31 May 2009

Stairway to Remodeling Heaven

We love our house. And while built in the late 1980's, we've only been here about 3.5 years. "It's got good bones!" we first declared. This is certainly true, but what you can read behind that comment is: "It's really outdated, but still in good shape!"

So, we've phased out the country geese with the blue neck-ribbons, replaced powder pink counter tops, and said "no" to the teal and mauve vinyl flooring. And we've painted. Ridiculous amounts of painting. I'm talking first-name basis and "I'll bring you those oatmeal-raisin cookies tomorrow," kind of relationship with the Sherwin-Williams guys. We've painted about 80% of the house so far and I'm almost done sanding, priming, and double-coating all the downstairs trim and moulding. Phew.

We're down to mostly simple tasks like the painting, with the exception of two things: Carpet (and that's gonna' wait awhile) and the rockin' 80's stair-railing. A few weeks ago we dismantled the stair-rail and set in for another do-it-yourself project. Um, yeah. We tried ... and then began convincing ourselves that the orange construction netting (that kept us all from pitching off to our doom) was just fine. In fact, it was very urban chic.

That is until, Mr. Young. I highly recommend making friends with talented and generous contractors from church. He's been here all day and I think we may just have to pen a hymn or some sort of praise music in his honor. Indeed, we have been rescued from remodeling purgatory.

29 May 2009

Update from Ambrocio

Amazing how effective communication can be with the internet. I just received a response from a morning email I sent to Ambrocio regarding the earthquake. Here is his translated response:

Thank God we are just a little frightened by the movement of land and houses. I hit the wall with my wife because it seemed we were in the water, not used to these things, but it's good to be prepared especially with Christ.

I like the idea of visiting the ruins is a good place.

Thanks for everything. We are praying for you and the group.

I love his words. Yes! It is good to be prepared ... especially with Christ!

28 May 2009

Flights are Set

Well hot-dog, we got tickets! Our flights have been set for our trip to Honduras, and the dreaming and planning are creeping up on reality. We leave July 10th at 12:15 AM and take the red-eye to Houston, a three over lay-over, then off to San Pedro Sula. We had hoped to spend a few extra days exploring on our own (how could we resist??) and we were able to find a return flight four days later than our team ... for no extra charge!

The next thought that popped into my mind was that my parents are champs for taking our girls for so long. Truly, Mom and Dad. You're amazing. The girls can't wait for us to go to "Ponduras" so they can bask in the glory of Grammy and Gramps for such an extended time.

Speaking of people we love, we have been so blessed lately by the generosity and care from those around us. Commitments of prayer (thank you!) and even financial donations have demonstrated God's provision in mighty ways. We feel a little like Paul, commissioned and encouraged in his journey. The details are still coming together, but it is an exciting challenge to pursue something that is much bigger than we are. Thank you for pursuing it with us!

"Now glory be to God! By His mighty power at work within us, He is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope."
(Ephesians 3:20)

- Peter, in a flurry of research -

Earthquake Reports

Just heard. Major earthquake off of the coast of Honduras. Naturally, a little unnerving. Time to pray.

"All praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the source of every mercy and the God who comforts us. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us."
(2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

A Girl and Her Bubbles

Grandma Shelia brought bubbles.

Pops took preventative spillage measures.

'Cause Lucette is one enthusiastic gal.

27 May 2009

Almost Done

Just a couple more weeks to go, then we've done it. School is almost completed. This year has been an odd, but good, hodge-podge of homeschooling, co-op-ing, and charter schooling. At times I wondered what on earth we were doing, but God has been faithful and provided confirmation many times.

We are, however, looking forward to the break found in summer. Especially since next year is still a bit of an unknown. Lots of continued praying and waiting. Patience is a virtue I'm acquiring very slowly, but I am learning to rest in the stillness rather than question it. Most of the time.

Regardless of particulars, my days are filled with my children and this is my delight. What a joy to be a participant in their young lives.

24 May 2009

Saturday Windows

Before I begin, let me state that I have very low standards for clean windows. If they are basically free from full-window smudges and bits from dinner, I am impressed with myself. So with that said, I cleaned the back windows today, inside and out. This is quite an accomplishment for me. I'm also quite proud that I devised a 'cheater' version of cleaning the outsides, 'cause I'm all about cheater versions. 
Here's how it went:

• Hose down window. 
• Spray on copious amounts of window cleaner. (I use vinegar water normally, but I broke out the chemicals, this time.)
• Grab car washing brush that's attached to a telescoping pole and scrub away.
• Hose down window.
• Squeege window and wipe down edges with rag.

