Thursday, December 22, 2011

One Thousand Gifts

My dear sister-in-law gave me a book for my birthday that is slowly changing my life.  The book, One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp, is one that I probably would not have picked up on my own, simply because I don't really have time to read for pleasure these days.  Oh, am I so thankful for this gift, though!  It is not an easy read for me.  The author's writing style is not one like mine and I found that I had to keep rereading what she wrote because I was never quite sure where her emphasis was intended.  This, however, became a blessing because I was forced to read and reread certain phrases and paragraphs and therefore the truths that she penned became more apparant each time I read them again.

I will not give away the details of the book, but I encourage you to find a copy of this if you have the time to read.  And if you don't have the time to read, I encourage you to find a copy and MAKE the time to read!  Ann Voskamp shares a personal, spiritual journey after accepting a dare from a friend to name one thousand gifts in her life.  As she keeps a running list of her gifts, she is drawn closer and closer to the Lord and discovers that in giving thanks, her eyes are opened to a life of gratitude and to the relationship with God that she has been searching for.

After starting this book, I let a friend of mine borrow my copy because I know that she is going through some difficult life experiences and I felt God wanted me to share this with her.  The two of us remind each other often that it is in thanksgiving that we can fully live in Christ.  Eucharisteo - the Greek word for "he gave thanks", speaking of Jesus when He broke the bread and shared communion with His disciples.  The author refers to this word often, and reinforces the grace, thanksgiving and joy that are entwined in this word eucharisteo.  My book-sharing friend and I are growing in our desire to practice and learn eucharisteo - giving thanks in all things.

This past week has brought some very difficult events into our extended family and there has been both rejoicing and weeping.  There have been fears and sorrows and questions and ... peace... yes, peace in the middle of this gut-wrenching storm.  Throughout this trial of 9 days so far, peace and thankfulness are carrying me through.  My heart is breaking because of the unfolding events, but as I take out my own notebook of One Thousand Gifts, I can list my thanks and my blessings and see that God is good and that He loves me and each one of us who are suffering.  He has given such perfect provision in these circumstances that at times, despite my weeping, I run to my notebook and chronicle yet another "gift". 

Hard eucharisteo, giving thanks when it is difficult, brings joy and peace.  It does not discount sorrow nor shame our emotions, but it reminds us that the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh.  Blessed be the name of the Lord!  God is good, and He loves me.  I am His beloved.  I hold my hands out empty, to be filled.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Day With My Sons

What a great day I had today!  I was at school all day long and I loved every minute of it!  Today was my day "off", but I was at school longer today than I have been in years and years and years! 

I started out first thing in the morning in Stephen's class.  I helped the kids get their art projects finished and then up on display for Arts Night, where all their work would be displayed for their parents to view.  I also got to help the kids with their math work and truly enjoyed it.  They're working on symmetry right now and their "work" today was to take a mirror and draw different pictures in perfect symmetry.  Now, this may not seem like fun to you, but would it change your mind if I told you that Stephen's math classes are all in French and that his teacher is French and therefore speaks French?!  Even to mother volunteers?!  The kids and I had a good laugh because she would tell me what to do and I'd look at them with a panicked face and they would translate it for me.  They thought they were being so helpful...and they were!

Soon it was time for the first nutrition break, so I surprised Timothy and told him to go get his coat because I was going to take him to Tim Horton's for lunch.  Oh, the look of joy on his face was incredible!  He was beaming so brightly that I thought the whole school would know about our little date today!  Not only was he thrilled to leave school to go have lunch with Mommy, but he even got to have a vanilla dip donut with Christmas sprinkles on it for dessert!  Joy, joy, JOY!  I could have sat there all day watching his face as he ate his lunch with such excitement!  To top it all off, our server somehow prepared two cups of coffee for me by accident and had both of them sitting on the counter in front of us.  I asked her what she was going to do with that second cup and she replied that she was going to give it to me.  I wish I could have captured Timothy's facial expression just then!  He burst out, "Mommy!  Mlle Campbell drinks Tim Hortons!  We could give it to her!"  So we accepted the free cup of coffee and when we got back to school, he so proudly handed her that free cup of coffee and told her it was just for her, once again, face beaming!  Oh, how I wish my eyes were a video camera!  I want to remember those moments forever just watching pure joy on my son's face as he had Mommy all to himself for a lunch date, and then to watch him share that coffee with his teacher - thrilled to give a gift to her!  May my memory retain this day for many, many years!

After Timothy and I finished blessing Mlle Campbell with her coffee, I left Timothy in his class and headed down to Room 1 to spend the afternoon with Christopher.  Unfortunately, my time with Christopher was not initiated because of a pleasant experience.  About two weeks ago, his teacher, Fred and I finally put two and two together and realized that Christopher was being bullied at school so I was invited into the classroom to not only provide some emotional security for Christopher (oh, that just tears my heart to pieces just typing that!), but to be a second pair of hands for the teacher whose hands are way too full right now.  It was Christopher's day to take the afternoon attendance chart to the office and he was supposed to pick a girl to go with him.  He turned around and walked straight over to me and said, "I pick Mommy."  Because of what all my little boy has been through the past few weeks at school, Mrs. W. and I glanced at each other and then quickly looked away because I think we were both ready to lose it.  He held my hand the entire two hours that I was with him today, except when he was at the art table cutting out pictures of an Easy Bake Oven (because that's what he keeps asking for as his Christmas present!).  By the time I left his room, he was comfortably sitting with the class ready to start music class.  We blew each other good by kisses and I left, but not before I made a plan with Mrs. W.

