Sunday, October 31, 2010

Our Blue Ridge Getaway

Len's been working hard on the building project and Daniel had a few days off school, so on Thursday we drove to the Blue Ridge Mountains for some relaxing family time.

The journey itself was lovely.
Yes, we've got another driver in training!
Here's where we ate lunch before our hike.
You know you're truly in the wilderness when . . . you find a pay phone?  Well, the cell coverage was quite poor.
Crabtree Falls is purportedly the highest waterfall east of the Mississippi.  We still don't know whether that refers to elevation or length of the cascade.
It did go on and on . . .
 The trail switched back and forth multiple times on our way to the top.
A view of the valley and beyond
The trail was beautiful, if a bit treacherous (especially on the way back down), with damp leaves covering the rocks.
The view from above the falls is so much better in real life.
Here's the cabin Len found online.  Isn't it adorable?  The main level held a family/dining room, kitchen, and bathroom.  Upstairs we shared a bedroom and tiny loft.
The cabin was fairly dark inside, but the kitchen and bathroom were add-ons with huge windows and tons of light.  Note the hot tub on the patio!
More tomorrow . . .

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Please Pray

We were out of town for a few days and missed the news.  Lauren told us tonight that her boyfriend's good friend (they had worked together filming football freshman year) died at school this Wednesday.  What a loss.  Please pray for this young man and all those who loved him.  Thank you.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Road Trippers

SMCM offered two "reading days" over Columbus Day, creating a four day weekend.  David and three friends visited all their families; we enjoyed their company over parts of Monday and Tuesday. 

They really are a great bunch--intelligent but not pretentious, tolerant of the attention of little girls ;-), and willing to hang out (instead of going out).  I was happy to catch a glimpse of David within his chosen crowd, although some more focused time with just our family would have been welcome, too.  I guess that's what Christmas break is for!

So this past weekend the group traveled to Winchenster to attend a friend's play.  Since we are on the way back to school, David et al stopped by for lunch on Sunday.  He alerted me to that possibility the night before, so I was able to prepare a bit, just in case.  We were all glad to host the group, and David enjoyed surprising his siblings.

Hey you guys, come back any time!

Friday, October 22, 2010

More on Suffering

It seems Elizabeth has been thinking about suffering, too.  As usual, she is the eloquent one.

I started cutting and pasting quotes, but was coming close to reprinting her whole article.  Go read it.  You'll be blessed.

Words of Hope 2

God can make good come from anything.  While God can send us suffering, most of the trials we undergo come courtesy of the free will exercised by our fellow souls.  What we do with that brokenness is up to us.  Seeking and living God's will in the pain is one way to help Him bring good from it.

Excerpts from Magnificat's Wednesday meditation:

"The truth of God's love was shown on the cross of his beloved son, Jesus.

And the way to grow in our relationship with God in times of physical or mental stress is to strengthen ourselves by doing the things that God desires.

It is a sign of great holiness when one is resigned in everything to the will of God.  Everything that God wills is for our good.

He knows how to console us when we least expect it.

If anyone hurts you, look on him as someone of great value and, with the eyes of one who loves . . .

Even when things are at their worst, keep your peace of heart and accept whatever God sends you as being for your good.

God is your guide, your father, your teacher, your husband.

In everything that happens the best thing you can do is abandon yourself to his will."
Saint Paul of the Cross

By the River

After Mass on Sunday, all seven of us (that means Dusty, too) drove just over the line (to MD) to the Potomac River Festival, near the C&O Canal.  With only a short time before our next events (We took 2 cars!)--school open house, grandparent visit, spice shop, vaccination of a friend's puppy--we managed to squeeze in some nature appreciation time.
 Okay, maybe the organized bug walk didn't inspire the girls.
 So we bailed and had fun our own way.
 Hey!  There's some more nature to appreciate!
 An unnamed child ("Don't tell who it was on your blog!") was peed on by a caterpillar.
 Daniel's oversized find:
 Here's looking at you, kid.
Okay, maybe I am a little punchy.  :-)

I wish I had taken more pictures.  The weather was gorgeous and it was refreshing to share the time together before we ran our separate ways.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Harvest Time

Last October, I was pleased with myself for uprooting my basil before it froze.  Unfortunately, I didn't soak the dirt with enough water, so much of the harvest dried and fell off before I actually made a few measly bags of pesto.

This weekend my helpers and I picked a big bag full of leaves, ready to process.  Then the basement freezer died, I got distracted, and our basil waited in the fridge.  I pulled it out Monday afternoon, thankful that it looked no worse for the wear.
It was time to assemble some pesto!

I wanted to run the batches through the food processor without delays, so I set up an assembly line.  Each pile of basil needed 8 cloves of garlic, 1 cup of walnuts, and 1/2 cup olive oil. 
I had my helpers peel and crush five separate piles of garlic.

After it's cut, basil turns brown (or at least khaki) right away (one reason I try to make all my batches quickly), so I preserve its color with "Ever Fresh", a combination of sugar and ascorbic acid.  I didn't have enough this time, so we supplemented by crushing vitamin C (ascorbic acid!) tablets.  Easy and cheap--the way to go . . .

