Monday, October 31, 2011

A "Lame-o" Halloween

Our 9 year-old didn't want to go trick-or-treating this year. The reason, he said, is "Kids get all kooked up on sugar and then the adults can't take that." He couldn't think of a costume, and I wasn't gonna push it. It's okay. We have a had an extroardinarily busy couple of weeks anyway.

What's more, he developed a migraine in school after eating M&Ms.

Sarah was disappointed not to have a little brother as an excuse to get out and see a trail of cute kiddoes
dressed up.

But she carved a pumpkin for the fun of it.

I set it in a planter. Behind that, in the corner of the porch, is my
mode of transportation.

A few children came by for candy, as did some teen girls dressed
like tramps. It's hard to give candy to kids after they're
a certain age. I think 15 is a bit past the cut-off age, don't you?

So this October 31st came and went without much fanfare.
Sarah called it "lame-o."

But we do have a cute little pumpkin family, don't we?

Spent and Happy

Well, it's over. It's over and it was wonderful. The big 50th wedding anniversary bash that has consumed my every waking (and sometimes sleeping) hours, has come and gone . It was beautiful, everything my parents hoped for and then some. ("Some" surprises, too, like SNOW. In October, in Maryland, where pumpkins are supposed to be orange, not white!)

I will have pictures up soon. Right now I am spent in every way--physically, mentally, and financially! But oh so happy. I can't believe the time went so fast. Well, yes I can. Life moves at the speed of light when you're enjoying yourself. God anointed the time with His grace. I will say more about that later, but I must give Him the praise for orchestrating all things great and small to make the event something that rivals gold.

For now, I am going to take a much-needed nap. I wish I were on a beach in Belize, but that's another post for another day. Happy Halloween and for those up north, enjoy the great "meltdown."

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Twelve Thumbs Up: Sweet and Sour Beef Cubes

This recipe was sure a hit with my family of six. I bought the beef already in cubes ("in-cube-ated?) which--believe it or not--happened to be cheaper than buying it whole. Works for me! I put this meal together in literally SIX minutes because I had to run out the door at 3:30.

The meat takes three hours to cook at 250 degrees. I used a Dutch oven and covered it. It was ready and "tender yummy" at 6:30. When my famished son walked in the door from college, he exclaimed, "Man! What smells so good?!" Gotta love hearing that. What's more, when my other son, who claims not to like "sweet with meat" liked this meal so much he took leftovers to work.

I used two onions instead of three, but everything else I made according to the recipe except that I "eyeballed" the measurements in my haste. That's a big reason I prefer cooking over baking. Eyeballing is just fine!

FYI: I read a review of this and the author said it's not nearly as good in the crock pot as in the oven. Good to know.

I love trying new recipes, especially when they turn out to so tasty the family asks for it again--soon!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Hodgepodge: 5-Oh Edition

I'm gonna make this short (believe it or not). It's Joyce's 50th edition of the Hodgepodge. Not sure what edition I joined in on, but I have enjoyed it every week since. This is the year for jubilee, I guess, with all these "Fiftieth" celebrations--my hubby's big 5-Oh, my friend Laurie's big 50th, my parents' anniversary, and the 50 things I should be doing today instead of doing this post!

1. What gives you goosebumps?
In a bad way, the sound of a miter saw cutting lumber . In a good way, hearing stories of how twins feel each other's pain or sense the other's danger even when they're miles and miles apart.

2. Halloween-are you a lover or a hater? Okay, that sounds harsh...Halloween-yay or nay?
At one point I was quite the "nay" sayer, but I have morphed over the years. I do enjoy the creativity of some costumes and enjoy handing out candy or going trick-or-treating or to a Trunk or Treat. However, I am very much aware of the evil in the world and the work of Satan should not be glorified through trying to scare people, and I 'm certainly a hater of those enormous and very tacky inflatable lawn pumpkins and lawn ghosts and lawn headstones like the ones I see in my neighborhood. There's even an inflatable tarantula the size of a VW bug up the street. I kid you not. Ultra tacky.

3. Can you respect someone you do not trust, and can you trust someone you do not respect?

I can respect someone's position of authority (parent, president, pastor, principal, to be annoyingly alliterative) but once the trust has been broken, I don't have personal respect for them.

4. Apples or oranges? Yes, you have to choose.

As a fruit to eat alone, oranges, but apples are so much more versatile. Apple pie, apple cider ,apple crumble, apple-walnut salad. Still, my choice is oranges!

5. What is something you wish was in your town? (shop, restaurant, attraction, etc)

We aren't really "hurting" for things in our town, but I wish there was a Sonic close by.

6. What non-food item is in your refrigerator or freezer?

Wine is non-food, right ?Or do you mean indigestible (with liberty and justice for all)? If the latter, I think there might be some of my daughter's Lush brand natural make-up in there that needs refrigeration. But who knows, I can't even SEE all the contents because it's so full. ?Sounds like a good problem to have, doesn't it? Trust me, it's not.

