Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Winter Wonderland

We have been very busy with Christmas preparations. As David counts down the days until his school break I have been busy buying and wrapping gifts, decorating the house and preparing for Rich’s parents to visit. Along the way we have spent the weekends enjoying all the activites going on in town.

Two weeks ago we went to the kick-off of the Christmas season. One of the high school’s (not David’s) choir sang at the town’s gazebo. They held a bake sale to raise funds for the choir and they quickly gained David’s business (who cares what school it is, as long as they feed him!) Following the concert we were awaiting the arrival of the mayor when a local police officer came up and started asking all the people around if they knew who had left a gray box there. There were wires attached to the box, but the wires went nowhere. Of course, fearless David went up to the gazebo and started to poke at the box as the officer was examining it. The police officer gingerly took the box away.

The box reappeared again when the town’s publicity director returned with it. It was the switch that would turn on the town’s christmas lights. They had not hooked the box up because they didn’t want to have someone turn on the lights before the mayor arrived!

We stayed to see the lighting of the lights and Rich had a chance to talk to the mayor.

This past Saturday we woke up to the threat of snow. Within minutes the snow began to fall, very small flakes.

I began to make sausage and pancakes in order to rouse David out of bed. He came down stairs right as I was placing the Christmas dishes on the table. He had already spotted the falling snow, only the flakes were larger and falling more quickly. After breakfast and a quick shower I got hot cholocate ready so we could head into town. The scene that we stepped into was like something in a Frank Capra movie. The gazebo with the Christmas tree had Christmas music playing. Families were gathered around, building snowmen and little ones were throwing snowballs at their parents.

The Christmas parade had been cancelled and we weren’t able to ride the horse & carriage, since, due to the snow, it would be dangerous. We took all of it in stride as we just enjoyed the early Christmas gift we had received. I have to admit, the hot chocolote thermoses I had prepared were a welcome source of warmth when we returned to the car.

Our world is still covered in winter white with a call for another winter storm due tonight and an ice storm due tomorrow. I am prepared for the worst, but am hoping that nothing will interfere with David’s field trip. I am a chaperone to the theater where we will see a live performace of “Miracle on 34th Street.” This is a favorite of mine!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Drive

One of the beautiful things about our new home is the view. Out of our bedroom window we can see the outline of Skyline drive. So a few weeks ago when it looked like the leaves were at their peak we decided to take a drive. We arrived at the gate shortly after it opened and were very thankful we had.

Heading up the drive we saw so much beauty and variety. The early morning sun created shafts of light that changed in just a matter of moments. The fog on the mountains would move and shift with the swaying of the winds.
We stopped often to take pictures and enjoy the beauty. We stopped on the side of the road to capture the scenery many times. We were not the only ones who did this. It is interesting to see the different types of people—some that drive through as if they are on the autobahn and others (like us) that take their time to enjoy the trip.

When we reached the top of the drive, the fog and the rain made the view impossible to see. But even in this there was great beauty. And when we descended we were treated to yet another beautiful view as the fog and light rain had reached to the lower levels of the drive.
It is a testament to the leaders of our country that they realized the need to preserve the beauty of our nation for future generations.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Blue Plate Special

I have really enjoyed our new home and the way it makes me feel. I have really gotten into the “farmhouse” mode with lots of home baked breads. I have put my bread machine to good use and have it sitting out on my kitchen counter, instead of in a hard-to-reach cabinet.

Our sliders and fries
Last week I borrowed The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook from the library and have tried some of the recipes (all of them have been wonderful!). One of the breads was hamburger/hot dog buns, since the hamburger buns at the store were a little stale I thought I would give it a try. Now there’s no turning back since the whole family loved them. They also give us the freedom of making just the right size buns for whatever meal we’re having.

Last night I made “sliders” and made buns for the burgers. Following Rich’s surgery several years ago he hasn’t been able to eat anything deep-fried. One of the items he most missed was french fries. So I began making my own fries, coating them in olive oil with some salt and baking them. This has allowed him to enjoy the same sides as the rest of the family. It is also healthier for the whole family.

Hamburger Buns and Hot Dog Rolls
(2 pound loaf)
  • 1-1/4 cups water
  • 1 large egg
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 cups bread flour
  • 1/3 cup nonfat dry milk
  • 3 tablespoons instant potato flakes
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon gluten
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 teaspoon SAF yeast or 2-1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for glaze
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons sesame seeds, for sprinkling
Place ingredients (except 1 egg yolk and sesame seeds) in the pan according to the order in the manufacturer’s instructions. Program for the Dough cycle; press Start.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. When the machine beeps at the end of the cycle press Stop and unplug the machine. Immediately turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. With a dough knife, divide the dough into 12 equal portions. For the hamburger buns form each portion into tight rounds. For long buns, flatten each portion into oval about 6 inches long and rolling up tightly form a long end to form a cylinder. Place the rolls on the lined baking sheet at least 1 inch apart. Press with your palm to flatten each roll. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375° F.

