Thursday, July 31, 2008

It's Not The Heat

Have you ever heard "It's not the heat, it's the humidity"? Yesterday was a good example of it here. While the day began with a temperature of 80 degrees when you walked outside you felt the oppression of the air. No breeze, just a heaviness that settles on you making it miserable to even walk to your car. I headed to the grocery store in the morning and found it unusually dead.

However, as I took David to the YMCA for his ESY teacher it was hard to find a parking spot. The pool was packed with kids and adults and the workout room was overflowing. Usually by Wednesday it is mostly empty. Many were walking on the indoor track.

By late afternoon it was 95 degrees. Our home doesn't have central air, so our window units are on 24 hour duty. Also we don't have a dishwasher and standing over a sink of hot water doing the dishes has been making it very uncomfortable.
It looks like today holds more of the same. My thoughts turned yesterday to those in our area who don't have any air conditioning and also those who don't even have a home to retreat to. What's a little uncomfortableness when there are people who are really suffering.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Tale of Two Notebooks

Normally on Mondays I stay at home and clean. However, yesterday was a run-around day. David's prescription needed to be refilled and while I was out I got some of the supplies on our list for vacation.

Also last year, since we didn't know which school David would attend until the Friday before school started, we had trouble getting many of his school supplies. Not so this year. I got his school list several weeks ago and the school supply sale ads began to appear this week. So I took my list and purchased not one, but two of everything David would need on the list. Now, I know this sounds like overkill but trust me it isn't.

Our saga began the weekend before school started last year. Half the supplies were nowhere to be found. The supplies that I could find were not on sale (go figure)! After driving all over town and finally coming up with some items that would "just have to make due" until the stores got new shipments in, we were ready on Monday morning.

Of course you know the game, the students get to school and there is a whole other list that must be purchased on top of what was already bought. At the end of three weeks David had lost his large notebook binder—with all the dividers, paper, pencils and calculator in it. By this time he had also broken the zipper on his backpack. So a whole new trip to purchase supplies, less then a month after school started.

Over $250.00 worth of school supplies between both sets. I really got upset when one of David's one-on-one's a few weeks later suggested a different type of binder for him that might work better. I firmly stated he had his supplies and that would be the last that we would be purchasing for some time.

They were already aware of the outlay in funds that we had already flowed from my purse. So I came up with an alternative. I took supplies to each class and left them there for him. He would not be able to lose or doodle them away between classes. The teacher could also let us know when he was running low.

We also had to buy many extra boxes of tissues. Each teacher had a box on their supply list. So David went with six boxes ready to give to each teacher. But the plan went awry when he gave all six to the first teacher. I then tried to explain that they were to go to all his classes, I was not donating enough tissues for the entire class. David had tried for a week and the tissues were never returned to him and he wasn't comfortable demanding them back from a teacher.

I eventually had to go in myself to collect the extra boxes and take them to the correct teachers myself. The final count on notebook binders was three for the school year and three backpacks. David did become more responsible with his supplies as the school year progressed. I think he was so concerned about the new atmosphere and what was expected that the supplies were the least of his worries.

So this year I purchased two backpacks (a great buy-one-get-one-free deal). Two calculators—one for home and one for school. Lots of extra spiral notebooks, notebook paper and pens.

I thought I found a great deal on the binders at $5.99. There were a whole row of binders that had the label $5.99 under them. But when I got up front the cashier rang them up as $15.99, a big difference. So I explained they were marked $5.99 in the back. She called a worker in that department who agreed they were put out in the wrong place, but they would cost $15.99 if I wished to purchase them.

Since the likelihood is that David will lose one within days of beginning school I really didn't want to spend that much. And even though the employees had placed the items in the wrong place I wasn't going to make a fuss. After all, we all make mistakes. But, I still needed a binder so I paid for my other purchases and made my way to the back corner on the opposite side of the store again to find a binder.

Can you imagine my surprise when I got back there and found that the sign had not been removed and the binders where still listed at $5.99. The employee who had agreed that the binders were misplaced had left them in the wrong spot. So I grabbed one of the binders and went back up front, but the closer I got to the register the more upset I got. How many people are picking up this great buy and not noticing that the price was not what was expected. Or figuring: "I'm not going all the way back for that one item."

