30 September 2009

Practical Innovation

Pops and Peter built a Native-American structure for school. They sought out natural materials for their re-creation, but who can resist a little modern inspiration. After the copper wire supply was depleted, they turned to: The perennially trusty zip-tie.

Didn't you know, zip-ties are the new duct tape?

29 September 2009

A Heart is Filled

"How does you gets to heaven?"

Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them,
for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.
Matthew 19:14

Midway through a tuna sandwich, Jane asked some heartfelt questions. Then, she asked Jesus into her heart. We have plans for a hot chocolate celebration.

It's all so very simple.

For Now

For now we see through a glass, darkly;
but then face to face: now I know in part;
but then shall I know even as also I am known.
I Corinthians 13:12

27 September 2009

26 September 2009

Acorns in Milkglass

We like Fridays. No school, so that means a relaxed day. We do clean rooms on Fridays and the kids crack out a few chores, but in general, there is lots of loafing about. Today there was even time for a screening of Milo and Otis. A movie classic, if you want our reviews.

And as I was avoiding dinner prep, I noticed the afternoon sun sliding over our bowl of birthday acorns. Afternoon light is so mysterious. Dark and textured yet bright and smooth.

But, time to put an end to my lolly-gagging. As lovely as the tableau is, somehow I don't think my family would be content with acorn-staring in place of their dinner. Off I go ...

25 September 2009

It's the Way We Roll

Today is a special day. It warrants an apple-raisin upside down cake, and a last-of-the-year evening dessert picnic.

After a rushed dinner (only so many daylight hours left!), we packed up the cake, the (thrifted) melamine plates and mugs, a thermos of hot tea, blanket, and frisbee.

We marked a spot on a nice flat, grassy section of the park that surrounds ... ahem, the uh ... the "poop fountains." Otherwise known to the rest of the city as the waste-water management park. The grounds are manicured and green, complete with extravagant fountains and rolling hills. One almost doesn't pay attention to the fountain signs that warn of drinking or playing in the "valuable resource" that they recycle for our enjoyment. In the summer the children nearly hyperventilate from laughter when they spy non-sign-reading individuals swimming, even snorkeling, in the poop fountain. But, I horribly digress.

We nibbled our cake and drank our tea, gathered sticks and acorns, and even played a few rounds of cross-eyed tag. I'm not really sure what those rules are, but it is exceedingly entertaining to watch.

When the sunset gave way to the settling darkness, we packed up and remarked on the evening of perfection. Eating, playing, and a lot of giggling. A suitable ending for a special day.

Happy Birthday, Pops. You make us smile.

(PS-And thank you for coming home and unclogging the kitchen sink for your late-night birthday entertainment. I'll never shove that many eggshells into the garbage disposal again. Promise.)

23 September 2009

A Sunny Dish

The tomatoes on my windowsill turned into a lovely meal for my mouth.

I really should take more time to plate food with thought. The sunny yellow slices were exceptionally tasty when presented on my thrifted 1950's clover platter. Of course, the lemon pepper, sea salt, balsamic, and basil helped out a smidge, as well. Mmm.

22 September 2009

My Little Is Big

Jane had her first day of preschool today. Her favorite outfit (thank you, Gigi!) selected, sweater buttoned, and mouse "pack-kack" with cheese wedge zipper-pulls donned.

We arrived and she set right into an apple painting project with zest. A little smile, wave, and a promise to see me in a couple of hours. I expected to feel sad or emotional, but I just felt at peace. For this, I am grateful. I then proceeded to enjoy 2 hours of alone time in the middle of the day ... a first in eight and a half years. A quick errand, some devotional time at home, and a pot of tea to accompany my almost-finished library book. I could get used to this.

Now I have my lovey back home and we've a few more hours 'til we pick up the "bigs." A little lunch, bagging the simmering chicken stock for the freezer, dinner prep (soccer practice tonight!), and scrubbin' the bathrooms should fill up the time nicely. And maybe if I hurry ... I can squeeze in some read time and polish off that book. Yup. That's my kind of incentive.

