Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Egg-cellent Day!

I have this thing about breakfast. While it doesn't always work out this way, I usually like my kids to have a piping hot breakfast. And yes, hot homemade donuts count. I can hear my kids screaming right about now, because it's been way too long since I've made hot homemade donuts! Soon, my children, soon!

Anyway, I pulled out the griddle this morning to make some good old-fashioned fried eggs and toast. The griddle is on, all sprayed with Pam, the eggs are out, the bread is ready to go down in the toaster, the butter is soft and perfectly spreadable...we are on our way!

Pause here...

Yes, we all hang out together at the griddle...OK? OK.

Well, the first egg I crack open (from a carton of large eggs, I might add) is the tiniest little egg you'd ever want to see. I mean, it wasn't like a hummingbird egg or anything, but as chicken eggs go, it was little. I'd say the yolk was the size of a nickle. That started me talking about how my Aunt Elle raised chickens (my Aunt Lou raised chickens too, but I have more cow stories than chicken egg stories from her) that would often lay these huge eggs. And she knew exactly which ones would have double yolks. She'd pick one up and crack it on the side of the bowl, and Wa-La (aka Voila!), a double-yolk egg. As a kid, I thought that was the coolest thing ever.

Imagine our shock that just as I'm telling this little Aunt Elle story, I crack open another egg (from the same carton of large eggs), and what pops out? A double-yolk egg! Honestly, it was at the exact moment I'm telling the kids the coolness factor of finding a double-yolk egg. I think we all let out a little scream of excitement. Uh, it doesn't take much to excite us around here. Hanging out at the griddle ought to tell you something. So, the camera was grabbed and photos were taken for posterity's sake. I do believe this was my first ever, double-yolk egg! And with the kids, no less.

We do have egg problems at our house though. Rachel enjoys the white part of the egg, but not so much the yolk part. She specifically requested the little nickle-size bird egg. Caleb, on the other hand, loves eggs, especially the dipping part, so I figured he'd want the double-yolk. Nope. He didn't want nothin' to do with eatin' twin chickens. So, guess who got the double-yolk egg? Yep. Yours truly.

As I'm cleaning-up the breakfast dishes, the kids ask, "So, how was the twin egg, Mama?" "Quite frankly," I tell them, "it was a little bit freaky to me." Don't ask me why. It tasted exactly the same as any other egg I have ever eaten, but there was just something weird about it. I guess the good news is, given my history of finding double-yolk eggs for the past, oh, 47 years, chances of this happening to me again are slim to none.

Hope your day is egg-cellent!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Braking News!

We just had lunch together and this was part of a conversation going on as we talked about Charles Dickens' Great Expectations.

Specifically, Rachel was talking about his parents were dead, how he went to live with his sister and her husband, two people who were very poor, and that he only owned one set of clothes (tragic!). That is, until he went to live with Miss Havisham.

And so we pick-up the conversation here...

"So when Pip went to live with the old lady, he thought he was all Hooty-tooty."

Me, laughing hysterically
"Hooty-tooty?! Did you just say Hooty-tooty?! Do you mean Hoity-toity?! It's Hoity-toity!"

I don't know, maybe you just had to be there. We all just laughed and laughed. I even told her this was a newsworthy "blog" moment. "Great, just great!" she said.

Now about a minute later Caleb screams, "Chicken!" which you need to understand takes on a whole new meaning at our house. Now we're all laughing hysterically.

Some time ago, I had meat from the freezer thawing on the counter top. Rachel went up and took a look at it and, filled with excitement, let out a little scream, "Chicken!" That wouldn't have been a big deal except the thawing meat was actually pork chops, which everyone knows looks nothing like chicken.

And so at our house we call these little slips Rachel's Euphemisms. They are so adorable and wonderful and memorable. Thank you, Sweetie, for bringing us so much joy and allowing us to laugh together.

And listen, yes, I know how to spell Breaking news. But I didn't want it to say Breaking news. I am not, after all, CNN or Fox News. I wanted it to say braking news on purpose! So there.

Memorable Moment

Our family had the wonderful opportunity to attend Sunday night's concert with Keith and Kristyn Getty as their world tour came to a close. They head back to Ireland today for a much needed break before they begin penning words and music of songs we hope to be singing later this year. I can't wait!

There's something to be said about standing in the middle of thousands of voices singing words to hymns like:

What Grace is Mine that He who dwells in endless light
Called through the night to find my distant soul
And from his scars poured mercy that would plead for me
That I might live and in his name be known

So I will go wherever He is calling me
I lose my life to find my life in Him
I give my all to gain the hope that never dies
I bow my heart, take up my cross and follow Him


In Christ Alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
this Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
when fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
here in the love of Christ I stand.

or a personal favorite

Still, my Soul be Still
And do not fear
Though winds of change may rage tomorrow
God is at your side
No longer dread
The fires of unexpected sorrow

God You are my God
And I will trust in You and not be shaken
Lord of peace renew
A steadfast spirit within me
To rest in You alone.

Learn more about Keith and Kristyn Getty at

Caleb and Rachel share our love for Getty music. Both stood in line to personally meet them and thank them for their music. Rachel asked Kristyn and Keith to sign the inside cover of her Bible. I managed to get a couple pictures (although not great) as I squeezed my camera through moving people. It was a fun and exciting memorable moment!

Hebrews 12:1
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, March 29, 2010

My Own Einstein

We will finish up our 9th year of homeschooling at the end of May. It has been a wonderful journey for our family and we look forward to seeing what the future holds. I have found God so faithful in helping me all along the way, in every detail.