7. Are you at all superstitious?

No, although I am quite confident that bad things could happen if I don't get off this computer and tackle my 50-plus things-to-do list!

8. Random thought: Who remembers the old TV show "Hawaii Five-O" ? I am wishing there was a Hawaii attached to ANY or ALL of these "Five-O" celebrations this year!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Two New Leaves

Come November I would like to "turn over a new leaf" or two. Since I tend to go from the pits to the moon when I think of making changes, I had better set realistic goals.

So, here goes.

1. Walk 26.2 miles in November .That's what one of my friends is running in a single day (yes, the Marine Corps marathon) so I think I can walk 26.2 in a single month. Considering I haven't done much in the way of a physical challenge lately, it's time. It's past time. It's waaaaaaaaay past time. I knew it was way past time when my little boy patted my belly last week and called it "rumpage."

2. Send two greeting cards a week. Any kind--birthday, thinking of you, thanks, sympathy, humor, whatever. It's something I have been meaning to do. You know what they say about good intentions. ("The road to hell is paved with good intentions.") Far be it from me to help pave any road, but I certainly don't have to pour asphalt for that one. My husband has been encouraging me to write notes to people for quite some time.

So, feel free to ask me randomly during November how I'm doing with those two goals. How about new leaves for yourself? Which ones would you like to turn over in November?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Hodgepodge Wednesday on Saturday?

I was a bit too busy on Wednesday to post ,but I hate to miss a Hodgepodge. I assume the questions don't expire.

1. How do you typically react in a sudden, extreme, pressure-filled crisis? Would we want you nearby in an emergency?

I have reacted "all over the map" in emergencies. Typically if I'm solely responsible for getting help, I can do it calmly on the outside while freaking out on the inside. If I'm second in command ,I am not quite as competent in the moment . In cases of natural disaster ,I can mobilize people and things to meet the needs. You would want me in an emergency as long as there is no fire or rushing water involved. Earth, wind, yeah. I'm all right. But fire? No. I absolutely cannot function.

2. Caramel apple-caramel sundae-caramel corn-caramel macchiato...of the four, which caramel treat would you choose?

Caramel apple ,but ya know there's a choice not on here. Caramel cream candies. I bought some yesterday just because you ,Joyce, had made me think about caramel for three days!

3. Is there such a thing as destiny? Explain.

Yes, I believe so, and I believe that God is in control of each person's destiny . I won't go into details because you probably don't want a Calvinist sermon to read. That's what I'm tempted to write.

4. What's your favorite piece of furniture? I'm referring to something currently in your possession as opposed to something on your wish list.

My bed. It's a queen size, cherry wood sleigh bed topped with a sleep number mattress, celery-green Egyptian cotton sheets, a memory foam pillow for me, neutral gold comforter and shams, and a husband who doesn't know how many more years it's going to take to get me to stay on my own side of the bed with only my half of the covers. Today he is hobbling around in pain .Apparently he awoke to find my leg pinning his.

5. Wednesday night marks the start of the 2011 Baseball World Series. Did you know? Do you care? Will you be watching? Ever been to a professional baseball game? If you're not an American do you find the title 'World Series' annoying or amusing?

Really? I didn't know that. A sad comment ,I'm afraid, because there was a day I loved baseball. In my junioryear of college , I lived on 33rd Street, between the Hopkins campus and Memorial Stadium. I loved to spend summer evenings on my front porch, watching Orioles fans throng to the game. The city was alive with excitement, and I got caught up in watching people carry their cushy-tushy seat pads, little coolers, and maybe a ball to have autographed if they were lucky. The unmistakably ""Balmer" accent sounded friendly and unassuming. "Hey, hon, how 'boud dem O's!"

I attended my first professional baseball game when my Grandpa took me to a game in Kansas City. I still remember the name Amos Otis, but I couldn't tell you who he was, I just I kept hearing that name during the game and thought it was really cool. My grandpa was the loudest I ever knew him to be while at that stadium. I attended a couple Orioles' games at Camden Yards as an adult (after Memorial Stadium was sadly demolished due to old age), and just really loved the aesthetics. However, I was ready to leave after the fifth inning even when they were winning.

6. One sound that takes me back to my childhood is ________.
a whinnying horse. We loved our Brandy, a Morgan-Thoroughbred that Daddy bought when Andrea was working at the stable in exchange for riding lessons. Brandy was 12, and lived to be 26. (In this picture with Ben and Sarah, Brandy was about 21.) She became very ill with some neurological problem while Andrea was in the Air Force, but hung on until Andrea could come home and feed her the last oatmeal she ever ate. We buried Brandy under pine trees at the back end of the pasture. I still miss that beautiful mare...the sight of her head lifted high when she sensed a storm coming, the smell of her hair and breath when I groomed her, the feel of her rocking canter on a spring day after school, and the sound of her whinnying when her stall latch was opened at dinnertime.

