Saturday, July 24, 2010


One of the most amazing things about life in the states is the choices we have; it's also one of the most tiring things - having to make choices. I still remember when we returned to the states after our first four years out as missionaries, coming from Martinique. The boys really wanted to go to McDonalds. Makes sense to most parents of small kids, I know. We went for breakfast and T asked for a cup of coffee and a danish. He was then faced with the choices: cream and sugar? Apple, cherry, cheese? He just looked at the girl, so I told her cherry. He likes cherry anything. T still stresses over choices. A few minutes ago, I had him stop at Spooner Farms for blackberries and blueberries. When my cell rang, I knew he must be facing a choice. Sure enough, did I want blackberries or marion berries? I told him to taste one of each and buy the sweeter berry. (I think it's too early for the marion berries.) So he did, with me on the phone because he might need help defining his version of sweet! ha!

It is the abundance that becomes our weakness, that can lead to a spirit of entitlement, a life of conspicuous consumption. We have lived in (the country of) Miami and now WA state for ten years already! We still debate every purchase, every want versus need. Twenty-five years of life overseas on a missionary salary will breed that into a person. I think I'm glad. I want to remember that there are those who struggle to find sustenance, let alone abundance. Personally, I like having choices. I just want to be faithful, to not forget others, to do my part to lift those who have little or no hope. I want to remember what it was like not having choices and I want to be thankful.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Vacation packet

I went to Costco today to shop for meals for our mountain cabin vacation. Before I picked up any food, I was looking at the books... what could I read aloud that would interest a 10 year-old girl, a 6 year-old boy, and a 3 year-old girl? And then I saw his name... Roald Dahl - some of the funniest quick reads ever. Now it's quite likely that Kayla has already read them, but maybe not all of them. I bought the gift box; why not? Finished food shopping and got everything home then off to the dirt store. No, I'm not kidding. I needed top soil for this famous hill in the back yard. The very top of it is too rocky so we're going to add dirt, then bark, and it will be perfect. Picked up a half-flat of fresh, huge, perfect raspberries at Spooner Farms (ate a pint by the time I got home-it was lunch!) and then napped on the couch for an hour. Oh how I love vacation!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Bench

The Bench is located at the top of the hill in our backyard. It really is a hill... it's a bit above the roof-line of our house. Tuesday the grands and their mommy came over for dinner. It was their first encounter with the switchback trails that their g'pa and our friend, Steve, had built. They ran to the top and ran to the bottom and then did it all over again, giggling like crazy. That was the moment we had waited for, the reason we built trails not just terraces! Each of the three spent a moment or two sitting on The Bench at the top but after dinner, Colton walked to the top of the hill, sat on The Bench, and asked his grandpa to sit with him. And they talked. They talked about problems that six-year-old boys face in a house filled with girls. They talked about race cars and rocks, dirt-bikes and dump trucks and dreams for the future. It was beyond precious. We originally wanted a bridge at the top of the hill but the $$ were too much for our depleted budget. One day I decided to hit the antique/junk stores to see what I could find and asked my mom to go with me. She is always ready to go anywhere and asked what I would be looking to buy. When I told her a bench, she replied that she had one under a tarp in the carport that I could have for nothing. Free was exactly the right price! The silly thing is soooooooo heavy!!! But I lugged it to the top of the hill, then sat there for about five minutes trying to breathe. I really wanted to surprise my husband. The Bench is now the destination, the reason to take to the trails. It is the place to tell secrets, to dream, to review crazy ideas. I will forever hold in my heart the sight of Colton and Grandpa sharing their thoughts and dreams, snuggled together on The Bench. It may have been free but it is absolutely priceless to us!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


I've always heard that 90% of the enjoyment found in a vacation is the anticipation. No doubt there is some truth to that. The last school year was difficult and anticipating summer was part of what got me through it with a decent attitude. But there is the actual experience which is so wonderful! I am loving my summer break. I feel so rested and reconnected with my home and family. It's just a joyful time for me.

