Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Just back from our summer vacation where Sissa and Big Pa spoiled us.  Not too much writing today because, as Big Pa says, "If you can't take a good picture in Colorado, you must not have a camera!"

Elk visitors in the back yard
Big Pa is ready to ride

We opted for safety helmets over cowboy hats.

Big Pa is teaching me how to shoot a pellet gun.  Mom says, "What happens with Big Pa stays with Big Pa."

Showing off his aim.

visiting Great Grandma

On our way to Gem Lake

We made it!

See the rock that looks like a boot?  The story is that this cowboy shot himself in the foot.
 I hope he wasn't playing with Big Pa's pellet gun.
Stylish hiker.
Visiting the Baldpate Inn's famous key collection
Katherine donates a key to the collection.
Thanks for a wonderful Colorado vacation.  We love you!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Jack Kneads A Cookie

Screen time is a sticky topic in our house. The 13 year old boy in my home does not like to have limits imposed on his screen time.  And he has a variety of screens to tempt him.  The TV, of course, and the computer and his Nintendo DS and his Wii and his phone and his iTouch...

Of course, he thinks I'm mean because we do not have an XBox 360 Slim and he can't have friends over without it because they will all be bored and have absolutely nothing to do.  If you are not lucky enough to have a teenager in the house you probably think I am making this up or exaggerating but sadly, it is true.

The other day his friends came over and they were all sitting around playing with their phones and not even looking at each other.  "That's enough." I told them.  "Turn those screens off.  You are all smart kids.  Surely you can find something else to do." 

And then, after my little pep talk (or fun-crushing lecture, depending on your perspective) I did something very dumb.  I left the house.  When I returned, the boys were very excited.  They were packing up pitchers of lemonade and plates full of cookies and brownies onto a wagon and heading up the street for their very own Lemonade stand. What entrepreneurs!

Then I went into the house and saw my kitchen. Wow.  Maybe sitting around texting each other wasn't so bad after all.  Dirty bowls, measuring spoons, cookie sheets and brownie pans sit on every counter.  There is a thin layer of sticky lemonade powder everywhere and my feet are sticking to the floor as I walk. 

Mess aside, I was proud of them for thinking of an idea and following through with it.  I head down to the corner to patronize their business and buy a cookie.  "Mom, I had a little trouble with the cookies," Jack tells me.  "I just put all the ingredients in the bowl and then I realized there were steps.  I couldn't figure out how to mix everything up so I ended up using my hands like I was making bread."

Kneading cookie dough--that's one way to solve the problem.  All told, the boys made about $12.00 each and they did come back to clean up the kitchen, sort of.  I think they've cleaned me out of flour and chocolate chips but they had fun and they learned a lot about working together and the importance of following a recipe.   If I'm lucky, years from now they'll remember our house as one where they could be creative, play games and have adventures, instead of the boring old house where there were limits on screen time.   If so, it was worth all the lemonade dust on the floor.

Disclaimer: Credit for the witty pun goes to my friend Dave who said he often "kneads" a cookie.  One reason Dave is so droll and intelligent is that he limits his screen time and reads a lot of books. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Too Short Summer

Way back in June when summer seemed like a beautifully long stretch of time, I created a few summer goals for myself.  I really wanted to clean out our basement, weed the garden and paint Jack's room.  Well, let's be clear.  Jack wanted me to paint Jack's room.  He's wanted it painted ever since last summer when he and Sissa cleaned it out.  The only problem--no, the first problem--is that we could not agree on a color.  He kept insisting that it was his room and that he could paint every wall a different color.  I kept suggesting that we should compromise on a plan that involved fewer colors and less effort. 

Where was I?  Oh, yes, my summer goals.  I thought I should have plenty of time to relax, read, cook, swim, run and still fit in a few productive projects.  And then I blinked and it is the middle of August.  I feel like Rip Van Winkle waking up and looking at the calendar.  Where did all the time go?  Yes, I read a few books and watched plenty of Olympic gymnastics but shouldn't I have somehow done more?

I did work on the basement.  And I made a little progress on one of the garden beds.  But in Jack's room, we only got as far as removing the outlet covers from all the plugs.  I have one last week at home before we're off to vacation and then I go back to work.  If we are going to paint Jack's room, I can no longer wait for the ideal time.  The time is now.

We finally agreed on a color palette (mostly white with one blue wall and a red desk) and got started.  Have you ever painted a room with a 13 year old boy before?  I highly recommend it as an exercise in patience.  Not for him, for me.  As you might imagine, I had a very organized plan of how to approach the project.  First spackle.  Then sand.  Then tape.  Last paint.  Jack has a different view.  Just start painting.  I think starting at the top and working his way down makes sense.  He really likes sideways.  Ultimately, I have to rethink my goal of the project.  Is it to have a well painted wall or to enjoy a mother-son project together?

He'll have to move that paint can eventually, right?
Can we keep the graffiti?
I've never painted a room from start to finish before.  It's a big project and we're slowly making progress.  We've got one week to finish the job while maintaining my sanity.  Wish us luck!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Grill, Chill and a Pill

Sometimes I am not a very nice person.  Like when Paul came home from church and said he volunteered our house to host a gathering, I was less than amused.

"Grill, Chill and Devote" gives people a chance to share a meal and a devotion together.  Sure, I love the idea of different families hosting dinners throughout the summer.  It's a more casual atmosphere and a chance to meet or get to know people better.  Great idea. Just not at my house!

'Cause let's get real, people.  As casual and low-key as we try to make it, hosting dinner is a lot of work.  Invitations, cleaning, shopping, organizing.  Who do you think will end up doing all of this prep?  And we happen to have a dog who gets anxious around company.  How will he react to 20 strange people descending upon his domain? 

But I grinned through my clenched jaw and said, "Sounds lovely, honey." 

(OK, I didn't say that.  I don't remember what I said.  I probably said something along the lines of, "You did what?" and pouted for a while.   But the clenched jaw part is totally true.  Some teeth gritting as well.  I can be quite the pill.)

There is a verse in The Bible that says, "Who is wise and understanding among you?  Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom."  (James 3:13)  Humility.  Not bitterness.  Not selfishness.   Big sigh.  Deep breath.  Silent prayer.  "God, apparently I am not perfect yet.  Sorry about that and thanks for continuing to love me anyways." 
You know we love the comfort and familiarity of our "Friday Friends"--the kind of friends who don't care if your house is a mess--but our new guests would be "Sunday friends."  I looked around the house and yard with fresh eyes.  The floor could use a mopping.  Weeding and mulching the garden has been on our list for too long.  We got to work.

On Sunday our guests arrived and soon the rooms were filled with conversation and laughter.  I learned that people will talk about topics in your living room on Sunday evenings that don't generally come up in the sanctuary on Sunday mornings. I learned more about some members of our church in one night than I have in the twenty years I've been attending. 
Among other things I learned...
who has a few magic tricks up his sleeve...
who will paint your house...as long as you don't mind midnight hours...
who has a new puppy in the house...
who is sending her youngest son to UVA this fall...
who once served cat food "pate" to guests
lots of stories to tell
 The evening wasn't perfect.  I never did mop the floors and Tatum was being his usual self--the best worst dog ever.  But noone seemed to care or notice.  I had fun and maybe, by God's grace, I even got a little wiser.  Added bonus--my garden looks great.  If I had known our Sunday guests would be so motivating, I would have invited our Pastor over for dinner months ago!