We've arranged that I come in at least every other Thursday, but more often if I can, just to be that emotional support for Christopher.  His class is a tough one this year.  There are two ESL children in there who have anger issues, most likely because of the lack of understanding, and an extremely immature whiner who cried every time something went the opposite of what she wanted, and then there's the bully ... and the rest of the class.  The rest of the class who has to sit there while Mrs. W. has to stop the fighting, quiet the whining and reign in the runner (one of the ESL kids who bolts out the door whenever he feels like it!).  I feel for her.  She's doing the best she can, but she really needed an aide in there!  Thank God, after these incidents with Christopher and a few others in the past few weeks, the principal has finally arranged for her to have some classroom aides assigned to her class!  She told me that things have improved tremendously in the past week because of the extra eyes and hands that she has in there!  While things may be improving, can you please join us in praying for Christopher?  He used to love going to school and now he complains of stomach aches, refusing to get dressed on school days, cries all morning and at the bus stop, etc.  It makes me so sad to see that his joy in attending school is gone.  Pray that it will come back and that he will forget those moments of bullying that have taken place.  We pray every night for the little boy who has punched and kicked him, and we talk often about how it's important to love him despite the hurt he gives Christopher, but I don't want this to affect him long term.

And after that adventurous day at school (oh, did I mention that I also spent about 45 minutes with the art teacher refilling glue bottles?), we headed back there tonight for the Arts Night - a new idea for the annual Christmas program.  I won't dwell on that much because I seriously am trying to establish a heart of thanksgiving in everything, but I will say that it was CRAZY and I do believe that the administration needs to reconsider how they planned things for tonight!  I was thankful to get home after that stressful evening - does that count for my attitude of thankfulness?

It's been a long day, but one I wouldn't have traded for anything!  It's such a blessing to be able to go into the school and work with my sons' teachers, the librarian, the art teacher, the principal.  I want my face to be known in that building and I want the teachers to appreciate my presence instead of dreading it. I want to be a help and a support in their classrooms and to add joy and thankfulness to the days of my sons, their classmates and their teachers.  What a gift this is for me!  What a great day I had with my sons!

Monday, November 7, 2011

First Day of School 2011

My "baby" getting ready to start Senior Kindergarten!

Timothy wanted to decorate his Grade 2 sign.
Stephen, looking so grown up as a Grade 3 student!

I'm not exactly sure what Timothy is doing with his eyes, but this was the best shot of him outside ready to head for the bus stop.
I know I'm way behind in posting the first day of school pictures, but hey, it's ONLY November 7!  I can't believe how grown up these boys are this year.  I remember asking Mom one time what age she enjoyed the most while we were growing up and she told me that she enjoyed them all because each one brought new joys.  I didn't quite understand that at the time because Stephen was only a baby when I asked that, but now I get it.  I'm LOVING having a third grader who comes home with the most fascinating facts that he learned that day (plus, third grade was always my favorite to teach, so I'm a bit partial here).  I love having a second grader who is so very into writing stories, so much so that I feel like I'm an audible dictionary at times, spelling every other word for him.  And I so love having a kindergarten student who is old enough to enjoy going to school, but who is also young enough to be home every other day with me!  We're off to a good start here in 2011, and I know it will only get better!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Flex Time

In a conversation with my friend the other day, she said, "Martha, you always seem to be so busy!  You are always talking about how much you have to do and you're always doing something for someone else.  When do you do something for yourself?"  I told her that I didn't usually have time to do things for myself because I have so much other stuff to do.  I rush all day to get things done before the kids come home from school and then when they're home, I have to give them all my attention.  Then there's supper to get on the table once the babysitting kids are gone and then supper clean-up, homework time, tidy up time, bedtime snack, pajama time and off-to-bed time.  Once the kids are in bed I have to clean up after the whirlwind of disaster that has been left behind.  And this is usually all done with a very negative spirit.  It's a never ending cycle.

That's when she threw out the lifeline comment:  "I work on flex time."

I felt like I just smacked myself in the head!  Duh!  Of course!  Flex time!  She said that when her family gets home from school and work, that's when her job starts up again so she works on flex time by taking some time off during the day to do what SHE wants to do before her afternoon/evening shift starts up again.  She said, "It cut out the resentment when I was the only one cleaning up after supper and everyone else was lounging around.  They finished their jobs and have earned their free time, but my shift starts up again when they get home."  

Now, why in the world did I never see this before?!  I do NOT have to run around like a crazy woman trying to cram everything into my days, thereby burning myself out and causing resentment to flare up, uncontrolled.  Even Christ went out in a boat to get away from the press of the people and to be ALONE and REST!  He even took a nap!

So, I've been trying this flex time method the last few days.  WHAT A DIFFERENCE!!  My attitude has improved tremendously because I know that I have already had a break during the day and now cleaning up the supper mess and packing lunches and directing traffic is not done with constant griping and (ouch) whining anymore.  I'm quite cheerful, if I may say so myself! 

I've also found that I've been getting a lot more done in my day because I KNOW that my free time is coming up and I want to finish my projects before I stop everything to take a break.  I've been focused and, yes, even more organized if you can believe that coming from me!  Haha!

