Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Quickly Checking In

This will be really quick. I am in the final days before graduation. Please pray I don't go whacko on my family. I'm actually feeling pretty good about it. I hope the decorations turn out as nicely in person as they are in my head. I am perennially plaqued by a feeling of "it's never enough" or "so and so could do it better" or "does this look really bad and no one's saying so?" I gotta get over it. Mortify it would be better yet.

Tomorrow night is our Senior Dinner at Aldo's, followed by dessert at Vaccaro's (sp? No time to look it up.) So excited about this meaniningful (and delicious) memory.

This past Friday was our Presentation Night for the year's end of co-op. It was so special. Bless Sarah and two gals named Elisabeth and Maggie for helping finish my gallery at 5:59. Doors opened at 6 ! I'll post pics next week.

Went to a memorial service today. I was humbled, once again, by the example of one lady who "made family feel like royalty and friends feel like family." She was a fabulous baker who loved to bake a special cake for each family member's birthday. One son requested coconut cake for his birthday and teased "it should be made from fresh coconut. " Anne took it seriously, bought a fresh coconut, and banged it open on the driveway, then scooped and shredded the coconut herself. There were recipes of other baked goods at a special baker's rack display near the casket. I asked her husband, Carl, "Where's the coconut cake recipe?" He said, "Oh, that's two pages long and takes two hours to make. I didn't figure anyone would want that." I told him that an hour and a half of it would be spent banging open the fresh coconut on the driveway! (I can just see my neighbors now. "She's really gone nuts this time--literally!"


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Horrified and Grief-stricken

I just read about the tragic death of Steven Curtis Chapman's 5-year-old daughter, Maria Sue.

She was struck and killed by an SUV in her driveway.

Her older, teen-aged brother was driving the vehicle and didn't see her. Several family members witnessed the horrible scene.

I can't imagine a worse pain. Not only losing one child, but having to console and counsel the guilt-ridden older brother.

Please pray with me for the whole Chapman family.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

You're Invited

To What: A graduation ceremony

For: Our son, Stephen

When: Friday, May 30th at 6:30 pm.

Where: Ask me if you don't know

Monday, May 19, 2008

Entertaining Angels--or Just Strangers?

A bizarre thing happened at our house this past Saturday.

First, Paul comes home from an errand around 11 a.m and says, "There's a sign out there that says 'Wedding [and next door neighbors' address]." I said, "You're kidding. Who's getting married?" I couldn't think how you'd get a wedding party into the backyard of our neighbor's, let alone guests. Besides, wouldn't their daughter have said something to me? I think so. It took awhile to realize it wasn't their daughter getting married, but them. In their fifties, they've been living together for over six years. It's a second marriage for both of them. They're not the church wedding type. There were white balloons on their mailbox and white ribbons on their Ford wagon, which (from here) looked a bit like toilet paper.

I thought it was a shame that their wedding plans coincided with our community yard sale, because there was one right across their driveway. A ski machine, a pair of old lamps, a mish-mash of clothes hanging from a line in the garage. Oh yeh, that's the sight I'd want to my guests to see on my Big Day.

By 3:15 the guests starting clomping down the street toward Cindy's. I was trying to take a nap. We had been working hard to get the house clean from top to bottom in one day. We weren't quite finished but needed a break. I had my cleaning clothes on. Believe it or not, that meant a green top and a brown skirt and two different socks. I hadn't showered. I'd do that after a snooze.

If I could snooze, that is. Every stinkin' car had a remote that had to beep when locked. Every guest had to clip-clop down the street in their heels, bearing gifts for Mitch and Cindy. Sleep seemed only a dream.

Then I see a woman about 60 years old coming down my driveway. She's got on a shiny beige dress and is carrying a big pink gift bag. I'm eyeing her from the bedroom window. I hope Paul answers the door or she realizes her error before ringing our bell.

Paul is in the basement with Joel, TV up loud. He's not a door answerer anyway; what was I thinking? Ben was sound asleep in his room. Stephen and Sarah were in Mexico. I was just going to ignore the door. I did lock it, didn't I?

Ding-dong. I jump out of bed and rush to Ben's room. "Wake up! There's a lady at the door. She's at the wrong house! She thinks the wedding is here! Go tell her it's next door!" Poor Ben was in a stupor, and didn't even roll over.

I was panicked and mildly irritated, because I now saw people following her down the drive. Mob psychology. Then I hear the door open!

"Hello? " and clip-clop of high heels on my foyer floor. I look at myself--hair a mess, clothes not matched, and I'm frozen stiff with fear. "Hello?" she repeats. "Anybody home?"

Next thing I hear is the door closing behind her. I rush to the front window, crouching out of sight, and hear "Hmm. Must be next door."