So I went to the same cashier and asked to speak to a manager, after explaining to the manager the problem he gladly offered the $15.99 binders at the $5.99 price. He also got on the walkie-talkie to get the problem corrected in the back. Mistakes are understandable, but leaving the mistake after knowing that the mistake exists and customers are being mislead is another thing.

So this year I got two sets of school supplies for about $100. instead of the $250. I paid last year, so I am one happy camper. When I got home I promptly got David's backpack ready and labeled for the start of school.

Today is the last day of summer school, so David is a very happy boy. On to the eighth grade.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

A Movie and Pizzas

Wednesday night our friend Abigail had to work, so her husband Joe came over for dinner. We also invited a mutual friend, Ryan, a college student over. So when we found out that Abigail would have to work again Friday night we arranged for the guys to come to come over Friday night for pizza and a sci-fi movie night. I don't like sci-fi, so I figured I would crawl into the bed with a good book after the pizza.

But, Abigail called yesterday morning asking for our pizza crust recipe, since she was going to make pizza for dinner. Her schedule had changed and she wouldn't be working. Joe had failed to mention he was coming over to our house. So of course, we left the option open for them to come for pizza and they could leave after dinner or stay, or we would understand if they wanted to opt out all together. They decided to come and they stayed for pizza and the movie "Dead Again."

As you can see, our friend Ryan is a cut-up and had lots of fun hamming it up for the camera. His housing situation is a little shakey right now, so we have offered for him to stay here. Since we will be gone for a week next month he would have full run of the house, while giving us the peace of mind that our house is well looked after. Ryan is a very mature and stable student, so we are comfortable with him here. Abigail has offered to look in on Roger and feed him during our absence. So as NASA-loving David would say "All systems are a go."

Friday, July 25, 2008

A Long Awaited Answer

Have you ever been in a position where you couldn't plan ahead due to another's plans? That is what we have been going through for over two months now. We have been holding off on planning our vacation because of school issues.

School ended on June 12th and most families had already long ago made their summer plans. Not us and it isn't because I'm not a planner but because so many school issues were still left unresolved. I began the "bugging" process on June 13th (the first day with no student distractions.) "When will summer school be and for how long?" along with "When will our FAPT meeting be?"

The answer to the first question was "we don't know, you should get a letter sometime in the next week or so" and the next was "Sometime in August." I already knew David would receive ESY (extended school year from July 7th into late August, but knew we could reschedule the hours the teacher was to be with him.

Our summer school letter arrived about a week later saying I would need to go on the 23rd of June to sign David up for summer school and it would be two weeks long either the first two weeks of July or the last two weeks. They would tell me once I enrolled him.

Then the next day I received a phone call from the school that stated David would receive home bound summer school and didn't think I should need to enroll him on the 23rd. These were very conflicting messages so I contacted the head of special education...again...and asked him.

I finally got my answers about summer school on June 23rd. No I wouldn't have to enroll him and it would begin on July 1st, for four days a week the entire month of July. However, it wasn't until June 30th that I finally got a return call from the home bound program confirming and scheduling a time for them to come. There went June and July, the school year begins August 25th so we have a three window.

But there is still the FAPT meeting that has to be done in one of those weeks. If you aren't familiar with FAPT it's a different funding source that the school works with. "The Family Assessment and Planning Team" (FAPT) develops service plans for eligible youth and families and reviews cases funded by the Comprehensive Services Act to determine progress, prepare transition plans, and adjust services as needed."

The FAPT works differently from IEP in many ways but three very important differences specifically affect us. First, that they have a set budget for the year (no money, no services—even for a dire need). In special education if the need is there they must provide the service. The second difference is that without a parent there the meeting doesn't take place. And third, they only meet one day a week since they have many agencies that must be present at the meeting (social services, school personnel, court services). I have attended meetings where ten different agencies were represented.

Our need for the FAPT meeting was to fund the cost of David's one-on-one that needs to begin on the first day of school. We began asking for a FAPT date from the school in May. On June 13th I went to the school to request the date in person. There were two more calls to the school requesting the date.

On June 30th I contacted the school official and explained that we needed to know the date in order to schedule our vacation. I was told the paperwork was being completed and we should know "soon." July 9th I sent an e-mail again requesting the date. I received a response on the 14th saying "I'll check on it." I also contacted the individual at the school offices and was told she would check.

