"Little ones to Him belong. They are weak, but He is strong." -- Anna Warner

This kind of crazy happens even WITHOUT sugar!
Whew! The Christmas season is crazy! The kids were total nut jobs by the time we got home from Dallas, but they had a great time. We learned a valuable lesson during the drive back to Austin. Do not load your children up with sugar in the middle of a road trip.

Seems obvious doesn't it?

Doug gave the kids an Icee to share, and before they even finished the thing, it sounded like we had a couple of baboons in the back seat! Things were getting so out-of-hand that we had to take the last bit of it away from them. They were so jacked up that they didn't even care.

My favorite moment was when I had to utter the words: "Lila, PUT your skirt back on!"

We ended up taking possession of her skirt as well. She put it back on when told to, but it was off again a few minutes later and Eli kept stealing it from her. That was also around the time that we told them they could only speak in a whisper (because they kept getting so loud).

In the last ten minutes of the drive, we finally told them to stop making noise altogether. That didn't work. We were originally planning to have dinner out once we got home, but there was no way we could take those people out in public!

We picked up Cordy from the vet (had her boarded there while we were gone), picked up dinner from Bombay Bistro, and went home. I think Doug developed several more grey hairs, but we all survived the trip with no yelling or violence.



I allow my children to dress themselves. Sometimes that results in shorts
with long black socks and black shoes... when it's 40 degrees outside.

Yay! Trains!

"When will we start moving?"

The refreshment station in our lounge car.


Even cuter!

Deep thoughts.

Where did he find alcohol?!? All I could find was weak coffee...

Lila likes to pretend that she believes in Santa Claus.

"Holy crap, why am I sitting in this freak's lap?!?"

The conductor was handing out tattoos!

Keep looking until you see it...
We got photo bombed by a baby in glasses!

A little too much sugar.

Mrs. Claus, handing out cookies.

This is the closest thing to a normal photo that I could get from these two.

Goodbye, pretty train!



Pray to God, but continue to row toward shore. -- Russian Proverb

This seems particularly relevant right now. I know people who are having trouble doing either of those things at the moment. It can be difficult to pray when something so incomprehensible has happened in your life.

This week, I have found that I don't really need to say anything while praying. Sometimes it's enough to just be still and silent before God and rest in the knowledge that He understands my pain and holds me in his Arms.

"In the same way the Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings." (Romans 8:26)

It can also be hard to keep moving forward with life. Ordinary things seem not to matter as much and can almost feel like treachery against the one you've lost. One life has been ended, but the rest must continue.

It begins with baby steps.

(As one of my baby steps, I plan to post photos tomorrow from our North Pole Flyer train ride. Some of them are exceptionally cute!)

My Uncle Jim has come down from Minnesota and is going through the unimaginably difficult task of sorting through my Aunt Linda's things. He's already grieving for the awful things that happened to his sister, less than a week ago.

As he goes through the house, he's finding evidence that the violence started some time ago. There are holes in walls that are covered with pictures. Perhaps most heartbreaking of all was the book that he found on Linda's nightstand.

It is called The Gift of Fear: and Other Survival Signals that Protect us from Violence by Gavin De Becker.

The tagline on the front of the book: "This book can save your life."


Family Tragedy

I have mentioned on Facebook that my Aunt Linda was murdered on Monday. I have only shared the barest details as I've tried to process and grieve, but I'm finally ready to share some of the more difficult details of what has happened to my family.

I don't do it to entertain curiosities, but to let people know what I am going through. As much as I hate the fact that the news is reporting every awful detail of this situation, I am going to link to an article that gives pretty accurate information (some articles are quoting neighbors, who seem to be total morons).

Honestly, I just don't want to have to type this out myself.




Yet He knows the way I have taken; when He has tested me, I will emerge as pure gold.
-- Job 23:10

I don't know what my daughter is doing in this photo, but
I laugh out loud every time I see it!
Lila had her first ballet class today. Well, her first class this time. She took creative movement and ballet classes at Ballet Austin when she was 5 - 6 years old. And she took a dance class at school last year. But she recently gave up her outside-of-school gymnastics class and switched back to ballet.

She's been so excited! She's the only kid I know who spent the whole weekend saying, "I wish it were Monday!"

She said it wasn't quite what she expected, because there was more focus on practicing the positions and movements than on what she would call dancing. We reminded her that learning the basics comes before the fun dance routines.

I think she's going to get a massive kick out of the end-of-year recital. I remember the dance recital I was in as a kid. It's so fun to learn the routine and wear the special costumes. And she loves to be on stage! She might get nervous, but she'll also LOVE it.