"Ma, did you just go in that house? The wrong house?"

"Yeh, the door was unlocked but nobody was home."

"Ma, I can't believe you did that!"

Neither can I.

When they were out of sight, I went downstairs to survey what the lady had just seen as she expected to be at a wedding. Some dishes in the sink. The vacuum parked in the hall, mail on the kitchen table, and library returns on the counter. Perfect wedding decor.

Did I just (fail to) entertain a stranger, or an angel unaware?

I think it was just a stranger. She took the gift with her.

I crawled back into bed, having resisted the temptation to shoot secret pictures from a back bedroom. I noticed that the yard sale was over and then I fell asleep in the delicious May afternoon air.

When I awoke, Joel told me he had seen some of the wedding from the deck. "There was a book guy saying a bunch of stuff," he informed me.

"You mean a preacher?"


And then I saw for myself, pretending to straighten our deck chairs. Silver-haired Mitch in a tux, outgoing Cindy in a breezy silk brown dress, holding ivory roses and mingling with their guests around the pool. It was a lovely ceremony, I'm sure . And lovely decorations outside and in. Probably had no dishes in the sink, vacuum in the hall, or library returns on the counter.

Friday, May 16, 2008


The kids and I love to take the covertible out with the top down.

This week, while Sarah and Stephen are in Mexico, I have a sweet set of keys and a Saab story to tell.

A few days ago Joel and I hopped into my MidlifeMobile and headed over to Broom's Blooms for ice cream. He "yee-hawed" and "woo-hooed" for two miles with wind in his hair, sun on his cheeks. Then he fell asleep in the car.

I pulled into the long gravel driveway of the country dairy shoppe anyhow, parked along the cornfield, picked up my latest read and just enjoyed the sunshine. I remember thinking, "I am so blessed. I am not in a rush. I am not thinking of the next thing to do. I am not leaving the memory-making to a babysitter. This day, this moment, this child, this age is so precious. Can't it all just last forever?"

When Joel woke up a half hour later, he was staring straight at knee-high corn.

"I'm hot," he said, bewildered. "Where are we?"

"At Broom's Blooms," I said. "Are you thirsty?"

"I'm MORE than thirsty!" he exlaimed. I was actually more than hungry, having skipped lunch, so I ordered a delicious special of Brunswick stew, artisan cheese, fresh baked roll, and apple slices. We shared a lemonade and he got the very small (ahem! it's more like a triple scoop) orange chocolate chip ice cream on a sugar cone. I fenagled a few wonderful bites from him, but he pretty well polished it off.

As we left, I took his soft little six-year old hand in mine and thought, This is one of those memories I just want to savor forever. Times of refreshing. Times of just being a mom with her little boy who has dirt under his fingernails, a band of sweat under his chin, and a smile as wide as Texas on his face.

Again I asked myself, "Can't it all just last forever?"

Speaking of Compliments...

I owe someone a public apology. Apparently he was trying to give me a straightforward compliment on a meal I had made a little while back. But I took it wrong based on the sequence in which he delivered it.

I thought that when he asked,"Did you make this?" that he was slighting me and then backpedaling.

Not at all. He actually meant it looked and tasted like restaurant quality food, and was duly impressed. Of course he didn't express it so plainly on the spot as he did after reading my blog post about it, when I "told the whole world" he doesn't know how to give a forthright compliment.

I'm sorry, son. I shouldn't be so sensitive.

And thank you for appreciating my cooking. I try.

Student Melts My Heart

Mark Twain once said, "I can live three days on one compliment."

I've got him beat. I'm living on one said eight days ago.

I assigned my students the task of making their own name plate (or as one girl called it "a license plate") to go next to their display at our gallery on Presentation Night next week.

Before giving them paper and markers, I explained what I meant by "name plate."

"If you've ever been to an art museum, " I said to the second graders, "you will remember that there are little signs with the painter's name close to his or her artwork. For example, you might see one with great artist Claude Monet on it, or Grandma Moses, or Auguste Renoir."

"Or Miss Zoanna!" said little Eric.

Friday Funnie

Joel says at least one thing a day to crack me up.
This was it yesterday.

Monday, May 12, 2008

How Was Your Mother's Day....Really?

For those who are discouraged by Mother's Day, let me say I've been there so many times I can't count. Not this year, though. It was quite pleasant despite having only half my children here and knowing that my dear friend Sandy Barranco was sharing the date of May 11th as the second anniversary of her son Tim's death.

I'm sort of glad our pastors don't preach Mother's Day "sermons" any more. They backfired on me as tools of encouragement. No matter how hard I tried to glean the best of the message, I would walk away feeling like I was far from the Proverbs 31 woman, or the gal in Luke 2 who pondered all these things in her heart. (I tend to ponder out the mouth and get in trouble).
I'm sure an unhealthy dose of self-pity, coupled with Satan's relentless accusations did nothing to help matters.