Done! Not professional quality, I'm sure (and drat, I still need to get out a flat-blade razor to scrape off the paint flecks from a previous project), but the windows look a whole lot better than before! Definitely good enough for this Mama.

23 May 2009

A Good Import

When it comes to a black tea in a bag, this friendly box is far and away our favorite buy. Loose is always better but not always convenient, Twinings is a tasty bag but rather spendy. PG Tips is a good strong brew for a great price. 

Typically, I like my tea untainted. But like a good English girl would, I enjoy a spot of milk with this tea. And since it is brewed in bag form, it's a casual, relaxed sip. Pinkies are not required to extend.

22 May 2009

Happy Flowers

The adopted geraniums from our trip to the nursery are doing nicely. 

For awhile, I was prejudiced towards these bold beauties. I thought they were fuddy-duddy. Particularly the red ones. Funny, now I like them so very much.

My Nana used to have them planted in her driveway planters at the old farm house. As a child, I always thought they were quite attractive, but I could never decide if that earthy, pop of a scent was good or not. (I've now decided, by the way. It's good.)

These pots had been languishing on the side of the house for a couple of years. This is a case of neglect that turned out awfully well! I love the weathered look.

And I am very pleased with the cheery spot of color the whole ensemble provides out on my patio. Geraniums, I think I love you!

20 May 2009

19 May 2009

At Home with Me

I am finding great delight in the objects that have come from Great Mother's home to live at mine. Here is a first glimpse:

- Little woodland deer. -
I love that she painted these herself and the memories they evoke of all her backyard escapades with these sweet, but naughty creatures.

- Mid-Century Modern circular coffee table from Lane. Circa 196o's. -
Fabulous low-profile Danish style. Oh, how I'd love to stumble upon one of the coordinating end tables one of these days.

Balloon-Powered Tinker Toys

Fan in action:

An Alternative

Conversation between Lucette and her Gramps:

Gramps, it's time to play Unicorn Pegasus!
How about instead, we play Bears Hibernating?

18 May 2009

A Double Rainbow

When the rainbow appears in the cloud, I'll see it and remember the eternal covenant between God and everything living, every last living creature on Earth. (Genesis 9:16)

17 May 2009

Workin' Weekend

Church folk know how to work. It was a big weekend, as we all pitched in to raise funds for the Honduras trip. In addition to the money each individual must supply for travel and expenses, we must also bring a large, collective sum for the village and for construction materials. This is no small feat for our tiny community church.

But this is what we love about our church. The people. Although only 16 of us are actually hopping aboard the plane, we're all really going. Through prayer, encouragement, labor, and finances, our whole church body is invested. This is wonderful.

So, yesterday and today we teamed up and held a blowout fund-raising extravaganza. Car Wash, Rummage Sale, Raffle, Bake Sale. The church was a hub of activity as the community stopped in to check out our junk and toss a little cash in the till. There were sweaty sunscreened kids dashing everywhere (the weather was unseasonably amazing!) and the rocket launcher even made an appearance. And we all marveled at 80 year-old Bill (who is going on the trip!). He was a veritable car washing machine! I had to bribe him with cookies to take a break from the water fights and sit with me. The whole day was impressive.

What was also impressive? The giving. We raised 40% of our total supply sum. Praise God!

16 May 2009

The Party

Her birthday party of preference was a "Grown-Up Ladies Tea." The girls gathered, they sipped, nibbled and giggled. They made grand efforts to remember they were refined ladies of status and only occasionally slipped in reminders of their youthful reality.

The girls drank punch and strung bejeweled bracelets. Each lady was quite enthusiastic to learn the etiquette of teatime and very politely asked for sugar cubes and milk to be added to their Vanilla Strawberry Rose tea.

After dabbing mouths daintily, we cleared the table for a few rounds of tea bingo. Naturally, we used party mints as our place holders. Naturally, we had to eat a mint after each declaration of "Bingo!"

After we finished our indoor activities, we took advantage of the weather which was graciously divine in temperament. The girls scampered about in the backyard as if they had all been friends forever. Smiles and sparkling eyes abounded. (And by the way ... the tea set we used was Great Mother's.)