We started this journey when Caleb was just 4 and Rachel was 2. I figured she could sit with us and do whatever she wanted, for as long as she wanted. We started off by learning a letter and number of the week (preschool as I like to call it). We also used Before Five in a Row which really started my children's love for reading great books. Every afternoon we would snuggle on the big chair for an hour, reading wonderful books. Who knew this little two year old girl was getting it! That's why today, both kids, even though they are two years apart, are in the same grade. Which is great for me, but sometimes not so great for them.

We made sure when they chose a musical instrument almost 7 years ago, they chose different instruments. Caleb chose guitar. Rachel chose piano. For the most part, this has allowed them freedom to develop and mature as individual musicians. They performed together at church for the first time on Christmas Eve. Caleb played guitar and Rachel sang. It brought great joy to this mother's heart.

Sometimes, however, comparisons are made and challenges arise. Math can be that one area. Caleb is my very creative, free-thinking, problem-solving, Energizer Bunny. He goes and goes and goes and is usually thinking about what's next. This doesn't necessarily bode well for math (although I will say he has always been an A/B student). Rachel, on the other hand, is very detail-oriented, a logical thinker, note-taker, and must complete a task before moving onto the next thing. As you might guess, this kind of thinking is more conducive to math.

Up until recently, my name would be called whenever a question or additional explanation was needed. I would step-in, help explain the concept, and my student would be on his/her merry way. That is until Algebra.

I did very well in school, but unfortunately for me, I studied to do well on a test. I got mostly A's. Once the test was over, however, not much remained up there, if you know what I mean. Thus, Algebra is something I have to re-learn. I have found this easier the second time around.

A few days ago, Caleb called for Rachel instead of me (that ought to tell you something). He asked if she could help him with an equation. I heard her walking him through, step by step. He had to do the problem, though, and came up with an answer. They both got the problem correct, so I didn't think anything of it. That is, until lunchtime. Here's how their little conversation went:

"Rachel, you know that problem you were helping me with? Well, I thought your way was confusing, so I did it my way. I thought my way was easier. I actually got the answer right."

"Oh... Well, OK."

"I just thought I'd tell you that today, I was my own Einstein."

Today...I was my own Einstein!

I actually laughed out loud. That's a great line, don't you think? I can't say I've ever had an Einstein moment, but I was so happy that he was happy.

P.S. This is the post that was lost when my internet connection died...somehow it magically appeared today. How weird is that?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Oh! Oh! Orzo

Spring arrived last Saturday, but you would never have known that last night as we drove home in a near blizzard. It will be here soon though--spring that is.

The Spring Peepers have been out singing for over a week. You know what those are, don't you? This is the first freeze since they came out from their long winter sleep, so only two more freezes to go. That's what I was told when I was a little girl anyway. "When the Spring Peepers see their faces three times, spring is here to stay." I count their singing and corresponding freezes every year. And it's always been true as far as I know.

Here's what a Spring Peeper looks and sounds like (less the red color). These little frogs are about the size of a dime.

My family enjoys comfort food (all that snow made me think comfort). Here's a little side dish I made-up a little while back. It's quick and easy, and if you're a pasta lover like we are, it's guaranteed to satisfy. I call it "Oh! Oh! Orzo" because that was somewhat the reaction when I made it the first time. Besides, "Yea!" didn't quite sound right.

Oh! Oh! Orzo

1 1/4 cups dry orzo pasta
1 large sweet onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon butter
olive oil
salt and pepper
1/3 to 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese plus extra for table top
parsley, finely chopped (optional)

Cook orzo according to package directions then drain thoroughly.

While orzo is cooking, drizzle olive oil in bottom of a large non-stick skillet (maybe a couple of tablespoons); on medium-high heat, add butter and onion and season with salt and pepper. Saute until onion is caramelized. The caramelized onion is where much of the flavor comes from in this recipe, so be sure to let the onion get that beautiful golden color. Add the garlic a few minutes before the onions are finished. Garlic burns easily and then turns bitter. (To keep things quick, I use minced garlic in a jar). Remove from heat if pasta is still cooking.

Turn heat to high (let skillet get hot again if it was removed from the stove top); add cooked and drained orzo to onion and garlic mixture. After tossing orzo with onion and garlic mixture, add Parmesan cheese and stir until cheese is melted and thoroughly mixed through. Transfer to serving bowl, top with Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley.

Add baby peas or small steamed broccoli florets to the cooked orzo for color. I have even added cooked shrimp. But please do not add Spring Peepers to this dish. Otherwise we might have to rename it "Oh! No! Orzo."

Note to Self: Do not post pictures of slimy creatures with food recipes.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Cutest Things

Do you know what this is? This was last year's nemesis. Meet Rocky. You know, Rocky? Rocky, friend of Bullwinkle? Yes, this is a flying squirrel.

I love spring. I can't wait to get outside and start scratching around. I can't wait to get the patio opened. I can't wait to get my pots out and get them filled with flowers. I can't wait to have our first fire in the fire pit. What can wait are the creatures that come out of the woodwork. Last year, it was literally.

It started when we heard noises outside our bedroom wall. We would hear the occasional scratching. We've had mice in the attic before (yes, I know) so, we set-up peanut butter baited traps. Nothing happened. That is until the day when my husband found a really big mouse. An unusual looking big mouse. He put on thick leather gloves and was able to catch the varmint. As soon as I saw it, I knew what it was.

I knew because when we were kids, we caught these little creatures on the roof of my father's barn. I took them to school for Show and Tell. We named them Pixy and Dixy and kept them for pets. Somehow when you're a kid, creatures like this are cool. Not so when you're an adult and find they've moved into your house.

These flying squirrels had made their community dwelling inside the overhang of our roof, just off the chimney. As far as we know, only one made it inside the attic (the one he thought was a big mouse). My husband had to get very creative in order to catch these guys. He built a platform and attached it to the tree they would jump on from the roof. We watched them do this every night at was an incredible sight. These little guys couldn't resist walnuts. Once inside the "live" trap, Bang! At least he left home with a full belly, right? My diligent husband caught them one at a time. All thirteen of them. All but two made it to a nearby forest where my children prayed they would be reunited.

