Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Last Day at the Beach



The Last Day at the Beach. That's the title of this achingly beautiful song from William Ackerman. I can't listen to it without getting wistful. This year's family reunion beach week has been the first year that we have had more high school graduates among our children than not... four to three! One of my daughters is married, and her husband joined us this year. (Welcome, Ronald!) One of my sister's daughters is engaged, and her fiancé joined us this year, too. (Nice to finally meet you, Crawford!)

There's been lots of fun and feasting... sunburn... beach volleyball... ukulele... feasting... rain... Avengers and Jurassic Park (must. get. ready. for. sequels!)... feasting... Taboo...  Nanny's cakes (coconut, chocolate chip, rum, and poppy seed)... new pups ("Finley and Chewie, meet the cuzes!")... biking (and even a bicycle built for two!)... feasting... donuts from Duck Donuts on National Donut Day... skim boarding... freezing produce... "Farkle!"... boogie boarding... feasting... hot tubbing... coconut rum fruity drinks and Mike's hard lemonade... The Dugger Interviews (isn't the world talking about anything else?!)... feasting... shopping... reading... Pictionary... corn hole... rain... feasting... Heads Up! charades (thank you, Ellen!)...

The list of fun memories, far from complete, makes me smile... and I list it to keep me from crying. Every year, as the week comes to a close, I am amazed at how quickly it has flown, and how fleeting time is. Our children are growing, and we are growing old, and there's nothing we can do to slow the hands of time. Another fun week is coming to a close much too soon, and we ignore the approaching goodbyes that will inevitably prick our eyes come morning. Goodbye, Beach Week 2015. (Such fun you've been!)

Until we meet again next year...
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*Entry 6B, June - The 12 Months of 2015 Blog Challenge 
The title is that of William Ackerman's song by the same name.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

On a Bicycle Built for Two



These two sweet cousins get together once a year, during our annual beach week family reunion getaway on the NC shore. They've been almost inseparable for the entire week, every summer that I can remember--and this year they even got to go biking on the same bike! Such fun!!


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*Entry 6, June - The 12 Months of 2015 Blog Challenge 
The title is from the classic children's song "Daisy, Daisy" (aka "A Bicycle Built for Two").

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Complete Classical Christian School Reading List (Grades 1-8)

Here is a great book list that I might want to reference later. Like Justin Taylor, publisher at Crossway, "I'm a sucker for good reading lists." Here's what he has to say about this one:


"There are hundreds of thousands of books written for children. The challenge is discerning what is best for them to read, given so many options. I’m a sucker for good reading lists, so I’m grateful for the folks at Calvary Classical School—a classical Christian school in Hampton, Virgina—who have given me permission to reproduce this list. For outside reading, the books are divided into three levels. Books with a “+” denote that any title in that series would be acceptable. I’ve done my best to link to the paperback or cheapest version at Amazon. I hope this proves helpful for a lot of parents and teachers!"

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Borax Ant Killer

It makes me cringe to think of posting a recipe for ant poison here on this blog, but it works!!!  I want to share it with any of you who may also have problems with ants in the kitchen as soon as it gets warm outside. The original post appeared on a blog and came to me via a friend on Facebook. (And did I mention that IT WORKS?!!!)

1/8 C. sugar
1 tsp. Borax (laundry aisle)
1/2 C. water

1. Boil water, then pour in empty jar.

2. Add sugar and Borax to hot water and stir until completely dissolved.

3. Soak cotton balls with mixture and place on a piece of aluminum foil.

4. Place near the path where you have ants coming in. 24-48 hours later, they're gone. (Truly!)

I didn't believe this, really. I'd tried Combat and Raid Ant Bait traps. I'd tried Ant Terro. I'd tried natural remedies. I'd tried wiping everything down with vinegar-water. I'd tried spraying ant killer outside along the perimeter of the house. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, has ever worked before to kill the ants. This works. YAY!!

Update NOTE: This absolutely worked amazingly the first time I tried it. Then, two weeks later, the ants were back. I pulled the leftover poison jar back out, and it didn't work at all! It seems to be important for the poison to be fresh, so I've cut the quantities way down in the recipe. Just make a fresh batch each time you need it.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Birth Day


Today, the delightful woman who made me a mother turned 21. She and her new husband, Ronald, came over after church for a birthday celebration meal. (Each child has always gotten to choose the meals on his or her birthday, and even when you're married and moved out, that's still the deal. This year's choice? Home-rolled sushi followed by spaghetti with homemade meatballs. Hey, I don't plan the things...I just cook 'em!)

