Wednesday, September 29, 2010


The littlest residents of City House wanted to play outside this morning. The one Baby was off to an appointment, so I switched to preschool play time just as the pre-K set headed out to the spacious fenced backyard. This is not an institutional play yard, but a giant expanse of green grass surrounding a shade tree. A covered and paved play patio for ride-on toys and bikes, and a long covered porch complete with rocking chairs make the great outdoors an all-weather play place. Pulling a red wagon around and around the yard for what may well have been miles we sang our ABC's loud and proud, and the little people giggled while I sang "Do Your Ears Hang Low?".
The music came to an end as a helicopter flew low overhead. The boy residents were delighted with the opportunity to crow, "helly-copper" at a real, live whirly bird. There was plenty of time for lots of pointing and naming as the helicopter passed over, and the general excitement remained even after it was out of sight. All the glee of the helicopter sighting was repeated with the appearance of an airplane. The little people were so overcome with joy at the sightings that we began to search the sky. Imagine how pleased we all were to discover that there were many planes headed places that required them to fly right over our heads.

Eventually the time came to go inside for snacks, but we were all right back outside as soon as everyone had finished eating. One of the girls took hold of my hands, and pulled me along looking for more planes. Since there were no more flying machines to entertain us, we put our arms out and became the planes. There were great aerial feats performed all over the grounds at City House's children's shelter this morning. We zoomed and soared until another plane obliged us by flying over so we could resume our grounded pointing and naming.
Too soon 11:30 rolled around, and it was time for me to leave. Fortunately, my shift occurs on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th Wednesdays of each month, so I will be back next week to join in the adventures again right away. The 2nd and 4th weeks will no doubt see Wednesdays that are a little dull in comparison. Still, I may just find my heart beating a little faster and a smile spreading across my face in response to future notice of a random plane in the sky.


Today will be my first shift at our local children's shelter. City House exists as a temporary placement for children whose parents are unable to care for them. The stories of neglect and abuse that bring the children ages 0-17 to the shelter are only a chapter from the stories of the families affected by City House. When a child or group of siblings are removed from their homes on an emergency basis, there must be somewhere for them to go. City House provides a safe haven. The specialty of the house is more than safety, it is the added security of siblings who remain together while foster placement appropriate to all the ages involved is found, family issues are satisfactorily resolved for the children to return home, or the children become available for an adoption. There is immense variety in both the situations the kids come from and the ways in which their needs will eventually be met, but City House is a safe place to wait for resolution.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


  • Birthday Party is planned, the guests have all replied with their acceptances, and the girls' books are on their way from an online retailer. Headed over to order the ice cream cake (White cake and vanilla ice cream because her friend does not like chocolate. Love that she's more interested in her guests than herself.) and see if movie tickets can be purchased a week in advance.
  • Word from Laura is that all was well with them this morning. She was wishing for friends to assist in the post-storm clean up efforts, and I was wishing we were there to help. I keep repeating, "Soon." Not soon enough, though.
  • One of Erin's party guests is actually the daughter of a Honduran Daddy and a half-Honduran Mommy.
  • We picked up runners from the Middle School Church Retreat, but ended up taking the girls out for breakfast when lightning caused their meet to be cancelled. We dropped the girls back off in time for them to join in worship and what promised to be a fierce dodge ball tournament.
  • The Boy's meet was not cancelled since he was running in another suburb at a later time where there was no lightning. He ran his best time in a race so far this year: 22:13 for 3.1 miles. Run, Bronco, Run!
  • We can carry 50 pounds of "stuff" per person to Puerto Lempira in November. We have 10 pounds of baby formula, 35 pounds of school supplies and backpacks, and seven and half pounds of bed sheets. These sorts of numbers are causing the girls to question what we will wear during our stay. Toga anyone?