It's spring. Just wondering if any creatures will make themselves known to us again this year.

Come on, they are the cutest things, aren't they?!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Four O'Clock

Today I managed to mess up some purple x’s. Not surprising, I guess. The fact that I got through last week without incident should have told me something. Did I really think I could do it yet again? Nope. It was only wishful thinking. I don’t know how I did what I did, but it was too complicated to figure out. We even got out a magnifying glass! That right there ought to tell you something. Mrs. Nagy said, “Just let that be Michelle’s signature.” Isn’t she just the sweetest?

And then there’s Rachel. Miss Perfect Student. Hmph.

We talk non-stop the entire time we’re there. I’m really amazed we get anything done at all. But women have this wonderful ability to multi-task (although me and cross stitching might be the exception). We started talking about Rachel playing piano and her need for a big challenging piece (she’s been bored lately). Mrs. Nagy shared how she taught herself many years ago to play piano just so she could play the old hymns. One thing lead to another and the next thing I know, she’s telling us the song she would like her daughter-in-law to play and sing at her funeral. She started speaking the words to the hymn (which I did not immediately recognize), but found she needed to sing in order to remember the words. Here is this beautiful godly woman singing right there at her dining room table. The old hymn is called The Holy City. I only recognized it after I heard the melody. The words paint a beautiful picture of Heaven.

Here’s the last part of the song…

And once again the scene was changed;
New earth there seemed to be;
I saw the Holy City
Beside the tideless sea;
The light of God was on its streets,
The gates were open wide,
And all who would might enter,
And no one was denied.
No need of moon or stars by night,
Or sun to shine by day;
It was the new Jerusalem
That would not pass away.

Jerusalem! Jerusalem!
Sing for the night is o'er!
Hosanna in the highest!
Hosanna for evermore!

By the way, we talked about flowers too. When they lived in Austria, her mother had a tiny little patch of ground outside their two-room apartment (a converted barrack) where she planted herbs and vegetables. There, a little row of Four O’clocks would grow. These flowers always remind her of her mother. Don’t tell Mrs. Nagy, but I will be on an important mission around Mother’s Day!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Listen. Learn.

I wasn’t raised in a Christian home. I do have a fond memory of being a little girl of about 8 years old and walking up an old country road to a little Baptist church. I was going there to attend Vacation Bible School. On the Friday that ended the week, I found myself answering the “altar call” and prayed with an old lady named Mrs. Romine (I’m sure she wasn’t old at the time, but she was old to me). I remember asking Jesus to come and live in my heart. I’ll be honest to say I really didn’t know what that meant. I just knew I wanted Him to come and live there. This new found faith wasn’t fostered where I grew-up, but I never ever forgot the Bible verse I memorized that week.

John 3:16
For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him, shall not perish, but have everlasting life.

It wasn’t until 1989 (nineteen years later) that I came to know Christ and made Him lord of my life. But I will have to save that story for another time.

I have no memory of ever hearing anyone pray. Now I’m not talking about a “thank you” prayer at meal time. I’m talking about, you know, praying-praying. So, what did I do? I just talked out loud, next to my bed, on my knees, and always started with these same words, “Hi. It’s me.” And then I would just talk to Jesus like he was sitting right there next to me, as my friend. I didn’t realize at the time that (1) he was, and (2) he was.

Now it came to pass that I heard about a Concert of Prayer taking place not too far from where I lived. I hadn’t ever heard of such a thing, and looking back, it may have been the first time it was ever held. Thousands of people were going to gather to pray. I wanted to be a part of this prayer service. It may not be for the reasons you might think.

I remember walking into this massive room with hundreds and hundreds of chairs that were being filled with people. Praying people. I already knew what I was going to do and got busy looking. I was looking for something very specific. It didn’t take long. I found what I was looking for up toward the front, and a little to the right. I can see the scene very clearly in my mind’s eye. It was a group of white-haired black women.

In my heart, I knew there was something to learn from people who had suffered, and suffered greatly. These little old white-haired ladies’ eyes had seen many things. I just walked right up to where they were and took my seat. Sure enough, a little later, chairs were moved, a circle was formed, and I was the lone white girl in the middle of these little old white-haired ladies. We held hands. I do not remember their prayers. I don’t even remember if I said anything. I will tell you this, I have never forgotten that moment. And I have never ever forgotten what I learned that day. Prayer changes things.

One of my favorite Bible verses found in Psalm 46 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” God honored the deep desire of my heart that day.

I hope someday to once again take the hands of these sweet ladies and thank them for the impact they made on my life. I’m sure they have long since died and gone to be with their Lord in Heaven. They never knew how God used them to change the life of a young woman who wanted to know how to pray. I learned by listening.

Sometime I’ll have to tell you about my 3 a.m. wake-up calls.

Pray on!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Monday Terror!

I just want you all to know that I did spend time creating my Monday post late this afternoon. Unfortunately, when I went to publish the thing, I lost my internet connection. So that picture up there, well, that's what I felt like when I realized everything except the title was gone.

Lesson learned: Copy text to a document before publishing...

Oh, the title? It was called "My Own Einstein" and I can assure you it wasn't anything you could conjur up in your wildest imagination!

I may try my hand at this little story another time, but for now, I'd like to think it just wasn't meant to be. Aw, it was such a wonderful little story too!

Hope your Monday was not filled with terror!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Grandma Meme's Lemon Cake

When I was a little girl, my grandmother Meme made this wonderful cake. She died when I was only 10 years old. I don't remember ever having this cake again. That is, until many years later when I happened upon a yellowed envelope.