My favorite part of this whole set-up is the location of the dance school. It's (literally) next door to the swim school where Eli takes lessons! And starting on January 27th, they'll be taking classes at about the same time. Lila from 4:30 to 5:15 and Eli from 5:00 to 5:30.

That means I only have to drive them to lessons once!

My least favorite part of the set-up, incidentally, is the parent seating at the dance school. You can watch your child's class on a video screen, but you have to sit on benches that were designed and built by Satan.



Every wise woman builds her house, but a foolish one tears it down with her own hands. -- Proverbs 14:1

I'm sorry I've been so inconsistent with updating my blog lately. This is a crazy time of year! There have been train rides, concerts, illnesses - you name it! And things have achieved a new level of crazy with today's trip to the vet.

As I was getting ready for church this morning, I heard Cordy making some very unhealthy-sounding retching noises. I checked on her and then came back upstairs. She followed me up and lay down on my bed, breathing fast and growling at people. Definitely not normal.

I took her to the emergency hospital and they determined that she had fluid around her lungs and some other anomaly that they weren't sure about. They used a needle to remove some of the fluid and looked at it under the microscope.

I was expecting to get a call telling me she either did or did not have an infection. Instead, I got a call telling me that she most likely has lymphosarcoma. We'll take her to the regular vet tomorrow, for blood work and a second opinion, but this doctor said she was pretty confident in the diagnosis.

That means we are likely facing another heartbreaking pet decision. We're trying not to let this quench our Christmas Spirit, but it's a bit hard to be jolly when you're told that your pet of 11 years most likely has cancer.



"Nobody ever outgrows Scripture; the book widens and deepens with our years." -- Charles Spurgeon

You know why I like Jesus? Because I never feel awkward around Him.

I am an awkward and, at times, off-putting person. I say and do strange things and I am terrible at starting a conversation. When I see someone I know, and it's not a planned meeting, I panic. Seriously. I know I need to talk to them - and I want to - but I don't know what to say!

When I try to develop a friendship with a new person, I feel like it tends to come off as kind of creepy. I just don't know what I'm doing. I try very hard sometimes, and then I get so discouraged because of the awkwardness.

I wish Someone would make a CHECKLIST for me, starting with first encounter and working slowly (and appropriately) up to a lasting friendship. This mythical Someone should also give me some index cards with appropriate greetings, questions, and conversation-starters.

I've gotten pretty good at being entirely myself around others. (Not including group/party situations, during which I still tend to try and make myself invisible.) The problem is that I'm just as awkward when being myself as I was when I was trying too hard to make people like me.

I feel as though my love for others and desire for meaningful relationship has grown over time. God can change hearts! But I still lack skills. Skills which seem to come quite naturally to most people. It's a frustrating place to be.

I look to the Bible and prayer, in search of help. And I want, above all things, to be like Jesus. I see Him changing my life every day. But still I struggle. A vital piece of this puzzle seems to be missing! It's hard not to become very negative toward myself.

I've got no answer to this problem, nor a tidy wrap-up to my post. It's just something that's been going through my head and heart today.



"After all is said and done, more is said than done." -- Aesop

Well, I was gonna update my blog on Friday night... but I went to bed at 8:30.

I was gonna update my blog last night... but after I put the kids to bed, I just didn't want to!

Things that I did do:

For dinner last night, I made a (vegan) Greens Quiche. It was edible. That's about all I can say for it. I try a lot of new recipes, and most of them turn out to be good, if not great. This one, not so much. It had texture issues.

I was determined not to waste the leftovers, however. SO for dinner tonight, I threw the rest in a pan, along with some leftover black beans, sautéed vegetables, and the over-salted Garlic and Herb Tomatoes that were the original side dish.

I threw in a little salsa, for good measure, heated the whole mess up, and then served it with corn tortillas and called it Tacos. Surprisingly, not as bad as you might think. It was actually an improvement over the first night!

[Side note: A sneezing guinea pig is surprisingly distracting.]

After tonight's dinner, Lila and I baked (gluten-free, dairy-free) Cherry Orange Scones. Baking always makes me nervous because I'm just not that good at it. If these scones are any indication, then I must be getting better.

They are SO GOOD! I want it to be tomorrow morning, so that I can have a scone and coffee for breakfast.

Once our baking was done, all four of us sat down and watched Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The real one. Not that travesty of a movie that I have not bothered to watch because I know that it would cower in a corner, whimpering in shame for how bad it is.

All-in-all, a lovely end to the weekend. And Monday morning promises scones and coffee!



"...'tis better to be alone than in bad company." -- George Washington

I'm in a quiet house this evening. Doug is running sound at church on Sunday, so he is at band practice. The kids and I watched Robin Hood and now they've gone peacefully off to bed. Eli wanted me to sing Jingle Bells at bedtime, so I sang it as soothingly as possible.