7. On average, once you've linked your hodgepodge post to mine how many other participant blogs do you visit? Do you ever come back to the Hodgepodge later in the day or even the day after to read posts?

On average, three-- at first, then more later in the day or week. I try to leave comments because I know how nice it is to receive them!

8. Insert your own random thought here.

How about another picture? Here's a pony named Chocolate. He belonged to my good friend Darin. At the time, Chocolate seemed huge to me and I had to get a leg-up into the saddle. I remember it seemed to take him (Chocolate, not Darin) a solid six minutes to pee in the yard, and he always did that when Rachel was on him. I do not know why, but I thought it was funny because we were only given ten minutes each to ride! It's a wonder he isn't peeing in this picture. In this photo, Rachel is on him, Andrea is the cutie pie leaning in close to Chocolate's head, and I'm the one with the reins, sticking her stomach out like it's fashionable.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Grace is Here

Thank you to those who have been reading along (and praying) about the plans my sisters and I have for hosting a big Golden Anniversary party for my parents. I would like to tell you specific ways that God has shown His grace when I've been tempted to "freak out" or "lose it" when I'm really in the mire of details.

1. My sisters have willingly taken on responsibilities that they're good at. My older sister, Rachel, has done a phenomenal job at scrapbooking 20 pages that will first be displayed on walls at the facility, and then I'll transfer them and finish the book within a month. My next younger sister, Andrea, sort of "interviewed" my parents and came up with a bio-bingo game as an icebreaker .That should be more fun than listening to any of us give a biographical speech. My baby sister, Jill, who is a senior administrative assistant professionally, is a natural as project manager, handling both the "big picture" and details like a trapeze artist. Did I mention that two of my sisters are out of state--way, WAY out of state?

2. Conference calls. We've had one, and are planning our second this Sunday. It's really fun to listen and talk to them all at once. As much as I have a love/hate relationship with technology ,I do love hearing my sisters' voices on the phone line. We can really get to laughing, though, since we are planning this event for what Bill Cosby calls "our common enemies"! When you have been a family for over four decades, there are a LOT of inside jokes, are there not? We could turn this into a roast if we wanted to. Easily. But we'll behave like the mature women our parents believe they've raised. At least for two hours.

3 Linking arms with the other non-Martha Stewart type sisters when the one Martha among us (not I) suggests something like--yes, true story-- adding color to the table by using the scrapbook paper as placemats, but making contrasting borders for them as well! All 60 of them! Um, guess what? Big fat NO! She also suggested hanging the picture boards from fishing line on the ceiling. Hello? If I'm in charge of the picture displays and I'm only 5'4" on a frizzy hair day, and I'm scared of stepladders, let's just say that's not happening. Lots of laughs behind the no, because she asked on a day I was "losing it." The other girls added to my "no" in their unique ways. When I say "unique," I mean one gives a wordy, diplomatic "too much trouble," and the other asks, "Are you KIDDING? No way!"

In the midst of all the busyness, Paul reminded me this past Monday that his brother wanted to come up for two days at the end of his conference in DC. (His older brother from Ohio.) When was the conference ending? Thursday. Normally I might come unglued, but since I already came unglued Sunday over something else, it was no big deal! Paul changed the sheets on the guest bed and took us to dinner, so it's been smooth for me! For two days they've had some brother time, which for them means a lot of talking about sports, politics, church, music, food, and their jobs . Oh, and a copious use of this statement: "I used to be able to do that, but not anymore. "

The "blast from the past," above is a portrait from 1983 . I know because the white dress was my high school graduation dress. I loved it, so gauzy and light. But it looks a little nun-ish to me now, all high-collared and everything. And if you look closely at all our faces, doesn't it appear we have two photographers? Half of us are looking west, the other east. Oh, well. For however the pictures turned out, I'm glad my mom insisted on professional sittings back in the day, because we have almost no whole-family pictures otherwise.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


More lists here, folks, to bring some semblance of order and brevity to the page. Not that it's a promise; I said "semblance."

This is a gratitude list. I'm grateful for:

1. Memories like this one. My grandpa lived on a farm in Kansas, and it was the highlight of our lives to spend time there. It was like a slice of heaven to me, watching him with his cows. He was gentle and knowledgeable, and his voice was the only one they listened to. One year we visited when this week-old calf's mama had problems with her milk. Grandpa gave my sisters and me a chance to bottle feed him. Precious little fellow, that calf. But who, pray tell, let me out in public wearing those shorts and socks?

2. Charity pick-up trucks. But...have you ever scheduled a pick-up for charitable donations, only to have them come and pick up charitable non-donations? My daughter had four trash bags of stuff for her future classroom on the porch with her name on them. The truck took them away. When I called to report it, they were very nice but the long-and-short of it is, the truck took them to a thrift store an hour south of here and put the things out for sale. We could come get them if we want. Um, no thanks. The things were not THAT important to Sarah, but we were a tad miffed.

