Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Month of Thankfulness: Day 29

Well folks, today is it. The last day of A Month of Thankfulness and after today I will not be thankful for anything ever again. I will just sink into the depths of greed and avarice. Just kidding. I hope this has been a good exercise for me. I hope that having to come up with something to be thankful for every day will stick with me and that I can maintain a grateful attitude every day. Not just around Thanksgiving. Anyhow, today I feel like I should come up with something really meaningful to write about because it's the last day and everything, but honestly, I can't think of anything meaningful to be thankful for. I've been thankful for everything meaningful. And trivial. I've got writer's block. What a time to have writer's block. But, right now as I sit here at the computer and it's very cold and damp and drizzly outside, I am thankful for my cup of coffee, and the fire and a warm house. I'm thankful to be here, right now. I'm thankful for the warmth of my home and the strength of my family. I'm thankful for my relationship with God and my church. And so, as we end this month of thankfulness, I hope that both you and I can remember to be thankful for everything we have and to not complain about what we don't.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas....

Here in California where we live, we don't get snow. If we want snow, we have to go the mountains to get it. And we do that occasionally. But, we do have our own version of a white Christmas. It's called Tule Fog. It's this horrible, thick fog and low overcast that just hangs on for days, until a storm comes through and scours out the Valley and clears things up. But right now, we have Tule Fog. Although it does look pretty at night when people have their Christmas lights on. The lights reflect on the fog and the whole thing looks kind of neat. But, I digress. Right now I'm working on decorating the inside of the house. The biggest job is doing the Dickens Village. I've been collecting pieces now for about 12 years. My mom gives me either a building or a couple of people each year for my birthday. With my birthday being in January, I open it and then have to put it away for almost a full year before I get to use it, but it's been a great thing to collect. I do enjoy putting it all together. The pieces have light bulbs with them to light up, so that always presents a fire hazard of some kind. And then I always end up with a broken piece or two. See this guy. He's a lamp lighter. A lamp lighter that fell off his ladder and broke his arm off, along with both his feet. It's a dangerous business being a lamplighter.And then the bottom fell off a topiary. So, here I'm gluing it back together. I had to prop it up with two persimmons, an apple and a pyrex pitcher. Ya work with what ya got! And that's been my project today. Got done with school in a timely manner and am still putting off writing my Christmas letter, so I decided to finish the Dickens Village. I still need snow. I used up my fake snow last year. Hmm, I wonder if I could do Tule Fog!

A Month of Thankfulness: Day 28

Today I am thankful for my car. I know it's just one of those things a lot of people take for granted, but truly,I love my car and I am very thankful for it. I have a 2004 Toyota Sienna. We got it a couple of months after we got the boys. I remember when we were discussing getting a new car (because I was having the hardest time getting boys in and out of my Chevy Beretta) and we were tossing around ideas like mini-vans and SUVs and a friend of mine threw something out there that really just clinched the deal. She said, "Get a mini-van. The doors slide open and closed and with boys, you just don't want doors that open out when you're in a parking lot." I had never thought of that before. Wow. So, we went with the mini-van. It's been a great vehicle for us. It's completely reliable, roomy and has an awesome turning radius. Another friend of mine just got a Sienna and was commenting about the turning radius. She said, "I flip u-turns in my street just because I love the turning radius of this car!" So, today, I am thankful for my car!

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Month of Thankfulness: Day 27

Today I am thankful that we are able to homeschool our children. Even today, when it was a pretty horrible day in Homeschool Land, I am still thankful. I'm thankful that I am able to choose what to teach my children, instead of letting the government make that decision for me. I am thankful that I can teach to my children's strengths and weaknesses. I can let Bubba do two lessons in one day in math because he understands fractions and is whizzing through it, and I can take two days to do one lesson in math for Duh-duh because he just does not get borrowing. I am thankful that homeschooling has become more mainstream over the years, so there is a lot of support and a lot of curriculum to choose from. I am thankful that Hubby is very supportive of homeschooling. So, as I said, even though today was a pretty awful day, I'm still thankful that I can homeschool.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Month of Thankfulness: Day 26

Today I am thankful for my home and the material blessings that I have. In church this morning we heard from a missionary who spoke of the country in which he served and these people don't even have the basic things we take for granted every day. They don't have electricity, or running water. Some villages don't even have roads leading to them. And as I sat there and listened to him speak, I started sinking lower into my pew as I thought about how ungrateful I am at times because I don't have a bigger house or there are other things that I wished I had that I don't even come close to needing. So, today I am grateful for the material things I have and I will continue to remind myself that there are many people in the world without even the common necessities.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Holiday Traditions

