Monday, May 31, 2010

Remembering...

Last year on Memorial Day we invited our Bible study friends over for a cookout in our backyard. We had asked Bill and Kay Conner to bring the video of their son's burial at Arlington. Brad Conner was a Green Beret and had been killed in action in Iraq in 2007. Bill and Kay were happy to do that, and it was a very meaningful way to commemorate Memorial Day.

We had no idea at the time that sweet Kay had a fatal brain tumor and would be joining her son in Heaven before the year was over. Bill stopped by just a few days ago to visit. He said it's been an adjustment to a whole new lifestyle without her.

This Memorial Day I am reminded that our days are numbered, and our time with loved ones is precious. I want to live in the moment and be grateful for dear friends and family that God has given us to share our lives with.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Fun Comments

Here's my absolute favorite thing about blogging: the neat people you "meet!" On Friday, I just dashed off some quick answers to the questions Mama M @ My Little Life had posted for Five Question Friday. I had two people comment on that post (which isn't a lot, but at least I know someone is reading my ramblin's!)... and they were both so interesting. I love that, don't you?

First, I heard from Shelby @ Sweet view from the Hills. She said, "Wow...stopped by from 5QF and you were right after me. I can't believe you have an RV on your header! We travel and HS for my hubby's job. Small world! I love to see other RV'ers (if if it isn't full time!) And...just noticed that you are Sonlighters!!! So cool! We are too!" 

My family and I think it would be a lot of fun to be fulltime RVers, but somehow it doesn't seem to fit in with Lyle's job. However, as a curriculum consultant for Sonlight I do have the opportunity to travel to various homeschool conventions each spring. Our travel-trailer sure comes in handy then! The whole family usually goes with me to assist in driving, loading/unloading, and setting up/tearing down the booth, and we enjoy our evenings as a family hanging out in our trailer. When convention season is over (the end of June this year) we enjoy going camping in the nearby National Forests as often as we can on the weekend.

I love to read about other families who have the opportunity to be on the road for extended periods of time, so I look forward to following Shelby's blog. I'm glad she "found" me!

Another comment on Friday's post was from SAHMinIL @ Catholic Christian Homeschooling who said, "I remember those McD playgrounds. Our McD had one too. I remember Officer Big Mac-(it was a climb in jail). Although with ours you could not climb up to his hat. I also remember Grimace. (The big purple-hairy-thing).

The Grimace on the playground was basically a huge cage thing. It had 2 openings, door ways (on on each side of Grimace). We would climb in and hold on to the metal bars that made his torso and just shake and rock the whole thing.

However as the years went on Grimace no longer "shakable" the way he was before. I don't think it was because he was broken, I think they had to modify him so that he didn't shake like we did.

We also had a slide, but I want to say it featured Birdie the early bird and not the Hamburglar and Captain Crook. hmm? Then again this was the 80's so who knows."


I followed the links she provided, and yes! Officer Big Mac was exactly the climb-in hamburger I remembered! Maybe my siblings can correct me if I'm wrong, but I think I remember being able to climb on up into his hat and peek out and wave at Mom and Dad. I don't think we had a Grimace, shakable or not, or a slide. In fact, Officer Big Mac and the bouncy thingys are still the only things I remember. This would have been about 1975 so I may not remember correctly, or maybe they just hadn't come up with all the different things yet.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Five Question Friday

1. Is there something you've always wanted to try but just can't muster up the courage to actually do yet?

There are things I'd love to try (well, okay, places I'd love to visit) but it's more a matter of finances preventing me from doing it rather than courage. I enjoy a good adventure story but when it comes right down to it I'm not particularly courageous when it comes to "extreme" activities... and I'm okay with that.

2. If you had $100 handed to you in cash without your significant other knowing about it, what would you spend it on?

Groceries. Isn't that boring? Unfortunately, our budget is just that tight right now. But assuming the bills were paid and the pantry was well-stocked, I'd stash it away to start a vacation fund for the fall.