So, this past Monday I sent an e-mail to the school official and the head of special education and explained the history of trying to get this date. I then went on to explain that since I have tried to arrange our schedule to meet their needs and am receiving no information in return it was now their turn to work around my schedule. I gave them until Tuesday to give me a date or I would schedule our vacation and they would work around us. I received a phone call on Wednesday (hmm) with apologies all around. Since we have already been to FAPT many times and have well documented our need for the one-on-one there is no need for a meeting.

So I will be very busy finalizing our plans for vacation—Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. My husband's boss has been great about allowing him the time off on such short notice (since they are usually required to give three months notice). We will be looking for a rabbit sitter for Roger to check on him during the week. I have found a great deal at a great family hotel, a week for $460.00 (including taxes). The hotel has free wifi services so we can post pictures during our trip, so that we can share our trip with you. We won't be going as far as we have in past years (thank you gas prices).

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Change For Life

On Monday I had gone to the church to return the parlor back to it's original state and pack up the last of the decorations from the shower. So imagine my husband's surprise when I returned home and and he found out that I had just completed one project only to sign up for another.

Our church secretary asked me if I would be willing to be the liaison for a baby bottle fund raiser for the local residential maternity home for unwed mothers. The girls are prepared to either become mothers or place their baby for adoption. The foundation provides housing, counseling, education and medical care.

I became intimately involved with David's birth mother and her difficulty in finding support to carry her pregnancy to full term and then her decision to place David for adoption. Her friends and family members felt that abortion would be a better option—"put it all behind you and you can just forget." After one abortion she felt that she needed to carry the baby to term and then place him for adoption. After the adoption she told us that it was the hardest thing she ever had to do, but that it made her face up to the bad choices that she was continuing to make in her life that affected not only herself but her daughter. We also knew a young mother who placed her baby for adoption through this agency.

This is a cause that is close to my heart. I saw first hand how our culture makes it more acceptable to abort a baby then to make a loving adoption plan. As an adoptive mom I also thank God that there are places that allow these precious babies to be born. The mothers will be blessed with the ability to choose the adoptive parents if they decide on adoption or if they choose to raise their baby they are more prepared due to the training they received.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Water Days

Last year our pastor's wife Angela organized activities to help the moms get together while allowing the children to have some fun. She has kindly done the same this year. Sometimes it's $1.00 movies or a day at the park.

Today it was a water-filled day at our church's playground. We are very fortunate to have a large playground on the grounds of our church, far from the main road. Several slip and slides, pools and sprinklers were set up and the kids got to have a blast. We had a great turn out with over 20 kids running around and getting soaking wet. The moms got a chance to talk to each other while the kids ran wild. This was really appreciated by David who had 2 long hours of math summer school before the party started. Many of us stayed and had lunch together, while the kids played even more.
Ahh, the simple pleasures of life!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Baby Shower Fun

Radio Flyer wagon holding the cupcakes
Yesterday we held our baby shower for Katie and her little son Jonathan. I thought we were going to have a fight as the ladies of the church called dibbs on who would hold him next. I was so much more mature then that (ok,I had already held him that morning in the church nursery.) The ladies relaxed more as Angela brought her little Lacey into the room—two babies to pass around. The babies were born just 12 days apart.

I was very pleased with the way the decorations transformed the room. I had planned on a "cupcake cake" (several layers of cupcakes made to resemble a cake.) But while setting up thought it would go better with the cupcakes inside one of the Radio Flyer wagons we used as the decoration theme for the party and I could just refill with the additional cupcakes if needed. It also gave more room on the table for the wonderful food the other ladies brought. I had a little frog from my photography days I hooked on the wagon and the ladies loved it. A tiny wagon held gummy worms while the slingshots were placed in the backpockets of the overalls.

Washtub ice bucket and glove with baseball
Katie had originally declined a shower, since her family had thrown her one and her work had thrown her another. She had felt it would be too greedy to accept more gifts and as a first time mother she thought she had everything she would need for him. She quickly found that he went through more wipes, diapers and bath supplies than she had expected. Also he has grown very rapidly and the baby clothes weren't going to fit as long as expected. So we were able to use this time to give her a mountain of diapers in many sizes, many boxes of wipes and bathing supplies to last at least into next week. Many guests also gave her wonderful little baby books and music that he will be able to enjoy soon. The outfits she received were in the 6 months and up range.

