Monday, December 24, 2012


I couldn't leave this blog on such a bitter note right before Christmas.  God is good, giving a message of hope.

We went to church at a later service than we normally attend.  As we watched the people enter the sanctuary, I was amazed by the diversity.  I always felt somewhat uneasy about the majority of white, wealthy folks that filled our church when we first started coming years ago.  But today, especially, I noticed the rich variety of colors and races and cultures walking down the aisles, crowding into the pews.  It seemed only fitting that our first hymn was:

"O come, Desire of nations, bind
All people in one heart and mind;
Bid envy, strife, and quarrels cease;
Fill the whole world with heaven's peace;
Rejoice! Rejoice!..."

The pastor read from Isaiah 9, that familiar passage we all know: "For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Almighty God, Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace."

Many aren't so familiar with the chapter before, when the Assyrians invaded and Israel was razed.  Chapter 8 ends with, "They will pass through the land, greatly distressed and hungry.  And when they are hungry, they will be enraged and will speak contemptuously against their king and their God, and turn their faces upward.  And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish.  And they will be thrust into darkness."  God is at war with us when we rebel against him and we will live in gloom and misery. 

Yet, into chapter 9, "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined." When we realize our desperate situation, we will come come to the light and be healed and be saved.

"O come, O come, Immanuel..."  Immanuel, God with us.  He has come.  He is here now. God sent light and redemption through his Son. We have much reason to rejoice!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Just My Thoughts...

Like everyone else, I'm just trying to make sense of what is senseless.  We want answers and explanations about how this tragedy in Connecticut could happen.  And we are outraged!  And angry, and we want someone to blame.  Because if we could just figure out who exactly is to blame, we could prevent this from happening again.

Job 12:5 says, "In the thought of one who is at ease there is contempt for misfortune."  Those of us living (momentarily) in peace and safety would like to say that calamity cannot come to us because we have our lives in order and we are not like "those people."  Every single day we hear of shootings on the streets of our big city. This thinking insures our continued perfect life. But when tragedy happens to ordinary people, it shakes our world.

In my anger, I've tried to find blame too.  I came up with the conclusion that this latest massacre is a culmination of all that is wrong with our society.  So who or what can we blame?  First thought, of course, is to blame the shooter.  But we can't do that because he has a psychiatric disorder.  People are not responsible for their behavior if they have a diagnosis, and the list just keeps getting longer.

1. The media?  We live in a culture that glorifies violence in movies, on TV, and in video games played incessantly by impressionable teenage boys.  Violent themes abound, because people want this and are willing to pay for it.

2.  Guns?  Why can people go into a store and buy military-style assault weapons?  For deer hunting?  For home defense?  Let's make this political and ban guns and all will be well in the world.

3.  Public education?  It has just about succeeded in eliminating the Christian faith from every aspect of a child's life during the six hours he is sitting in a classroom. 

4.  Public education, again.  Aren't schools supposedly on the lookout for troubled kids who need help?  Why wasn't this young man given the resources and the help he so obviously needed.  But I bet the school had a great sports program.

5.  Broken families?  We heard the guy had an absent father and a mother who spent her time in bars or on the shooting range with her troubled son.  Parents oblivious to the needs of their children.  This one cuts into my heart. 

6.  Our environment?  Why do we have so many damaged kids to begin with?  What is in our air, our water, our food that causes young children to develop autism and ADD and a host of other behavior issues that no one seems to understand?  We're breathing toxins, swallowing toxins, absorbing toxins, and injecting our kids with toxins.  They're drowning in them.  And we're surprised when things go wrong in their brains.

7.  Big corporations?  When researchers try to find causes for all that ails American children, they are silenced and ridiculed if their conclusions affect the bottom dollar.

8.  Relativism?  All points of view are equally valid.  We don't want anyone to take offense.   There are no more moral values. There is no right or wrong.  But wait!  I think we most all agree that killing 6 years olds is wrong!   On that common ground, can't we do SOMETHING to try to prevent tragedies like this?

But no, we cannot.  We live in this world we've created and we suffer the consequences of it.

Some may say, you forgot to blame God.  When we want to absolve ourselves in any role we may have played, we say it was God who allowed it.  And he did.  I have no answers for that, and when Job tried to find the answer to his suffering, God's responded by asking him questions.  We draw conclusions about God because of what has been revealed to us, not accounting for all that is hidden from us.  When Jesus saw the suffering of Lazarus's family, he wept.  He cares; he knows. When Jesus looked out upon the city on the way to his own death, he cried, "Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!  How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!  See, your house is left to you desolate."  (Matthew 23:37, 38.)

