Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Back to Gettysburg

Fred had a chiropractic conference in Gettysburg so we went with him for a little vacation. The girls and I had a lot of time to spend together while Fred was in his classes.

Several people advised us to visit Eisenhower National Historic Site. It is the home and farm of our former President. I didn't really know much about Eisenhower except for the fact that he was elected to be President around the time I was born and that he directed the invasion of Normandy. I thought it was interesting that a great war general would choose to retire in Gettysburg.

We rode a tour bus through the battlefield to get to the private estate. The last time I rode a bus like this was in China. Today ours was equipped with a crying child, which reminded me of China even more. A tour guide met our bus and told us how the Eisenhowers had acquired these 180 acres for a mere $44,000 back in 1950. It was the only home they ever owned. After a brief talk outside, we entered the house. Arielle and I were in awe. We stood in a beautifully furnished, elegant living room. Large oil paintings hung on the walls and interesting and ornate artwork of every sort decorated the room. We found out most of the items were gifts from foreign heads of state. The guide said 99 percent of the furnishings in the house were authentic and actually belonged to the Eisenhowers. We were told they did not actually like this particular room and found it too stuffy. Then we were led to their very casual enclosed front porch that opened to the lovely woods and farmland that surround Gettysburg. Here we found out General Eisenhower entertained guests like Nikita Khrushchev and Charles De Gaulle.

The home was comforting and welcoming. I said to Fred, "I feel like I'm visiting my grandmother's house." Then I realized why I was so drawn to this place. The furnishings and personal belongings of the Eisenhowers came from the 50's and 60's. I started to recognize different items--the telephone! The old corded, dial phone. In my childhood home it was black. I even remember the number, written right on the phone in the middle of the dial, Temple 8-0848. "Old" friends, remember that? And the TV! Years ago we had one very similar to the one here. Those simple knobs to change the channel or volume--no remotes back then. Televisions were encased in a cabinets too, blond wood being popular. Summers at my home my mother and us kids watched Queen for a Day on our set while she ironed. What memories the old TV brought back.

In the kitchen I recognized the linoleum floor. I remember how it felt cool on my bare feet. And there was my grandmother's Revere Ware pot on the stove! It looked like the very same one. The old refrigerator resembled one we used to have. When the handle broke off my dad fixed it with some kind of epoxy he called "greenie." Even the white wicker hamper in the bathroom was familiar. I want to live here! It was an eerie walk back in time. But curiously, I was drawn to it. The warm feelings this tour brought was a reflection of the memories of my mother's love and care for us as children.

Outdoors we walked past a well-cared for rose garden and viewed the Eisenhower's old cars still parked in the garage. This tour was a fascinating look at another era and a glimpse into the lives of our former President and his wife. After the horrific stories told from the battlefields of Gettysburg, it was a reminder that this land has seen more pleasant times.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Taming the Tongue

Damien and Gretchen invited us over for a cookout because Gretchen's mother is in town. I had only met her once before and we both wanted to get to know each other better since our kids will be married next year. So we waited for dinner and made small talk. I hate "small talk." I like big talk about meaningful topics. So I asked Gretchen's mom her views on immigration since she lives in Arizona. Mistake! Soon people jumped in to express their opinions while some people simmered holding theirs back. At one point I thought, "I'm just like Dominic--stirring up people!" He always knows how to get the conversation ball rolling with his questions. Actually my son Jon is like that too. At a crowded 4th of July event, as we waited for fireworks to begin, Jon casually asked my friend, "So what do you think of Obama?" I was worried about shouting and fist fights erupting in the crowd.

As I reflect back on our conversation at Damien's house, I realized our discussion was inappropriate for the time and place and I was insenstive in what I said. It was an opportunity to bring Biblical perspective to the conversation and I did not do that.

So today I read James 3. "For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things."

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness...no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God."

So what is the answer? Jesus said out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. I need to clean up what's inside, so what comes out in words is not poison. James 3 ends with the solution. The verses say we need wisdom--wisdom that is pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. The chapter ends with: "A harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace."