The ladies playing a riddle game
My friend Abigail joined us for the shower and even lead the games (baby pictionary was so much fun.) Since she is the next to have a baby this was a great experience hearing from another first time mother about the surprises she received with the birth of her son.

I was a little disappointed as I checked with some of the church ladies to see if they would be attending and was told "I really don't know her, so I won't be coming." My first thought is "are you going to know her any better by not attending" and my next thought was "aren't we as the older ladies supposed to teach the younger ladies?"

Katie opening her presents
Katie is very shy and quiet so it is harder to get to know her, but that doesn't mean we are not responsible to try and support her. We did have a good group of core women who are wonderfully supportive and at the end no one seemed inclined to leave as we talked with each other. Not only did the ladies who didn't attend miss out on the chance to support Katie, but they missed the sense of community and friendship that those of us who attended were able to enjoy.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Picnic Pretzels

Two Sundays a month our church holds a picnic following the evening service. I have had fun coming up with some different items for the festivities. Last week I made homemade pretzels. I had fun making them and made three different kinds.


1 1/4 cups milk
4 cups all purpose flour (divided)
1 package active dry yeast
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 cup melted unsalted butter
2 tablespoons baking soda
Olive oil to coat
(toppings- sea salt, coarse salt, sesame seeds, and poppy seeds)

Heat the milk in a small saucepan over low heat until the temperature reaches 120 to 130 F.

Combine 3 cups flour, sugar, yeast, baking powder, and garlic salt in large bowl. Add milk and butter. Beat vigorously for about 2 minutes. Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough begins to pull away from the side of the bowl.
Place dough onto a lightly floured surface; flatten slightly. Knead for 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic, adding flour if necessary to prevent sticking.

Shape dough into a ball. Place in a large, lightly oiled bowl; turn dough over once to oil surface. Cover with a towel; let rise in a warm place about 30 minutes.
Divide dough into 12 equal parts. Roll each piece into 22 inch long ropes on lightly oiled surface. Form rope into a "U" shape. About 2 inches from each end cross dough. Cross a second time. Fold loose ends up to rounded part of the "U"; press ends to seal. Turn pretzels over so that ends are on underside and reshape if needed. Cover with towel; let rest 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Fill large dutch oven 3/4 full with water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add baking soda. Carefully drop pretzels, a couple at a time, into the boiling water for 10 seconds. Remove with slotted spoon. Place the pretzels on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt, sesame or poppy seeds.

Bake 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cook on a wire rack.

*Note: I tried a few with cinnamon and sugar and they just weren't sweet enough.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

An Unexpected Gift

Our friend Peg stopped by and brought us some homemade salad, some cucumbers and some flowers. I just love the look of fresh flowers around the house. They are a constant reminder to me of God's love of beauty and diversity.

Peg's flowers in our bathroom
Growing up we didn't have fresh flowers around the house. As a newly wed I read Edith Schaeffer's Hidden Art of Homemaking. My first attempt at bringing fresh flowers into our home was uncommented on until four days after the fact. As I was pulling the drooping flowers out of the arrangement Rich looked at me and said "They're real? They looked so perfect I thought they were fake." As the years flew by I must confess while I worked hard at making our home beautiful there were dry spells with no fresh flowers. Maybe it had something to do with me working and then our little bull-in-a-china-shop, David.

Now that I am home and David is older I have begun the practice again. In fact just the other night our friend Abigail mentioned that she loved that we always have fresh flowers in the house.

I also want David to grow up and enjoy what God has created and take time to acknowledge it. I also want him to see that it doesn't cost a fortune since many of our arrangements are from our yard, our friends or when they are half price at Kroger's (they still last between a week to a week and a half.)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Little Red Wagons and Overalls

Katie and her first son, Jonathan will be the guests of honor as we shower them with love, hopefully wisdom and even some gifts. I have been to many of the pastel (yellow, green, blue and pink) parties with the animal theme (ducks, bears, bunnies). So I wanted something different and original in the way of decorations. Since we know it's a boy I thought "Dennis the Menace." I have three different sizes of Radio Flyer wagons to serve food in and plan on using overalls strung on "a clothesline" across the window tops.

