Monday, December 31, 2007

Goal Accomplished!

Well, I did it!

Today I will finish the One Year Bible, a goal I set for 2007. I've tried other "read the Bible in a year" plans, and always fall off the wagon about two months into the project. I loved this way, because every day's readings had the Date in front of them.

Of course, reading the Bible this way does not accomplish any detailed study of any passages, but it did do two things: it made plain the Continuity of the scriptures, and, I *noticed* every one of the very familiar, comforting scripture verses we all know and love, "in context."

Today's readings include the second half of Malachi, the last chapter of Revelation, Psalms 150, and the very end of Proverbs 31. With this Bible, you actually go through the Psalms in their entirety twice.

For many, many years, I have read five Psalms and one chapter of Proverbs a day, finishing those books twelve times in a year. I have also read through the New Testament several times, reading a little at a time at bedtime, like a novel. Like many people (probably), the Old Testament was more neglected.

I haven't decided what to study in this next year, but it feels good to have met One of my goals for 2007!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Twenty-five Years Ago

Twenty-five years ago today, I had five children, the youngest one just one-year-and-twelve-days old. I did not know I was pregnant again, but found out when I miscarried late in the morning. Charming was with a friend, but out of reach by phone (oh, those days before cell phones--this would not be a problem today!).

I called a neighbor-church friend, who was not home, but whose husband was. He took me to the doctor's office, and stayed in the car with my five and his baby, while I was being tended to. My doctor told me I had been eight weeks along. I wondered how *that* could have happened without my knowing, as I was always uber-sick. He told me that at the point where the embryo divides into baby/placenta, the baby died, and the placenta grew until my body rejected it.

Oh, how Psalm 139 became real to me on that day:

" 15My substance was not hid from Thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.

16Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in Thy book all my days were written...when as yet there were none of them."

Whatever His reasons, my baby fulfilled [his] purpose, living the entire life-span God had ordained. I did not even know of [his] existence, but it gave God joy to know [him]. And...I get to meet him (or her) one day!

One final benefit--my son MacGuyver was born nine months and sixteen days later, and I know that I could not have had him, had my littlest one survived. God, in His wisdom, however, has made it possible for me to have them both!

If you have experienced a loss, please be encouraged that God was not taken by surprise. Your little one is Safe. And you, too, can look forward to the Someday when you are reunited!

"17How precious are Thy thoughts unto me. O God! how great is the sum of them!"

A Little Christmas Wrap-up

Three days post-Christmas. I think I'm still recovering from the Big Family Thing. It seems to be a four-day event in our family. Saturday=Cookies. Sunday=Movie Marathon at Forget-me-not's. Monday=Family Gift Exchange. Tuesday=gifts in the morning, visiting later. Time for a yummy nap in the afternoon. Simple supper.

Violet took Blackeyed Susan home with her on Wednesday, for four days. Alvin Fernald spent the day with his bud on the next street. Charming went to work, and I just played.

I got from Charming. It is a companion to the father/daughter sculpture he received for Father's Day. It reminds me of Alvin Fernald, but also of my four other men-who-used-to-be-little-boys.

This is the mug I received from Violet. As she says, "it is from your alma mater, AND it has your name on it!"
I went to Saint Mary's (the women's college "across the street" from Notre Dame). I met Charming over at ND just after Thanksgiving, freshman year. We always talk about how our children wouldn't be here "except for Notre Dame." Love the football thing with a passion. Have had lots of sweatshirts, coffee mugs, posters, etc. of The School. But, for some reason, in the thirty-four years since that freshman year, I haven't had anything SMC. This little thing brought tears to my eyes. And I have used it every cup-of-coffee since.

I have a friend who is moving this week, that offered to sell her three-year-old washer and dryer for $100. Johnny Tremain and Rocky Balboa fetched it for me, and put it down in the basement here. Later, my friend called and left a message for me: thank you for being a great friend, and... I tore up your check!

Wow. Do I have a great life or what?

Blessed Christmas. Blessed Father who gave the "unspeakable gift." Father, help me to live the life You desire in the coming year.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Apron Project (with Refreshments!)

I did a Secret Apron Project for my girls and my grands for Christmas. I planned the Great Unveiling for Cookie Baking Day on the 23rd. Here are some pix (you can click on them for more detail):

The first one was for ME, a cute scenic print. I did a binding of green/white dots. Blackeyed Susan is modeling it for me (as she did for all the adult aprons):
I did Kittens in Santa Mittens for Forget-me-not. It has a fabulous red-and-white stripe for ruffle and waistband. The red fabric on the pockets was leftover from a Christmas dress I made for her when she was six years old:
This one is for MacGuyver's girlfriend, Tiny Dancer. It was a cool Gifts fabric, and I put it with red/ white polka dot. Since the gifts had silver sparkly accents, I used some Silver rick-rack I've had for years:
Now, Lily is my Snowflake Lover. Hers is snowflakes, trimmed with a great Snowmen Sledding print:
Violet's is a traditional print of candy canes and ribbons. I used the red-and-white stripe again :
Blackeyed Susan wanted a full apron, and since she was the only one in on the secret, she got to pick what she wanted. The apron has a "ho ho ho" print on the skirt. The bodice and pockets are a snowmen print that I had made a doll dress out of a few years ago. The candy-cane stripe here is red/green/white:
I also made smock aprons for the grandkids. Here Junior Asparagus models his snowman apron while showing off a custom cookie:
Laura Carrot's apron had a Toy theme. She really got into the flour-on-the-nose thing last year, and thinks it's part of the process of making cookies:
Sweet Pea's fabric featured Candy:
Grandma, Lily, and Laura decided that Red Lipstick was the order of the day:
Here are Junior and Laura, with Auntie Violet, the Grande Dame of cookie expertise:
Laura knows that a cook must "taste test" before putting her wares out for public consumption:

It was a great morning! Forget-me-not and Blueberry could not be with us, due to a Christmas Doin's on Rocky Balboa's side of the family. Blueberry's smock was made of a Christmas Train fabric, but I didn't get a photo.
Tomorrow I'll do the Christmas wrap-up!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Slow Snow Day

I'm not even venturing outside to take a photo of our beautiful snow. (well, I might later...)
Public schools are closed, and we are just home from a weekend in Michigan for a family Christmas gathering. It's 9:30 am, and I feel like a sLow sNow day.