3. What was your favorite piece of playground equipment as a child?

When I was 8 or 9 we lived near a small zoo that had the best slide. It was designed to look like a rocket, and the slide part was a spiral. We thought that was so cool.

About that same time, McDonald's in our town built a playground. We'd never seen such a thing before. It was outdoors. No cool crawl tunnels or ball pits like they have now. Instead, there was a giant hamburger up on a pedestal. A ladder inside the pedestal allowed us to climb up inside the hamburger and look out the sides. As I recall, that's about all there was to it. Kinda like a small tree house. The only other "equipment" I remember at that playground were some of the other McDonald's characters as those silly bouncy thingys you sit on and bob up and down. We weren't very impressed with those... probably because we were too big for them.

4. Do you prefer a sweet or hearty breakfast?

Hearty. Or least savory. Buttered toast and coffee is okay. I can't stand doughnuts or anything super sweet early in the morning. I might enjoy a good sweet pastry with coffee later in the day, but not for breakfast.

5. Are you a Neat Freak or a Messy Bessy?

Something in between, I think. I have neat freak tendencies, and clutter does bug me, but somehow I can't manage to keep up... so my house is usually more messy than not. I have been on a decluttering kick lately, though, and I have to say, it feels really good! I'll have to show you pictures of my office when I finish organizing in here.


Monday, May 24, 2010

The Last Christian - review

The Last Christian by David Gregory is one of the most powerful fiction books I've read in awhile. The story is set in 2088, and the premise is that there are no Christians left in America. We've become a completely secular nation. (Doesn't sound all that unlikely, does it?) The main character is the 34-year-old daughter of missionaries who has lived all her life in a secluded tribe in a remote jungle. Circumstances take her to America where she is appalled at the lifestyles, and does her best to begin to share the gospel with those who have never heard. I found the story completely believable and riveting.

In one scene a college professor was lecturing to his class about the demise of Christianity in America. Here is part of his lecture that I found particularly compelling:

"All right. Let's get to the final cause of Christianity's demise in America. I label this one lack of distinctiveness. It may be a little hard for us to get our brains around this, because we don't think in these terms anymore; we don't expect people to be different based on a set of religious views, but stick with me.

From its outset the Christian religion claimed that the intervention of the deity in people's lives would change people for the better. They would have a different character. They would have different morals. They would think, speak, and behave differently. They called it Christlikeness-- 'Christ,' of course, being the title given to Jesus of Nazareth.

This alleged change in people wasn't caused just by the religious adherent's efforts to be good, although that was certainly emphasized as well. Rather, it was also brought about by the presence of something Christians called the Holy Spirit. This Holy Spirit was supposed to change a person's character so that others could see them living like Jesus.

This belief worked as long as the vast majority of people in society were professing Christians, because there was no one to compare Christians to. The crack in the foundation appeared when people began abandoning Christianity. When a large segment of society became openly nonreligious, an amazing thing happened--amazing to the religionists, anyway. People discovered that religionists and nonreligionists behaved similarly. Sexual behavior, divorce rates, self-reported levels of honesty--none of these varied significantly between religionists and nonreligionists.

In short, the supposed influence of the deity to change people wasn't real; it was all a psychological game. As people realized that, more of them concluded, 'Why should I adopt that belief system? It doesn't cause a real change in anyone.'

So this produced a cascade effect in which the younger generation--people born in the 1980s and after--looked at the older generation and didn't see a difference in their lives. As a result, they didn't follow in the footsteps of their parents' religion. What the religionists didn't know was that, as early as the first decade of this century, only a third of those growing up in Christian homes were, upon reaching adulthood, retaining the faith. And converts to the faith were declining as well.

The result for American Christianity was cataclysmic. The number of adherents to Christianity spiraled downward as most of each succeeding generation rejected it... Throughout the twenty-first century, Christians were trying to pass along their religion to generations who simply didn't buy it."