Thursday, August 19, 2010


Life gets complicated. I like routine and I don't like changes. Summer is stressful for me because each day is different and we don't have a schedule.

Fred's change of career back to chiropractic has brought many changes. I haven't been so happy about some of them because Fred is seeing patients at our house. (What about my routine?!) But I am accepting this as God's chosen way to provide for our family.

So with people coming into our home, we've got to clean up! No clutter allowed. The patients walk into our family room, then go into a treatment room. Across from that room is a bathroom. All these rooms must be kept spotless! Not only that, but patients can see into our school room with the big guinea pig cages and into our sewing room, usually strewn about with on-going projects. Bottom line: we've had to organize and throw lots of stuff away. Our house is too small to just transfer junk to another room. We've got to get rid of it. I realize I cling too much to useless objects. I cling too much to the past. I clutch onto my sacred routines and schedules. And worst of all, I hold on to attitudes and habits that hinder me from moving forward in life.

Today I read Colossians 3. "Set your mind on things above, not on things that are on earth." There is a long list of things to get out of our lives. Impurity, evil desires, covetousness--which scripture says is idolatry. Whoa! Think about that. God's word tells us we must throw away anger, wrath, malice, slander, obscene talk, and lying.

So I clean my house and ask God to clean up my heart. A new season is approaching. We can't be hindered with useless stuff.

"Let us lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith." Hebrews 12:1.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Zoo

Post by Arielle

Today my mom, Liana, and I went to the Philadelphia Zoo. My mom's friend is a member to the zoo so she invited us to go with her. I wanted to go to the zoo two years ago, but we never found time to go until today. I loved seeing all the animals!

Before we got to the zoo I told Mom that I wanted to see the giraffes and elephants. Well, when we got there the giraffes wouldn't come outside and the elephants had been transferred to a different zoo.

I think my favorite animals that we saw were the snakes, alligators, crocodiles, tigers, the capybara, and the okapi.
Mom and Liana went into the bird cage to feed the birds this liquid stuff. They held their hands out and the birds landed on their arms and ate. I didn't want to do it so I just took pictures.

I hope we can go back to the zoo again next year.

My Brother the Writer

Last night I got an e-mail from my number two brother, Shane. He is a published author and now has a new website. Shane calls himself an American humorist and that he truly is. He always makes me chuckle with his reflections on life. Sometimes he triggers a memory with his reference to our shared childhood. I remember the rocket in the park, Shane!

But he is more than that. His longer passages go deeper. I just read "Me and Sam" this morning. Growing up along the Mississippi myself, I know how he feels. I can relate to that longing to write. It's in me, as it is in him. But then reality sets in and we feel inadequate and go back to the real world.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Back to the Fair

Since January, all the Saturday mornings spent sewing, and this summer, all the hours spent sorting and measuring fabric, ultimately comes together at the annual 4-H Fair. The projects are judged and on public display and all that donated fabric becomes a store for buyers. The fair lasts three days and the girls couldn't get enough of it. We were there for most of the hours it was open.

This fair is low-tech and old-fashioned. There are lots of farm animals, simple games, food booths, a variety of exhibits made by kids, a tractor drawn wagon to ride around the grounds, and a DJ and a local band playing the oldies. Why do my girls love it so much? They even got a kick out of climbing in the parked fire truck. My daughter-in-law and my granddaughter Lana went with us one day and Lana couldn't get enough either. She didn't want to go home.

The first stop is always the clothing exhibit. The girls turned their projects in about a week ago but did not know the results of the judging. The green clover award is the coveted prize. Maybe "coveted" is the problem and there is too much importance placed on it. Arielle and Liana are very gracious about being winners. They don't boast and they feel compassion for those who do not do so well. But since they both won at the regional show, I'm sure they expected to win at the fair. The results: Liana got a clover for her dress and Arielle got one for a purse she made, but Arielle did not have the clover attached to her dress for all the world to see. She never said a word but I imagine she was disappointed. I didn't know why she didn't get it, but there must have been some mistake the judges found in the garment.