David and I found a wonderful limb with a fork in it to make a large slingshot for a table decoration. A galvanized bucket will hold the sodas and instead of a cake I will make a "tiered cake" out of the cupcakes. Red plates and napkins will be used on a table covered in a white cloth and a denim runner.

The ladies of the church will be providing the remainder of the food. My friend Angela will give the devotional and my friend Abigail will lead the games. This is very fitting since Angela gave birth to her little angel just weeks before Katie had Jonathan and Abigail is expecting her first child in December. I don't mind the behind-the-scenes work, just don't make me get up and speak in front of a bunch of people.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Can I have . . .?

Yes, the cry of "Mom, can I have this?" can be heard in grocery stores all over the country. Today I had more then my share of hearing this.

Normally I do my grocery shopping while David is in school. Of course, since it's summer there is no school so I try to leave him at home with Dad. Since Rich works most days out of the house this works great for us. Rich opens the large picture window and keeps an eye out on David as he plays. Win-Win-Win!

Rich has been working out of the DC office three days this week and the other days his project has been all consuming so I didn't feel it was fair to have him watch David. So we headed to the grocery store right after his summer school class. Since his class is homebound I must be at home while he is being taught.

Can you spell TORTURE? If I wasn't hearing "Can I have these crab legs for a snack, they're ONLY $24.99." (Yes, he said only $24.99 for a snack! Bet you can guess the answer to that one) I was either watching out behind me to make sure I didn't get run over by David's grocery cart or having to tell him to catch up so I could actually put the groceries in the cart.

If the Geneva Convention ever allows torture I think this would be a good way to send a prisioner over the edge. I'm kidding, I'm kidding!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Mac N Cheese Pie

A couple of weeks ago I made Mac and Cheese Pie but Rich was out of town and there was very little of it after David got done devouring it. So with our friends Abigail and Joe coming over it was the perfect chance to make it for all—Rich too. Last night I made two pies to make sure there would be enough!

So, time to share a wonderful new way to make a classic favorite. I found this recipe in "Welcome to Junior's!" Juniors is a Brooklyn restaurant that opened in the 1930s and the book includes recipes and stories explaining the Brooklyn way of life.

Mac and Cheese Pie
1/2 cup plain dry bread crumbs
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 cups (8 ounces) uncooked macaroni
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 1/2 cups milk
2 1/2 cups (12 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 drop red food coloring
1 drop yellow food coloring

Preheat the oven to 375F and butter a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate. Sprinkle the cottom and the sides with the bread crumbs.

Fill a large pot half full with water, add 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and the oil and bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in the macaroni and cook without covering the pot for about 15 minutes or until the macaroni is almost tender. Transfer the macaroni to a colander, rinse with cold water (you need 5 cups), and drain well.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour, the remaining teaspoon of salt, the mustard, pepper, and nutmeg. Cook until bubbly, about 1 minute.

Macaroni & Cheese Pie
Gradually stir in all the milk and continue to cook and stir until the sauce simmers and thickens. Add 2 cups of the cheese, plus the red and yellow food colorings and stir until completely melted and blended. Remove the sauce from the heat and fold in the macaroni. Spoon the macaroni into the pie plate, mounding it high in the center. Top with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese and sprinkle generously with the paprika.

Bake the pie until golden brown and bubbly, about 25 minutes. Let the pie stand on a wire rack until set, about 15 minutes, slice into wedges and serve.

The food coloring is optional, but I found that without it the pie doesn't look as inviting. Last night I paired the pie with Sloppy Joes and for dessert I served dump cake.

Monday, July 7, 2008

A Piece of The Past

When David was born we decided to name him David Schuyler (pronounced Sky-ler) after my five times great grandfather. Many people have found this strange since David is adopted and don't feel he has any legacy through our family histories. But we felt at the time, and even more so now that he does have a heritage that is passed down from our ancestors.

David received his physical characteristics from his birthparents. But as his adoptive parents, the values and history that built our character are what we have been instilling him since he was one day old.

My family history was not passed down to me from my parents. I have done research to find out about the men and women of my family history. This journey has led me to many dead ends, but I have made some discoveries that led me to the very beginning of our nation.