Friday, September 24, 2010


Erin's 10th birthday falls the week of our departure for Honduras adding to the usual messiness of scheduling time to celebrate with her friends. (We have learned to always celebrate the weekend before her birthday because the weekend after is almost always the weekend before Thanksgiving.) The idea of trying to work out those party details while preparing to leave the country seemed daunting until Little Bit saw a movie trailer for Legend of the Guardians.
The movie adaptation of Kathryn Lasky's children's series featuring valiant owls having epic adventures comes out today. We talked about the movie as a source of Birthday Entertainment, but Erin was sure all her friends would see the movie way before the arrival of her November birthday. Except that I have spoken with the other mommies in advance, and Erin has asked her friends to wait one week to see the film. We will address both our travel plans and the movie's release by having the Friend Party October 1st.
Next Friday, the girls will be retrieved from the carpool lines and delivered to our doorstep. We will load them all into the Mom Mobile and head to the theater to see the story unfold in three dimensional detail. After the movie, we will feed the assorted precious girls dinner and cake before dropping them off at their own homes. Each guest will receive her own copy of the first book in the series (There are fifteen books in paperback as of this writing.) in hopes of spurring them on to discover, "What happens next..." to the characters they will have seen on the big screen.
While squaring away the details of Erin's "Friend Party", without playing host to a herd of giggling tweens the week of our next mission trip, I have other reasons to be thinking of the planned trip to Central America today. Far from treats like parties and pleasure reading, Hurricane/Tropical Storm Matthew is headed for the region. From Puerto Lempira, Laura says, "Our weatherman friend... has let us know that if current projections are correct, we will be south of where it hits land. We should just receive lots of rain and heavy winds.
Children at home in Puerto Lempira, Honduras
Right now, we are concerned about the people who live where this will hit. We know the types of houses they live in – made of wood, built on stilts. There is no way these homes could survive a hurricane. We are praying for these people today. Please join us in lifting them up.
We ask you to join us in prayer for this entire region."

Thursday, September 23, 2010


I do remember staring wistfully, and (truth-telling time) sometimes resentfully at those vehicles sitting tantalizingly near the front doors as I waddled past during all our pregnancies, and, even more so, when wrestling one of those unwieldy infant carriers from the car. Now that all of our babies can enter and exit buildings largely unassisted, I am pleased to find that there are additional spaces unavailable for my use. Someone finally thought to set aside spaces for expectant and new mothers at the market, pharmacy, and hospital. Being fairly vocal in my approval, all three lovies know that Mom thinks those spaces are a great idea.
Last night, as we left Super Store, Erin gave a sound that clearly indicated disgust. When asked what was the matter, she indicated a man sitting in his car in the designated handicapped space as we passed. I saw that his car had a handicapped plate. Unsure exactly what this guy was doing to raise the ire of Little Bit, I asked. She filled me in saying, "That guy is just sitting there taking up the pregnant ladies' space!"

*Oops. Not meaning to vilify "the guy". He had a handicapped license plate, and was appropriately sitting in a handicapped space. Erin mistook the handicapped space for one of those designated for mommies. Her outrage was misplaced, but it struck me because I had wished for just such a spot back in the day.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


The mister and I are both sticklers for commitment. In our marriage, this is good. As parents, this is also good. Alas, the goodness can be turned to the Dark Side. Our personal desire to honor our commitments sometimes becomes a lack of flexibility. Having failed to enter a commitment to help out at our church with preparations for catering a breakfast tomorrow, there was an "Uh-oh!" moment when the reminder text arrived. The already full To-Do List of obligations great and small loomed large. Still. A promise is a promise. Right?

Last night, the one night of the week when we are supposedly at home, I was out until 9:00 picking up a prescription left until the last minute and a book (that Middle Child faithfully warned me she needed a week in advance) because I knew there wouldn't be time to do it this morning. (It's not a good sign when the teenagers are having to remind Mom of tasks.) Crawling out of bed this morning, feeling far from rested, it was all-too-soon time to load children and serving pieces into the car. Travelling on autopilot, the Mom Mobile arrived in a parking space at the church well before 8:00 a.m. when the coffee shop opens.

I wandered back into the offices where I interrupted Walker's Quiet Time. (She's flexible.) She offered a much-needed cup of coffee. We chatted a bit about the bizarre visions in her day's Bible reading, caught up on the news since yesterday, and then she shepherded me back to the coffee shop. Dropping off the various items to serve the planned meal, I contemplated the list of things not getting done at home. Then it happened. All the years of dependability went spiralling down the drain with the rare decision to simply beg off today. There was a real sense of relief in heading home even with the administrative mountain awaiting my attention.

