Friday, December 31, 2010

7 Quick Takes Friday – 12/31/2010

It’s the last day of 2010, so I decided to make this post seven memorable events of the last year.

1. Our year got off to a rough start with Rosie Girl recovering from a tonsillectomy.  The surgery went well, but a week after the surgery, Rosie Girl developed bleeding from the tonsillar fossae.  So, we got to go back to the hospital so they could cauterize the bleeding spot.  After that procedure, all went well and she is now happily tonsil-free!

2. I re-covered the cushions to one of our rocking chairs.  Why is this memorable?  Because it involved sewing.  ‘Nuff said.

3. Rosie Girl went on a school choir trip to Washington D.C. (without me or PWM).  She had a blast and enjoyed being with her friends.

4. Wild Man and I visited my parents in Florida in May.  It was great to just hang out with them for several days.

5. Wild Man and Grandma took a long road trip – from Florida to California to Wisconsin.  They had a great time and have really gotten closer to each other.

6. My family (parents, brother and his family) came up here for a week for a mini-family reunion.  We rented a cabin on a local lake for the week so we could all be together.

7. Grandma (PWM’s mom) started renting the house next door to us.  She still has her house in Florida, so she will divide her time.  She left to go back down South right before Thanksgiving and we expect her back in a couple of weeks.  We have really had a great time with having her so close.

Check out 7 Quick Takes Friday to see what others  have been up to!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

After-Christmas Activities

Christmas day has come and gone.  The gifts are all open.  Since we used gift bags and boxes instead of wrapping, the clean-up was quick.  So, what have we been doing with our week off?

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See these cool items – the Elder Wand for Wild Man and a Welsh Love Spoon for me?!  PWM carved them by hand for us.  The “Elder Wand” was made from a stick that PWM found outside.  He used stain on the “bumps” to provide some contrast.  The Welsh Love Spoon pattern was from a website and is carved from bass wood.  He is soooo talented!  These were all made before Christmas, so PWM has spent his time catching up on everything else!



I decided the other night to unravel a sock that I had made that was entirely too small.  Unfortunately, the techniques I used in making the sock made it difficult to unravel.  So, I sat at the table with loupes (magnifying glasses) on while I tried to unravel the sock and then wind the yarn into a ball.  And I did NOT know that PWM was going to take a picture of me!!  (And the sock is still not completely unraveled.)  Right now, I’m making myself a pair of socks with some leftover yarn.  Then I’ll be working on some projects for some of my cousin’s kids who live in Minnesota – a place where wool is definitely appreciated!


Wild Man loves his Lego Hogwarts Castle.  Of course, you can see in the second picture that he felt the need to “improve” it by adding guns to the roof!

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And here is Wild Man demonstrating his Nerf dagger and shield.  Yes, he loves the camera!

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Rosie Girl has been wearing one of the hats from my brother and sister-in-law pretty much every day since Christmas.  The hat is brown and has a flower appliqué of a couple of different kinds of fabric.  While wearing her hat, Rosie Girl has been spending some time on the computer watching her new DVDs, making electronic “songs”, and writing stories. 

Rosie Girl and her friend went sledding yesterday.  PWM went out today to Grandma’s yard to try to blow some snow into a mini-sledding hill, so Wild Man got to play on that hill some today.  I’m hoping to get my cross-country skis out soon. 

I’ll post pictures of my Christmas knitting in a week or so.  I had made projects for my brother and his family and we mailed them the Saturday before Christmas.  Unfortunately, I had given PWM the incorrect zip code to put on the box.  PWM contacted the post office and either they redirected it or the error was somehow magically fixed and the package arrived at my sister-in-law’s family’s house today.  But, the package came after my brother’s family had already left to go back South.  It’s getting mailed to them at home, so they will hopefully get their presents next week sometime!


So, how are you spending your time this week?  Any fun projects or plans, or are you just relaxing?

Christmas Simplicity

I talk a good line when it comes to simple living, but I have a much harder time actually “walking the walk”.  I want our family life to be calm and relaxing, yet find myself encouraging the kids to be involved in lots of activities.  During the Christmas season, I find myself trying to “do” all the Christmas traditions – baking, decorating, going to parties, etc. – even though it goes completely against my dream of a more “simple” holiday.

This year, though, I think we finally had a simple Christmas.  Yes, it was largely brought about by a very long-lasting headache, but the end result was good.  I wasn’t involved in any Christmas cookie exchanges, so I only baked a couple of times during the holidays, and then just for our family.  I had started my Christmas knitting very early, so the packages were all ready to send a full week before Christmas.  This left me with more relaxing projects right around Christmas because it wasn’t critical that they were done by a certain time, thus lowering my stress level.  We certainly didn’t spend any more on Christmas this year than we usually do, and I suspect that we may have spent less.  PWM, Rosie Girl, and Wild Man did all the wrapping of gifts that were being mailed.  I only wrapped one present for the four of us here at home.  Otherwise, we used gift bags or Christmas boxes.  (Note: We don’t put our Christmas gifts out until after the kids go to bed.  I’m not sure they are old enough yet to have the temptation of an untaped box or gift bag for several weeks set before them!)

Overall, we had a great Christmas.  On Christmas Eve, Rosie Girl and PWM played with the worship team at church and Wild Man just generally helped out.  I went to the first Christmas Eve service and then had some extra time to finish straightening the house before everyone got home.  Christmas morning started at around 7:30 (I love that my kids are getting older).  We spent all Christmas Day just hanging out and playing with our Christmas gifts.  Wild Man took most of the day to put together his Lego Hogwarts.  Rosie Girl watched some movies while I read my books and PWM used his new carving tool.  We planned to go to the assisted living facility where our former neighbor now lives (as of a couple of weeks ago), but when I called to inquire, they said that he was out for the day.  Yay for him!

Tonight, we had our Christmas dinner.  I made a roast with mashed potatoes and gravy, dressing (savory bread pudding), and shredded and buttered carrots.  PWM made sure that the table got cleaned off and the food put away and I finished cleaning the kitchen.