One of the interesting stories from my grandmother (who just passed away a few years ago) had never been told to any of the members of my family until I began my research.

She had been raised mostly by stepfathers because her father had died when she was young. When I questioned her about the death of her father she stated he had been working at the local grocery store and while taking a break had grabbed a Coke and died of a heart attack. She said the cocaine in Coke was the cause of his death. His death certificate states "unknown" as reason of death. (Can you imagine that being allowed on a death certificate today?) However, this was a possibility since he died in February of 1922 and Coke was not cocaine-free until 1929.

Schuyler Hamilton, my ancestor that we took David's middle name from, was born in either 1787 or 1789. He served in the War of 1812. Schuyler and his wife Susanna were parents to 17 children, 15 who lived to adulthood. They owned 900 acres in southwest Virginia where the couple raised their family. Schuyler was a hatmaker, miller and farmer. He also was a judge in the first election held in Wise County, Virginia. In his spare time he was a fife player Susanna and Schuyler were members of the Primitive Baptist Church. He is also listed in court records as requesting the building of the first road between Ramsey and Coeburn, Virginia.

Schuyler died in 1861 and is buried atop a mountain. And we have been able to visit it. The tombstone has been replaced with a modern one to stand for future generations.

Click on the document to see full-size
I have found the marriage record for Susanna's parents in the Virginia Historical Library (shown to the left). Though they married in March 1794, after American independence, the document is very British in tone and the payment required for the license is fifty pounds. I think so much in "American" terms that I had not considered how long it would have taken to set up an entire government and monetary system and then to put into place.

I have taken Rich to the area that the Hamilton's lived and shown him a very different way of life, the coal mines that now stand empty and the company house my father grew up in. The land that has been destroyed by strip mining now lays bared and scarred.

I am so glad my research began before my grandparents died so their stories and memories didn't die with them. The information I obtained from them is invaluable and has led to more then just names and dates.

David has a part of this history and it is fitting that his name reflects that.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Eating Up History

Fourth of July found us enjoying the day at the president's home. Not the current president, but one of the founding fathers. Thomas Jefferson not only owned the large Monticello mansion in Charlottesville, but he also owned a retreat called Poplar Forest. So we packed a picnic lunch with lots of goodies and headed out. Our original plan had been to visit friends in Northern Virginia, but a change in Rich's work schedule and the gas prices had us explore a venue closer to home.

There were a few period artisans and one woman was fascinating as she demonstrated the way cloth was made from flax seed. She had many funny anecdotes that captured not only the adults, but also the children's attention.

David paid rapt attention to all as she explained about how wigs were made during colonial times. David provided a new anecdote as he asked her "Is that how they made Hannah Montana's wig? It looks just like it." Needless to say this got a big chuckle from the crowd gathered around.

While people explored different areas of the grounds we were serenaded by colonial music. At 1:30 a ceremony began with the American Legion's presentation of the colors. Everyone stood as we said the Pledge of Allegiance and sang the National Anthem. The reading of the Declaration of Independence along with the names of all the signers was presented from the back porch of the mansion.

The American Legion Color Guard salutes
during the singing of the National Anthem
I have to admit, I had never heard much about Poplar Forest before moving to Central Virginia. We have been to Monticello often and eaten at Michie Tavern in Charlottesville. But it just seemed fitting to explore this property on the Fourth.

Thomas and Martha Jefferson inherited the 4,819 acre property from Martha's father in 1773. When they first took over ownership of the plantation they visited very little. But in 1781 the Jefferson family spent two months on the property in order to elude British capture. In 1806 Jefferson personally oversaw the laying of the foundation, an octagonal house much like Monticello. Following his presidency he visited this home three to four times a year. This was a place far away from official duties and his grandchildren often stayed during these visits.

Poplar Forest House
The house was inherited by Frances Epps, Jefferson's grandson. Two years later the plantation was sold to a neighbor. The property remained a private residence for several families until 1984. Having been updated over the years, the inside showed little resemblance to the home of the Jeffersons. The nonprofit Corporation for Jefferson's Poplar Forest purchased the property and has been taking painstaking steps to restore it to its original condition. The foundation raises the funds for the research and restoration.