Brush the rolls with the egg glaze and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 15 to 22 minutes, depending on the size of the roll, until lightly browned. Remove the rolls from the sheet with a spatula and let cook completely on a rack. Slice in half horizontally to serve.

Friday, November 6, 2009

He Said What?

Our family is one of the dying breeds of families that eat each breakfast and dinner together at the diningroom table. Many families will do family devotions at this time, but we save ours for bedtime. David’s mind tends to be too active at dinnertime for concentrating on God’s Word. So at dinner we use the time to have family discussions and this has lead to some funny moments recently.

Following a bite, David recently began to sputter and cough. Once he was able to talk again he told us the food went down his “sarcophagus” the wrong way. Maybe this is a result of our bedtime devotions of Romans 3:13 Their throat is an open sepulchre; With their tongues they have used deceit: The poison of asps is under their lips, but it brought gales of laughs to the table that night.

Just this weekend David went to play with a friend and at dinner that night Rich asked a very manly question, “what does his father do?” Of course, Rich’s question was meant to find out what job the other father had. But, David—in true kid fashion—responded with, “He smokes.” You guessed it, another round of laughter.

I treasure these moments since I know that they will not last forever. I also feel sorry for families that are not able or willing to come together for these moments.

I thought I would share David’s school picture with all of you. The tie was his idea. But, in true David fashion, he was all excited to have picture day, but when it was time to take the pictures he decided he wasn’t going to have his taken. Luckily, I was there and told him he had no choice, he was going to get his taken.

As a photographer I am very concerned about the copyrights of photographs. Many of my own photographs and Rich’s have been used without permission or credit for the purpose the image was intended for. So, let me state: I do have copyright permission from Lifetouch Studios to reproduce this school image and use the image on my blog.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Five Little Pumpkins

David’s class did a wonderful job on their play “Five Little Pumpkins.” David hid safely out of sight so that he could be like a professional narrator. He spoke loudly and slowly—the loudly wasn’t a concern but speaking slowly was. Not only did the preschool children like the play, but the students who care for them seemed to really like the play also. The cookies and s’more treats were a big hit, so much so that I returned home with an empty plate.

Skyline High School pumpkin
We stayed so that we could have lunch with David and he really enjoyed us being there. I must say that school lunches have changed so much since we were in school. You had those large plastic trays and you might have had a choice between two different entrees, but that was about it. David’s school has a Café and their options are amazing. You can choose between fresh made pizza, burgers, custom made subs, chicken sandwiches and much more. No longer are students required to choose between milk and chocolate milk—how about a smoothie? The prices are very reasonable and the food was very tasty.

David, preparing to give his lines
David’s teacher did a great job. The class had run a fund raiser in which the class of 12 students made over 500 cupcakes and put on a play, all in the same week. The class has a life skills class, so the cupcakes were a part of the cooking and kitchen cleaning section.

Ms. Jones, David’s teacher is wonderful! So many teachers have looked for ways to get David out of their classroom when they encounter his issues, but Ms. Jones has spent her energy on ways to help David succeed in her class. She has the same mindset that we have, David has to learn these skills in order to succeed in life and passing him around and to the next level will not serve him well in life.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Bite Size S’mores

This morning we are heading for David’s school to watch his class perform a play for the little children in the Child Development Center attached to the school. I had never heard of a Child Development Center in a high school until I was photographing preschoolers for a living. Basically, it is a class that is more vocational in nature. The high school students have this class for multiple years and are taught the stages and care for young children. I have been very impressed with the Centers that I was involved with during my photography days.

But, this is a very big event for us since the last play David took part in was nine years ago. His history in The Theater was one that could best be premiered on America’s Funniest Videos. In preschool, the entire four-year class dressed up as little angels. David looked so sweet and innocent in his halo, clutching his beloved teddy.

It went downhill from there. The class got up to sing as the older classes were telling the birth of Jesus and our little “angel” began his death scene. Now, this scene will always be considered as one of the most dramatic in the history of all school plays—even though it was not part of the script. And in case you didn’t catch his first death he continued to replay it through out the entire pageant. When we asked him why he did it we got a four-year-old’s response of “I didn’t want people watching me.”

That sure did the trick.

The next year the casting of the pageant was done to better suit David. Instead of performing the poem with his class he was given the part of “little boy on Christmas morning.” He played this part very well, since the part was for him to play with toys under the Christmas tree during the entire play. He didn’t play one death scene!