It was the first spring in our newly built home (13 years ago) and my father had come to spend the week with us, helping my husband work on the yard. I pulled out the yellowed envelope and decided to surprise him. At some point, I called them in and sat my father down, asking him to close his eyes. I placed that cake right under his nose and asked him to take in a deep breath. "Meme's Lemon Cake!" was his immediate response. Even after 20 years, the aroma still evoked incredible memories of a very special lady and her ability to bring joy to all who knew her.

This cake has been served on my son's birthday every year since he was just a little guy. It's his favorite. A few years ago, we started a tradition with dear friends who come over during winter break when their boys are home from college. Our get together usually falls on their son, Alex's, birthday. Now, Alex gets this cake on his birthday! Can I say it's my brother-in-law, Roger's, favorite cake too? Honestly, it's just one of those recipes.

Be warned, after you've made this recipe just one time, you will find your pantry stocked with the ingredients. Make it in the morning, serve it in the afternoon or evening. We find it's even better the next day!

Grandma Meme’s Lemon Cake

1 yellow cake mix
2 small packages Instant Lemon Pudding
6 eggs
¾ cup oil
¾ cup water

Beat together above ingredients until smooth and creamy (the batter will be the color of butter) and pour into ungreased 9x13 cake pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until cake pops up after lightly touching the center—do not over bake.

While the cake is baking, use a wire whisk to mix together the following:

2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons water
1/3 cup lemon juice

After removing cake from the oven, let cool 5 minutes and then carefully poke holes all through cake using a fork (two-tine meat fork works best); slowly pour glaze over cake and use the back of a spoon to press and spread glaze over cake.

Michelle's Note: This cake can be served after it's cooled, but it's really best after the glaze soaks in for a while. Make the cake the night before you want to serve it; cover the pan with foil or a clean cotton towel (after the cake has cooled). Over the years I've eliminated using water in the glaze. I use an extra two tablespoons of lemon juice and an extra tablespoon of butter.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Creative Genius

Let me explain before you go and call the FBI!

This is what happens when you live in an area where the sun doesn't shine for weeks on end, snow has been covering the ground for months, and the kids get tired of going outside and playing in the snow. I call it their creative genius.

Not too long ago I found a rope dangling from the second floor to the first floor. When I realized my son was attached to it, I asked him what he was doing. His response: "Rappelling!" Aw, too cute. It wasn't too funny, however, when I learned he had the other end anchored to the bottom of the upstairs toilet. He changed the anchor to the banister and all was well. He practiced rappelling for days.

On another day, both kids were dressed in their black Ninja outfits. Caleb has Rachel's neck in the crook of his elbow and he's dragging her, with great sound effects I might add, up the stairs. What were they doing, you ask? Why, Caleb was rescuing her, of course. When I realized she was a little red in the face, I told him he probably should try a different method than the choke hold otherwise his rescue efforts might end up differently.

Now on this particular day, I could tell something big was going on. Stuff was piling up on the counter and a lot of running around was happening. The next thing I knew, there was a "bomb" in my kitchen. Let me make this clear...they were not playing terrorists or bank robbers! I'm convinced this was all due to an old movie we had watched where the hero diffuses a bomb at the last moment and saves the day. I took this picture because the creativity it took to pull this together was, quite frankly, amazing to me!

Here's what was used:
  • The silver case holds a card game
  • The timer is used for our outdoor lights
  • The little silver rectangle to the right is a calculator
  • The shiny wire attached to the calculator is picture hanger wire
  • The red and black wires belong to an electronics building kit
  • Who knew we had so many D batteries
  • There are some AA batteries in there too
  • The cardboard was measured and carefully cut (I remember this took a couple of times)
  • And the countdown going-on is just a piece of printer paper
  • I think the digital clock is pretty cool!
I remember my husband telling us a story of when he was younger, he and his brothers would tie Clorox bleach bottles to their backs and wear big socks, barely pulled up, and hanging off their feet. What were they pretending to be? Scuba divers!

My childhood creativity probably amounted to a clothes line tied to two trees with a blanket thrown on top. A tent. Yep, that's about as good as it got. Although I do have a fond memory of pulling leaves off of trees, stacking them all together, and using them as play money. We rode our bikes around and around the house. At some point, we would stop on the patio, flip our bikes over, and fill the "gas tank" by cranking the back wheel as fast as we could. Whoever was the gas station attendant got the neatly stacked leaves. Then we'd just go pick more leaves and refill our pocket. Whoever said money doesn't grow on trees!

I'm so glad they love to play and pretend and be creative. Just think of the stories they'll have to tell their kids someday.

The weather has finally come around, so spring is in the air. Now the kids can come up with all sorts of creative ways to play as they move their genius outside!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Short Ends

It's Wednesday. And a gorgeous Wednesday at that. Another afternoon spent with our dear friend, Mrs. Nagy. Now I want you to know that I managed to cross stitch today without any major problems. That's a huge accomplishment for me. All the little blue x's are now complete so, I was ready to move to the purple x's. I think I counted and recounted 8 or 9 times to make sure I was starting in the right place. I wasn't about to make that awful mistake again.

Rachel continues to make Mrs. Nagy so proud of her ability to follow directions and pay attention to the smallest of details. Her pillowcase is just beautiful. It won't be long and she'll have it completed and ready to start the second one. Mrs. Nagy is already talking about going on a little shopping trip to find the next embroidery project. She's certain Rachel is ready for the next level! Did you notice there's no mention of me being ready to move on?