We are also going to the mountains for a week and yes, I am anticipating a fabulous time! We'll have our older son and his family with us and we are just going to relax! My husband needs it more than I do but it will be good for me to have a change of venue too. But it's more about the uninterrupted time with family than the place, although I love the mountains. My dream home is a good-sized cabin, on a lake in the mountains. I'll never be able to afford it but that would be my ideal and our vacation next week meets all that criteria, except it's on a river rather than a lake.

For me, anticipation is more than just next week's fun. I am a future dweller. I tend to look ahead, make plans, and live in that future moment. I know that means I don't get as much out of the present by doing this mental exercise. In fact, sometimes it robs me of the joy of the now. I've made a concerted effort to live presently this summer and it is great! But now, I find myself reverting to old habits. Summer break is half over so my mind is journeying ahead to school. I have a meeting tomorrow with the principal to try to convince him to simplify the report cards for junior high. They are the same as the elementary and there is just too much stuff on them. Parents are distracted by the periphery grades rather than the overall grade for an individual subject. Making the change in junior high would be another way to prepare students and parents for high school. I'm not convinced he'll agree but I can also change my own categories and get them down to one or two and that will automatically simplify things. Anyway... I'm distracted...

I am also anticipating the month of October as well as Christmas vacation. Yeah... I know, I'm really out there, but for good reason. I have a new grandson cookin' and he'll arrive around the first of October. Plus my husband and I will join our younger son and his family (including the new little boy) in Israel for Christmas! Our daughter-in-law is also an MK and was born and raised in the Middle East. It's really fun to listen to Arabic coming from this blond, blue-eyed, young woman! It certainly takes people by surprise! We have tried to go to Israel with the kids about three or four times before this. Each time, we book our flight with miles, pay the taxes and fees on our credit card, and something then happens to make it impossible (usually over there) and the trip is canceled. My daughter-in-law hasn't been back home for seven or eight years. Her parents still serve in this region and she longs to go home for the holidays. I totally understand and am glad to support her in this. But I would have just as much fun spending Christmas in France with them. The place simply doesn't matter so much. May I be perfectly honest? My husband cannot wait to get to Israel and see all the biblical sites. I could care less... I can't wait to get to Israel to spend a week with my beloved Gracie and meet my new grandson. I would be happy to take short walks around the neighborhood with my little ones, read books, play with dolls and toys, and never see a thing. I'm sure that's blasphemous on some level but now ask me if I care. World travel lost is allure a long time ago. But my children? My grandchildren? I am totally overjoyed each and every time I get to be with them!

So back to the present, I have errands to run and grandchildren coming for dinner. They will see the renovated backyard for the first time and be able to run the trails. It's going to be a wonderful evening!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Great Summer!

Summer 2010 is a good one! I have had some great times with my mother who is 82 years old and beginning to show some signs of slowing down. For the first time, she has had to have someone help her with yard work. I've done a lot of it but she has also hired Steve, someone who works for nearly every member of our family. Steve's a Viet Nam vet who earns his living doing hard labor. He has a work ethic like none other and can do almost anything. He has weeded a lot of my mother's garden (the parts I didn't do), removed stumps, and taken out plants (to his home) that my mom has wanted removed. She's putting a lot more of her yard into lawn as mowing grass is easier than weeding.

Steve has also worked for us. He removed six huge stumps from our yard, helped my husband build a switchback trail up our backyard hillside, lined it with really big rock, built a retaining wall on the side of our house, and in a few days, will take out a spruce tree in our front yard that is soon to conflict with our pink dogwood. There's no question, the dogwood is staying! It's the talk of the development. It has been gorgeous this year and the blossoms stayed on for a really long time. I think our cool weather has helped. Our backyard is amazing! With just a bit more planting, we will be finished.... other than buying a bench for the hilltop.

