SAL-VA-TION: by grace

E-LEV-EN: children from 1984 to 2006

HOME-SCHOOL-ING: since 1990

DOWN-SYN-DROME: susie and gabe

GRAND-CHILD-REN: since 2010

FAITH-FUL-NESS: my steadfast rock, my biggest supporter, my leader, my friend, my love, my husband

Monday, March 31, 2008

Awesome Teen!

On Saturday night Dana (17) hosted a March Madness Mystery Dinner for a group of ten. However, this wasn’t a dinner for her friends. It was for the parents of her friends! She began planning a month ago, made invitations that looked like basketballs, planned the meal (Mexican theme), created menus, double checked the RSVPs, planned after dinner games, cooked the food, greeted and seated the guests, and served the four course meal. (Her sister and friends pitched in with some cooking and serving, but it was definitely Dana’s effort that made it all come together.)

I did NOTHING to help. I spent the morning shopping and wrapping a shower gift and spent the afternoon attending the shower and shopping a little more. Dana even took care of Lisa while I was gone!

At 5:30 PM the parents of Dana, Mark, Rachel, Jordan, and Stephanie assembled at our house all decked out in their favorite NCAA apparel. We came together as a rather dissociated band—in various combinations we represented three different churches, three couples who had sat through basketball tournaments together with younger boys, three couples who had been in a homeschool group together, and three men who work together. The only thing that all of us had in common was the friendships of our children. We talked, got to know one another, ate (taco salad, empanadas, corn fritters, layered tortilla casserole, and cheesecake--mmmm), laughed at each other (the ‘mystery’ part of the dinner means you don’t know in what order your courses will arrive or when you’ll get your utensils—Linda’s fourth course was three forks and a knife, you can just imagine the other three), and we even got caught up in Steve’s aeronautical excitement and all stood in our driveway in the cold at 8:30 PM to watch the space station fly overhead.

One mom told Dana that her husband hates new situations, avoids all social situations, and fears interaction in groups. She was stunned that he agreed to come to the dinner, but was in utter amazement that he joined in the fun of the dinner, conversed, and stood up in front of the group when it was his turn playing “25 Words or Less”. Better yet, the next morning he joined his wife and daughter (both relatively new Christians) at church for the first time.

Using her favorite word, my Dana is amAzing!!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Spring Break--Broken or Refreshed?

Two weeks and over three thousand miles later I'm asking myself that question. Broken or refreshed? Physically, I'm feeling drained, exhausted, and rather broken. Spiritually, I'm definitely refreshed.

We left at 7 PM on a Thursday for a 14 hour drive to Coldwater, MS where we spent three days with long time friends the Hairstons. We took a walking tour of Memphis, talked, drank sweet tea, talked some more, attended "Mark Webb's church" (not really his church of course) in Olive Branch, MS, and stayed up into the wee hours of the night talking more.

In Memphis with the Hairstons

Had to get a picture with Elvis for Aunt Susie!

Two days, three business stops, a vomiting child, a motel night, a swing through New Orleans, an evening meal at a gulf side seafood place, and two fever ridden children later we were in Elmendorf, TX with Uncle Kyle's family for their spring conference.

Louisiana Crayfish!

At Community Baptist Church in Elmendorf we were treated to our own double wide mobile home guest accommodations and felt special. (Although, if you had a guest house available and a family was coming with seven children, what would you want to do with them?) We enjoyed three full days of warm, sunny weather, (well, most of us did, someone had to shop for groceries, fix suppers, and get a week's worth of laundry done!) daily services packed with times of singing, worship, prayer, fellowship, kindness, exhortation, encouragement, and having our hearts directed (both by the preaching and living examples) to loving Christ and others more than ourselves. These people were gracious and selfless and we left with a desire to imitate them.

A group photo of the pastors in attendance, including the seven who preached

We left after the Saturday morning service for our Oklahoma destination. Traveling through south central Texas we watched our van's odometer trip the 200, 000 mile mark. (Yes, the speed limit was 75.)

There was much whooping and hollering until we learned that our alternator only had a 200,000 mile life. Actually, it made it a few hundred miles more and, by the grace of God, konked out a mere 15 miles from the home of our host Keith Brown (who just HAPPENS to be an awesome auto mechanic who just HAPPENED to have the exact alternator we needed for our van in his garage......No, we don't believe it just happened, our God was good to us!) Our 36 hour stay over Easter Sunday in OKC was packed with fellowship as the many friends from Sherwood Baptist provided meals and conversation in their fellowship hall. The children played, the adults yelled over the playing, we all tried to get bites of food in here and there and everyone left wishing the time hadn't gone by so quickly!

On to a business stop in Tulsa, a night and more business in Kansas City, and a 7 PM arrival at Joey and Jamie's in their new townhouse in Burnsville, MN. How could we NOT sit and talk and talk until midnight, even if they ARE coming over here next week. Another example of open arms and open hearts, even if we are family (who are sometimes the hardest ones to take in!).

We finally rolled into our driveway at noon on Wednesday, unpacked, got a fire going in the wood burner, started laundry, made supper, and very wearily headed off to Northwoods Baptist for our mid week prayer service. Keith asked me if something was wrong on the way into the building and I could only answer, "I just feel spent." No, I didn't want to be going anywhere, not even to the church service. But, God had a surprise for me (which shouldn't have surprised me at all, but I just don't seem to learn) and blessed my spirit and refreshed my soul with Pastor Rick's devotional from Matthew 6 warning about false prophets. I was encouraged to stand strong in the faith, to seek after truth, and not buckle under the weight of the world or the easy teachings of false communicators.