Their club participates in a very casual fashion show during the fair. It is just for fun, not prizes. The girls were getting ready and we were taking down the outfits for them to get dressed. When I unpinned Arielle's name card from her dress, I noticed it said "clover award." I opened up the judges comments and there on the bottom it also said "clover." So we asked and sure enough, Arielle had won the clover. We're not sure what happened to it, but it was never attached to her dress. She was very happy though. Maybe it was a good lesson in humility for her.

We visited the chicken barn several times. I am always amazed by the variety of chickens people raise. One boy about eight or nine was carrying his chicken around in his arms and later we saw him with his duck. He let us pet his animals and we talked to him awhile. There was some sort of contest for fair-goers to vote on their favorite fowl. For a dollar you could buy 10 tokens and little boxes were attached to the cages to receive the "votes." I noticed the boy periodically shaking his boxes to see if he had any votes. With so many chickens and ducks, it was likely he would get little to none. His chicken was kind of plain and there were several ducks like his. So we bought tokens and voted for his birds. I hope it brought him some joy.

We spent many hours in the rabbit and cavy tent. I had lots of guinea pig questions for the experts and also inquired about selling our boys. They are being tormented by living next door to the girls. They spend their days trying to figure out how to get into the cages with the girls. We really don't have the room for the two huge cages and the expense of keeping four guinea pigs is becoming a burden. But my mistake was not informing Liana ahead of time about these thoughts. At the fair, I even put up a sign about our boys for anyone interested in them. Later in the evening Liana was sobbing. She admits she doesn't love the boys like she loves Poppy, her own pig, but she is very concerned they might go to a home where they will not be cared for properly. I assured her we would screen the potential buyers very carefully. Still, she wants them to go to a home of one of our friends so she could visit them from time to time. Friends! Would you like two very cute guinea pigs?

Because we had worked so many hours getting ready for our club's fabric sale, we had lots of buying credit. It's $5 for every two hours worked. We came home with beautiful fabric and dreams of winter projects. I hope the girls will continue to be inspired to create. I didn't need any new projects with three quilt tops pieced but not quilted, but I couldn't resist the new colors and designs either.

So the fair is over and that means summer is almost over too. We're looking ahead to the start of school and fall activities.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Summer Redeemed

Just when it seemed like summer was lost in census work, the last couple of weeks have been full and complete. We can now face starting a new school year with good memories behind us. And, of course, summer is not over yet!

Once my work ended, I needed to focus on my grandkids. Kelsey and Seth are in town for such a short time and my girls love being with them. We looked for simple things to do since finances prevent us from going to big events and expensive places. Jon suggested a hike along the river with his family. At first Kelsey and Seth weren't too sure abou that. What would we do? What was there to see? Water, trees...

The trail is incredibly quiet. It isn't desirable for cyclists because it isn't paved. Jon led us to a rocky beach and the kids tried to capture tiny toads. We skipped flat stones across the slow moving river and we shared in Jon's world. He is an outdoor guy and has explored this area many times.

Our long walk led to pairing up and good conversation. When do we ever have time for that anymore? Jon and Seth led the way. I was glad to spend time with my daughter-in-law. Lana and Liana were in their own world of imagination. Kelsey and Arielle lingered behind, deep in girl talk. We ended our adventure with ice cream!

We spent another day at Nick's house, looking out for all five of his kids while he and Kristina worked. At first I thought, what would we do? Small house, very hot day, no room in my car for all of us to go somewhere. But I enjoyed the time with the little ones. Laci is two, such a delightful age, and Deacon is a calm, affectionate, good-natured baby. Mattie and Liana have lots of fun together. Yes, that is Seth with a moustache. He wore it most all the time. The older kids had fun playing Scattergories in teams and the room filled with laughter.

