Saturday, December 31, 2005

My Two Little Blondes

Had you been a fly on our wall a couple days ago, you would have heard this conversation:

Me: "Did y'all see that little black and white dog that came in the yard awhile ago?"

Elizabeth: "What color was it?"

Silas: "Brown."

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

End of the Year

I'll be taking a few days to spend time with my family, and evaluate, plan, set goals, and pray about all I have to do in this new year--home, homeschool, organization, church, and friends. So I won't be blogging till late this week or possibly even next week. Have a happy New Year!

Family Update

We had a somewhat rushed but still wonderful Christmas. On Friday night we went to Billy's mom and dad's and spent the night to have Christmas with them on the 24th. I admire my mother-in-law's stamina more all the time. She stayed up all night cooking on Friday and woke up after a couple hours' sleep cheerful as a cricket. She's a better woman than I! Now I see where Billy and Elizabeth get their amazing ability to keep on going and going and going and...Anyway, it was a sweet day. The food was delicious, the gifts were thoughtful, and the company was great. I'm blessed to have married into such a wonderful bunch.

We opened gifts at home on Christmas morning. Silas and Elizabeth got bikes from Santa, and lo and behold, Santa brought me a bike too, the sneaky joker! There is even a seat for Sarah to ride. I was so happy. Santa must love me a lot. Either that or I was just extra good this year, who knows. Sarah was so excited about opening gifts. Of course she didn't really care that much about the gifts themselves, but I think she sensed the other kids' excitement and had fun with all the shiny paper and boxes.

We went to church and then dropped by to see an elderly homebound couple before heading to my parents' where a yummy Christmas dinner was waiting. Whew! We finally got to slow down for awhile. We opened presents with them after dinner. My mom made Elizabeth a Raggedy Ann doll and got Silas an old-fashioned top, and they were so excited that they could have cared less about opening any more!

We spent the night with Daddy and Mama and then spent the day Monday with them as well. A special treat was that we got to go horseback riding. The kids have never been and I haven't been in years. It's funny how something can feel both so foriegn and so familiar at the same time. Riding Levi's gentle horse Matt was the highlight of Silas and Elizabeth's trip. Silas had a frozen-on grin--we couldn't get him to stop smiling as long as he was on the horse! When it was time to stop they acted as though the world had come to an end.

We got home last night, tired but happy. My little homebody, Sarah, looked around the bedroom for a minute as though to say, "Yep, we're home!" and then laughed out loud. She is easygoing and loves to visit family, but she is always ecstatic to be home.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas!!!

Hope your day is filled with sweet moments and the joy of Jesus!

Friday, December 23, 2005

The Island

Last night Billy and I put the kids to bed early and watched The Island. What a great show affirming the preciousness of every life! Not without its moments of obejctionable content, but a great movie nonetheless.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Another insane week...

So light blogging. However, Barbara at MommyLife never seems to have these weeks and churns out posts regularly. One of her best was this week on teachability. Boy did I need to read it too!

This week has been mostly consumed with organizing Christmas for a family of 8 who will otherwise have a pretty bleak one. Although it has taken a lot of time and effort, it has also been one of the best parts of this Christmas. There is no better way to celebrate, in my opinion, than blessing someone who's struggling. After all, God has done that for me in my salvation and He has used the Body of Christ to bless me in my times of need (whether physical, emotional, or spiritual). It's a joy to be able to pass it on. The generosity of our church toward this family has been a sweet spot as well, and as for the family we are helping, they are hard working and have a great attitude. That makes it all the more special to be able to help them out. If you haven't done something for someone in need this Christmas, seek somebody out. There's nothing like it to fill one up with the true Christmas Spirit.

Saturday, December 17, 2005


I have been. I've made all sorts of crazy threats this evening, including to kidnap my family and move to a cabin in the mountains and become a hermit family. If you feel the same way then maybe a couple quick Christmas tips will help you out like they have helped me this weekend.

1. I don't remember who gave us the cut glass cake plate with glass dome for our wedding, but I have used it more this week for parties than I have used it in our married life. I discovered that everything from sausage balls to cheese ball and crackers looks more appealing on a pedestal. Even the ordinary looks nicer on glass. Great for parties.