So. Should I have left the coffee shop hanging? No. Should I have agreed to be at the coffee shop today? No. Was it worth it to be unreliable today? Well. Yeah. Because this is not a pattern of behavior, but it a necessary recognition of my own limitations. More. It meant that the rest of the week will not be characterized by a nasty case of Catch-up.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Years ago, someone made a comment about something seemingly innocuous, but it was deeply hurtful. This comment was made in the church that the mister and I were newly attending. It was a place where we were seeking God; yet, this individual and the words spoken sent me running from that place. Soon after, I was driving by a country church with one of those billboards out front that tend to have little pithy sayings. This one asked what was coming between me and God. The sign and my hurt feelings inspired a little conversation with God as I drove.
Me: Lord, I want to know you. I'm trying. That person was awful to say something like that to me.
God: [silence]
Me: That person hurt my feelings. That person didn't care about my circumstances, and You are not limiting me according to what she said.
God: [probably pointed silence]
Me: You are not limiting me. Really, that person isn't limiting me. My reponse is limiting my access to You because I am more concerned with that person being wrong than I am with being right with You. Uh-oh.
God: [in infinite patience is still silent]
Me: Well. I'll just keep right on coming to that church, and I will just keep right on seeking after You! In fact, I'm going to be so nice to that person that they won't know what hit 'em.

I thought of this exchange that happened many years ago this morning. The exchange that could have driven me from church, and become something I held up as a shield of bitterness between myself and God is now one I treasure. The person who I would have let push me away, is someone who I hold intensely dear. (We have never discussed that offhand conversation, and the speaker of those fateful words probably does not remember them. I remember it, not out of hurt, but because it reminds me that my perspective is not the only one.) It is also an illustration of an idea that fits in with Jesus' teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. Whatever might come between the vertical relationship with God and His follower, needs to be flattened into a horizontal position that nothing would impede that most important relationship. If I am right with my Lord, then I believe all else will follow.

Picture Post: Cross


The start of the boys' race

Evan finished 14th

The 7th and 8th Grade Girls at the Starting Line

Bringing home the bling!

Katie's medal for 30th

This weekend both Evan and Katie ran at the same meet. It was so exciting to to cheer our kids on, and be at the finish line as each one crossed in time to place within medal contention. The high school kids were precisely timed with chip timers around their ankles registering the time they left the starting line and passed between the finish line posts. The middle school runners were a little more old school in that their times were simply noted according to the big timer next to the finish line. Either way, our kids each ran well.
Evan's strength is in his endurance, and he just keeps going no matter what at a steady pace. Katie is still trying to build endurance (like she sees modeled by her brother), but she is fast. She sprinted past the girl ahead of her just in time to claim the final place receiving a medal in her age group. It was a very sweet day of victory for our whole family topped off by the news that Katie has been named Athlete of the Week at her school among the 8th Grade Girls!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Savory Walker mentioned an interest in learning about spice and herb combinations this morning. Not needing any further encouragement, I entered, "cookingt with herbs and spices" into my browser which conveniently pulled up the alternative, "cooking with herbs and spices" among the selected options. Hello. Selecting a basic Seasoning 101 course, I was pleased to find a fair amount of history (Yay!) included along with the practical selection, use, and description tips. Citing multiple other resources in the first couple of lessons, there is plenty of opportunity for information overload or to glean gobs of new information. I'm all in for the gobs of intriguing information, but will be compiling a simpler Cliff Notes version for actual use in the kitchen.
Up to this point, I've been slowly gathering a knowledge base from Other People's Kitchens, media articles, cooking shows from PBS to Food Network, and, um, well... the labels of the grocery store seasoning mixtures. All three lovies have enjoyed cooking classes at our local market, and the printed recipes they brought home made for good reading over Mom's morning coffee. Not a huge enthusiast of cookbooks, I do have a couple that I like to read and reread to try to imagine how ingredients might be combined in alternative ways with good results. (Not that the results are always good. Sometimes they're flat out dreadful.) I can measure and dump ingredients into a bowl or pot, but most of the time I simply prefer to substitute in whatever is on hand that fits the general need. For example, "oil" in a muffin or corn bread recipe might just as easily be sour cream. Why get overly picky?
This methodology does require a certain willingness to fail and an understanding of what qualities need to be similar in order to make a good substitution. As a near failure at high school chemistry, I am not the most likely person to be doing such experiments in the kitchen, but that's not stopped me yet. The big kids are learning Chemistry and it's baby sister Physical Science this year, so they'll be better equipped from an academic standpoint to prevent some of the more glaring oopsies. That said, the Boy's Chem teacher failed to discourage my eclectic cookery by putting some very exotic technical names to my explanation of acceptable substitutions for leavening agents while giving the Boy a "Real World" example of Chemistry's usefulness. I cannot repeat what she said (because I didn't understand it), but the Boy was looking at me with something that appeared to be heightened respect for being able to do whatever it was that was being discussed.
Still. There are limits. A hesitation to experiment with pricey spices and herbs are one of those. I've printed out a list of herb families and can already see relationships between seasonings I am curious about (like Marjoram), but didn't want to commit to purchasing without the foggiest notion of what to do with the stuff. (Marjoram is like Oregano. In fact, it's just Oregano that grows wild. Oh.) One can only imagine the possibilities as some familiar favorites like Cilantro (the fresh herb version) meet with the dried spice (Coriander) from the same plant in a new savory dish. While waiting for the kiddies to teach the answers to "Why?" stuff happens in the kitchen, it's going to be a grand adventure as Walker and I explore the relationships between various spices and herbs.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


