Tuesday, September 27, 2005


This past week I was washing dishes, and caught a flash of something golden fluttering past my window, in the back yard.

My first instinct said it was a butterfly and then, with a jolt, I knew it was a yellow leaf floating down from the (still mostly green) trees.

This past week we celebrated Chickie's fifth birthday. She wanted to make her own cupcakes for her Kindergarten class. And she did, with a little help. She hardly seems like my "little" girl anymore.

This past week we were sick. We had to postpone Chickie's birthday party one day because I was too sick to have company. But we did manage to have it the next day. We had a good time with the family we invited; making and eating pizza, making shrinky dinks and playing outside.

This past week - after much debate, prayer and pondering - we bought a new 5-megapixel camera for our Kite Photography.

And three days after it came in the mail, we accidentally landed it in the sand. Cost of camera: $140. Estimated cost of repair, not including shipping: $120.

After more debate we're getting another new camera - because we were truly impressed with the quality of the 200 photos we managed to take in those three days.

click above photo to see it big (or huge if you prefer.)

This past week, Daniel's dad has been dying. He has been on kidney dialysis for the last few years, and in the last year has had several stroke-like episodes which have left him less mobile, less alert, and with less to enjoy of life each time. He recovers somewhat from each episode, but never fully. Mom brought him home from the nursing home a month ago, feeling that she could do a better job managing his care at home. Now he sleeps most of the time. Dad still has bright moments where he is coherent - but now those bright moments seem like golden leaves falling from the trees, rather than summer butterflies on the breeze. The golden times are (for him, and in many ways for all of us who know him) almost at an end.

I read somewhere once where a person was defending the idea of heaven based on the fact that we humans were not created for "time" as we know it, but rather for eternity. Despite the fact that we live "in time", time always seems like a foreign thing to us.

Is that why seasons pass so quickly?

Is that why I burst into tears of grief as well as joy when my daughter turns five, or when my smallest son takes a few steps by himself, six months after I expected him to?

Is that why death take so long to arrive when someone is suffering, and yet it still seems too soon when it does happen?

Is that why after 10 years of washing dishes in this particular kitchen (and 28 other years before that), it still surprises and saddens me to see a golden leaf flutter by my window in the fall, instead of a golden butterfly?

Friday, September 23, 2005

a tale of two round-headed boys

Once upon a time there was a little boy, first of six children, with a very round head and ears that stuck out. His mother's father was a minister in the United Methodist Church. His mother was short and enjoyed gardening. His father never had a college education, but was very intelligent and figured out his own highly successful equation for deciding when to buy or sell stocks.

The little boy loved math and science. He would fill his pockets full of rocks and ride the city bus, barefoot, down to the university geology department, where he would have private interviews with the geology teachers who would answer his questions about rocks.

Once upon another time, nearly six decades later, there was a little boy, first of four children, with a very round head and ears that stuck out. His mother's father was a certified Lay Speaker in the United Methodist Church. His mother was short and enjoyed gardening. His father never had a college education, but is very intelligent and can assemble just about any engine from scratch, even if the parts are tossed in a box and shaken.

The little boy loved math and science. He would ask hard math questions of anyone who would listen. He came home from first grade disappointed because he wasn't going to learn decimals yet... so could his mother please just sit down and explain decimals for him?

Both boys spend a lot of time in front of the computer, playing "hard math games" and other thinking games. Neither one is bothered if their friends or classmates think they are weird or nerdy: matter of fact they kind of like being different.

Both boys also like to be outdoors (and barefoot when they can get away with it), looking at mushrooms, rocks, clouds, butterflies or whatever else captures their attention. They both love to teach (and are good teachers) and love to learn.

They also love holding babies. Since each of them has two little brothers, they have had lots of practice.

One of these little boys turns 65 tomorrow and has about a dozen patents to his name. That boy is my dad. The other is 6.5 years old and could probably explain decimals and fractions to you. That boy is my son.

As my son and I were going to the School Open House the other evening, one of his classmates came out, still explaining all of school to his mother. As the door opened we heard him say, "And this is [BigE]. He's the smartest boy I know." BigE grinned, nodded, and said that this boy was one of the funniest kids he knew.

It's a real joy to be surrounded by such wonderful (and smart) men.

Happy birthday, Poppie!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

high school handwriting

I got to finish a font for a friend who graduated from High School this past spring. Above is a sample of her actual handwriting (writing a form letter I invented that used all the capitals, numbers and punctuation I could think of) -- below is the completed font.

It was a more intriguing project than I expected. Nearly every letter had two or more forms to it - what looked to me to be "childish" letters and "grownup" letters. Curiously, the more childlike letters appeared to be where she was taking her time and making it "neat and tidy", and the more adult looking letters were her "in a hurry" letters. The adult letters showed more personality and I liked them better.

