Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

"I doubt whether the world holds for any one
a more soul-stirring surprise
than the first adventure
with ice cream."

Heywood C. Broun

Monday, August 24, 2009

1000 Gifts: Summer delights

Yesterday morning in church I was reminded
that worship is not simply made up of the few minutes we spend on Sunday morning.
Worship is a way of life~
and of that truth, I hope to be ever mindful...

"I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
wonderful are Your works,
and my soul knows it very well."

Psalm 139:14

the lazy days of summer, coming all too quickly to an end

with a bucket of chalk, a ball and bat, and some time together outside

an unexpected rain shower in the middle of a very hot afternoon

this season's rich bounty... especially Lolli's favorite-- freshly sliced watermelon

new flowers blooming in the garden, even though summer's almost over

a precious daughter and her desire to be just like her big brothers,

even though sometimes... she finds herself tattling on them

but only because they try to steal her helmet.

boys... sons... brothers... and the privilege of watching them enjoy the thrills of childhood together

and one last wonderful gift... a quiet weekend at home, thanks to my very thoughtful husband:

time to plan, time to prepare, time to organize and rest and regroup... while the rest of the family enjoyed a few fun-filled days at Camp Grandmom (& Pops!). Thank you~

"So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord,

continue to live in Him,

rooted and built up in Him,

strengthened in the faith as you were taught,

and overflowing with thankfulness."

Colossians 2:6-7

holy experience

The list continues...

Friday, August 21, 2009

A few book reviews

... and a bouquet of zinnias, too... because they're just so lovely.

I hate making book recommendations, plain and simple. Because... what I might enjoy thoroughly, another may find absolutely dismal. And while I may struggle through the pages of a particular text, desperate to finally reach its end, that same person may place that same volume atop his/her "favorites" list. Tastes are so personal, and finding spare time-- amidst the hustle and bustle of daily living-- to savor a new book is so very rare, that I know I don't want to be disappointed when I finally plop down on the sofa for a few minutes of literary escape. That being said, I'm going to step out of my comfort zone here and actually recommend a few titles, just in case anyone might be interested :)

Over the past few months I've worked my way through a few of the selections on my book list, and lo and behold, I've enjoyed the process thoroughly. Unfortunately, I haven't found the time in the past few weeks to tackle any more books on my list because I've been up to my eyeballs in juvenile American history (frantically researching for history lessons this fall.) But when I was reading for pleasure, I followed a principle set forth by my mother-in-law. She suggested that I set a daily goal-- she started with 25 pages per day-- and this idea worked wonders for me. I must admit there were some days when I just didn't get a chance to read, but I tried-- I really tried-- to tackle at least 25 pp/day, and quite often I was pleasantly surprised to find the time to eek out a few pages more. So thanks, Moggie, for the tip-- it really works!

So, without further ado... here we go:

Lassie Come-Home by Eric Knight. We'll start off easy :) I never read this book in my younger years, but after seeing it atop many children's reading lists, I assigned it to my eldest. As he worked his way through and as he shared a few opinions regarding the basic plot of the story, he got me hooked; I needed to read it for myself. Now, for any who know me well, I'm an animal lover to the max, and I've learned over the years that animal-themed movies/books/documentaries are inevitably painful... the cute and cuddley guys just never win. And as a result, I always end up crying. A lot. So it's just easier to stay far, far away from such selections. Now, with that in mind, I set out to read this particular book, keenly aware that I would-- most likely-- be crying any minute. Amazingly enough, I only cried a little. But the tears were so worth it. This story is about a dog and her boy... a loyalty and devotion greater than any other... the bonds of love and a determination to never-give up, not even against
insurmountable odds... in search of the way back home. It's a must-read, truly. Even for grown-ups :)

A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle is a delightful glimpse into a small town life in the south of France. Mayle and his wife have just purchased a 200-year old home in Provence, and month by month, he takes us along... as they meet their very quirky neighbors; as they explore and appreciate the delicious fresh food markets and the many fabulous eateries; as they learn firsthand that obtrusive house guests, erratic weather, and workmen who ascribe to their own timetable are just part and parcel for their new surroundings. This book is fun-- I promise, you'll laugh out loud. And when you're done, you'll be desperate for a trip to Provence!