3. Protection in a minor car accident and the grace in the details. Joel and I were rearended on the way to school Friday. A college student hit us. Actually, it felt more like she drifted into us, but we felt it. A minor bump. When he turned around, he saw the young driver on her cell phone, texting. The intersection was busy, but providentially another school mom happened upon the scene and took Joel to school. I took down the girl's insurance information and reported it to my insurance company, but I probably won't report it to hers. No harm done to us or the van. She had said, "OMG, I'm really sorry. I am soooooooooo tired this morning." I have been in her shoes and "this" close to drifting into someone's bumper when utterly sleepy. So I think I'll love mercy and let it go. I hope she was scared enough to pay more attention next time.

4. The leaves slowly changing color this fall here in Maryland because of all the rain we've had. I'm so thankful because they should look splenDIFerous when my sisters arrive in two weeks from the southwest where it's been super hot and dry and brown.

5. Comfy pajamas.

6. Hair conditioners.

7. Encouraging parents of students after observing me in action. We had Parent Visitation last Thursday on the very day we had to change art rooms. I had 25 minutes to haul supplies downstairs, set up tables and chairs, get the paints and supplies out, smock up, and deal with a hot flash without air conditioning. Having parents there was rougher on my nerves than having an official performance by my superiors. I introduced myself and found out whose parents were there. Then I introduced the lesson: I told the students we are doing a piece called "Monochromatic Triangles" and it's up to them to interpret the title their way. "I am not going to tell you how many to triangles to paint. And they can be any size or shape. You just have to use at least three different values of the hue I put in front of you." Then I caught myself and laughed. "Well, by definition, triangles have a particular shape, so let's make sure ours are three-sided!" Paul asked if they fired me. No. You can't fire a volunteer.

8. Humor. This SNL parody, which I found via Kevin DeYoung's blog yesterday, cracked me up. "British. Very British." Check it out .

Monday, October 17, 2011

Monday Thirteen: Big Event Theme

I'm going to be a whirling dervish the next couple of weeks. Who knows if I'll be able to post ,let alone comment on any blogs. I'm staying sane by the grace of God, and one of the graces is the wonderful four-letter word "list."

While I'm in List Mode, here's 13 things going on in my mind, world, and heart, in random order.

1. My son Ben is the typical groom-to-be. Details are not important. Since the wedding is in March and I hadn't seen the need to put it on the calendar (it's not like I'm going to forget it, right?) I didn't register the time, either. All I could remember was they're serving brunch food. It's the bride's favorite. So I was thinking noon-ish.
2. My future DIL asked me to find out from our side of the family who will be renting hotel rooms what night so she can reserve a block of them. I asked Ben what time is the wedding? He said 11.
3. So I sweated and panicked and thought, "Eleven??? Seriously?? That is SO early for Marylanders to get up to New Jersey!" I hate to ask people to rent a room the night before, but was having nightmares in the day (daymares?) about half the family showing up late or missing it! The combo of not-early-birds, notorious traffic, and unpredictable weather known between MD and NJ in March, my stomach had tied the knot many times!
4. I highly encouraged folks to rent a room Friday because the wedding would be starting at 11 and ending in mid-afternoon. Not so much need for a Saturday booking.
5. I asked Dee and she said, "The wedding is at 1."
6. "One?! Whew! Where was I getting 11 o'clock? Oh, yeah, from the GROOM! I figured he ought to know.
7. Why should he know? My own groom nearly 25 years ago didn't care about the "details." I guess in a groom's mind, details include the time of the wedding.
8. Um, no, honey. A detail would be the time the girls are having their make-up done. I wouldn't expect you to know or care about that. In fact, I might be worried if you did.
9. My other young adult son is wondering what to give his girlfriend for her birthday. He is such a romantic, such a planner, but a broke romantic planner. Her birthday is in two weeks. Won't surprise me if he starts asking for some odd jobs around the house for money. If you hear someone singing, "Scrub! In the name of love! before you break her heart...o-o-whoa-whoa..." that's me as I hand Steve a rag.
10. My daughter sweet-talked her daddy into getting tickets to the Ravens game yesterday. You should have heard her build her case. "It's one of the few Sundays I won't have much homework this semester. The weather is beautiful. It's a 4:oo game so we're not gonna miss any church. We could make a memory. You know you want to." They took the boy with them. He was in his glory. Pictures coming soon. ( "Upload pictures to laptop" is on another list somewhere. Oh yeah--in my head. Not likely to happen if left there. )
11. I've started decorating the house a little with fall touches. Knowing your sisters are coming in from out of state has a way of making you notice that other things need your attention as well. Kind of want to get from "to do" to "ta-da" without really working., though. Not sure how...
12. I heard an excellent message today by a visiting pastor, a message that has encouraged me for the short- (and hopefully long-) term. It was from Jude 1b. That's right: Jude One b. The words "called," "loved," and "kept" are so sweet, so amazing. If you're a Christian, you're called. Why does God love you? Because He loves you? But why? Because He loves you! It's not because of anything lovable in you. ( "Sorry, pal.") And you are kept in Jesus. Kept! Forever! That is, if He has called you to Himself, and you have repented of your sin and put your faith in His work alone on the cross, you are His and kept forever. "That should put a really big smile on your face!" he concluded.
13. I am really tired and really excited at the same time. The effect of stress on me is somewhat narcoleptic. Seriously. I yawn a lot, and if I close my eyes, I can fall asleep on the spot. I really think so. I get it from my dad. Here's a picture from his retirement. He is holding up a sign he would post outside his cubicle before stretching out on the floor behind his desk. You can imagine how unsettling a sight that would be if the sign were absent. He's always believed that if your body needs sleep, give it sleep, not coffee, if you can.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Big Sisterly Care