We had such a wonderful time there yesterday that we decided to return today to take more pictures. This time we took a tour of the inside of the home and I tried to imagine the families that lived in the house following the Jeffersons. Can you imagine? I began to wonder where they placed the stove and how they furnished with no closets. As they dug into the handmade bricks to make a well to run electrical wires did they realize the damage they were doing to history? Did they know that the president whose words would be viewed as the most important document in the nation had personally overseen the building of "their home?" Or could they have just thought that someone had just imitated Jeffrerson's Monticello?

Rich and David at our picnic blanket
David was fascinated by the house and grounds and has a desire to purchase Poplar Forest for our next home. When I asked him yesterday what he liked most he stated "Eating on a president's lawn." Now how many people get to do that? David would even like for us to do some research on Jefferson as a "summer school" project. I am glad that David has a love of history, we have tried to instill the living history that is all around us. He loves to learn about the people and their lives, why they did what they did.

I don't like "Jefferson's Bible" since in it he took out the references to Jesus' miracles and the blood of Christ. He used slaves to run his plantations and while in today's eyes this is abhorrent to us, we must look at it through the glasses of the past and it was acceptable in his time. I can use these issues to point out to David that even great men are flawed. I sometimes wonder what commonly accepted practice of today we will be condemned for.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Birthday America!

Living in Virginia for a large portion of my life I have been privileged to walk in the footsteps of the men and the women who have made our nation great. Virginia is called "Mother of the Presidents," since eight U.S. Presidents have been born here. Four out of the first five Presidents were from Virginia.

David playing the hoop game at Stratford Hall
While many will spend today at a pool or barbecuing with friends we will spend the day with a homemade picnic on the grounds of a President's home. For years we spent the Fourth at Stratford Hall, home of the Lees of Virginia and birthplace of Robert E Lee. They have always had old-time activities and events and a reading of the Declaration of Independence. Richard Henry and Francis Lightfoot Lee were both signers on this important document. Some years they have hayrides and they have always had the hoop and stick game for the kids. David has always been very good at this. They have a wonderful restaurant right on the grounds at the Hall that we usually ate at.

We always followed our visit to Stratford Hall with a visit to Westmoreland Berry Farm to pick berries, buy fresh fruit, and listen to a live blue grass band. The pick-your-own-berries worked really great for us since you didn't pay for any you ate in the field. David has been known to down a bucket of blueberries faster then we could pick it.

The changing of the guard at
the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The architecture of Virginia is so beautiful. Our founding father's attention to detail and desire to create beauty is evident in the homes they designed and built. I am very thankful that the idea that as Christians we need to eschew beauty in order to show our holiness was not prevalent in their day. I believe their view is the more Biblical view. Didn't God give the Israelites very precise instructions in how to build the tabernacle? He also demanded the best materials and most skilled workmen available to create his dwelling place.

Arlington House, home of Robert E Lee, stands over Arlington Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The changing of the guards at the tomb is a sight that shouldn't be missed when visiting the DC area. The rows and rows of stones marking a lives given in service to our country shows the sacrifice needed to keep our nation free. I have a great-uncle that was buried there shortly after David was born.

Arlington House
The Fourth of July before 9/11 we watched the fireworks on Quantico Marine Corp base. Just a few months later we would watch some of the same men and women who oohed and awed with us over the fireworks drive into DC in tanks to secure our Pentagon and maintain order in a world gone crazy. It is with great cost our freedom was won and with great cost we must maintain this freedom.

The Worst "Ism" Is Commercialism

I was appalled when I open my e-mail yesterday and had received a $4.00 off a $20.00 purchase at CVS/pharmacy. This is not my normal response, but the coupon is only good for July 4th. I understand that pharmacies are needed even on holidays, but this coupon is not able to be used on prescriptions. If you follow the same thought that people get sick even on holidays and that is the reason the store should be open, what about during the night? CVS has a few with 24 hour pharmacies and these should be the only ones requiring employees to work on a holiday.

Having worked in retail as a high school student the argument was that as long as people purchase on these days then corporate headquarters doesn't want to miss the sale. Of course corporate big wigs who make these decisions are all taking off for the holiday.

The most offensive part of the CVS coupon is that since it is only valid today they are creating a reason for customers to purchase on a holiday. Then next year they will cite the increase of business as the reason they should be open. If they make the coupons valid tomorrow instead they may actually generate more business. This is one coupon that will not be printed since I for one will not be shopping today.