Sacred Marriage: What if God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy? by Gary L. Thomas. If you're looking for a 10-step program or a check-each-item-off-the-list sort of approach to a better marriage, this book is not for you. If, though, you're looking for something more, something deeper, something real.... you need look no farther. This book, Sacred Marriage, is a call to holiness. It's a call to a deeper walk with God. It's a call to sacrificial living. By seeking the Lord's presence more intently and by obeying Him more fully-- by allowing Him to transform us as individuals-- Thomas suggests that our marriages, in turn, will inevitably begin to reflect the selfless, never-ending, always-forgiving love as demonstrated for us in the person Jesus Christ. Very excellent. Very thoughtful. Definitely worthwhile.

The Giver by Lois Lowry. I originally added this title to my list because I saw it mentioned repeatedly on many "favorites" lists, and after seeing it everywhere, I figured it must be pretty good (it is a Newberry Award winner, after all). At the time, I didn't realize that it's a sci-fi title (or at least in my library it is)-- that alone might have turned me off because sci-fi is not my cuppa. Anyhoo-- I decided not to let this detail deter me. After reading it quickly, I can honestly say that it does not sit atop my favorites list, but it was thought-provoking and certainly a worth-while read. The plot, you ask?? What happens when a community-- in an effort to provide its members with simple, pain-free lives-- decides to strip away all freedoms, all choices, and all defining characteristics & traits in favor of Sameness?? Hmmm.... read and find out.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. A timeless classic about life in a small Alabama town and the challenges a small family endures along the way. I don't remember caring for it the first time around (way back in junior high :), but this go round I enjoyed it immensely.

The Hole in our Gospel by Richard Stearns... without a doubt, the most challenging, thought-provoking book I've read in a long, long time.

You know, over the years, I've read a lot of books that fall under the "Christian Living" banner-- books designed to aid me, a believer in the risen Christ, to live a life more fully abundant, more fully abandoned, more fully obedient to Him and His Word. And while all have proven helpful in one measure or another... while all have helped me apply biblical truth more readily in my daily life... none... not one... has spoken to me more clearly than this one. When Jesus called us to be His followers, He did not call us to a life of luxury... to a life of easy living. No, He called us to be His hands and feet... to reflect and embody His gracious love to a lost and dying world.

Between the covers of his book, Stearns tells his story (briefly)-- how God called him out of his prestigious position as CEO of Lenox to become the new President of World Vision U.S.-- and then entreats his reader to consider this question (as he himself was forced to consider over 10 years ago), "What does God expect of us?"

Embracing the gospel, or good news, proclaimed by Jesus is so much more than a private transaction between God and us. The gospel itself was born of God's vision of a changed people, challenging and transforming the prevailing values and practices of our world. Jesus called the resulting new world order the "kingdom of God" (see Matt. 12:28; 19:24:21:32, 43:and Mark 1:15, among others) and said that it would become a reality through the lives and deeds of His followers. Jesus asked a great deal of those who followed Him. He expected much more than just believing He was God's Son. He challenged them to embrace radically different standards, to love their neighbors and their enemies, to forgive those who wronged them, to lift up the poor, and to live lives of sacrifice...

... we are the carriers of the gospel-- the good news that was meant to change the world. Belief is not enough. Worship is not enough. Personal morality is not enough. And Christian community is not enough. God always demanded more. When we committed ourselves to following Christ, we also committed to living our lives in such a way that a watching world would catch a glimpse of God's character-- His love, justice, and mercy-- through our words, actions, and behavior. "We are... Christ's ambassadors," wrote the apostle Paul, "as though God were making his appeal through us" (2 Cor. 5:20). God chose us to be his representatives. He called us to go out, to proclaim the "good news"-- to be the "good news"-- and to change the world. Living our faith privately was never meant to be an option (pp2-3).

