Friday, December 31, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Have yourself a merry little Christmas...

Let your heart be light.

From now on our troubles will be out of sight!

Have yourself a merry little Christmas...

Make the yule-tide gay.

From now on our troubles will be miles away...

 Here we are as in olden days,

Happy golden days of yore...

Faithful friends who are dear to us

Gather near to us once more!

Through the year we all will be together

If the fates allow...

Hang a shining star upon the highest bough!

And have yourself a merry little Christmas now.

May the blessing of Christ's birth fill your homes with laughter and your hearts with hope.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Really Worthwhile Read...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

All's Quiet

At some point between last night and this morning, I lost my cell phone.

I had once taken great pride in being the last of my kind to not own one. I had three babies and lived a pretty simple life, rarely venturing farther than a few miles from my house, so I didn't really need one for safety reasons. My kids were always with Greg or I or someone in my family, so we didn't need to worry about emergencies where they were concerned. Besides, I really liked the fact that there were times when I simply couldn't be reached. I liked driving in the car and listening to music or talking with my kids or praying, rather than having a phone stuck to my ear as I careened through Wexford. I liked the fact that I couldn't hear our land line ring any time I was upstairs, so I missed calls all the time and just got back to people when I could. Why was what someone was calling about more important than what I was doing at that moment anyway?

I liked the quiet.

But then, I succumbed and got myself a cell phone. My reasons were primarily practical; I'd gotten lost a few times, and it sure would have been easier to call someone and get directions than it was to figure it out by myself. Chloe had started preschool and I'd started using babysitters more often, so I needed to be able to be reached if I was out and about. My reasons were all good ones... but as time passed and I got more dependent on my little black Samsung, my quiet began slipping away.

It was so gradual that I didn't notice for a long time. My kids became accustomed to listening to their favorite Bible songs in the car on the lowest audible volume so that I could chatter away up front. Many, many mornings, I would get on the phone out of boredom while I was upstairs making beds and throwing a load of laundry in the dryer, and the next thing I knew an hour had passed. I'd walk downstairs and notice that the kids' 15 minute cartoon break while I got a few things done had turned into over an hour, with at least one or two of them plopped in front of Dora with dazed expressions on their faces. There were times when I had determined that what the kids and I needed was a quiet day at home filled with housework and time together, but the Samsung rang and the next thing I knew we were off to Chick Fil A.

I'm studying the book of Isaiah this year, and recently as part of my homework I had to answer a question about the frenzied activities and sheer loudness we all allow in our lives, from constantly ringing cell phones to neverending emails and three hundred television channels filling our minds with garbage. 

It was quite convicting. And the cell phone isn't the only offender in my life... my days are full of time wasters that pull me away from what's truly important. One thing I know for sure is that I need to guard and protect the quiet in my life as the precious gift that it is. The voice of God is not the booming baritone the movies portray it to be as the Red Sea is parted . It's still. It's small. And if I'm not quiet, I can't hear it.

As I said, I spent the day without a cell phone. I couldn't receive phone calls, or return them. I couldn't make plans to meet up with someone when the plows made it through the neighborhood. So I read lots and lots of books to the kids. We always read books, but today we read more books than we've read in a long time. We baked cookies. I made the first fire of the season and sat in front of it and read a book of Christmas devotions that I'd been meaning to crack open for two weeks but just never got around to. Then Chloe snuggled up next to me and asked if she could read me a couple of books. It was so much fun.

I still don't know where that silly phone is, and tomorrow if I can't find it I suppose I'll have to head to Verizon and replace it, but truthfully, I've got no complaints. I lost my phone, but I gained a little bit of insight into something in my life that I really need to work on. I love the way God works. Sometimes He closes a door. Sometimes He opens a window. And sometimes, He just takes your phone away.

"Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody." 
1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Homeschool Halloween!

I'm playing some major catch-up today! The Friday before Halloween we invited several sweet friends over for a little Halloween Harvest celebration. We don't really do any of the spooky, scary traditions associated with Halloween, but we love dressing up in God-honoring costumes, playing games with friends, and of course, indulging in a little chocolate. At that time I was about seven or eight weeks pregnant and headed straight for the couch as soon as the house cleared out. I stayed there for about four more weeks :-). Therefore, I'm playing a little blog catch-up so I don't forget how fun this morning was for the kids and I.