21 September 2009

Teatime for Little Hands

Jane had a friend (and a few fairies) for tea today.

Forget the chat of weather, ailments, and the trials of finding good help. These ladies have delightful manners and are skilled in the art of conversation. Favorite topics include: Flight patterns of ladybugs, the merits of pearls, and favorite snacks in general.

Teatime concluded with plans to visit each other's respective houses once they grow up and are mothers. I do hope they invite me.

18 September 2009

Welcoming Autumn

I do love fall. It is without question, my favorite season. In the northwest, it is crisp, mild, sunny, and gorgeously vibrant all at once. Such a polite transition between the bright, carefree days of summer and the gray, hunkered-down weeks of winter.

Yesterday we went about the house putting up nods to the new season. A few garlands, a couple wreaths, candles, some autumnal books, and most certainly pumpkins. For me, the rich, yet neutral color palette found in fall decorations bring on feelings of cozy and content. (It doesn't hurt that the effort brings enjoyment all the way through November, either!)

And today, while Peter was out running a President Lincoln-shaped corn maze, the girls and I managed to do some planting in the newly cleaned out garden box. Some winter cabbage, onions, beets, and parsnips will be (fingers crossed!) making their way to the dinner table for the, now resumed, Sunday mealtimes.

A few things to tidy up this afternoon, some baking to do for tomorrow's church event. But my immediate plans involve a cup of tea and my new library book. Have I mentioned that I just adore fall?

An Offending Pepper

I don't want to eat this green pepper.
Well Jane, you need to.
(with a furrowed brown and disrespectful look...)
I am going to cross you off my list.

Yeesh. Her list? Sounds serious. (By the way, she ate the pepper.)

16 September 2009

Changing Seasons with Jane

 Cleaning up summer with my Jane today. We cleared out the bean forest from the garden box and wrestled with tomato vines. Swept the patio, raked here and there, and planted a few flower petals (Jane's idea).

Still need to pack away the outdoor furniture, tidy the playhouse, and do a little more swinging on the rusty play-set before the rains come.

Maybe we'll finish tomorrow. I've just been informed that it's time to string some wooden beads and a munch on some hummus and carrots.

15 September 2009

14 September 2009

Lovin' Dem Cakes

It's hard not to love pancakes. Do you like them with a little butter and maple syrup? Perhaps some peanut butter and applesauce? Or how about topped with yogurt and drizzled with agave. Mmmm. Maybe the only thing better, is having the mix already set to go for those morning tummy rumbles.

Pancake dry mix:
6.5 c. flour (I used an approximate 2:1 ratio of whole wheat to white flour)
.5 c. sugar
.5 c. baking powder
2.5 t. salt

Breakfast time:
1 c. (heaping) dry mix
1 beaten egg
1.5 c. milk
1 T oil

Mix the wet with the dry (will be a tad lumpy) and cook up dem 'cakes. (I usually triple the recipe for my ravenous bunch.)

**I like to put the mix in a 2 quart mason and the write the (above) recipe on the screw top lid. 'Cause as simple as the ingredients are, you know I'll forget the measurements at 7:00am!

Extras? Pop them in the freezer for later! The toaster oven works magic on them.

12 September 2009

A Generational Bloom

After my grandmother passed away this last spring, I took home a portion of her potted red-veined maranta. The leafy plant once belonged to her mother-in-law, my Great Grandmother Stone.

A move from Missouri to the northwest and three generations later ... a late summer bloom upon my kitchen counter.

Bindings in Afternoon Shadows

10 September 2009

Almost Open

My little African Violet is so forgiving. She sits on my bathroom counter and never judges. I sometimes let her drink the last sips of my cold tea, and otherwise forget to water her altogether. I don't pluck her old leaves often enough, her container gets dusty, and I occasionally spit on her when I'm brushing my teeth.