I arrived at the appointment for my flu shot. In discussing anti-malarial drugs and immunizations for Honduras, It was interesting to hear that my IVIG makes the immunizations largely redundant. Medications intended to help the body create antibodies to fight off infection are not necessary because the IVIG is full of antibodies. My body cannot do anything with the immunizations, so we will revisit whether or not to give boosters or additional immunizations in the future. The IVIG is potentially a better source of protection because it contains a global pool of antibodies (the things the body produces in response to the introduction of a vaccine that are specialized to fight off specific diseases) already.
There have been consistent prayers for my health as travel has been undertaken in the last two years. Medical science is often the means by which God chooses to answer those prayers. Over Spring Break in Honduras there were many with tummy issues of one sort or another, but I did not become ill with even this most common source of gringo discomfort much less some dread disease. Chalking that up to answered prayer, I was still uncertain as to why I would remain untroubled while my teammates experienced the yuckiness. Ah. Antibodies.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Next week, there will be an assembly at the elementary school. An author whose book has something to do with quilts will be speaking and sharing her talents with the k-5 crowd. Mrs. H messaged the parents in Erin's class asking if anyone has a quilt to share. Do we ever! Erin has decided to take in her pink baby quilt to share with her classmates. In addition, she will also have the first quilt my mother made to display. We will write the stories of those quilts together, and there's likely a blog post to come featuring the results with photos of the quilts.
The timing of this opportunity to share a bit of our family history is interesting. A friend from our small group is a quilter. Just this weekend, we spoke of her sharing instruction in the craft. I do not possess a sewing machine, and had Little-House-on-the-Prairie style visions of hand-stitching a work of heart in the evenings to close out the day. (Riiiight.) Quilter and Walker both quickly relieved me of that silliness saying that I could potentially use Walker's sewing machine. Either way, that's an item on the ol' bucket list that may be due for some attention in the near future, and perhaps it will be a hobby that Erin would also enjoy learning since she will be fresh from discussions on the value of such treasures.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Why Not