I think we succeeded!  We met all our holiday commitments, but managed to stay relaxed and not overly busy.  Now, to do this next year without having a headache to force it on us!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Book Reviews – 12/27/2010

In the last few months, I’ve listened to three books by Lisa See (on mp3 while I knit).  I have to say that she is one of my favorite authors.

Shanghai Girls – This novel tells the story of two sisters who grew up in Shanghai during the 1930s, but are forced to leave when the Japanese reach the city.  They had both been married to Chinese men who lived in Los Angeles, so they make their way from Shanghai to Hong Kong to San Francisco and then on to Los Angeles.  The rest of the story is about the sisters and their husbands’ family’s life in Chinatown.  The author does an excellent job of developing believable characters and drawing the reader into the setting.  I learned quite a bit about Chinese culture and the persecution faced by the Chinese at the hands of our government in the mid-twentieth century.  A

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan – Snow Flower and Lily are two girls growing up in medieval China who become “old sames”, life-long friends with a ceremony performed when they are children.  We watch them grow up, get their feet bound, learn to perform household tasks, and even learn “women’s writing” (since women were supposed to be illiterate).  The story continues through their marriages as one moves up in society and the other down.  Again, the author has given us characters with whom we can sympathize and shows us a part of Chinese society that most of us would never learn about otherwise.  A

Peony in Love – This is the least “conventional” of the three Lisa See novels that I have read.  Peony, a girl engaged to be married, becomes enamored of a man she believes that she cannot have because of her engagement.  She then becomes obsessed with “The Peony Pavilion”, a popular opera.  This story takes place in the 17th century and explores deep emotions and women’s desire and need to express themselves.  We see the contrast between the reality of women being relegated to the “women’s chamber” and the desire of the women themselves to be heard by the outside world.  A

In addition to enjoying the books themselves, I liked listening to them being read by Janet Song.  Whether you choose to read them or listen to them, I think you’ll find it worth your time.



Sunday, December 26, 2010

Things That Make Me Happy

I thought it might be fun to share some things that are making me happy these days.  You are encouraged to leave comments with what makes you happy!

1. Watching Wild Man play with his Lego Hogwart set, especially now that he’s starting to integrate his other characters into the Harry Potter world.

2. Listening to Rosie Girl play piano or ocarina.

3. My snuggie.  Yes, I was a “snuggie snob” until Rosie Girl gave me one for Christmas last year.  I have to be honest and say that it’s just wonderful, if a bit staticky.

4. Harry Potter books – I just finished Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire again.

5. Audiobooks on my mp3 so I can listen while I cook, clean, or knit.

6. Yarn – I think I knit just so I can enjoy the feel of the  yarn.

7. My neck heating pad.  PWM doesn’t like the smell of the herbs, but I just like that it warms me up and loosens up those muscles.

8. Books – Books as a general concept make me happy.  Specifically, I’m reading/listening to several novels as well as some non-fiction books.  But, no self-help (even of the “Christian” variety).

9. My Bible – The Bible as a concept makes me happy – God’s Word for us to read is an amazing thing.  But, I’m also happy with the Thompson Chain Reference NIV Bible that I got from my parents in high school.  I’ve learned, though, not to try to read the Bible for answers to life’s problems, but rather to read it to become immersed in God’s story.

10. For a round even ten, I’d have to say that chocolate makes me happy.  Whether it’s in ice cream. cookies, or candy, I like it.  Of course, I can’t eat it all the time and I need to include a decent amount of veggies and protein.  But, a little bit of chocolate goes a long way!

Your turn: what makes you happy today??

Book Reviews – 12/26/2010

In the Land of Believers by Gina Welch - Here's another look at Evangelicalism from an outsider who went "undercover".  Gina Welch pretended to be a Christian to be able to more closely observe conservative Christians at Thomas Road Baptist Church (the church founded by Jerry Falwell).  There is a whole discussion to be had about the ethics of how she inserted herself into this group of people, but that's for another day.  Ms. Welch takes the reader through her own journey of distrust toward Christians to a deeper understanding of (at least) this particular group of Evangelicals.  She never converts but does make some real friendships in the singles' group that she joins.  Her final conclusion is that we would all do well to make an effort to get to understand each other.  Ms. Welch came away from the experience with more understanding of Evangelicals and less of the contempt with which she started.  I would have liked to read more of her thoughts about the Single’s ministry and her perspective of women in that section of Evangelical culture.  A-

I Am Hutterite by Mary-Ann Kirby - This is a pretty good book about a family that is raised in one of the tight-knit Hutterite communities in Canada but chooses to leave.  The author does a nice job showing the advantages of communal living but also the disadvantages, particularly as regards authority structures.  The family's struggle to fit in to a world that they don't understand and that doesn't share their values is well-described.  An enjoyable book.  B

I Still Dream About You by Fannie Flagg - My review: Another pleasant read from Fannie Flagg. The story revolves around a real estate agent and former beauty pageant winner in Birmingham, AL. As usual, Flagg gives us a cast of characters that we can care about as well as an engaging plot.  B

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – I hesitated to read this series at first because the premise was so depressing: in a futuristic North America, the government requires each province to choose one boy and one girl to compete each year in The Hunger Games, a to-the-death competition which is televised (and required viewing) in all the provinces.  Only one boy or girl can win.   But this year, Katniss takes the place of her sister, whose name is chosen in their province, and competes (with and against Peeta, a boy from the province) in the Hunger Games.  The games, designed to show the provinces the strength of the Capitol, test the nerves, skill, and resourcefulness of Katniss and Peeta.  They also test their character as only one person can win.  A very well-written book that quickly drew me in to the plot.  The characters are well-rounded, so I would love and dislike them by turns.  I strongly recommend this books for high schoolers.  I think it’s rather graphic and dark for younger kids. A