I'm not sure he was entirely satisfied with my rendition, but he didn't complain. This time.

While I have not had the Grumpy McWhiny Syndrome this week, I have had a bit of trouble getting back into the swing of things. The laundry is piled up higher than it's been in months and my motivation to take care of basic daily routines has been nearly non-existent.

BUT, I forced myself back onto the horse today. I made phone calls that I did not want to make. I prepared for tomorrow's home school day. I made it through all daily tasks. And I'm chipping away at the laundry. I know it will be back under control in a few days.

Watching a movie with the kids this evening was a bit of a gift to myself. In Doug's absence, I wanted an easy time. I didn't have a great deal of mental space left over for answering questions or refereeing fist fights. There will be plenty of that again tomorrow.

Lila's class (along with the rest of second grade) went on a cool field trip today. The kids have been earning and saving extra money for a couple of weeks and they brought it all in to school on Monday. The total for the grade - roughly 30 to 40 kids - was something over $500.

Today, they took the money to HEB and bought food with it. From there, they took the food to the Capital Area Food Bank and donated it, along with the rest of the money. Then they got to tour the food bank and hear all about what they do there.

They finished up with a picnic in the park. Sounds PEACEFUL, doesn't it?

Eli's day, it would seem, was far less pleasing. The day started with an Honor Assembly and all he could tell me about that was how he couldn't remember anything they said because there was too much talking. He also felt that the whole class was too rowdy today because they kept bumping into him.




But I’ve left the past in God’s keeping, - the future His mercy shall clear,
And what looks dark in the distance may brighten as I draw near.
-- Mary G. Brainard

I just finished hanging real Fraser Fir garland on the stair rail and I have two words for you:

1. Needles - I'm going to be vacuuming a lot, aren't I?

2. Sap - You remember that scene in Christmas Vacation, where everything is sticking to Clark's hands because they're covered in tree sap? Well, I'm there.

Doug and the kids moved our tree into the corner and put the lights on. Once I finished with the garland, Doug ran lights up along the rail too. It all looks very pretty and festive. We're taking the decorating in baby steps.

That's due in large part to necessity and in small part to strategy. I find that I feel a lot less Grinch-y about decorating when it's NOT a big ordeal. A little here and a little there. The un-decorating will happen the same way.

I love the Christmas season! Music and movies and trying to find just the right gift for each person. Pouring out adoration to God for his Most Perfect Gift. And somehow, it all makes me think of snow, even though I live in central Texas.

My Grinch-y-ness is directed at the decorations - a multitude of pointless little knick-knacks - and the excess that most of the U.S. wallows around in. Give me one tree (with lights and a few shiny balls), one nativity scene (not involving cartoon characters), and a set of Advent candles, and I'm a happy girl.

I still haven't forgiven my husband for buying that obnoxious inflatable Peanuts abomination for the front yard.



A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath. -- Proverbs 15:1

I sent some grumpy people off to school and work this morning. Monday morning, after Thanksgiving break, did not agree with my husband and daughter! The way Lila was carrying on about how heavy her backpack was, you'd have thought I hid a body in there.

Eli and I were in good spirits, however, and I did not allow them to kill my Happy Monday Buzz. (Don't tell anyone, but I happen to love Mondays!) I was even a Good Little Girl and put in my 3 miles on the elliptical at the gym.

This evening we did what we tried unsuccessfully to do last night. We got our first real Christmas tree! My advice: Never go looking for a Christmas tree at 7:30 p.m. on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. All you'll find are 10-foot-tall, $200 trees.

My allergies have improved so much over the past couple of years (Ask me how, but you won't like the answer.) that we decided to give this a try. We brought an entire tree INTO our house. It will either be great or I'll spend the next four weeks with a headache!

It smells very festive, but that could get old pretty quickly. I'm so sensitive to smells... Eh, whatever. We've got a pretty Christmas tree! What I'm most curious about is just how much naughtiness this is going to cause among the cats.

Charlie (Ceiling Cat rest his soul) was the real Christmas Tree Bandit, but I don't exactly trust these other two trouble-makers. As I type this, Cordelia is walking around the downstairs, talking to us about it. Something in the Matrix has changed and kitties don't like change.

They do like to attack things, however. For now, we'll put only a few non-breakable ornaments on the tree and nothing near the bottom. Doug said we should buy some catnip and place it around the bottom of the tree, to distract the cats. I'm pretty sure he did not think that one all the way through.

We get the cats HIGH and then leave them alone with the Christmas tree? Is this really what we want?