Is it working perfectly?  No.  My to-do list today was very long and my tasks were not all quick ones that could be killed off in a matter of minutes, so I started to panic this afternoon and was rushing around trying to do as much as I could in the little time that I had left.  When I realized this was happening, I just set the timer for 30 minutes, grabbed my book and plopped on the couch.  When the timer rang, I went back to my work and kept going, but with a much more relaxed feeling.  What a difference.  And guess what?  I DID get it all done before the kids came home so I could sit and talk with them, listen to Christopher read his Green Eggs and Ham book to me, watched a little Peanuts video with the boys because they kept telling me to "watch this, Mommy" anyway so I just went in and sat with them and I got supper finished and ready to serve in no time!

So maybe most of you are reading this saying to yourselves, "But of course!  I've always done that!"  Well, I'm a slow learner, I guess.  I also want to be a quick learner because I'm sure loving this new attitude toward my "job"!  Flex time.  Who knew?!

To my friend:  God bless you for sharing this wisdom with me!  You have given me fresh wind for my sails.  And thank you for holding me accountable for my rest time every day.  You are a blessing to me more than you realize!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

One Tomato, Two Tomatoes, Three Tomatoes ... MORE!

I haven't been on here lately.  Have you noticed?  Ah, but of course you have because some of you have reminded me that I haven't posted anything recently.  How could I?  I've been overloaded with tomatoes and HAD to deal with them before the fruit flies did!  FINALLY I am finished dealing with all my tomatoes so I can sit down here and tell you what I've been up to.

We had our first frost warning a few weeks ago, so the day after that warning, I decided to take a trip up to Mennonite farm country to see if anyone had any cheap tomatoes that they needed to get rid of quickly.  My hunches were correct as I drove along and found a sign at the end of a lane at the corner of Northfield Drive and Line 86:  Long Lane Farm - Roma Tomatoes - No Sunday Sales.  Ahhh.... just what I was looking for!  I drove up the long lane and found an old order Mennonite woman standing on her porch surrounded by bushels and bushels of tomatoes!  They had to pick fast the night before so that they didn't lose the rest of their crop to the threatened frost. 

The tomatoes looked beautiful!  I told her I'd take a 1/2 bushel because they looked so nice and she started sorting through them, pulling out ones that had tiny blemishes.  I asked what she was going to do with all of her seconds (that really looked like the "good" stuff that you'd find in any grocery store) and she replied with a heavy sigh that she would probably have to can them for her family even though they had more than enough for the year.  I offered to take the seconds off her hands so that she could sell the good ones at the produce auction and not have to worry about what to do with the seconds.  I ended up getting them for $10 a bushel! Well, being the bargain lover that I am, I decided to take TWO bushels of seconds! 

What in the world was I thinking?!

For the next two weeks I was up to my eyeballs in tomatoes!  I canned tomato soup, spaghetti sauce, tomato juice, diced tomatoes and more spaghetti sauce.  Then my friend Jenny shared the most delicious roasted tomato sauce with me and I fell in love!  I so regretted not having that recipe at the beginning of this whole ordeal because it quickly has become my favorite!  So much so, that when a friend of mine told me that their family was going to be out of town and they needed someone to use their tomatoes from their garden, guess what I did?  Yep.  I went and picked another half bushel just because I wanted some more of this sauce! 

I do believe now that I'm done with tomatoes.  My house has smelled like pasta sauce for the past two weeks and we have plenty to keep us going for a long, long time, but oh, am I thankful for those delicious, fresh and fragrant tomatoes! 

Here's Jenny's recipe.  You HAVE to try it, especially if you are up to your eyeballs in tomatoes!  Tweak it as you see fit.  I used many different varieties of tomatoes and I also added several cloves of garlic.  I also ate some of this incredible deliciousness as is after it was roasted and before it was blended.  Mmmmm!  Then I tried it warm as a soup and then cold as a gazpacho variation and then on pasta and then mixed in with leftover, fresh tomato soup and then with crackers as a dip.  I'm telling you, this stuff is fantastic!  You won't be disappointed!

Roasted Tomato Sauce

Some of my homemade spaghetti sauce

Makes 3 cups
2 1/2 pounds plum tomatoes, quartered
1 yellow onion, diced
1 green pepper, cut into 1 in pieces
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1 in pieces
1/2 cup extra virgin oil
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
2 tsp fresh oregano
Preheat oven to 375 F. In a 9X13 baking pan toss together tomatoes, onion, bell peppers, oil, salt and crushed red pepper. Roast for 1 hour. Remove pan from oven and fold basil and oregano into vegetables. Cook for 30 min more.
In a food processer, blend vegetables until pureed. Use immediately, refrigerate for up to 2 weeks, or freeze.

Jeremiah 15:16

Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O Lord God of hosts.  Jeremiah 15:16

This year it was Timothy's year to pick the birthday cake for his birthday.  Since he and Christopher share a birthday, we switch between choosing a birthday cake and choosing the birthday meal every year so that they both get a chance to choose something and I don't have to make two cakes. 

Timothy, Mr. Creative, decided that this year he wanted a Holy Bible birthday cake.  He gave me specific instructions on how it should be made, what color it had to be (he insisted on black and I kept hinting that brown would be just fine), there needed to be a red bookmark with pointy ends and the pages needed to be gold.  Oh yeah.  And it HAD to say Holy Bible on it.

