be in the stands cheering the Mustangs on to victory and enjoying the community involvement and excitement.

And so it begins...