I love traditions. My kids love traditions. Actually, with them, when you do something once, it becomes a tradition. Anyhow, there is one of my many holiday traditions that I really look forward to every year. And that's the Holiday Art Show at my uncle and aunt's house in the country. They have it every year the weekend after Thanksgiving. My uncle is an artist. He paints beautiful landscapes of the countryside and foothills in our area. These are a couple of his paintings. I can't afford to buy an actual painting, but I buy notecards he's made of his paintings. Here I've scanned a notecard, so it's not a real good representation of his work, (You have to just see these paintings in real life, as with all good art. You need to stand before them and absorb them, they are wonderful) but it'll give you an idea. I think his skies are always amazing. So, every year they host a showing of his art (they have a very charming log-cabin style house in the middle of some orchards and his art is displayed throughout the house) as well a boutique selling jams (they also make jam) and other food products from small family farms. You can sample the wares, have a cup of coffee and visit with my aunt and uncle. My uncle's great. He doesn't know a stranger and is so easy to talk to. I buy jams for Christmas presents, as well as this Hot Peach Tango, which is similar to red pepper jelly, but made from peaches. I love this. It's makes a great appetizer poured over cream cheese and served with crackers. My other aunt made this. These are my mom's sisters. They also sell cheeses, grape juice, local honey products, fresh breads and baked goods. All these products are from local family farms. It's just great! I also bought chocolate covered plums. This was Missie Lou's contribution. I took her, too. Usually, I've gone alone. A couple years ago I took a friend. It's one of those things that I like to do without kids. But this year I decided that Missie Lou was old enough to appreciate it, so I brought her (and Baby. I hadn't planned on bringing Baby, but it just happened, long story). We didn't stay that long. Just long enough to visit a little, do some Christmas shopping,and taste test some jam and grape juice. It was a lovely afternoon.

A Month of Thankfulness: Day 25

I know, I forgot to post my thankful thing yesterday. I wasn't intending to stop at Thanksgiving. I was intending to be thankful the entire month, but I just forgot yesterday. Anyhow, yesterday (and always) I am thankful for my in-laws. I have the best parents-in-law a girl could ask for. Really. Hubby's parents are wonderful people. They are gracious and kind. They are always there when you need advice, but they mind their own business when you don't. My mother-in-law has started coming over on Mondays when Dad-in-law does volunteer work here in our town. That has been such a blessing. She'll fold laundry and hang out with the girls while I homeschool and it has been so wonderful. The kids are learning to know their grandmother so much better. I've been feeling bad because we live about 40 minutes away from them and sometimes it's just hard to get together. But now, she's over often and it's been great for both the kids and for me. So, yesterday (and today and tomorrow) I am grateful for my in-laws.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving is over.... what a great day!

I am tired. Still. And I had a good night sleep last night. But yesterday just plum wore me out. It was a great day, though. We had Hubby's family over for Thanksgiving dinner and it was such a good time. There were 28 of us, including the babies. Hubby's parents were not there. His mother was ill, so they were not able to attend. We really missed them. The turkey turned out ok. It was a little dry, in my opinion, but I made a boatload of gravy, so you just slather that over everything and it's good. Everyone brought food, too, so there was more than enough to eat. The kids played outside most of the day, and the weather was perfect. Earlier in the week they predicted a slight chance of rain, but that fizzled out. The weather was sunny and mild. Our poor dog had to be tied up and she was a mess. She's very protective of our family and barks and barks and even bites people she doesn't know, so she had to be tied and even then there were issues, but it worked out all right. Everyone left in the early evening. Some had a bit of a drive to make. I got most of the dishes cleaned up yesterday and then we watched "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" with the kids (OK, I just have to say that while I loved those shows as a kid, as an adult I can hardly stomach them. Those children are so mean to poor Charlie Brown and so rude to each other. I can't stand it.) and went to bed. Today I'm not doing anything. I'm just relaxing. I may take down some of the autumn/Thanksgiving decorations and get ready for Christmas stuff, but that's it. I'm just going to drink hot tea and listen to Christmas music all day long!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Month of Thankfulness: Day 24

Today I am Thankful. With a capital "T". I am Thankful for everything I have. I do not need anything else. I am content.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Month of Thankfulness: Day 23

Today is Thanksgiving Eve. We are having dinner tonight with my mom's family and tomorrow Hubby's clan is coming over to celebrate Thanksgiving. In thinking about all this extended family, I have to say how thankful I am for them all. I am thankful for my brothers & sisters-in-law and nieces and nephews. I am thankful for my aunts and uncles and cousins. Getting together with family is never a tense or uncomfortable time. It has always been a time to look forward to and enjoy.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Month of Thankfulness: Day 22

Today I am thankful for my parents. I am thankful for so many things about them it's hard to know where to start. I'm thankful that they raised me to know the Lord. I am thankful that they have a good marriage. I am thankful that they are still in good health and can enjoy their grandchildren. Today I am thankful for my parents.

Getting closer, getting ready!

"Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare. They are consumed in twelve minutes. Half-times take twelve minutes. This is not coincidence." Erma Bombeck

Two days till Thanksgiving. Aaaaugh! We're hosting Thanksgiving for Hubby's family. There will be 30 of us here on Thanksgiving Day. Yeah, some are babies and they don't eat much, so I'm not that worried about them. But 30 people. I'm gonna be prepared, though. We only had school two days this week (tomorrow Hubby will be home and we'll be getting stuff ready big time!) so as soon as we closed the book on "Squanto: Friend of the Pilgrims" (by Clyde Robert Bulla, excellent biography) we cleaned everything up, folded up the school table and vacuumed. I know we'll be using this a lot over the next couple of days. I've been doing a lot of food prep, too. Got this bad boy in the fridge. All 20 pounds of him. I'm gonna brine him and roast him and he'll be delicious. I won't stuff him, though. I'm paranoid of stuffing turkeys. You always hear all these precautions about stuffing turkeys (stuff it just before you cook it, make sure it's this temperature, don't pack it too tightly, watch out for low flying aircraft) that I just bake the stuffing in a pan (I guess you would call it dressing then) and it's good that way, too! Yesterday I made the cranberry sauce and I've also got the bread toasted and ready for the stuffing/dressing. I'm trying new recipes for the cranberry sauce and the stuffing. Got them from Martha Stewart's Every Day Foods magazine. Tomorrow I'll make the stock for the gravy. I've already got the roux done for that. So, I'm thinking things are under control here. Which is a good thing!