Blackeyed Susan and Alvin Fernald are still in bed. When they get up, I think I'll tell them that the only chores they have today are to free Charming's car (he took mine to work) and do dishes (we were REALLY lazy after returning home yesterday afternoon...). Maybe we can watch a Christmas movie or two. Maybe throw in a load or two of laundry. An easy supper of beef-and-noodles.

I've been trying to Slow Down this holiday. Maybe, just maybe, the Lord sent a snow day so we can get quiet, stay home, and just enjoy ourselves...

Maybe. But I sure am glad there are still a few days before Christmas to get-all-of-that-other-stuff-done. OR...maybe I'll learn a lesson today. All-that-other-stuff-doesn't-need-to-get-done. Maybe the world won't fall apart if it doesn't.

Is this my year to finally learn that? Gee, I hope so.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Reaching a Goal

As of 11 am today, MacGuyver has paid his school loans back IN FULL.

Congratulations, son, for a job well done!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Secret Revealed

"They were not a handsome family; they were not well-dressed; their shoes were far from being water-proof; their clothes were scanty; and Peter might have known, and probably did, the inside of a pawnbroker's. But they were happy, grateful, pleased with one another, and contented with the time; and when they faded, looked happier yet in the bright sprinklings of the Spirit's torch at parting, Scrooge had his eye upon them, and especially on Tiny Tim, until the last."

from A Christmas Carol, Scrooge and the Spirit of Christmas Present looking in at the Cratchit's Christmas.

Look at the words Grateful, Pleased with one another, and Contented.

Looks like they knew the Secret to a blessed Christmas.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Christmas Meme

I received this fun thing from my darling son-in-love, Rocky Balboa:

Welcome to the Christmas edition of getting to know your friends.

'Tis the Season to be NICE!

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Wrapping paper, definitely

2. Real tree or artificial? Real

3. When do you put up the tree & decorate? Every year it's different!

4. Favorite gift received as a child? Hmmm. Lots of favorites--maybe Easy Bake Oven

5. Do you like eggnog? Homemade, not the carton from the store

6. Do you like Hot Buttered Rum? never had it

7. Do you have a nativity scene? Three, I think

8. Hardest person to buy for? This changes every year!


10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mail

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? I don't even understand this question?

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? The Homecoming (Waltons)

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? When I have the money in hand!

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? I don't think so

15. Favorite Christmas “Treat”? Russian teacakes

16. Clear lights or colored on the tree? Colored on the main tree, whites in the mantel garland

17. Favorite Christmas song? What Child is This? Really, so cool to sing a melody 100's of years old
18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Always home for Christmas Day

19. Favorite Christmas “Family Tradition”? Family Christmas Eve

20. Angel on the tree top or a star? We've had both

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or Christmas morning? Christmas morning

22. Most annoying thing about this time of year. Advertising

23. Favorite ornament theme or color? Green/silver

24. Favorite full Christmas dinner? Never did full dinner growing up, so I don't know. Now I cook meat, potatoes, veggie, and of course, Cookies!

25. When do you take the tree/decorations down? First week of January


Friday, December 07, 2007

Babies in the Snow

We had a few inches of snow, so it was a great day for Lily to bring the children over for some Snow Time.
Here's Blackeyed Susan with Laura Carrot. Laura is smiling because she isn't bundled into her snow gear yet, and can still move enough to smile...
Alvin Fernald never needs a reason to goof off. Any of you with a 13-year old boy knows this:
The Big Guys, ready to go: Junior Asparagus, Laura Carrot, and our friend Jackson, over for the morning to share our fun:
The big Planning Session. The Yalta Summit was no more important:
Here is Sweet Pea. I would have showed her standing up, but she was unable due to her snow gear. Every time she tried, she fell over. I think she couldn't find her feet:
Junior has that snow-angel maneuver down pat:
jackson, Laura, and Junior ready for the run down the Big Hill:
As soon as it began, it was over. You can see the incline of the "hill" behind them:
Susan took Sweet Pea down The Big One:
The fun was Over for Sweet Pea as soon as her mittens fell off, and she actually felt the snow. She was Not Having Fun anymore, so Grandma took her inside.
I love how very little children can show us how simple Fun can be. Seeing it through their eyes is Magic.

Monday, December 03, 2007

A More Joyful Christmas

I wanted to share this great blog entry by my dear daughter-in-love, Lily:

My mother-in-law let me borrow this book she got from the library. Hundred Dollar Christmas: The Case for a More Joyful Christmas is what the title proclaimed. I'm thinking, can ANYONE accomplish this in the world of commercialism and materialism? Wow, a great thought, but not possible.

But, then it hit me.

That IS what we are doing this year. Not by choice, but due to financial circumstances. Being content in this has come slowly, as you look to the gift-giving idea of Christmas and think of all the people you are "letting down" due to your uninvolvement. How can Christmas be the same without showering everyone you know with fancy Christmas photos of your children, long-winded letters of the years happenings, and expensive gifts from the heart? Isn't THAT what Christmas is about?

Well, we all know better. No, it's not. But, isn't that what Christmas has become? Bill McKibben says in his book, "..the story of the birth of this small baby who would become our Savior, a story that should be full of giddy joy, [can] hardly break through to our hearts amid all the rush and fuss of the season." How sad! The TRUE meaning of Christmas is hidden behind filled stockings, under wrapped presents, and in print too small to read on our Christmas cards. And, we still keep telling ourselves we are celebrating Christ's birth. Are we?