Friday, December 07, 2012

More Sounds

Two days after Arielle's birthday some of my much-loved women friends joined me for a Christmas brunch at church.  Every year hundreds of women come together to eat rich food, to enjoy beautiful candle-lit table settings and great conversations, and to hear various types of speakers.  We never quite know what the speaker will be like, and some are better than others.  But the main point of this gathering is to just have a good time with friends and be surrounded by all the trappings of the holiday season. I love it!  And men in white shirts serve us! That always makes me smile.  Like my friend Helen said, "I can come here and nothing is expected of me."  We can just relax and get out of our regular, hectic life routine.

We toured the tables when we arrived, each decorated by a different woman who volunteered to bring in her best china and centerpiece.  We talked and ate ham and pastries and fruit.  Then we headed down to the sanctuary to hear the speaker.  All we knew about her was that she was a 9/11 widow.  What a dynamic speaker she was!  I wish I could remember all that she said. Her points were so right and true. Her story was by turns tragic and funny, but always honest and deep.  We were blessed this morning!  Testimony--another sound of this Christmas season.  People giving testimony to God's goodness in the face of suffering and loss.  I wish I could quote the one phrase she repeated several times.  Something about when the whys of life torment us and when the unknowns of the future scare us, we need to remember that what we already know about God is enough to trust him for whatever is to come.  This idea keeps coming to mind.  I've walked with Jesus a long time.  Once I left him, but he took me back.  God has revealed himself in incredible ways through the years.  I don't have all the answers, but I have enough to know that this verse is true: "the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you--so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God is faithful, to whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." I Corinthians 1.

Did you notice all the times the name of Jesus is proclaimed in that one verse?  I didn't notice until I typed it.  I give testimony to his name!  It is powerful; it is divisive; it is a stumbling block.  But... "God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."  Philippians 2. 

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Sounds of the Season

Arielle's birthday was joyous.  We celebrated with family a week earlier, so the actual day of her birthday was just hers to enjoy. She wanted to go to the mall (of course) and we had a mom-sister-daughter day full of laughter and fun. In the evening our friend Julia came over so the girls could practice for their concert at the retirement center on Sunday.  I came into Arielle's  crowded room and sat on the floor to hear them rehearse.  The lovely sounds of their guitars blending together as they played old carols made Christmas perfect for me. If that was all, it would be enough. Thank you, Arielle, for this gift.

For her birthday, I gave Arielle a different kind of gift.  It was a journal I kept since she was a baby. I started it at the time of our trip to China and then occasionally I would write more as she grew. Unfortunately, I kind of forgot about it in later years. We moms get busy and sometimes neglect what might be most beneficial to just get through the urgent needs of the day. Anyway, I hoped the journal would bless Arielle, that she would know how precious she was and still is to us.  I didn't even know if she would be interested in plowing through all that mom-baby talk.  I added one more entry at the end, for her 15th birthday.

On her birthday night I kissed her good-night with the full moon shining through her window and lighting up her beautiful face. She hugged me tight and said the journal was her best gift.  If there was ever any doubt, she now KNOWS how much she is loved!  Gift received.

On a bigger scale, do we sometimes live our lives wondering if our God really loves us?   Christmas is the time to remember that God sent his son to give us the gift of himself--to adopt us into his family, to love us unconditionally, and to be with us forever, even beyond the grave.  We need to reach out and receive this gift.  Read God's love letter to us and be blessed this season.   

Friday, November 30, 2012

Wild, Wacky Weekend

My friend calls it Happy Chaos. Chaos, definitely.  But not always happy.  We had two big family dinners in the course of three days--Thanksgiving and Arielle's birthday.  It was wild and exhausting, and wonderful too. I thought I was well-prepared.  The day before Thanksgiving I got a lot of prep work done, in hopes that the next day would be relaxed and peaceful. Somehow it wasn't.  In the morning I wrestled the giblets out of this big 21-pound turkey that was still partially frozen. But no complaints--our local store granted it for free!  The rest of the morning I systematically checked off the dishes from my list as I completed them.  It's been the same menu every year and I've done it for about 35 years. 