I was so focussed that Rebecca was a few minutes late to her nature class, but gosh darn it, we finished the job!  All except the clean up, that is.  Oh well, the mess managed to wait for us to get home.  ;-)
Can you see in the close up how ugly the basil gets if it isn't packed up airtight right away?
So here's my happy news:  ten tiny bags of pesto, frozen flat and tucked away in the freezer.  This will last us till next year's harvest.
Bon appetit!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Another Thought on Blogging

My life is Good, and I am Glad.

But it's not perfect.

Sometimes I write when life is hard or sad, but most of my posting is positive, if not downright perky.  I hope you know me well enough to realize that this blog is not my life wide open.  Rather, it is my place to share what is going on that is memorable (to me), inspiring (tea parties, anyone?), educational, or fun. 

I'm not trying to mislead.  I'd rather "accentuate the positive", so that's what is usually chronicled here.

Have a happy day--it's time for school here!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Happy Blogiversary to Me!

My blogs are three years old today!  Even though I'm not a prolific (625 posts so far) or popular writer, I'm glad I took the plunge and entered the blogging world.

When I began, I thought I'd be joining a community and conversation, mostly about homeschooling, faith, and food.  While I follow many blogs, I still don't feel like part of the group.  But that's okay.

What do I like about blogging?
  • I'd never kept a consistent journal, ever.  Now I've got three years of thoughts and events recorded.
  • I've never even tried scrapbooking.  Now I have a collection of photos documenting our family life--big events like graduations, and smaller ones like playing with cornstarch goo.
  • Taking pictures for my blog has trained me to record the daily events that make life special.  Even when I don't post them, I get shots of breakfast-in-bed (the 20 year old nixed posting that one!) or a picture drawn on the dry erase board.  Blogging has fostered in me the habit of attention.
  • Posting online has been a great way to share our life with family and friends.  I neglect calls and letters, but can keep in touch through this journal.  (I have maybe 20 regular readers, but once in a while when I have something important to say, I'll get a plug from a more well-known friend.)
So thanks for reading.  I might write just for myself, but sharing is more fun!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Grateful Mom

I'm glad to be my children's mother.   I don't always remember that gladness, but if I stop to think, even on the crazy (or cranky) days, I know that God has called me to this vocation and that it is Good.

My children have many ways of showing their love for me.  There are pictures and notes,
and special handmade gifts.
Then there are the "you know me so well" store bought presents.  :-)
Gifts of service are always appreciated.
(Laundry sorted without fussing.)
Someone organized this gift certificate for lunch out with a friend.
Of course I can't take pictures of the best examples of my children's generosity--their gentleness, cooperation, and helpfulness.  And when I'm in go-go-go drill sergeant mode, I don't see them, either.  When I am quiet and gentle, the kids are, too.

I was reflecting today that when I am weak, my babies are strong.  It's when I'm sick or tired or sad that they're most likely to pull together.  I know they care and I am grateful.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Small Successes

"It’s important for moms to recognize that all the small successes in our days can add up to one big triumph. So on Thursday of each week, we do exactly that."

Let's see . . .
  1. Evening Bible study started up this week, and I was there and awake.
  2. Our family (the younger children were definitely part of the welcoming committee!) hosted David and three friends for almost 24 hours.  SMCM had a four day weekend, and the teens drove around visiting all their families.  Not enough one-on-one with my son, but I enjoyed meeting his new pals.
  3. Cut the walk short this morning and managed a special birthday breakfast for my latest teenager (Joseph):  deluxe eggs and cinnamon rolls (there was a stash of already baked in the freezer--hurrah!).
Check out the worlds of other moms at Faith and Family Live.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Puppy Love

My darling has two blogs, both of which have been long neglected.  He's finally back to updating Veterinary Tails, right now with pictures of the clinic space he and his partner recently purchased in Leesburg.  It should be fun to watch the progress.  (His animal stories are interesting, too!)

I've put a link in my sidebar to make things easy.

The Creepy, Cool World of Baby Teeth

Rebecca's #5 baby tooth is on its way out, hanging by half a thread.  She won't pull it, but is content to wiggle it about with her tongue, letting it lie completely horizontal, sticking out of her mouth.
In real life it's an impressive sight, eliciting either cringing (a visiting college student) or admiration from her audience.  Becca's having a ball.  In this case youth is most definitely not wasted on the young.  :-)

Saturday, October 9, 2010


Tuesday morning, a neighbor called to tell us that she'd seen a cat in the road and thought it was Emma.  Len checked, and yes, our cat is dead.  He says her death was quick (she hadn't crawled away), and for that we're grateful.
Emma wasn't much of a cuddler, but she made many friends in our neighborhood.  She liked to wander and hunt and relax in quiet spots.  She didn't like Dusty or cat toys. 
We'll miss her.  (Marianna especially--Emma was her birthday gift once upon a time.)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Small Successes


"It’s important for moms to recognize that all the small successes in our days can add up to one big triumph. So on Thursday of each week, we do exactly that."