2. Being unorganized as I am I hadn't bought any Christmas cards, and being the cheapskate I am I could hardly justify the expense--besides, I didn't have time. So I took some blue cardstock (the only color I had that was remotely Christmasy), cut each piece in half with my olfa cutter and folded it into card size. Then I found a clean sponge under the sink and cut it into a triangle. I found some green craft paint in the kids' school box, dipped the sponge in the paint, and stamped a green triangle on each card, assembly-line style. Then I made a little cross on top with silver glitter glue (although a sequin, sparkly bead, or glitter would have worked just as well)--voila, a Christmas tree! Then I wrote "Merry Christmas" inside and signed our names. I have to confess that I can't take credit for this idea. I read if somewhere, I think in a review of a card-making book--but I'm not sure. It just stuck in my brain.

3. In the new issue of Notes from Toad Hall that came yesterday (too lazy to link, I will provide that in another post sometime), Margie Haack suggested giving granola as a Christmas gift. Brilliant. I made a batch of chunky peanut butter granola this morning and asked Billy to pick up some M&M's, peanuts, and pretzels. When he came home with 3 big bags of M&M's, 2 bags of pretzels and a big canister of nuts, I thought he had way over-bought. (I also added a box of raisins.) God knew better though. I had way under-planned, and this super colossal batch of Peanut Butter Granola Trail Mix measured out just right for all the kids' Sunday School, Awana, and Choir teacher gifts. Whew! Billy had bought just right.

Now it's late and I still have a lot to do to get ready for tomorrow. Good night!

If it Needs to be Done

Here's something I wrote a couple years ago, which is, in the final analysis, about service.


The other day as I stretched to reach above the doorway, I heard my three-year-old say, “Here, I got the stool for you, Mama.” She had carried the step stool (bulky and heavy for her) all the way from the other end of the house, because saw that I needed it.

I hugged her. “You saw what Mama needed and you did it without being asked,” I told her. “Your Grandpa would be proud of you. Do you know that when I was a little girl, Grandpa told me lots of times, ‘Honey, if you see something that needs to be done, just DO IT!’ That’s what you did. Thank you!”

I don’t know how many times my brothers and sisters and I heard those words growing up. I suppose the reason we heard them so often is because we weren’t doing that, and we needed the reminders. Nevertheless, repetition bore fruit and as we grew into teenagers, we automatically pitched in wherever we were to wash dishes, sweep the floor, pick up trash, watch little children, or any other job that presented itself. It became such an ingrained habit that I never thought of NOT doing it. It’s something I see common in older generations, but not as much in younger ones. I guess those old-fashioned lessons are one of the boons of having older-than-average parents!

Now that I’m married and I have little ones in tow, it feels strange to not always be the one available to clean up after a church pot luck, or volunteer my time to help an older lady. It really feels strange to have a young girl say, “Can I help you with your babies?” Wait a minute, that was me a few years ago! I wonder if I was as much of a blessing to the mothers I helped as these girls are to me.

I have to guard against irritation when I see young people standing around when something needs to be done, and to have to ask them to lend a hand. It doesn’t help when they drag their feet, act bored, or do a poor job. Then I have to remind myself that they obviously don’t have parents who drill into them, “If you see something that needs to be done, DO IT!” Rather than being critical, I should feel badly for them. They’ve been denied a wonderful gift that would take them a long way in life. That’s why I’m already trying to instill in my little ones how important it is to pitch in and help even when it’s “Not my job” or “No one asked me to”. I’d be honored if their trademark expression became, “What can I do to help?” or better yet, if they became known as young people who could be counted on to observe the needs of others and jump into the job without being asked. I want them to know the joys of serving others for reasons other than reward, and to know the joy of honest hard work. I read the words of a wise mother who cheerfully tells her children, “We love to work hard!” Now I tell my little ones the same thing.

“Look at Elizabeth wash dishes! What a helper! We love to work hard, don’t we Elizabeth? God made us strong so we can do our work and help each other!”

“Look at Silas! He is such a good boy to pick up his blocks! Silas, you help Mama so much when you work hard! We love to work!”

I remember watching my mom wash dishes at church after pot lucks when I was very small. I remember my dad doing chores for neighbors when they were on vacation, and helping friends with other jobs. My parents modeled the lifestyle of voluntarily serving others, and included us kids in that. My husband and I try to model the joys of work and helping others to our children as well. I hope that by example and encouragement, they will become another generation of people whose delight is to help people without being asked. Of course, I’m sure it won’t hurt if they frequently hear, “Honey, if you see something that needs to be done, DO IT!”