I don't think so.



While we were in the car yesterday, What's Up? by 4 Non Blondes came on the radio. Doug reached for the radio controls and...

Me: "Don't touch it."
Doug: "Oh, come on."
Me: "I like this song."
Doug: "Why do you want to kill my soul?"

Then I started singing along, with great feeling. After this went on for a minute or so, Eli said, with a look of utmost suffering on his face, as he gazed forlornly out the window:

"Sometimes I don't like it when she sings."

Where's the love, man?!?



"A law is better unmade than unkept." -- Henry Smith

This scares the hell out of me:

"Belgium: Lawmakers back allowing minors to request euthanasia (from CNN.com)

"A controversial bill that would extend the right to request euthanasia to children suffering terminal illnesses and adults with dementia cleared a vote in a Belgian Senate committee Wednesday.
"The panel voted 13-4 to allow minors to seek euthanasia under certain conditions, the communications director for the Senate, Patrick Peremans, told CNN.
"The vote is one stage in a legislative process -- the bill must clear other hurdles before it becomes law.
"Belgium passed legislation in 2002 allowing voluntary euthanasia for adults.
"Changes to the law now being considered by lawmakers would allow under-18s to request an end to their life only under stringent guidelines."
Children? Children?!? I've never had a child with a terminal illness, so I'm not going to say too much, for fear of putting my foot in my mouth. What I will say is that, moral considerations aside, no child is capable of making that decision. They are mentally incapable of the type of reasoning necessary to understand the ramifications of ending their life early.

[Taking a moment to be ANGRY.]

On a lighter note, I had this conversation with Lila today...

Lila: "Merry is spelled with two 'R's, right?"
Me: "Correct. M-E-R-R-Y."
Lila: "That was my assumption."

I love the fact that my kids say things like that.



Every bird that upward swings bears the cross upon its wing. -- J. Neale

It's a bad time of year to be a turkey! I was a little disturbed to walk through the Whole Foods meat department last week and see multiple freezers full of whole turkeys. I eat meat now and then, but I don't like when it still looks much the same as it did while alive.

{Ha! I just had a flashback to a time when I made a whole, uncooked chicken dance around and talk to my mother, just to freak her out.}

{Ha! And that reminded me of the summer when I worked in the deli at Food Lion -- in Myrtle Beach, SC -- and I would make the chickens put their "arms" around each other, after I lined them up on the rotisserie.}

{Huh. Apparently, I enjoy personifying dead poultry.}

Truth be told, I've never understood the obsession with turkey. I've never enjoyed eating it. Growing up, I think someone must have told me that I could only have dressing if I ate some turkey too. Over the years, that turned into the smallest possible sliver of turkey and about a quart of dressing.

Now that I'm (mostly) vegan, I don't have to bother with pretense. I'll walk right PAST the turkey and go for the dressing! Bwa ha ha ha ha!

There was a Pre-K Thanksgiving Feast at Veritas last week. That is a very grand title for what actually happened, but it was quite fun, nonetheless. I was confused by the choice of foods that we were asked to bring... until I found out that the kids voted on the menu. Then it all made sense.

I knew that Eli was not going to touch 95% of what was offered, so I made sure to pack a yogurt in his snack bag. Good thing too, or his lunch would have consisted solely of Lay's potato chips and a slice of Kraft American cheese. Thanksgiving Feast, indeed!

Absurdly cute Pre-K students



Cordelia typically spends her nights sleeping on one of the sofas downstairs. Last night, the cold drove her up to our room. I noticed her lurking in the shadows while I was brushing my teeth. The trip from the bathroom to the bed was made in total darkness because Doug was already asleep.

Black cat, wandering around in the dark = bad idea.

Pink human, wandering around in the dark = bad idea.

As I was passing the foot of my bed, I kicked the cat that I could not see. She, naturally, freaked out and ran - in the same direction I was going. She tried to jump up onto my bed, but missed. As she was falling back onto the floor, her claw snagged in a skirt that was hanging on the end of the bed.

So now she's on the floor, with one foot snagged on a skirt that's snagged on the bed frame. She can't get loose and she's freaking out. I tried to help her, but she thought I was attacking her ('cause, you know, I do that so often).

This caused her to freak out even more. I finally had to grab her, pick her up, and pin her to me, so that I could free her claw. I don't know how Doug slept through all this because I was telling her just what I thought of her intelligence level while it was happening.

When I put her down, she fled into the darkness. I crawled in bed, grumbling, and snuggled down for sleep. The next thing I know, Cordelia has returned and she's sitting between our heads and staring at me. I felt bad because she thought I was attacking her, so I gave her some head scratches.