To make the font look like her handwriting, I had to find a balance between her child-like letters and her adult-like letters. It was a challenge.

She left for college before I had a chance to hear whether or not she liked it. I also loaded the font full of her dingbats - smileys, funny faces and music notation -- so, if nothing else, that part ought to be fun.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

the week in photos

Apples in our front yard...

Five-point buck in our back yard... (who hopefully won't eat our apples before they are ripe...)

Getting to help record the chorus for All God's Critters on a friend's CD...

watching Papa and Buzz Saw Louie from the front window...

...and splashing and getting very wet.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

ten bucks well spent

Every year in mid-July I try to hit the clearance sales at the nearby Stuff Mart garden centers.

I never ever find anything I am looking for, but I usually find something. This year I found ten dollars worth of plants, all at 40 to 75 cents. Above is Dead Nettle, below is some daisy-like bloom whose name I can't remember. Oh wait, here's the tag: Leopard's Bane, Doronicum. I still don't know much about it, but now that I've written it down I can find out.

I also got pink yarrow, yellow yarrow, some balloon flowers and a few more pink petunias for Chickie. About half of the perennials survived. Most of them are plants I wouldn't ordinarily be drawn to, but at 50 cents or so, I figure it's worth a try. Over the years some of these have become my garden staples, surviving where the $6 special order from Jung's didn't make it.

And these plants, like their more expensive May counterparts, still come with a bonus:

Sand gardens. Sand pies. Sand cakes and sand castles and sand everything until the plastic gives out. Yogurt containers last a little bit longer, but yogurt containers don't come with the tags to stick in, which show the pink sand-flowers as vs. the purple. Or the chocolate sand-cake vs. the lemon.

Now that it's September, most of the flowerpots have gone to the great garden in the sky (via the recycle bin.) Today we say goodbye to the last of our .50 flowerpots, now filled with cuttings from our garden, which are moving to a friend's winter windowsill. We're still somewhat amazed that we got to keep the plants inside, too, after all the fun we had with the pots!

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Baking Friday

With Chickie gone to Kindergarten Monday thru Thursday, and BigE gone to First Grade all week - our house is very, very quiet.

Somewhat unrealistically, I thought this meant I would have lots of time to make fonts and play with crafts. This turns out not to be the case: the time alone with God and the time spent cleaning (both of which I should have been doing all along!) easily take up most of my newfound free time that the twins haven't already claimed, and a few other obligations are going to take up the rest.

So... no Font Tuesday. All things considered, it's a pretty small way to "die to self."

Instead of having Font Tuesday this fall, I'm going to have Baking Friday. Chickie has wanted to help me bake just about since she's been born, and since Mac and Bubbie came along I have been in too much of a hurry to indulge her. So my goal for this fall is to get all the dishes and laundry and cleaning done Thursday, have frozen pizza for dinner on Friday, and spend the babies' naptime baking with Chickie.

This week we made pies - strawberry rhubarb pie for a neighbor, and apple pie for us.

Bubbie woke up from his nap in time to show off his new "climb up on the chair by himself" skill, and helped himself to the extra apple pie filling.

The apple pie crust got smashed when the handle swung out of our makeshift pie-safe (an upside-down steamer basket) just as I set it over the pie.

Fortunately the designated-as-a-gift pie survived, though I still need to learn to seal the edges a little better!

That's OK. I'm far more concerned with Chickie and I both learning to be generous and have fun than with producing beautiful pies ... and maybe with a little practice we can have beautiful pies as well.

And the smashed apple pie tasted delicious anyway.

Now I would really like to think of a special activity to do with BigE each week.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

sharpie T-shirts

Mac and Bubbie, as our third and fourth children, have inherited a bunch of baby T-shirts. Old, stained baby T-shirts that are in great condition but dingy and stained even after I tried bleach, Oxi-Solv, various stain sticks and other stuff. Sure, we could probably afford to buy a few new baby T-shirts - but what to do with the old ones, with lots of wear left in them, that are frankly too ugly to even give to the thrift shop?

I'm so glad you asked.

Yet another excuse to buy the 17-color rainbow of Sharpie markers!

Here is Mac modeling Chickie's shirt - and being very proud of how well he can stand up! now.

Bubbie got BigE's shirt dirty before we got a picture, but below he's modeling two shirts I made. The reason there are three shots of Bubbie and only one of Mac is that Mac still fits in our good "gifts for twin babies" onesies, while Bubbie, two inches taller and three pounds heavier, is growing into the old, stained toddler onesies.

Here is Bubbie in faux buffalo check plaid,

and here in smileys. I got so tired of making tiny smileys on the front that I made a big one to cover most of the space in back. Then I liked it so much I wish I'd done it on the front as well.

No matter. We have a lot more grubby old white onesies laying around to play with.

None of the shirts are so polished and professional that I can dress the boys up for church in them. The sharpies do bleed a bit in the wash, particularly the red. But they're great for playing at our house and in our sandbox.