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Cheapest, Funnest Toy Ever

On a whim Billy made these for the kids the other day. He took an 18-inch dowel rod and taped a 3-foot piece of floaty sheer ribbon to the end. (It was actually ribbon I had cut for gifts :)) These have been the most-used toys at our house ever since. They have been used for everything from dancing to whips for Santa's reindeer. It's amazing how differently Silas and Elizabeth play with the same toy. Elizabeth uses hers in all sorts of girly ways (dancing, twirling, making circles) and Silas uses his in all sorts of boy ways (popping the end, driving imaginary reindeer and horses).

Remind me again why we buy them toys?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Almost No Sugar Buckeyes

These are the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup equivalent of the "healthy dessert" world. Now don't get your hopes up, they don't taste just like Reese's...But for those of us, like me, who have had to give up our sugary treats, they make a fine substitute. This is one of my favorite "healthy" Christmas treats.

1 c. natural peanut butter (I use Smucker's)
1 T. honey
1/2 c. nonfat powdered milk (or enough to make "dough" stiff but not crumbly)

Mix together. Form into balls the size of large marbles and chill.
When cold, melt 1 12-oz package unsweetened carob chips (I use Sunspire) in a double boiler over low heat. Dip each peanut butter ball in the melted carob and place on wax paper on a cookie sheet. When all the balls are dipped, put them in the refrigerator or freezer to harden.

You could add basically anything you want to the pb mixture...raisins, sesame seeds, coconut...And you could sprinkle the outsides with chopped nuts or coconut or some such...But I like them just plain...Mmmm, yummy!

Family Update

It's been a challenging ministry week. We've dealt with five deaths among church members'/attendees' families, some tragic and unexpected. Billy assisted with a funeral Monday and attended another Saturday. We have dear friends and church members undergoing serious medical difficulties. It seems like these kinds of things always happen more at this time of year. In addition, we've lost staff (one retiring after many faithful years of service and the other recieving a call to another church). We have faith that God will fill those spots, but we will miss the work of these servants as they transition into another stage of life and ministry.

On the family front, things are going well. We are in the midst of many church Christmas celebrations and activities. We are trying to carve out time for family Christmas activities too. I promised the kids that we would make gingerbread men this afternoon, which is one of their favorite projects. Yesterday we spent the afternoon at our camp, and the kids had fun throwing rocks into the lake (well, a little puddle in the lake bed--the lake is temporarily drained) and playing hide and seek, ball, and riding their bikes down the trailer ramp. They were sleepy children when we finally got home.

Elizabeth counted to 100 this week, and she knows vowels and consenants, nouns and verbs, the names of the first president, our current president and vice president, and she is working on other members of government. This week we are focusing on continents, oceans, and planets. She is fascinated by geography and science, so this is something she enjoys.

Silas counted to 10 this week and he is making huge strides in his potty training. (Just what you wanted to know all about, right?!) He has also been singing Christmas carols. He is a musical little guy and he loves to sing.

Saturday we had Breakfast with Santa at church (Santa came a read the kids the Christmas story) and Silas went right up to him and shook his hand. Elizabeth, on the other hand, jumped in Billy's lap and put her arms around his neck so tight he could hardly breathe. That was before she hid in the kitchen. However, when it came time to sit in Santa's lap she was fine. Santa didn't bother Sarah at all. She kept looking at him as if to say, "Who is this funny looking guy?" I guess we are lucky that she didn't pull his beard.

We finished packing our shoebox gifts to send to Pine Ridge. We ended up collecting about 30 boxes of gifts for needy children on the reservation.

A bunch of people in our church are working on adopting a family for Christmas in our community. The daddy was in a car wreck and is unable to work much, and then their house burned. Their are six small children in the family and the mama is working as a waitress to make ends meet. The thing that has impressed us the most is their wonderful attitude in the midst of trial. It is a joy to find ways to help their family. If you have an opportunity this Christmas, seek out a family in need to help. Giving is so much more blessed than recieving. This is what Christmas is all about!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

For Knitters

For my birthday my mom got me a wonderful knitting book called Last-Minute Knitted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson. It is a jewel, full of wonderful quick and simple knitting projects. I can't wait to try some of the hats for my kiddos.

