Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Backyard Habitat

Tiny living things we've found in our backyard in the last few weeks.

"Look Mom! There's a tree frog."

"Where? I don't see it."

"Right there."

Can you find it?

Toads LOVE our backyard.

"Mom! Mom! Come quick! We found these insect eggs under a leaf on a vine!"

We brought the leaf in and set it on the window sill in the kitchen. We spritzed it with water from time to time. The egg cases turned orange and a few days later we watched little red and black bugs hatch. They look like tiny lady bugs but I don't think they are. Any experts out there who can identify these?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Rediscovering Traditions in the Kitchen

We are on a quest to eat food that nourishes. This is a hard thing to accomplish given the fifteen aisles in the grocery store that offer soybean oil, red # 40, high fructose corn syrup and enriched wheat flour in two thousand brightly packaged varieties. I’ve stiffened my resolve and we skirt around the edges of the store dashing into the middle for dog food and olive oil. The kids and I are turning this into a challenge. How many aisles can we bypass? How many things can we make ourselves with whole, healthy ingredients?

It’s busy in my kitchen tonight. The food processor whirrs and shreds. Charlie feeds the hungry machine zucchini that Claire has cut into slices. Faith writes ZUCCHINI on a freezer bag and tucks one cup packages of the shredded veggie into the bag and carries it out to the freezer. Lauren rinses cranberries and we chop and add them to our colorful pile in the freezer. I slice and process onions. Claire tries to stay and watch because she doesn’t like to miss a thing but her eyes water and she must abandon the kitchen.

Lauren pulls apart the chicken carcass from dinner. She snaps the bones to expose the marrow. The leg bones are too sturdy for our hands so we use a hammer to break them. The children laugh at the sight and Henrie dives for a stray bone. Lauren struggles frantically to wrestle it from the dog’s mouth. Eventually she is victorious. That bone goes in the garbage, the rest go into the crock-pot where they will simmer all night and most of tomorrow filling up our entire house with their rich, delicious smell.

It’s sad that as a whole our society has forgotten these traditions of the past. We have set aside labor in favor of convenience and in the process our health has been set aside as well. The number of people living with chronic disease in this nation is staggering. We search for cures that will conquer the scourges of cancer, diabetes, obesity, depression and heart disease that plague us. Doctors write prescriptions with abandon for drugs that help us manage and cope but do not cure. And all the while we wonder at the state our bodies are in, we drink our diet cokes and drive through the Wendy’s drive through and pop chicken nuggets into the oven for a quick dinner and we don’t make the connection. We are what we eat.

My family has had it with the status quo and we are looking for a better way. It’s not easy to set aside a lifetime of bad habits and lack of knowledge but just because it’s not easy doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. Good health is worth the time and trouble it takes to learn new skills. Today it’s homemade chicken broth full of the minerals and calcium from the bones of tonight’s dinner. The cookbook is propped up on the kitchen table and Lauren and I read through and take the principles from the recipe and adapt the spices to our tastes. (Can’t you just picture our great grandmothers doubled over in laughter at the sight of us reading how to make broth from a book? Or might they be sad at this woeful lack of knowledge?)

This week we will build health and strengthen immunity with homemade chicken soup. If you would like to fill your kitchen with the same aroma and conquer flu season with us here is our recipe. (In case this ancient knowledge went to the grave with some ancestor a few generations back.) I have written it just like we made it and just like your great grandmother might have written it down in days gone by.

Chicken Broth

Place in crock-pot:
1 Chicken carcass
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (draws out the minerals)
A couple of chopped carrots
1 chopped onion
A stalk or two of chopped celery
1 tablespoon of dried parsley (I just poured a good amount into my hand and dumped it in the crock-pot
4 quarts water (We just filled out crock-pot right up to the top)

We set the crock-pot to cook for 10 hours. Then I will leave it on warm until late tomorrow afternoon. The longer the broth cooks the richer the color. Strain the broth through a colander and store in containers in the fridge or freezer.

Here’s to our health this winter!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Entomology Artwork

Predacious Diving Larva and Beetle by John

Lots and Lots of Ladybugs by Claire

Mrs. Mosquito by Faith

Atlas Fritillary by Lauren

Monday, October 22, 2007

Seven Pairs of Shoes

This weekend we went shoe shopping. Click over to 4 OR MORE for the story that goes along with these pictures.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Not Quite Like the Pumpkin Patch

The Pumpkin Patch sits on top of Signal Mountain tucked safely behind Walden Town Hall just outside of Chattanooga. It’s our favorite playground. Ever. There are zip wires, little slides, bigger slides and the daddy of all slides. There are four or five swing sets, play places for little ones and big ones, a covered picnic area, drinking fountains and a bathroom. It was forty-five minutes from our house when we lived in Tennessee and we scaled the mountain from time to time to play under the shady trees. We miss it.

We had been scouring the land for a good playground somewhere near Smallville for about nine months when an acquaintance asked me if we had discovered the wooden playground just a few miles from Stuart’s work. We hadn’t due to the intricate road layout in the Land Flowing With Milk and Honey.