Yikes.  How in the world could I do a cake like this?!  I'm so thankful for my friend, Barb, who I happened to be telling about this cake that I had to make and she said, "I have an idea.  Come over on Wednesday."  That's when Barb introduced me to fondant!  WooHoo!  She was amazing!  She had fantastic ideas of how to make the pages gold (yellow food paint with food grade glitter mixed in and then brushed onto white fondant), she had cut out letters for Holy Bible, she designed the red bookmark with pointy ends and made the beautiful black cover.  In real life, it looked just like Grandpa's well-loved Bible!  Did she do a fantastic job on this cake or what?!

Barb and her finished work of art!

When the kids got home from school that day, they all hovered around the cake and one of the after-school kids said, "Holly Bibble?  Who's that?"  While I held back a giggle, Timothy ran over to the book shelf and pulled out his Bible and replied, "It's Holy Bible!  Have you ever seen a real one?  You can look up verses in here and everything!" and then he proceeded to look up some verses that he's memorized and told the kids that they can read this Bible any time they wanted because we have lots of them!  What a witness he was.  What a blessing.

Timothy's joy was undeniable!

I made tabs with their names and ages.

We did enjoy eating God's word in the form of a cake and we're so thankful for our sweet birthday boys, Timothy - 7 and Christopher - 5.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Maybe Mothers Shouldn't Multi-Task

Seriously, I'm thinking after today that maybe mothers should NOT try to multi-task.  Well, maybe I should just be speaking to myself.  Ever have one of those days, moms?  (Please agree with me here!)

I may as well just jump right in and tell you why I'm saying this.  No need to beat around the bush (since it burned up at McDonald's anyway.  Hahaha!  Ok.  It's late at night and my humor is lacking.) so I'll just tell you what happened.

This afternoon I decided to freeze corn so I got all my supplies ready, had the water on to boil and started filling the kitchen sink with cold water to stop the blanching once the corn was done.  I couldn't remember how long I was supposed to blanch the corn, so I came over to the computer and looked up to find out how long I should keep it boiling.  (By the way, this site is really good for telling you where to find pick your own produce as well as telling you how to preserve just about anything!  Check it out sometime, when you're not doing anything else.)

As I was sitting there reading how to freeze corn and getting totally sidetracked by all the pictures and links and suggestions, I remember thinking once that I should turn off the water at the sink.  Being distracted by the discussion on enzymes and blanching, that thought of the water didn't cross my mind again.  In the back of my mind, however, I heard a fountain of sorts, you know, running water in a continuous stream that is quite soothing - uh - when it's out in nature ... but not when you realize that it is coming from your kitchen sink and is now flowing across your kitchen floor!!  Oh boy!  Did I ever jump up fast!  Water was absolutely everywhere!  I've never, ever in my life seen a kitchen sink overflow, but I'll tell you right now, I wish that I could still say that.

Christopher, my little helper, ran to get the mop and did a great job (for an almost five year old) of cleaning it up.  There was way too much water, though, and both of us worked and worked at it to keep the water from going much further.  What a disaster.  What a mess!  All because I was trying to do more than one thing at a time.

And by the way, I never did find out how long I was supposed to blanch the corn because by that point, those cobs had been boiling away for quite some time!  I froze it anyway, so we'll see if it really makes a difference in the long run.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Earthquakes and Fires

I heard that there was an earthquake today.  Some people around here said that they felt it, even though the epicenter was in Virginia.  Supposedly the ground was swaying a bit here and people felt "wobbly" for a few seconds. 

I was trying to figure out why I didn't feel anything.  Nothing.  Well, maybe I did, but not really. I'm not sure.  We were at McDonald's for an after-blueberry-picking treat with Auntie Jo and as we were sitting there I heard a terrible rumbling sound and the ground was shaking but that was from the guy in the front of the store who was using a jackhammer to rip up the old sidewalk.  The thought briefly crossed my mind (seriously!) as I watched a girl pull through the drive-thru that I wonder if she thought that was an earthquake.  Hahaha, my tired mind thought.  Why would anyone think there would be an earthquake around here?!

We finished our ice cream cones and headed out to the van.  As I opened my door to get in, a thin trail of smoke in the mulch of the flowerbed next to me caught my eye.  I stuck my foot out and tried to stamp it out, thinking that some irresponsible customer must have thrown a cigarette butt in the flowers.  The funny thing was the every place that I tapped my shoe, another blackened and burned spot appeared.  I figured that I should probably warn the employees inside that there was something smoldering outside so I went in and told the teenagers behind the counter that there was smoke coming from the flowerbeds.  (Those oblivious teenagers, I thought.  They won't take me seriously.) 

I went back out to the van and an older manager came out to check it out.  She stamped it a bit and then said, "Thanks.  We'll keep an eye on it." and went back inside.  I finished buckling in the kids and turned around to see a modern day version of Moses' burning bush next to me!  The whole thing was in flames now!  The mulch, the flowers, and a bush!  Smoke was billowing up in the air and into the van.

I went running in, pushing past the long line of people and shouted, "There is a fire out in the flowerbed!  You need to get it out!"  The teenagers stared at me blank-faced and then repeated, "There's a fire in the flowerbeds" to which the manager shouted from the drive-thru window area, "I know.  I told her I'd keep an eye on it."  I shouted again (across the whole restaurant), "NO!  THERE IS A FIRE IN THE FLOWERBEDS!  The whole thing is on fire!"  They really didn't seem to care, so I went back out, along with a few more customers who could see the evidence and watched as the area was totally going up in flames.  A man ran to his truck and pulled out a huge fire extinguisher and started to blast the fire when the manager came out with, get this, a cup of water to pour on the fire! Another employee came out chowing down on her McChicken Wrap and a third stood there and said, "Wow.  There really IS a fire."  Well, DUH!  Do you think I'd go running in there shouting like a maniac that there was a fire out there if it wasn't true?! 