When my sweetie little-girl-all-grown-up came in, she handed me these beautiful flowers.

"Happy birthday!" she said.

"It's not my birthday. It's your birthday!" I replied.

"Yes, but you did all the work!"

Amen to that--and your sweet self was worth every minute of the pain!

Happy birthday, dear EV. I blinked, and your childhood was over. Happy first-time birthday where my home is no longer yours. I'm so very proud of the woman you have become!

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*Entry 5, May - The 12 Months of 2015 Blog Challenge 
The title is from the "most recognizable song in the English language." And here is a super fun article containing five fun facts about the Happy Birthday song.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

But First, Let Me Take a Selfie

I know that I'm getting older... and that I "just don't understand"... and that taking selfies is just what everybody (insert the words "under thirty") is doing.

And I've been known to stick my arm out with the best of 'em, to capture a moment with the camera turned the wrong way...

But, truth be told, I'm a little disturbed. I find the selfie craze pretty disconcerting. I'm concerned about what it is turning us into... who it is making us. It scares me a little to see people so utterly self-absorbed that literally every kind of moment has to be captured with the camera facing SELF. It is changing how we view things. It is changing how we document things. It is changing how we do relationship.

I don't know about you, but I didn't need anything to come along to make me more self-focused... more self-absorbed... more looking at myself and how the world affects me, instead of how it is affecting those around me!

Last night, my family and I were camping, and all of them had headed to the bath house to get ready for bed. I had stayed behind, enjoying the last few moments of our little campfire. The embers were morphing and moving in the smoke, and the last dying flames joined their movements in a mesmerizing dance. It was glorious, that sight, as it combined with the sounds and smells of that fading fire... crackling pops... rising sparks... the scent of wood and earth and smoky tendrils filling my nostrils...

It was in the context of this peaceful, beautiful, holy moment that I saw of one of the most ridiculous things I think I've ever seen. Across the way, at the next campsite, I became aware of a couple of guys who had set up a tripod and camera in front of their campfire. (Yes, a full-blown tripod, complete with camera attachment.) They were ready to capture their selfie the old-fashioned way, I guess... at a decent distance, and without the distorted shoulder in one of the corners. And so I watched them as they attempted to do so. Not once. Not twice. Not six or eight times. No, I watched these two young men literally set up the scene (clinking beer bottles in front of their campfire), hold the pose (as in, "Let's keep these beer bottles in this fake clink for eight seconds while the camera takes the shot), look at the result (apparently never quite perfect enough), and then re-stage the entire thing for a re-do-try-over TEN TIMES. They wasted almost twenty minutes with this project. Were they enjoying the fire? The beers? The company? No, they were obsessed with staging and then capturing the perfect (fake!) moment.

I had been experiencing the perfect (real) moment, and I was never once--not even for a fleeting instant--tempted to spoil the mood by trying to "capture the moment" with my camera. And, had I been so inclined, I certainly would never have been tempted to try to capture it by sticking my arm out and centering my big ugly mug in front of the real show!

I'm not sure what to make of it all, but I know that I never want to miss the real things going on around me because I'm too busy staging some fake ones.

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*Entry 4, April - The 12 Months of 2015 Blog Challenge 
The title is from the song "#SELFIE" by The Chainsmokers.

(For some interesting thoughts about selfies, you can read these two articles, which discuss some research-based findings suggesting that our selfie-centered behavior is making us psychologically sick. I wouldn't be surprised.)

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Now His Life Is Full of Wonder

Today is my son PT's birthday. He is not here to celebrate with us the way he has every year of his life to this point, which is eating his favorite foods--whatever he's chosen for the meals in any given year, and whomever he's chosen for us to share them with.

And even though he is a freshman in college this year, he isn't spending his first-birthday-away-from-home in a dorm room, either.

No, this year, he and some friends have taken a Spring Break road trip to Colorado. Not a bad way to spend your birthday, I'd say. (Beats the view around here today, that's for sure!)




Happy birthday, PT! Hope you're having a blast!

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*Entry 3B, March - The 12 Months of 2015 Blog Challenge 
The title is a line from the song "Rocky Mountain High" by John Denver.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Let My Hair Grow Wild and Free

I received the following picture from my son today. His declaration: "So apparently my hair gets really poofy when it gets long."