One of the great things I've come to love about us stitching and embroidering and sewing together is that we can talk and work at the same time. And Mrs. Nagy always has a little something for us to enjoy. She's such a gracious hostess. Today we tried a sampling from a little tray filled with dates, apricots, walnuts, almonds, and chocolates. As far as I know, this was the first time I've ever tasted a date. I really enjoyed it! Rachel, not so much. Not surprising though. Speaking of dates, Mrs. Nagy told us she's never been on a date. She had an arranged marriage. But that's another story for another time.

As always, a wonderful nugget of wisdom was dispensed during all the stitches we made. She told us a story of when she was a little girl living in Austria. They had been through of a number of refugee camps by this time. She found herself in school as a foreigner. Foreigners were looked down on. She only spoke German and the other children would make fun of her. She said she would come home in tears not knowing what to do. Her mother, Julianna, told her these words:

"Take the short end and God
will reward you in the long run."

Mrs. Nagy spoke this little saying to us in German and it actually rhymes, making it easy to remember. I guess I immediately likened it to hearing, "Looks like you got the short end of the stick!" When someone gives you the short end of the stick, so to speak, respond with love and kindness. Mrs. Nagy said she never really understood what this meant until she was much older and had experienced many occasions where she took the short end. She said she has always found this to be true...that God rewards his children in the long run.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Perfect Question

I have kept a journal of sorts (scraps of paper and post-it-notes are better descriptions) of little things my children have said or done since they were very little. I love looking back and reading about things I would have otherwise completely forgotten about. On occasion, I pull out these scraps of paper and read them out loud to the kids, who are now almost 12 and 14. They get the biggest kick out of hearing stories about themselves.

Since I've got such a busy day on tap today, I thought I'd just share one of those cute little stories.

August 8, 1999 ... Journal Entry for Caleb (just three years old at the time)

We had just gotten home from church and were relaxing on the sofa after eating too much for lunch. It is very hot outside.

Here's how our conversation went:

"Mama, do you want to go outside and swing with me?"
"Are you asking me if I want to go outside and swing with you?"
"Yes, Mama!"
"No, Caleb, I don't want to go outside and swing."
"What, Caleb?"
"Can you ask me if I would like to go outside and swing with you?"
"Caleb, do you want to go outside and swing with me?"
Needless to say, you and I went outside to swing. You came up with that question like you had been planning it for days; it came out so perfectly timed. Who can say no to you!

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Straining Ahead

The wind is blowing here today. Sometimes little things like that bring an old memory to mind.

Many, many years ago on a very blustery day, I stood looking out my kitchen window. There was an empty field that was home to one very lonely oak tree. I suppose it was a lone refuge to the many birds that flew through this open expanse. On this particular day, I saw a little brown sparrow take off from the tree, heading due east. This little bird was flying and furiously flapping his wings, but going nowhere. Nowhere. He was suspended in midair. And he stayed like that, furiously flapping his wings, for what seemed like an eternity. The wind that day was coming straight out of the east, pushing against the little sparrow, keeping him from moving forward. Finally, the little guy turned, flew with the wind, and was whisked away.

I don't know about you, but sometimes I feel like that's how my life is. I'm going in one direction, and everything around me is going in another. The harder I try to make headway, the more I stand still, or worse, get pushed back. I know where I want to go--I know what I need to do. Unfortunately, it's my own doing that sometimes does me in. Like the sparrow, if I turn and go with the way of the wind (let's be honest, in other words, give up), I won't get to where I want to go. In reality, when the sparrow quit flying against the wind, he ended up somewhere he had not intended on going.

So on a day like today, with the wind reminding me that life's not always easy, I must stay the course. Push ahead. Stand firm. Instead of being like the little sparrow, which I often am, I need to press on.

Even still, there's hope for the sparrow, isn't there?

Why should I feel discouraged,
Why should the shadows come,
Why should my heart be lonely
And long for Heav'n and home,
When Jesus is my portion?
My constant Friend is He:
His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.

I sing because I'm happy,
I sing because I'm free,
For His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.

"Let not your heart be troubled,"
His tender word I hear,
And resting on His goodness,
I lose my doubts and fears;
Though by the path He leadeth
But one step I may see:
His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.

Whenever I am tempted,
Whenever clouds arise,
When songs give place to sighing,
When hope within me dies,
I draw the closer to Him,
From care He sets me free:
His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He cares for me;
His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He cares for me.

There's hope for me...and you too!

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14

Friday, March 12, 2010

Carrot Soufflé with Love

Yesterday we had the wonderful privilege of delivering a meal to a precious family going through very deep waters. It's always such a joy for our family to be able to extend our hands into theirs. Food often serves as a common love language and brings comfort not only to those who eat, but to those who prepare.

Shortly after we arrived, the grandfather, who lives with them (in his own father-in-law suite, I might add), came out to greet us. I was lovingly introduced to him as, "The Carrot Soufflé Lady." I love that title. It just so happens that I prepared Carrot Soufflé for them again just because I know they enjoy it so much. When people enjoy the food I prepare, it truly makes me feel happy inside. I love cooking for others.

So, below is the now very famous recipe. I served it first at our annual Thanksgiving dinner over ten years ago. It is so popular that it has become a mainstay on our menu and is always served for special occasions.

If you'd like to follow the blog of these dear ones, go to
(this is Carlee's blog)
or to
(this is Carlee's sister, Dani's, blog)

Carrot Soufflé

2 pounds carrots, peeled and chopped
6 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter, melted
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Cover carrots with water and bring to a low boil; cook about 45 minutes or until tender. Drain carrots and let moisture evaporate. In food processor, blend carrots and sugar on medium speed until mixture appears smooth. To carrot puree, add eggs, butter, flour, baking powder and vanilla; blend again in food processor until ingredients are smooth. Pour into lightly greased 2-quart baking dish. Bake covered at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until set.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Big Business

We homeschool. We don't take snow days. We don't have teacher in-service days. We don't take a spring break. We study Martin Luther King on MLK Day. And President's Day, well, I can't say we do anything special except have school. Yes, I am one of those teachers. We do have a nine year tradition of taking a "Sun Day" though. The first gorgeous sunny spring day we take school off and do something fun outside. Did I mention we are always done with school on the Friday before Memorial Day? Trust me, it's worth it.