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Month of Thankfulness: Day 21

Today is Day 21. Not Day 20. All of the sudden I realized that my numbering was off. Why didn't anyone tell me? I just cannot keep track of anything anymore. Sorry about that. Anyhow, everything is good now. And today I am thankful for.... my home. My dwelling. The structure in which my family and I live. Hubby and I moved into this house almost 8 years ago. His brother built it for us and we love this house. It is a nice house. It has high ceilings and big windows. I like my kitchen. It's pretty good sized. Although one area of the counter-top tends to attract clutter. That bothers me. I love my bathroom. It's huge. And our walk-in closet is big, too. Although it also tends to attract clutter. We have a nice quiet neighborhood and there are kids for my kids to play with. Today I am thankful for my house.

Fruits of the Season

I love autumn. It's a beautiful time of year. There's just so much color. This is our neighbor's tree. We have the same kind of tree, Chinese Pistasche, but theirs is so much prettier than ours.One of my favorite fruits is a very colorful autumn fruit. It's the persimmon. A lot of people consider the persimmon an exotic fruit. It's not nearly as popular as that old workhorse - the apple. Yes, apples are fine. If there's nothing else to eat. But persimmons are awesome. There are two kinds of persimmons. The kind in the picture is the Fuyu. The Fuyu is a small, hard persimmon and is best eaten raw. I peel them (the peeling is kind of hard and not very good to eat), core them and serve them raw on a fruit plate. They are very sweet and have a delicate flavor. I love them. The other kind is the Hachiya. The Hachiya is very soft (and kind of slimy) when it's ripe. You have to wait till they get good and ripe or they can tend to be astringent and make your mouth pucker. There's all sorts of things you can do with a Hachiya. You can dry them whole and then slice them and make yummy fruit snacks. They get a kind of white coating on them dried, which at first I thought was mold, but then I found out it was sugar. The sugar comes out in the drying process. They are delicious dried. You can also eat them plain. My parents love them plain. They just open them up and scoop up the pulp with a spoon. I never really got in to eating them that way. My baby likes them that way, though. You can also bake with the pulp. My grandma used to make persimmon bread and I have a wonderful recipe for persimmon cookies. My dad has an orchard of persimmons and about 10 years ago a camera crew from Martha Stewart's tv show came out and filmed a segment for the show. That was kind of fun. They filmed my dad and my uncle walking through the orchard in the fall and I was picking persimmons in the background. Well, pretending to pick persimmons. And putting them in a basket instead of a metal bucket like they're really picked into. (I guess a basket is more aesthetically appealing) But other than that it was very realistic. So, if you see persimmons in a road side stand or in the store, try them if you haven't yet. They're very healthy and very delicious!
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Persimmon Cookies
1 C Hachiya persimmon pulp
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 shortening
1 C sugar
1 egg, well beaten
2 C flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp. each: cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 C raisins
Cream together sugar and shortening. Dissolve soda in persimmon pulp. Add to creamed sugar and shortening. Add beaten egg. Sift dry ingredients. Add to persimmon mixture. Add vanilla and lemon; add raisins. Drop onto greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Month of Thankfulness: Day 20

Today is Sunday. We went to church. We go to a great church. It's a little church in a neighboring town. It's a church of mostly older folks. It's a church that's been through a lot in the past year and a half. A lot of ugly stuff. A lot of stuff that might have destroyed other churches. Actually, I was afraid, for a while, that it might be our undoing as well. But God had plans for our church. And there is a core group of godly people who refused to be brought down. And so, here we are. On the other side of the chasm. We have a wonderful new pastor. Today we had our annual Thanksgiving potluck after church. I love church potlucks. So much good food. Our fellowship hall was filled. Today I am thankful for our church and I am thankful for how God has taken our church and purified it and preserved it.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Month of Thankfulness: Day 19

As I watched all three of my children out on the soccer field today (well, ok, not all three, I had to miss Duh-duh's game because Baby was taking a nap, but I understand he did very well)I realized what a wonderful thing it is that all of my children are healthy and strong and are able to play sports with ease. So, I am thankful today for the good health of my family this year. Granted, the year is not over, but we have all done very well this year. My dermatologist hasn't found any more melanomas and even the funny looking moles have turned out to be nothing. Missie Lou had her tonsils out, adenoids out and ear tubes put in, all in one fell swoop, and had a quick and painless recovery. Bubba's asthma has been well under control this year. Usually he has problems in the spring, but he sailed right through the year without having to use his rescue inhaler. Hubby is healthy, Duh-duh is healthy and the new babies are doing great. Good health is something you definitely cannot take for granted, and I am very thankful that that today!