I tried to ignore her and go to sleep then, but I noticed that her face was getting closer and closer to mine. Then she started trying to lick the mentholatum off my lips! I pushed her away, but she came back. I pushed her away again, but she came back again.

Freak cat.

In the end, I hid my face from her and she finally settled in and went to sleep. I really hope she decides to sleep downstairs tonight.



When He has tested me, I will emerge as pure gold. -- Job 23:10

I don't think I'm being refined by fire. I think I'm being refined by children.

So far (today), they have taught me:

1. Sometimes, there's no point in asking why. Doug and I have to remind each other of this frequently.

Doug: Why are there a dozen stuffed animals in the pantry?
Me: "Why?" Really? How long have you lived in this house?
Doug: Oh, right. I forgot.

2. If you have the sofas professionally steam-cleaned, someone WILL develop a stomach virus.

3. It can take 15 minutes to walk out the front door. And eventually, this begins to feel normal to you! Trying to get two children to put their shoes and jackets on and walk to the car... it's like herding cats. They wander off in every direction, get distracted a dozen times in the process of putting one shoe on, and decide they are starving just after you lock the front door. And I only have two of these people!

4. You can continually put food into your mouth, chew, swallow, and repeat, for 30 minutes, with NO visible results.

5. Quiet children can be a very bad thing!

Any day now, I'll become the Golden Mommy. Aaany day now...

Note: This is tongue-in-cheek. I am in no way minimizing or mocking God's refining process.

This morning, it was around 40 degrees when we left the house. Lila got dressed in a long-sleeved t-shirt and knit capris. Eli put on shorts and a t-shirt. When I suggested that they put on pants, they declined. I said they had to wear socks, if they were not going to wear pants. At least they humored me THAT much.

This afternoon, while I was upstairs, unsuspectingly taking a shower, these poorly-dressed people decided to play outside. Where it was now only 37 degrees. And raining. To be fair, earlier in the day I did mention that they could bundle up and play outside. They just skimmed over the bundling up part. [sigh]

Tomorrow, they get to mop the entryway.

Eli is wearing socks on his hands.

At least she is wearing rain boots.

37 degrees, folks.

Gee, Honey, you're starting to look a little cold there!

This wasn't exactly what I meant when I asked Eli
to take his shoes off just inside the front door. I
thought he might go all the way in before he
plopped down. Nah! (Look at all the mud...)



Fish and visitors stink after three days. -- Benjamin Franklin

I love the way people used to visit relatives for long periods of time. I'm fascinated by books in which characters spend a month with a cousin or a summer with friends. I guess traveling used to be such a big deal that you had to make the most of it. Now we pop from city to city, or state to state, or country to country, for just a few nights.

And we wear ourselves out in the process! We rush through the travel and then try to squeeze as much activity or as many visits as possible into a couple of days and then rush back home so that we can get back to our busy schedules. Yuck! Of course, the people in these books of mine, who go off to visit people for weeks at a time, are either young or wealthy.

It's harder to leave home for such a long time when you have a house to run, or school or a job to attend each day. Still, I think we could all benefit from slower transportation and longer visits. I hate the way everything these days is rushed and over-complicated. People manage to overthink and not be thoughtful about daily life, at the same time.

(Can you tell that God gave me a mini-revelation this morning about how I've been feeling stress over the DETAILS of the holidays instead of enjoying the SPIRIT of the holidays?)

It's odd to think about Christmas while it's 78 degrees outside, but we went to the Christmas Tree Lighting at the Hill Country Galleria tonight. Our primary goal was to support the Veritas Drumline, but there was a pretty awesome fireworks show too. We stood in line (for too long) for a photo with Santa, but the kids eventually decided it wasn't worth it.

As we were walking to the car...

Me: If there's something you want for Christmas, you know who you should really tell, right?
Doug: Your grandparents!



Lila planted herself in the back yard last week.
I put the pin on my tin box. -- Webster's Blue Back Speller

School has been going very well for the past couple of weeks. I mean, the kids have had their moments of defiance and whining, but nothing major. We have managed to stay up-to-date on Lila's homework since catching up a week or two ago, and I have got Eli doing his coloring homework in stages, with minimal complaining.

It's a tough life in Pre-K, let me tell you. [ That's sarcasm.] He likes most of his school work, but when it comes to coloring their little Letter of the Week books, you'd think I was asking him to carve the White House out of stone!

Since Lila's teacher conference a couple of months ago, we've been putting extra effort into handwriting and math facts. Both areas have seen notable improvement. She was only able to complete about 9 math facts in two minutes at the beginning of the school year, but she did 39 today! And she's even gotten an E (for Exceeds Expectations) on a couple of handwriting grades. Yay!