If you don't read any other book this summer, please... read this one. It's that good.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The leaf bug

Yesterday the kids and I braved the heat and decided to try something new (well, not new, per se... just something we haven't done in quite some time)-- we went to the backyard to play. (I know... we're crazy like that :) Anyhoo-- we don't often spend much time in the yard during the summer months because the heat & humidity are simply unbearable out there, so if we're not at the pool, we're inside.

Well, yesterday,we were feeling especially adventurous (and I needed to get my little people outside-- on the double-- before they killed each other inside :) so, out we went. Immediately, Bub and Big Man decided to climb a tree, Noh-man and I opted to tend to the drooping azaleas in the garden, and Lolli contented herself on the John Deer tricycle, thrilled to sit a few inches higher off the ground (and out of Mosby's raceway) for a moment or two .

Thankful for peace restored, I enjoyed the task of caring for my very parched flower beds when suddenly, excited screams from the far end of the yard filled the air. Bub had discovered a leaf bug-- a lovely, very mature (almost 2 inches long), bright kelly green leaf bug-- and he was tickled pink. I turned in time to see him gaze in wonder as it fluttered to the ground, and then I watched as he followed it to its landing spot, anxious to watch its every move. Big Man, Noh, and I raced over for a peek at this marvel and were equally pleased-- we just don't see those winged beauties every day around here.

For a few brief minutes, we all just sat there, watching that little guy crawl through the grass, until I-- the most extreme animal lover this side of the Mississippi-- suggested that we shush him along, fearful that he might meet an untimely death at the feet of Lollipop or Mosby, our ever rambunctious pup. So we did. We scooted him along, tiny hop by tiny hop, towards the safety of a large boxwood. After several hops, he finally tired of our badgering and took to flight.

And it was a beautiful thing... his delicate green wings spread wide as he flittered over the grass. And there we all stood, transfixed. In awe. Amazed.

Until a hungry brown house finch zoomed up from behind, snatched him in her beak... his green legs dangling... and hurried away for a mid-morning snack.

I kid you not.

Screams of horror penetrated the silence.
Distraught little-boy bodies crumpled to the earth in sadness and utter disgust.
And I just stood there in disbelief...

It was like National Geographic, right there in our very own back yard.

... so much for my good intentions.

Monday, August 17, 2009

1000 gifts: In the pool

God is so good!
His mercies... to me... are new every morning, and His gifts are never ending.
How amazed I am by this limitless love... every. single. day.

This week, my gratitude list continues with a little peek into our trip to Penn State University,
where once again, the Lord poured out His favor on us.

the opportunity for Bub to compete with the best and have an absolute blast... all at the same time!

the lessons learned from team work and the contentment that springs from knowing you did your best

new teammates... new friends... and the encouragement they supply

trusted coaches & chaperones and the guidance (& comfort!) they provide

a comfortable spot in the shade on a very hot afternoon (underneath the life guard's stand!)

a favorite treat and the chance to share it with someone special

a favorite treat and the chance to play keep-away with someone special

nature's treasures... a sign of the season to come

time outside... in the fresh air... running & playing & exploring & discovering... mushrooms!

and Family... one of God's greatest gifts~

The list goes on...

holy experience

"Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for men,
for he satisfies the thirsty
and fills the hungry with good things."

Psalm 107: 8-9

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Zone

The Eastern Zone Long Course Championship
Penn State University
State College, Pennsylvania
August 12-15, 2009

11 teams competed:
they represented 12 states along the eastern seaboard
Virginia, Maryland, Delaware,
New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut,
Rhode Island, New York, Massachusetts,
Vermont, New Hampshire, & Maine

And Virginia Swimming-- Bub's team-- won!

A nail biter to the bitter end.
Amazing. Exhausting. Exhilarating. Awesome.
And Bub was a part of it all.

Over the course of four days, he
: raced in 6 individual events (the maximum allowed) and participated in 3 team relays (which placed 5th, 7th, and 9th in the Zone)
: broke his own personal record in the 100m butterfly-- a goal he's been struggling to reach all summer long
: made wonderful new friends, both young and old, and learned the value of a kind word spoken
: learned a ton-- both in and out of the water-- and made memories that will last a lifetime

My big, big Bub competed with the best of the very best...
and he walked away a champion.
Just one more totally proud moment for this mama.