Next week is our vacation. Of course I'm off all summer but principals aren't so fortunate. My husband works all summer other than a week or two off, usually end of July and first of August. There are a ton of new student interviews to get finished. He has also redesigned the school's website (not launched yet, still getting final approvals), rewritten the very outdated student handbook, and dealt with several course changes for teachers. He does a lot of work and I am so proud of him. Hopefully someday I'll be able to teach in his school. I think I'm ready to go back to high school after several years in junior high.

I am grateful for my K-8 teaching certificate with the K-12 English endorsement! It's so nice to not only be ready to do the job but to have all the certification that makes me legal. Many private school teachers don't work to maintain their certification since it isn't mandatory for most private schools. I spent the past two summers finishing classes for my next certificate renewal. I'm done! I like having no questions about my qualifications!

Anyway... vacation... we are heading to a cabin in the Cascade Mountains, just an hour from Leavenworth, WA - a quaint Bavarian styled village. Our cabin is a gorgeous 2500 square foot log house with room to sleep twelve! There are seven of us going this time (we'll do this again!) since our younger son and his family are in France. It will be a week with three grandkids, their parents, and lots of fun outdoor recreation! We are ready!!! Speaking of which, I need to prepare menus for the week. It should be great fun! Time to make some plans that will help us create lots of great memories.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A Healthy Baby!

Today our niece gave birth to a healthy baby boy named Samuel. The healthy part is an absolute miracle. Our niece had Fifth's Disease while pregnant and this was passed on to her baby. He suffered so! This pregnancy was arduous for this young couple. From the very early days, they made difficult decisions. They chose not to abort, committed everything to the Lord, and really did their best to rest in Him. Month after month, intensive exams and continuous testing, bad news, worse news, the worst news, and then, suddenly... all the tests came back normal. All we can say is that God was at work in Samuel and today, we have a new member in our family. We are all so grateful!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


I have been hard at work on my new grandson's quilt. We'll call him E since mom and dad don't want to reveal his name as yet and he is 'Baby E' - as in ABCDE. I don't spend much of my time in domesticity but I have made a quilt for each of my grandchildren. This one, I think, will be one of the better ones. It just has a good feel to it. For each of my quilts, the center is occupied by a large embroidery prepared by Marie, our former housekeeper and friend from Haiti. Baby A has a unique center square, the repentant little angel with the skewed halo. The other four quilts are similar. Babies B and E have the same boyish trumpeter in the center and babies C and D have the same little girl in a garden scene. The fabric choices are different, in design and color, for each of the quilts. I love that my grandchildren will enjoy a tiny cuddle that represents my Haitian séjour of eighteen years.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Reading Material just delivered my two books The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller and Nancie Atwell's The Reading Zone. I have lived by Atwell's In The Middle for Writer's Workshop since my teaching time in Haiti. I used her charting methods and other materials for my middle school students for five years, starting with the class of 1999 - an all-time favorite group of students. I typed everything up into a condensed curriculum form for those who came after me, never sure anyone would ever use it again. Then at some point this year, Cami left me a message on Facebook, thanking me for leaving that behind, saying that it was a big help to her! Yay! So, the temperature has risen this afternoon, finally, to 80* (I know, don't you wish you lived in the Pacific NW?!) so I'm going to quit gardening, stay inside, and read!

Thursday, July 08, 2010


I had one of those moments today when I realized that time rushes way too quickly (for me) in the lives of little children. Colton had to go to the dentist today, poor kid. His mom also needed a filling so I kept the girls. It was actually Sierra's turn to spend the day with grandma but when I realized that it meant that Kayla would simply sit in a waiting room all morning, I asked her if she wanted to come over too. She was delighted and informed me, rolling her eyes, that she would be 'soooooo booorrreeeddd' if she had to be in the waiting room. That was one of the moments. The 'so bored' comment is such a junior high thing, especially when accompanied by the eye roll technique. Oh dear, she will be ten in August - guess we should all brace ourselves. The other moment came while we were at the park. Our recently turned three granddaughter told me that the circle swing was just perfect for babies and girls! When I asked her why, she informed me that it was safe. Safe. Safe? What an interesting remark from a three-year-old. I pushed her for a good 20 minutes in the 88* heat with the little lady reveling in the fact that her hair was blowing around her head. The difference in my little ones each summer is remarkable. They certainly are growing up. I am so glad there are more coming! The new grandson arrives in October. I just get all tingly thinking about another new baby! What riches!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Summer Clothes