Then the guests arrived (all 21 of them), and things got a little chaotic, mostly due to one little boy.  He just has too much pent-up energy and needed to get it out before civility would be required of him at dinner. (He needed a few more hours outdoors, as it turned out.)  So the kids big and small headed for the backyard.  The rest of us girls did the finishing touches on dinner--that last minute rush to get everything out and keep it hot. Even after 35 years, that part is stressful.

I never want to exclude children from the holiday dinner table but this year we all couldn't fit around it.  So we decided to put the youngest (not counting babies) in the kitchen, even moving the table closer to the big table in the dining room so they wouldn't feel left out.  Arielle volunteered to supervise and eat with them.  Good girl!  But our little guy refused to sit down and instead climbed around on his father's lap at the big table and threw silverware.  Or else he was under the table like a dog, periodically coming up to try to unseat someone else. The babies were peaceful, amazingly, Joey in his highchair and tiny Jordan in her infant seat--their first Thanksgiving.

Around the table we gave thanks.  This year many expressed their gratitude for their spouses and that was inspiring to hear.  Even the little girls joined in, shy in front of the big group of us.  Mattie had a hard time speaking up, so she wrote down her thankful list and we hung it on the refrigerator:  "I am thankful for my family, my food, houses, and more. I also am thankful for my cat Zombie Kitty because if he was not in our house he might die." (Her dad found a stray, injured cat who can't walk.)

After dinner Dominic jumped up and washed ALL the dishes!  I don't think I had any energy left to do it, so he was a lifesaver to me.  I am grateful for my son!  We then had a dessert buffet that I did not have to make, including gluten-free Jewish apple cake baked by Kim!  Thanks, kids, for all the yummy treats.  The little girls ran off to their private games that involve little toys and Japanese erasers and notes on scraps of paper.  Everyone was winding down and getting ready to leave and then we found unwanted guests!  Ticks!  They must have come in with the kids when they were outside.  Some ticks were attached to their hosts, some still strolling about, looking for a good place for a feast.  Two days later I broke out from poison ivy.  Someone must have brought it in on their clothes because I was never outside.  Ticks and poison ivy the end of November!  Who would have thought? 

At the end of Arielle's party, little Joey fell asleep on Fred's lap and then Fred fell asleep with him. Grandpa.  It's a role Fred loves. I walked outside with one of my daughters-in-law, up to the parking lot across the street--our "overflow" parking.  It was cold and clear and dark.  She strapped the three little ones in their car seats and I kissed them all good-bye and told them I loved them.  And in that moment, I realized it was all worth it.  The stress and craziness and plain hard work. Thanksgiving night I said to Dominic, "No more!  I can't do this."  And maybe I won't do it for Christmas.  But by next Thanksgiving I'll be rested up. My mother gave up making the big holiday meal years ago.  I understand why.  This year she called to tell me she would only have my sister with her.  They would enjoy their little Cornish hens together, but my mother sounded sad that no one else was coming for dinner. So I will be grateful for my big family who still want to come and gather for the holidays.  I'm thankful for new babies to add to the mix and I praise God we were all still here around the table.  No chair was empty. 
"Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man...Bless our God, O people; let the sound of his praise be heard, who has kept our soul among the living and has not let our feet slip."  Psalm 66.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Halloween Babies

As most of you know, we don't do anything to celebrate Halloween, but this year the two newest members of our family stopped over to show off their adorable costumes.  So here it is almost Thanksgiving and I'm just getting around to posting Halloween pictures.  Life is a little overwhelming right now.  But we couldn't be more blessed.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Night with Sandy

As darkness fell, the winds gradually increased in speed.  Our trees that had been gently swaying became angry and bent violently, driven one direction and then another.  The bamboo shook with fury, scattering the poor birds still trying to roost.  We know that hurricanes come with bands of wind, so after a fierce dance with Sandy, the trees would stand silent and serene for several minutes.  It was eerie.

Fred said to hurry with dinner and get out of the kitchen with its wall of windows.  We were spooked when we heard a loud crash against the side of the house.  Earlier in the day we had taken bedding and supplies downstairs and two twin mattresses into our spare room.  The girls and I would sleep crosswise on them during the storm.  Fred said he needed to be upstairs to watch over the house.  I think he didn't relish a night on the floor.  Good thing too.  His phone rang all night as his work crew at church called with their questions and concerns.  The men were manning the generators.  