So, when we got our invitation to this play—that David forgot to tell us about—we jumped at the chance. It is about five little pumpkins and David is the narrator and will be behind the curtain.

The teacher has also invited the parents to a time of refreshments following the program. Since I have been without my college kids that I used to cook for I decided to make some treats to take with us. I was trying to come up with an unusual finger food dessert and came up with hand held s’mores. It was so easy and required little clean up and would be great to make with even little children.

I took a large marshmallow, dipped into heated up Baker’s dipping chocolate and then into graham cracker crumbs. After putting them on a plate to dry I took a spoon and drizzled chocolate over the tops of them. To add a twist I decided to make caramel ones. I dipped a marshmallow in caramel, then Heath toffee bits and then drizzled the caramel over the tops. I loved the autumn colors of the finished dessert and the fact that there is little clean up! The only thing I had to keep an eye on was keeping my fingers clean of the chocolate or caramel when moving the marshmallows around since I didn’t want the smudged prints to get on the marshmallows.

Since this is David’s first year of not going out to get candy on Halloween we have made little goodie boxes of candy for the students in his class.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Festival of Leaves

A couple weeks ago our town held its annual Festival of Leaves. It is a wonderful time of the community getting together for a good time. The Historic Society began this as a fund raiser and a way for the community to learn about the history of the area. The local museums are open and you can explore them free of charge! Can’t beat the price and it is a great way for kids to learn history—hands on.

We began the day walking down Main Street—that was closed for the day. There were vendors that sold a variety of wares down several streets.

David was very excited about the parade when he saw his high school’s marching band. He didn’t know any of the kids, but loved that they were there. It truly was a community parade, with car after car carrying the local “Festival of Leaves” beauty queens. The local cancer camp for children had a truck loaded down with the kids throwing candy into the crowd. Local churches and politicians had a good showing. Since the area is so rich with history from the civil war there were soldiers and their ladies in the parade.

We visited the local museums and David was thrilled when he got to pick up real cannon balls. Even though they were the smallest in size they were very heavy. The small musuem held so much history that I was amazed. A piece of rope that hanged Abolitionist John Brown was on display.

We toured Belle Boyd’s simple home. Belle was a Confederate spy who provided valuable information to Generals Turner Ashby and “Stonewall” Jackson. General Jackson made her a captain and honorary aide-de-camp on his staff.

She was later betrayed by her lover and was arrested on July 29, 1862.

I had packed a picnic lunch, but we supplemented it with baked goods from one of the local vendors.

This will become one of our must-do events each year!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Not A Typical Day at the Zoo

Last Saturday we were allowed behind the gates of a very unusual zoo. The Smithsonian's National Zoo has a research center just about four miles from our home and each time we have passed the large imposing gates I have had the urge to be able to see what is kept within them. Last weekend they held their annual Autumn Conservation Festival which is the only two days each year the gates are open to the public.

Red pandas
It was very well attended and had lots of fun, educational an tasty booths. I had spent the last day cooking and baking so that we would have a wonderful fall picnic. The atmosphere was very family-friendly with kids of all ages seeing animals that they have never seen. The grounds of the center are so beautiful with well-cared-for lawns and beautiful buildings. I have always loved that the Smithsonians have such beautiful buildings. It would be very easy for the buildings at the research center to be strictly utilitarian. But the buildings give you the feel that you are at an old vineyard in the wine country of Italy.

North American bison
We had our very first look at the Red Panda; they must not like mornings because they just relaxed the first time we watched them. When we saw them again late in the day they were putting on quite a show as the chased and tumbled over each other. The center had information sheets about the animals so that people could become more informed about what they were seeing. These beautiful mammals used to thrive in Asia's mountains feeding on the bamboo forests. But over the last 50 years the population has declined over 40% making them an endangered species.

David, the teen, is always hungry so he was ready for our picnic lunch almost as soon as we got there. We had sausage and apple hand pies, maple and oatmeal cookies with apple cider. We had cookies left over and gave them to a parking attendant that was having a hard time with a screaming woman who didn't like where she had to park at. While Rich and I finished our meal David collected some of the beautiful fall leaves that fell from the tree we were eating under.

Clouded leopard cub
We climbed up a long winding hill to see the Bison. These big animals were not afraid of the people who came up to their fence. They would come over to the fence to get some grass to eat then retreat to the top of the hill. After laying in the grass for a few minutes they would lumber back down the hill to get more grass. The sheer size of the Bison didn't intimidate David who tried to slip his hand through the fence. The Bison were just a couple inches from us and I kept thinking about how thunderous the ground must of shaken when they were able to roam free in the early years of our nation.

The walking was taking its toll on Rich so I got some water from the hospitality tent. The coordinator came to check on Rich a few minutes later and this gave us the chance to hear some of the future plans. They are hoping to advertise better next year and hope to open up the center more then just the 2 days each year.