Big and small, I've done it all:
  1. Today I spoke to some moms at church about freezing food and planning a cycle menu.  We had fun and all learned at least something!
  2. My blog has been bugging me lately--the posting area was so narrow.  Last night I finally sat down and put up a new template, widened it, and tweaked a few colors.  It's still quite plain, but gets the job done.
  3. I called my hairdresser.  I still don't have an appointment, but I also haven't cut my bangs--yet!
Check out the successes of other moms at Faith and Family Live.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Context Matters

For me, the story behind a poem or song makes a big difference.  I remember running across Walt Whitman's poem "O Captain!  My Captain" and not thinking much of it.  The narrator is so distraught, but I did not feel the emotion or understand the tragedy of the captain's death.

Then last year we studied the Civil War and I discovered that Whitman wrote this poem about Lincoln's assassination.  He was killed just days after leading our country through that terrible time, and before he could work to heal the divisions we experienced.  Now Whitman's words bring me nearly to tears every time I read them.

O Captain!  My Captain!  by Walt Whitman
O Captain my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weathered every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:

But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills;
For you bouquets and ribboned wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;

Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head;
It is some dream that on the deck,
You’ve fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchored safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;

Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Feast of the Guardian Angels

When I get to Heaven (let's hope!), one thing I'm looking forward to (besides Beauty) is knowledge and understanding. I'm hoping God will show me why some events happened in my life and in the world. I also want to see the unknown part others played--human, angelic, and God himself.

What does this have to do with our guardian angels? We're told they are looking out for our physical and spiritual well-being, helping to protect and influence us. This reminds me of a passage in C. S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters, when a demon's "patient" has died and begins to truly see. Here is how the devil Screwtape describes it to his nephew, Wormwood:

     How well I know what happened at the instant when they snatched him from you! There was a sudden clearing of his eyes (was there not?) as he saw you for the first time, and recognised the part you had had in him and knew that you had it no longer . . .

     As he saw you, he also saw Them. I know how it was. You reeled back dizzy and blinded, more hurt by them than he had ever been by bombs. The degradation of it!--that this thing of earth and slime could stand upright and converse with spirits before whom you, a spirit, could only cower. Perhaps you had hoped that the awe and strangeness of it would dash his joy. But that is the cursed thing; the [angels] are strange to mortal eyes, and yet they are not strange. He had no faintest conception till that very hour of how they would look, and even doubted their existence. But when he saw them he knew that he had always known them and realised what part each one of them had played at many an hour in his life when he had supposed himself alone, so that now he could say to them, one by one, not, "Who are you?" but, "So it was you all the time."

Wow! What an image!
As far as physical protection goes, now and then I read a miraculous story--you know the type--someone feels an invisible push as disaster whizzes by. It's not that I don't believe, but I'll bet our angels are involved more subtly and frequently than we can guess.

For example, when David was a young non-swimmer, our family hiked with my cousin and her husband to a remote creek and waterhole in Tennessee. As toddler Daniel and baby Joseph occupied my attention on shore, David slipped off a sloping rock and into water over his head.

I didn't actually see it happen; I looked up to see David's hands above the water! He was about 10 feet from the edge, 20-30 feet from me. I laid the baby on the pebbles, hustled into the swimming hole, and hauled/pushed David back onto the rock and the beach. He choked up some water, ate some Cheese Nips, and appeared no worse for the wear.

What got me (once the adrenalin wore off) was just how close a call we'd had. A few minutes before, there had been four or five adults around the hole. When I looked up, they were gone. Only my cousin and Lauren were left, sitting in a (noisy) little waterfall, with their backs to me. No one could hear me. No one (including me) had seen David slip. If I hadn't looked up when I did, I might not have known he was in the water at all.

I'm convinced a guardian angel (David's or mine) tapped me on the shoulder and got me to look up from the diaper I was changing. I don't KNOW it, but I can't wait to find out some day and have the chance to offer another grateful, "Thank you!"

Friday, October 1, 2010

My Secret Weapons

When I feel a cold coming on, I break out the Cold-Eeze.  It's a zinc supplement lozenge that never cures my illness, but markedly shortens it.

Wednesday I woke up to a scratchy throat.  Seemingly in an instant, I had a really bad cold--sore, scratchy, tickly throat; drippy, stuffy, raw nose; and exhaustion (that deep-in-your-bones weariness, so different from sleepiness).  I'm not writing to complain but to share how well my favorite remedy works.

After reading the box (it's been a long time), I upped my dose to 6 lozenges a day.  Cold-Eeze only works for me when I rest too, so I went to bed on time or even early.  By Friday morning, although not 100%, I was well on the road to recovery.  I've even been able to breathe normally most of the day!  A two day turnaround--impressive.

Once again, my advice boils down to :
  1. Cold-Eeze (early and often)
  2. Sleep
Simple, huh?

And for sick-time skin care, may I also suggest:  Puffs Plus (with lotion) and Vaseline on and under the nose at bedtime.

Well, that's enough grannyish guidance for now.  Be well!