McKibben talks about how 70% of Americans who make more than $30,000 year would give up a day's pay each week for a day off work. That 69% of Americans would like to "slow down and live a more relaxed life." He then says, "What that means to me is simple: time is in many ways our most valued commodity. If we could buy more of it from some store, the line outside its door would stretch to the horizon. Our strategy with Christmas, then, has gone slightly awry. We've gotten used to spending more money to make it special. But if money's no longer as valuable as time, we are offering each other a devalued currency." Wow, harsh!

So, in the spirit of celebrating the gift of a Savior from our Lord, we are giving each other our drained pocketbooks. Doesn't sound like it really fits "the reason for the season" to me. So, how do you really celebrate the birth of Christ when the world tells us to focus on the cards, decorations, and gifts?

I don't know. But, I'm learning. And I'm sure this year of circumstance will help me better understand. For us, we are celebrating by making hand-made gifts, shopping for thrift-store quirks that will make our siblings smile, and opening our home for family gatherings. You can't forget the meaning of Christmas as you sit with your family and knit a scarf, shop with your friend laughing among the fifty-cent isle, or playing games with the people you love most.

So, maybe this will be the year we change. Change for the better, not for the worse. Change for truth, not for the world. Maybe we can accomplish the Hundred Dollar Holiday, not just this year, but all the years following. Maybe if we keep having childen, this will never be accomplished again. *smile* But, this will be a year I remember. I am looking forward to a Christmas like one we have never had before. I'm looking forward to a Christmas spending ample time with my family and with my Savior. No hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping here. It's Nov 30th and I won't be at the stores again! I will thank my family for their love and thank my Savior for my family, and His everlasting love.

I hope all of you can find Christ amidst the holiday chaos, too.

I added some thoughts at my other blog , as well.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Beowulf: A Double Take

How much do I love this:

Look here:

First of all, I love that it is a Bilingual edition. As in, English and Of course, I mean Old and Modern. But click on Inside this Book, and look closer at the cover. There's a little sticker that says, Winner of the Whitbread Award. The first time I saw it, I thought it said...

Winner of the White-bread Award.

Yet, how fitting for the White Anglo-Saxon Protestants (or Pagans) they were. (anybody remember the '70's term WASP's?)

To read about the Whitbread Awards, see here.

A Fun Time Was Had By All

"The noise in this room was perfectly tumultuous, for there were more children there, than Scrooge in his agitated state of mind could count; and, unlike the celebrated herd in the poem, they were not forty children conducting themselves like one, but every child was conducting himself like forty."

--from A Christmas Carol, where Scrooge, in the company of the Ghost of Christmas Present, is looking in at Fezziwig's Christmas party.

Sounds like my house at Christmas!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Holiday Wrap-Up

Actually, I when I speak of "holiday wrap-up," you need to understand that our Thanksgiving was a week early, because Charming works in food service, and had to work on The Day.

I finished my wool quilt on Monday last week:
Boy, is it heavy! Violet has already claimed it for herself. She is almost never "warm," and uses tons of blankets all winter to wrap up in. Too bad she lives 100 miles away! Oh, well, it is here when she visits!

Tuesday I dropped by a Goodwill between errands. I was so glad to get one of these Party-Lite candleholders:
I bought a pair (on clearance) from a friend of Violet's years ago, along with a candle snuffer to match. I think they were $18.00 apiece, retail. I broke one a couple of years ago. This second one was at Goodwill for Two Dollars!

I also got a copy of Angelina Ballerina in great shape, as well as two other books. Usually this Goodwill prices books individually for higher than the posted $1 hardbacks, but these weren't marked, so I got them for $1.

This weekend I'm meeting Violet in the town halfway between us, and they have a very large, good, Goodwill. More hunting to be done then!

Today was supposed to be back to the ballet schedule for Blackeyed Susan, but she has injured a rib by coughing. I suspect we'll be taking a trip to the chiropractor; I've thrown out ribs by coughing before, and it is painful.

Isn't it true ? Always something new to put a wrench in your carefully made plans for the day, when you have a family? I love what Mrs. Copper's Wife says: always hold your plans with an open hand, because the Lord will often change them!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Happy Birthday, Alvin Fernald!


My "baby" is thirteen years old today.

What am I supposed to do with that information?

Almost ten years after my sixth child, Blackeyed Susan arrived. We prayed for Alvin, so Susan wouldn't be spoiled. The Lord was gracious, and Alvin arrived 19 months later.

The ultrasound said that Alvin would be 7 1/2 pounds. I knew better--he was sitting 'way up under my ribcage, and ended somewhere around my knees. He came out ten pounds, five-and-a-half ounces. Charming told me I didn't have to add the half-ounce. All of you women know that that is my Battle Citation, my Bronze Star, if you will. You will also understand why I bopped Charming in the nose for even suggesting it.

We called Alvin our Magnum Opus--our "great work." He also ended up being our Final Work in that department...

But what a finish! He is so handsome (looked like Charming from the beginning), loves sports, loves the History Channel, and the one that does programs on bridges and other huge things (natch!), and a boy to make his Mommy proud.

Even if he almost blew it the very first night.

Charming had gone home to the other kiddies. The lights were out. I was drifting off to sleep when I heard a strange noise coming from right beside me. It surely couldn't be; but it was:

Alvin. Snoring.

I prayed right then for his future wife.

Friday, November 23, 2007

This is So Completely Not Fair...

Joe Hardy (St*rbucks at The Mall) and Charming (Cr*cker B*rrel) had to be at work at 5 am this morning. They were buzzin' around getting ready at 4 am.

Five thirty-four. I can't get back to sleep.

Mid-morning nap, anyone?

Now, many, MANY'S the year I've been out for the early sales at Jo-Ann's and Target. In fact, when I was younger, I considered it an Adventure. Most times it was my Good Neighbor Linda and me, coffee in hand. Parking way out on Neptune, getting in line early. Ninety-nine cent flannel for pjs. Digital camera/winter jacket/whatever on Super-Special "till 10 am only."