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Graduation Cupcakes

My daughter loves to make treats for the Thursday evening Bible study we host in our home. This spring one of the young men who attends graduated from high school. I had seen the idea for these cute graduation cap cupcakes, so I suggested to my daughter that she could make them one Thursday a few weeks ago, in honor of our friend.
She made chocolate cupcakes and frosted them with cream cheese frosting. Next is a small peanut-butter cup turned upside down, topped by a Ghiradelli square, also turned upside down. The buttons are mini M&Ms. It probably would have looked better if all the M&Ms had been brown, but they are actually color-coded to indicate the type of filling in the Ghiradelli square! Brown is dark chocolate, yellow is caramel, red is raspberry, and green is mint! (The bag of squares I got was assorted flavors.)

Needless to say, they were a big hit!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Five Question Friday

Today I'm participating in "Five Question Friday" hosted by Mama M @ My Little Life. Here are this week's questions...

1. Take your pick...date night, girls night out, or night out alone?

Definitely "date night!" My absolute favorite thing is hanging out with "my man!"

2. Can you touch your nose with your tongue?

Nope. Can't roll my tongue either. I have a very boring tongue!

3. What is your favorite flower and why?

I always hate trying to pick favorites, because it just always depends. Overall, I think I like tulips the best. The colors are so bright and vivid early in the spring. They don't last long which makes them seem more special. And I love looking at the satiny smooth texture and shape of them. They don't have much of a smell, but for just looking at, I like tulips.

For smell, I love lilacs! They're pretty to look at, too, just very different than tulips. See? I told you I can't pick favorites! The lilacs are blooming in my yard right now... I think I'll go break off a sprig to put on my desk to enjoy while I work today.

4. If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself?

"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." Proverbs 3:5-6

5. If you won the lottery, what is the very first thing you would do?

I don't play the lottery, but if I won a lot of money the first thing I would do is tithe. After that, I'd pay off bills. And those are very boring answers. So since we're dreaming let's just say I won enough money to pay off all the bills and still had a big chunk left to spend on anything I wanted. I'd travel for as long as the money lasted!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Duck and Cover!

The girls and I are finishing up our study of 20th Century World History (Sonlight's Core 300). We actually finished the main history book a couple of weeks ago, but we're reviewing what we've learned with a supplemental book about the presidents. Today we read about Eisenhower. One of the little side-bar articles talked about how school children were taught to "duck and cover" in the event of an atomic bomb. I remembered seeing this "educational" film at archive.org awhile back so I'll pulled it up for the girls to see.
We were amused and a little appalled at the notion that a tablecloth or coat or even a table or desk could protect a person from the effects of an atomic bomb! It's somewhat reassuring to have the hindsight view of knowing that the poor misinformed school children never had to actually put it to the test!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Homemade Pop

My family has been enjoying experimenting with making our own pop for the past few days. On Friday we received the SodaStream outfit I won at Reviews and Reflections. Just as Heidi said, it is super easy to use, and comes with a wide variety of flavors that we are working our way through.

Our first batch didn't turn out to be fizzy enough because we misunderstood the directions. It says to push the button several times until it buzzes, and that 3 buzzes is a normal carbonation level. We thought that meant to push the button 3 times. On the next batch we figured out how to do it "right" and were very impressed with the results! More than we expected to be, actually.

I like that the flavor syrups do not contain high fructose corn syrup or aspartame. The diet flavors are sweetened with Splenda (which is still not great, in my opionion), and then I noticed even the regular flavors have Splenda as an ingredient as well as sugar. I'm not sure why, except that it makes them lower calorie.

We want to experiment with making our own flavoring syrups. We also tried carbonating regular apple juice to make sparkling apple juice. That worked great! I know we're really going to enjoy this new gadget! Thanks again, Heidi!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Motherhood

On Mother's Day, for the past 17 years, I have quietly celebrated the privilege I have of being a mother. I don't need my family to honor me. They do, but it's completely unnecessary. Just getting to be a mother is enough of an honor for me!