Do you put your summer things away each fall and dig out your winter clothes? I don't. I leave my fall/winter things hanging in my closet because it isn't worth my time to put them away. Here we are, at the end of the first week in July, and I have finally brought out my summer clothes. It hasn't reached 70* in this WA town for a long time. Today it is supposed to hit 81* - tomorrow 91* - the next day 92* - yippee!!! So my cotton slacks, shorts, and short-sleeved shirts are all in the dryer getting ready to be worn. (My ironing technique.)

A late start to summer weather isn't all bad. It means I can prepare my garden in the cool. I've pruned shrubs, planted perennials and annuals, weeded, mulched, and rarely broken a sweat! I also read the papers (more like the news on-line) and see people suffering with 100*+ temperatures yet I can still use a blanket at night. I don't have a/c and I don't need it; even if it does get super hot, I'm surrounded by Douglas Firs, Cedars, Spruces... my own natural coolant.

Time to get moving, errands to run, grandkids to play with, life to be lived with purpose.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Conquering Old Friends

Several weeks ago (was it months?) A Fuse #8 posted - over time - the top 100 children's books, based on her insight as well as those of her readers. I decided to use that list for my very special, two-member, book club. At our first club meeting, I was talking about the books on the list with my adorable granddaughter and mentioned that the #1 book of all time appeared to be something she had already read, Charlotte's Web, to which she replied that she had never actually read the book, she'd only watched the movie! AUGH!!! As I discussed other titles with her, the same theme was repeated. It seems that my adorable book club member is reluctant to leave her comfort zone of Junie B and other wonderful little books like it, to read the books more suitable to her age. I completely understand that problem.

Three years ago I was hired to teach language arts at a lovely private school. One of my students was the granddaughter of the foundation owner who had started the school. She was in the 7th grade and read books all the time. I wasn't a bit worried about her... until I started reading her journal entries... The Boxcar Children (#1-35), Mandie this and that... I remember our reader conference quite well. I told 'A' that she couldn't use those series for her journals anymore, that I wanted her to read books that were more suitable to her age and abilities. She was devastated! She loved those books and told me that she just couldn't give them up, that they made her feel so warm and comfortable. I told her that she could read them all she wanted but that she had to have other titles for her journals. Then I made a bee-line for her mother's office and explained what had happened. 'A' was in tears over my decision and I didn't need problems with the founder's granddaughter. I gave transition suggestions to mom, including some appropriate read-aloud titles that she could enjoy with her parents. Her mother laughed and thanked me for the warning. Then she called 'A's dad who brilliantly started with the Chronicles of Narnia series, then The Hobbit, and on to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. By the time 'A' got through volume 1 of the Chronicles, she was a believer and embraced the other titles with complete energy and commitment. Plus she and her father developed an even closer bond, thanks to the renewal of an old bedtime ritual. I sat by him at a volleyball game one day and he thanked me profusely.

For this reason, I am not worried about my adorable book club member. She and 'A' are a lot alike. Both are/were stuck in a comfort place. I don't know why 'A' got stuck but I know that Kayla is reading the same titles that she read almost four years ago when she moved from her little, old house to the new, much bigger one on five acres in the country. She went from a busy neighborhood, teaming with children, to an isolated place with no friends... for a while. Eventually she met another little girl around the corner but it was a very different kind of home and for a long while, she mourned her old neighborhood. In fact, for two years her parents could not go back to the area without Kayla dissolving into tears. Kayla's books are her only remaining friends from her old neighborhood. So, like I did with 'A', I told Kayla to keep reading her old friends but that I would be giving her other books to read and when she completed a book, we would go out to lunch again to talk about it. She looked at me and quite matter-of-factly told me she would be ready next week. Nothing quite like lunch with grandma (followed by shopping with grandma) to induce a little girl to explore the unknown!