15 May 2009

A Little Coffee Break

A quick run to the thrift store today (must find attractive plates for bake-sale cookies!) yielded this old title. I had no idea what the story was about, but how could I resist that cover? After lunch, I acquiesced to the urge and snatched a little break from the day. It was quite nice outside, swaddled in a large blanket (pretty, but chilly out) and accompanied by a pot of Kenyan coffee. I settled in quickly and dove into my new read with contented expectations. So far, so good.

13 May 2009

A Mango After Lunch

I took the oozing sugars to be a good sign.

It was. It was a very good sign.

It's Grow Time

I simply adore this garden box Pops built for me last summer. The location used to house an old power-guzzling hot tub that had to be ousted. What was left was a perfect spot for a garden, right at the corner of the patio! I think this is the only area of the yard that actually gets some direct sun. Quite fortuitous. It's also a lovely hub of activity. Playhouse off to the right, bird hotel and swing-set at the rear, hot-pink hula hoop bush to the left.

The young man of the house has a hefty supply of string and twine. He made a selection and secured our bamboo teepee's today. We have some pole bean seedlings that will love vining right up them.

With all that has transpired these past weeks, our seedlings were rather neglected. The hardy fellas survived (just look at this little sweet pea!), but the tomatoes and peppers were not so forgiving. Our feelings weren't hurt and just snatched a few at the nursery.

Now. Time to dream of an automatic drip-system ...

12 May 2009

Afternoon Trip to the Nursery

The nursery was full of growing babies today. The children and I strolled about, cooing over our favorites ... only occasionally distracted by fountains and very breakable garden art. It's never good to play favorites, but we did find some particularly charming geraniums that we decided to adopt. Once they've transitioned to their new home, we'll hold a portrait session. We think they'll fit right in.

11 May 2009

10 May 2009

Birthday Bliss

All blue-skies and sunshine, it was a glorious day for a celebration. Family and friends gathered to our home to smile and hug in honor of Lucette's sixth birthday. We happily ate the cake she requested (Raspberry Almond Torte, thank you very much.) and watched her eyes sparkle over loving gifts given.

The sun kept beamin' and invited us to stay and play. And so we did! The ladies sipped punch and chatted contently, the girls did some housekeeping in the playhouse, and the boys/men worked on completing our own rocket launcher and turning the Lemon Torpedo into a death missile. (There was lots of discussion about psi and alternate pressure gauges. They eventually succeeded in rocketing L.T. far above the roof tops ... until it veered south and ended up on the neighbor's roof.)

After the last thank-you hugs were given and the last wave at the window waved, Pops and I looked at each other. "What a perfect day," he said. And it was.

Happy Birthday, Honey. We all love you.

A Tea for Mother's and Daughters

•The Four Generations•
Grammy, Jane, Nanie V., Lucette, Anna

08 May 2009

The Lemon Torpedo

The launcher:
The excited son discussing flight patterns:

Patches of sun, mostly rain, but all systems remained a "go." The young physics students had been studying theorems and plotting designs for weeks. The Lemon Torpedo had a zesty attitude and raced impressively to the heavens before performing rather comic loop-de-loops on its descent. My rocket commander deemed the mission a success.

07 May 2009

Newton's Law

"I've found a lizzzzzard!" was the cry this afternoon. Peter found this charming fellow mucking about in his excavation pit. While all the children were intrigued, only the fearless Lucette dared the capture. Peter was a good 5 feet away, though watching intently.

Lucette prepared a lovely bucket home for Newton, the Newt, complete with a twigged lookout post so he could continue to watch life pass by. She clearly charmed him and he showed his favor by drowsily climbing about her arm. Jane petted in quick bursts. Peter focused on readying his bottle rocket for tomorrow's launch. Physics are the only form of Newton he's attracted to.

Pulling it all Together

Got 'em! Although only three of us are traveling internationally this summer, we decided to renew and apply for passports all around. Now our whole family of five is primed for all sorts of future adventures!