On our last visit with Kelsey and Seth, I took them to a park they had enjoyed last year. Kelsey admitted it wasn't quite as much fun this year--after all, she is 15. I guess this will be our last year here. The magic has gone. But the kids still climbed the rocks and ran up and down the stairs in the big castle.

We stopped at a grocery store on the way home and bought all their favorite junk food for dinner. Grandmothers are allowed to do that. I wanted Kelsey and Seth to enjoy their last dinner with us, picky eaters as they are. I bought hamburgers and waffle fries and chips and ice cream.

As we prepared dinner, Jon's family came over, along with Marissa and Damien and Gretchen. They all wanted to see the kids before they left. Kelsey and Seth seemed surprised. I told them everyone was there just for them. As we walked them to the car, they were surrounded with lots of hugs and last minute words to be careful and make good choices. I hope they feel the love of their family and that it will carry them through when they are so far away.

Everyone went home. It's quiet again at our house. We had summer after all.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Day to say good-bye

Post by Arielle

Today was the last day we saw Kelsey and Seth until next year. We went to the outlets to get Seth shoes, but the ones he liked weren't in his size. Instead of him getting shoes, Liana and I got new shoes. I got black, blue, and purple Converse, and Liana got some white and pink shoes.

After shopping, we went to Castle Park. I don't think it was as fun as last year, but we still had fun. Julia and Mrs. Gallagher even went to Castle Park for a little while.

When we got home Marissa, Jon, Chrissy, Lana, Damien, and Gretchen all came over to say
good-bye to Kelsey and Seth. It's sad to say bye to them. I wish we could see them more often, but they live in Minnesota!

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Today with the kids

Post by Arielle

This morning Mom, Liana, and I went to my brother Nick's house to spend the day with Kelsey, Seth, Mattie, Laci, and Deacon while he and Kristina were at work.

Last year we did the same thing, but last year my mom filled up the whole house with smoke while making mac 'n cheese, melted Laci's bottles while cleaning them in boiling water, and broke a door handle off! This time nothing happened. She made mac 'n cheese, but the house didn't smoke up.

It was nice seeing everyone. Marissa even stopped by for a couple of hours, but she had to go work. We just got back, and I am tired and hungry! =)

Wednesday, August 04, 2010


Post by Arielle

Last Monday my mom's friend invited us to go bowling and swimming with her and her girls. Her daughters are the same ages as Liana and me. We get along really well. The last time I went bowling was when I was around 6 years old, and we went with the whole family so bowling was kind of new to me. I did fine though (I think). I got two strikes and I think that was good, but I don't know much about bowling terms. We bowled from nine to twelve. We also got pizza and soda for lunch. I had so much fun!

Our friends belong to a pool so after we were done bowling we went swimming. Their pool was really nice and had really clear water. The pool also had two diving boards. One diving board was higher than the other. It was nice going swimming because we don't get to go swimming a lot.

After we got home we were in a rush to go to 4-H. We were being judged for our outfits that night. The 4-H fair is coming up soon. Everyone was there measuring fabric, moving boxes full of fabric, and packing boxes of fabric.

When we got home we were all so tired we went to bed half an hour earlier than usual! I must have been tired because I don't remember complaining about going to bed early =)

A special day

Years ago we used to host big celebrations on August 4th to honor Arielle's first day as my daughter. We toned down the festivities as she has gotten older. But every year I remember that day. It was one of the best days of my entire life.

My mother and I had flown into Hong Kong the night before. After a big dinner with nine other families in a fabulous restaurant that we couldn't really enjoy due to extreme jet lag, (there is a 12 hour difference in time!) we collapsed into bed at the hotel. But the next morning we knew we would most likely have our babies.

We were to take a short flight into China and then head to our hotel in that provincial city. We were beyond excited. It was impossible to predict the day's events. Couples who had adopted before filled us in but we couldn't imagine how it would be. I had never even seen my daughter! What was she like? What would she do? Would she cry when strangers took her from everything familiar? We would look different and smell different and sound different. She was 8 months old with big dark eyes and black hair. That is almost all we knew.