Today I let the kids take a recess outside. See how nice I am? We've had eight days of sunshine in a row (that probably hasn't happened here since last August). Remember the two feet of snow? Most of the yard is now clear although the huge piles accumulated on the edge of the driveway will take a while to completely disappear. This disappearing, however, caused an appearing. A really awful appearing. We knew it would happen. And we knew what would need to be done when the appearing appeared.

I think we've had snow on the ground, deep snow, since Christmas. That was 2 1/2 months ago. We have a dog. A big dog. Big dogs do big business. 10 weeks x 7 days = 70. That's at least 70 days of big business, if you know what I mean! So today's recess involved two kids and two 5 gallon buckets. They took turns being finders and scoopers. They informed me they divided the yard into four sections. Each one tackled two sections, although Rachel informed me her sections contained more business than Caleb's. Not surprising. So how many business transactions were found in each section? I'll let you do the math!

By the way, that's Jesse in the pretty pink bandana. She'll be 9 in July. We love you, Jesse. Big business and all!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sew, Repent!

Today is Wednesday so you know what that means...another afternoon with Mrs. Nagy!

Last week while Rachel was diligently working on her pillowcase, Mrs. Nagy showed me how to cross stitch. This proves Mrs. Nagy is the most patient woman on the planet. Several years ago I thought I'd try and be crafty so I picked-up a little cross stitch kit. It looked easy enough. I took everything out of the package and read the directions. I looked around to see if anyone was watching then quietly slipped it back into the kit and hid it in a basket where it's been ever since.

I have to tell you that I just realized what the thing says right across the front, "Everything is possible with God." Obviously this doesn't apply to me and sewing.

Anyway, she got me off to a great start. I actually found the middle...who knew that would be such a big accomplishment. I got started and seemed to be on a roll. At one point I paused, quite proud of myself, and handed it to Mrs. Nagy for her inspection. "Oh, remember when I told you how you have to be careful and stitch in the same direction?" Ah, no. "See how the blue looks like it has changed colors? That's because you have stitched it in the opposite direction." Oh. She picks up the package, looks at what these tiny little blue lines represent and kindly says, "You know, it's OK. These are clouds and clouds are different colors, right?" Right. By this time, our afternoon session was coming to an end. My Rachel is an incredible student and I can tell Mrs. Nagy is so proud of her. I, on the other hand, was happy to call it a day.

Now it just so happens I didn't have an opportunity to cross stitch over the past week. Today was a new day and a new blue line of x's could begin. I would make sure every stitch went in the same direction. And so I begin my little x's while Mrs. Nagy helps Rachel learn three new embroidery stitches. Cross, cross, cross...stitch, stitch, stitch. This is going much better today than last time. I run out my thread and tie it off, all ready to begin the next section. Hold on a second. Why isn't this lining up? You have got to be kidding me. Keep in mind, I really don't want to tell Mrs. Nagy what I have just done, but I must because I don't know what to do. For a split second I thought I'd just keep going and pretend I didn't see the problem. You know what happens to little problems that are ignored, right? I do too. I quietly interrupt the wonderful lesson that's going on next to me..."Um, Mrs. Nagy? I think I've done something wrong. I'm suppose to have two blank squares, but I have three." That may not sound like a big deal to you, but I'm here to tell you the whole thing would be off by one square and that would be a big deal in the end. Mrs. Nagy takes it and looks at it. "Should I just pull everything out and start that whole section over?" She kindly tells me yes and adds, "Count three times, stitch once." Kinda like cutting wood...measure twice, cut once. I discovered that it's much easier to pull out little blue stitches than to put them in. You can be sure the next two hours I spent time counting and recounting and then marking the little square with a pin just to make sure I knew where I was!

I thought about this little miscount I made today. Had I kept going, I would have had a very big mistake at some point. It would have shown up eventually, especially to the eyes of an expert. Where it concerns needle and thread, I'm certain I can't pull any quick ones on Mrs. Nagy!

Isn't life a lot like that? We usually know when we do something wrong. Instead of recognizing our problem, we just keep going full steam ahead. What might have been an easy fix turns into a major reconstruction. I am so happy to know God has provided a way for me if I will but stop and repent and ask for forgiveness. A funny little word most people today think is old-fashioned. Repent really means to stop, turn, and go in the opposite direction. The older I get, the easier this becomes. I suppose it's because I've been through too many major reconstructions in my life and continue to find the easy fix is always less painful.

Note to self: Repent does not apply to cross stitching (unless, of course, you're stitching little blue clouds).

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Lindsay's Chocolate Cafe Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/2 cups regular rolled oats
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 12-ounce package semisweet chocolate pieces (2 cups)
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts or pecans
4 ounces milk chocolate bar, grated

1. In a medium bowl, mix oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside.

2. In large mixing bowl, beat butter with electric mixer 30 seconds. Add sugars, beat until mixture is combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in eggs and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much flour mixture as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour mixture with wooden spoon until combined. Stir in chocolate pieces, nuts and grated chocolate.

3. Drop from large cookie scoop (3 tablespoons) 4 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets or a hot baking stone. Bake in a 375 degree oven 9 to 10 minutes or until edges are light brown. Cool on cookie sheets or stone 1 minute. Transfer to wire racks; cool. Makes 30.