Even after my neglect, she still loves me.

The Second Day

So far, my favorite part of school has been picking them up. Yes, I am anxious to have them home for the day. But what I really love, is approaching the head of the car line for after school pick-up and seeing my two standing there ... together. I snatch a few seconds of observation while they have not yet spotted me. Lucette stands close to Peter. Turns spontaneously to hug him. He puts his arm around her. Sigh. I'm so happy they are there together.

Both dove into their homework this afternoon, with surprisingly pleasant attitudes. While wrangling the laborious phonograms, Peter says to me, "Mom. I gotta' find out the name of the land bridge that connects Egypt to Israel." Uh, what?

He goes on to explain to me that while discussing geography and land bridges in class, he mentioned one that the teacher was not immediately familiar with. She requested he find out the name and he was happy to oblige. A quick google search and wikipedia scan later ... jackpot. "See, Mom? There it is. Just what I was talking about."

In case you were wondering, it's called "The Isthmus of Suez." Peter proceeded to scavenge for greater detail. I'm just going to work on trying to pronounce "Isthmus."

09 September 2009

A First Day in Many Ways

• Lucette - 1st Grade •

• Lucette, Jane, Peter •
• Peter - 3rd Grade •

08 September 2009

And Today She's Four

My sweet, sweet Jane. How I love you. You bring delight to my days.

Happy Birthday, my lovely.

06 September 2009

On My Mind

I stumbled upon some photos I had forgotten to post. Perhaps as our trip to Honduras has been on my mind today. Ambrocio is hoping to take a trip to the States later this month and is still praying for funding. We are praying along with him and are anxious to see how it all progresses. Pray with us as we are working through our slow communication processes and asking God how we can best participate.

For now, these photos are making me smile and reminding me of His goodness and provision:

Peter and his friend, Edward

Pops on the very left-hand side. This is the church structure they are next to and are pickaxing a trench for the parsonage foundation.

This is how you make sand in Sigatepeque! Take silty gravel and toss it through a screen until really lovely sand sifts through. You need the sand to mix with the concrete, to mix with the water (that you hauled in buckets from Blanca's house, up the road), to make mortar, to lay the bricks. It's quite a process, but oddly fun. There is such a sense of camaraderie as you are working together. No fancy equipment, so you rely on and labor with each other.

Pastor Hector Orlando is fearless in helping lay supports for the roof!

Ambrocio setting brick.

Peter carries the much used 1st Aid kit.

Pastor Elmer lays brick for the parsonage that is to be home for his family. (That's one of his darling daughters, Noami, over his shoulder.) He has one working eye and travels by bicycle over gravely roads to construction jobs to support his family. In his "spare" time, he passionately serves his village as pastor. It's our prayer that his community will be blessed and will support him, in turn. Many pastors go for years and years without ever receiving any kind of tithe or financial support.

Josue at work. (See the rubble to the right? That is what they were pickaxing! The "dirt" was barely softer than concrete and Pops, with his bulging and manly muscles, actually bent the steel part of a pick-axe! We were most impressed.)

05 September 2009

Stocking Up with Muffins

Now that it is September, all of the fall flavors have seemed quite enticing. Following Dawnelle's advice, I've been making school-time muffins to freeze for quick breakfasts or a snack to take. This past week we made pumpkin and sour-cream bran, and this morning: Oatmeal Applesauce. The applesauce muffins turned out very moist, not too sweet, and fairly healthy. Paired with some fruit and a glass of milk, it's a pretty good way to start a day!

Here is a double-batch recipe. Enough for a fresh out-of-the-oven breakfast and plenty leftover to freeze:

Oatmeal Applesauce Muffins
Combine in mixer:
2 c. oats
2 c. applesauce (unsweetened)
2 eggs, beaten
.25 c. canola oil

Add, mixing after each:
2 T baking powder
2 t. baking soda
2 t. cinnamon (or use less and toss in some nutmeg)
.25 t. salt (or just a pinch, depending on taste)
.5 c. milk or juice
1.5 c. whole wheat flour
.25 -.5 c. sugar or agave (optional)
.5 - 1 c. cranberries, raisins, or chopped dates (optional)

Bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes. Makes 2 trays (24) of muffins.