I'm physically spent, but spritually refreshed, which leaves me in a much better place than I was two weeks ago!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Creative Cooking

The ACF (American Culinary Federation) sponsored a trade show and chef competition in Milwaukee yesterday. Ellen and three of her culinary classmates entered the entree competition and ended up taking all top three cash award places. Ellen scored 49 out of 50 to take gold and first place with this creative dish. The judges interacted with the contestants during the judging and gave them advice. Ellen was told, "Don't change a thing," "I love your plate," and "I think yours is the best one here." When she pressed one judge with, "Isn't there anything you would suggest?" he told her, "Turn you plate clockwise 45 degrees so the meat is at 6 o'clock [as pictured]." Minus one point for the 3 o'clock meat!

Way to go Chef Ellen!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Just keep looking

Lisa just had a question for me:

"Mama, where are the rooster eggs?"

Bee Finalist!

Shane just received a letter informing him that he is a finalist in the State Geography Bee (sponsored by National Geographic). He will be competing on Friday, April 4, following in the footsteps of Joey (state finalist in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade, placing 4th and 2nd the last two years), Chet (8th grade finalist), and Troy (7th grade finalist).

Note: We celebrate in memory of my dear friend, Paula Gessler (1961-2002), who first dragged us into the bee in 1996 so her kids wouldn't have to study alone. They HATED it, never did compete, and are now accomplished in their own fields, a real testiment to her continual encouragement and support of home education and dream following. Thanks to her, my children have been able to pursue a few dreams of their own.

Word Count

Yesterday was "one of those days". It reminded me of a conversation we had here some time ago.

One of my boys gloated that, “Research has proven that women use almost twice as many words as men on a daily basis.”

“Of course we do”, I said, “because our conversations are primarily with men and children and we have to repeat everything we say.”

Did I mention that yesterday was "one of those days".....???

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Rules are Rules

We had BLTs for supper tonight and Owen tried to sneak one past his Pa by violating Rule #38. After finishing a desired number of sandwiches he took a lone piece of bacon. Taking food that is designed to be partnered is strictly forbidden and Owen knew it. He sat looking forlornly at the solitary bacon on his plate, knowing that, as full as he was, he couldn't violate Rule #25 either--"you touch it, you eat it."

Suddenly, an idea dawned on him, "Hey Dad, can I eat the bacon with a pickle?" His ingenuity won the day, and Dad was left laughing. However, that still didn't solve the problem of what to do with a leftover LT.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Company for Supper

As we drove out of the church parking lot last night Keith suddenly asked me, “Do you want to invite the Mathews over for supper?” All of the older children were heading over to David’s (a young single guy in the church) for the evening and Keith thought we adults could enjoy playing a game while our younger ones played together. Sounded simple enough.

We did a U turn in our 15 passenger van on the city street, nearly taking out a pedestrian and a light pole, and neared the church building in time to see Marty and Kelly pulling out of the lot. We followed their van honking and flashing our lights. If Keith was a serious driver at all times this would have alerted them that something unusual was afoot. However, his playful side is too often revealed behind the wheel and the van in front of us simply joined in the fun by flashing lights and braking randomly. We figured we could catch them on the 45 mph 2-lane highway leading out of town. As we tried to pull up alongside them they sped up, no doubt thinking that a mock drag race was on. We finally succeeded in overtaking them, got both windows rolled down, and while we flew down the road I screamed, “YOU WANNA COME OVER?” They began to conference the decision and knowing our time was running out (we had to turn) I added, “WE’RE STOPPING AT THE BANK! MEET US AT THE HOUSE IF YOU WANT!” and we turned back to town.

Fifteen minutes later we pulled into our driveway to see they’d accepted our offer. Apparently, the young people all had their cell phones in high gear altering their plans and decided to move their gathering to our house as well. We ended up with us 4 old folks (the parents), 8 young adults/college students, 8 high school students, and 9 early and preteens. A quiet game night turned into a group of 29 and we had a ball. I served our usual Sunday night meal of popcorn, added carrots and cookies, and everyone went home hungry. It’s obvious they don’t come for the food, but I’m delighted they all just want to come!


Child #7, only the 3rd in braces. Thankfully, I have the weaker genes for teeth! Shane, you look great!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Summer Vacation/Family Camp

Looking for an affordable family destination where you can relax, fellowship with other Christians, worship God through singing and evening preaching services, hike, swim, canoe, kayak, play tennis-basketball-volleyball, participate in or just enjoy a “talent” show, and spend a week connecting with friends-family-spouse in a beautiful forested region with the greatest concentration of lakes in the world?

Northwoods Baptist Church Camp will be held the week of August 25th in Eagle River, WI. The cost of $35 per week per person (age 4 and over) or a maximum of $250 per family for the week is to cover the food. Families, couples, and singles are welcome.

My children are counting down the days (173)! Join us!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Weren't We JUST There?

Keith and I are planning an upcoming trip that we’re taking in a few weeks. As our family grows up and moves on we naturally have reduced numbers on our vacations and the oldest child going on this trip is seventeen. We talked about revisiting Mud Island in Memphis but our friends, the Hairstons, from that area informed us that, unfortunately, it isn’t open this time of year.

“That’s OK,” Keith said, “The children all remember it anyway.”

“Really?” I replied, “We were there in 1988 with Joey, Keith, and Ellen who were 3, 2, and 7 months! Which ones do you think remember it?”

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Happy Birthhour?

We celebrate some strange "holidays" in our house. One of our favorites is the "I Lost My 20th Baby Tooth" holiday which is celebrated by eating banana splits--and it's the only time we ever make banana splits. But when Shane pointed out that I will be 400,000 hours old at 6:52 AM on Sunday, March 2 I wasn't so sure I felt like celebrating. It just sounds like something I should be grieving.