Saturday Bits and Pieces

Today is one of those days. Too much to do. Can't think clearly. Trying to make lists. Having a hard time doing it. Hubby's family is coming over for Thanksgiving. There will be 30 of us total - including babies. I'm looking forward to it. It's always a good time when Hubby's family gets together. But, now it's coming down to the wire and I need to get organized.
***
Today was the last soccer game of the season. Of course there's a tournament in a couple of weeks, but we do get some Saturdays off now for a while. Bubba's team did well. They won 3-1. I asked Bubba if they scored off him. He said no. X was goalie when the other team scored. Bubba's been scored off of once in a regular league game this year. Missie Lou's team ended in a no-score tie. That was a little disappointing, but that's ok. Duh-duh's playing right now. I'll be so glad to get my Saturdays back.
***
I was eavesdropping during Missie Lou's game. It wasn't my fault. I was sitting by myself and two men were standing quite close and not exactly whispering. So, I just happened to hear what they were talking about. One man was the husband of a woman I knew from a mother's group I used to attend. I knew they were having trouble with secondary infertility. I had talked to the woman at the beginning of the soccer season (we aren't close, really just acquaintances) and she said they were hoping to adopt, but waiting, waiting, waiting. I could relate. But, my ears perked up this morning when I heard her husband tell the man he was talking to about their new baby. So, of course I listened. I've heard stories like this so often from the mom's point of view that it was kind of fun to hear it from the dad's point of view. I guess the whole thing happened pretty quickly (Typical of adoption stories. You wait forever and then boom, it happens) and he's still kind of reeling from the shock of the whole thing. But then he said something that got me kind of teary-eyed. He said, "But you know, all the sudden I realized, I've got a son!" and he said it with such pride. It was really cool!
***
So, today I gotta go to the store and shop for Thanksgiving and try to figure out my life next week. Hopefully I'll be able to get it all together. That's why I write lists. Well, I gotta go get Baby up. She woke up from her nap and is screaming.

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Month of Thankfulness: Day 18

Today I am thankful that my dear daughter Missie Lou has some sisters. I think I mentioned in another post that I really wished I had a sister growing up. I had a brother and that was fine, but I wanted a sister so bad. When we adopted Missie Lou, I knew that she needed to have a sister. I wanted her to have what I never had. So, we signed up to adopt another girl. We waited and waited and waited for a long time. And just when we were ready to give up hope.... we got the call. We'd gotten calls many times, and they never amounted to anything, but this time, for some reason.... I got the feeling that this was different. And it was. And now Missie Lou has two sisters. She told me once that she really only wanted one sister, but I told her that God gave her a double blessing by giving her two sisters. And we are doubly blessed. So now, we are awash in pink and have regular pedicures, even Baby sports blue toenails.I have two girls who are obsessed with shoes and hairclips and two girls who are quite the drama queens (not the same two girls who are obsessed with shoes and hairclips). It's fun having three girls and I am thankful for each one of them!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Month of Thankfulness: Day 17

I'm sitting here at the computer right now, trying to think of something to be thankful for. It's not that I am out of things for which to be grateful, but rather I am overwhelmed, still, by the difficulties of the day. It was a hard day. I felt like I was constantly at odds with all of the children and they were also at odds with each other. And I have to admit that I didn't handle things with much grace. I read a little quote on a coffee mug once (I really wish I would have bought it) that said, "Being a mother is like being pecked to death by a chicken" and today that was so true. "Mom... mom...mom....mommmmmy!" All day long. And so here I sit. Feeling a little down. A little bit like a failure. A little angry, still. But, I guess I can be thankful for forgiveness. And a new day tomorrow where we can start again. I'm thankful that the ties of family can withstand a little friction when there's love to keep us together. So, I guess in spite of a lousy day, there are still things to be thankful for!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Month of Thankfulness: Day 16

"Grandparents, like heroes, are as necessary to a child's growth as vitamins" Joyce Allston

Today I am thankful for Grandparents. I am thankful for both my own grandparents and my kids' grandparents. My grandparents played a very important part of my life growing up. In fact, most memories of my childhood involve my grandparents. My maternal grandparents lived on a farm. My grandpa farmed raisin grapes and some of my earliest memories are of the farm. Grandpa would take us out on the tractor when he'd work in the vineyard. We'd sit on the seat in front of him and he'd let us steer. I loved that. I also remember being in the kitchen with Grandma when she was making cinnamon rolls. Grandma made the best cinnamon rolls. She was an awesome cook any way you look at it, actually. My dad's father passed away when I was a toddler, so I don't remember anything about him, but I do remember his mother. She was so kind and gentle. She was a good cook, too. She made a lot of German food. I remember going to her house in town and she'd always read to us. We loved "Mike Mulligan's Steam Shovel". I don't know how many times she read that book to us, but she never seemed to get tired of it. Or if she did, she hid it well.
It is because of the influence my own grandparents had on my life that I am so glad we are living near both sets of my kids' grandparents. Grandparents just have a way of making time for their grandchildren that parents don't seem to have. Grandparents also seem to have a special understanding of their grandchildren, a special connection. Today, I am thankful for grandparents.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Gorgeous Day!

"Delicious autumn. My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns." George Eliot
It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood! The sun is out, the air is cool and crisp and the kids were outside running around playing. I love these fall days. The trees are brilliant. It's just a day that you have to enjoy and enjoy it now. You can't put it away for later because.... you just can't do that with days. Autumn days demand your attention now, because the trees don't hang on to their colors forever and you can't push rewind.