I don't know. Maybe it's the crowds? Maybe it's my age? I just don't feel the need anymore. I still manage the after-Christmas sale, but after 9am. And today, the Day After Thanksgiving? Here's my list:

1. Go to bank for money for bowling and pizza. Alvin Fernald turns 13 on Sunday, and is having four friends over. (Five! Boys! All at once!) 99 cent bowling all day.
2. Grocery. Couple of ingredients for Choco-Nutty Pizza Cake. Cereal for tomorrow am.
3. Library for dvds.
4. Lil C*esars for pizza. Three large, $5 apiece.

That's a pretty Pitiful Adventure.

Oh, yeah. Gotta throw a Nap in there somewhere...

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Part Deux--Balance

This is how I finished my talk to the Homeschool Mom's group (see post below). I have customized this list for myself, naturally you'd put in your own things:

So, how to begin to get Balance in this hectic season?

Of course, Number One is to spend time with the Lord, where we learn to hear Him.

(imaginary scene...)

Okay, God, here I am, waiting for You to tell me what to do. Could You hurry, please? It's almost time for Martha , and today she is showing us how to make cranberry/orange/cinnamon/pumpkin/spice/nut bread using fresh-ground organic wheat berries...

Don't think so. I think the answer is to Live. Deliberately.

For this season, if you don't make a Plan, then you are Planning to Fail.

--Plan gifts. For our children, we always made sure we had something to wear, something to read, and something to do.

--Plan shopping. Can you go at less hectic times?

--Plan meals. This Saves Money. Pull out your Fix-it-and-Forget-it Crockpot book.

--Plan decorating and crafting, then prioritize. I learned to flock a tree from my mother, who did it every year. (this is where you make the tree look like it is outside in the snow. I'll post a tutorial when we put up our tree.) But there has been more than one instance of a tree one-quarter flocked on Christmas morning b/c I ran out of time. Didn't prioritize, and it showed.

--Plan school and adjust. Some homeschoolers take two weeks off before Christmas, others the entire month. It's a good time to do a concentration in Home Ec (baking, cleaning) with some Music Appreciation (cds of Nutcracker and the Messiah), and Ministry (Christmas shoeboxes, gifts for prison moms and dads to give their children , visiting nursing homes and neighbors).

--Make lists: Do the Christmas letter, go to the Nutcracker, make daughter Christmas dress , bake two thousand dozen cookies. Then prioritize, pare down, and accept the fact that doing less will not mean a lesser experience.

Ooh. Let me say that again: Doing Less will not mean a Lesser Experience.

I have a personal problem, that I still have after thirty-two years of marriage (that's thirty-three Christmases that I've been in charge of). I grew up in a great family with great holiday traditions. Ditto for Charming. Then there are the great traditions we kinda made up ourselves. Add to them the fab ideas from Mrs. Sharp's Traditions and Martha Stewart, and I'm trying to do Way Too Much to give my family a fabulous Christmas.

I wonder what it would be like to have a Gentle Christmas?

I had one once, the second Christmas of our marriage. Charming had to work until early evening, and brought a tree home that was left-over for 99 cents, that we decorated sparsely. I made a little plate of cheese and crackers, and had Christmas music playing. I was pregnant again, and Charming and I talked about Mary and Joseph and the night their baby was born. Gollee, that is an evening that I'd like to repeat. (except I like to enjoy my tree for longer...)

Well, that evening may never come again, with eight children and four grand-children (in 2008 we'll have six!) I'll settle for being Satisfied with what I accomplish, and not boo-hooing over what Didn't Get Done. Sigh. Difficult for this Eeyore to do that.

This brings me to a final comment. We moms love to give gifts to our children. We love to give them memorable experiences. But we can burn out before we see it coming. This is where Mother Culture comes in, and it is a word for year-round, not just for Christmas.

Here is a quote from Karen Andreola on Mother Culture:

"To partake in Mother Culture is to feed herself with the Word of God, with ideas from books, nature, art, music, etc. thus taking care to keep growing spiritually and mentally. If there is such a thing as the joy of childhood, then there is also such a thing as the joy of motherhood, and Karen admonishes mothers to recognize and live within such a blessing."

May God bless you as you plan your holiday season!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Finding Balance

Well, it wasn't so bad last night, speaking on "Balance." At holiday time, especially, I feel that The World Carries Me Along "whithersoever it will." But I found out that none of the moms at my meeting last evening have got this one Conquered. Some are battling those in-laws that do the Command Performance thing--"you will be here for Christmas dinner," etc. I don't have that to deal with, and I'm grateful.

So, here are a few highlights; hope they are helpful to you:

First of all, achieving Balance is not a do-it-once-and-cross-it-off-your-list thing. Just like a gymnast on a balance beam, it's a matter of constantly re-assessing, re-doing, re-distributing. Gymnasts do it without thinking and make it look easy; maybe if we worked on it eight hours a day for ten years, it'd be "easy" for us, too.

I never read the book "Margins," but I heard the author on Dr. Dobson once, and took this away: book pages have margins, otherwise the words would run from the very top to the very bottom, and completely side to side. Imagine how tired you would be, reading a book this way. Margins give you a place to Rest Your Eyes. Breathing room, so to speak. If you only schedule 80 % of your day, there is room left over if the dentist appointment takes 45 minutes longer than you thought, without Freaking Out about it. I made a schedule using Managers of Their Homes once, but I had to put in lots of little stickies called Free Time. Some of the sample schedules had every minute attributed to some activity. Possibly they scheduled extra time built-in for these activities, but it still looked tiring to me.

So, I think we all agreed that the key to balancing life is to Simplify. When our children's lives are out of balance, they become over-tired, over-stimulated, and over-whelmed. Does that describe YOU? Do we just hide it better? Putting on a smiling face doesn't make it go away.

When we homeschool, we add another 20-30 hours a week to an already full-time job (homemaking), so we are already working from a situation where we have more to put in a day than there are hours for.