I love this parable that one of my uncles shared at the funerals of both of my grandmothers. Grandmother Easley passed away in 1998 when my children were 2 and 5. MawMaw Ezell passed away last summer when my children were 13 and 16. Both times I so appreciated this illustration of motherhood, but from a completely different perspective each time. As my children are growing up, I'm discovering, much to my surprise, that motherhood does get better over the years. I could never have imagined that the teen years would be just as wonderful as the baby years!

A Parable of Motherhood
By Temple Bailey

The young mother set her foot on the path of life. "Is the way long?" she asked. And her guide said, "Yes, and the way is hard. And you will be old before you reach the end of it. But the end will be better than the beginning." But the young mother was happy and she would not believe that anything could be better than those years. So she played with her children and gathered flowers for them along the way and bathed them in the clear streams; and the sun shone on them and life was good, and the young mother cried, "Nothing will never be lovelier than this."

Then night came, and storm, and the path was dark and the children shook with fear and cold, and the mother drew them close and covered them with her mantle and the children said, "Oh Mother, we are not afraid, for you are near, and no harm can come," and the mother said, "This is better than the brightness of day, for I have taught my children courage."

And the morning came, and there was a hill ahead and the children climbed and grew weary, and the mother was weary, but at all times she said to the children, "A little patience and we are there." So the children climbed and when they reached the top, they said, "We could not have done it without you, Mother." And the mother, when she lay down that night, looked up at the stars and said, "This is a better day than the last, for my children have learned fortitude in the face of hardness. Yesterday I gave them courage, today I have given then strength."

And with the next day came strange clouds which darkened the earth, clouds of war and hate and evil--and the children groped and stumbled, and the mother said, "Look up. Lift your eyes to the light." And the children looked and saw above the clouds an Everlasting Glory, and it guided them and brought them beyond the darkness. And that night the mother said, "This is the best day of all for I have shown my children God."

And the days went on, and the weeks and the months and the years, and the mother grew old, and she was little and bent. And her children were tall and strong and walked with courage. And when the way was rough they lifted her, for she was as light as a feather; and at last they came to a hill, and beyond the hill they could see a shining road and golden gates flung wide. And the mother said, "I have reached the end of my journey. And now I know that the end is better than the beginning, for my children can walk alone and their children after them." And the children said, "You will always walk with us, Mother, even when you have gone through the gates."

And they stood and watched her as she went on alone, and the gates closed after her. And they said, "We cannot see her, but she is with us still. A mother like ours is more than a memory. She is a Living Presence."

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Random Dozen

For today's post I'm going to attempt to answer a dozen random questions posed by Linda @ 2nd Cup of Coffee. I thought it sounded fun! Here are this week's questions and my answers:

1. What was the last thing about which you procrastinated? Don't you mean prioritizing? I prioritize things! I never procrastinate! Ha!

2. How long does it take you to fall asleep, and do you sleep through the night? It usually doesn't take me long to fall asleep. Sometimes I wake up in the night, but I typically go right back to sleep. I consider it a blessing!

3. Which decade would you choose to exemplify your favorite fashion styles? I loved the prairie skirts and ruffled blouses and also the classic preppy oxford shirts and pullover sweaters that were in style when I was in high school in the 1980s. I've wondered if everyone likes whatever was in style when they were in high school. My style currently is pretty classic-- solid colors and simple lines -- because I don't like trying to keep up with the latest trends.

4. What is your personal best dish to feed a crowd? Chili in the Crockpot. With makings for taco salad and/or nachos on the side.

5. Are you an impulse shopper? What was the last thing you bought on impulse? I tend to not be an impulse shopper. Let's see... the last thing I bought impulsively... hmm... oh, I know! It was a big bag of M&Ms for Lyle.

