Much More

Our hidden angel peeks out from deep inside the Christmas tree, reminding me that I have much more to look forward to...


Merry Gentlemen

"... Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day, to save us all from Satan's power when we have gone astray ...

O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy! O tidings of comfort and joy!"



Praying Santa

Santa bows and prays to the Little Lord Jesus in our living room every year.


Man Jobs and Christmas Lights

This is a male dominated home. As the only female, it is my job to attempt to rep for the entire female population of my sons' future. I'm doin' my best, girls! This is no small task, as you can imagine. I try to give them the flavor of dealing with all sorts of women, all within the convenient setting of their own home. It's not that hard, actually, since I'm at that part of my life when all manner of female moods struggle for dominance inside me, anyway. Can I say that without sounding like an unmedicated schizophrenic, as most slightly pre-PMS women actually are? At any point in the day, God bless my poor sons, they might find me being meek and mild,hahaha, serving without complaint in any capacity within my little home. OR they might find a snappish and cranky female who demands that they take on every chore in the home and perform to perfection. And these roles can mix and/or match, BTW - I'll leave that to your imagination. This sort of unpredictable atmosphere, while not healthy to live in ALL the time, is a good learning environment for my almost-men. Men must learn to be adaptable - this is in the top five of the Good Husband Characteristics List, yes? So far they're dealing with it - and pretty well, I'd say. No one has exhibited any nervous hives, hair-twisting, or nail biting...yet.

In line with this sort of "training", there are a few tasks from which I have been exempt - I mean that we follow the very firm and high tradition of "man jobs" in this home. Say what you will, this is just realistic, and I think good preparation for the possibility of a future wife who might believe that she, like me, is not fit for any household task having to do with garbage. In our humble home, men are exclusively in charge of tub-bottoms, snakes emergencies, car maintenance, snow shoveling and lawn mowing, rogue creatures inside the house, and garbage, of course. However, one privilege, among many, that the men have staked out for themselves and I have surrendered to them, is the care and handling of Christmas lights. Lights on the house and on the Christmas tree are solely the domain of males, and I am not involved in any way in the storage or use of holiday lights of any kind. I'm good with that!

My Wonderful Husband leading my youngest in the Honor Of The Lights - it's a rite of passage!


"...That Blessed Star"

This year we focused much of our holidays study on A Christmas Carol. At the library, it was a bit of a chore to get a copy of the story in Mr. Dicken's actual 1843 text. It's been retold, interpreted, and translated so many times, and there are so many versions out there! Our wonderful library ladies did their magic, though, and found not one, but TWO copies of the original story, one of them a beautifully illustrated copy.

We found that the 1843 version definitely has its surprises! For example, when the Ghost of Christmas Future takes Scrooge to visit the Crachit's house, Tiny Tim is actually upstairs, having recently passed away. Bob goes and sits by the bedside of his deceased little boy. The original text also has many references to Christ that have been taken out to make the story more comfortable for post-modern readers. Like this one, below...

Just before he leaves through the window, Jacob Marley's ghost mourns to Scrooge:
"Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode! Were there no poor homes to which its light would have conducted me!"
What a great discussion we had over this quote from ol' Jacob!


Tree of Dreams

This is the year! I got the tree of my Christmas dreams - a Douglas Fir. Homeschoolers that we are, we did a complete history on the Douglas Fir. I know you're fascinated, too, so click here to become more educated about fir trees. Isn't that dorky, MFSIL? Our Christmas tree farm adventures of the past several years were waylaid as the farm was not open for business this season after many years serving the local area. Our kids practically grew up going there, so we were disappointed not to make that annual pilgrimage. Not me, since I don't really enjoy the tramping up and down Kentucky hills, having discussions (arguments) over skinny vs. fat trees. I vote skinny, of course, but they all want fat, enormous trees. With our tree farm not available for visiting, the men set off to find another. No such luck, and so they went to Lowe's, where they have wonderful skinny Douglas Firs every year, which I long for. Yippee! All the men returned in semi-defeat, having not SAWN something down, only having checked through a cashier's line. It was hard for me not to clap my hands and hoot with glee!


the Double Boiler

It's the only time of year that I rig a double boiler ---
just one more reason that
Because when the double boiler comes out...
...great things happen!
(Buckeyes or Peanut Butter Balls, depends on who you're talking to...)


the Magi

We're enjoying listening to some Christmas classics on audio as we drive (anddriveanddriveanddrive). The Gift of the Magi, by O. Henry, which we've heard twice so far, has the more difficult vocabulary my 5th grader needs to work on: appertaining thereunto, silent imputation of parsimony, the mendicancy squad, and meretricious ornamentation. Whew!