Just a side note—at the top of the e-mail the logo states:CVS/Pharmacy for all the ways you care. I am glad to see that they don't even attempt to say they care.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Look Mom - No Tooth!

David has had a loose tooth for the last couple of days (right next to the tooth he lost a couple of weeks ago.) He has really been pushing the tooth around to try to get it out. Apparently it wasn't going fast enough because right before lunch today he announced that he was going to pull it out. Before I could even say "don't do that" he had already gone into the bathroom and yanked out the tooth. Blood was dripping out of his mouth and the roots were still attached to the bottom of the tooth.

Call me crazy but I think he should have waited for a little while longer.

When I asked why he did it he stated he wanted to save the tooth fairy money for tracks and a new engine for his train. Not that by pulling his tooth will he have enough to buy the engine. Of course, I may find a toothless, bleeding gum boy in the bathroom tomorrow with a handful of teeth ready to ambush the tooth fairy!

Since the tooth he lost a couple weeks ago has only started to come in he may have to gum his food tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

I'm Waiting

As we continue to unpack from our long move we discover little treaures. One of these treasures was a Christmas video of David as a four year old sitting on his shiny new bike. David looks into the camera and asks if he can go outside to ride. We promptly answered yes. Three seconds later he raises his little hands and says "I'm waiting" in a little preschool sing-song voice (how could I ever have forgotten the sound of that.) Our answer was laughter as we explained we were waiting for him to put some clothes on.

This image was brought to mind as I heard a fellow Christian state "I'm just waiting on God." Often we feel this way and begin the "I'm waiting on you God, just like I know I'm suppose to." "Well, I've been patient, haven't you noticed? Where are you God?" All this in a short period of time. But often I think it is actually the reverse—God is waiting for us. Just like with my son and his need for further preparation before his desire was fulfilled, many are waiting when they should be in action.

Whether a move, a new job, a child, a new car or any other thing we are waiting—there may be reasons why we are still waiting. I know that my desire for a child was not fulfilled until I had totally given that desire to God. I had to come to the place where I was happy in the Lord with or without a child. It was a long, hard process but well worth it. On the reverse side we had a friend who was not willing to allow God to have control. This ultimately destroyed her marriage and she never became the mother she wanted to be. Her fear of "what if" took control over her faith that God was, and still is, in control.

Sometimes it might be unfinished business—to humble ourselves to someone we have wronged. Or forgive someone (even without an apology) who has offended us. Often it is just that we have not truly turned the outcome over to God. If we repeatedly try for that new job that never comes our way maybe we need to be content in the job we currently have. The last three jobs I had were offered to me without my applying for them. They fit my personality and allowed me to fit my schedule to my son's. How many jobs do you know that allow that?

Now after hearing this you might think I'm saying we have it down pat. Not by a long shot. For 20 years Rich and I tried to move out of the Northern Virginia area where we both grew up. This suburb of Washington was becoming more citified each year and as a country girl I didn't like it.

Our first real try was when we tried to get a job in my hometown. Nothing came out of any of his applications and at that time they were doing lots of hiring. Rich was qualified to do the job, had great references but still no job. We then tried other areas. Still no job. It was just recently that we were able to move to an area that we love. I don't know if God was waiting for us to let go so he could do his work or just that we needed to wait on his timing.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Summer School Begins

Today was the first day of summer school. Due to David's issues, the school opted for a home bound teacher. This means she will come into our home for two hours a day for four weeks.

I am so thankful that the teacher God sent is a Christian. During the school year she is a special education middle school teacher in the next county.

Ms. Lydia is a lovely lady, who is deathly afraid of animals—yes even of Roger. So as of tomorrow "class" will be held in the kitchen. I chose not to have it set up there today since it still smelled of crab legs from yesterday's lunch. After explaining that David's issues were not academic but behaviorally based, she tailored her teaching to accommodate this.

She kept her teaching very easy to understand and after going over some math principles she quizzed him. Then he was able to quiz her on them. This made him learn in a more fun way, which he likes.

I just wish David had had a teacher like Ms. Lydia this past school year. David was not the only student in his class to fail. I was told that many of the students in his class did not pass. Since there were only seven students in the class I would say the teacher failed more then the students.