The list of preparations for our trip is impressive, but we are knockin' them out one by one:
• Passports
• Vaccinations: Tetanus, Hep. A, Hep. B (1st round), Typhoid
• Malaria pills Rx
• Time off of work for Pops
• Care in place for the girls
• Funding for Peter
• Pair of work shoes and sandals for each

Here's what still needs to be accomplished/provided for:
• Travel backpacks (we want to pack light--no suitcases!)
• Hats & work gloves for each
• Document/$ neck carriers

• Completed funding for Pops and myself
• Finalized travel dates and airline tickets purchased (we're staying longer than the rest of the group)
• Finalized plans and accommodations for our extended stay
• Dental supplies/portable dental chair to bring as gifts
• Appropriate gift for host family

• Written testimony
• Pocket sp/eng dictionary or electronic translator(!)

This process of preparation is involved but joyful. We are so excited to go, each little thing we accomplish is a small victory. In addition, we have already seen God's hand over this trip. It is sheer pleasure to see how He oversees all, from the big plans down to the small details.

06 May 2009

Preparations Aplenty

What savvy parents they are! Al and Florence (it seemed appropriate to name them after my grandparents) have been more industrious than I first realized. My first observations of them had been over at the bird hotel and was most delighted to find they had committed to a lease and were making the space their own.

But all this while, in the back of my mind, I had also noticed Al and Florence busy in the eaves of the house, right outside the kitchen window. I'm not sure why, but I hadn't paid much attention. After checking the hotel for signs of impending birth (and finding none), I decided to heft the ladder over to the eaves. And here is what I found!

Oh, joy! Five beautifully creamy colored eggs with caramel speckles. And what a fine, fine nursery they have! The architecture and detail is stunning.

The poor, dear, expectant parents were just about beside themselves while I was nosing about. I tried to assure them I meant no harm, but I'm sure their birdie hearts were much relieved once I finally backed away from their treasures. There is just no calming concerned parents. This I understand.

So, back to the bird hotel. While not currently occupied, their efforts there certainly suggest some form of intent. I think it is quite possible they have selected it as their summer home. Or maybe a place of convalescence for Florence? (There is certainly plenty of rooms for her family on the lower levels, while taking the penthouse suite for a little me-time.) I shall keep you informed.

05 May 2009

Better Than Television

Our children think the primary purpose of the television is to play documentaries and movies from the library. This is not due to some act of martyrdom on our part, we really are that geeky. When they watched the Super Bowl this year it was an experience akin to seeing an astronaut for the first time: "What are these men we are watching?" "In what capacity do they function?"

All that to say, the tots anticipated great entertainment upon learning our defunct 15 year-old washer and dryer were being pitched to the curb and a swanky new set ushered in.

The installation process was magnificent. Not only was there removal and installation of appliances, but there was: A door removed from hinges, discovery of dangerous plastic venting that required replacement with a rather galactically silvered version, and all manner of tubing and paperwork with the word "DANGER" emblazoned boldly.

With the machine humming, the children sat and contentedly "watched" washing for almost a half an hour. "Look! There's Jane's sock!" "Hey! I see my underpants!"

It was a good show.

04 May 2009

Sweet Nest Brownies

This is our favorite go-to recipe for chewy, slightly cakey brownies. So easy to whip up as you only dirty one pot and is done, start to finish, in under an hour! Plus ... it'll make the house smell sooo good.

In large saucepan, melt:
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate
2/3 c. butter

Take off heat and whisk in:
2 c. sugar
4 eggs
1 t. vanilla

1.25 c. unbleached flour
1 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
.5 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional, but tasty!)

After mixing well with wire whisk, spread in 13 x 9 pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Delicious!

Utterances of the Heart

Dear Lord, thank you for taking Great-Mother gently. We know now she is happy in heaven. She can sing to you. She can worship you. We trust your will. Just when her talking-machine was not working well anymore, you decided to take her home. Amen.
--Lucette's prayer at dinner

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.
(Ephesians 1:17-19)

02 May 2009

Buenos Dias, Amigos!

I was most excited to receive news and photos of our Honduran friends. Somehow, pictures give root to the imagination.

Above, you'll find Ambrocio and his wife, Norma. Ambrocio is a national Honduran missions leader and we've been communicating via email since last October. I already sensed, from our letters, a gentle and sweet spirit in both of them. This photo seems to confirm it for me. Aren't they beautiful?

The structure they are leaning against is to be the church (and possible location for some dental vocational training) we are to put a roof on. I think perhaps some of the classes we will be offering to the village children will also be nearby.

This is a photo of Ambrocio and some of the village children in the background. I am told over and over again, what joyful lives the Honduran nationals lead despite the trials they face.

I'm certain they have much to teach our family. I can't wait.