David and his horse friend
Our last stop was at the clouded leopard cubs. Here we had to stand in line for a few minutes, but they were well worth the wait. These two little cubs rolled, tumbled and chewed at each other in play.

We saw lots of different animals in between, but these were the highlights—except for David who had to be pulled from the horse. As David was talking to the horse he sneezed on David—gross! But, for David it was cool.

Monday, October 5, 2009

School Daze

Well, I spoke too soon on my last blog post. The school situation lasted exactly 2 days—yes 2 days. The school that was to work perfectly for David turned out to not be so perfect after all. The problem is David has some rough edges, but is not a tough kid. In fact he is very immature for his age. So when he got to a school that held 18-year-olds that have spent most of their lives fending for themselves, we all began to worry about his safety. The school recognized this the first day so they made some changes on the second day and found they could not give him the safe environment that he would need. So we were back to Square One.

We were then set up to check out another school setting within the district. On first look we had some major concerns, but during and after the meeting we knew this was not the setting that David would succeed in. Some of my concerns dealt with issues that I could not use to keep David from attending this school. One of those issues was the very liberal bent of the teachers. Since it is a small school they don’t have P.E. every day, but one of the days they did have it they picked up trash at the park and when they got back to school they sorted through it to create “art” work about how we are destroying the earth. This is not what I would consider Physical Education. The teacher whose class David would be in didn’t seem thrilled at the prospect of David being there. This, again, I could not use as a reason to keep him from attending there. So at 4:00 am I was on the Virginia Department of Education website to research a way to keep David from attending.

Our front door
The first line of defense was a safety issue. The school is on Main Street and just a few feet from a road that has traffic speeding by all day. The school is set in an old home that is need of repair—the railings on the front porch can’t be leaned on because they are so loose. There is about a five-foot drop from the porch.

My second reason was the educational aspect of the school. No true Physical Education course means no diploma. Also the school hours were 9:00 to 3:00, however due to busing issues the students are picked up between 1:30 and 2:00 which is shorter than the hours required by the Virginia Department of Education. This school also takes one extra Teacher Work Day a month, which means the students are not able to attend the amount of days required by the state.

When I mentioned all these issues with the head of special education it became obvious that something very individualized would need to be done for David. So the request for a one-on-one behavioral specialist that was denied originally—“that is not an option”—would now be requested by the school. David would get a one-on-one and return back into the original high school he began the school year at!

But, as you can imagine this process has taken quite a bit of time and wrangling. So, for the last three weeks David has been attending the second of the three schools after school hours for two hours a day. That meant I was chauffeuring him back and forth each day and he was home for the majority of the day. We have also been in meetings almost daily with a variety of county workers.

Milkman doorbell (outside of door)
This morning we were up bright and early to have another meeting before school began. This meeting was attended by his new one-on-one and David’s school schedule was adjusted to give him a truly individualized school plan. He will attend History in a classroom setting. He will then have P.E. every day (to meet those VA Dept. of Ed. requirements) with a small class. He will have a Life Skills class (they are teaching budgeting right now) and for his math class he will work with a computer teacher and his one-on-one and will be taught on the computer. David works well on the computer and finds it much more quick-paced and enjoys the challange. We have even worked out him joining a club or two during the half hour he gets to school before classes begin (flex time).

We are very happy that we were able to work out all these issues and finally get David back to school. David was more than ready to go back to school and likes his one-on-one.

Milkman doorbell (inside of door)
During all this we had a bit of a health scare for David when I found a lump in his left breast. Since we don’t know a lot of his birth parents’ medical history we were a bit concerned. We had him checked out and though we must watch for any changes we are told it’s not uncommon at his age to develop this.

I promised to show you our new home and haven’t forgotten, I just haven’t gotten any work done lately with David home and all the meetings and paperwork we have done. But I thought I would share a glimpse of our “milkman’s doorbell” from our side porch. It has the sound of an old-fashioned bike bell. Also our front door has so much character that I just love it. We have decorated our front porch with pumpkins and garlands of fall leaves. We even had someone stop in the street in front of our house the other day to get a good look at it.

We have not found a church yet, though we have visited a couple. But we are not in any hurry to commit to one church. We are checking out the options and waiting to see where God would have us to become a part of.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

My Head In The Clouds

My boys
I always forget how time consuming it is to get David the services he needs in school. There have been 12 days of school and I have been at the school 14 times. Now this doesn’t even include enrolling him and the back-to-school night, just the school getting to know David’s issues. Even though each school system is supposed to take the IEP from the previous district and implement it until they can evaluate and write a new one, I have found that the new district tends to throw out all services and then works them back into place. Which has been the reason for my many visits. I found it very interesting that the director of special education for the county came to our first meeting. He is a pleasant man and I feel he does have a heart for kids that are in danger of slipping through the cracks. He has started a new program and David will be one of 20 students that are intelligent but, due to circumstances, are likely to not graduate.

