Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Claw

This fancy little piece of equipment spent the last couple of days sitting in the orchard road just to the east of our house. Previously it was further down the road and best I can tell "The Claw" is used to rip old apple trees up by the roots, but I never really witnessed it in action. I don't know what mission it was sent here to accomplish or whether it ever finished the job. Everything I can see in the orchard looks the same and this afternoon "The Claw" was loaded back onto this trailer and hauled away, maybe to another unfortunate old orchard. Maybe its purpose is simply to pile up the already uprooted trees so they can be burned. That appears what happened down the road. Maybe I will never know, and then again, maybe it will return to finish the job. In any case, its a pretty impressive looking machine.

This morning I left for town earlier than usual and gave myself enough time to walk around the block before it was time to pick up Troy from preschool. Hannah and I took a twenty minute walk down and around past Shelly's house and back up to Main Street. It was cold and I had to pull my hood up onto my head, but at least the wind wasn't blowing too hard. I need about a gazillion more walks like that to get me back in shape. One down, ... (I had to look up how much a gazillion was. I don't think I could ever walk that far in a lifetime!)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


This morning I left Jasmine home to watch Ellie while I took my three youngest kids to the eye doctor. Not much has changed with Nate or Hannah, but Ben will be getting a new pair of glasses soon. His old ones are pretty beat up and he wears them mostly when he watches TV. Troy had a nice visit at Bethany's house while we were reading eye charts.

It was a good afternoon to catch up on some lost sleep, dark and somewhat overcast. While Troy took his nap on one couch, I took a nap on the other. Hopefully we will get something of value accomplished tomorrow, like school. On Friday Nate, Ben and Hannah get to visit the dentist. Oh, happy day!

Monday, January 28, 2008

A Noisy Day

There is no school today. At 8:20 am two little boys showed up at my door. At 9:05 am two little girls showed up at my door. The three year-old, who is here every week, seemed a noisy, boisterous stranger. The six and seven year-olds ran around, bounced off walls, and laughed at everything, funny or not. Only the nine year-old was quiet. It was not a bad morning, just noisy. I did laundry, swept floors, washed dishes, and made lunches. The girls went home about ten minutes ago. The three year-old is taking a nap. The six year-old is playing Legos with Ben. The house seems quiet.

I have a renewed appreciation for my mom and her loving patience with children. For many, many years my mom operated a daycare out of her home. She often had anywhere from six to ten children in her care for the day. Her house was noisy and there wasn't anyplace to escape the presence of little people, but she loved them. She let them sit on her lap. She hugged them and kissed them. She gave them apples and crackers in the morning and she made them wonderful kid lunches every noon. They took naps in her living room, played with her toys, and ran around in her yard. When my dad was home he drew with them, playfully turned them upside-down, and played his banjo for them. It was a wonderful place for moms and dads to leave ther children. I don't know how Mom kept it up day after day, week after week, year after year, but she did. And she never stopped loving those kids. That is the love of Jesus shining through.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Keeping the Books

I finished reading a book! I know that may not seem a huge accomplishment to some of you, but to me it is a wonderful thing. A few years back I did quite a bit of reading, mostly to my kids. It was a great way to spend some quality time together. We read books like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Caddie Woodlawn, and Mrs. Piggle-wiggle. We laughed at the escapades of Ramona Quimby, Henry Huggins, and Otis Spofford. We laughed at Hannah when she asked, "A boy named Homework?" (Homer Price) More recently we read about the missionary George Mueller and his orphanages in Bristol, England.
I read on my own too, but not near as often. About three years ago I read Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage but it was getting harder and harder to see the lines on the page. I read with one eye closed most of the time, had lots of headaches, and felt pretty much cross-eyed half the time.
Reading glasses have helped and this month I went in search of some good reading material. At the local library I found a copy of Facing Your Giants by Max Lucado. Seeing as I have been running into walls and gaping at seeming unconquerable mountains, this seemed just the book for me. I enjoyed it thoroughly. I have some great thoughts to meditate on and some wonderful words to encourage me on my way. Now I'm looking forward to reading 1 & 2 Samuel.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Beating the Air

We had two unplanned visitors this morning, Josh and Molly. I knew Bethany had to work but the plan called for Adam's mom to come out and watch the baby today. Sometimes our plans get rearranged. Beth called around 8 am and asked if Josh could come and stay here for a few hours. Of course we said yes. Beth called around 8:45 am and asked if Molly could come too. The poor puppy was home alone too much this week, so we let her come to Grandma's house too.