Right when we were getting ready for sleep, the electricity went out.  The girls were excited with the candles and lanterns and flashlights.  That stuff is fun--temporarily.  I was glad it was time to go to bed anyway and hopefully we would have power in the morning.  But what else would we face in the morning?  I didn't want to think about that.   So Fred went upstairs and we settled in on the mattresses on the floor in our windowless room against a bank of earth on one side.  Safe.  Dominic has always said he likes sleeping there because it is so dark and silent.  It is, and we all fell quickly to sleep.  

I was awakened by a beep-beep-beep-beep.  What in the world was that?  Arielle's ipod in its dock?  A smoke detector?  I got a flashlight and went to investigate.  It was the box where our phone service comes in from the street, letting us know it was on battery back-up.  Okay.  But how to make it stop beeping?  It wouldn't turn off and I couldn't sleep with that beep-beep-beep-beep every 30 seconds all night long.  Awake so long, I listened to the roar of the wind.  It is true when people say it sounds like a train during a storm. I peeked out the window but the rain made it impossible to see anything. Then there was a knocking on the back wall of the basement.  What was that?  And cracking of branches from the woods.  Scary sounds. We had prayed for safety.  God would see us through whatever happened.

I finally fell asleep near dawn when the beeping faded to four little chirps as the battery on the box wore down.  I heard Fred up and we looked out to survey the damage.  Amazingly, there was little!  A few branches in the yard.  Our lilac tree split in half, but it did not fall across the deck.  Fred's tarps covering the cords of wood were shredded.  The bamboo was battered.  A big pine tree had fallen across the road.  That's about it.  We are very thankful to God.  

We still had no power.  My resourceful husband had prepared for this.  He had the Coleman camping stove set up with the old percolator and he made coffee and I made oatmeal for breakfast. It was chilly so Fred made a fire in the woodstove. He got the generator going for the refrigerator and he hooked up the TV so we could see what had happened the night before.  I realize that in a time of uncertainty, you really desire news from the outside world.  It was bad news for many people in New York and New Jersey.  The devastation was incredible. We are very fortunate.

The electricity came on later in the day.  Damien sent an e-mail titled "close call."  This tree would have fallen on the room where Gretchen has been sleeping with the baby if the other tree had not caught it.  God is good.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Waiting for the Storm

The bamboo birds are confused.  Every dawn, right on schedule, they leave the bamboo grove in a blanket of dark wings across the sky and head due south.  This morning, although the winds aren't strong and it's not even raining, they congregate in a tree north of our house.  One by one they fly down to the street and hop around nervously.  The road is covered in wandering birds.  They know what's coming, but they don't know what to do.

The weather maps tell us a monster storm is approaching.  Will it really be as bad as they predict?  Maybe it will fizzle out.  Or will it be worse? I remember Katrina and watching that radar picture moving across the Gulf.  No one imagined the devastation. 

I am tempted to worry, especially about my kids and their new homes and the big trees surrounding them.  I think of the little ones asleep in their beds in the night next to glass windows when the storm is supposed to surge into our area.  I gaze outside at our trees that should have been trimmed long ago.  Fred says we will sleep in the basement tonight.

The Creator of the storm knows our worries and our needs.  "The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge."  Psalm 18.  "The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock."  Matthew 7.

My good husband is home building us a fire.  We're prepared for an emergency.  We don't know what's coming but we know what to do.  Our good God is in control.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Best Weekend

I only dreamed I saw a falling star, but I really did see a bluebird.  He perched on the deck railing, feathers ruffling in the cold breeze.  He puffed himself out, as if shivering against the bite of the wind.  His little head swiveled to look right at us in the window watching, unafraid, then he stretched out one blue wing before taking to the air again.  It was cloudy the night of the meteor shower.  I do want to see a falling star someday, but the bluebird is enough.  Heaven and earth are full of wonder.

Can it get any better than this?  A warm, windy weekend in autumn, the leaves at their peak of glory.  Dominic and Stacia drove up from DC to celebrate Lana's birthday and to see baby Jordan.  The family met at a pumpkin farm and we joyously trampled through a dry, rustling cornfield looking for clues in some game I never did comprehend. But that didn't matter. The sun was bright on our faces and the kids big and small laughed and threw corn kernels at each other.  (Against the rules.)

On the farm we bought apples and gourds and chestnuts and rummaged around in a flea market.  Doing nothing and yet doing everything.  Five of my six children here together, daughters-in-law, and grandchildren.  What more could I ask for?  Nothing more.  I am full to the brim with joy.