Friday, July 02, 2010

Banana Bread

My husband is going to be so excited! I found three rotten bananas in the fruit bowl this morning and decided to make banana bread. T really loves it. I have planned to make it many times and often stored rotten bananas in the freezer. After a while (years) the frozen bananas were discarded and others took their place. I just knew if I put them in the freezer, these bananas would meet the same demise so I did it - using a recipe from my friend Sheraz, found in a QCS cookbook, I made banana bread. It's baking right now and smells so good!

I also made strawberry freezer jam. I have never done this before but when my kids were over at our house a couple weeks ago, grandson C wanted a pb&j sandwich and he wanted strawberry jam. I had blackberry and cherry. He ate the cherry but really, he would have preferred strawberry. Spooners Farm's strawberries are finally out so I bought a flat, some pectin, white sugar, and followed an easy recipe that I found on the internet. Haven't tried it yet but C is coming over on Sunday and I'll bring it out then. I'm hopeful.

A domestic goddess I am not. But the momentary escapades with homemaking duties can be fun as long as I can get back to the classroom in the fall. Then I'll buy banana muffins from Top Foods and jam made by Smuckers. It's okay, I am quite sure I'm a better teacher than baker or cook!

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Making Summer Matter

I've been really focused on living purposefully each day this summer. I have planned days with each of my grandchildren who live nearby, days with my mother, and a few days with some friends who I am rarely able to see outside of school or church. My weekends with my husband are unplanned because I prefer to let him make the choices. He's the one who has to work all summer so he should have control over the two days each week that he doesn't go to the office!

One of the activities that we have given our weekends to is re-landscaping our backyard. At least 85% of our backyard is perfect, big trees, shrubs, ferns, waterfall and pond, patio with excellent slate-topped table and comfortable chairs, glider-for-two, big BBQ... but there's that 15% that has been a virtual jungle. Last Saturday T razed the hillside and started planning the "hiking path" for the grandkids. It's really planned with the three-year-old in mind; she's the one who will think it's cool because she's still so little. Yesterday a friend who works for us from time to time came over to rebuilt the rock foundation wall. It's great! Now we need him to come back for phase 2, the path up the hill. We're going to get some landscape timbers to put in as steps and to help ward off erosion. Phase 3 will involve digging ferns located in our son's five-acre forest and transplanting them to our hillside. Phase 4 is installing a terraced retaining wall on the west side of our house. This will actually include the switchback for the hillside trail. The upper level of our terrace will have large, evergreen shrubs that flower and the lower level will be home to my vegetable garden.

My husband mocks the idea of me growing vegetables! Last year I grew lettuce. It grew and we ate it and it was lovely! This year I have four tomato plants and lettuce. We're already eating lettuce but the tomatoes are a long way off as yet. IF we can get the garden area ready in time, I want to plant ONE start of each of the following: zucchini, cucumbers, and pumpkins, as well as put my tomatoes that are currently in pots into the ground. I do not intend to become a slave to my garden nor plant more than we can use. Although, I have heard that the food banks do take extra produce from over-zealous gardeners. That would be really cool! Plant part of my garden with the intention to give it to the food bank or the UGM. We love eating fresh, organic produce and I'm sure that people who are needing this service would really enjoy fresh food and would receive a health benefit from it even if they didn't recognize it as such.

So even though today is quite overcast and a bit drizzly, it's the day I planned to finish mulching my mother's garden and I am going to do it! Plus we'll have lunch together and just enjoy hanging out. It's already been a good idea to live my summer days with purpose and I still have the majority of my summer to enjoy. Love it!