I am still working on boxes in between my school visits, but have a long way to go. I still have not found the sheets for our bed. We are using the sheets we used before our last redecorating of the room. So we have green and rose sheets in a blue and burgundy room. Not pretty, but it works.

I am also having to replace our window treatments since our old windows were wide and squat. Our new home has tall and thin windows so none of our curtains work.

We took Labor Day off and spent the day visiting a few of the vineyards that lie minutes from our home. But, yesterday was truly a family fun day. The local airport held its 2nd annual Balloon and Air Show Extravangana.
Our home
We were up and out early in order so we wouldn’t miss any of the day. When we got there we headed to check out the airplane rides. We quickly walked away when we saw the price—$95.00 per person for a 15-minute ride. But, as we were leaving the area a couple of airplane pilots drove over and asked the reason for not taking the ride. We explained that it was way out of our price range. So we were offered a ride in their Piper Cub for $30.00 for 25 minutes. That sounded much better and since David hadn’t ridden in a plane since he was small we jumped at the chance. That is until David chickened out, so I took the ride myself.

I got some great pictures of our home, David’s school, the local little league park and the town from the air. As soon as the plane took off David had a change of heart. So when we got back it was back in the air for me again. The pilot was great and very in-tune with what we wanted. He flew us over our home and on my first ride we did some G-force producing turns and flew sideways. However, when David was on board it was a few dips and that was good enough for David. The pilot even offered for David to take the controls, but David was a bit too nervous for that. Later in the day David realized what a chance he had missed. But now the flying bug has hit him and he wants flying lessons with the pilot (who is also an instructor).

Wing walker hanging from the wing
A bit later in the day we saw the Flying Circus and were amazed by their skill and daring. They could catch balloons that had been let go below as they flew past them. The formations were done with such ease and skill that you could be fooled into thinking it would be easy to do. But, the most amazing part of their show was the wing walker. We watched as he got out of the plane and walked on the wing, sat on the wing, dangled upside down from the wing and then climbed to the top wing and after getting strapped into place the plane flew upside down and loops. David turned to us and said “You would never let me do that.” Rich responded with “I bet his mother never gave him permission to do it either.”

We had a wonderful day, but were all exhausted by the time we dragged ourselves home. We were one of the first ones there and stayed most of the day. The only other activity left was another balloon launch, but the skies looked like it could rain so we called it a day.

We have several other great events that take place in town within the next month. I love that we live within 10 minutes of some great events and places. I will have to schedule carefully so we don’t miss any.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Exploring Town

All our possessions are moved and many boxes are unpacked and the items put away. David is enrolled in high school and has begun attending his new school. Rich has gone back to work and life is beginning to get back to some sense of order. Of course, I still haven’t found some of our everyday possessions, so we are eating off our good china.

Our new favorite butcher shop
With all the changes I have been able to discover some gems around town. I saw a little locally owned butcher shop and had to laugh at the name, “Two Fat Butchers.” The name got my interest, but the price, quality, and selection got my business. David was with me for my first visit and he was fascinated by watching the butcher hack up a turkey. He had lots of questions and the butcher patiently answered them all. I spent less than I would have at the grocery store and got better quality. We are eating well.

David watches the turkey’s demise
We also live close enough to a local Mexican restaurant that we are able to walk to. When the subject turns to restaurants the first one named by everyone is Jalisco and we found this out one of our first mornings in our new home. Between 10:30 and 11:00 am we can smell the wonderful aroma wafting up the hill to our home. Every Thursday their entire lunch menu is on sale for $4.99 and with the amount of food they give you it’s enough for 2 to 3 meals. So the last two weeks I didn’t have to make dinner on Thursday night.
My first lunch at Jalisco
I also took David on a walk to the park and found a garden center that has a fruit and vegetable store. We have had some wonderful corn and potatoes. As you can tell we are not spending a lot at the grocery store.

When I can find the walls behind all the boxes I will give you a tour of our new home.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Thunderstorms of Blessings

Throughout the spring and summer we have felt like we were driving in a blinding, windy thunderstorm. The kind where you slow your car down because you can’t see past a few feet in front of you and the wind tosses the car from side to side.

This week we are in another thunderstorm, only this one appears to be a lovely sunny, summertime storm. The kind where you can still see the sun shining through the clouds and it just makes you want to dance in the rain.