The Lord spoke to me one day when I was feeling torn between my kids' needs, the house, and my father, who lives in a nursing home. He said, "Please Me and please Charming." If I do, then everything is prioritized correctly. My husband trusts me with the children, and desires to honor my father. Those needs will still get done, but with the Attitude of pleasing God and my dear husband. (capitals here don't mean I'm angry, just for emphasis): YOU DON'T HAVE TO IMPRESS ANYBODY, AND YOU DON'T HAVE TO MEET ANYONE ELSE'S STANDARDS FOR YOU. And I include those Unrealistic Standards we put on ourselves, as well.

Think about that again.

And then get out your cross-stitch stuff, and make this to put on your wall: We Have Enough Time In Our Day To Accomplish Everything God Asks Us To Do.

How do we achieve this Balanced Life? You'll have to Tune In Tomorrow...

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Falling off the Balance Beam

I've been asked to speak this evening at our Homeschool Mom's meeting on:



I told our president that I would agree only if I could speak as if I had been asked to speak on Holiness: "not that I have achieved," etc.

I thing Jodie (our president) has hit the nail on the head with her email to our group, inviting us to the meeting:

"It's that time again...I hear its menace, the threats have already begun. In-laws are looking at each other with narrowed eyes, I look at my financial statements and cringe, and I have only just begun to wish for more evenings at home, sitting quietly on the couch with my chilren. It 's the HOLIDAYS!

"I swear, how is it possible that the birth of Christ can make my life such a disaster? (not really, I DO know that, I just can't figure out what toy to get my 6yo) How am I going to keep all the in-laws and out-laws happy? How to keep my checkbook from running on E? Have enough energy to do and go and shop and still homeschool? In other words, HOW am I going to keep my BALANCE?"

Then she said, "come Thursday and Barb will tell us."

Hang on, folks. It's going to be a bumpy ride.....

Friday, November 02, 2007


If you leave one letter out when you are typing the word Boyfriend, it becomes...


This is gonna change all my little talks with Blackeyed Susan.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Another FWYH On Its Way!

This year I have been concentrating on Finishing What I Have--projects that have been "waiting" for...ahem....years.

My two-year, five-quilt project (with fabrics being gathered for the last five years or so) has been a stunning success, ten months into the project. Two of the five finished, and the other three "sandwiched," basted and ready for the quilting. Fourteen pieces of flannel made into baby receiving blankets. A carrying case for my autoharp. Et cetera, et cetera.

Here is the latest--"being" finished. I wanted a wool throw for the back of the couch. I saved fabrics for, well, a long time. I think I started gathering them about fifteen years ago:
Notice the two red plaids below. The red/gray is from a jumper I made and wore when I was dating Charming, 1974. The red/green is even older--from a skirt-suit (Pendleton) I got from my cousin c. 1967. It was a size five, and I wore it in eighth grade. Violet and Forget-me-not got to wear it, as well. Blackeyed Susan missed the opportunity --she was too thick through the middle, and when she thinned out (read: shot up six inches in one year), it was too short. Now it lives on:

The tan/grey plaid was from a garage-sale poncho, 25 cents. My friend gave me the rust solid in 1982, the hunter green I bought about 1990. The lighter gray is another garage-sale find; I actually bought, outright, bright red solid wool, because I needed more RED (never too much red, people!) Two pairs of charcoal grey pants contributed the remainder of the fabric:
The letters are from middle schools for Johnny Tremain and Forget-me-not. The SS letter, tho' from their high school, I found in a thrift store--they wouldn't give theirs to me! Joining them later will be my mother's Girls' Athletic Association (G.A.A.) letter from 1939, and maybe my Troop Numbers from my Girl Scout troop (go 295!!)
I don't know if you can see the border. I got a yummy grey/black checked flannel. I thought it would be softer against chins snuggled up watching It's A Wonderful Life:
For the backing, I got the cutest-EVER flannel from Jo-Ann's--squirrels and acorns, with a few leaves for good measure:
I'm going to tie it with the same red wool I made this shawl out of. I hope to finish it this week, and check another thing off my list of Things To Actually Do Instead Of Just Storing The Ingredients....

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Presents for Laura Carrot

Laura Carrot's third birthday was last Sunday! Lily planned her birthday party for today. Her big present is an 18-inch doll, resembling the American Girl dolls. I have gotten a doll for each of my three daughters, my daughter-in-law Lily, and one for myself. When I give them, they always come with a quilt. Here is Laura's:
It was fun, using a drinking glass for the quilting pattern. I also make a vintage-patterned dress, and a simple sweater. The dress has Laura's name on it:
For Christmas, I will make her dolly a Christmas dress, and pajamas to match the ones I'm making for Laura.
Here's a close-up of the quilt's corner square, using Valentine's Day fabric:
So, my part's done. Lily, however, has a challenge today--everyone she invited to Laura's party seems to be coming...twenty-five adults and thirty-five children! (she usually gets about 12/16 or so...) How many pounds of hamburger for that many sloppy joes????
I'll let you know if the drama unfolds tomorrow....

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Stop the World, I Want to Get Off

I realize that it's well over a week since I've posted.

I wanted to post some photos of little things I'm working on; need new batteries in the camera.

I wanted to tell you about things going on in my family; can't get my thoughts together.

I wanted to share some cool thoughts I've been thinking; see above.

And now it is the week before our new church dedication on Sunday, and we were at church last evening until 9:30 pm, Charming at music practice, Susan at dance practice, Alvin at youth prayer service, and I running from girls' costumes to banners to watching the Big Practice to Waiting for People. When we got home last night, Alvin and Susan asked me to rub their feet before bedtime. Charming got in line for that!

Did I tell you I volunteered to make four girls' dance pants? There was NO ONE ELSE, and I know I can sew them in 45 minutes each. (not counting cut-out time, but that is manageable, too. If you've ever sewn flannel pj pants, you know they are easy to assemble. And I have until Saturday morning to finish them. Can you tell I'm trying to convince myself that I was not insane to volunteer?