Ben thought Josh could use some fighting lessons, just in case he should run into any meanies out there in the world. I think he's looking pretty good, don't you?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

My Cake Runneth Over

I have a renewed interest in my Red Plaid Cookbook. This afternoon I decided to make Kaffee Kuchen. The recipe called for a 9 x 9 x 2" pan. I didn't have one. The best I could do was an 8" round. Knowing I was short on baking room, I greased two pans, but decided there wasn't enough to fill both. I put it into one pan and set it on a tray, "just incase". The good news is that it tastes yummy and didn't end up all over the bottom of my oven, even if it was slightly volcanic. Maybe I'll try again tomorrow, increase the recipe by half, and bake it in a 9 x 13" pan.


Troy's dad has gone back to his teaching job at a local college, so Troy was here yesterday and I had to pick him up at preschool this noon. I drove off in whiteout conditions to retrieve the small child and bring him back home for lunch. Nothing like a whiteout to add some excitement to winter driving. Add slick roads to near zero visabilty and you can have more excitement that you bargained for. Thankfully, I was able to navigate both to the village and home again with "little" difficulty.
Smart people wear boots when the snow is accumulating, just in case they for some unforseen reason may have to get out of the vehicle, but I am not one of them. I go out in sneakers and then have cold wet feet for the remainder of the day. At least I was wearing my winter jacket and had gloves on... I'm happy to say I did not need to get out of the van for any reason other than going into preschool. But... my feet are feeling rather wet and cold. I think I may need a dry pair of socks and a warm pair of slippers. Good thing for a woodstove to dry out my shoes.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Midwinter Blues

I'm not really feeling blue but I'm not always quite sure what to do with my days. Neither are my kids. The boys practiced taking photos the other day. (I thought picture was cute but wish they had taken the time to wash the mirror.)

Lately I feel like I am expanding at an alarming rate. A slowing metabolism and long winters are catching up with me. I now wish I still had that treadmill my husband bought about 12 years ago. It was only two years old when we sold it. Back then I scarcely had time to sit down much less exercise. I did so much running around I didn't need a treadmill. By the end of the day I already felt as though I had been on one. I fell into bed exausted every night. Now I am exausted in the morning and my muscles ache from little to no exercise. I am very much looking forward to spring and the ability to walk outdoors again.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A Cold Day

It's cold outside. It feels cold inside too. My feet are cold, my hands are cold. Being cold makes me thankful for things that make me warm; a hot drink, a roaring fire, layers of blankets, a warm husband... I'm also thankful that it won't be winter forever even though it often seems long and unending. And, when I see the temperatures in Minnesota, I am thankful to live in Upstate NY.

It has been a contemplative weekend. Yesterday afternoon we returned to our previous church fellowship to attend a funeral service. The friend who passed on touched many lives. He was known for his leadership and for his love, for his faith and generosity. He left behind a beautiful wife, three wonderful grown children and a host of friends. At the service we saw many old friends, some of them also former church members. Some are attending other churches like us, some have moved out of the area, and some remain members of the fellowsip we all attended. We all have people in our lives who have been an incredible influence and example of faith. During the 12 years we attended BBCS, we had an abundance of such people. God has moved many of us on to new places and in time, those of us who were once young and in need of encouragement will be doing the influencing. A sobering thought... Can we ever be the shining example to others that some of these dear friends have been to us? Only as we grow in Christ and allow His love to flow through us.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Friday Flashback

My favorite cowpoke. He wanted a gun for Christmas and being the "bad" mother that I am, I obliged. No fear, he didn't kill anyone, but he did take a few shots at his brothers.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Thursday Thirteen

Thirten things I'm looking forward to...

1. warm weather and melting snow
2. little sprouts poking up in my gardens
3. baby giggles
4. going for long orchard walks
5. wading in the lake
6. taking outside photographs
7. backyard cookouts
8. lettuce and spinach from my garden
9. quiet summer evenings on the back porch
10. spring peepers
11. no school
12. birds singing outside my bedroom window
13. ...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A Real Treasure

But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Matthew 6:20-21

It is Wednesday once again and I am scrambling to finish up craft preparations for tonight's kid's class. We are starting a new book that teaches how we got the Bible. The first lesson is about King Josiah and how a treasure was found when his men cleaned out the Lord's temple. After the reign of two wicked kings, they had found the scrolls of the Holy Scriptures, long forgotten and ignored, stored away in a back room. To Josiah, who longed to follow God, this was a real treasure. So tonight we are making treasure boxes for the kids to keep their Bibles in. Shoe boxes were free at the local K Mart. All I had to purchase aside from glue, is brass fasteners to make the boxes fancy. I already had the foam letters tucked away in my craft collection.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Don't Look Back!

Yesterday I decided to sit down and write out a two week menu plan so that the pressure of deciding what to make for supper each night will be lessened. This is a routine that has me helped in the past so I thought it might be a good step toward relieving some of the stress I have been feeling.

I also decided to make it a priority to go the Ladies' prayer at church on Tuesday morning. Not only is it good for me to pray with the other women, but it will get me up and moving a little earlier in the morning. Once I am in Webster I will likely take the time to either go to the grocery store or do some visiting.