Anyway, how WAS your M Day?

Friday, May 09, 2008

A Cool Room

Sarah finally posted pictures of her room. It's one of my favorite places in the world. I'm going to miss its chief occupant this week. She'll be in Mexico.

Thursday, May 08, 2008


Lego Cake.
Yes, Joel turned six oh...um...on Valentine's Day. Guess my uploading is a bit behind the times. Ever been tempted to eat a grey cake? Me neither, but the boy wanted true Lego colors, so that's what we attempted.

He embellished it with real Legos until I'm sure there was more plastic than food on the platter. He loved it. More importantly, he loved making it with me. Three hours to make a cake that was devoured in three minutes. Was it worth it? You betcha. The little guy stood on a chair next to me while I got the green icing the perfect Lego green and every now and then just said, "I love you, Mom." Can't beat it.

Love Stamps for Soldiers. These were made by some of my young art students who have developed a soft spot in their hearts for the military.

Volcano in the making. (Vinegar plus baking soda equals a fizzy "explosion.") I didn't have regular vinegar, so I used balsamic vinaigrette. Joel ended up seeing --and smelling--culinary lava! Why is it that I never get tired of this experiment? Not that I'll ever understand chemistry, but some things you can't explain just make it that much more fun. Maybe it's why I homeschool: I just can't get enough learning, but I have no ambition to get a PhD. :) Plus I get naptime even after kindergarten.

Hummingbird pillowcase I sewed for a soldier to go with the hot pink flat sheet and white fitted sheet. I also made a card that says "Sleep Tight" to thank the recipient for making it easy for me to sleep tight in America because of what she's doing in Iraq.

A trio of feathered friends enjoy the food I put out for them. Every morning as I have my coffee and read my Bible, little birdies descend on this basket just outside my front porch window.

Sarah's adorable math lesson for the preschoolers she taught in her field placement this past semester. The objective was to teach kids
to recognize the numerals and count the objects.
She painted the discs, adhered magnetic strips to them (with magnets also on the board). She has 12 little chicks (a kiddie favorite), 6 soft feathers,
7 clothespins and other tactile goodies. The girl was born to teach, I say. (Click to enlarge the photo. It's so cute.)

hese are the flowers that an anonymous friend sent. To this day, I'm mystified (and nearly misty-eyed) remembering how this bouquet reminded me of God's eternal love for me. Thank you again, whoever you are! (Pardon the tablecloth. Looks like I was so excited to photograph my flowers, I didn't notice I'd messed it up.)

That's all for now, folks. Maybe I'll post more on the 4th of July.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Finals and Tidbits

Please pray Sarah today. At 9:35 this morning, she has her last final. It's in American History, her least favorite subject of all she's taking. She's very nervous. It's not one of her easier classes, either. I quizzed her over and over last night. Hey, I learned some stuff I never knew--stuff that happened in MY lifetime that I never paid attention to. She feels a lot more confident now than she did before our study session.

Ben has 3 more finals--astronomy and film history and accounting. Please pray for him also. He doesn't let on to his nervousness, but rather keeps a cool exterior. He's always been like that.

Stephen doesn't have finals, per se, but is writing a big research on John Owen. As of yesterday morning, his thesis included the life and theology of this great preacher. As of last night, he realized he had to pare the paper to just the life of Owen. So I don't know what time he went to bed after writing a full sentence outline (the formal kind) but he was dragging out of bed and doing that hobble to the carpool van where the feet are half in the shoes, mashing the backs of the heels. He told me yesterday a sad fact: John Owen had 11 children, but 10 of them died. Only one reached adulthood. Stephen's in love with the subject matter. (He reads theology till one a.m. and biographies of great preachers. I know it's abnormal, but terribly encouraging to us, his parents.)

Sarah and Stephen are leaving for Mexico on Saturday. I am already missing them terribly. It'll be a first Mother's Day without all my children here. I'm trying to keep my mind on helping them prepare for the trip without smothering them with my version of love!

Paul is working with his colleagues to come up with a new name for their company. Their specialty is mortgage protection. They insure financial institutions. Any suggestions?

Okay, so prayers for my three oldest kids are in order.

Also for me as this month is crazy, nutty busy with graduation plans, Mexico trip, art gallery prep for my co-op presentation night, slide shows for STephen and Joel's programs, and getting seeds planted.

My parents got back safely from Birobidjhan. They didn't want to leave Russia (I can relate!) as there are so many needs and so many people to minister to. My dad came home sick, and had complete laryngitis. They are still not readjusted to the time change and they are worn out, but it was good to see them last night and hear snippets from their trip. They came by to give Sarah an early b'day present.