By this time, a few more customers had grabbed fire extinguishers from their vehicles and were spraying the whole thing down while the manager waited until they had finished and then she bravely walked over and dumped her little cup of water in the middle of the smoke. POOF! By this point, Jo and I were no longer sympathetic, but laughing with great amusement at this manager.  This McDonald's had just been remodeled and the finishing touches were being made.  They spent a pretty penny on this place and she wanted to put out a flowerbed fire with a little cup of water.  We pulled out and backed away and she impishly glanced at me and mouthed, "Thanks."  No problem, Ma'am, but the next time someone yells to you that there is a fire in front of your new store, you should probably take it seriously.

And so sometime in the middle of all that ruckus, there was an earthquake.  And I missed it.  Sigh.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

And Now ... the Rest of the Story

You don't think that the incident we had with the carrier on the way home from Virginia was the end of the story, do you? Well, read on, dear friends. Read on.

Fred and I left the carrier on top of the van because we're going to the cottage this weekend for a week and we decided to keep it on instead of taking it on and off. WELL......I was coming back home from a visit with my friend Jenny today when all of a sudden I heard flapping around on top and saw the straps that were once securely tucked inside the carrier now flapping behind me. A transport truck was flashing it's lights at me so I pulled over on the 401 as soon as I could and saw that the other lock had now lifted from it's secure position and the straps that were stored INSIDE were now hanging outside and nothing was secure anymore.

I climbed up and tried to pull the straps back into place to maybe secure it again when a truck stopped in front of me. I heard the beeping of it backing up and thought, "This is the last thing that I need right now - some trucker telling me what to do and trying to 'help' me." Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the guy get out of his truck and run over to me. Can you believe, it was Chris, Jenny's husband!! He had seen me on the side of the road and thought, Look at that. Someone else is having problems with their carrier (because he had read my blog last night and laughed about it, so said Jenny), I'd better stop. Once he stopped, he saw that it was ME! How amazing that God allowed HIM to be on the 401 at that exact moment! Chris climbed right up there and buckled that thing down like it was no big deal at all.  I couldn't have gotten it strapped up without him there. What an amazing blessing to have him on that 401, see me, and then stop just when I needed it.!!  Thank you, Lord!

Now, I hope that this really is the end of the story.
Anyone want a car carrier?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Well, THAT Was A New Experience!

Saturday morning our family left the Eastern Mennonite University campus in Harrisonburg, Virginia and headed north on 81 toward our afternoon destination of Syracuse, New York.  Fred and I were recapping our week at Eastern Camp and had only gone about 15 or 20 miles when we heard a whump - THUMP on the top of the van.  I didn't recognize the sound, so I glanced behind us to see if we had hit something on the highway.  OH NO!!!!  What I saw sure surprised me and we all started shouting as Fred tried to find a place to safely pull over.  Somehow our car top carrier had opened up and our clothes were ALL over the road!  I still have visions of cars and semis driving over our clothes, dragging some of them down the road and blowing others into the ditches.  Unfortunately, Christopher also saw his sock get blown down the road and run over by several cars. 

When we were finally able to pull over, we noticed two cars in both northbound lanes stop and the traffic backed up behind them.  As we backed up, the kind people in those vehicles had jumped out and were gathering up our stuff.  One lady ran over to me with a handful of my dirty underwear, handed it to me and we both just burst out laughing at the awkwardness of that brief moment! 

As Fred was running across the lanes gathering up as much as he could and the other helpful strangers did their grab-and-runs, we noticed a van had stopped ahead of us and was backing up across the now-empty lanes to our side of the road.  I glanced up and recognized the license plate of our friends Gary and Darlene who had left Camp later than they had hoped - but designed perfectly by God to be on that long stretch of highway at exactly the time we needed them!  Gary helped Fred fix the carrier enough to keep temporarily until we could get to an exit to buy a bungee cord or strap to tie around the carrier and I got to decompress for a few moments with Darlene as we talked about how embarrassing this was, yet how thankful we were that it was just a few garbage bags of dirty laundry that had exploded all over the road.

We think that what happened was that a burst of air had somehow managed to get between the top and bottom lids of the carrier and just sucked it open, ripping the locks and clamps off of their "secured" positions.  It must have just been a freak thing because Fred said that he had double checked the security before we left the parking lot.  All I know is that it was a shock and we're thankful that God protected us through that whole ordeal!

Poor Christopher, though.  He was so traumatized by that sock that he saw that he wept and wept for about 15 minutes straight until he finally fell into an exhausted sleep.  Timothy wanted to know when we would go back to pick up the rest of the items that were in the ditch on the other side of the road and we had to convince him that it was ok that they were left there and that we would never see them again.  We did our best to reassure the boys that we can replace socks and Sunday shirts and underwear, but we could never replace Daddy if it had been him or Mommy if it had been me.  We had so much to be thankful for since it was ONLY dirty clothes and not someone in our family or another person. 