Neither of these two activities has anything to do with home schooling. That is an area I will probably continue to struggle with. (January always seems to be the hardest time...) We did make a visit to the library this morning, which may become a regular routine, and I found a CD-ROM with some math games on it. I haven't checked it out yet, maybe tomorrow...

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Friday Flashback!

(Yes, I know it's Saturday...)

I must be about six years old here, maybe seven. I only wore glasses for about a year, mostly during the end of kindergarten and through first grade. Priscilla wanted to wear glasses too.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Scaling the Wall

For by You I can run against a troop;
By my God I can leap over a wall.

2 Samuel 22:30

I am a wall builder, at least that is what I have been told. When faced with a problem or dilemma, my brain throws up a wall. For the most part I do not welcome a challenge, instead I want life to run along smoothly and not dish out any mountains to climb, unless they are in my plan. Some people thrive on competition. Not me. Rather than climb over, I would prefer to find a way around.

For the past few years my biggest challenge has been home schooling. What started out as an adventure 15 years ago, has become an increasingly stressful task. It has lost its luster, especially when it comes to teaching math and keeping records. This fall I joined (or should I say rejoined) the local support group. I missed the first meeting, had a conflict with the second, and totally forgot the last one. Truthfully, I'm not sure whether I can handle being part of the group as it involves a lot of running around and paying for group activities. Wall #1.

Working my life into a schedule is desperately needed too. As Priscilla said "If you aim at nothing, you will hit it 100% of the time" and sometimes I feel as though I am aiming at nothing. Here is my biggest challenge. I naturally work best when I have a routine, but for quite a long time my routine has been so relaxed that it is all but nonexistent. Without regularly scheduled activities, how do I establish a routine? Wall#2.

While thinking on this, the above verse came to mind. Life is full of obstacles. Everyone has them and there is no getting around it. So I guess, that with God's help I can face the challenges set before me. Either He will help me run against them or give me the boost I need to climb over. Now I just need to back up and see if I can get a running start...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

A Lake or Not a Lake?

Last year at this time we were resigned to the fact that our back yard had become a lake, or should I say a "swamp". We even met with the town drainage committee to see what needed to be done to correct the problem. The answer: dig up the backyard and clean out the drainage tile. The cost: about two grand. Well, when the weather warmed up we pumped the water into the drainage ditch and waited. We didn't have an extra two thousand dollars laying around so we tried to find an option with the farmer who owns the orchards and used to own the house next door. He had said he could help us but must have been too busy with apple trees to call us back.
Do you think God cares about little things like water in a backyard? Thanks to our pump and a very dry summer our lawn has pretty much recovered from a rather lengthy submersion. Some water collected back there around Christmas and I feared Teal Lake was making a comeback, but the water drained off and the yard appears to be dry. No ducks, no geese, and no stagnant water. I'm just hoping it stays that way. Oh, me of little faith.

Learning the Hard Way

Have you ever had God whisper in your ear and brushed off that still small voice? Did you kind of know deep inside it was Him but somehow told yourself it wasn't? Sometimes I think it would be easier if God spoke as a clanging symbol, and I'm sure He does once in a while, but more often He speaks softly.
I was so relieved to see Jasmine home and safe Sunday afternoon that I decided to give her a treat, a couple of venison bones. Being part pit bull or something, she does a pretty good job of chomping up what would take most dogs hours and had hers literally eaten up rather quickly. By Tuesday evening it became evident that Jazz was not feeling well. When she stood on her feet, she kept her back all curled up and moved with great difficulty. She had a pained look in her eyes and later would cry when we tried to move her.
Here my mind started to spin backward, back to that little thought that ran through my mind when I gave her the bone. "Maybe this isn't a good idea. That bone has some sharp spots. It could be bad for the dog." I brushed them off. "She's had bones before. Sometimes I don't even know where she got them. She'll be fine." And so I had given her the bone anyway. Now my dog was in pain and it was my fault. I didn't sleep very good that night.
Yesterday we took Jasmine to the vet. They did an x ray. The bad news: she does have a piece of bone in her small intestine and it definitely has been causing her pain. The good news: it looks small enough that she should be able to pass it in a couple of days. Dr. B said to keep her calm and make sure she is eating. As long as she eats, the bone fragment will keep moving along. The other good news: she is acting much better today.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Playing Catch Up

I think I am actually beginning to recover from all the stress and busyness of the holidays. Behind me are Thanksgiving, Christmas shopping, Christmas day, a birthday celebration, New Year's, and a New Jersey wedding. Ahead of me... well, maybe I'll just not think too much about it.