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins – This second book in the Hunger Games trilogy is another stand-out in the young adults category.  The character(s) from the Hunger Games who survived are given the usual honors and awards, but then are in for a big shock when the time comes for next year’s Hunger Games.  Again, I was impressed with the depth of the characters.  The plot was very edge-of-your seat – I was completely surprised at the ending.  And, for good measure, there’s some romance – of course, it’s romance complicated by the politics of the Hunger Games.  A

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins – I listened to this conclusion of the trilogy on audiobook.  My daughter didn’t like the reader, but I actually did.  In any case, this book tells the story of the aftermath of the Hunger Games and the subsequent civil war.  Some of the characters are calling the shots, while Katniss is questioning what her role should be.  The climax of this book was, again, a complete surprise.  But, everything was brought together in a satisfying dénouement.  This was a good conclusion to a very strong series that prompts the reader to consider the role of the state in the lives of it’s citizens.  A

With Friends Like These by Sally Koslow – From the author of The Late, Lamented Molly Marx comes another light, entertaining novel.  The story follows four close friends who had shared an apartment when they were younger.  Now they are getting older, having children, advancing their careers, etc., but not without some strain.  The four women consider themselves close friends, but selfishness and deception rear their ugly heads.  How they resolve the actions motivated by their selfishness and deceit provides plenty of fodder for the plot.  The characters are a little flat, but the story moves quickly and is worth the couple of hours it takes to read it.  B

The Late, Lamented Molly Marx by Sally Koslow – This entertaining read is told in flashbacks from the perspective of the deceased Molly Marx.  Molly was a young mother who lived an upper class life in Manhattan.  When she was killed while on a bike ride, she thought she had it all: a good marriage, a lovely daughter, and an up and coming career.  However, as she reviews the events of her life, she realizes that all was not how it seemed.  Definitely a light read, but pleasant.  B

I hope to post more reviews later in the week.  I’ve listened to a number of books on mp3 while I was knitting this year,  so I’ll review those as well.



Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas 2010

It’s late afternoon on Christmas Day.  We’re all sitting around enjoying our gifts and getting some much needed rest.  For your enjoyment, I present the highlights of Christmas 2010.

  • Last night, PWM and Rosie Girl played with the worship team for the Christmas Eve service and did a great job!

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  • The Christmas Eve service included various sections of scripture read by one of the staff members while it was acted out by a small group of people.  Between these dramatic pieces were interspersed songs and Christmas carols.  Then our pastor preached on Simeon.  It was beautiful.
  • I finished the new Christmas stockings for me and PWM!


  • Wild Man has spent pretty much all day setting up his new Lego Hogwarts set.

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  • Rosie Girl was quite happy with her tickets to see Wicked in February!


  • PWM got all creative this year – he made a wooden spoon for me, an Elder Wand (from Harry Potter) for Wild Man, and crocheted juggling balls for Rosie Girl.

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  • Wild Man also got a Mind Flex game – the other played it this afternoon while I was taking a nap.
  • I gave the rest of the family a Mythbusters game that we’re going to break out after dinner.
  • With all the Harry Potter stuff, we’ve all taken to speaking with British accents!
  • Rosie Girl got a set of Full-Metal Alchemist DVDs and a pocket watch (from one of the FMA characters).
  • Wild Man gave each of the three of us a painted wooden box with a set of coupons – mine are for “reading out loud”, “dishwasher”, “rub” (i.e. my feet or my back or my neck), and “breakfast in bed”.  I think I’m going to enjoy the next few months.
  • For good measure, here’s a picture of the four of us – all dressed up at the same time!


Hope that Christmas has been wonderful for you and your family!!

Sentimental or Scandalous?


I collect Nativity sets – I think I had twenty-something at last count.  I have resin, porcelain, glass, wood, and cloth Nativity sets.  The all contain the Holy Family – Mary, Joseph, and the Baby Jesus.  Some have a couple of shepherds and animals.  Others also include 3 Magi (well, one has 2 Magi, but I don’t think that was intended).  One thing they all have in common is that they are sentimental.   They use stock images of the characters to convey the story of the Nativity to us.  Mary is always beatific, looking lovingly down at her son in the manger (who do you know who looked that good right after childbirth?).  There are a few shepherds looking a little scruffy, to be sure, but then again, we can’t smell them.  The Magi look exotic and majestic as they bring their gifts to Jesus (although they almost certainly weren’t in Bethlehem, but visited the family in Nazareth).  These Nativity sets are all beautiful and a nice reminder of the fact of Jesus’ coming to earth, but the emotions they evoke are more sentimental than anything else.


When you think of Christmas, what emotions come to your mind?  If you are like me, you get “warm fuzzies” about this season – the gifts, visiting with family, the smell of warm gingerbread.  We’ve spent the last four weeks immersed in Christmas music and, in this house, making Christmas gifts.  Most Christmas movies talk about Christmas being a time of giving and a time of family.  You truly have to be a hard-hearted Scrooge (pre-Christmas ghosts) in order to not have some nice positive emotions this time of year.


In reality, though, Christmas is not sentimental, but scandalous.  It was a scandal, first, because God humbled (humiliated?) himself enough to actually become like His creation.  He went from the perfection of Heaven to the difficult life of first century Palestine – and as a member of a working class/poor family, not the nobility or clergy as you might expect.  In no other religion is there a claim that God became human.  (Sure, the ancient Greeks did tell some stories of gods disguising themselves as humans, but that was generally just to cause mischief.)  Other religions admonish their adherents to work hard to earn their god’s favor.  Christianity is different, though, in that God became human.  He started as a little baby and grew up into a man.  He did all the things that humans do – including the bodily functions that “nice people” don’t talk about in public (although, as a physician, I think I’m exempt from that clause).  And, while humanity may be the pinnacle of God’s creation, we are still a huge step down.


Some have tried to say that God didn’t actually become human; that it was too much to expect that God would become like us; that it was a scandal.  The Council of Nicea took up the question in 325AD and concluded that “And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father [the only-begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God], Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father.”  Even today, groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses claim that Jesus was a created being and, thus, inferior to God.  Yes, God becoming human was scandalous.