That, and you suddenly look a lot like Andy Samberg...

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*Entry 3, March - The 12 Months of 2015 Blog Challenge 
The title is a line from the song "Find Me" by Margaret Becker.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Happily Ever After

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*Entry 2, February - The 12 Months of 2015 Blog Challenge 
The title is a line from the song "Happily Ever After" by Case. (This song is an R&B love song, not a style I usually like much, but the words are fun!)

Friday, February 13, 2015

Reflections on "A Really Kindred Spirit"

"Marilla," she demanded presently, "Do you think that I shall ever have a bosom friend in Avonlea?"

"A--a what kind of friend?"

"A bosom friendan intimate friend, you knowa really kindred spirit to whom I can confide my inmost soul. I've dreamed of meeting her all my life. I never really supposed I would, but so many of my loveliest dreams have come true all at once that perhaps this one will, too. Do you think it's possible?"

Yes, it's possible, dear Anne of Green Gables. But it's a rare and special thing to be treasured among the highest of treasures!

Below you will find some thoughts milling around in my head about friendship. They are shared in the form of an email I received from a dear friend, and an email I wrote to my precious family. 

We're in the final stretch of wedding planning and execution around here, and I have no time for blogging about any of it! (The only thing I'll say about that is this: Go hug your sweet little ones. Next week, they'll be driving you around, and the week after that they'll be getting married. Don't blink!)

My loves,
Some of this is addressed to my sweet daughters and some of it to my dear men, but I wrote it intending for all of you to read all of it. I love you!

My dear daughters,
Find yourself a few dear friends like this throughout the years of your life. I can count them on one hand, over my entire lifetime, but they are a priceless, rare treasure. (See note from Christine, below.) 

You will have many, many special people move in and out of your circle of associations over your lifetime, but deep, heart friends—"bosom friends," as Anne of Green Gables called them—are a true, rare gift from God. They don't usually come along when you're a teenager, (though they certainly can), and they are usually the result of "clicking" with someone on both a spiritual level and a personality level. You'll know them when they come along. Treasure them. 

(And know that I'd love nothing more than to eventually be one of them to you!)

My dear men, I cc'ed you rather than addressing you directly because men's friendships tend to work differently than women's. A deliberate choice to facilitate some connection with the spiritual men in your circle—for accountability and occasional companionship—seems to be key for guys. That, and a deep, heart-and-spirit connection with a "wife of noble character." ("Who can find? She is worth far more than rubies...") Treasure her, too, once the Lord brings her along. 

Dear ones, settle for nothing less than the best: a deep, soul, Spirit connection with your spouse. It, too, is a rare gift from God, and worth waiting for, and earnestly seeking. 

I'm so glad I have your dad as such a soulmate for walking this life together, and that God has given me friendships like those I've shared with Christine. Karen. Cheri. Kathy. Johanna. 

Keep your eye out for those special types of friends. They don't come along every day! And work to become ready to *be* that kind of friend, once they do. 

Life is good, and God is great. Above all, love Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. He is, and will always be, your first and closest and truest Friend. And He will shape you into the man or woman of God that He wants you to be, and that will make you the kind of friend that's a rare treasure. Like my dear Christine, writing from across the miles in Iraq:
From: Christine
Date: February 13, 2015
To: Laurie
Subject: Thinking of You
Laurie, I am thinking of you all so much as the wedding approaches. I am really bummed to not be there to help out. When you asked for Christmas trees, I knew you must be planning something special.  
Just know that I love your family and am so glad I know you and Iivo from even before dear EV was born. We have walked thru lots of life together, and I can imagine the thoughts and emotions you have as EV gets married. 
I will be thinking of you so much next Saturday and look forward to being with you to hear all about it! 
Love,
Christine

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Spaniels!

I received the following photo texts from my daughter OG today:
Just randomly settling himself on a plastic bag...
With his little toy
All comfy
Isn't our little Finley adorable?!

Monday, January 12, 2015

A Visit from Across the Miles

A decade or so ago, some dear folks moved here from Germany to spend a couple of years working in the States. We met them in our neighborhood park and became fast friends. Last night this dear man arrived on our doorstep, here in town for a few days with business. Our son PT was great buds with their Max during elementary school, and our "baby" girls, now both 14, used to share a weekly play date when they were 5. Too bad they couldn't all come!