"You should definitely take the kids there. It's a great playground."

I had her repeat the directions a few times and on the next grocery day we traveled a few minutes off the beaten path and pulled into a gravel parking lot where swings and slides and wooden bridges shimmered in the 107 degree heat. We didn’t get out but made plans to come back when the temperature dipped low enough to allow for breathing.

It’s been several months and the children have anxiously waited for the thermometer to drop into the eighties. It finally did and last Thursday we pulled into the same gravel parking lot. The three little ones were quivering with excitement with visions of the Pumpkin Patch etched in their little heads.

I, on the other hand, was watching a Mustang Convertible come squealing up behind me in my rear view mirror. He pulled into a parking space in a swirl of dust. Two teenage girls came giggling over to the car wearing shirts that might have fit them comfortably four or five years ago. They decorated the driver’s side door and pulled out their cigarettes. I considered my options. Well, I didn’t really have any options because I had promised and the kids had waited for months and we were finally here and I couldn’t very well tell them, “Sorry guys, creepy people to starboard.” So we got out.

We walked through the gate and under the archway and the kids made a beeline for a dragon made out of tires. They scrambled to the top and and a little girl named Alyssa came over to watch. I know her name was Alyssa because she told me.

“What’s your name?”

I was distracted helping Charlie clamber up the dragon and I thought she was talking to Faith. “That’s Faith and this is Charlie and that is Claire,” I told her.

“No. What is your name?”


“Oh, I’m Alyssa.”

Charlie made it safely to the top so I turned to look at her for a minute. She was the same size as Faith with white blond hair and dirty bare feet. “Hi Alyssa. Who are you here with?”

“My brother.” She pointed to a middle school kid sitting in the only square foot of shade on the playground. “And my sister.” One of the giggling girls I had met on my way in.

“How old are you?”

“I’m seven. I’m in second grade.”

“Oh, so you are the same age as Faith.”

“How old are you?”

“I’m thirty-nine.”

“Wow! That’s old! My grandmother’s thirty-nine.”

Thanks kid. I needed that boost of self-esteem.

I lifted Charlie off the dragon and we went over to the tire hammock. Alyssa came too.

“Everybody climb on. I’ll push you.”

Charlie fought his way into a secure position. The girls hopped on and I rocked the swing. Charlie leaned back. Then he rolled over and licked the tire.

“Charlie! Don’t lick that! That’s disgusting!”

“It’s dithguthting?”

"Yes. It has germs."

“Yeah! My little brother threw up on this swing once. Right there.” Alyssa pointed to the exact spot that Charlie had just licked clean.


That did it for the hammock. Everyone rolled off the swing and began to crawl through the tire tunnel. Alyssa crawled right after Charlie. “My brother pooped in this tunnel once.”

You’ve got one gross brother kid. “Who wants to swing?”

Everybody did. We walked over to the swing set where we discovered that the sun had baked ripples into the plastic seats. I eased Charlie onto a swing and gave him a few test pushes. The swing held. I pushed harder.

“Once when I sat on that swing it broke.”

“I can see why. They don't seem too sturdy do they?”

We moved onto the telephone tubes and the tic-tac-toe game that was set up sideways so the X’s and O’s rolled from the positions we put them in. We held our pieces in place as we played.

Mercifully, the minutes ticked by and finally it was time to say goodbye to the playground and the giggling girls and our little tour guide.

"That was fun, Mama! Can we come back again next week?"

" Next week, I think we just go back to McDonald’s and get a milkshake. It will be healthier."

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Transformation of John: Part Two

John calls himself the disciple whom Jesus loved in the Gospel that he penned. For years I thought this was perhaps false modesty on John’s part. Why couldn’t he refer to himself in the first person like some of the Greats before him? Men like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. Why choose such a wordy title when I, me and my would suffice. But do they?

The disciple whom Jesus loved are words that have been weighing on my mind for the last week. John writes the best known verse in all the Bible, For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever shall believe in him shall not perish but have everlasting life. As he stood at the foot of the cross John was the only disciple to actually see how much God loved the world, to recognize how much Jesus loved not only the whole world, but more personally John himself. He couldn’t help but call himself the disciple whom Jesus loved and to be changed because of his certainty of Christ's love.


GENTLE: When Jesus stood at the edge of the shore in the final chapter of John, he called out to his disciples, "Friends, haven’t you any fish?" (NIV) This is one of those times where the NIV fails to capture the best meaning of the Greek. The NASB translates the sentence this way.“Children, you do not have any fish, do you?” Can you hear the tenderness in His voice? When I read this sentence, I hear it as a rhetorical question. He knew they have no fish. I hear Jesus speaking to His closest friends as a father in this scene. This scene must have lived on in John’s mind for it became clear to him that he was not to seek glory but to seek ways to serve. He was not to lord authority over others but to be a father to his spiritual children. John used the word children frequently in his letters. He echoed the tenderness of Jesus in his writing.

ALL INCLUSIVE: John wrote his Gospel that all might believe, that all may have eternal life.