We drove the short trip back to Jon's house for Lana's party.  Jon and Chrissy are gracious hosts and it is comfortable to be at their new house, enjoying conversation and not busying myself with meal preparations.  Anthony and Kim come with baby Joey and his big smile lights up the room.  Little Jordan asleep in my arms, a glimpse of heaven.  Precious baby so new to this world.  What does she dream of?  Laci, Mattie, Lana and Liana run off to play, cousins, girlfriends.  Deacon hasn't a playmate yet, but another baby boy is on the way and we think how these little guys too will be good friends. Dominic leaves when no one notices and comes back with a special treat--gluten-free pizza!  We share this delicious meal while others munch on tomato pie and pastries.

And the weekend is not over! As if that wasn't joy enough.  We make plans for geocaching in a nearby park.  We all have so many memories in this park. Our first fall in Pennsylvania coming from the windy plains of Oklahoma, stunned by the glorious trees.  Hikes and hide-n-seek with Anthony, Jon and Marissa when they were little.  Fred's elderly mother stumbling along the paths to the site of her daughter's ashes.  All the years we've walked these trails and here we are again.  Today, every turn is unbelievable beauty, the towering trees ablaze with color.  Even our feet tread on a carpet of reds and golds. Liana and Lana are off on an adventure known only to them.  Big sisters Arielle and Marissa share girl talk.  The guys search for treasure and find trinkets here and there. Fred, who works so hard under so much stress, unwinds.  How could anyone walk through this forest and not be changed? My family--here together in this wondrous setting!  I found my treasure. I have no other desires, no other dreams.  Everything I ever wanted is fulfilled here this weekend.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Autumn Escape

My brother and his family came for a visit to our home and then we all drove to Amish country to spend time together there.  It's a favorite family spot.  We have taken the girls since they were little when we started attending the shows at the Millennium Theatre.  We've ridden the train to Paradise, visited museums, and shopped at little country stores in the village of Intercourse.  There really isn't a lot to do there, so I think that is exactly why we love it.  It's a retreat from the bustle of our hectic lives in the suburbs.  And autumn is the best time to go.

We all unwind as we make the long drive through idyllic farm country. The familiar peaceful rolling hills surround us.  Today the farmlands are ablaze with orange and green under a bright blue sky.  Dry corn fields glisten in the golden sunshine and trees are beginning to display their fall colors. Silos define the skyline and roadside stands beckon with pumpkins and mums.  Weeping willows line small streams, their tendrils dripping into the cold water.  As we get closer, we notice it must be laundry day.  Clotheslines adorned with dark trousers and plain dresses whip in the cool breeze.  Arielle notices the order--light to dark, large to small.  Hard-working hands pinned each item on this brisk morning.

Even so, noisy traffic and city life intrudes.   Amish buggies dangerously share the roads with speeding cars.  But we, like they, carve out our own little enclave of tranquility. We focus on the beauty and the simplicity and return year after year because here we can shut out the chaos of modern life and retreat into our own little world.

We meet my brother, my sister-in-law, and my niece and stroll through the shops and laugh in that comfortable way you can when you are with people you love.  We linger in the tourist shops and I snap this picture of two silly guys.  We visit quilt shops, our eyes assaulted with beautiful fabrics as we dream up new projects.  We eat hot, sweet pretzels and sit on the porch watching the buggies at the drive-through bank across the street.  All of us live in two worlds, don't we?  Balancing the hard realities of life with the joys we find in family and community. 

On this trip I will remember a late dinner, relaxing in an almost empty restaurant, listening to the stories about the Amish family who hosted my brother and his family.  They had a firsthand experience to learn about the people who have separated themselves from our crazy world the best they can. My niece washed dishes in an Amish kitchen as the family prepared for their work day.  My brother drove the Amish farmer to the library and discussed his genealogy research.  I will also think about the next morning when we all explored a many-leveled antique store while the rain drove hard. Our little vacation ended at one of our favorite shops in Bird-in-Hand so we could stock up on apples from the huge bins outside.  With a sad, wet good-bye, we parted ways.  My brother was  heading to Gettysburg and we back to school and work and routine.  But our hearts are full of new memories to add to the stories of so many years past.   

Friday, October 05, 2012

Shouts of Joy

Early this morning I read:  "Sing aloud to God our strength; shout for joy; raise a song; sound the tambourine, the sweet lyre with the harp.  Blow the trumpet at the new moon, at the full moon...I delivered you!  I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations...I will establish your offspring forever, and build your throne for all generations.  Let the heavens praise your wonders, O Lord...Blessed are the people who know the festal shout, who walk, O Lord, in the light of your face, who exult in your name all the day!"  