04 September 2009

03 September 2009

Worth It

With all of the fall expenses, the budget has been bursting at the seams. It is certainly easy for me to overspend at this time of year. Pops and I took a hard look at the expenditures and decided we had to severely pull in the reins if we are to make up for our spending by the end of the month.

I was all set to hunker down for the next week or two, but soon discovered a purchase that really couldn't be avoided: Kid shoes. After a summer in sandals, where toes can wriggle freely, I hadn't thought about it much. But one look at the old fall weather foot-gear and I realized the tootsies would be hard-pressed to cram into their old homes. We had to find room in the expenses for some new shoes.

So I took the children to the store to buy tennis shoes. For the older two. Jane could just manage in some old hand-me-downs for awhile.

A good sale was in place and we found some snappy sneakers at a decent price ... for Peter and Lucette. It was then I noticed the most droopy, almost-4-year-old face I've ever seen moping her way down the aisles. In the tiniest voice she explained to me how she wished she could have some new shoes too.

I turned to mush. The poor dear is normally happy with her older sister's cast-offs, but the shoes ... they are always so ratty looking. I consoled her with a "Well let's take a look and see what we find, okay?" As we turned to browse, she saw them. Pink, flowered, velcro, Converse. When she emitted a little gasp and her eyes began to sparkle, my feelings of uncertainty instantly dissolved.

She carried them on her lap all the way home and set them proudly on her shoe shelf once we arrived. I'm making a veggie soup for dinner tonight ... and maybe we'll have it again at the end of the week. It's a fine trade-off, if you ask me.

02 September 2009

Jane's Recipe for Concentric Rainbow Circles

Sidewalk chalk? Check.
Mexican dress? Check.
Stolen headband from Mom's bathroom? Check.
Scuffed buster brown shoes? Check.

Mix together, stick tiny tongue out in concentration, and simmer creative juices 'til plenty of circles appear. Plenty to please a family of five.

01 September 2009

Things I Avoided Today

After sharing my get-it-done strategies, I thought I better balance it out with another kind of list. So, here is all I didn't do today:

• Disposing of poor little squirrels that met an untimely end.
It's heartless, but I think I'll just toss them over the fence into the green space. Just not today.

• Scrubbing out the muffin pans.
Yeesh. I really hate this part of making muffins.

• Figuring out why I have a dead fern stump that seems to be sprouting a feather sitting on my kitchen counter.
It's sad how long it's been there. Heather asked, "What's up with the dead plant and the feather shoved in the pot?" Uh, I'm not really sure. It's been there so long it's starting to look normal.

• Preparing for school next week.
I really need to spend time organizing clothes, figuring out lunches, conceptualizing the schedule -- but playing 3 games of Sorry with Peter was more fun.

• Spraying the weeds.
We have some serious black clover that is taking over. But, ugg. Do I really want to mix the nasty chemicals and put on ratty weed-battling clothes? Mmmm, not really.

• Figuring out a doable chore schedule for the kids this fall.
Yeah, I really gotta' do this one sometime soon.

• Helping my girls learn to calmly work through the "She dumped my beads out all over the floor!" crisis.
Instead, I just yelled from the kitchen, "Pick up the beads, both of you! And stop screaming!" Parenting at it's best. I should write a book, no?

• Tidying the floor of my closet.
A portable oil heater, large oscillating fan, and myriad empty boxes are proving a little hard to dress around. It would probably take about 15 minutes to tidy the whole thing, but instead, I think I'll go eat a brownie.

I'm inclined to believe strategic avoidance qualifies as a honed skill ... don't you agree?