Missionaries and Fiber Artists

Well, the two don't necessarily have anything in common, but I found two great lists.
Here is a list of missionary bloggers from around the world, and here is a list of fiber blogs. (For those of you who don't know what a fiber artist is, that's someone who spins, knits, weaves, felts, dyes, or otherwise works with textile fiber.) Maybe these will keep you busy reading till my schedule slows down.

Hmmm, neither link is working. I'm not sure why. If you go to the missionary blogger one, though, and click on the blog link in the sidebar, it will take you to the right page.

Busy, busy

No time for even a quick post the past few days. Sorry about that.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Portsmouth Tea, Part II

I finally got a tea ball and was able to brew some of the Strawberry le Creme I got from the Portsmouth Tea Company. Yummy! It was good hot, and I think it would be even better iced. This would make a wonderful Christmas gift. Mmmmm...

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Family Update

Late again. Oh well.

One of the funnest things we got to do last week was to visit my parents on Monday. They raised a hog for us (we payed for feed and processing) and it was ready to be picked up. It was a great excuse to spend the afternoon with them. We were all sad that we had to leave so soon. Elizabeth and Silas were glad that they got to help feed chickens and milk Hildi, the Jersey cow, before they left.

Friday night some dear ladies at church hosted a parents' night out for us busy moms and dads so that we could have a date and do some Christmas shopping. Billy took me to a lovely seafood restaurant and we went outlet mall shopping afterward. We found some great gifts as well as some badly-needed towels on sale.

On Saturday we put up our Christmas tree. I love a fresh tree, at least as long as I remember to water it...The kids enjoyed decorating and it looks so pretty with the lights on. Elizabeth is my biggest helper when it comes to hanging the lights.

Sarah decided to start crawling this week, which is so adorable, but also interesting timing now that we have all these Christmas decorations up! It was a week of milestones for her. She has also pulled up to a standing position and given her first on-purpose hugs. She's such a daddy's girl. When she wakes up in the morning, if she is in bed with us (which happens more often than not) the first thing she does is flop over to see if Billy is still there. If he is, she harrasses him unmercifully until he plays with her. Then she is happy. She saves her very biggest smiles for him.

Sunday night was the adult choir musical at church. It turned out beautifully. Our director and others worked so hard to put it together, and all their efforts payed off. At the last minute, Sarah was chosen to be a live baby Jesus instead of the doll we had planned to use. I was so nervous, especially since I was a soloist and couldn't have slipped out to take care of her if she cried. She did great though. In fact, she fell asleep, even with music booming around her. I'm sure it helped that our Mary is one of her favorite people, and a very gentle, nurturing person at that.

The Chrismas season is so busy, and this week is shaping up to be a crazy one. We try to remember, though, in the midst of the busyness, not to lose our focus and to keep the joy of the season in our hearts. I hope all of you have joyful weeks as well!

My Parents Are Weird

My parents have always been ones to buck the system, to live outside normal. And I’m glad.

If I had normal parents I wouldn’t have been born, considering my mom was of “advanced maternal age” when she started having kids (me, at 36). I wouldn’t have had any of my four brothers and sisters either, since normal people don’t continue having children until age 49.

If I had normal parents I wouldn’t have been homeschooled at a time when the homeschool movement was just getting off the ground and homeschool parents had to fight for every inch of ground they gained. Hardly anybody homeschooled when we first began. Homeschooling was not just weird, it was almost unheard of.

If I had normal parents I might not have been raised in the country and would not have learned all sorts of old-fashioned crafts and skills like how to make butter in an antique churn, spin wool, and grow wheat for flour and corn for meal. I wouldn’t have known what it was like to have baby goats and chicks living in our kitchen because it was too cold outside for them. I don’t think normal people keep goats and chickens in their kitchens, even baby ones.

If I had normal parents I would have spent hours in front of the TV instead of hours reading. I would have missed out on hundreds of books that sharpened my vocabulary and writing skills. It also gave me a sense of history that makes me realize how we in this era of technology are not normal either, considering how people have lived through history and how most around the world live even today.

If I had normal parents they would never have thrown their support behind my relationship with a man ten years my senior with a radically different background, who turned out to be the most awesome and perfect husband for me. (I love you, Billy!)