HUMBLE: John could have included miracles he had performed. He could have told us how he was related to Caiaphas in chapter 18. He could have told us how brave he was to remain with Jesus throughout the crucifixion. He could have at least dropped his own name into his book a few times but he does none of these things. Instead, he focused the spotlight completely on Jesus. John realized that he could not improve on the message of Jesus' life and death and resurrection.

UNDERSTANDING: Daniel 2:21 states, He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. This was the case with John. John was already quick to understand just by reading the clues around him. After the indwelling of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, John must have been overwhelmed with understanding. His gospel clearly shows the correlation between the Jewish holy days and Jesus’ ministry. He was entrusted to share the future with us through the book of Revelation. He wrote to protect the Church from the snares of Gnosticism. His writing is powerful, logical, and persuasive. I am most amazed at the artistry in his words.

Once Peter and John were boldly proclaiming the gospel. They were seized and thrown in jail and they spoke before the Sanhedrin the next day. The Sanhedrin. The group that had Jesus put to death. Peter and John preached the gospel to these men courageously. When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized they they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and took note that they had been with Jesus.

John shows me that we have the ability to astonish others with our faith. Like John, when we have been with Jesus, when we understand how much He loves us, it will show. Don’t the changes we find in John’s character give you hope that you will slowly put away your shortcomings and dress garment by garment in a more Christ like nature? John’s example fills me with hope and helps me look past my momentary failures. I know that change will be wrought in my own character because I know with certainty that I am one whom Jesus loves. And so are you.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Reflecting on John

We turned the final page of the Gospel of John this week. We’ve been traveling with him since mid-July and I am sad to part ways. The kids and I have discussed in detail how John didn’t tell everything he knew. He relayed only what was important. The kids have been writing bug stories this week and we have edited ruthlessly so that only the ideas that tell the clearest story and create the best word pictures have remained. They get it. They have enjoyed the richness of John’s writing and they see the value in emulating his style.

This is my first time studying John in depth and the beauty of this book and the genius of his writing have overwhelmed me. He writes tightly. He writes with a purpose and must leave much of what he witnessed in his time with Jesus out of his work. This enables him to pack a solid punch. All that is included in the twenty-one chapters supports the first sentence: In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John is a book of signs, of miracles, each included so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

I learned much about Jesus’ public ministry that I had not noticed before. I was surprised that the religious leaders became antagonistic to him so early in his ministry. Jesus’ resolute march to the cross began in earnest, long, long before the final week in Jerusalem. I saw that He was in command of His death from the beginning of John’s gospel until the moment He took His last breath. As I studied the history surrounding Caiaphas, the high priest, Annas, his father-in-law, Pontius Pilate, and Herod Antipas, I learned each was reacting to circumstances beyond his control. None got what he wanted by having Jesus crucified during Passover Week. None but Jesus. His deity became clearer, more certain to me as we poured over the chapters. It is good to be able to pick apart my Bible a sentence at a time and find that my faith is not diminished but strengthened.

When we came to passages that were difficult to understand, we stopped and prayed for understanding and often it came. The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery was particularly helpful, both in understanding the structure of the book and the imagery. John is a master of word pictures. I spent hours at bible.org reading Bob Deffinbaugh’s commentaries. His work is contemporary, scholarly and alive.

I said before I started this book that this is the place many people recommend starting with when reading the Bible and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out why. I read through this book in my early years as a Christian and found myself thoroughly confused. I don’t know that I would jump on the bandwagon and say that this is the place where one must start but it is not a book to be missed. It cannot be a book that one just zooms through a chapter or two a day in their hurry conquer the Bible. John is a book to be savored, a book to soak in. If you have not yet spent some time here, do. You’ll be amazed all over again at your God.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Writing for 4 or More

In the midst of this writer's block, I received an e-mail from lotsofkids.com asking me to write for their new blog 4 or More. I had sent them a link to my blog several months ago to be considered for this writing opportunity. Little did I know that when the time actually came to participate, my mind would be frozen solid! I'm still waiting for the thaw.

So I wrote an introduction about our family for 4 or More. It took me three hours! Three hours to write a few simple sentences about people that I spend every waking minute with.

Here it is:

Stuart and I were married fifteen years ago today in front of God and family and an entire class of balloon-clutching kindergarteners. Looking back, I guess it's appropriate we started our married life with a church full of kids as witnesses because our lives have since been overflowing with children...

The story continues here if you care to read further.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

We Interrupt this Program...

It's been quiet here on this blog. Boring even. I want to write but not about chores and laundry. I want the ideas to flow freely from my brain to my fingertips but they will not come. There is an inky blackness. An overwhelming lack of creativity and coherent thought. God is teaching me in this. All that is good here in this space comes from Him. He is the generator of my ideas. He puts my words together. Now He chooses to be quiet and so must I. When I hear His still, small voice once again, I will be back.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Waiting For Lauren

We went to a local craft fair where Lauren was lured into spending two hours sewing a tiny leather pouch. While we waited for her to finish, the rest of us took turns with the dulcimers.