Every shred of support for our elementary Parent Teacher Association unraveled last year after we failed to give the desired minimum dollar amount (Please, do not confuse the word "minimum" with "suggested".) to the association's one check fundraiser on supply night. The mommy in charge of collecting funds at back-to-school night helpfully shared the information that a donation under $35.00 was insufficient for my child to receive the school spirit pennant all the other little duckies were going to have as a thank you for their families' extortion gifts. Whatever. Thinking about the nicety of having the kids' Christmas and Valentine's parties fully supplied by the P.T.A. (rather than trying to get a classroom full of donations coordinated only to have two dozen cupcakes bite it as one's 8 year old tries to wrestle them out of the car), and there was a willingness to consider giving more than previously allocated.
Then our P.T.A. Board decided to send home communication clarifying the importance of each family's minimum support. The letter that came home stated plainly that our school needed to raise $XX,XXX because another local school had raised as much, and our school ought to be able to raise more than their school because we are Pleasant Suburban Elementary. What?! That letter home was read with a mouth that dropped wide open and eyebrows that shot into the hairline. And reread with no less incredulity. Support our students? Absolutely! Want to show appreciation and assist in providing both necessary and sometimes extra resources for our school's dedicated teachers and staff? Yes! Pay for the engraved memorial rock in the front yard of the school, yet another puppet show, and attempt to show up another school's budget just because we might be able to do so? Um, no. Yuck.
This year, we gave those P.T.A. dollars above and beyond a basic membership to purchase school supplies for another local school where the cost of items like pencils and folders would compete with families' already under-funded food and shelter budgets. Because that is a use of our discretionary educational funding that we can cheerfully give. Our kid just knows her class will be the one that doesn't get a pizza party for 100% compliance participation in the one check fundraiser.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


There's a sort of Murphy's Law at work around here when it comes to possessions. The dining room table and chairs that took seven years for me to commit to? The day it was delivered, one of the offspring held a portable cd player several feet above the tabletop before letting it drop to put a notable dent in the wood surface. Yesterday, the new living room furniture arrived, and it held true to our pattern. Bad Bella was startled and dug in her hind claws as she took off from the chaise. There are a couple of holes screaming in mute testimony to Bella's flight marring the otherwise pristine leather. The mister and I have each repeatedly touched the spot, but there's really not anything to do about it. Bad cat.
In other news, ShelleyinPoland is in Pleasant Suburb. Tonight she will join us for a family dinner that was supposed to be manicotti from scratch using yesterday's spaghetti sauce. Then the calendar on my started binging away about back-to-back dentist appointments in the space between after school carpool (I don't know why I call it that when I am the only driver. No matter how many kids, one driver is not a carpool.) and the dinner hour. So. The sauce is in the fridge. The manicotti tubes are in the pantry. I am headed to the market for chicken and sausage to slow cook with barbecue sauce and the makings for corn casserole. That will leave a salad that can be prepared ahead, the casserole and protein that can cook while I run around all afternoon, and rolls to be popped in the oven just before dinner. Having checked off the dinner menu, it's going to be a lovely day of anticipating the excellent company.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Ah, hurricane season. Tropical storms and hurricanes blow in off the gulf and spend themselves dumping water and wind along the journey inland to nothingness. Hermine is the big story around here today. She showed up yesterday to leave the mister and I slightly damp after our two mile lap around the neighborhood. This caused a slight error in judgment that resulted in Walker and I being a couple of miles away when light rain became something more. There was a certain amount of laughter, clinging to the belief that the situation would one day be a funny story, and eventually the need to take off our squelching, squishy shoes and socks to cover the final quarter mile barefoot. Not that Hermine was satisfied at that point.
The mister and I spent the day yawning as the rain continued. There was enough of a lull for the high school boys to get a few blocks away from the traffic snarl that goes with carpools, teen drivers, and staff fleeing the workday before I picked them up. That break was quickly replaced by pounding rain just as the elementary dismissed. Little Bit has a fear terror of storms, so the goal was to get to her as quickly as possible. Sitting with the left turn signal blinking monotonously, we stared at the line of cars already lined up to make a right turn that stretched on past the end of my vision. Finally, another mommy took pity on us and allowed us into the line slowly snaking up the drive toward the back of the school where upper grades can be retrieved. Erin hopped into the car, and we headed home to pull into the drive just as the rain abated again. And the tornado sirens went off.
We were not swept away in a funnel cloud. The only first-person reports of the wall of clouds that triggered the alarms came from friends on Facebook who were further north than our home. Middle Child did get stuck at school because the district held those students still in classes until after the tornado warning was officially lifted fifteen minutes after the usual end of the school day. The students and the staff were equally thrilled. No doubt the parents already sitting in the carpool lines were even more tickled to hear that they could come inside the school to wait until the schools were able to release students. Eesh. Thankfully, we had no real disaster, but simply an enhanced drill. Now, we just have to try not to float away.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Loose Ends