We have only ONE more classroom day and ONE more homeschool day until Thanksgiving Break begins. We (the kids and I) get the whole week of Thanksgiving off! Tomorrow is the Pre-K Thanksgiving Feast at lunchtime. It will be a picnic on the floor, with juice boxes and sandwiches.

In the afternoon, Lila's class is having an Author Share. That's where the kids get to show off the story they've been writing and illustrating all trimester. It will be a full day, especially since I plan to do a BodyPump class before any of that!

The kids have also been spending a lot of time outside for this past week. The weather has been unseasonably warm (after being unseasonably cold the previous week) and I've hardly seen them outside of mealtimes and school. This evening, I was pretty sure that they'd decided to live in the back yard, rather than take a bath.



"Heat not a furnace for your foe so hot that it doth singe yourself." -- Shakespeare, Henry VIII

Halftime of the UT vs. OSU game seems like a good time to update my blog. Maybe it will help me forget how painful those last few drives were...

I am now the proud owner of a beautiful grandfather clock; one which used to grace the entryway of my grandparents' house. I love the sound of those beautiful chimes and I can't wait for the Clock Man to come and get her running! Daddy and Susan had to disassemble the clock to get it down here, so it's in many pieces at the moment. Every time I walk past the cabinet, I either hug it or pet it adoringly. I can't wait to see what the cats do when it chimes for the first time!

Since I did a FlyLady Reboot, I have added a 2-minute entryway cleaning to every day. That means that I have a de-cluttered and polished mud bench sitting next to my beautiful "new" clock. It's an entryway that I'm happy for people to see now, rather than an entryway I try to hurry people past!

I've also been keeping my sink clean and free of clean OR dirty dishes and there's no longer a pile of mail and kids' artwork next to my calendar. The baby steps are paying off.

I'm including here some photos of a volcano that the kids and I made in our backyard this week. It was only about 40 degrees outside and none of us were wearing jackets. The kids weren't even wearing shoes. I'm not sure what it is about my family that makes us wait until we're about to develop frostbite before we're willing to dress appropriately. Maybe it's because we're from Texas and we know that the temperature may be 40 degrees now, but it could be 80 degrees in a few minutes.

40 degrees, folks.

Baking soda, dish washing liquid, and food coloring.

It's not a pretty volcano, but it did the job.

Looks like a fried egg.

"Let's add more vinegar! Let's add more vinegar!"

We'll have to do it again when we can spend more time making
the body of the volcano, so the "lava" will run down the sides properly.



For in Him we live and move and exist... -- Acts 17:28

I created a Schoolhouse Rock station on my Pandora account and now I have The Preamble stuck in my head. Listening to Schoolhouse Rock songs is kind of like taking drugs. I find my eyes beginning to go out of focus and I just can't stop! Clearly these songs were used to brainwash children of the '70s.

Also while listening to this station, we learned a fun music history fact. The song Sugar, Sugar was a hit from The Archies, which was a fake TV show band - created by the same man who created The Monkees. I'm sure some of you (Mother) knew this, but I did not. Here's a bit more info:

Most '60s bubblegum groups were faceless studio concoctions, made up of hired professionals and given nominal group identities after the fact. The Archies made no pretense of being a real band in the first place -- their music, including the smash hit "Sugar, Sugar," was "performed" by the animated TV cartoon characters spun off from Archie comics. In reality, of course, they were a studio concoction made up of hired professionals (most notably lead singer Ron Dante), but in this case, they weren't technically faceless.

Somehow, I don't see any Fresh Beat Band songs hitting the pop charts...

On an entirely unrelated note, I miss Charlie.



The Guinea Pig of Disapproval
"A friend is a lot of things, but a critic isn't." -- Bern Williams

I'm a big proponent of taking responsibility for your own actions and mistakes, rather than blaming others for them. So it's odd that Doug and I have sent two complaining emails to different companies recently.

The first went to the owners of Freebird's, after Eli injured his ankle. We didn't blame them for the injury. We knew that the stools were a bit wobbly and we chose to sit at the table anyway. The purpose of that email was to alert them to the potential hazard. The stools are high and wobbly, and they are located on a slightly slanted bit of ground. They agreed and rearranged the patio furniture.

The second one went to a local food company, called Zilk's. They make various spreads, such as hummus, tzatziki, queso, and salsa. The primary product that we eat is the hummus. They have several varieties and we've tried them all. The only one I didn't care for was the Spinach & Artichoke hummus. It tasted like cooked spinach and artichokes. (Shocking, I know!) Ew.