These two quotes from the story are worth sharing as pondering material, here
in the beginning of December-
(bolding added as my own emphasis)

"When Della reached home her intoxication gave way a little to prudence and reason. She got out her curling irons and lighted the gas and went to work repairing the ravages made by generosity added to love. Which is always a tremendous task, dear friends--a mammoth task."
I think this is a passage mothers can identify with, especially. Really.

But this is my favorite -
"The magi, as you know, were wise men--wonderfully wise men--who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi."

I would say that giving gifts in the way Della and Jim did is rarely done these days. How often do we really sacrifice something of our own (sacrifice not meaning debt) to give someone a gift that they've greatly desired? Giving up something personally precious, to bring joy to another?
Something to think about as we check off our Christmas shopping lists.

Della and Jim gave their gifts in the same spirit as that of Christ Jesus as he laid aside His heavenly kingdom to step into our world as a human child. Make a Bible study of it and check these scriptures out I found:
2 Corinthians 8:9, Matthew 20:28, and Philippians 2:6-8
I'll bet more scriptures come to mind as you read these! Add them in the comments section, and I'll be able to check those out, too.
(Come on C-with-an-E, I know you're brimming verses out there in the Midwest!)

To read the story, click here. To listen to it, here.


Making (Hydrangea) Babies

Just in the last moment of fall, I pinned a bunch of Nikko Blue Hydrangea canes --- to make some babies! In the spring, these will have (should have) all rooted and ready to be planted in their own space.

First nick the cane. Some say this is not necessary, but since I was so late getting this done, I went ahead and tried to hurry nature along.

Clear the grass/weeds away and press the nicked part of the cane into the loosened dirt. Set your long-legged stake over it.
Having tamped the stake all the way into the soil, cover over the cane just a little bit, with some of the loose dirt.
Cover all of it with plenty of dead leaves and mulch-y material.

Hope for baby hydrangeas in the spring!


Creating Work

I should put this swing away for the winter. But it will stay out through the snow, ice, sleet and cold. That's just the way it goes around here. It might not be the sky-blue swing anymore when the warm weather returns, after enduring its second winter unprotected. Repainting the swing sounds like a good boy job to me, how about you?


How The Light Falls

I like how the light falls in this part of my house in the morning.
Almost all these things have memories attached to them, or reasons for being. Stacks of old books - we home educate after all, so what else? The cabinet was bought with friends in a little old town from one of the cutest antique junk places I've ever been in. I crackled it - the first thing I've ever finished with crackle paint. It didn't turn out as subtle as I wanted it to, but it will have to stay like that, at least until spring. I like to remember that trip when I walk by. The dove candle rest and the glass cloche were found on a birthday outing - I love the cloche especially! Inside it is a small Baby's Tears plant found on an couple's outing with other dear friends - one of them from Babylon (hahahahaha). It's dying inside there, of course, since I kill all houseplants eventually. That's why it's crying? The picture book is called A Book of Narnians, illustrated by C. S. Lewis, which is accruing overdue fines, since I can't give it up yet. Yes, I'm a public library abuser, currently refusing treatment of any kind. It is probably my fault that the book you've been waiting for is no back yet. Narnia stories make me choke up and cry every time. Good thing it's on audiobook, so I can cry while driving - not facing My Youngest who is traumatized by my tears. Analyze that --- no don't. The cream colored canister actually says "Flour" on it, but holds napkins, which I think is a funny joke. Nobody else does though, so it gets turned to the blank side mostly.
The morning light shines on reminders of happy times - what a blessing!



Four reasons to be thankful -
- and I am!