My son Damien called.  His daughter is born this day!  Jordan Dorey.  We love you already, precious child!

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Busy with School

People say you can tell a family home schools by the projects lying all over the place in various stages of progress.  It's a mess!  That's our house.  Right now several little plastic tubs of stagnant pond water adorn the counter and a microscope is plugged in right next to the kitchen table.  Pond scum is percolating outside the back door, green slime soaking up the sunshine.  Liana had seeds in little dishes trying to germinate in their various habitats around the house, including the refrigerator.  Now the survivors have been planted in containers all in a row on a sunny window sill, Liana hovering over them like a nervous mother. 

Liana also has to collect, name and display 20 leaf specimens for her botany class and some of them at this moment are pressed under stacks of heavy books, the unidentified mystery leaves shriveling crisp and brown on the dining room table.  If she doesn't know their names, they get tossed, I guess.  Today I will help her iron wax paper to the perfect, flat leaves and she will cleverly think of a way to mount them.  

Our house is cluttered with books of all sorts--right now I can see Hamlet, Microscopic Life, and Trees of North America.   Scattered around them are papers upon papers, including Arielle's colorful drawings of her lab report, colored pencils left out.  Then there are the notebooks and the workbooks and the math CDs and Spanish worksheets and the textbooks.  My house is rarely neat, and often chaotic, but who would want a different life?  Certainly not me.

A week ago we all went to a nearby park and with a soup ladle attached to a big stick with electrical tape, Fred scooped up slimy, green pond scum.  He also pulled up some deeper water and we put them in four little containers and fed our samples some food to make our cultures--hay, rice, soil and egg yolk.  We kept these at home in a shoebox about four days, each getting stinkier by the hour. 

We were certainly rewarded for our hard work!  We made slides and observed numerous microscopic creatures.  The more we watched, the more we saw!  It was fascinating!  To our delight (and horror!) we found a "huge" transparent larvaIt looked like a big, hairy monster, with a hook on its face reaching out to other creatures, all from its tiny drop of water.  The amazing thing is that if you looked at the slide you could see nothing.  Yet here in the microscopic world, a myriad of organisms go about their business of eating and swimming and whatever else these creatures do. 

The year is just beginning.  What other new discoveries will we find?  Would I be observing microscopic life or discussing Shakespeare or gathering leaves if not for my girls?  How boring life would be!  Sometimes I long for the school days when we cuddled on the couch with a good read-aloud or made projects of sculpy clay and paint.  But these new adventures will later be memories we hold dear in our hearts.  And then one day it will all be over and the girls will be grown up.  I want to hold on to these days forever.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Classes Day 2

Liana and I are back in the beautiful library we discovered last week.  She just finished her science homework and I just finished looking over my biology notes which I will be teaching in about 45 minutes.  

Our new schedule gives us a very long day out, but the change is good for us.  While the girls have their early morning class, I have time to "kill".  At my age, should I ever kill time?  My life has limited time left and I need to redeem it, making the most of it.  A friend got into my car this morning and after running an errand together, we sat and talked about important issues in our families.

Afterwards I picked up Liana and we are relaxing in this lovely setting.  The library is so much larger than ours.  Books surround us on every side of this table here, and a huge picture window gives us a view of the rolling countryside, stormy winds shaking the trees.  We'll head back to school in a little bit but we are enjoying the peace and quiet.  Then we'll eat quick lunch and I will present my material on Kingdom Monera.  Fascinating stuff!  I hope the students think so.  Arielle is in my class too and she is watching my every move, desperately hoping I won't do anything un-cool.  She's even choosing my wardrobe on school days.  But last week she told me I did a great job and that means a lot coming from her!

Arielle has a class that she is very excited about and I am too.  She is taking a history class called Omnibus that combines history, literature, writing, and theology.  The students read their textbook plus literature written at the time they are studying and then write essays. World history is combined with the history of the church because aren't most struggles and world events revolving around religion?  I grew up learning history apart from the impact of world religions.  How dry and how unrealistic.  The best part of this class is the discussion when all the students come together after doing their assignments. This kind of learning can't be done in a home setting. The class stresses critical thinking skills rather than a recitation of facts.  Right now Arielle is reading the classic Foxe's Book of Martyrs to better understand England in the 1500's.  She loves the class and is very motivated to do her work.