I thoroughly enjoyed the trip down to South Jersey and back with my daughter. I loved seeing our friends and totally loved the wedding too. I also found out that South Jersey is a rather nice place with lots of old farms and open space. Maybe some day I will go back again, when things aren't quite so rushed, and take a look around. I'm sure there is a ton of history and a bunch of great places to see. I wish we had more time to roam about taking pictures, but we had a long drive ahead of us and didn't want to worry our men. We did take an hour or so to stop in Binghamton, NY and say hello to Bethany's friends, Stephanie and Stephen, and then grab a quick bite to eat before continuing home. We were blessed with good weather along the way.

James came to pick me up at Beth's house and on the way home said he had "potentially bad news". Seems the boys had let Jasmine out of the house around 9:30 am and she hadn't returned. They went out looking around the yard and called for her but she was nowhere to be found. Gunshots from hunters or target practice pretty much keep us out of the apple trees at this time of year. Somewhere around 9:30 pm James and I went out to look in the orchard. It was dark, rainy and the snow was melting fast making it hard to tell which tracks were which or how old they were. We came back disappointed and somewhat worried. My biggest fear was that she was injured and unable to get home. How does a three-legged dog get about if she hurts a leg? We wondered if she had been shot or hit by a car but had no way to know. Of course I was already tired from our trip and spent a restless night thinking about our dog. We went to church Sunday morning still unsure of her whereabouts but were relieved to find her home when we returned a few hours later. She was dry, trembly, and smelled of cigarette smoke but refused to tell us where she had been.

Monday, January 07, 2008

The Place of Honor

Luke 14:8-10
What an honor and what a blessing.
I hardly know what to say...
Alan and Heather, thank you. "Thank you" just doesn't cover all you have been to our family. You have shown so much love to my children through the years. I wish you could have bought the house next door, but God had other plans... Thank you for sharing in my Bethany's special day (I still have many of our emails stored away in a folder), and thank you for inviting us to share in Ashleigh's. We love you, we miss you.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

In My Absence

I am taking a little vacation. Bethany and I are heading out tomorrow morning to a wedding in New Jersey. I'll be back sometime Saturday. In the meantime, enjoy Nathan's entry below...

The Case of the Exploding Pop Cans - A Sherlock Holmes Mystery

Here's how it happened...

Several days ago, sometime around Christmas or New Years, we pulled a twelve pack of what I believe to be Aldi's Diet Cola - a mimic of Coca Cola - out of the basement and placed it on the steps outside our back door. It had been sitting in the basement for a year or two from when our Grandma wanted some diet soft drinks instead of the regular. But the time had come to trash it or else give it to someone who would drink dead coke. We had someone who would take it but they will remain anonymous.

Anyhow, yesterday the temperatures dropped well below freezing, into the low single-digits. But our day proceeded as normal, Dad went to work, came home and we went to church. And then of course we came home. But there, on our back steps waiting for us, was pop cans strewn about. "Hmm..." said someone, "One of the dogs" they continued, "must have gotten into the cokes." "But wait," said I, stooping down to view the evidence, "look at this." I picked up a can of coke and showed it to my family. It was split all the way down the side with soda, frozen solid, protruding from its wound. "This is no ordinary pop foraging. This can exploded." I turned around again to examine the crime scene. To my dismay, not one but many of the cans had simply burst. So the caution tape went up and the scene went undisturbed for the rest of the night.

This morning I got up (on time) and went about my day as usual. But as I washed my hands after breakfast I heard, *POP*. I looked outside to see another can wobbling to and fro. So I bundled myself up and went out into the cold to take care of the mess. There was cola all over the steps still frozen. Some of it was frozen in place and had to be chipped away at. I found two cans that had been unharmed but they were going through such shock that it was obvious that they would never make it.So they too were put into a garbage bag.

The verdict? I remember once watching a documentary on creation. It was part of a series and I think that this particular video dealt with water or something like that. It explained that the only reason that ice could float is because when water freezes it actually expands. If it condensed it would sink. I recall finding it peculiar because I thought hot air expands and cold air contracts. But cold air I guess is generally less moist than warm air and has more of a tendency to withdraw moisture from objects. The video showed a time-lapse clip of a bottle of milk. As the milk froze its level raised and eventually removed the cork and crawled outside. The same thing happened with the cola except that it had no easy way out of the can so it eventually just burst the can. The force was apparently enough to open the box and throw the cans all over the back steps.

I know I exaggerated the situation somewhat but I found the whole thing pretty amusing and the basic story is true. Thank you for your time.

- Nathan Teal

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Group Shot

I am copying Bethany by putting my family photo here. I feel yucky today and think its almost time for me to go to bed. Maybe I'll feel better tomorrow, but first I have to give my oldest son a hug and wish him well as he is leaving tomorrow morning. I'm not sure whether he likes Minnesota or not. I think he mostly misses his friends and family when he's away.