As everyone arrived we ooohed and aaahed over Buzz Lightyear, fairy princesses, Indians, Spiderman, firemen, Strawberry Shortcake, and the like. Each little one was cuter than the next! Melissa read The Pumpkin Parable to the kids, which is a really sweet story.

Then she got out her Mystery Box and passed it around the circle of kids. Each one had to put their hand in and try to guess (without peeking - which was a major challenge for the under-four crowd) what the box contained. It was a lot of fun!

Then the kids headed for the playroom for a quick round of "Pin the Smile on the Jack 'o Lantern" before returning to the kitchen to decorate pumpkins. We shared lots of delicious food and had the chance to encourage one another in our homeschooling pursuits as the kids played. A fun tradition was born that day, and to be honest, we're not sure who had more fun... the kids or the mommies?

"Every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor - it is the gift of God."
Ecclesiastes 3:13

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Chloe's Final Zoo Class of the Year

Chloe just finished up her last zoo class of the year. She has actually enjoyed these so much more than I thought she would! The weather was absolutely terrible for three of the four classes, and if it had been me I would've been a major grump stomping through the zoo in the rain and snow, but she absolutely loved it! Guess that's the brilliance of youth...

This last class focused on how animals "play it safe" by defending themselves in the wild. Camouflage is a handy tool many animals employ to outsmart their predators. The arctic fox's brown summer fur allows it to blend in with the woods and grounds, and it turns white in the winter to blend in with the snow. Pretty cool!

The blue-tongued skink was a guest at this week's class. They are sort of bizarre-looking lizards that live in inland Australia, and their brown scales help them blend in with the environment in which they live. Their claim to fame is their bright blue tongue, which startles predators and (hopefully) scares them off. They are harmless, slow-moving creatures, so their brightly hued tongue is their only defense.

(Image courtesy of

Many animals live in groups because there is safety in numbers. Their odds of becoming a predator's dinner are lower, their young are more easily protected, and it's easier to hunt for food as a group.

They read the books Gray Wolf Pup by Doe Boyle and The Mitten by Jan Brett, which has been a favorite of ours for years. Chloe also got to touch a hedgehog and an opossum named Jasmine.

We're already looking forward to next Fall's classes... the boys will be old enough to attend (Sam is thrilled),  and I will be strolling the zoo with a sweet babe in arms!

"I will praise you, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will tell of all Your marvelous works."
Psalm 9:1

Friday, December 10, 2010

Field Trip Friday: The Carnegie Museum of Natural History

A few weeks ago we spent a wonderful morning in Oakland with the kids at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, taking in the massive fossils of Diplodocus, Tyrannosaurus rex, and their buddies from the Mesozoic Era. This was the first Field trip Friday that Daddy was able to come along on, and it's altogether possible that he had more fun than the kids. The incredible size of these beasts is really quite amazing... it's fun to imagine what it must have been like when they pounded across the Earth.

Sam, our resident animal lover, was entranced. He raced from one giant skeleton to the next, exclaiming (loudly) over each one in turn. His favorite, of course, was the Mastodon, the ancestor of his beloved elephant. We spent lots (and lots) of time running back to the Mastodon and marveling (loudly) at the size of his tusks.

Chloe is our little observer. She enjoys things more fully when she has spent a lot of time learning about them before she's presented with them in all their glory. In that way, she's so much like me. I think she was a little confused, trying to figure out the purpose of looking at giant sets of bones belonging to animals that no longer exist, and haven't for some time. "Where is their skin?" she asked me as we walked into the first room. Before we go again we're going to spend time reading library books and looking at the museum's website so that she can focus on one or two particular exhibits and go armed with information about them. We've found that when we do this her learning experience is much more meaningful to her.

Max is our irrepressible Huck Finn, always on the lookout for the next foray into toddler adventure. After about five minutes of checking out bones, he demanded to know where the "Dino Playground" was and precisely when we would be going there. I'm not sure where he got the idea that the museum housed a wonderful playground full of dinos and slides, but he continued demanding that we take him to this imaginary place until we were finally able to change the subject by presenting him with pizza and chocolate pudding in the museum cafeteria.

By far the kids' favorite part of the morning was playing in the Bonehunter's Quarry, an interactive exhibit for kids in which they are given goggles and tools and allowed to "dig" for fossils like the paleontologists. It was a relief after so many "Don't touch!" reminders to be able to let the kids dig and pound to their hearts' content.

"Any of our days God touches are transformed with the light and joy of His presence."
Phillip Keller

Until the next adventure...