Yesterday, Alvin did math and history; Susan did math and science. That's all, and for once in my life I wasn't fretting about what didn't get done. We did a thorough job on those two subjects, and others will follow today and tomorrow.

I thank God that every week is not like this one. This is one of those weeks like when you are moving into a new house--eventually it will be over, and what is left at the end is a beautiful thing. Sunday night is our dedication ceremony. Fifteen churches are cancelling their evening service so that their pastors can celebrate with us. Several dignitaries, including our Congressman, will be attending. Reception following, and I'm not involved with that, so no cleanup for me!

WHEN I get batteries in the camera, you can see my cute things! Maybe tomorrow...

Thanks for listening. Love you guys.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Major and Minor Irritants

We are having our first Sunday morning service in our new church building tomorrow morning!

You need to know that this building was the former home of a large church that had a devastating split, in disgrace, that made Big News locally. Months later, the pastor died, and it was All To Be Hashed Over Again. Our church received dozens of grieving families in the months following, who, incidentally, will be returning to their former church "home," home now to our part of the Body.

We have an Enemy who is not happy about all this. The Lord has told our leadership that this is the beginning of a great move of ministry, and that forgiveness and healing will be one of the results.

Blackeyed Susan is part of the program for Dedication Sunday, October 21st. The enemy has been hard at work in ways big and small, trying to hamper God's work. Of the two dance leaders/choreographers, one's husband has had a heart attack, and the other has had physical injury. Rehearsals have been plagued by "mysterious" fire alarms (no fire, no one pulled the box, etc.)

Blackeyed Susan was the target the other day. Charming took us, Joe Hardy, Forget-me-not, Blueberry, and nephew Derek to Pizza Hut the other day. We came home to a severed bicycle lock:
This happened about one p.m. Susan and Alvin Fernald's bicycles were locked together on the front porch. Someone cut the cable, moved Alvin's bike out of the way, took Susan's, and left Alvin's (whose bike was on the "outside," if someone wanted to be in a hurry). This was done in full view of a crew of three housepainters directly across the street, and with Charming's car in the driveway. All of those things which would tell you that nobody would be Stupid Enough to try such a stunt. And yet they did.
Susan and I talked about Job, and how Satan had to come before God and request to mess with him. First the Lord said, yes, but don't touch his body: later, He allowed that, but not to the point of death. We talked about how the enemy can't hurt us without our Father's knowledge; that everything must come through His hand.
This was a Minor Irritation in the big scheme of things. There were others (my dryer "stopped working" for three days, but is back again); there may be others still. Tuesday night at worship practice, another "fire alarm blip" caused a tiny interruption in power, and wiped out the entire sound board pre-sets (twenty-plus man-hours of work). Things were righted after a few minutes (and prayer, of course!)--Charming mentioned how if this had happened in a worldly setting, the profanity would have been flying...
How grateful I am that we are in the Father's hand, and that the Word promises us that nothing can remove us. We walk in His protection, so that if and when we fall prey to the enemy's works, we can call on our Father's name, and He will be there, to walk through them with us.
In other news, Sweet Pea had to go to the doctor this week to get her head super-glued after catching the corner of the coffee table:
What a wonderful thing--super-skin-glue!
Well, I am off to the Open House Tour at church--I got lost three times Wednesday, getting back up front from the back of the building. I am pathetic with navigation...

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Straightening Out My Head

A busy week this week (now, really, people, when is a week NOT busy?). Charming has been working "opens," which means he needs to be at work at 5 a.m. Sunday night, I set the alarm for 4 a.m. Unbeknownst to me, while I was setting "alarm," my finger slipped to the "time" button, and I added an hour to the time, as well. Charming dutifully sat up when the alarm went off, and set off to the shower. He came right back, saying, "hon, it's only three o'clock." I checked my wristwatch, and, sure 'nuff, I had messed up the alarm. Charming noticed, because he had glanced at the clock in my sewing room. This was a clock left over from when Forget-me-not used that room. It is an LED clock with three-inch high numbers, glowing brightly. I was pretty grateful that we have that clock, because I don't think Charming would have been too happy to arrive at work at 4 a.m!

Working "opens" means he needs to get to bed early (tho' that seldom happens), and there is really no time to have Quality time with him. Monday night, I took Blackeyed Susan to a dance rehearsal at church for our Dedication Ceremony in two weeks. She also has regular ballet on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, as well as regular Wednesday night church. Last evening, I walked in the door as Charming went out, going to music practice at church (he plays this Sunday). He got home late (10 p.m.) and I was feeling really sorry for myself at the lack of "us"-time, when he told me that today (Wed) he works the closing shift! He will go to work at 2 p.m. and we will have an extended Coffee Time on the porch, while the children do schoolwork.

We have our first service in our new facility this Sunday. We moved into a larger church that had experienced a tragic church split. Another church (located across from a Christian university) bought our former church, and the university bought their church. I think it must truly be a miracle to have a three-way real-estate deal where everyone comes away satisfied!

The enemy is doing everything he can to frustrate the plans the Lord has for us. At music practice last evening, the fire alarm went off (by mistake?), causing a power "bleep," that wiped out the pre-sets on the sound system. This meant twenty man-hours of work Gone. Everyone prayed, and after twenty minutes or so, Charming heard the sound engineer say, "there it is."

Charming mentioned to the others present that, had this happened in a worldly setting, how the cursing would fly. Frankly, when I am that frustrated, those words sometimes come to my mind. But it is a testimony to God's faithfulness, and the maturity of these men, that they would deal with whatever had to be done, even if it all had to be done over.

My dryer went out over the weekend, and Charming won't be able to look at it until Thursday, so Lily let me bring over three loads of wet laundry. I love the way she blessed me by folding the clothes, but (since she is a pg mom of three -under-five) left the towels unfolded . I am such an all-or-nothing girl, I would have folded all or none, either leaving a wrinkled mess of the clothes, or done unnecessary work (because we all know that Alvin Fernald and Blackeyed Susan need something to do while I read aloud!)