The Incarnation was scandalous also because it was not how the Jews pictured the Messiah coming.  The first-century Jews in Palestine were living under Roman rule with Herod the Great as their puppet.  The Jews expected that the Messiah would come and liberate them from their oppression.  Jesus was totally not what they expected.  When he preached a gospel of love and peace and sacrifice, the hearers were scandalized!  This could not be the Messiah who would save them from Roman Rule!  But God had a different plan – one that involved Jesus paying for our sins once and for all.  Not only that, Jesus showed us how we could live; He is the ultimate example.  Without Jesus (God incarnate), we would still be lost in our sins.  The Incarnation was God’s greatest gift to humanity.


While we can enjoy the sentimental feelings of this season, we also need to remember the scandal of the Incarnation.  God became human to pay for our sins and to show us how to live.  God blew everyone’s expectations out of the water to give us what we so desperately need.  As you see the sweet baby in the manger, remember that He is God become human just for us.


Merry Christmas!!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Traditions

‘Tis the season for Christmas traditions!  After 18 years of marriage, PWM and I have lots of traditions – some we brought from our families of origin, while others we’ve developed on our own.  In the last few years, my headaches have required us to cut back on our commitments, so we have cut out things that don’t enhance our enjoyment or understanding of the holiday.  Here are some of our favorite traditions:

1. Decorating – We put up our Christmas decorations on the weekend after Thanksgiving.  Decorating is a family affair with all four of us participating and the cats getting underfoot.  We don’t do much outdoor decorating, but the kids did put up some lights right around our front door and we put icicle lights in the inside of the front room bay window that can be seen from outside.  It’s very festive!

2. Christmas program – PWM has been involved in the church Christmas Eve program almost every year since we moved up here.  In the last few years, it has become a little bit of a tradition that PWM spends most of Christmas Eve at church getting ready for the program while Wild Man goes along with him to “help”.  (I have been assured that he was rather helpful and has never been underfoot – I hope that’s true.)  This year, Rosie Girl is playing keyboards in the Christmas Eve program and is thrilled because they are doing “Christmas Eve Sarajevo” (recorded by Trans-Siberian Orchestra).

3. Christmas recitals – Having kids who like to perform means that we get to go to lots and lots of performances and recitals, particularly during Christmas and the end of the school year.  And we wouldn’t trade them for anything!  I am glad, though, that there are fewer performances this year.  Rosie Girl had her regular piano recital and a piano/ocarina performance at the Women’s Tea at the Assembly’s church.  Wild Man played with the rest of the middle school band in the school program.  Rosie Girl chose not to be involved with the high school choir this year, giving us a little more breathing room this year.

4. Books – Reading aloud is a year-round tradition for us.  We start reading Christmas books as soon after Thanksgiving as we are able.  I wrote last week about some of our favorites.

5. Christmas movies – Some of our favorite movies involve music - “Holiday Inn” and “White Christmas”.  We also usually watch “The Santa Clause” (but not usually the sequels), “Miracle on 34th Street”, and “It’s a Wonderful Life”.

6. Food – I usually try to make some kind of baked goods to give away to friends.  Chocolate Mint Crinkle Cookies are one kind of cookie that we only make during the holidays, so we make sure to really enjoy them!  We like to have a special meal together on the day after Christmas, but don’t have a particular menu.  This year, I’ll probably make a roast.  We all enjoyed the dressing that I made at Thanksgiving, so I’ll probably do that again.

7. The Christmas Chain – When the kids were younger, we made a paper chain every year to put across the top of the stairs to remind the kids not to go downstairs without the parents.  It’s a little more complicated now that our only bathroom is downstairs – we have to make sure that it’s easy to remove and replace the chain so that we can deal with bodily issues as needed!  This year, Rosie Girl is making things a little more interesting by making a permanent chain.  Each link is made in a different way using a different material.  She has links made of duct tape, pipe cleaners, copper wire, and lots more.

I hope to post some pictures of our fun Christmas traditions in the next few days.  In the meantime, Merry Christmas (and Happy Holidays to my non-Christian readers)!!

Rambling – 12/23/2010

1:42am and all is not quite well in our home.  I have a wicked migraine that is defying everything I throw at it.  Actually, the nausea is much calmer now that I’ve taken a bunch of Phenergan.  I’m exhausted, but can’t lie down in bed because that makes the pain worse.  PWM brought my CPAP machine down here so I can sleep on the sofa.  Right now, I’m just kind of hanging out and waiting for the pain to calm down.  And it will.  I rarely have intense pain like this for more than about 4 or 6 hours.  What’s actually worse is that the migraine sometimes settles into a low-grade headache that lasts for days – like it did last week.  But, they don’t last forever.  I just need to hang on.

Rosie Girl has been working on her gift for me, but it’s been kind of hard.  The only place that she can really work on it is in the dining room and I’m usually in and out of the dining room and kitchen pretty frequently.  Usually I go to bed before Rosie Girl, but not tonight.  So, whenever I looked that direction or passed by the table tonight, I had to shade my eyes.  Wild Man has most of his gift work done, except that he needs to make some more “coupons” which involves me cutting lots of cardstock into 2x3 inch cards for him.  Probably tomorrow.

All my gift knitting has been done for a couple of weeks now.  I’ve been working rather diligently on some Christmas stockings for me and PWM.  This was my first attempt at Fair Isle knitting and I loved it!  The only problem is that I need to tack the floating strands on the back of the work more frequently than I did on the first stocking.  On the second, I made sure to twist the yarns in the back of the work whenever I had a stretch of stitches of more than 4 in the same color.  It lies much neater and doesn’t pucker.  That being said, I think I can make the first one look just fine with a little work on blocking it.  The really hard part has been doing the duplicate stitch on the argyle section.  It sounds so easy – just knit a “v” over each stitch marked in the pattern.  But, it’s deceptively difficult.  I kept getting my number of stitches mixed up and would then have to pull out a section and start over.  By the end, I had gotten the hang of it.  I still need to duplicate stitch our initials onto them, but I think that will be a little easier now that I’ve done the duplicate stitching on the argyle section.