The rest of our trip was quite uneventful, but we will never forget that experience, that's for sure!  It also didn't help that it was another hot and humid day in Virginia.  Running around on hot asphalt with your adrenaline pumping at extreme levels does NOT help for remaining cool and collected!  We are now home, all clothes are washed and it looks like only one pair of shorts has been destroyed by tire marks.  We are missing some articles of clothing, but nothing that can't be replaced.  God is good and we are safely home!  HOME SWEET HOME!

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Treasure Hunt Birthday

We had decided several years ago that when the boys turned 8 years old, they could have a "real" birthday party, so this year Stephen asked to have a Treasure Hunt birthday. It was such a fun idea and the kids LOVED it! Bonus for me: it wasn't that hard to plan, execute and clean up either!

We decided to celebrate twice, though, because we babysit several children after school and Stephen wanted all of them to participate as well as his best friends from church. I'm thinking that maybe it was a good idea to do it twice. That way I had a trial run the first time and fine tuned it to run MUCH more smoothly the second time! I have a year and a half to convince Timothy, though, that two parties is not only unnecessary, but it will also be non-existent. We painted and then decorated treasure chests as part of the party favors for the kids to take home. After each game we played, the prize was another "treasure" for them to put in their boxes: chocolate coins, candy necklaces, Hershey's kisses, and $100 paper napkins that were supposed to be used, but the kids all wanted to save them and put them in their boxes!

At birthday party #1, we had X Marks the Spot cupcakes. Inside each cupcake was an M&M treasure. So simple, but such a hit with the kids!

We also had several treasure hunts. This is one of the teams reading their next clue after finding this one on a jar of jam in the refrigerator.

Here are two of the treasure chests that the kids made.

And here is the REAL birthday cake! A treasure chest FULL of treasures!

Wouldn't this tempt any child?! They loved this cake and had such fun helping to decorate it! (Thank you for the great idea!) Stephen's joy and excitement was worth every moment spent preparing for this special party of his. I think that what touched me the most, though, was the way he handled himself and was very kind and considerate and gracious the whole time. I was surprised at his maturity because I had seriously thought I'd have a wild and crazy kid to deal with at his one and only "real" birthday party. I guess he's growing up. Sniff. Sniff. Sniff. Just yesterday he was a teeny tiny preemie and today he's showing the beginnings of becoming a fine, young man. Thank you, Lord, for my precious son!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Coffee has been on my mind lately. I never drank coffee until I was about 30 and my co-worker, Margaret, would start off her day in our little office with the most wonderfully, aromatic cup of coffee. The folks at the office would tease me since I was the only n0n-coffee drinker so one day I set out to prove to them that I just did NOT like coffee! Well, I lost that proof. I fell in love with it! We never really had coffee growing up at home. Dad was a tea drinker. He'd fill that green, insulated cup with black tea, saving 1/4 of an inch for his sugar and milk to fit in. It would be swimming over the rim of his tall cup and then he'd complain when we'd shake the table and make his tea spill. Mom would make coffee VERY rarely when we had a party or guests, but not often enough to have us get used to drinking it. So, I didn't grow up with coffee, but I sure love it now!

During the month of March, the coffee king restaurant, Tim Hortons, had it's Roll Up the Rim contest going - buy a medium, large or extra large hot beverage and roll up the rim to see if you won a prize of cash, bikes, barbeques, cars or free coffee and donuts. Or the most frequent "prize", as my friend Chris always says, "Tim Horton's is so nice to me. They always let me 'play again'." Yep. When I played Roll Up the Rim, we mostly won "Please Play Again" to the point that when we would drive past a Tim Hortons, Christopher would say, "Mommy, do you want to go get a "Please Play Again?" Over the course of the month and a half that Tim's had this contest going, we ended up winning three free donuts and a free coffee. The boys were thrilled to choose their own donuts and share a hot cocoa from these winnings and we felt as if we had won a lottery!

Other random coffee comments:

Stephen came home from school a few weeks ago and was so excited! He asked, "Mommy, have you ever smelled coffee beans before?!" Well, as a matter of fact, I have. Why? "They smell sooooo good! But I don't like the taste. Maybe some day I will."

During a conversation about the definition of caffine, Timothy says, "When my next tooth falls out, I want to drink a cup of coffee before bed." Why, I ask. "Because I want to stay awake and see if the tooth fairy is real, or if it really is just you."

While sipping on a lovely cup of vanilla flavored coffee recently, Stephen again commented on how good my coffee smelled. I offered him a sip, but he refused with shock on his face. "But I'm not 10!" he said. 10? What does that have to do with anything? Well, I guess someone told him that you weren't allowed to drink coffee until you were 10 and he was so shocked that I would offer it to him when he was still seven! He ended up politely telling me that he'll wait until he's 10 and until then, he'll just smell my coffee beans.

Even though I enjoy a delicious cup of coffee, I am happy to say that I am not addicted to it either. Sometimes days go by before I realize that I haven't had any, yet other days, I know that if I had a whole pot here, I'd probably drink it all non-stop. I'm the only coffee drinker in the house, so it's not uncommon for me to go without making any for long periods of time. Besides, for some reason, it's always more enjoyable to drink that hot cup of coffee when you're sitting with a friend anyway. Anyone want to come over for a cup of coffee?

Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Few Thoughts on Aging

I always had a love for older people. Maybe it was because of all the time we spent at Angela's as teenagers (when she was in her 80's and 90's). Maybe it was because, growing up in East Akron, there were no age boundaries in our church. We were friends with the youngest, the oldest and everyone in between. I love talking with elderly people, asking them questions, cracking jokes with them, getting emotional with them, just sitting and watching them! When I was getting ready to make a decision as to what my life's career path would be, I knew that it would be either elementary education or geriatrics....working with either the young, or the old. I choose to work with children because I didn't think I could handle becoming so attached to someone, only to know that it was a matter of time before they would die. My thoughts on aging are changing now. I have been forced to be an active participant in the struggles of the elderly - forced, meaning that no matter how hard you may try to pretend that the aging process is not affecting you or your loved ones, it truly is a reality. Fred's dad came back from a vacation in Phoenix where he was with my sister-in-law and her husband for several weeks. We were hoping that it would be a warm, sunny and relaxing time for all of them. It was not easy to hear Esther tell about the struggles they had with Dad while they were gone. It was tough for him to walk, to move around, to use bathrooms that were too small for him and a caregiver to occupy. The hardest thing though, was to hear that Dad didn't have memories about their place in Phoenix. It seems that there were a few moments of some recognition, but for the most part, he didn't remember that this was a place that was special for him and for Mom, and that they were there every year for many years. I was with Dad on Wednesday afternoon for several hours and I thought again about how helpful it would be if we could start our lives out as old people and work our way backwards so that NOW I could have the knowledge of how to serve my aged father-in-law the best. If I had already been old, I would know whether or not he appreciates my constant chattering or if he would like his shoulders rubbed. Maybe he would like me to tell stories of the kids or maybe he would like me to talk about places that he had been as a child. Maybe I would recognize what truly brings him joy and what would please him the most when I visit. I don't know these things, so I guess and sometimes I guess correctly and sometimes I realize that I'm heading down the wrong path and I just shut my mouth and sit quietly with him watching the birds at his birdfeeder. What I do know, is that I am learning to give him greater respect and to keep his dignity. I try to put myself in his shoes and I treat him the way that I hope my children will treat me some day. It seems as if most of the time that I am with him, he doesn't have a clue who I am (he knows that I am connected to him, but I don't think he knows how or why), but I still want him to know that he is loved and respected and has worth in his old age. And those are my latest thoughts on aging.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Cheap Entertainment

This is what happens when you give little boys a digital camera to play with so that you can have a decent conversation with other adults who are visiting. You never know what they will think is important to capture!

I must say, it certainly was a cheap form of entertainment and kept us all laughing afterward! Who knows? Maybe the photography gene truly is present in this family, too!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Potatoes, Potatoes, Potatoes

The past couple of Tuesdays I've been cutting tons and tons of potatoes! I've been spending a couple of hours at a time cutting bins of potatoes, and now this week I also got to cut celery and green and purple cabbage as well. I cut purple cabbage this week until my hands were stained as if I had just cleaned ten pounds of elderberries! Why am I doing this? A friend of mine introduced me to the Ontario Christian Gleaners in Cambridge, Ontario. Wow! I'm addicted now, I think.

If you have time, poke around the website to see what it's all about, but in a nutshell, a few years ago a Christian from here in Ontario heard about a similar organization in British Columbia and decided to come back home and establish an Ontario-based distribution center (or centre, since it IS Canadian). Two and a half years ago, this operation opened up here in Cambridge. The Gleaners receive surplus fruits and vegetables from nearby farmers, food production facilities and food distributors (in places like Toronto) and volunteers come on a daily basis to sort through the bins and pallets of produce, gleaning what they can from the donated food. This is then sent through a chopping machine that dices it fairly small and then it's spread on a conveyor that goes through a massive dehydrator that dries the produce. It's stored in bins until there is enough to package into bags of "soup" that is then ready to be distributed to places in need like Haiti, many African communities, Guatemala, Peru, Mexico, Romania, etc. One bag of dehydrated vegetable soup can feed 100 people. These bags are very lightweight, so many of them can be shipped at a time at a very low cost.

I wish that all of you could see this production! I am amazed every time I go and I just can't get enough of it! As I stand at my table, cutting my bins of vegetables and chatting with all the other volunteers around me, I can't stop wishing that Grandpa could have seen this! He would have been in there and involved in absolutely every aspect of this operation! And he probably would have had a thousand contacts for even more donated materials and equipment and volunteers. This week, there was an 80 year old gentleman standing across from me who reminded me so much of Grandpa. He knew this person and that person and knew where each piece of equipment came from and who designed it and where they got the materials donated to make it. He found out I was from Ohio and he told me that he was just there last week buying some milking cows. He said, "I was in a little, little town in Ohio that you probably never heard of before." I told him to try me. He had been in Berlin! Ha! Small world!

Anyway, this blog post isn't turning out like I wanted it to. I am so overwhelmed with the magnitude of this little endeavor of the Ontario Christian Gleaners and I wanted to somehow get that awe across in my writing, but it's just not happening. I think it must be similar to what John felt when he tried to talk about Heaven. Although his words are beautiful and create anticipation for us, they probably sounded like just words to him since he had a greater glimpse of that reality. I just can't describe to you the blessing that I feel going in to that building every week, never knowing what I'm going to be digging through or cutting up, but in my own little small way, I am helping to feed some child or some mother somewhere who may feel that there is no more hope...until they are blessed with this nutritious soup that someone far away prepared for them. It reminds me of the story of the man walking along a beach that had thousands of starfish washed up from the ocean. He saw someone bending down and throwing one starfish at a time back into the water. When he stopped and asked the man why he was doing it, seeing that there were so many that it really wouldn't make a difference if a few were thrown back in, the man stooped, picked up another one and threw it in and said, "It made a difference to that one...and to that one... and to that one." I cannot feed all the hungry people in the world. I cannot go to places like Haiti or Ghana or Peru to help feed the hungry. I CAN, however, spend a few precious hours a week sorting through rejected potatoes or crushed celery or sometimes slimey cabbage to glean food for the other children of God that have none.
If it were not for the Ontario Christian Gleaners, this produce would have been dumped and tilled under and just thrown out! Honestly, most of the vegetables that I have worked on are in better condition than the ones that I buy in the grocery store!!