Setting Out Bulbs

Putting bulbs in the fall is like giving yourself a gift. Especially for me, since I tend to forget everything about the garden beds over the course of the fall and winter, spring flowers are always a wonderful, colorful surprise!
My Wonderful Husband is also my Yard Man - glory to God! He takes over the tasks that require extended bending, crouching and/or reaching, all in the interest of my freaky back problems. (Thank You, Yard Man!) So, after puzzling about which end is supposed to be UPward facing*, and consulting the bag and tag, he placed them in a 4 inch trench.
Aren't they full of promise and hope? That something so dry and dead looking will eventually produce beautiful blue spring blooms - now that's amazing!
"...the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can't see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being." Romans 1:20 
The sign is likely to be trampled by men or eaten by the dog, but hopefully it will remain through the fall and winter to remind me of the pleasures to come - sky blue lilies!
*  plant most bulbs by scooching with the widest part DOWN into the soil, leaving the smallest part pointing UP at the sky


Sunday Nap

I love Sunday Afternoon Naps...
when I get to have one!

(sloth photo taken at the Cincinnati Zoo while playing the 'Animals Look Like People Game'...)


Animals Look Like People

Homeschooling allows me to do some really fun stuff, currently with My Youngest, in the name of education. Doing school at the zoo is one of those. Spending the day exploring the animal kingdom and finding new wonders of His handiwork is certainly not sloughing off. I have a hard time resisting adding 'tasks' to the day: find five adjectives in sign text and list them, find a sign you'd like to keep as information and copy it (see poor boy below), take three photographs from an unusual point of view, list five animals from South America....on and on - I can make up task after task! Much to the annoyance of my companion.
For myself, I get a great day out of the zoo every time. Since our zoo is also a botanical garden, I get to enjoy gardens, plant tags and wide sweeps of colorful bloom! I love the entertainment of people watching, especially when toddlers are involved. In the name of solidarity, I do the same school tasks that My Youngest is busy with - I sketch, copy, photograph and search for the right part of speech on every sign. Inside my head, though, there's another game going on ---some of those Animals Look Just Like People. I try not to involve My Youngest in the pastime of recognizing familiar folks as played by zoo animals: "Look at that, son! That naked mole rat looks just like your Cousin Benji!" (of course, he does NOT have a Cousin Benji)

What new baby in the church nursery have you seen lately that looks just like this bonobo babe? You know it's true!

How about its mother? Have you not seen this same blank, bewildered stare on one of those moms killing time at a McDonald's playland?

Could this be a teenager you are familiar with putting on all his cool to impress his friends?
His life in the jungle display is sooooo booooring!

You've got to click on this photo to enlarge - that face! The lips! Those eyes cutting sideways...
I will refrain from telling you where I've seen this (ahem) 'person'.

Lest you think only monkeys or apes can be players in the Animals Look Like People Game, have you met this elderly gentleman at church recently? Maybe in the pharmacy line at the local drugstore? I have.



An interesting conversation had on the way to church, just My Youngest and myself, teens and husband in separate car for (dangerous)driving practice:

Mom, what does 'wife' stand for?

Sorry, what?

What does 'wife' stand for? I know the F stands for female, and the E is for envertebrate, but what about the W and the I? (add the word invertebrate to his spelling/definitions list....)

Hmmm....... How about if you think about it all the way to church, and I'll tell you when we get there? (simply can't resist dragging this conversation all the way out)

OK. W ------- uuummmmm, willing? Yeah, maybe that. I ------- hmmmm......incompetent? Is that it mom, incompetent???

(swerving) Do you know what that means, son?

No, but it sounds like it might be right....

(yes, very possibly right...)

It means useless, not able to perform a job correctly, not skilled....

OOHH. OK, hahahahahahahahaha, then not that, Mom.

I had to give up then and tell him that wife is a word of it's own, not an acronym, WIFE, as he was thinking, like FBI or NASA. He got a huge kick out of the swerve and the new, now never-to-be-forgotten definition of the word incompetent.


Thyroid Scan

The scanning machine at the hospital :
(thanks, google images)
These are the images that appear on the technician's screen as the machine slowly,
oh so slowly, passes over your body:
(more google images - not me)
How thankful I am to have gotten a clean scan - third year in a row!