There’s a sweet little man who lived across the street from us and who we saw at the Nutrition Site every week because he came to pick up his lunches every day.  We’ve known since we moved here that he was a menace when he was driving, but he only drove in town and very slowly, so nobody did anything about it until recently.  A few weeks ago, the police finally did whatever was needed to get his license taken away.  And last week, he was moved into some kind of assisted living or nursing home setting.  I’m sure he’s not happy about it, but he really wasn’t doing a great job of taking care of himself.  I’m trying to figure out where he moved so that we can go visit him next week.  He has had a hard time being very sociable because of his hearing and he never would stay at the Nutrition Site for lunch; he would pick up his lunch and go home (until they took away his license – then he got Meals on Wheels).  We will surely be praying for him and trying to visit.

In the meantime, the “abuelo” next door (“abuelo” is “grandfather” in Spanish – he doesn’t speak much English) puts the rest of us to shame with his work.  While the rest of the world is out using snowblowers after a snow storm, he shovels out his family’s driveway.  I know they have a snow blower because I’ve seen his son and grandson use it, but “abuelo” prefers to shovel.  PWM uses a snow blower to do our driveway and sidewalk and Grandma’s driveway.  Sometimes, on weekdays, he’ll go ahead and do the whole sidewalk for the block so that the kids who walk to school have a clear place to walk.  Wild Man is not quite big enough to handle the snow blower yet.  However, he does do some of the shoveling of the walkways, etc.  Then he works on his snow fort in front of the house.

When the kids were decorating the Christmas tree this year, they made lots of jokes about all the angels getting their wings because the bell ornaments would ring whenever they were moved.  So, now, Wild Man will purposely ring the bells and say that he’s making up an army of angels!

A character in a book I’m reading wears a T-shirt that says, “I’m the grammarian about whom your mother warned you!”  Isn’t that great?!  Of course, now that I’ve gotten the hang of not ending sentences with prepositions, I’ve been reading that it’s probably not that big of a deal.  All that work to avoid the end of sentence preposition for naught.  It’s kind of like the spacing with typing.  I learned that you put two spaces at the end of a sentence and one space between words.  Now, they (whoever “they” is) say that you should only put one space at the end of the sentence.  I’ve been typing since I was 15 – close to 30 years of my life – and have always put two spaces after a sentence.  I’m too old to learn that new trick.

My laundry is finally folded.  There were two big baskets of towels, socks, and underwear (mostly mine and PWMs) that needed folding.  I offered to pay one or both kids to do it after I went to bed last night, but there were no takers.  So, tonight, during Top Chef, I roped Wild Man into helping me fold the clothes – without pay (except a cookie).  So, now they’re folded so I guess it’s time to get them upstairs.  Rosie Girl did her clothes a few days ago.  I probably need to get Wild Man to do his tomorrow so he has his dress clothes for Christmas Eve service at church.

That’s all my rambling.  Pretty boring, huh?  I’ll try to be more entertaining next time.


Monday, December 20, 2010

Living In The Moment

One thing that chronic illness has taught me is to live in the moment.  “Carpe diem!”  “Seize the day!”  Since I never know when a migraine is going to start, I take advantage of the time that I have without pain to really enjoy life.

This wasn’t always the case.  Until recently, when I felt pretty well, I would try to scurry around doing all the stuff I had wanted to do when I had a headache.  Not only was I overly busy, but I was afraid that a headache was going to start anytime.  My life was pretty much pain during the headaches and fear and anxiety between the headaches.  I don’t encourage this approach to life!

How have things changed?  I don’t have a life-threatening illness where I am trying to capture every bit of life before I die, but I do have an illness that threatens to become my life.  I’m learning to plan to do fewer things when I feel well.  I’m also getting the hang of just enjoying the migraine-free time.

Psalm 90:12 “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

I learn to “number my days aright” by abiding in Jesus.  Isaiah 26:3  reminds me “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you” and in Ephesians, we read “For He Himself (Jesus) is our peace.”  Whether I have a headache or not, I am not forgotten by God.  And, in pain or not, I can find peace in Jesus.  I can relax knowing that I am loved by God whether or not I have a headache and that He is taking care of me.

Wherever you are today, remember that Jesus is our peace today and each day.  Live in the moment – tomorrow is gone and you don’t know what tomorrow holds.  In other words, life is short; eat dessert first!

How do you live in the moment?  How do you manage to keep your cares from consuming you?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Books!

We are a family that likes our books – and Christmas books are no exception.  Here are the ones we have.

1. What Happened to the Donkey after Christmas? by Joseph LoBianco – This little book was written by an acquaintance of my father-in-law.  It traces the life of Jesus through the eyes of the donkey that carried Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem.

2. Mary Did You Know? by Mark Lowry – This is a little gift book that includes a CD of Mark Lowry singing the song of the same name.  It includes the lyrics to the song, some thoughts by Mark Lowry, and quotes from several other Christian writers.

3. The Best Christmas Story – This book is actually a board book with slide-out panels that tells the Nativity story.  I haven’t had the heart to get rid of it, even though the kids are “too old” for it.

4. A Season of Joy by Susan Card – Michael Card’s wife wrote this lovely book that includes such things as the story behind some Christmas carols, the Card family’s favorite books, and chapters on such things as simplifying the holidays and keeping the birth of Christ in the front of our minds.

5. The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado – This story of a lamb who was present at the birth of Christ is a lovely display of God’s love for everyone, even though we are imperfect.

6. Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien – I am pretty sure this has to rank as my favorite Christmas book!  It is a compilation of letters that Tolkien wrote to his children (from Father Christmas, of course) along with pictures.  Tolkien’s imagination and creativity come shining through this book!

7. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson – It looks like the Christmas pageant will be ruined by the Herdman kids, the worst kids in the world.  Or, maybe not.  Maybe it can actually be the best pageant ever!  A wonderful read-aloud!

8. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens – I’ll be honest, we’ve never actually managed to read this book the whole way through as a read-aloud.  It’s not easy to read out loud, but the story is just wonderful.

9. The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Woiciechowski – We received this book as a Christmas gift from one of my partners in the medical group when I was working.  Jonathan Toomey is a bitter widower who is asked to carve a nativity set by a widow and her son.  The miracle that occurs in Jonathan Toomey’s heart during his carving the figures is beautiful to see.

10. Santa Who? by Gail Gibbons – This book explains the various Santa and Santa-like Christmas traditions around the world and their history.  A very good read-aloud.

11. Silent Night by Margaret Hodges – This telling of the story of the hymn “Silent Night” and the accompanying illustrations are just gorgeous.

12. Jan Brett’s Christmas Treasury by Jan Brett – Five Christmas stories that are either written or adapted by Jan Brett are included, along with Brett’s wonderful illustrations.  This treasury also includes Clement Moore’s “The Night Before Christmas”.  (We also have the exact same The Night Before Christmas as a separate book that we had gotten before we received the treasury as a gift.)

Now it’s your turn – what are your family’s favorite Christmas books?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

“Breathing” Jesus

I’m reading A Place of Healing by Joni Eareckson Tada (loaned to me by a dear friend – thanks, Cheryl!) and am getting a lot from it.  I’m actually reading it rather slowly because each section has given me something to think and pray about. 

Tonight, I was reading about “breathing in the love of Jesus and exhaling gratitude and graciousness”.  What a wonderful word picture!  As Christians, we have Jesus’ love surrounding us to “breathe” and the natural consequence of that is to “exhale” His love onto other people.

So often, I think about (and hear or read about) our “Christian life” or “Christian walk” – as if we have a “Christian” part to our life and a “secular” part to our life.  The reality is quite different.  As a follower of Jesus, my entire life is about Him.  I don’t have a “Christian life” – I have “life”.  There’s no way to separate out the sacred and the secular.

As I live my life, I want to think of that picture of inhaling Jesus, not having anything to separate us.  Glorifying God then comes naturally.


Friday, December 17, 2010

7 Quick Takes Friday – 12/17/2010


1. Well, this pre-Christmas headache needs to end soon.  I do have to say, though, that I have an amazing husband and family who are keeping the household moving forward!

2. Guess what!  I remembered to take pictures of my knitting projects BEFORE wrapping and mailing them.  But I won’t post them until AFTER the holidays!

3. PWM and the kids are currently wrapping all the gifts to be mailed off so PWM can send them tomorrow.  I’m giving them moral support in a migraine-medication daze!

4. Christmas movies!!  We watched Scrooged last night (I’d never seen it before – can you believe it?).  I watched Holiday Inn a few nights ago, am watching the end of White Christmas right now, and will watch Miracle on 34th Street in just a few minutes.

5. We have zillions of Christmas lights in our house – the Christmas tree, around the front window, over the piano, around the dining room window.  And the kids have now made paper chain gingerbread men and draped them over the sink.  Very festive!

6. All of the Christmas music performances are finished (except Sunday service and Christmas Eve service – but I don’t really count those as performances).  Rosie Girl played Bach Invention in D Minor at her recital a couple of weeks ago and then played beautifully as the special music for a Women’s Tea.  Wild Man played with the rest of the 7th and 8th grade band on Monday night at their Christmas concert.

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7. We’ve been reading one of Wild Man’s Sonlight books at night, but we’re just about done with it, so we can start reading Christmas books!!  We have some great ones, including The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey.

Check out Conversion Diary to see what others have been up to!!

Thursday, December 16, 2010


Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.  Psalm 90:12

Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  Ephesians 5:16-17

I used to think that making good use of my time for God meant being busy, filling every minute of every day with some activity.  And I was good at it!  I worked full-time as a family doctor, was involved with my family, and helped out at church.  Performance-based Christianity at it’s best!!

And, honestly, there’s something very comfortable with that kind of life.  As long as I was busy, I figured I must be pleasing God.  After all, we are “created for good works”, even if we aren’t saved by those works.  This was reinforced by what I read about being a “Christian woman”.  If I was just organized enough, I could have a perfect house, perfect kids, and perfect schedule.  And isn’t that what Christianity is all about?

Ummmm, no.  In the last few years, I have had a lot more time to think about how I should “number my days aright”.  OK, to be honest, I’ve been pretty frustrated.  I can’t do the “performance Christianity” the way that I used to, and I end up feeling downright useless.  Just about the time I think I’m past my need to “do” things, something happens (like a week-long headache) to remind me that I still see myself as valuable by what I do.  And my counselor and I go through the discussions yet once again.  But, each time, we get a little deeper and I have a little more understanding of how to “be” with God instead of only “doing” for God.

I kind of feel like Eustace in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (the book, not the movie – I haven’t seen the movie).  Eustace is turned into a dragon by “sleeping on a dragon’s hoard [of treasure] with dragonish thoughts in his heart.”  He meets Aslan and is led to a garden with a well where he (Eustace) wants to get in the water.  Aslan tells Eustace that he must undress first.  So, Eustace scratched off his skin (like a snake sheds its skin) three times, but still can’t get rid of it.  Aslan tells Eustace that he (Aslan) must do it for him.  Eustace tells Edmund, “I was afraid of his claws, but I was pretty nearly desperate now.  So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.  The very first tear that he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart.  And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt.  The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off.”  I’ve been trying to figure out how to live, but only when I let God tear away all the layers of sin and wrong-thinking will I become what God wants.  But those layers are very thick.  I’ve got lots of years of bad habits, sinful behavior, and downright incorrect theology that needs to get discarded.  God changing me hurts, but yet feels good at the same time.

This week-long headache has gotten me – again – to think about how I am using my time.  My feelings of being useless – for my family, for the kingdom of God, for myself – have all come to the surface again.