Since we are moving to a home with brand new appliances we will no longer need our washer and dryer (which are several years old). I don’t like to waste and storing them wlll only deteriorate them until they can’t be used by anyone. So we asked our current landlord if the new tenants would need them and were told, “no, they have their own.” So I gave Rich the number to call a used appliance store to see about selling them for a few dollars and getting them to pick them up. He received no answer. We then talked about the homeless shelter and wondered if they could use them as a donation. They were very interested and will send a truck out for them this week. I love that win-win!

Later in the evening I went to reserve the truck we will need for Saturday and found that it was half the price for us to rent it than it would have been last month. It’s the same size truck and from the same company but since it is the middle of the month and they are running a promotion we are getting a great deal.

Rich’s parents also talked to a pastor in the town we are moving to and they are going to arrange for men at the church to be at our new home and help unload the truck. This allows us to ask our friends here to just help us load the truck.

We are also having one last meal here tomorrow night with our kids.

Also, thank you all for your continued prayers.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Trust and Obey

Last night one of the evening hymns was “Trust and Obey.” Listening to the words of this hymn brought tears to my eyes as I thought over the last several months of our lives. It has truly been a journey of trusting and leaning on God. Sometimes it was a hit and miss on whether we were obeying since we were sometimes unsure of the direction God wanted us to go.

As of my last post we were looking to make a cute little cottage our new home. God had other plans. The owners’ neice decided she wanted it, so we had to continue looking. We found a beautiful, secluded bungalow. We waited as three siblings decided which offer they would take. Two and a half weeks later we found it wasn’t us. We then found and even more beautiful home in the mountains, but after being on the market for 6 days there were five other applications ahead of us, so we lost another home. Remember, we live three hours away from where we will be living, so the almost weekly trips to find homes has been taking its toll. When we decided to still put a bid in on the mountain home (the one with five other bids already pending), we looked at other homes. Just that morning (last Friday) a 1940 farmhouse had been put on the market. No sign was even up in the yard. The house had just been renovated and had a dishwasher!!

We had planned to purchase a home, but because there was less than two weeks before we must be out, we went for a lease and applied for the mountain home and the farmhouse. Both homes were hoping to sell after the lease is up so that was a plus for us.

Our next step was to commit to God that whichever house was offered, if any, we would accept. Both houses are beautiful and each had their own advantages (and dishwashers). We didn’t expect an answer until today or tomorrow, but our agony ended on Saturday night.

Home, Sweet Home
Our new home is the 1940 farmhouse. It has the original wood floors and the house retains the original charm, but the bathrooms have just been redone—with a master bathroom soaking tub and the kitchen has just been renovated with all new cabinets and apliances—did I mention there’s a dishwasher?

We will sign the papers on Thursday morning and move on Saturday. That gives us a few days in case we have a bit more to do in our current home.

During this time I woke up one morning feeling ready to dive into packing. David had been waking up before 6am each morning and he was sleeping well. But within an hour I was having some severe back pains. At one point I thought I would pass out and knew it was time to tell Rich to wake up David and take me to the doctor’s. As the pain moved from high in my back to lower in my front I thought it sounded like a kidney stone. I had never had one, but, yep, that was it.

After major pain killers I was sent to the hospital for more tests. It finally passed that night but I remained loopy the rest of the day. For the next several days nothing got done as I was exhausted. A week later the doctor had me come in for more tests and found that my iron level was half what it should be—no wonder I have felt drained by early afternoon. Some tests to find out the reason for low iron have resulted in no answers, so after the move I will need to have more tests done. But, they have ruled out some serious causes.

We have also had a harder time with David due to all the unexpected change of daily plans. When he began to think of a house as our new home we would have to tell him we weren’t sure and this would upset him. He doesn’t do well with change and was trying to wrap his mind around the changes. We also wanted to get into a house in enough time so his summer wasn’t totally wasted. School starts a week and a half after our move.

Rich’s parents came to visit yesterday and were very thoughtful and understanding about the upheaval in our home right now. They just took us out to lunch and decided not to spend the night.

This has also been a time when new friendships have been forged and, unfortunely, some other friendships have been severed. It’s times like these when you find out who your real friends are.

It had been a real time of testing. As we have gone through these trials I think of Job and realize how blessed we truly are. This has been a time when David has seen us rely on God’s timing and provision. Even last night when he fell off his bike and gashed the same knee he messed up in March he asked me “what is God trying to teach me?”

So thank you for all your prayers and please continue to remember us over the next week. There is much to do and little time, but we are excited about the changes.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

God's Laughing

I have often heard the saying “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.” Well, two weeks ago I told of my plans to get so much done before David got out of school for the summer and God began laughing before the day was out.

First, on Monday two weeks ago as I was speeding through to get some heavy duty packing done I got a call from the school. David was acting up and I needed to pick him up from school—he was suspended for the remainder of that day and the next three days. I could just hear light laughter.