Psalm 35:18
I will
give You thanks in the great congregation; I will praise You among a mighty throng.


The Hobo

I know that Halloween is long gone, and some of us have already moved on to enjoy the Christmas season...

But I want to share a photo of My Youngest which keeps catching my eye when I'm scrolling through the cache. He was a hobo for Halloween, which was something we often dressed up as when we were kids ourselves. We lived rurally, just as my family does now, and Halloween costumes were not something we thought about preparing until the day of --- or the night before, if we got really excited. Big neighborhood trick-or-treating didn't happen for us, so it wasn't something we obsessed about. We only envied our friends their pillowcase-FUL candy wealth and their tales of door-to-door glory from the big night as they were being shared on the bus the next morning.

Anyway, we did get to go to a few houses out here in the boonies, and on arriving home from school after our Halloween school party, we'd ask desperately, "What can I be???" Standard reply: hobo or gypsy. No plastic masks or nylon costumes required! Supplies at the ready in the house! Just a little effort and off we'd go.

That's not exactly how it went for my boy, the only one still willing to dress up and go trick-or-treating.
I'd bought this mask, actually labeled 'Fool', at Walmart as soon as the Halloween stuff went on the shelves. I buy some masks and disguise items every year, just for fun and games around the house. Last year, it was an Old Man latex mask along with an Elvis pull-over mask. So he had alot to choose from, but went with this newest mask, renamed 'Hobo'. In the company of his cousins (Storm Troopers - with plastic masks and nylon costumes), he got to canvas a whole neighborhood, door-to-door with the other fools, and he got .............. a pillowcase-FUL of candy (hanging from the end of his hobo stick) and a lot of laughs about his costume.


"That Healthful Shore"

This song, again on my iPod, ministered to me this morning as I was getting ready to go begin a series injections/pills in preparation for my yearly thyroid cancer scan this Friday. During this same week, in '07, '08, and this year too, I am reminded of the fraility of our lives here in this place. As I sit with others in the very small waiting room of University Hospital's Nuclear Medicine Department, sneaking peeks into the faces of the others waiting with me, it is easy to be highly aware that no guarantee is given to us on the length, or even the quality of life while we are still on this side of "Jordan's stormy banks". I do have a guarantee on what I have to look forward to, though, but it's not over here - it's over there. Not because of anything I have done to deserve it (absolutely nothing) but only because of what Jesus did on my behalf!

The photo copy above only has three verses, but in the original writing by Mr. Stennett, there were eight. I like this one, especially this week:
No chilling wind nor poisonous breath
Can reach that healthful shore
Where sickness, sorrow, pain and death
Are felt and feared no more

You can listen to the Jars of Clay version that I've been enjoying, here. Just drag down to the titles section and click the play arrow of "On Jordan's Stormy Banks I Stand".

For further study of this hymn (or other hymns), along with a nice history of it, go to this blog.


Pods to Share

Plump purple pods -
Now frosted and all dried up -
Anybody want some seed pods for next year's hyacinth bean vine?
I've got plenty to share!


Monkey Bread

This breakfast treat is a family favorite, saved only for special occasions. Recently, on My Oldest Son's birthday, this was what he was willing to wait for as his choice for special breakfast - Monkey Bread. A dear friend during high school and college taught me to make this sweet bread, and we ate more than our fair share during those years. I carried the recipe into marriage and then into motherhood, and my guys get excited when I get out the bundt pan! hahahaha
We were all shocked to see this in the freezer section, actually called "Monkey Bread" - how could this obviously homemade wonder be in the freezer case in a box??

In a pan, melt together and stir occasionally:
1 stick butter or margarine
3/4 cup brown sugar
Then, in a separate bowl, combine:
2 tubes of biscuits, each biscuit cut into quarters
3/4 cup of granulated sugar
cinnamon to taste
Dump melted mixture over the sugared biscuit pieces and stir to combine gently. Don't over stir, since the biscuit pieces will lose their shape.
Bake at 350 degrees in a well-greased bundt pan until the top looks nicely browned - around 30 minutes or so. Allow to cool just a few minutes, then turn the bread out onto a greased plate, or a plate covered with wax paper. (just to save scrubbing ... for those of us surviving without dishwashers)
As soon as it's cooled enough, you can dig in!