I don't remember this incident at all. My mom must have thought it was darling to
watch my older sister Rachel wrap my leg in an ace bandage. I was accident-prone.
The worst accidents happened on my bike. I remember the #1 rule was "no riding barefoot." All my friends rode barefoot, but my mom was afraid we'd get our toes caught in the spokes. I thought she was being overprotective, of course.

Until the one time...

We were living at seminary in Kansas City, and had this big, gigantic hill out of sight of our apartment. But it was not just any hill. It was a juggernaut like Mt. Everest, where the slope is 87 degrees and at the bottom is just a curb that leads onto the blacktop dead end on one end, and a continuing hill covered with blacktop leading down to our apartment on the other end.

Rachel got on her bike with shoes. I got on mine barefooted. She warned me to keep my legs straight out to the side. But somehow, halfway down the hill, I tried to use my feet to slow me down, and the right foot slipped forward and into the speeding spokes. It chewed my toes up pretty good. But it slowed me down and I was only more afraid of the spanking I'd get for direct disobedience. I think my mom took one look at the mangled metatarsals and decided I'd learned my lesson.

The toes healed, but I've never ridden barefoot again --nor allowed my children to. But I'm sure they have. You know what they say about the apple ....

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Hodgepodge: Screwdrivers, Self-pity, and Squinting Sibs

1. Have you ever been 'asked' to report for jury duty? Were you chosen to serve? If not, were you happy or disappointed?

Yes, I've been asked a few times, but no, I have never served. The first few times I got out of it because I was nursing babies. The next few times I was homeschooling. The last time I was pleasantly excused because I was going to be in Kansas during the trial, so I called as soon as I got the summons. I think I'll add "serve jury" to my bucket list because I really am curious to observe a trial. When I was in college I considered going to law school. Ask anyone who knows me and they'll tell you I can make a case about anything.

2. On a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being very), how mechanically inclined are you? Give an example to back up your answer.

Eh, about a 4. I can figure out things that have biggish parts that go together, like the wheels that fall off the dishwasher rack from time to time, and the parts on the floor of the dishwasher that have to be bleached and reconnected when they get moldy. I know I'm painting a pretty picture of my dishwasher. I am very thankful to have it, and proud that I know how to do at least that much on a major appliance. Now, don't ask me about wires. Take the panel off ANYTHING and expose wires, and watch me tremble. That is my hubby's department. He can fix (and has fixed) just about everything around here. I tell him he's really hot when he's got a wrench or screwdriver in his hand. I remind him how he's my hero and how much money he saves us by all the DIY stuff he does. It's the least I can do to make him feel better about living in a fallen (apart) world! He smirks, but I think deep down he likes to know I find him uber attractive when he's in mechanical or building mode.

One Thanksgiving he saved the day at my mom's house. The dishwasher chose THAT evening to burst its pipe. I'm talking it almost blew the door off the undersink cabinet. My brother-in-law, Pat ( a meteorologist who knows all there is to know about precipitation) made himself useful by mopping up the mess, but it was Paul who fixed the leak and took the Handyman of the Year award.

3. Beets-cabbage-cauliflower-butternut squash....of the four, which is your favorite fall vegetable?
Butternut squash. I like to slice it lengthwise down the middle, scoop out the guts, and lay them face down (the squash halves, not the guts) in 1/2 inch of water in a pan. Cover that. Bake 1/2 hour or till soft. Doctor it with butter and brown sugar and you pert-near forget it's squash!

4. What do you recommend to overcome self-pity?

First, I remember that pity parties are not well-attended. Misery loves company, but company doesn't like misery, so I have to choose. Second, I have to look to Jesus and remember that I have all His love, all his kindness, all His forgiveness, all His mercies, all His riches, because of His death in my place and the resurrection that proved there is life after death, and life after this life.

5. Do you enjoy classical music?

In small doses, yes. I enjoy playing it, and can handle it for about 20 minutes at a time. But for an exercise in longsuffering, invite me to a piano recital. We made the mistake of inviting my sister-in-law to one. She said afterward that just as soon as she was about to clap, the kid would turn the page. She just wanted to scream, "When will this be OVER?" I realized then and there ,I only like to hear my children play classical music on the piano and my hubby play it on guitar.