A Month of Thankfulness: Day 15

Today I am really thankful for charities that pick stuff up curbside from my house. I know that sounds like kind of a dumb thing to be thankful for, but... it's true. I always have clothes the kids have outgrown or toys or something that needs to go laying around in bags in my bedroom. There is a charity here in town that I can go to and drop stuff off, but that would take me remembering to put it in the car before I go (I know, I know, I could just keep it in my car, but then I'd have to remember it's there) and make that extra stop. But, there are two charities (The Am-Vets and United Cerebral Palsy) that periodically send a truck around and all I have to do is put the bag out on my curb with the note on it and they pick it up for me. I think it's wonderful. And both are worthy charities, in my opinion, that I am more than willing to support. So, tonight I'm going to finish filling up that bag because the Am-Vet truck is coming down my street tomorrow and I am so glad to get rid of some stuff!

Monday, November 14, 2011

An Idea for Advent!

I struggle with Christmas. I really do. Part of me really just enjoys the "secular" side of Christmas. I love driving through our neighborhood all decorated up with lights. I love the music, the cozy fireplace, watching the old classics - "White Christmas", "Miracle on 34th Street," and "It's a Wonderful Life". I get chills every time I watch George C. Scott in "A Christmas Carol" and he wakes up Christmas morning and flings open the shutters and he's a new man. I like baking cookies and wrapping gifts and all that jazz. It's a good holiday. But, it's really a Christian holiday and I just have trouble reconciling the two. You know, putting them together - one holiday with two.... two... I don't know. Two somethings. It's just hard for me to put an authentic meaning on a holiday that has become so secularized and overblown. I mean, when you have stores putting up Christmas decorations before Halloween, you know it's over blown. Anyhow, we do try and this year we are going to read through this book with the kids each night in December. Most people are familiar with celebrating the four Sundays in Advent and lighting the candles and all that. People are not so familiar with the Jesse Tree and ever since I was introduced to this tradition, I've been in love with it. (I've just been having a lot of trouble implementing it, but this year.... this year will be different.) The idea of the Jesse Tree has been around for a long time. There's a stained glass window in the Cathedral of Chartres in France, dating back to 1150, that has a Jesse Tree. Basically, a Jesse Tree comes the Scripture in Isaiah that says,"There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit." (Isaiah 11:1) Many early Jesse Trees listed in symbolic form the genealogy of Christ. The modern Jesse Tree uses symbols to express the story of Salvation, from the Creation all the way through the birth of Christ. It is traditional to make a small tree (or representation of a tree) and each evening, as each Scripture passage is read, hang the appropriate symbol on the tree. The book I got this year has a short story for each evening of December up to Christmas Eve. I found a website (http://images.rca.org/docs/discipleship/jessepatterns.pdf) that has the symbols in paper form and I plan on having the children color one each night and hang them on a branch that we will use as a tree. A Jesse Tree can be as simple or elaborate as you choose to do it. I'm excited about doing a Jesse Tree this year.

A Month of Thankfulness: Day 14

Today I am thankful that my kids like to be read to. And they enjoy good books. Right now we are reading an abridged version of "Treasure Island" by Robert Louis Stevenson. They won't let me stop reading. My voice gives out before their attention gives out. We are also reading a biography of Squanto (the Indian friend to the Pilgrims) by Clyde Robert Bulla. (Clyde Robert Bulla, by the way, writes great biographies for children. We have read several of them and they are very well written.) We've been reading to the kids since they were tiny and they have developed a real taste for books and being read to. Bubba, especially. He's starting to get to the age where he should be reading to himself, but he would much much rather be read to, so I indulge him. I think reading aloud to children is a "must-do" and don't intend to quit soon. I even read aloud to my junior highers when I was teaching and they loved it, too. They'd all put their heads down on their desks and just listen. There's nothing like a good story.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Month of Thankfulness: Day 13

California is not exactly the place you'd go to experience the autumn foliage. It's a beautiful state, but most of the trees around here are evergreen and autumn comes so late around here that some of the trees are still hanging on to their leaves at Christmas. But, we do have some color and for that I am thankful. Especially today. We have about a 20 minute drive to church (our church is in a neighboring town) and we drove through the country to get there. The peach orchards were yellow and some were even reddish. But the color tree around here is the Chinese Pistasche and those are just gorgeous right now. So our drive home was such a pleasure today. I'm glad I took the time to enjoy it. God didn't have to make autumn such a beautiful time of year, but I am thankful that He did.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Month of Thankfulness: Day 12

Well, we're nearing the end of the soccer season. Thank goodness. Hmm, maybe that's what I should be thankful for in this post. Anyhow, I am thankful for my kids' soccer coaches. That's what I'm thankful for in this post. We decided to have the boys on different teams this year because their skill levels are so different that we thought it would be best. It was best, but it sure made things busy for us this fall. However, the kids, once again had good coaches. You hear horror stories about coaches who push the kids too hard, use foul language, berate the kids, all that awful stuff. We've never had to deal with that. In any sport. I'm thankful for that, too. But, we've had great soccer coaches this year. They're encouraging and supportive and seem to be just what each kid needs. Bubba's coach pushes those boys hard, but they're boys who can be pushed hard and need to be pushed and they're undefeated this season. Bubba's never complained and he's improved tremendously. Duh-duh's been on a good team, too this year. It's become quite clear that he doesn't have soccer in his blood, but he's had an enjoyable season and it's been good for him. Missie Lou's soccer coach, however, takes the prize. The Angels started out the team with a coach. She had two practices and then on the third practice didn't show up. Then, that week I got a call from the mom of one of the girls on Missie Lou's team and she said that she was taking over as coach. I know this mom didn't have the time, but she cared enough and did a great job. This morning one of the girls took a ball in the tummy and it hurt her pretty bad. Coach just scooped her up and held her close and took her to her dad. I overheard one of the parents say, "Yeah, she's a coach and a mom!" Kind of brought tears to my eyes. So, it's been a good soccer season. One more Saturday's worth of games and then we're done. I'll breathe a sigh of relief and be glad for my Saturdays (and Tuesday & Thursday nights) back, but we'll also be thankful for a good season and the dedication of great coaches.