If I had normal parents they would not have given their blessing to my sister’s unorthodox meeting with a man, also ten years her senior, who turned out to be the perfect husband for her. (We’re glad they let you into the family, Stephen!)

If I had normal parents, they wouldn’t be starting the same cycle all over again with their grandkids.

Like I said, my parents are weird. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

No Sugar at Christmas?

Since Billy and I are hypoglycemic, we had to give up sugar and sweets long ago. For several years I just substituted honey or fructose because they both raise your blood sugar more slowly, but even they made me crazy. And I mean crazy. Sugar affects me (and I'm sure lots of other people) not just physically but mentally and emotionally as well.

Most of the time skipping sweets doesn't bother me. I do miss my mom's chocolate dump cake and fudge brownies. But I honestly reached a point where I would so much rather be well and stable that sweets don't usually tempt me.

People ask me all the time how I do it. I'm not obsessive. If something doesn't taste sweet I eat it, even if sugar is listed in the ingredients list. I also satisfy a craving for sweets with fresh fruit.

I made the change fairly gradually. I had experimented a lot with "healthier" desserts before I discovered that I was hypoglycemic. Another good thing to remember is that desserts made without sugar are not going to taste like the sugar dessert they are replacing. I think keeping that in mind keeps disappointment at bay. For example, I use carob instead of chocolate, but I don't expect carob to taste like chocolate. Billy and I have had to be patient with ourselves and acquire a taste for some foods over time. Also, I had to reassign the place food, and especially dessert, had in my life. It had to take a place of less importance. I had to learn not to care so much about sweets. That was hard, because I have an insufferable sweet tooth. But the less sugar I eat, the less I crave, and the easier it is to replace dessert with other nice things, like tea and a magazine. It's a fine line, because on one hand I have to think *more* about what I eat, make wise choices when I eat out, and so forth...But I have to *care* less about food. It's something that I do imperfectly and I'm sure I always will, but it goes a long way in managing my diet.

It's hardest around the holidays. However, I've come up with a few recipes that are good alternatives (I think). I splurge a bit this time of year and eat a little honey. As long as I behave myself most of the time and eat in moderation when I do splurge, it seems to be OK. I also make fruit juice sweetened desserts that I actually tolerate much better. I'll be posting a few of these over the next week or two. Unfortunately most of them are high in fat, but they are easier on blood sugar levels. Remember, moderation in all things, even "healthy" desserts!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Cranberry Sauce

Billy and I are incurable fans of the traditional Thanksgiving/Christmas feast. We buy turkeys on sale and cook 4 or 5 throughout the winter, always with cornbread dressing and this cranberry sauce. I like it because you can't tell that it's made with honey, and it's so easy. Plus it's much better than the jelly kind you buy in the can, at least I think so!

Honey Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce

1 12 oz package fresh or frozen cranberries
1 c. water
1 c. honey
1/2 t. orange peel (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a heavy saucepan and cook on med-high till it starts to boil and the cranberry skins start to split. Reduce heat and cook for 20 minutes or till thickened. Be sure to stir frequently and check it often so it doesn't burn. Also, if the heat is too high it will foam badly. Let cool and chill. Yummy with turkey!

New blog...

My brother-in-law now has a blog! Go check out Sharp's Corner Ministry to read about Stephen and Leah's mission work on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. From my sister's perspective, read Life at Sharp's Corner.


My kids were first introduced to the idea of superheroes earlier this year when we saw The Incredibles. Then we got some old Superman movies which they have watched over and over again. More recently they have started to understand the concept of heroes in general. Last night Silas saw a TV ad that mentioned a hero. His face lit up and he smiled from ear to ear. "Hero, Mommy! Hero!" This morning when he did something especially kind to Sarah I asked her, "Is Brother your hero?" He grinned. "I a hero!" And then when the kids were watching The Sound of Music, Elizabeth asked, "Was the Captain a hero?" She says that God and Daddy are her heroes. (Awwww...)

Billy and I have a goal to hang out as a family with godly pastors, missionaries, evangelists, and other Christians who will encourage our children in the faith. We look for books that tell about Christian heroes. I know that they will admire people from many walks of life, but my hope and prayer is that their true heroes are those who exemplify godliness and inspire them to become heroes to someone else.