The flavor that I am ADDICTED to is their Hatch Green Chili Hummus. I have a snack of hummus & fill-in-the-blank every night around 9:30. I'm a total junkie. Just ask my husband. If I see him touching my tub of hummus, my eyes begin to glow red.

They recently changed the plastic container that the product comes in. The first tub I bought, after this change, was nasty. I couldn't describe what was off about it, but it sure didn't taste right. I made myself finish it off because wasting hummus is just... wrong. I hoped it was just a funky batch and bought a new tub, once the old one was gone.

That one was nasty too! This time, I sniffed it before I took the first bite and I realized what the problem was. Their new plastic containers were affecting the flavor of the hummus. It's like the plastic was out-gassing into the food. Eek! Totally disgusting.

So, I sent an email to the company. I explained my loyalty, their unfortunate situation, and my hope that it will be resolved. Soon. Meanwhile, I will not be eating Zilk's hummus. {sniff} I guess I'll have to settle for Whole Foods' brand instead.



Children, obey your parents as you would the Lord, because this is right. -- Ephesians 6:1

I've had more rational conversations with Gypsy!
Am I the only one whose kids think that everything is open to negotiation?
Me: "Okay guys, it's bath time!"
Child: "No!"
Me: "That wasn't a question."

Child: "What do I have to eat [from my dinner plate] to get more bread?"
Doug: "Everything."
Child: "The salad?"
Doug: "Everything."
Child: "The peanuts?"
Doug: "Everything."

Me: "Would you like a sandwich or yogurt in your lunch bag today?"
Child: "What else have we got?"
Me: "I'm TELLING you what we've got. Sandwich or yogurt. Which would you like?"
Child: "Do we have any mac & cheese?"

Child: "Can we go to Locomotion today?"
Doug: "No, we don't have time."
Child: "Please?"
Doug: "Nope. Sorry!"
Child: "Please?"
Doug: "I have already given you an answer. Please don't ask again."
Child: "Please?"

Me: "Okay, Buddy! It's time to go pick Lila up from school."
Eli: "Can I just finish dis?"
Me: "You'll have to finish it when we get home. It's time for us to leave."
Eli: "Just a few more minutes!"
Me: "Put the Legos down. Put your shoes on. It's time to go."
Eli: "I don't want to go!"
Me: "Well, we can't just leave your sister at school."
Eli: "Why not?"



Look at that sweet smile!
"I am profitably engaged in reading the Bible. Take all of this book upon reason that you can and the balance by faith, and you will live and die a better man." -- Abraham Lincoln

We have had a great weekend. For the first time in weeks, it did not feel rushed or over-scheduled.

Things got off to a promising start on Friday, when we finally caught up on school work. We've been operating about a half-day behind for the past two weeks or so. (On Lila's work, that is. Eli's is very easily finished in a day.) I didn't realize the low-level stress that it had been causing until we finished our last assignment and I felt so light and free! Hopefully, Lila won't have any homeschool meltdowns this week so that we can stay caught up!

One unfortunate blemish on the weekend was the night that Eli spent vomiting. I don't know if his poor belly had dairy too many times in a row or if he caught some kind of stomach bug. It can't have been the food he had for dinner because he and Lila shared the same pizza at Brick Oven and she was totally fine. Thankfully, it only lasted through one night and he was back to normal by mid-morning on Saturday!

INTERMISSION -- Pause while I go put these fruitcakes to bed.

After the night of sickness, I declared the Vomit Rule to be in effect. Nobody touches anybody for 24 hours. Lila, of course, took that as a challenge. She had to try and touch me as many times as possible. As I recall, she finally stopped after I thumped her in the middle of the forehead. Goofball.

Saturday was filled with chores and playtime, movie night and football. I made Tempeh Hash for dinner, which sounds the opposite of tasty, but turned out to be quite delicious! My handy chopping tool broke in the middle of chopping an onion for the dish, so I had to finish by hand. Onions and I don't get along very well. My eyes were burning so badly that I couldn't keep them open and I had to stop chopping repeatedly.

That, in turn, set off an Almighty Allergy Attack, the likes of which I haven't experienced in over a year. Doug finally got tired of hearing my violent sneezes and tactfully suggested that I take some allergy medicine. It's probably best that I was both distracted by snot and groggy from Claritin, otherwise I would have woken the kids with yelling at the Longhorns during that annoying football game!

Actually, the kids were so tired from their poor sleep on Friday night and so NOT interested in watching football, that they put themselves to bed. Early. It was bizarre.

You know, I started off by saying that this was a great weekend and now I'm describing all these things that do not sound so fun. These just happen to be the most interesting parts of the weekend! We also played games, went for walks, got good exercise, laughed and joked, went to church, had naps, and had a great discussion at small group. All-in-all, it was fun and relaxing. I, for one, feel recharged and ready to enter the busyness of the week tomorrow morning!