As for now... it's onward and upward.
The start of a new swim season starts tomorrow
(though I think we'll let Bub take a little break... if he wants to :)

... with new goals in mind and new milestones to reach.

As for our friends & family who have helped us and prayed for us along the way
(and most especially for our Bub), thank you.
You have blessed us tremendously, and for that we are ever grateful~

p.s. Mom and dad-- this past swim season has been one. wild. ride.
Thank you for your constant devotion and encouragement.
p.p.s. And to Gramoggie... your willingness to drive halfway across the country
to support your grandson means more than I can say-- thank you.

Monday, August 10, 2009

1000 gifts

So very often, in the hustle and bustle of everyday live, I lose sight of what really matters. I focus on the frustrations, the stresses, and the never-ending to-do list instead of the multitude of blessings from my Father above. His Word reminds me,

"Rejoice in the Lord always.
I will say it again,

(Philippians 4:4)

and in all things,

"Give thanks..."

(1 Chronicles 16:34)

Because He knows that when I do so, my eyes and my heart are not cast downward... towards a sinful, dying world, but upward... to the One who made me... to the One who saved me... to the One who loves me more than I can ever comprehend. And that makes all the difference.

So as an act of obedience, as an act of worship, and in an effort to glorify Him more, I'm going to start counting my blessings every. single. day. I'm also joining the Gratitude Community... a community dedicated to seeing His gifts-- both large and small-- in the everyday... a community committed to rejoicing in the blessings that abound, even when times are tough.

"Every good and perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights,
who does not change like shifting shadows."

James 1:17

Today I'm giving thanks for:

quiet time each morning (while my little ones still sleep!) to spend time with my Lord

angel wing begonias, blooming right outside my window... oh, the beauty of creation!

wonderful books... and these 2 precious boys who shared them

a suitcase in the living room, evidence that daddy's finally home from his business trip

the last pile of laundry, folded... thanks to the help of little hands

freshly sliced strawberries-- an afternoon's perfect snack

this tired-- yet joy-filled-- face at the end of a wonderful afternoon

back-to-school shopping... DONE! And on a tax-free weekend, too~

curly blond locks, bright blue eyes, a precious button nose... and the sweet little pea to whom they belong

an outpouring of the Lord's favor and the accomplishment of a lifetime

and the list goes on...

holy experience

Thank you, Ann, for sharing your gifts with us, and thank for the blessing of your ministry, as well~

Friday, August 7, 2009

When the temperature rises...

... we head to the pool, because in this part of the state, there's just no surviving the great outdoors in August without a plentiful water source. As a result, our community pool has become our second home (when we're in town, that is. When we're away, we find other pools to patronize :)

So today, after grabbing the kiddos from their last day of Vacation Bible School (which the boys loved!!), we went straight to the pool for a pool-side lunch and a few hours in the sun. Leslie and her crew joined us (they loved VBS, too), and together we managed to completely exhaust our little ones (and ourselves, too, for that matter) in a wonderfully healthy way.

Now once in a blue moon, I decide to take my camera along, just in case my little people are in an agreeable mood. You know... that willing-to-smile-for-their-momma in an ever-so-charming sort of way. Well, today I got a little of that. But mostly I ended up with a few funny faces, a couple ridiculous poses, and a super hero or two thrown in the mix!

Here's a peak at my clowns~
(Be patient-- it takes a few seconds to load :)

And such was our afternoon.

Thankfully, all my littles are sawing logs right about now...

and soon, I will be, too :)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Back to school

Whew! I can't believe it's almost that time of year... again--

Time to organize my planner.
Time to purchase a few supplies.
Time to wrap up the last minute details.
Time to get busy.
Time for school to start.

Ugh... I'm just not ready.

Nevertheless, my printer is humming. My files are filling. And my children are panicking :)

Yes, summer has flown by-- a wonderful, wonderful summer, it's been-- and autumn is just around the corner. And that means it's time to firmly nail down a plan or two, ready or not. Thankfully, this part of the process I actually enjoy. You see, I'm a list-maker to the core (I come by it naturally :), so getting our tails in gear for another academic year is really right up my alley (it's the implementing part that's tough!).