(And no, before anyone asks, we didn't tie-dye BigE's shirt - we bought all our kids' tie-dye online from California Dreamin' a.k.a. Refined Design, and that was definitely money well spent: the shirts are well loved, well washed, well worn, and still bright and fun.)

Friday, September 02, 2005

two cents' worth

Reading about the hurricane and devastation in the South, I feel powerless - me in the U.P., some thousand miles away, living with my four little children. Even if we tried to drive our gas-guzzling minivan down to Mississippi to "do" something, we would all be more in-the-way than helpful. All I can send is money, and not even a lot of that, given the huge need.

I understand the value of large mission/rescue agencies like the Red Cross doing relief work with Katrina's refugees. They are necessary and helpful. But I feel powerless giving them my measly contribution - I want to help in a more personal way, a way where the small amount makes a noticeable difference.

I'm not sure that's a scriptural need of mine. Jesus said that the two cents' worth the widow dropped in the temple treasury was a bigger contribution than the fortunes the rich donors were impressing each other with.

Nonetheless, I want to send my money to needy people, not to big umbrella help organizations. And here is one case where I can - as opposed to sending help most places overseas (like Iraq or Romania) where do I care, but don't have any personal connections.

Daniel works under the same umbrella organization as some Christian camps in the south who are housing refugees. Were our situation reversed, I could imagine our favorite nearby camp doing the same thing: cancelling reservations, ordering food, washing linens, loaning clothing, moving beds, preparing meals, making connections, working overtime - this time for no pay, for now-homeless refugees of the hurricane - trying to re-establish some sense of family and security for their new "campers".

I don't know any of the people at these camps, but I can imagine what it would be like administratively and personally. (still can't imagine what it would be like for the refugees themselves, though! wow.)

In our regular email we got updates on what some of the local camps are doing. Since our agency also posted it on their website, I feel like I can re-post the information below, to my small group of readers in case any of you are interested in helping. I know of one person who is going to use one of these camps as a network to try to "adopt" a family that has nothing and is willing to re-locate to her neck of the woods (Ohio) - to house them and help them find jobs.

You could, of course, also make your own "local connections" - maybe there are churches in your denomination nearby, or members of whatever organizations you're a part of, that are closer and could use some help and prayer.

This is what we learned from our umbrella organization:

Acadian Baptist Center (Eunice, La.) is housing 200 evacuees. Staff members are desperate for donations of food or money.

Acadian Baptist Center
1202 Academy Dr
Eunice, LA 70535
jnewsomabc at aol dot com

Camp of the Rising Son (French Camp, Miss.) is filling up with refugees. One family that just arrived reported that they swam from rooftop to rooftop to reach safety. They showed up at the camp in a borrowed car with only the clothes on their backs.

Camp Of The Rising Son
100 Lake Rd
French Camp Mississippi 39745
(662) 547-6169
crs at frenchcamp dot org

Camp Garaywa (Clinton, Miss.) is housing disaster relief workers even though they have no power. Fortunately, their freezer is on a generator.
312 Camp Garaywa Rd.
Clinton Mississippi 39056-5406
garaywa at mbcb dot org

And I'm sure hoping one of these camps would like a big box of used clothing, because our local thrift shop always has more donations at the end of the summer than they know what to do with. It would be great if our surplus could meet a real need, not just sit in someone else's closet for awhile.

And I'm also remembering the reason the widow's contribution was worth more than the rich people's - because she gave all she had to live on. Not just the $20 that she won't be missing anyway, not just the used clothes that it would be good to shovel out of the closet anyway. And not because she gave to the "right" organization, but because she gave with the right spirit. Giving sacrificially is something that, as a rich American, I haven't really "had to" learn yet. But I would like to learn these lessons before I need to learn them.

And I'm remembering what an older, wiser person always said in response to someone saying "all we can do is pray": He said, with a twinkle in his eye, "has it come to that, then?" He knew firsthand the power of prayer - or rather, the power of God in response to our prayers.

That's another lesson I would do well to learn better. Being powerless is good if it makes me truly seek God and rely on him to meet the needs of these people affected by Katrina - each one of whom God knows by name. I really can't ask for a more personal "connection" than that, whether in the South or overseas.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

painting the 'guest room'

As I said earlier, we moved the big kids into the ex "guest room" two and a half years ago... long before we knew we were going to have twins. I had several ideas for a mural in their new bedroom, including a folksy farm scene at sunset, or a shop with painted tools hanging on the walls, or a giant map of our town on one wall and a map of the world on the other wall. Chickie was too young to participate in the discussion, so I asked BigE what he would like painted on the walls.

BigE, 4- 1/2 years old and with tears in his eyes, said "I thought *I* was going to get to paint my walls!"

...so guess what we did.

(click any picture to make big)