Joel is recovered from his orange blood booboo.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

For Chesapeake Gals

Graduation is this month, and there are only three grads. The ceremony is out of our hands, but
the logistics of room set-up and food fall on the grads' parents (or more precisely, their moms).

I signed up to handle decorations, which I shouldn't have done. I can do small rooms, but large?
I don't always see Big Pictures very well, but since one of the three moms piped up to handle food arrangements and the other mom stayed quiet, Big Mouth here said, "I can do decorations."

This means deciding:
how many and what size tables
where to place them
what food goes on which tables
gift bag table with balloons
reserved row bows
and probably a whole mess of other stuff I haven't thought of and might not think of till the day before unless I have help.

You know me, I hate cliches, and so I'd like to do something that hasn't been done before. A different arrangement of tables that still allows for easy flow. (I'm not a fan of having a long line of tables pusched together because ppl assume they need to stand in line for food. NOt so, we want to provide lots of the same type of foods at different tables. I liked when Peggy had several round tables in the back of the room and each had the same foods--some snacks, some desserts.
And we want to call attention to the cake table because it's usually neglected and so much is left over. There are only 3 sets of parents, mind you, so whatever we spend has to split just 3 ways, not 14 or 20 or something minor.)

Got any suggestions? We are doinga Mexican theme since the kids will have just gotten back from their missions trip from Rancho 3M.

Also looking for a way to provide a backdrop on stage. Pictures of people on our current stage come back looking like they're in a black hole. Besides, three graduates could look really lonely up there. I am feeling less than peaceful about what I've signed up for. Why can't I just be one of those people who can sit at a table and not volunteer for something that's out of my league?????Will I EVER learn? So I do what I do do well--delegate!

I babble. Please help!

Forget the Alamo. Remember the Gorgonzola.

For my faithful two commenters on the last post, thank you for your solicited compliments! (Karen, don'tcha know I always carry a tote of frozen bacon, spinach, and pasta with me wherever I go, in the off chance someone like you spontaneously invites me to cook dinner?)

One thing I forgot to put in the write-up was that I used about a handful and a half of Gorgonzola cheese. I don't know how it's different from blue cheese, if it is, but it adds a nice flavor. Don't overdo it, though.

I'll go back now and add it to my post so I don't forget it next time I make it.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Did You Make This?

I got the ultimate compliment from my oldest child. He came home from work at around 9:30, sat down with a plate of leftover dinner, and during his third bite, asked me, "Did you make this?"

When I said, "Yes," he replied, "Mmm. It's really good."

Should I have said, "No, son, I bought it in Little Italy, came home, warmed it in on the stove to mess up a skillet, tossed it into a casserole dish to mess up another dish, and served it on dinner plates to make even more work"? Of course I made it!
But all I said was "thank you."

I'm sorry, my kneejerk reply was just a bit sarcastic, wasn't it? I am only saying that some people just need to learn how to give straight-out, honest-to-goodness, right-handed compliments.

I was really pleased, though, that he even said something. Often I have to suffice myself with knowing my family members have wolfed down the first plate and gone back for seconds. I'm sure I spend too much time wanting to be thanked, too much energy hoping for compliments from my crew, and too much self-pity when neither happens. I should have been really, really training them in gratitude when they were little.

Anyway, the recipe was my own, and I call it Mediterranean Mojo.

Before I forget, I'll jot it here for myself:

1 pound frozen bacon, put in hot skillet on low (covered) to thaw it (cuz I didn't have a choice)
1 bag baby spinach, rinsed
5 fillets of pollack (Aldi's bag) ...tilapia would work, too
prepared Mediterranean Mojo seasoning mix (got at BB's for 10 cents) I used only 1/2 of it
1/2 red onion, chopped
crumbled gorgonzola (blue) cheese or feta
1 pound penne pasta

Saute onion with bacon. When nearly crisp, remove bacon (reserving grease for later flavoring) to medium sized casserole dish.

Boil water for pasta.

Make up whole seasoning packet of Mojo, but only use half to start with. Pour Mojo mixture into skillet and top with fillets. Cover and steam about 3 minutes, then put spinach on top of fish. Steam both 2 more minutes. When fish is flaky, break it up in skillet, add other stuff back in. Cook till bacon's crisp. Toss in a handful of gorgonzola. (Easy does it.)

Meanwhile, cook pasta.

Taste the concoction. If needed, use some of that yummy bacon grease or a bit more of the Mojo you reserved or a pinch of cheese.

Drain pasta. Put in casserole dish. Serve to a hungry--really, really hungry--family and wait for the compliments! (Or pray God changes your heart not to serve for any recognition. You know, like me.)