After mulling and brooding over several options for this upcoming year, I think I'm finally set. In most subjects, we're just going to do the very next thing-- the next level, the next in the series. In a few areas, however, we're gonna branch out... we're gonna try something new... and those resources have me very excited!

So here we go... my curriculum plans for 2009/2010. Naturally, everything is subject to change, though hopefully nothing will :)

Bub: 5th grade (10-11 years old)


Independent Reading:
  • 1.5 hours per day-- great works of literature and other titles to complement history & science studies
  • Vocabulary notebook-- each day he'll choose one unknown word from his reading (he'll write the word, the sentence in which it was found, its definition in context, an antonym, its etymology, and a sentence of his own using that word)
Music: Piano practice

P.E.: Competitive year-round swimming

Noh-Man: 3rd grade (8-9 years old)


  • Singapore Math (Primary 3B and 4A, Intensive Practice 3B and 4A, and Challenging Word Problems 3)
Independent Reading:
  • 1.25 hours daily-- great works of literature (from a list I've compiled) and other titles to support our history and science studies
  • Vocabulary notebook
Music: Piano practice

P.E.: Competitive year-round swimming

Big Man: Kindergarten (4-5 years old)


  • Singapore Earlybird Kindergarten Mathematics
  • We'll probably start Horizons K later in the year. Big Man is a very young kindergartener (as far as the public schools are concerned, he just makes the kindergarten cut-off by 6 days) so we'll work at his pace and progress as he's able.
  • An assortment of copywork pages I'll assemble-- the alphabet, word lists, simple sentences, and Scripture passages as the year progresses
Play. Build. Draw. Create. Sing. Imagine. Explore. Run. Jump. Climb. Swing. Skate. Swim. And so on...

Lollipop (1-2 years)-- Play! Play! Play!

TOGETHER: Me and my boys with Lolli tossed in the mix :)

Memory Work:
  • Homeschool co-op art class-- 1x per week
  • An assortment of titles I've collected to complement our history studies and a few great books that are just for fun-- daily

SO there you have it... our year at a glance :)

And if you made it this far and are interested in peaking at even more school plans (that always helps me so much!), head on over to Darcy's Not-Back-to-School Blog Hop. There you'll find tons of ideas, inspiration, and encouragement (I know I already have... thanks, Darcy!)~

And happy planning!


Sunday, August 2, 2009

One more time

We'll tackle this post one more time... only this go round, we'll chat about this boy:

He's playful and honorable and compassionate and kind,

he's genuine and steadfast and courageous and strong.

He's thoughtful and honest and humble and true...

and this past weekend,

he proved that a little dedication and determination go a very long way~

Virginia Swimming Incorporated Age-Group Championships
July 30-August 2, 2009
Midtown Aquatic Center
Newport News, Virginia

It was a long meet (4 days! By the time he finished, Bub. was. exhausted.).
It was a stinking hot meet (both indoors and out).
It was a ridiculously scheduled meet (we're talking 7-10 minutes of rest in between events; typically, the boys have 60-90).
It was an incomplete meet-- as in there was no warm-up/cool-down pool... that's a critical element: missing.

Yet my Bub persevered. And he has a few goodies to show for it!

A few of the weekend's highlights:

4 personal bests (he dropped 8 seconds in his 200 free & 22 seconds in his 400 free!)
Another Zones qualification: the 400 free
2 age-group cuts for next year's championships (based on the 11/12 age bracket requirements)
4th place in the 50m freestyle
5th place in the 200m freestyle
9th place in the 100m freestyle
10th place in the 400m freestyle
And one really cool, totally awesome uniform (complete with a warm-up suit, 2 t-shirts, a pair of shorts, 2 swim caps, a racing suit, a towel, and a Virginia Swimming swim bag) to take to Penn State next week when he represents VA in the Eastern Zone Championships
(I think these new acquisitions were his favorite part of the trip :)

I'd say that's one really successful weekend!

And just as with his brother,

I'm popping-at-the-seams proud, utterly amazed, thrilled to the point of complete combustion.....

and so, so much more!