Tonight the new church is only holding the Youth Service, no men's, women's, or children's classes. I will be there to work on the four new banners for the Dedication Ceremony. Our banner-leader says that the work will be completed on time, I'm just a-beadin' and a-trimmin' whatever she says. I love it because I am working with women who I didn't know very well before, and gleaning wisdom from them as we work.

Well, this post has been rambling, if nothing else. Maybe I just needed to straighten my thoughts out before my day begins. Now, off to schoolwork, then COFFEE with my honey!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Alvin's First Casserole

From a card sticking out of my Country Living magazine (also on a tv commercial, I understand):
Alvin's first casserole!

The recipe calls for just 3/4 cup of uncooked rice (1 1/2 cups cooked). For FIVE people? Next time we'll double the rice.

He made it completely by himself, while I took Blackeyed Susan to ballet last evening.
Great job, m' boy!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Fall Color of Another Sort

I found a corned beef brisket in the freezer, and Blackeyed Susan got excited! Cabbage is one of her very favorite vegetables, and I am one of those who can definitely Take It or Leave It. I "put up with" the smell of boiling cabbage for Saint Patrick's Day, when I make New England Boiled Dinner. (that's corned-beef-and-cabbage with potatoes and carrots added, for those of us cabbage-haters...)

Anyway, I made a NEBD yesterday, and as I cut up the veggies, they were so pretty I wanted a picture:
I think this is so cool: God's colors never clash!

I finished my shawl (found on Jewel's blog !) I made it for "just over" $1.00. After finishing four of my 25 cent thrift-store skeins of red wool, I started a fifth for the last two rows and the binding-off:

This is what I used to pin it...
One of two large plastic hair-pins. I found a card of two for ten cents at a yard sale:
That will do until I get a shawl-pin, as shown on Jewel's blog.
Well, Violet is coming into town this morning, so the school-day will be adjusted accordingly. We still need to get math and some other things done, as we like a lighter day on Fridays. Alvin Fernald called a "home-ec day!" for today (meaning No School/Clean-and-Bake day). Sorry, Alvin--Marco Polo is waiting for you in Kublai Khan's courtroom, and Means and Medians is your math lesson today, tho' I'm thinking about putting Science off till tomorrow. The grands are coming over for lunch. It will be a great day!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Good Thoughts from Violet

My daughter Violet wrote this as an assignment while studying for her master's degree:

"Personal statement about literature:

When I think about what literature is to me, I find
generalization difficult and cliches rather offensive. The best way to explain
how I feel about literature is to use examples.

Literature is Confederate and Union soldiers reading Les
, experiencing the miseries of the French underclass while
waiting in fields and forests of Pennsylvania or South Carolina or
Georgia, for what might be their last battle.

Literature is the New Yorker's William Maxwell writing a letter to
Sylvia Townsend Warner about his experience with the city-wide blackout--the
whole of New York, moving eerily and quietly through the streets
in moonlight, candlelight, flashlight.

Literature is in the gas-lit, pea-soup fog of Victorian London, where
Holmes and Watson hunt the Napoleon of Crime and plumb the grotesqueries
of humanity.

Literature is Wodehouse amusing with his absurdities, Havel protesting with
his plays, Herbert praising with his poetry.

Literature is in the voice of the post-"colonial," long unheard, growing
stronger, opening the ears and eyes, minds and hearts, of people across the

Literature reaches through time, across space, between people. E.M. Forster
said, "Only connect." Through literature I make a connection with other people I
may never meet. I connect with people who died centuries before I was
born, with people who live thousands of miles away, and with people I might
ignore or dislike in person. Literature-in-translation lets me connect not only
with an author, but with a nearly-invisible translator--a two-for-one gift. I
also connect with myself; I find I meet myself and people like those around me
surprisingly often when I read.

Only connect. That is what literature means to me."

So. This is why we read. I knew there was a reason...

Today I am thanking the Lord for the gift of reading, of writing, of

p.s. I don't know why this printed the way it did (more like a poem than prose)--it didn't look that way when I composed it!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Great Molasses Disaster of 1919

Well, I promised yesterday that I would tell you about this!

We got a book from the library once, about Disasters. You know, the San Francisco Earthquake. The hurricane early in the 20th century that took the lives of thousands and thousands in Texas. (could you imagine living without the Weather Channel and radar???) The Johnstown Flood. But they pale next to The Great Molasses Disaster of 1919.

You can read about it here. I'll wait while you read about it.

My first thought, after reading it, was to, for once, thank God for OSHA and all of the government agencies that, though we hate their interference, do actually give us a measure of safety. The huge tank (holding 2.3 million gallons of molasses ) had never been tested to make sure that it would hold.

The molasses ran five feet deep through the streets. Horses and humans were stuck. I wondered how the rescue workers made their way through the mess.

But my biggest wonder was, How did they clean the mess up? I could really identify with one statement the book made: Many basements were filled to the top with the stuff.


When we read the book, we had just cleaned up from our second basement flood. The first had happened a couple of years prior. I don't remember exactly what happened, but there had been a few inches of water. We threw out tons of stuff. Two of my boys slept down there, so we made a project of getting stuff off the floor--nothing stored on the bottom shelf of the several sets of shelves down there. I was planning to store fabric in one of the rooms, so transferred all of it to rubbermaid tubs.

We had a terrific rainstorm one night a couple of years later. Eight inches fell in a few hours. The weatherman said it was "train-ing"--imagine the storm running along a track, and when it reached the end of the track, it "jumped," and went back to the beginning and started over, and over, and over.

We didn't flood because of over-running creeks, or whatever. The sewers backed up. Recently the EPA ( grrrr) had mandated that all water (and sewage) must run through the same sewers, which go to the treatment plant. Our city had had a system of storm sewers, which caught the rain water and sent it directly to the river. (gee, sounds reasonable to me. I mean, I learned the Water Cycle in grade school...) But, no, they had to close those, and everything went down the sanitary sewers.