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Month of Thankfulness: Day 11

"The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender or submission." John F. Kennedy

Today, Veterans Day, I am thankful for our freedom. I am thankful for the brave people who came to a New World to have a better life for themselves and their children. I am thankful for the brave soldiers and statesmen who were willing to, and some did, give their lives to preserve our freedom. I am thankful for the people who, even now, are fighting to preserve freedom in our country, to keep socialism at bay and to hold tightly to our Constitution.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Joys of Getting Older!

Check out what I got in the mail today. I have to buy everything on-line these days because I can't get to the store. Ever. And when I do... I forget things. Or people forget to tell me things like, we're out of catfood. I was at Target on Saturday and the grocery store, and Sunday I had to make a stop at Walmart to get the things I'd forgotten to buy when I was at Target. Then, Sunday, we get home from church and I tell Missie Lou to feed the cats (it's one of her chores) and she says, "We're out of catfood." So, I look and it is the truth. There is not a scrap of catfood to be found. But, what was I going to do? I had 5 grouchy kids and hubby was already on his way to Phoenix. I wasn't going to go buy catfood. But then every time I went out into the garage, our three kitties were meowing pitifully because they thought they're starving to death. (Actually, it was only our squatter kitty, Tabby, who was meowing pitifully. Nikki, the old grandma kitty would just sit there and give me dirty looks) So, Monday when my mother-in-law was here, I was able to run to the corner store to buy catfood. Anyhow, all that to say.... going to the store just isn't happening for me lately. But, what is happening to me lately is something that happens to most people in their 40's. I have developed a need for reading glasses. Now, I have been proud to say that I have had 20/20 vision my entire life. I've never had any problems with my eyes. Ever. Until I had that weird eye-thingie that happened a couple years ago. I thought I had pink-eye, my GP thought I had pink-eye and gave me antibiotics. But, after a couple of days it didn't clear up (I called my GP and told her it hadn't cleared up and my pupil was very dilated and she panicked and told me to get to the ER or to Eye-Q because it could be a brain tumor. Seriously. She said I could have brain tumor.) and all of the sudden I found myself at Eye-Q the day before Thanksgiving with one of the top ophthalmologists in the Valley giving me an injection in my eye-ball. She never really figured out what I had or what caused it, but the injection gave me a shiner that lasted a month and it took about three months of all kinds of meds and weekly visits to the doctor for whatever it was to clear up. But, aside from that, my eyes are wonderful. And then, lately, I've been having trouble reading things. Things are a little blurry. So, I ordered reading glasses. Actually, I think reading glasses are kind of neat. I'd like to get a cool pair and wear them on a chain around my neck, but I'm not sure I'm ready for that yet. Plus, Baby would probably chew on the chain. So, anyhow, there you have it. I'm getting older. Got the reading glasses. But that's the only allowance I'm making for Father Time. For now!

A Month of Thankfulness: Day 10

Today I am really thankful for Hubby's job. Hubby is a mechanical engineer. He designs man-lifts. If you go to a construction site and see a guy on a platform on a 60 ft. boom.... that's the kind of thing Hubby designs. He's worked for this company almost 4 years now and really likes it. God really dropped the job into his lap because he wasn't looking for it, but he jumped at the chance when it was offered. It's a good job for him. He loves the design/research-and-development aspect of it. It's right up his alley. He's always learning new things. We're also very thankful that in spite of the economy and all that he still has a job. Last year he did have to go to a 4-day work week for a while, but this year he didn't have to do that. I am thankful that he earns enough so that I can stay home with the kids and homeschool. I am also thankful that last March he went to a trade show in Vegas and I was able to go with him for a couple of days for some much needed rest and relaxation. He was gone again this week at a trade show in Phoenix, and that was difficult, but we made it through and he's home now. We miss him when he's gone, but he's not gone that often and we're just very thankful that he has a job that he enjoys!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Month of Thankfulness: Day 9

"True happiness consists not in the multitude of friends, but in their worth and choice."
Samuel Johnson
Friends are important to women. I suppose they're important to men, too, but not in the way they're important to women. Today I am very thankful for my friends. I remember as I was growing up my mom having a lot of women friends. She was always having the two neighbor ladies (Shirley and Irene) over for coffee and I still remember when I was little going to her Bible Study with her. Some of those women are still her friends today. I was listening to a program on Focus on the Family not too long ago about the importance of women having friends. The guy was saying that women cannot expect their husbands to meet their emotional needs on the level they need meeting. Men just can't do it. That's why women need to cultivate friendships with other women. It's a hard thing to do. Everyone is so busy all the time and sometimes it's all I can do to just get through the day. Who has time to make the effort to get together with friends? Fortunately, I have some good friends who understand all that,(and the fact that I have a severe phobia about calling people on the phone, so I never call them) and we make time as we can and don't worry about it when we can't. And we are also very thankful for e-mail and Facebook. So, today I am very thankful for my friends!
"Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies"
Aristotle