6. October is National Book Month...what's on your reading list this month?

I read Shiloh to my son as a bedtime treat. For myself, I've started Surprised by Joy, by C.S. Lewis, one of my all-time favorite authors.

7. What is your idea of 'cute'?

So many things, but I came across this picture I just had to share with you. It's my three oldest children on Easter morning, 1996. It really captures their personalities, particularly when their mom insists on taking pictures of them when they're all dressed up and the sun is in their eyes.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

There's a fine line between "colorful" and "carnival" when you're decorating for a special occasion.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

She Combs His Hair

I took this shot of my parents, probably 12-13 years ago when we were passing the camera around on the lawn at their old place.

Mama had taken a look at Daddy and noticed a hair or two out of place. He pulled out his trusty comb, handed it to her, and said, "Make me handsome, Brenda."

She replied, "Well, God made you handsome, honey, but I am keeping you that way!"

Sunday, October 09, 2011

A Baby Picture of Yours Truly

I love this picture. It's my parents, my older sister Rachel, and me in 1966. (Since I was born in August of '65, and I'm shirtless in this shot, it must be summer of '66. ) Look what a cute baby I was! Soft and chunky, that's me-- always and forever, I guess.

I'm loving the dress my mom's wearing. So feminine and comfy. My dad's glasses and skinny legs kill me. I am struck by the obvious affection he has for his family. Some things never change. See how he's holding Rachel and squishing up close to Mama? I think if he had three arms, he would be touching me somehow with his gentle, loving hands.

I also notice the detail of Daddy's watch. He's always been a watch-wearer, always punctual when by himself. When the family has all had to be somewhere together, though? Not so much. It's been one of the most sanctifying things in his life. We really knew how to slow him down with our bickering, our pokeyness, our wardrobe woes, our hairspray, and sisterly drama. (I remember the year he and I were in the play "The Music Man" together at a local community college theatre, he was a River City Volunteer fireman and I was Amaryllis. He had one line, when the townspeople had decided to tar and feather Harold Hill. His line was, "Well? What are we waiting for?" It couldn't have been easier for him to remember.)

This house in Baltimore City was one my parents bought and turned into apartments (or maybe it was already in apartments). They were tenderhearted toward internationals who, at that time, had a hard time finding landlords who would rent to them. My parents named this the International Friendship House. I remember a man named Feruz, but not fondly-- he always greeted me by pinching my cheeks. I guess they were irresistible. I can still feel the pain.

Anyway, I am in the process of scanning and cropping a lot of old pictures in preparing for my parents' upcoming 50th anniversary party. I'll be showing a few (or more?) shots from my past in the near future.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Pro Rege and the World's Oldest Profession

Last night I was putting my nine year old to bed. Soon he will find he feels too old to snuggle, but for the time I have left, I enjoy the ritual of reading aloud, exchanging back-scratches, talking about anything and everything, and sometimes helping him master a memory verse.

What's been especially sweet about his attendance at this new Christian school is that he has begun to sing again. And not just commercials. From the time he was about five until last month, he didn't think it was cool to sing. That broke my heart. He wouldn't sing in church. He wouldn't sing when I tried to teach him some hymns at home, and only once in a while he'd sing in the shower. At his old school he felt uncomfortable singing on stage in the musical.

Imagine my joy at the resurrection of his singing! All the kids, even the boys , at school not only have to sing, but enjoy it. I love it!

So far he has learned a US history song that recounts major players and events from the 15th century to the French-Indian War. He was signing it for me as I lay there in the stillness. His voice is precious and nearly pitch-perfect. Then he asked if I'd help him with his Bible verse which he'll be tested on today. His dad had written it on a card and helped him remember the first letter of each of the four lines: BBTW. I told him there were 25 words and the lines have 6,6,7,6 words each, respectively. Then I got to explain to him what the verse means, because, let's face it, words like "reconciled" and "blemish" need some 'splaining to a fourth grader.

I suggested we put the verse to the tune of "Amazing Grace," and it worked! (We messed around with the meter, of course, but doing so only bolstered the memory.)

But now He has reconciled you
By Christ's physical body through death
To present you holy in his sight
Without blemish and free from accusation.
Colossians 1:22

Joel then asked if we could sing the real song. So we did, in the dark, cozied up under blankets; we sang "Amazing Grace."

Pro rege. (For the king.)

I asked Joel if he knew what "Pro Rege" means. He said no.
I explained, "Pro means for. Rege means King, like regal. Like pro-life is for life."
He asked, "Professional is for fessional?"
I snickered. And then he said, "How about pro-stitution?"

I snorted and gathered my wits.

"Do you know what that means?" I asked.
"No. What?"
"Never mind. I'll tell you when you're older. Good night, son. I love you."

Oh, boy. How did we get from "Amazing Grace" to pro-stitution in a matter of seconds?