6. What is one wish you have for your own funeral? Oh, my. Can't say I've ever thought of that. I guess whatever would bring comfort to my family because I'm pretty sure I won't care!

7. If it's true that joy is in found in the simple things in life, what does your joy look like today? A warm home and a loving family.

8. What is your favorite type of bread? Cornbread.

9. What trait do you fear developing the most? Bitterness.

10. What trait would you like most to develop? Unselfishness. Generosity. Hospitality. (Those are all kinda the same thing, aren't they?)

11. Which room in your house best reflects your personality? Why?  My office/library which reflects my love of literature and writing. Also, the living room and kitchen where I display mementos from childhood and other vintage collectibles that I enjoy.

12. How do you maintain balance in your life regarding, work, family, church, other organizations and activities, and blogging? It's supposed to be balanced? Ah! That explains the procrastinating prioritizing in Question 1!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Ramblin' Update

It's been a crazy couple of weeks... but then I'm not sure life ever slows down around here. It seems like it just keeps randomly picking up speed, and just when we get used to the new pace, it speeds up again! I'm hopeful that May might be just a smidge more relaxed than March and April were, although the calendar seems to be filling up fast!

Week-before-last we enjoyed our annual springtime trip to Seattle for the Christian Heritage homeschool conference. As soon as we got home we hit the ground running. Lyle worked 74 hours last week at the print shop, and I worked over 40 hours between my "regular" job as a Sonlight Advisor and forum moderator, and my unofficial helping-out-as-needed "position" at the print shop. In between, I got a little homeschooling done. Fortunately, the girls are able to work somewhat independently, and they are turning into pretty good little housekeepers, which is a good thing because we had house guests this past weekend.

Lyle's nephew and his wife stayed with us for a couple of days. On Saturday we took them for a drive up in the mountains. We shouldn't have been surprised, but we were turned back by snow on the road. Fortunately for us, we didn't get get stuck this time... but we did encounter some guys in an SUV who weren't so lucky. Fortunately for them, Lyle had a tow-rope and was able to pull them out with his big Dodge truck. That was our adventure for the day! So we didn't make it to the waterfall we were trying to get to. Instead we stopped by our favorite campground (which isn't open for the season yet) and enjoyed a damp springtime walk in the woods.

In other news, I've been notified that I've won a couple of blog giveaways I entered recently. First up was a contest I entered when I was blog-hopping as part of the Ultimate Blog Party. Tracey C. is an expert on finding all kinds of bargains and freebies. She blogs about it on "Challenging Our Family to Live Frugally" and in honor of her grandma's recent birthday (she's 89!) she hosted a giveaway of a whole box of little goodies she put together. When I showed my older daughter what I'd won, she immediately went through the list choosing things she'd like to lay claim to! Well, we'll see...

As if that weren't enough, I also found out I won the SodaStream machine that Heidi @ Reviews and Reflections was giving away. Remember me telling you about it? My whole family is very excited to experiment with making our own pop, so we are looking forward to getting it.

I'll be sure to tell you more about each of these prizes when they arrive. And I'll tell you about more great giveaways as I come across them. See? It does pay to enter! Somebody is gonna win, right?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Books Read in April

Continuing with the 2010 100+ Reading Challenge, here are the books I read in April:

32. Andrea Carter and the Dangerous Decision by Susan Marlow
33. Saving Sailor by Renee Riva
34. Heading Home by Renee Riva
35. The Sword, the Ring and the Parchment by Ed Dunlop
36. Forget Me Not by Vicki Hinze
37. The Familiar Stranger by Christina Berry
38. A Stranger's Wish by Gayle Roper
39. Miss Match by Erynn Mangum
40. The Astronomy Book by Jonathan Henry
41. Leaving Yesterday by Kathryn Cushman
42. The Last Christian by David Gregory
43. Living Organized by Sandra Felton
44. The Secret Holocaust Diaries by Nonna Bannister