How should I use my time?  I’m not able to be “busy” anymore, and I’m more and more convinced that we are not called to be “busy” for God and try to do everything, but, rather, to be obedient in whatever God puts in front of us.

What has God put in front of me?  A husband who needs to be loved.  Two wonderful children who need to be loved and taught and guided.  A few good friends to share life with.

I hate these headaches – because they’re painful for me, but also because they make life harder for the rest of the family.  But, I’m grateful that God is tearing off that thick skin of performance-based religion to reveal my genuine self who wants to love God in whatever way He puts in front of me.  And, each time we deal with this, I am closer to that “heart of wisdom”.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Knitting In The Round

I don’t generally write about knitting because I consider myself such an amateur.  I prefer to post pictures of the finished projects to share with people.  Today, though, I decided to share what I’ve learned about knitting in the round and give some opinions based on my experience.

I learned to knit by making scarves on straight needles, pretty much like everyone else.  When my husband’s sister came to visit one spring, she taught me how to make a hat by knitting in the round on 4 needles.  A whole new knitting world opened up to me!  Several months later, I decided to try my hand at socks.  My sister-in-law gave me some great advice about those: “Just follow the directions, even if you don’t understand how it’s going to work.  It all comes out in the end.”  And she was right.  I understand the theory behind making socks now, but I did the first few pairs on faith!

Knitting on 4 (or 5) DPNs (double-point needles) was lots of fun.  And, I could stick a small project, like a hat or a sock, into my purse and take it with me.  I was now a committed sock-knitter.  It was so fun to see a ball of yarn transformed into a wearable pair of socks!

Several times on knitting websites, I had seen reference to the “Magic Loop” technique of knitting in the round.  I had no idea what it was, but it sounded interesting.  After I watched a couple of videos and read some articles, I decided to give it a try with some socks.  I bought a Turbo Addi size 1 40” circular and got started.  I was initially concerned that all the maneuvering of the stitches in the middle and end of each row would take a long time, but I was pleasantly surprised that the knitting went very quickly.

I had come across other articles about knitting in the round using two circular needles.  When I ordered the yarn for my Christmas Stocking project, I also ordered two size 3 needles on long cables so that I could use the two circular needle technique as the pattern recommended.  The technique itself isn’t very difficult.  However, I didn’t end up doing the project on two circulars and went back to using Magic Loop.  The pattern has several sections of Fair Isle knitting – stranding two or more colors behind the work – and the two needles plus the two or three colors of yarn kept getting tangled up in the back of the work.  However, I have found that using the two circular needle technique is great for the headband I’m making for Rosie Girl.

So, here’s the advantages and disadvantages of each technique as I see it:

1. Double point needles

Advantages – easy to learn, the needles can be quite affordable, easy to maneuver stitches as needed over 3 or 4 needles and knit with the 4th or 5th needle

Disadvantages – it’s easy to leave “ladders” between needles (when the stitches aren’t at the same tension as the rest), can be difficult to knit a large project since most DPNs are less than 8 inches long.

2. Magic Loop

Advantages – only one needle to purchase (although the good ones can be a little pricey), easy to do once you get the hang of it.

Disadvantages - “ladders” between the needles are still possible, hard to use if you have a larger project with lots of stitches (since the loop needs to be large).

3. Two Circulars

Advantages – easy to do, if you do “Judy’s Magic Cast-on” then you already have two circular needles, good for larger projects.

Disadvantages – two needles can be a little pricey, it’s relatively easy to get needles mixed up and knit using the wrong one, tangling of yarn and cables possible when doing color work.

(You may have noticed that I did not include working with shorter cable needles.  When you work with a cable needle that’s just the size that you need, it’s hard to deal with increases and decreases.  In addition, it’s darn nigh impossible to do something as small as a sock on a cable needle without Magic Loop or some other technique.  The three techniques here are the ones I have used for socks and other projects.)

So, go out there and enjoy knitting!  What technique do you prefer?  What did I leave out?


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Our Week – 12/12/2010

What a crazy week!!  I’m glad it’s finally Sunday!  What’s been going on?


Last week, PWM and I went to the optometrist for a “mid-term” meeting about Wild Man’s vision therapy.  It turns out that Wild Man’s brain actually shuts down input from one of his eyes when his eyes get tired.  Wild Man continues to have his regular vision therapy on Monday, but is also doing some work with a computer program on Monday and Thursday.  On Monday night, PWM and Wild Man went to TaeKwonDo as usual, but they were also getting ready for a belt test later in the week.


Rosie Girl was the special musical guest at the Ladies’ Christmas Tea at the local Assemblies of God church.  We had a wonderful time!  The sanctuary was filled with tables each decorated by a woman from the hosting church.  We had tea, water, and  lots of goodies.  Rosie Girl played 2 classical pieces and 2 Christmas pieces on keyboard and then played 6 short Christmas carols on her ocarina.  She did a wonderful job and the ladies in attendance were quite gracious.


PWM and Rosie Girl had a rehearsal at church in the afternoon when Rosie Girl usually helps our Worship Director.  This week was complicated by the fact that Wild Man had started complaining again about a sore throat and had some evidence of recurrent infection.  PWM took him to see one of the doctors at the clinic who had Wild Man take another course of Zithromax.  Fun.


We had our first real snowfall on Thursday – and I had the migraine to show for it!  It was a pretty quiet day for me, but PWM took Wild Man to church for a drum lesson, then to the optometrist for his vision therapy, and then (yippee!!) bought dress clothes for him.  Yes, he got dress clothes without having to resort to taking Wild Man to Appleton or Stevens Point!!  Wild Man went to Junior High group in the evening.  I wasn’t able to get to sleep because of my migraine, so I planned to sleep in on Friday.