We have a week to prepare for our next long day.  This includes a field trip to a stagnant pond to collect bacteria-laden water that we will be observing under the microscope next week.  Fun!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Starting School

September 11, 2001, was just like September 11th this year.  Bright sunshine and a beautiful blue sky and a day full of promise.  It was on Tuesday in 2001,  just like this year.  Who can ever forget that day?  Arielle began preschool that morning.  She was so very excited.  This time she is off to high school at a new co-op.  She is equally excited and ready to take on new challenges.  

Disaster can happen on a day like this.  But this day, for us, it doesn't.  We don't think about bad things when we pull up in front of the old church which has been rented for the school.  Our new school bags are weighed down with notebooks and textbooks and lunch.  Liana is a little nervous.  She has a teacher she has never met and will be in a class where she knows no one.  Like me when I was her age, this makes her anxious.  Not so Arielle.  She is more like Dominic.  I remember his first day of kindergarten.  I had walked him to school and when we arrived at the front entrance he turned and told me good-bye.  He boldly went to his classroom by himself.  This day I am a little anxious too.  I will be teaching two classes.

In childhood I had decided I wanted to be a teacher.  I wanted to be the one writing on the blackboard and sitting behind the big desk grading papers.  I loved the discipline and order of the classroom.  (I hear it's not like that today.)  I wanted to impart knowledge!  But life intervened in those dreams and set me on a different course.  In the past I taught Vacation Bible School, Sunday School, women's Bible study, chiropractic patient education, and, of course, my daughters' work all these years.  I've loved it all.  But now!  I actually have an academic classroom with other people's kids teaching them science.  It seems kind of like...real school!

Friends of mine told me about this co-op where their children had attended and I knew that it would be a good opportunity for Arielle, now in high school.  She is such an extrovert (unlike me) and I know she is energized by being around other people.   I saw on the website that parents were needed to teach some classes and it would offset the tuition.  I applied to be the middle school biology teacherI heard back from the director of the school.  That position had been taken.  But would I teach high school biology?  Oh no, I couldn't do that.  I told her I would think about it, but the more I thought about it, the more I didn't want to do it.  What an intimidating idea.  Then my wise daughter reminded me, "But Mom, you would have to teach it to me anyway."

I wanted Arielle to go to this school.  I had the biology book already since Arielle needed it, and I started to read.  Okay, I remember this.  Most people don't realize the number of science classes that are required for chiropractic school.  I assumed I'd forgotten everything, but that wasn't true.  So I agreed to teach.  A few days later the director called and said there had been many requests for a physical science class.  Would I teach that also?  

I recognize opportunity for God's provision.  Not only would the girls attend the school at no cost, but we would have a little income in addition.  So I said yes to this new adventure.  I believe God equips us for whatever he calls us to do.  So all three of us were off to school on this gorgeous, sunny day on September 11th.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Busy with Bags

This has been the summer of bags.  The girls and I have talked about starting an etsy store, and my business-minded son said first of all we need inventory.  So we created inventory!  We worked on these projects all summer, along with the girls' 4-H sewing projects.  I also had some new sewing students, so really, this has been the summer of beautiful fabrics and the whir of machines.

We started school sad...we'd rather be sewing.  But we combined sewing and school by making school bags!  In our last week of summer, the girls made the bags they will use to carry books back and forth.  Family and friends, did you know we are actually going to leave the house to go to school?  Well, one day a week anyway.  The girls will be attending a co-op and I will be teaching there.  We needed school bags.

So what do you think?  These first four are ours, but we can make others if you know someone who would like to buy a custom-designed bag!  They are large, well-made tote bags.  Arielle and I also made smaller bags, with the same quality fabrics and sturdy linings like the tote bags.  Those are all for sale.  Tell your friends!  Sorry for the poor photography.  My daughter-in-law Gretchen was going to take professional pictures, but she is preoccupied with getting ready to give birth to my next grandchild!

Bags below are for sale


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Ready for the Snow

Fred says I'm most happy when a pot of soup is simmering on the stove.  Maybe that's true.  Soup making is the only cooking I enjoy.  Fred is getting ready for winter in his own way, while today I made Tommy's Soup.  We had enough for dinner on a humid, summer night, and also enough to stock the freezer.