Ulrich said something during his visit that rings so true to me: "There are some people that you can not see for many years, and when you do see them, it's like no time has passed at all. You can pick up right where you left off. I believe that this is what heaven will one day be like." Amen to that!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Hoarding

A message from my dad, the puppy caretaker while we're away: "That's a little mound of toys piled on his food bowl."

I guess he's missing us and not sure when he'll get his next meal while we're gone. Poor little guy!


Saturday, January 10, 2015

Not a Cheesy Card

I have gotten some pretty terrific gifts for my birthday this year (including the much-needed laptop I'm writing on right now!), but my favorite present by far has been this poem my husband presented to me last night. It is as much a tribute to Williamsburg and our alma mater as it is to me. We've long called this town "the center of the universe"—and, for us, in some ways, it is.

I am so grateful for such a dear companion to walk through this life together!

Not a Cheesy Card

On these streets,

Among these trees and houses,
Where leaves rustle and a carriage rumbles by,
I fell in love with you...

Where old porches and new shoppes,

Old traditions and new ideas,
Godless pride and Holy worship breathed among old stones,
I fell in love with you...

Magnolias and pines,

Delis and waterside parks,
"We were young," "sure enough," and "ready for the storm"...
I fell, fall, falling, keep falling...

Your mouth, your kiss

Your hand, your hair... you... beautiful...
Your neck, all else, the universe centered, or so it seemed...
Fell, fall, falling.  Keep, keep falling...

Our little homes, growing, then not...

Your belly, growing, then again,
Our children, our loves...
But I still fall, falling for you...

Your hand,

Your hair,
Your mouth, still... you... more beautiful...
Falling... further... still...

You are my true love and I will cherish you until the very end.

I am... really... still... falling... in love with you

Maybe pick a different pair?!

Looking for bridesmaid shoes is hard work, and every once in a while you just need a fun break...

Apparently even big girls still like to play dress up!



Thursday, January 8, 2015

Just a letter to mark a day...

Dear Laurie,
Your "good manners message" was received here with raised eyebrows and sharpened attention. Do things like this still exist? I lost out on a date once because I tried to open the car door for her. I had her coat rudely ripped out of my hands when I tried to help her with it. Without a smile, she pushed past me and knocked me into the door post when I tried to enter the restaurant first in order to ensure it was a place suitable for her visit. Etc. And over the years I settled for the thought that what we had learned as good behavior did no longer count in the modern world. But none of the girls who went against my grain in these small ways became the grandmother of your children. Now, after your message, I fear I have a long and hard upward haul back into a mode where I was when I left dancing lessons in senior high, hovered there for a while, then slowly began to slip – once, again, and again. Thanks for the eye opener.

Still with the warm memory of our transition into the new year, I am slowly recovering from the cold that I brought to you from Sneads Ferry. Not that anyone there gave it to me – no, they all remained untouched, but I picked it up there, because I had it during the short day-and-a-half here before I started out to come to you, and almost did not. I hope I did not deposit it in your house? And as things begin to look better through the burning and tearing eyes, old plans come back to life again. Originally, I thought to get a birthday card for you up there, but as things developed, this plan was shattered. Then I thought to make up for it by getting one here and mailing it, but, under the restraining grip of the bacterial assault, I missed this connection, too, and now am forced to send you my greetings through this uncouth media of digitized mail.

There is, however, in considered foresight, a birthday greeting from me "hidden" in Opa's room, between the little book shelf and the wall in the far left corner when you come through the door. Oh, you found it already! It is, as you must have read from the label, a (ask Google) – a round basket made of natural cane, used to proof bread dough before baking. I saw those offered by Bob's Red Mill when I ordered a shipment of 5-grain cereal, and since I remember these things from way, way back, I got me one. That last bread I baked before Christmas, of which you tasted and declared good, was proofed in one of those baskets. The first rise of that dough was scarily ineffective, and the second also totally unsatisfactory. That's when this first basket came through the mail and I washed it and dried it and threw the dough in it, covered it with a towel, and let it stand – and wouldn't you believe it, it rose to more than double its size after all the stress it gave me at first! Back then, when you tasted the bread, I could not tell you about this for fear to give away my plans for your birthday.

Now, one such story proves nothing, but I am looking forward to your own story of resounding success. May it give you joy in providing your family's daily bread. 