Thursday’s migraine threw a wrench into Friday’s plans.  We had appointments to be at UW-Stevens Point for a visit starting at 8:45am.  PWM and Rosie Girl got up early and got to the University before 8:45am.  The class they were going to observe was actually taking a test, so they talked with the administrator for the Department of Music for an hour or so.  Then, they went on a campus tour from 10:30-12:30.  I slept in and was able to meet them at 12:30 in the Music Building.  PWM left for home about 1pm and Rosie Girl had a piano lesson with one of the piano professors at that time.  After the lesson, Rosie Girl and I talked with an admissions director to help us make sure that we’ve got a good curriculum plan for the rest of her high school years.  It was an excellent visit!  Rosie Girl really loved the technology room and thinks she could be very happy there and learn a lot.

PWM and Wild Man had their belt tests on Friday evening.  They are both confident that they did well, so, hopefully, they will get their yellow-tip belts next week.  They both broke board – PWM with a punch, and Wild Man with a kick!

While the boys were at belt testing, I decided to bake cookies.  I made three kinds of cookies – butter cookies that I sandwiched together with chocolate frosting, chocolate mint crinkle cookies, and swirled mint cookies.  Yummy!!


The storm came.  We were supposed to have company for dinner last night, but we canceled it because the weather forecast was so bad.  It was snowing when PWM, Wild Man and Rosie Girl went to church at about noon for a rehearsal, but it was still early then.  By evening, it was snowing hard and the wind was blowing all kinds of directions.  Given my previous experience with a blizzard (i.e. a totally miserable migraine), I started on the migraine meds early.  Yes, the migraine came, but it wasn’t as severe as I was expecting!


And today we have the aftermath of the storm.  Church was canceled because so many roads were impassable this morning.  The snow ended this morning, but people were out by noon running their snowblowers and using the snow shovels.  We had a good 8-12 inches here.  And it’s supposed to get bitter cold later in the week.

And somewhere during all of this week, we did manage to get some schoolwork done (mostly Sonlight).

This next week is my week to wrap and mail all the Christmas presents.  Wild Man has a band concert tomorrow night.  Otherwise, I’m going to do a lot of vegging out.  When it’s a bit warmer, I’ll see about breaking out the cross-country skis and enjoying the snow!  How was your week?  Any excitement in your life?

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Our Book!!

PWM has written several “Preference Project” books for CurrClick.  Now he and I have collaborated and written “My Favorite Christmas Tradition”.  Like all the Preference Projects, students are given information about attributes of the topic and given an opportunity to rate how much they like each one.  There are also fun activities included.  This is a great way to add a little more fun to your homeschool during the Christmas season.  Enjoy!

Monday, December 06, 2010

More Messed-Up Plans

No, I’m not talking about me.  Imagine, if you will, a young woman in Judea in the first century.  She is betrothed to a man, a carpenter, but they have not had the marriage ceremony and the young woman is still a virgin.  Her life is following the typical trajectory for those times: betrothal in her late teens, marriage, children, etc.  All of the sudden, though, a wrench is thrown into the plan.  The angel Gabriel came to her.  He started his speech with “Do not be afraid.”  I’m sure she was trying not to be afraid, but having an angel standing in the same room and talking with you must have caused her some level of fear.  In any case, Gabriel continued by telling Mary that she was going to conceive and have a son who “will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” 

Mary must have been pretty confused right about now.  As she told Gabriel, “How will this be . . . since I am a virgin?”  Gabriel assured her that God was most capable of making the pregnancy happen through the Holy Spirit.  As good and faithful as Mary was, she had to have had some seriously churning feelings right about that time.  All of her plans were completely scrapped.  Even if Joseph didn’t divorce her (as he had every right to), there would surely be talk in the village.  Nonetheless, her answer to Gabriel was “I am the Lord’s servant . . . may it be to me as you have said.”  Wow.  We don’t know what Mary was thinking and praying right then, but, whatever it was, she was immediately obedient.  She saw that the road was swerving in a different direction, but she trusted that God could get her through.  Barclay’s commentary on Luke has a wonderful statement about Mary’s response – she didn’t ask “Thy will be changed”, but rather “Thy will be done.”

Fast forward about 40 weeks, give or take a couple.  Mary and Joseph are told that they must return to Bethlehem to be counted in the census.  Wait a minute!!  Didn’t God see that Mary was in her last month of pregnancy?  And maternal and infant mortality in the first century couldn’t have been real great.  Again, I imagine Mary wondering what this new plan was – and what are we on now?  Plan B, C, D, whatever.  We aren’t told Mary’s reaction to this, but given her response to Gabriel, I imagine that she handled this situation with grace.  The trip was 80 miles – probably not too bad for most people on foot, maybe with a donkey.  But, Mary’s in that stage of pregnancy where walking across the room is a challenge.  And now, she has to accompany Joseph 80 miles.  Did God really know what He was up to?

Yes, indeed He did.  It had been prophesied that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, so he was.  But, there was one more little swerve in the road before Jesus’ birth.  When Mary and Joseph got to Bethlehem, there was no room for them in the inn.  Instead, they stayed with the animals, either in a cave or a courtyard.  Yet, what looked like a crazy plan to Mary and Joseph was exactly what God had ordered.  We aren’t told Mary’s disposition or reaction at the birth, but I think she did what she had done with all the other odd things that had happened – she trusted God.

I find this story strangely refreshing.  I have a hard time understanding God’s plan for my life.  I can’t see the big picture, and things aren’t exactly working out the way I expected.  Yet, the mother of Jesus was in a similar situation.  Right about the time it seems that things are under control, the rug gets pulled out from under her and she is forced again to rely solely on God and His promises.  About the time people stop talking about the ill-timed pregnancy, she has to travel to Bethlehem in late pregnancy (when any woman would rather be “nesting”).  They reach Bethlehem and are probably getting excited about stopping and getting a place to stay for the night – until they’re told that they have to stay with the animals because all the rooms are taken.

And at the end of God’s “crazy” plan, the Messiah was born.

What kind of roadmap does God have planned out for me?  No idea.  But, I make each step in obedience and prayer (or at least I try).