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Month of Thankfulness: Day 8

Don't you just love watching babies learn how to walk? There's that first tentative step, and then they don't think they can do it so they plop back down on their bottoms and crawl. Then, the next time, it's a little more steady and before you know it, they've taken off and crawling is just a faint memory! Well, that's Baby. She's learned how to walk and it's opened up a whole new world for her. And on today, Day Eight of a Month of Thankfulness, I am thankful for the youngest member of our clan, Baby. She was thirteen months old on Sunday and she's such a sweetheart. She's got these big brown eyes and the biggest grin you've ever seen. In fact, that's Hubby's nickname for her (one of many nicknames she's got in our family) - The Grin. She's a very good-natured little girl and not a whole lot seems to rattle her. Although she will make her wishes known when she gets scooped up by one of her older siblings when she doesn't want to be. The three olders love to play with her, but she doesn't like it so much. She likes to either be held by Mommy or left to her own toddling around the house looking at things. She's a very busy little girl, but fortunately for Mommy, doesn't seem to get into things she shouldn't be getting in to. Yet.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Perfect Reading for Boys!

Well, believe it or not, my soccer playing, plastic sword wielding, ninja boy loves Shakespeare. But, after what we've been reading these past couple of weeks, who wouldn't love Shakespeare? OK, let me just tell you about my experience with the Bard. I "studied" Shakespeare in high school. (and if you've been following my blog long enough, you know what my high school English classes were like... boring!) We read "Romeo and Juliet", "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "MacBeth". And I really didn't understand much of any of it. And you know, it really just makes me mad because Shakespeare is brilliant and his stories are wonderful, yet....we just get lost in the language (or at least I did, but so did a bunch of my friends, we really didn't understand what we were reading, so we couldn't appreciate it) and miss out on the stories. So, last week we read "MacBeth" from our history book "The Story of the World: Volume 2, the Middle Ages" by Susan Wise Bauer. But this "MacBeth" wasn't written in Shakespearean English. Basically it was a condensed version of the story, in modern English. We were all captivated. Murder, intrigue, treachery, guilt.... oh, the guilt. Guilt that gnaws at the soul. Driving Lady MacBeth to the brink of madness and finally killing her. Good stuff, I'm telling you. I never got that from studying it in high school. As I said before, all I got from "MacBeth" was wandering around the hallowed halls of our high school with my best friend muttering, "Out, d--- spot, out!"
Now, here's another book Bubba's been totally in to! "Hamlet". You know, "To be, or not to be!"
I'd never read it, but I figured a child's never too young to start reading Shakespeare, so we got this great book written for the young'uns. It's written in rhyme, so it's a little difficult to follow, but it's wonderful. It's got ghosts, murder, guilt, treachery, madness, revenge. All kinds of great stuff!

A Day of Thankfulness: Day 7

It's Day 7, right? I need to check my calendar. I am exhausted. Baby woke up at 4:15am and didn't go back to sleep. Which means I didn't either. Anyhow, it is Day 7 and since I'm on a roll with my kids, today I will be thankful for Cee-cee. Cee-cee is one of my two newest daughters. She's 2 1/2 years old and has dark brown/black hair and dark brown eyes. It's hard to know what to expect when you take in a child from foster care. They've had a past that affects the way they are and most of the time you have no idea what was in that past. Only that it wasn't good. However, the good thing is, young children can be very resilient and if they are able to become part of a healthy and loving family, a lot can be overcome. And, Cee-cee's been doing great. She's a happy little girl who loves playing with her siblings. She's active and intelligent, quite cooperative and much more of a neat-nik than our other children are. Hopefully she'll rub off on them. We've only had her and her sister for a little over two months now but she has just really become part of our family. I can't imagine life without her.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Month of Thankfulness: Day 6

I'm sure you can probably see a pattern developing here. So, it will come as no surprise that today I am thankful for my oldest daughter, Missie Lou.
We got her when she was two days old. Picked her up from the hospital. I remember that day as if it were yesterday. We walked into the place where they have the newborns and we had to go through security. We were pretty nervous as it was, but then we had to go through security. That really freaked me out. Fortunately, as we were waiting in line, the social worker spotted us ("you had that deer-in-the-headlights look," she told us) and brought us on through. As we walked in the room we heard this screaming and Hubby and I looked at each other with this look that said, "I hope that's not her." But, it wasn't. She was just sleeping and they put her in our arms and we fell in love.Missie Lou is that wonderful combination of prissy girl and tom-boy. She loves pink, loves to dress up, loves shoes and is already very conscientious of her appearance. But, then on the other hand... she's becoming a tiger on the soccer field. She scored all three goals in yesterday's game. She's tough and she'll go head-on with Bubba in a backyard soccer game and not back down. She's a lot of fun to go shopping with and she even helps pick out my clothes. I'm sure not every mom can say that about her five-year-old daughter. So, that's my Missie Lou. My precious daughter, who I am so incredibly thankful for!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Day of Thankfulness: Day 5