Notes from Me: I grated milk chocolate chips I had on hand in a Pampered Chef hand grater instead of using a 4 ounce chocolate bar. I had to use my hands to finish mixing the dough because it was just too dense for a wooden spoon to mix through. After scooping the dough, I flattened them just a little with the palm of my hand. I lined my cookie sheets with parchment paper to virtually eliminate clean-up. It took my oven 12 minutes to bake these cookies.

Fabulous! Crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside.
Be sure to share these wonderful cookies with a favorite sister-in-law on a beautiful spring day!

Anxiously Awaiting

There's something to be said about taking a walk with those you love most on a pre-spring day when the sky is blue, the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and melting snow creates a constant trickling sound all around! We are so HAPPY to find spring knocking on our door today. We can smell it in the air and feel it in our bones.

We have missed you, Sunshine!

We have missed you, Blue Skies!

We have missed you, Singing Birds!

We have missed you, Spring!

Welcome home!

Please stay for a while.

We've been anxiously awaiting your return.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Just a Reminder

Do you ever get a thought or image stuck in your head? I've had this little problem since last Wednesday night. I've thought about it when I wake up in the morning and dreamed about it after going to sleep at night. I've imagined having to be the one asking the question as well as be the one giving the answer. What is it, you ask? It's a haunting story Mrs. Nagy shared with us when we had her over for dinner last Wednesday. She shared many stories. Amazing stories. Incredibly sad and heart-wrenching stories. This one has stuck with me. I guess, in a small way, it reminds me how I feel whenever I think back on the movie, Sophie's Choice. That movie still haunts me. I guess because I just can't imagine being in that kind of position. I pray I never am.

When Mrs. Nagy was in the concentration camp, she was there along with her brothers, her mother and both sets of grandparents. She told this story with a little bit of humor because she still found it funny. Her paternal grandparents had different belief systems. Her grandfather was a Christian and knew he would one day be with his Lord in Heaven. Her grandmother didn't believe in Heaven nor God, for that matter. When it came time for the once-a-day "food" distribution (a small cup of clear broth they called soup), the grandmother would take the soup from the grandfather and drink it along with her cup of soup. Grandfather had nothing to eat. She figured he was ready for Heaven and she wasn't. She announced to everyone she would outlive him and was going to make sure he died before she did.

It came to pass when one day the grandfather came to Mrs. Nagy's mother and asked if she could share her cup of soup with him. He was so hungry. Mrs. Nagy remembered the incident quite well. Her mother looked at him and told him no. She told him she didn't eat herself, but gave whatever she had to her children. She had the great responsibility of making sure the children survived this hell on earth. Mrs. Nagy said he dropped his head, turned, and walked away dejected. He died the very next day. He starved to death along with thousands of others. Now here's where Mrs. Nagy laughed...the grandmother died within an hour of the grandfather. Even though she took his food every day, she only outlived him by an hour. Mrs. Nagy thought this was heavenly justice for a woman who had been so cruel to her own husband.

One might imagine the seemingly cold answer "no" hadn't any emotion whatsoever. I would like to think this poor woman, watching her own little children slowly being starved, was overwhelmed with grief as she told her father-in-law she couldn't share her soup. I wonder if she wanted to go after him and tell him she was sorry. I wonder if her circumstances were so desperate at this point that no feelings dare be shown. Weakness meant certain death. What strength it would take on this mother's part to refuse such a request. What compassion it would take on the grandfather's part not to impose his will upon his daughter-in-law. My mind plays it out many different ways. I end up in the same place each time. The cruelty of man upon his fellow man is a reminder of the fallen world in which we live. In the words of Elisabeth Elliot, "It is for this we have Jesus."

Friday, March 5, 2010

Pleasant Souls

They say a picture speaks a thousand words. When I saw this one, it made me smile on this first Friday of March. The long winter is behind us. Spring is less than two weeks away. The skies are blue and the sun is shining for the second day in a row. I'd love to know how long it's been since that happened around here!

A genuine smile. A happy spirit. The ability to make us laugh when nothing else will. A willingness to be crazy and goofy even when the world yells that it's not the "cool" thing to do. This is my son whom I love with all my heart. He makes me feel so proud of who he is and all he is yet to become. He fills my life with many warm and wonderful memories.

Seven years ago this Easter, both of my children memorized these Bible verses as a gift to their father. I didn't know at the time what kind of impact these words would make on their lives. On all our lives.

Proverbs 2:1-11
My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Chicken or the Eggshell?

An egg without it's shell



We love doing experiments for science. Some experiments are very cool and exciting, others don't work out quite the way we planned. But that's how science goes in the real world, right? Sometimes we'll throw in a little something extra just for fun. That's what we did the other day.

I have this memory as a kid doing this little experiment under the direction of my father. We took a fresh egg and gently placed it in the bottom of a glass jar, covered the egg with white vinegar, put a lid on top, and then set it aside for a week. We'd check on it from time to time, seeing mostly bubbles surrounding the egg. Seven days later, I took the egg out of the vinegar and held it under gently flowing water from the tap. All of the egg shell came off leaving the egg perfectly intact! It feels kinda like a rubber bouncy ball. I wouldn't recommend bouncing the egg though. We were able to hold an uncooked egg, without its shell, in our fingers.

My very deep and thought-provoking scientific question is: Which came first, the chicken or the eggshell?

P.S. You can do this same experiment with a cleaned-up chicken leg bone. A week later, take it out and rinse it off. Gently bend the bone and tie it in a knot. Let the bone air dry and keep it as a very cool conversation starter with a curious 8 year old.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Beautiful Things

Every experience God gives us, every person he puts in our lives, is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see. Corrie Ten Boom (1892-1983 )

I have this quote framed, along with a pressed flower, hanging in our guest bathroom. Most of us have it memorized since it’s right in the center of the wall. Corrie Ten Boom and her family lived under the horrific conditions of a Nazi concentration camp. Why? For loving and hiding Jews. Corrie lived to tell her amazing story and went on to travel the world telling people of Jesus’ redeeming love. I highly recommend her book, Life Lessons from Corrie Ten Boom.