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Hodgepodge: Hot Meals, Hokey Pokey, and Handing Down Holidays

The Hodgepodge came to my lodge again, thanks to Joyce and the worldwide web. Here's this week's Q&A. I hope your life is richer after reading my post, but please don't hold me hostage if it isn't. OH, and please join in today if all you've done thus far is read. It's a lot of fun to see who says what about random topics.

1. What's your favorite meal to serve on a chilly autumn evening?

Chicken noodle soup hot off the stove, and hot, crusty bread right out of the bread machine. Maybe a salad, too, but that's not essential. I was sure wishing tonight that I could come home to such a meal, but as we were at Johns Hopkins and on the I-95 corridor for a collective 8 hours, plus locally to piano lessons, I wasn't Susie Soupmaker today. We had leftover clam chowder (not homemade) but that's just not the same when you're feeling like slurping some hot, tasty broth and shreds of white chicken meat and slippery pasta. Mmm. Maybe tomorrow. If I remember to buy yeast. I have none. It takes a little leaven to leaven the whole lump, after all.

2. Are you a creature of habit? Explain.

Yes, ma'am , I am a creature of habit. As a habit I stay up late, but get up at the same time regardless. My first stop after the bathroom in the morning is the coffee pot, followed by a making of breakfast for the likes of the family, and packing lunches unless I have to teach. In that case, my loving honey packs lunches. As a habit, I take my glasses off when I eat, and hog the covers in the middle of the night. At church I have a favorite row on the right side of a three-section auditorium; if it's taken, I have a second favorite row on the left side. Never in the middle. I hate the middle. I've been in the middle my whole life, and I mean because of birth order. I also tend to habitually listen to the same music over and over in the car, even though I tell myself I really need to expand my repertoire. I don't put on my seatbelt until I'm out of the driveway, and when I return home, I usually just sit there and think, or appear to think. I don't just turn the engine off, get out, and go into the house like my hubby does. It's a ritual. I have too many rituals, probably. Most involve some form of sitting and thinking.

3. What food product (no longer readily available) do you remember and miss from days gone by?

Two things: tomatoes from my dad's garden (which was probably 800 square feet, give or take) on the old homestead which was sold about a dozen years ago, and I miss meals made by my mom (she doesn't tolerate being on her feet much anymore, and cooking for our family is a big effort for someone unaccustomed to cooking for six). It's been a hard reality to come to terms with the fact that the culinary baton and hosting responsibility have been passed on to me-- and have been for a few years. I don't mind, usually, but I long for the days of being pampered by "going to my mom's" instead of "inviting my mom and dad" over for big holiday meals. This was my pre-guests table last Thanksgiving. (The napkin at my place is missing from the photo; I think it needed ironing, which I'm pretty certain meant I tossed it damp into the dryer for a "good enough" dewrinkling. )

4. What's something you've lost that you've never been able to find? Any theories as to what happened?

My sister's keys. It's been 15 years. They were a spare set she put me in charge of when she went on a long vacation one year. I was to stop in and feed her cat daily, check the mail, and drive her car occasionally. I did all that while she was gone ,but when she asked for her keys back, I couldn't find them to return. She had another set on her, of course, because she is just an efficient overachiever type. The keys never did turn up. I doubt they will. If they do, I will know whose they are. There is a key chain attached that says, "I know I'm efficient. Tell me I'm beautiful." Seriously! I'm not poking fun at her. She really did have that key chain.

The only theory I have is that I'm not as efficient as my firstborn sister. She's a "keeper" and I'm a "loser"!

5. Zoo~circus~ carnival...your favorite?

Carnival, because they sell cotton candy. REAL cotton candy!!

6. What song makes you feel instantly happy?

The Hokey Pokey.

7. To what extent are you an argumentative person?

Given the right (or wrong, perhaps?) set of issues, circumstances, hormones, weather conditions, and people, I can argue the filament out of a lightbulb. I can argue spots off a leopard and the stripes off a zebra. I can be quintessentially articulate when I'm angry, but bumblingly inarticulate when I argue with someone who is hands-down more knowledgeable, more logical, and less emotional than I. That is the sort of person I married, so you'd think after a quarter-of-a-century of losing verbal debates, I wouldn't put up my dukes. But I almost always do anyway. I'm the last-word kind of girl, and I wish I weren't. I admire people who have the self-control and confidence and peaceable nature to just zip their lips.

8. Insert your own random thought here. How about a Toll Booth Scholarship?

Today we had to make two round-trips to our second son's college. (See yesterday's post.) Each way the toll is $2 unless you have an EZ Pass. (He has one; we don't.) So on the fourth cash-layout, it occurred to me what a wonderful fundraiser it would be if we could convince the state to sponsor a college student. You know, a Toll Booth Scholarship. Instead of keeping the toll money for that year, the state would endow a Maryland family of college students with the money for tuition. The criteria of the family: They have two students in college, one who pays a toll twice a day, five days a week; one is female who student teaches for nothing, and the other is male-- a computer science major who plays drums ; both have the initials SZ ; both are the younger sibs to a recent college grad and both have a brother in fourth grade who loves to embarrass them. I'm thinking we might be likely candidates for the Toll Booth Scholarship. What do you think?