We boarded the Chinese plane as "Home on the Range" played over the speakers, which added to the surreal quality of the morning. I still remember looking outside the plane window as we were about to land, getting a glimpse of the country of my daughter's birth. China! A place I'd only read about, but now we would actually be walking on the ground. Unbelievable!

The heat was stifling, suffocating us with every breath. We piled into a bus with all our luggage and rode to our hotel. We tried to see the city from the dirty windows. First we traveled along rice paddies where water buffaloes waded and men with big straw hats worked in the hot sun. The city was crowded. Bicycles fought for road space, rolling alongside other buses and cars driven erratically. Small shop owners stood outside on the sidewalk eating watermelon. Soon we arrived at our luxurious hotel, a sharp contrast to the scenes right outside its doors. My mother and I opened up our room and saw a small wooden crib set up beside one of the beds. We both cried tears of joy and anticipation. A baby would soon lie in that little crib.

We were summoned to dinner and began eating a delicious meal around a large round table. Dish after dish was served on a lazy susan in the middle of the table. As we were stuffing ourselves, someone announced, "The babies are here!" Immediately we all jumped up from the table. We were told to go to our rooms and wait. We went to our rooms, but no way could we just sit and wait. All of us came back out into the hallway, chatting nervously with cameras in hand. Where were the babies? When would we see them?

Soon our facilitator came to talk with us and then came a parade of babies came down the hall. Women formed a line, each of them holding a baby. A young boy held one of the children. I didn't realize until later when I watched our video that this boy was holding Arielle. The caregivers waited patiently. Our facilitator called out a baby's name in Chinese. Then he said a family's name. A couple stepped forward and a baby was placed in the mother's arms. The mom cried. We all watched this private moment, snapping pictures. This family stood to the side of the hall. Then another baby's name was called. And then my name. I stepped forward and took Arielle. My own daughter. She was thin and her serious eyes were huge in her baby face. She did not cry. She just looked at me calmly. I hugged her and she lay her head on my shoulder. My own baby! What indescribable joy! I loved her fiercely right from the start.

She was a tired little girl and half slept through her bath and dressing for bed. It had been a three hour bus ride from her town to our hotel. It was as if I'd never had a baby before! I didn't seem to know what to do. Without my mother, I don't know that I could have given her a bath. It took two of us to figure things out. I gave Arielle a bottle and put her in that little crib. My mother and I finally could relax enough to sleep. I awoke to a small cry at 3:30 am. I immediately sat up and the thought that filled my head was, "I have a daughter!" What a glorious day! What a gift this child was and continues to be! What a precious time to share with my own mother. The three of us were inseparable on this trip. Arielle loved her grandma and seemed to know we were her very own people. In no time at all she clung to us and cried if strangers approached. Even now, Arielle and her grandma share a special bond.

So today I look at my daughter who is too quickly becoming a young woman. Her eyes are still serious and thoughtful. She has her own ideas and is her own person. I am so proud of her. And I am so thankful she is my daughter.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

New Summer Recipe

My step-daughter gave me a great recipe for using our bountiful garden produce. Don't say, "I don't like eggplant." This is so good!

Baked Eggplant and Tomato

tomatoes--local, fresh, ripe
olive oil
salt and pepper
freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Peel and slice eggplant and sprinkle with salt. Let sit awhile on paper towels, then rinse and pat dry. Slice tomatoes. Heat a little oil in skillet and fry tomatoes 30 seconds each side. Put on plate and season with salt and pepper.

Wipe out pan and heat a little more oil. Fry eggplant until brown on each side. Put a little oil in a baking dish. Arrange the eggplant with the tomato on top. Sprinkle the cheese between layers. Top with bread crumbs or cornflake crumbs and drizzle with a little more oil. Bake about 30 minutes.