Then, at ten o’clock that same day our nephew called. He announced his engagement to a wonderful girl in late March. The wedding was held the end of May. We had not been able to attend since it was in Manilla, the Philippines. So they had just gotten back in the states that day and would like to visit on their way to New Jersey.

Sure, when would they be going through? Tuesday night and they would be here in time for dinner—the next night. So the meal I had planned and purchased food for would not be enough to serve two extra people and the guest sheets were all packed up. Tuesday began with a revised meal list and a trip to the store. When I got home I washed David’s sheets and had to scrounge for a top sheet since David never liked having one—it was packed also. David has a habit of using pillow cases for toy bags and there never seems to be any on his pillows. So I had to strip our pillows of their pillow cases and wash the whole lot. Then I fixed the meal and waited and waited.

At 6 pm I called their cell and found they would be another two hours at least. They had gotten a late start and gotten lost. So we ate and I sent David to bed in our room on his old mattress with mismatched coverings. Our guests arrived a little after 8:30 and after eating and opening our wedding gifts to them it was almost bed time. This was the first time we had met the bride and we are so glad our nephew has chosen a wonderful bride.

Wednesday we were up bright and early. We waited on our guests to rise...and waited...and waited. Finally our nephew was up and went for a walk while I began making breakfast. I’m not sure if we had breakfast or brunch since it was after 10 when everyone was up and ready to eat. Shortly after breakfast the happy couple had to leave for New Jersey and I began the kitchen clean up. I was right on time to fix lunch and begin dinner for our Wednesday night kids.

I could just hear God’s laughter as we made plans to go into work with Rich the next day and then Friday was filled with calling doctors and hospitals about why they were billing us and not the insurance company for David’s bike accident. They claim they hadn’t received our insurance information. We had given it all to them at the emergency room and they had never passed it along to the doctor’s billing agency.

Somewhere along the way I had a birthday. One of our good friends, Peg, made me bananna pudding and we went to see the matinee of Night at the Museum 2 – Battle of the Smithsonian. It was a wonderful movie and I think I enjoyed it even more than the first movie. Of course, we have seen the sights from the movie first hand and it was fun to see how they incorporated the Washington, DC, Smithsonians into the movie.

That weekend David developed a bad rash on his back—a heat rash and all last week we had to keep him in and bathed in cold water to get rid of it. David does not like to stay inside so this was a constant battle to watch over him.

So for two weeks very little packing has been done. We have also not received our approval and the cottage is still not on the market. I have left messages for the lady handling our approval and she has not been in. So we are at a stand-still and waiting on God.

This week I have been able to work on packing and our kids are out of town so I won’t have to cook for them. Rich has been very busy with work and even though he doesn’t work on Sundays, he had to this past Sunday morning.

I know that David is feeling as if he wants to just get over this whole moving business and on to our new home. He talks about it constantly and the last two weeks he has not gone to sleep until hours after his bedtime.

When he asks us about the move and when it will finally happen we just tell him we don’t know, but God does. It’s all in His hands and we are doing what we can to be prepared—packing, calling about the approval, and keeping in touch with the real estate agent. But, we are not in control and this is a good lesson for David to see lived out.

I can still hear the faint sound of God’s laughter.

I am encouraged by all of you who are sending prayers and thoughts our way. Please pray that we can be an example to David by trusting in God.

P.S. I had a little chuckle myself just now. As I was saving this post, the internet went out on my computer. Luckily, I had saved it just a few minutes before so not much had to be rewritten.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Unwelcomed Guest

We have been very busy getting ready for our move, which is the reason I have not been blogging. I have gotten questions about the move and will try to give the information now.

We have not found a house yet, but we should see a home that we think will work this week since it is not due on the market for a few more days. It is a cottage that seems to fit our needs and the agent thinks is perfect for us. She will call us a few days before it goes on the market so we get first crack at it. Unfortunately, it is about 3 hours away from where we live now, so we will have to change our church home. We will miss our "kids" so much, but have been blessed that some have stayed here over the summer and we are still able to see them until our move. It is also a good time to change schools since David will have to move to high school anyway.

I have been working hard at trying to get the basement packed and everything brought upstairs before David’s summer vacation from school begins. Today is his last full day of school and then he has three half days before he is a high schooler. I don’t want his whole summer about packing and unpacking.

So last night I went downstairs to do a little more work after David went to bed. As I walked down the hall I thought David was playing a trick on me. There was a long black snake lying on the floor and it was so still I knew it had to be a toy. I still wasn’t sure since at one time he had a snake that looked like it but David couldn’t find it for years.