GratiTuesday #1: Of Medical Care

A local Christian radio station has started "GratiTuesdays" and ask listeners to call in and give thanks for something. I have several things today to mention, which I will simply put in bold letters.

We took two of our sons to Johns Hopkins Hospital for echocardiograms and genetic consultation beginning at 8:30 a.m. and ending at 12:30. (After that we grabbed lunch, tok our eldest down to his college south of Baltimore, came home for a 40-minute nap, after which I took the youngest to piano lessons and then went back down to the college to pick up his brother. Got home at 7.) A long day, but it has made my heart full (no cardiac pun intended--really!). From the moment I stepped foot on the Hopkins campus I felt mixed emotions, all of which were heightened at being there, not simply knowing that America's #1 hospital is only an hour from our home. Hopkins is a world-renowned hospital that treats every disease known to man and studies seemingly every disease man wants to know about! And there we were, being studied by some of the best doctors in the world. It blows my mind, and yet makes me sad that we lost two family members 25 years ago, before recognizing a problem. But mostly I felt grateful, truly grateful, that we have access to top-notch medical care, the insurance to pay for it, and enough medicalese in our vernacular to understand what the doctors are explaining. And enough confidence in those doctors to know that it's okay that we don't understand the details of genes and alleles and other facets of DNA that they dedicate their lives to discovering. Above that, we have confidence in God that this family disorder is completely in His hands and He designed every molecule. Not one maverick molecule escapes His notice.

The youngest son had a meltdown over having to give blood. It was his first experience that he remembered. Talk about drama. Twenty minutes it took his parents, brother, and pediatric nurse to "talk him down from the ledge." He was trembling, "Don't you know if you give too much blood you'll die???!!!! I don't want to give my precious blood!!!" Well, at that display of hysteria, I had to turn my head to stifle a laugh. Finally, the nurse went out and brought back her iPad for him to play with. It had a cool app that he could maneuver with one hand while his dad held his other arm still as the mammoth leech sucked all his precious blood out. I certainly could never be a nurse. I just don't have what it takes. God bless nurses.

Probably the most touching bit of thanks I had was for the chief doctor's unmistakable concern for our family in the event of emergency. I told him I am not confident that our closest ER will be as proactive as they should be, that they might treat "chest pain" the ordinary way. He said, "If you ever feel like anyone is not taking you seriously about this, raise H-e-double toothpicks--" (except he didn't say it quite like that) "--and then call me. Here's my cell phone number." Whoa! I mean, I've only gotten one other doctor's own cell phone number in my life, and that was the Chief of the Field I Needed Other Kind of Help With back in January. I feel so blessed! I am not special, but these doctors make me feel that way when they extend care beyond office visits and hotline numbers.

Monday, October 03, 2011

"Eet iss Like a Q-tip het wissa frozen Spider Web Leggies"

Haven't we all pondered a bit about the insect commonly called "daddy longlegs"? I know I have. In the Midwest they were called "grand-daddy longlegs" but by the time I got to Maryland, these creatures had had their names shortened by a generation. But their legs remained as long.

I saw a video clip this morning in which this foreign guy goes on and on (and ON) about the creation and naming of daddy longlegs. A funny way to start a Monday. Check it out at Kevin deYoung's blog.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Good Life & More (Meal Plan)

I'm in the mood to try a few new recipes. Many of the following come from Pam Smith's The Good Life cookbook, which is one of my favorites. Fresh, wholesome ingredients for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and plenty of sauces and dressings from scratch which I love. (I don't like bottled ones as a general rule.) Full-color photos on every other page just make me drool. They also make me want to go buy an assortment of eye-popping plates, which one day I will. It'll be the great undoing of all my successful dish-purging episodes thus far. But I digress.

The meals I've chosen to make for the next couple of weeks begin tonight. I organized my pantry and took inventory of my freezer, made a list, and sent my daughter and hubby off (actually they volunteered) to go grocery shopping.

October 1-15

Saturday: Clam Chowder, Veal Cutlets, fried okra
Sunday: Steak, Twice-Baked Potatoes, roasted asparagus with parm (Wegman's menu book)
Monday: Chicken Curry over Rice, Tropical fruit-spinach salad (GL)
Tuesday: Chili & Cornbread
Wednesday: Sandy S's Tortellini with Pesto
Thursday: Morningstar Sausage and Veggie Quiche
Friday: Chicken & Pasta Salad with Greek Vinaigrette (GL)
Saturday: Tacos
Sunday: Out / leftovers
Monday: Seared Pork Tenderloin & Tricolor Coleslaw (GL), risotto, green beans almondine
Tuesday: Crab Mac 'n Cheese, steamed broccoli
Weds: Turkey Carbonara and Bow-tie Pasta, baby green salad
Thurs: Reuben sandwiches
Friday: pizza
Saturday: tilapia with sauteed veggies, baked potatoes