Today, Rachel and I get to spend the day with our dear friend, Mrs. Nagy. We had the privilege of meeting her and her older brother, Adam, at a Bible study we attended several years ago. We invited them over for dinner and our friendship began. Mrs. Nagy, her brother, and their family survived many years in a concentration camp. These camps weren’t for Jews, but for Germans. At the end of the war, Tito (many regarded as a hero) rounded up everyone in Yugoslavia with a German name and placed them in concentration camps. It didn’t matter who you were--rich, poor, young or old. The men were taken first, followed by the women and children. Thousands starved to death. Hundreds committed suicide. Their compelling story along with thousands of others who survived, have mostly been kept secret. My husband and I sat with Adam for an entire afternoon as he recalled the horrors he saw as a 9-year old boy. His sister was 4. Imagine living on 3 kernels of corn a day. Imagine salt (snuck into camp) used as money. Imagine waking up many mornings and seeing dead people hanging in trees. No longer able to bear their circumstances and without hope, through the watches of the night they found death a better option. After being rescued a number of years later, another story begins as this family travels by foot across Europe, and they are shuffled through many refugee camps. God saw fit to put these precious people into our lives and we are so thankful. We are forever changed because of their story and their compelling love for Jesus.

Mrs. Nagy is sharing her God-given gifts with Rachel and me. Taught at her mother’s knee, she is a master at handiwork which includes sewing, quilting, knitting, crocheting, and embroidery. Her collection is breath-taking. Last week she taught Rachel the lazy daisy stitch and presented her with a special pillow case project. I don’t know what stitch we’ll learn today, but I know for certain we will get in bed tonight richer because of the time we spent together with Mrs. Nagy. This dear woman lives out what she believes. She is the embodiment of a spirit-filled, authentic Believer who constantly gives God praise, no matter what the circumstances. Many lessons not related to embroidery are being learned as we sit across her dining room table together. I am so thankful for her wisdom and great kindness.

I shared with Mrs. Nagy how I have tucked away several pillow cases given to me many years ago by my husband’s grandmother, Loretta. They are exquisite and I don’t use them because they are so beautiful. Mrs. Nagy reminded me how the soldiers came to their home and they had five minutes--bread was baking in the oven. She recalled how her mother kept her fine things tucked away and unused because of their beauty. When they were taken from their home, they never returned. The beautiful things were gone forever. Mrs. Nagy sternly told me, “Take them out! Use them! Enjoy their beauty now!” That’s exactly what I am going to do. Beautiful things should never be kept secret.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

About Today ...

All was quiet here until just a little while ago. Both kids were working on a writing assignment while I was making lunch. Then I hear a rather shallow scream followed by running feet. My daughter has just come to inform me that some "old" woman is walking up the center of our yard and she has fallen down. I frantically run to the door and open it to find a woman that's probably 10 years older than me (yes, that must be ancient to an 11 year old!) on her hands and knees, buried in the deep snow. And might I add, struggling to get up. She has on boots, but is only wearing a short-sleeved sweater. No gloves, no hat, and nothing else to indicate that it's 21 degrees outside with 2 feet of snow on the ground. I can tell she's embarrassed and I immediately apologize that our front walk isn't shoveled.

Now listen, no one uses our front walk. Ever.

Anyway, she tells me that she was unable to get over the huge mounds of snow surrounding both sides of the driveway. Oh, you mean those 5 and 6 foot mounds that we've been shoveling all winter because it won't quit snowing and it won't warm-up enough to melt? Those mounds of snow? Mmm hmm. The only way she could approach our house was straight through the center of the front yard. Do you even know how far back our house is from the street?! Did I mention we live on a hill?

She was huffing and puffing, trying to catch her breath. I felt just terrible. Who was this mystery woman? Why no other than a U.S. Census worker hand-delivering our 2010 Census forms. We don't get mail delivery here (only a post office box), so they must be hand-delivered. She thanked me for being home. I guess! After all that, I would hate to think she would have had to trek back down the yard only to attempt it again later. As I stood there listening to her explain what I need to do (after answering that I don't have anyone living in my basement), she kept looking back to where she had just hiked from. I could tell she was trying to figure out how she was going to get all the way back to the street. "Come on in!" I said. "Oh, but what about my boots and all this snow?" "Ah, that's OK. A little snow won't hurt anything." At that, she came in, thanked me, walked through the house, out through the garage, and down the perfectly cleared driveway.

Just think, yesterday I was wondering what to write about today.

Monday, March 1, 2010

That Day

I've had a lingering thought for quite some time to start a blog ... at this moment I imagine it to be filled with stories about my family and the wonderful everyday adventures we share together. I wasn't one of those little girls that dreamed of having a beautiful wedding, marrying Mr. Wonderful, or being a mother to two beautiful children. And yet that's exactly what happened to me. Those blessings came to me a little later in life than most. I think that time of being alone, to ponder life and its many mysteries, served its purpose well. Over the years I have developed a love for cooking and gardening so I can imagine a sprinkling of favorite recipes and a wheelbarrow-full of gardening joys (and sorrows). It is my hope that each time I share a little bit of something, it will help create a memory and something of interest to those who stop by for a visit.

My daughter asked me how I came up with the name "Welcomed Home." Well, honestly, as I started creating this blog and was asked for a name, I picked up one of my favorite books, Pilgrim's Progess by John Bunyan (this one happens to be a children's version by Mack Thomas), and settled on the title of the last chapter. It paints a beautiful picture for all Pilgrims who long for That Day when we are Welcomed Home.

Welcome Friends!