We live in the section of the city which has the second-oldest sewers. I don't know when they were installed, but the oldest set of sewers was pre-Civil War. So, guess what? The sewers weren't able to handle the "train -ing" storm.

We heard sounds of water in the basement. When I went down the stairs, I saw a Geyser coming out of the basement drain, and an old toilet, as well. (I didn't even know the toilet was still sitting on sewer pipe...) Water was covering the second lowest step (eventually topping off at about two feet), and was up to the top of the bottom bunk mattress.

I learned several things in the aftermath:

1) If you overlook a box of books from the first flood, but find it after the second, don't open it. C-L-O-U-D-S of mold spores will POOF out at you. I don't suffer from allergies, but that one made me sick.

2) Rubbermaid tubs will not protect your possessions if the flood tosses them around so that their lids come off.

3) I don't know if there is anything in the known universe that is as heavy as a mattress soaked through with water. Two hefty teen boys almost gave up a number of times before they wrestled that bad boy up the stairs and out to the trash pile.

Bad as it was, the water receded, leaving a Big Cleanup. But at least it wasn't Molasses.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Ya' Learn Something New Every Day

The last time I was at the Post Office, I picked up these stamps. They feature *pollinators*--creatures that help pollinate plants while going along their merry ways. Pictured are lovely birds, bees, butterflies and...BATS???

What a funny picture? I thought. Around here (in Indiana) we mostly see Barn Bats, who are supposed to eat their weight in mosquitoes every day. (we LOVE our bats!) But mosquitoes as an entree would make those babies Carnivores, right? What's with the sissy pollination stuff?

A quick look on Google tells me this:

In the desert, and in tropical regions, bats are important both for pollination
and seed dispersal.

The article is here.

Sure enough, if you look at the postage stamp, that little guy is pollinating some sort of desert specie.

How wonderful if we can learn something every day!

Next time: The Great Molasses Disaster of 1919....

Saturday, September 15, 2007

A Lovely Week

Oh, oh, OH, I am loving this fall weather!! It really energizes me, inspires me, fills me!

I began my own version of the simple shawl featured on Jewel's blog. It is simple enough to carry around without having to keep track of instructions.

I've wanted to make a shawl for just years and years. I almost never get "cold"--I wear a sweater outside for much of the winter. However, our computer desk sits in a corner surrounded by two walls of windows, and, being an old house, it can get drafty. I think a shawl will be perfect:
A couple of years ago, I found about ten skeins of wool at a thrift store, for 25 cents apiece:
I think it's "sport" weight, (tho' the label doesn't specify). But it is thinner rather than thicker, and the label says "8-ply." But, hey, for 25 cents a skein, who's asking?

Now, let's talk about this little guy: He's been having a tough time--his record is 0-2. Today he plays U of Michigan, also 0-2. I'm not sure which planets are out of alignment for this to happen--I don't think such a happening has ever taken place in this universe, anyway. The scary thing is, tonight *somebody* is going to be 0-3....

Yesterday, my sister -in-law had to travel 100 miles to come to our city for a test. Charming's mother (Queen Darl) and my dear, sister-friend Kay came with Mary to keep her company. I made a Luncheon (darn, I didn't take any pictures of my pretty table...) and we had a wonderful two-hours visit. Questions such as "why don't we ever do this?" came up several times. Queen Darl commented *three times* on the pretty table. We talked about how women love to surround ourselves with beauty, and how women take mundane things, and make them as pretty as they can. I love Edith Schaeffer's book, "The Hidden Art of Homemaking," and the point she stresses that God is a Creator, and made us creative, as well. It reminds me of a quote I read taken from a pioneer woman's diary:

"I make quilts as fast as I can to keep my family warm, and as pretty as I can to keep my heart from breaking."

So now the plan is to have a lunch Twice a Year. That way, we'll "fer sure" hit Once.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Repurposed Tablecloth

As you can see, I have been needing a new ironing board cover for A Long Time:
Pitiful. Just Pitiful.

I had a vintage tablecloth I had bought a number of years ago for a dollar or so. Since then, we bought a dining room table that was too large for it, and I thought it would make a cute cover.
I decided to make it easier on myself, so I bought a pattern (McCalls 2723) at the $1.99 sale at JoAnn's. I centered the pattern piece smack on the center of the design. Ooh, this went against my Mom's scotch-ness! (Remember drawing a picture right in the middle of a piece of paper, and your mom having to teach you to start in a corner, so you could get several drawings on a paper?)

I wanted it really thick, so I cut a piece out of cotton batting (warm and natural, $4.99 a yard on sale. I bought a yard and a quarter for this project.) Then I centered the batting on the ironing board, and traced around the actual board with a sharpie. I then folded and pinned the batting to the "new," smaller size, and cut two more pieces out of the batting...
...and sewed them to the bigger piece, using the marker-marks as a guide:
I then attached the batting to the fabric:
The pattern called for double wide bias tape, but I had a package of quilt binding in my stash. The color didn't matter, because this part is under the board:
The pattern called for 1/4" elastic, and I didn't have enough. I threaded crochet cotton through it, and here is the finished product:
I did my Saturday night ironing, and it was glorious! Of course, the thicker the pad, the better the ironing is, so this was heavenly, compared to what I had been dealing with.
I did pay about $6.50 for the batting, but since super-deluxe ironing pads are about $16.99 at Target, I still made out.
I was a little disappointed at the crochet cotton--I can't seem to pull it tight enough for my taste, so I may re-do it with elastic. I could have also done a layer of Insul-Brite (the stuff you put in potholders) for a heat-reflective thing, but I didn't have enough on hand, and didn't want to go back to the store.
With all of that tablecloth left over, I cut a few napkins--the designs are not centered, but for everyday lunches they'll be fun. I also cut a few pieces with individual "fruits" for future apron pockets.
I loved this because it was a one-evening job, and I got it done and put away before Charming came home. This is always a Good Thing!