When pride comes, disgrace follows, but with humility comes wisdom. -- Proverbs 11:2

I had my camera with me when picking Eli up from school the other day, so I decided to take some photos.

Here comes Pre-K. Eli is second in line, carrying his umbrella.

He spots me. And then...

Look at that face! I cherish that kind of excitement at seeing me because
I know it won't last forever.

This smile brings joy to my heart, every time. I am so blessed!

May God grant me humility and wisdom. These children are a precious gift from God and I want to present them back to Him, nurtured and ready for service. It would be a terrifying responsibility if I didn't have Jesus by my side, helping me every step of the way.

Sometimes it's terrifying anyway.



Ask God's blessing on your work, but don't ask Him to do it for you. -- Dame Flora Robson

I'm not a good house keeper and I never have been. I'm tempted to say that I never will be, but my recent victory over the Laundry Monster is evidence that I can be taught. I am not a naturally organized or efficient person, but I have seen that I can learn. To that end, I'm scrapping my current system (which has barely kept me afloat) and building a new one.

Several years ago, I discovered an enormously helpful website. FlyLady helped me conquer some of the worst piles of clutter in our house and develop a basic routine. Over time, I tweaked the routine to make it fit my personality better. That had the unfortunate effect of making it much less effective. Because, as you'll recall, I'm not a naturally organized or efficient person.

I won't bore you with a decade's worth of details, but here's what really prompted me to go back to the beginning. I was reading a FlyLady email that talked about her bathroom Swish & Swipe and how it should only take 2 minutes. I realized that the heinous task that I've been calling a Swish & Swipe takes me half an hour (and I hate it).

Clearly, I am doing something wrong.

So, I have gone back to FlyLady's 31 Beginner BabySteps. I am only on Day 2 and it's very tempting to skip forward and do everything at once. BUT, I am forcing myself to take this slowly, so that I don't crash and burn. My house did not get messy in a day and it's not going to get clean in a day. I have to slowly build new habits that will take the pain out of keeping house.

That's the theory anyway.

Currently, my kitchen sink is shining clean and I wore shoes all day today. (Good news for my feet, but bad news for the toes of my daughter and one of the cats.) One baby step at a time...

Anyone want to join me?



Woe to the land that's govern'd by a child! -- William Shakespeare, William III

The 2nd Grade History Project for the first trimester was to create a family or personal Coat of Arms. The kids had to design and make a large shield with their coat of arms on it and then do a class presentation, explaining the meaning behind the symbols and colors they chose. Lila did a great job! She received top marks for her work and I'm very proud of her!

Lila Peeler - Coat of Arms

The shape of shield that Lila chose is called a LOZENGE and was the type typically carried by women, as they did not use their shields to protect themselves.

The stripe across the middle is referred to as a BEND and it stands for God's protection. The GOLDen color of the stripe stands for generosity.

Lila chose ORANGE as her main color. Orange stands for worthy ambition, which she understands as "a desire for something valuable."

The MERMAID, which Lila drew herself, symbolizes eloquence. Truly, I've seldom met a more well-spoken 8-year-old.

The LUPINE (flower) symbolizes imagination.

I'd say she designed a coat of arms that represents who she is quite well! I really just guided her in research and understanding the meanings behind the multitude of design options. She made all the decisions herself, and she did all the drawing and painting. I only helped a bit with getting a symmetrical shield shape and stripe.

This project was 300% better than the stupid body project mommy she had to do last year!

(Why the Shakespeare quote? . . . I dunno. Just seemed appropriate somehow.)



My joy is in God all the day. -- Thomas Dilworth

You know, I've always thought of Doug as a great father. He has made his family to be a higher priority in life than his job. He laughs and plays with the kids. He instructs them in the way they should go.

This past weekend, the kids spent most of their Saturday morning in the back yard, with Doug. Two things happened during that time, which have caused me to QUESTION my belief in him.

1. I was upstairs, folding laundry. Lila showed up in the bedroom doorway. With dirty knees and a gleam in her eye, she said, "I can use an axe!" Then she proudly walked away, presumably to chop something to bits.

I wondered if I ought not check to be sure that no family members were missing.

2. Later in the morning, I was back downstairs. I decided to visit the back yard and find out what my family was up to. I came out to find my 5-year-old using a pick-axe. He was attempting to break into an acorn with it.

I'm not the most cautious parent. (Confession: My children are currently playing by themselves in the front yard, in the dark.) All the same, I'm really not sure these people should be left alone together anymore.