The use of this ancient baker's helper is remarkably simple: flower the dry mold liberally, place your dough in it (it has a capacity for a two-pound loaf), let it take its final rise, and simply dump it onto a baking sheet or stone or whatever you use to bake, this last area prepared the way you always prepared it in the past. Generations of bakers have graduated with these things and the result, including the distinctive pattern on the finished loaf, will assure many more generations making use of it.

In this sense, I wish you a great birthday, and great days to follow. May health and wealth and happiness be yours tomorrow and always.
With love, Opa

From stock like that, how could my man not be terrific?! It is so wonderful to be known, and gifts when I feel most known are the ones when I feel most loved. I'm so excited to try this new dough-proofing basket! Thank you, sweet Opa! Many happy returns all around!

Yappuchino

Check out this clever Christmas gift, made by my daughter EV and given to our Finley from his litter-mate brother, Chewie, her pup:


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

A New Benchmark

Once upon a time, there was a young family with two young children. The mother was home all day with her preschoolers, and money was very tight for anything besides basic necessities. One day, that woman found an inexpensive outdoor bench at the local Big Lots store. Made of wood and metal, it was a sturdy bench that would serve them well for a long time.

Fast forward almost twenty years. That bench has stood in the front yard, the side yard, the garden, and--for the past few years--on the back deck. Over the decades, the wood has faded, then cracked, then gotten a little green with mildew in spots, finally beginning to rot away in places. The young mother remembers sitting on that bench in the front yard, watching the two- and four-year-olds ride their scooters around while she was in labor with her third child. Each little chubby leg of her four children has, over the years, hoisted itself up into that bench to sit and visit for a spell.

That woman, of course, is me, and about a month ago, I asked my father-in-law if there was any way to clean the wooden slats of that bench to restore it to some semblance of beauty and functionality. He looked it over and broke the news that it was probably not worth the time or trouble that it would take, but that he would see what he could do.

You can't even imagine my surprise and delight to receive this wonderful Christmas gift from sweet Opa! He had taken the bench apart and carried three of the pieces--the curved top, one of the seating slats, and one of the side pieces, home to his workshop. Instead of restoring them, he was replacing them--with beautiful oak pieces lovingly carved and fitted to the frame. He even saved and remounted the original metal plaque that had adorned the old one! I absolutely love it!!

This is what was waiting for me on the back porch during his visit this last week:



This bench was never this beautiful, even on the day it was first purchased almost twenty years ago. And though it has certainly accumulated a lifetime of memories since that time, none has been so precious as this lovingly crafted, hand-wrought makeover. Thank you, oh thank you, dear Opa!

May we sit on it, doing life and memories together, for many more years to come!

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*Entry 1, January - The 12 Months of 2015 Blog Challenge
The title is inspired from the song "Benchmark" by Dave Burland.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The 12 Months of 2015 Blog Challenge

Yesterday was the 12th Day of Christmas... and thus, the official end to the 12 Days of Christmas Blog Challenge.

It's the one time of year I force myself to blog every day. I love the exercise of writing... of capturing the thoughts and feelings swirling around in my head, and organizing them into something that makes some modicum of sense... of sharing those thoughts, however dull they may be on any given day, with those who care to read them... of chronicling the mundane and the ordinary from our daily-day life, and thereby--if only occasionally--hallowing it as something extraordinary. It also forces me away from the tyranny of the urgent and back to the truly important, so often overlooked in our daily-day busyness!

Therefore, for a second year, I am committing to continue throughout the year with the 12 Months of 2015 Blog Challenge. The rules are simple:

1) Blog at least once each month, sometime during that month. (You may post to an actual blog, if you have one. If not, compose a note to be published on Facebook, or simply write it out longhand and share it with at least one other person. Whatever works for you. Just grab your thoughts, organize them, capture them in words, and share them with at least one other person.)

2) Give your blog post a clever title, using the title of or a line from a song. (Identify the song at the bottom of the post.)

3) Include a photograph you took to accompany your post, if at all possible. ("If at all possible" is the caveat for those of you who don't take pictures, or don't own a digital camera, or don't use a smartphone, or don't look at life with a photographer's eye... But maybe 2015 is the year to learn to do just that! Look for ordinary miracles in your days, and capture them. Look at life with gratitude, and express it. I'm planning to, and I know that it will change me!)

Won't you join me?

"There are thousands of thoughts lying within a man that he does not know 'til he takes up the pen and writes."    ~ William Makepeace Thackery