When I got a photography background to bring back up I saw the “toy’s” head and upper body crawling up the wall. This was NOT a toy. The stairs were on the opposite side of the snake and I didn’t want to yell for Rich since I knew David wasn’t yet asleep. So I got something to place between me and the snake and s-l-o-w-l-y made my way past him.

I got upstairs and told Rich I needed his help—that there was a snake in the basement. I think I sounded calmer then I felt since he asked me “a snake?”

My brave husband took a shovel and I grabbed a box so we could try to get the snake out of the house without killing it—my husband’s idea, since my attitude is that the snake had invaded my territory so he deserved to die. I know they always say never kill a black snake because they’re “good snakes.” Is there such as good think as a good snake? Yes, I know they kill rodents but since Roger, our pet rabbit, is a rodent I wasn’t going to let the snake stay. I also didn’t want to reach into a box and get bit.

I grabbed a camera and took a picture before we tried the box trick—it didn’t work. Then we did the shovel trick, you know the one where you whack him into as many pieces as it takes to kill him. That trick worked, of course that way did create a fair amount of blood. We left the snake on the basement floor until this morning so that David could see it. We were very lucky that David fell asleep during the killing of the intruder.

I checked online to see what we could do to prevent any more of his family visiting our home and found that moth balls drive them away, which I can understand. So in order to protect Roger I have placed moth balls at the bottom of the basement steps, at the top and outside all the doors. I am very glad so much of the work downstairs has already been done, since I will be on the lookout for more unwelcome guests.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

D-Day Remembrance

Today marks the 65th anniversary of Operation Overlord or what is commonly known as D-Day. The planning of this massive operation included military from the allied forces and the landing included over 5,000 ships, 11,000 airplanes, and over 150,000 service men. By the end of the operation, the Allied Forces had suffered nearly 10,000 casualties; more than 4,000 were dead.

These numbers are mind boggling and can easily become just numbers if we aren’t careful. We are very fortunate that we live very close to the National D-Day Memorial and our visits there have brought home the true meaning of the cost involved.

The memorial has been built to give you a sense of what it was like to be on one of the beaches. There are sculptures of the men as they fought and died trying to manuever across the beach and up the cliffs in order to fight the enemy. Expecting an attack on the beaches, the Germans had built hedgehogs—structures whose sole purpose was to rip apart the bottom of boats if they attempted to reach the beach. The allies were aware of their presence due to the air recons they had been doing. So they were able to avoid these traps by arriving when the water was at low tide.

The memorial is a beautiful tribute to all those who fought for the freedom of others. It is also a reminder that as a nation we have a proud tradition of fighting for the rights of others. But I think it is also important to remember that we were not the sole defenders of this fight.

I thank all those men and women around the world who fought off evil so that we can remain free.

Monday, May 25, 2009

More Amazing Pictures

Since I didn't get any of the birthday boy’s pictures up yesterday I am going to treat you to double the pictures today. It is funny because David doesn’t take a lot of pictures. When we have gone places and spent the entire day, Rich and I will take hundreds of pictures and David will only get about ten. But as you can see—his ten are beautiful.

When we went to Joe and Abigail’s wedding last year David took more then his usual number of pictures. He was waiting for “The Kiss,” and once that happened and he had taken the picture, that was the last picture he took for the day. But we arrived at the church early and David was able to get this beautiful picture of the church empty. He went up to the balcony to take this picture and the lighting is wonderful.

Shortly before the beginning of the ceremony he was made to sit in the pew and he leaned over the side of the pew to get this picture of the votive candle that lined the aisle.

The next two pictures were taken on his eighth grade field trip. Following the official tours we were given free time and of course his desire was to see the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. The first is one of my favorite pictures he has taken.

David loves architecture. When he was in first grade he told us he wanted to be an architect until he found out they aren’t the ones that bulldozed the old buildings before they built their vision. In some of his pictures you can see his love of the buildings and their details. This was also taken on his field trip to Washington. Can you guess what building this is?

It’s Arlington House that stands proudly behind the Tomb of the Unknowns. These last three are all from Mount Vernon. You have to admit if I hadn’t told you, you would never have known. You can just see the top of an outer building in the bottom of the first one.

This ornamentation was on a wall in the garden.

This last picture shows different point of view. While visitors are not allowed to photograph the inside of Mount Vernon’s mansion, they are allowed to photograph inside the out buildings. The tour begins inside the kitchen and David is probably the only person who has ever photographed this view at Mount Vernon. Can you guess what it is?

It’s the view looking up from the inside of the fireplace! He stood inside the huge fireplace as the guide explained the rules and gave us a brief history of the building. Rich and I were on the other side of the room (since we are not big fans of standing in fireplaces) and I had to giggle when I saw the flash of light.

When David opened his portfolio that contained these and a few more of his pictures he loved it. It made him realize that his work is good and will let him show it off to others.