If you are ever able to volunteer a few hours at the Gleaners, I greatly encourage you to do so! There is so much love poured into that work and God has really blessed this organization as it blesses so many, many lives! For you out of towners come for a visit during the week sometime and I will take you with me for a morning of gleaning. It will change your life.
Now, since I've worked on so many potatoes and cabbage this week, I'm off to make some vegetable soup for supper tonight! It just seems like a good idea today.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Cultured? (Only if this reference is to something that has soured)

Recently another stay-at-home-mom friend and I decided to take advantage of a free noontime concert at a local university that was open to the community as well. The website said that it was to be a piano duet that day, and I was really looking forward to this! It has been a long time since I've done anything like this, so I had really geared myself up to getting a little taste of 'culture' again!

Unfortunately, our parking meter gave us a bit of a problem so we were a tad bit late getting into the recital hall and we had to wait outside the doors until the first movement was over and we could slip in. I couldn't really hear much from out there. The pianos were muffled and I wasn't really able to follow any type of melody or anything, but it was probably because we were not yet sitting in front of the pianists, enveloping ourselves in their music.

Finally there was a break in the music and we quickly slipped into our seats near the front, anxiously awaiting this culture that we were going to experience! For the next forty minutes I sat there mezmerized ... and dumbfounded ... and confused ... and terribly amused. I should have clued in that this was NOT what I was expecting when the lead pianist was leaning into her piano and then bellowed some sick sounding noise in at the strings as we were walking in. Then she started banging on the piano and tapping it, but not with any type of rhythm that I could pick out. I honestly thought that something was wrong with her piano and this was her way of dealing with it - not so professional - if you would have asked me.

It just got weirder from there. Looking at the program a bit closer, my friend pointed out that it was improvisation and the two pianists seemed to just go at it in their own little worlds. Nothing made sense to me. It just sounded like a bunch of noise thrown out at itself and banged around until it finally fell onto the dusty stage floor and got kicked under the pianos. To top it all off, there was an elderly gentleman sitting on the other side of the recital hall who seemed to have nasal and breathing issues like you wouldn't believe! Oh*my*goodness! This guy's breathing was soooo distracting that I wanted to just burst out laughing! The "music" was hard enough to concentrate on, but then to have this man's consistent, obstructive-sounding breathing echoing across the seats was just too much for me!

I didn't want to say anything to my friend because she does know a lot more about music than my measly four years of failed piano lessons and four years of very elementary alto sax lessons. If she was enjoying this, I didn't want to let her know that I was about ready to die in there! It was unbelievable. Since I couldn't focus on any of the musical elements of the pianists' work, I just took in my surroundings. I noticed the paneling behind the pianos and how they tended to stick out and wondered if the patterning of the pieces was done on purpose to reflect the sounds more appropriately. I noticed the layer of dirt on the stage floor and wondered why someone didn't take a quick swipe of a dust mop before the concert. I noticed that one pianists' clothes didn't match in the least and that the other was wearing jeans, and Birkenstocks with SOCKS! I noticed that people were getting up and leaving and we were still sitting there! Sheesh!

That's when my friend leaned over and whispered, "If we hadn't have come in late, I so would have been out of here long ago!" Ha! The truth was out! She didn't enjoy it either! That sure relieved me because I didn't know how I was going to have a conversation about this ... this ... this noisy stuff that I was hearing! I could hardly wait to get out of that place, but I remembered that I was being cultured, so I sat and patiently waited until they were done so I could politely clap and then leave. The audience all must have felt the same way because the applause died out so quickly and everyone jumped up to leave and the two pianists didn't even have the chance to come back out for a second bow. That's quite alright with me. I needed to get out of there before I lost it royally!

So, yes. I feel that I was cultured because I sat in a university recital hall, in a plush, maroon seat that folded down, but the "music" was so sour to my ears that I left feeling quite cultured in my stomach.

Next week is a string and piano duet. I think I'd like to try it again and give this culture thing a second chance.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

My Friend

My heart is heavy today. I received some very sad news about my best friend from high school yesterday. According to her sister, my friend's little daughter found her yesterday morning after she had passed away. There is all kind of speculation as to what happened but I'm not here to spread rumors or tell breath-taking stories. All I know is that my friend is gone at the age of 43, leaving behind three children, one grandchild and a lifetime full of friends and I am sad. Even though I haven't had much contact with her at all over the past 25 years, there will still be a hole there where my friend used to be.

I know most of you don't know her, but that's ok. I'm really just writing this for myself because I'm so sad to think that I will never have the opportunity to spend time with her again. It was so sudden and no one was prepared for this. Madelyn was beautiful, intelligent and knew what it meant to be a friend. I sure will miss her.