(Some I know add nuts to this - yum!)



I felt as light as this bubble leaving the Women's Wellness Center (Mashing Mammo Station) yesterday. What they had found six months ago was smaller, instead of larger, and I was allowed to walk away with no further tests recommended! Dear Husband and I waited together for the radiologist to read the images and report on the findings - if you ever had to wait in The Room, you'd be glad to have this man with you. Somehow, he makes it all seem funny and easy. Lots of joke material was available, since I was still in my pink, velcro, examination shirt. He is certainly the Lord's richest gift to me!

Many, many thanks for prayers you may have sent my way, and all the encouraging words! I'm sure glad that's over!

The Lord is my chosen and assigned portion, my cup; You hold and maintain my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; yes, I have a good heritage.

Psalm 16:5-6


THE Fall Day

We had the nicest weather this past Friday. It was The Fall Day - the one when you know that it's probably the last day for beautiful leaves on the trees, the last day you could possibly go barefoot, right? I made it outside for a little while to take some photos and even shot a short video of the wind blowing the leaves away.
The Japanese maple through the sweet gum tree with a yellow maple in the foreground -
Sweet gum prickly balls (that's what we call them) with the banner grass in the background - thanks, Tammy, for that grass!
Sweet gum leaves close-up. Just like stained glass!
[BTW, all the swine flu seems to be gone from our house, and no one else has come down with it --- so far!]


Something Looming

Something is following me around. I'm trying not to dwell on my upcoming mammogram, but every now and then, it reaches out to tap me on the shoulder and smile grimly at me from the corners of its eyes by way of reminder. Maybe as I'm picking up the kids from school, getting clothes out of the dryer, or today on the drive to church. My stomach clenches up, and I have to turn my care over to the Lord again. He takes it and reminds me that all my days are written in His book; that His plans for me are to prosper me and not to harm me; that He is willing to be my front and rear guard. The worrying knowledge of the upcoming appointment fades into the background then, and I can continue with my day, or night. Even as I let myself think about it right now, I feel the tension knot in my belly. Wish I could say that I can't wait for it to be over, but I don't even have that! It's just looming out there on Tuesday, and I'd do almost anything to escape having to take this test.

I'm going to keep holding on to the One who is holding on to me.


Hasty Hog ...

... and Swine Flew
My big boys are in day 2 and 3 of swine flu. That's why I missed posting as usual on Monday. Lots of catering, temp taking, and hand sanitizing going on here. The attendance secretary at the local high school said to expect them to be out all week! I thought two days --- three days tops, and they'd be back in the swing of things. But it looks like a long week.
Send prayers!


A Little Crack

Give a ten-year old a camera and sit him in the back of a truck on a long drive .... and you're likely to get a picture of a crack. What crack --- whose crack, you wonder???

The crack of his own arm, of course! Aim the camera just right, and any parent might be fooled into thinking they'd found a photo of some other kind of crack in the photo cache.
Oh, the joys!


Seventeen Years Ago

My Oldest - born today, 17 years ago! I was probably the greenest mom you ever might've met. At my baby shower, I mistook the baby bathtub for a baby carrier. The other, experienced moms just took another bite of their hanky-pankies and looked at each other in an "oh, my" sort of way. And they were right. What a shock that they let us drive away from the hospital, all alone, with this little, fragile person! We made lots of little oops-es with him along the way, and since he's firstborn, we're STILL making
oops-es as we muck through parenting him as he approaches adulthood. The lot of the firstborn is certainly challenging!
What a handsome and thoughtful baby, though - nicely round c-section head. Very little time in the tunnel for him before he had to be yanked out from the other direction. Poor, poor baby!

We took rolls and rolls of photos in the hospital as we got to sit up and play with our new babe most of the night. Learning to breastfeed took up most of those long hours. Neither my husband or I will ever forget the lactation consultant's embarrassingly odd coaching, "Make a sandwich!" Husband promptly went out to re-park the car. I wished I could disappear, too.

Seventeen years ago today!

Father, thank you for gifting us with this son seventeen years ago today! Please continue to guide and grow him, more and more into the image of your Dear Son!