  • Yesterday's coffee date yielded another pile of Unfinished Conversations. Friends who visited a Ugandan orphanage recently are already feeling the call to return in 2011. I wonder if they will one day decide to not come back here? Anything is possible with those sold out for Jesus.
  • The Stone Soup/Turkey Chili was perfect... as Tortilla Soup. The first batch is a base that can be used for sauces, a layered enchilada casserole, or thickened and spiced up to be true chili. An experiment that didn't quite yield Texas Chili, but that can be considered a success since both households enjoyed the dinner offering.
  • Walker (a.k.a. Twiggy) and I passed the middle school cross country runners again on our morning walk. This time we were waved at by those who have previously suggested that we had nothing better to do than stalk them. I blew the trio of giggling girls a kiss, and Walker and I marched on in our ongoing quest to not be fat.
  • The Boy has his second Cross Country meet tomorrow. Last week, half his relay team failed to show up. Hopefully, this week he will have an opportunity to make a fair showing that reflects the months of training he has put in preparing for the race season.
  • Love the end of John. Jesus meeting with the Disciples post-resurrection still leaves me awestruck. Dumbfounded. Amazed. John closes Chapter 21 with Verse 25 saying, "And there were also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written." Ah. Having walked with Jesus, and having recorded sufficiently his testimony of those days, John really need not say anything more on the subject no matter how many other tales might have remained untold; yet, the disciple Jesus loved (a title that tickles me) closes his account with this line that sparks the imagination. Intriguing. The text of the Bible just never gets old.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Stone Soup

This morning, a text message from a friend at a quarter past 6:00 a.m. had that flavor regarding the possibility of salvaging the grocery budget after her fridge and freezer melted down overnight. Since the calendar was surprisingly clear today after an early coffee date, I offered to pick up whatever needed to be cooked. Driving away from her office, the front passenger seat held two packages of ground turkey and a package of hamburger patties that were not going to waste if I could figure out what to do with them. The patties were predestined for meatloaf, but the ground turkey was more of a question mark. Driving through the unseasonal cool and damp, the thought of turkey chili struck. Making a turn into the grocery store, another package of the ground turkey, some peppers, and seasonings suggested by another friend via phone were loaded into a shopping cart. Having never made chili, this is all new to me, but it's perfect weather for the dish along with a side of cornbread.
Armed with ingredients and a plan, the meat was precooked and the peppers chopped. Tomato sauce and diced tomatoes combined with seasonings, the peppers, and the meat in the crock pot. We shall see how the whole thing turns out. It's a bit like the children's story of Stone Soup. Taking what one has (one friend's defrosted turkey + another friend's spicy seasoning expertise + my time and peppers) and throwing it all in one pot hoping that together we can create something especially yummy.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Stalker Mom

Yesterday, the girls and I headed over to Travel Health Provider for anti-malarial prescriptions and Erin's Typhoid vaccine. (She is taking an every-other-day dose of live vaccine that will inoculate her for the next five years. Besides, it's amusing to have Typhoid in the refrigerator.) As we headed down the road, Middle Child piped up to inform me that she saw me earlier in the day. She said, "Mackenzie and I were running during Cross Country and when we got to our big lap I saw a way too familiar shirt up ahead of us. I was like, 'Oh, no. There's my MOM! She's, like, stalking me.' And Mackenzie said, 'Remember during Track when my mom would come park in the car and sit there staring at us while we ran?' And then, we were, like, 'Now, we both have Stalker Moms!'" Ignoring my glare, she paused for breath before asking, "Who were you with? I didn't recognize that lady but she was really little."
Um. Silly girl, that was Walker. Exercise buddy extraordinaire for over a year?! And who was she calling a stalker? Walker and I have been covering that same route since our family moved into New House in March. The Cross Country team has only been meeting since August 23rd. As soon as we got home, I had Walker on speed dial so she would know that she'd been called "Little!" by my twig of a teen. Because not being fat is one of our stated goals. Being called a stalker? Not so much. Makes a mom want to stand out at the middle school with a camera like a big dork. Then we can talk about Stalker Moms.