I have two boys. They are as different as night and day. Bread and soup. Alligators and pomeranians. Today I am thankful for Duh-duh. He got his nickname from his sister when she was just beginning to talk. I have no idea why she called him Duh-duh. Maybe it was her way of calling him "brother". Anyhow, he was Duh-duh for a long time and then all of the sudden, one day she started calling him by his Christian name and that was the end of "Duh-duh". If there was ever a child who could just worm his way into your heart, it's this one. He is a lover. He's the one who just wants to hold my hand when he's eating dinner. He'll just snuggle up to you any time and flash those big brown eyes and you'll just melt. Duh-duh is my sensitive and compassionate child. If there's someone who doesn't have something, Duh-duh's the one to give what he's got. He and Missie Lou have always had a very special bond and they shared a room for quite a while because Missie Lou was afraid of the dark. It's fun to watch the two of them interact, they really understand each other and care about each other. Most of the time. Duh-duh is definitely his own person. He's not concerned about what other people think about him and does what he wants. He's definitely a special kid and I am very thankful for him!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Friday School

"The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray..." (Robert Burns). You know, I'm finding that in homeschooling that quote is quite applicable. Also, I'm finding that our homeschool has a tendency to evolve into what suits our family, which is really quite interesting, and Friday has been evolving this year into an education day that is quite different than the rest of the week. For four days out of the week we do Bible class, spelling, grammar, writing, math, memory work, history or science and Latin (for Bubba). But Fridays we do all the other stuff. Fridays for Bible we do our verse quiz and then we read a missionary story. Today's missionary story was about Jim Elliot. We've read about Hudson Taylor, Amy Carmichael, Gladys Alward, lots of people. It's been a great study. We also have a spelling test and on Fridays we study Health. and geography... and Bubba gets one of his fun math puzzles. He thinks it's just for fun. It is fun for him. He loves math. But, it's also getting him ready for algebra. And he doesn't even know it. I love that kind of thing! Fridays also give us a chance to play "catch-up" if we're a little behind. We are a little behind where I'd like to be for history so we did history and science today. Finished up the story of "MacBeth" (We're studying the Elizabethan Age and you cannot study the Elizabethan Age without studying Shakespeare. We're also memorizing "Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow" from MacBeth. You know, the passage that includes, "Life.... is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." A little depressing, but so is MacBeth.) I'd never read "MacBeth" before. Well, we did study it in highschool, but that doesn't mean I read it. I just remember walking through the halls with my best friend L quoting Lady MacBeth with all the drama we could muster, "Out d--- spot! Out!!" So, anyway, today we finished that. Bubba always has a Latin quiz, which he does on-line. We also do art if we have the time and I feel like it. Lately I haven't felt like it, much to Bubba's chagrin. He loves art. So, anyhow, that's what Friday school looks like around here. I like it. It's a little change of pace and a little less intense.

A Month of Thankfulness: Day 4

Today I am thankful for Bubba. He's the oldest of my five children. I still remember the day we met Bubba. He wasn't walking yet, but he was a terror on his knees. He was getting into absolutely everything in that little meeting room and the social worker had to keep pulling him away from the computer and out from under the desk and everywhere else. And he hasn't quit moving yet. I've always felt that if somehow we could hook up electrodes to him we could supply power to the entire tri-state area. (Actually, here in California, there is no "tri-state area". We are too big. And with those mountains in the way, we forget that Nevada is there, Oregon is too far north and south of us is a totally different country.) Anyhow, suffice it to say, the child has a tremendous amount of energy. He's also very smart. He's fun to teach because he catches on quickly. He's a very mathy person and sometimes drives me absolutely insane in his desire to find out all the "whys" and "hows". I'm not that kind of person. I'm just kind of an "it just is" type of person. Bubba is also a good athlete. I still remember when he was about four years old and in swimming lessons. The teacher had all the little boys sitting on the wall kicking and they all looked like four-year-old little boys, except Bubba. He had pecs. I couldn't believe it. Even as a toddler he's had the musculature of an athlete, and I knew he'd be good. And he's getting there. Soccer and baseball are his passions and with some more experience and if he can get a little more drive, he'll do really well, I'm thinkin'! So, today I am thankful for Bubba. He is a challenge. He is the one who consumes probably a bigger proportion of my prayer time, but he's a wonderful, gifted kid and I'm excited to see how God is going to use him.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thursday Stuff!

Here are a few glimpses of my life these days. See this.... this is my bar-b-que. Well, it's technically hubby's. It used to be his domain, but then I took that over, too. I'd feel bad asking him to grill up some chicken breasts after a hard day of work, so one day a while back I asked him to teach me how to use the grill. He did and there was no looking back. Now, there's picture of a dinosaur written on the dust of the lid. Hmm. Wonder who did that? Here's Sparky.... and here's her new dog house. Even since she got here she's been sleeping on the table right outside the window. I guess she likes to keep an eye on us. But then, the weather started changing and the forecast for this weekend is nighttime lows in the 30's. I started to think that maybe she'd need a little shelter. So, Hubby went to Walmart last night and got her a little doghouse. And I'm making a bed to go inside. Now she'll be warm and I won't feel guilty.
Oh, and here are a few examples of what I've been finding on my camera lately. I think my camera's been absconded.... and used for untoward purposes.
And this.... this makes me sad. These are my peas. They were doing so well. Until a little boy on a bike knocked over the trellises. Twice. And then he lied about it. He knows he's not supposed to play in my garden. But he did.
I told him that I was more sad about the lie than the peas; I am more concerned about his character than anything else. I hope it sunk in. It's hard being a parent these days.