This soup can only be made when our garden tomatoes are producing an abundant crop because ripe tomatoes are the key ingredient.  Store-bought tomatoes would never work.  We need many other vegetables too, and I add whatever is available from the garden.  This year we have okra!  The original recipe calls for okra but we've never had it before.  After tasting this year's soup, I realize it is a must. Okra enhances flavor and texture both.

So Arielle shucked the corn we bought earlier from a nearby farm.  She sat outside in the yard, carefully removing all the silk while the Rose of Sharon bloomed and the insects made riotous sounds.  Liana in a sundress and bare feet snapped the green beans, freshly picked, and I tramped through the muddy garden to choose the red and green peppers and one perfect jalapeno, not too hot.

One by one we dropped the vegetables into the pot:  tomatoes, onions, peppers, corn, green beans, carrots, and okra.  Each one added to the wonderful fragrance in the kitchen as it cooked.  

At the first snowfall, when the garden is barren and the insects silent, when we are bundled in fleece and Fred fires up the woodstove, I will take the soup from the freezer.  We will remember and celebrate the summer's bounty.  We will be thankful, because food is a gift.  This food, this soup nourishes body and soul.  "He did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness."  Acts 14:17

Tommy, an unknown (to me) Cherokee in North Carolina, would probably be amazed to find out his soup recipe has become part of our family's traditions.  My mother passed the recipe on to me.  She knows all about soup and tradition.

 "Taste and see that the Lord is good."  Psalm 34:8

Monday, August 06, 2012

Time of Tomatoes

Before the storm came I gathered tomatoes.  The plants are towering now and I have to be careful not to trip over the low hanging vines.  I need to crawl under and work hard to reach  those red globes and I gather them in my shirt, too many to carry.  In the afternoon I brought them in and removed the skins, then chopped them and simmered them down to put in the freezer for winter soups.  I do this every summer.

This summer I am thinking of Arielle.  It was her special day--August 4th--and I remember right before we left for China fourteen years ago my mother and I were hurriedly gathering tomatoes and cooking them down for the freezer, knowing I would be gone for two weeks and even when I returned, would I be concerned about tomatoes?  Fred had just had surgery.  He couldn't do these things.  So instead of packing, my mom and I were picking tomatoes and I was longing for the first glimpse of my daughter's face.

Arielle was at camp this past week.  We did not hear from her at all, and I did not call her.  (I did send e-mails and a couple of letters.)  I knew that someone would call me, if needed, but this was her week away.  She is training to be a counselor, working under an adult, with a cabin full of preteen girls.  Not my cup of tea!  But Arielle loves this sort of thing.  She is responsible and loving, compassionate and patient, perfect for the role.

It was a long, long week.  I missed her so much.  We had Lana here a couple of days and we had some sewing students come over, and Liana and I had a great sewing day making tote bags for the new school we'll all be attending in September.  But I am uneasy without Arielle.  I long to see her face.

On Saturday, Arielle special day, Liana and I drive to church at the appointed time for picking up the returning campers.  I see Arielle from the road among the crowd of children.  She sees us too.  She is glowing bronze from the sun, a shining star among all the others, that big smile on her beautiful face.  My daughter!  Then she is in my arms for a big hug.  I remember a hug long ago, when I first saw her face.  She lay her baby head on my shoulder and she was forever mine.  

Arielle bubbles over telling me about her week. She has had a great time.  Then a child runs up to tell me, "Arielle is the BEST counselor I EVER had!"  I share my daughter with the world and she brings joy to others.

My daughter is home.  I am content. More tomatoes to pick today.

Friday, August 03, 2012


This has been a week of family time.  My heart is full.  But some anxiety pulls at me because two of my children are gone, Arielle away at summer camp and Dominic away in Kenya.  I will be glad when everyone is back home.

Jon and Chrissy moved this week!  Finally, after months and months of waiting, they closed on their first new home!  Liana and I got to spend time with Lana while they packed and cleaned and loaded the truck.  With Arielle gone, it was the perfect time for Liana to be in the big sister role.

Kelsey and Seth are going home to Minnesota in a few days so Damien had a cook-out at his house, on a weekday, and invited all the family to come.  I know it was a sacrifice on his part after working all day, but he and Gretchen are generous.  I realized ALL my grandchildren were there together, except for the new tiny one not yet born.  (Wish you had been here, Stacia!)  So we corralled the kids together (except for Gretchen with the bigger tiny one not yet born) and tried to get a picture.  Do you know how hard that was?  Do you know how many pictures I took, yet this poor quality one is the best of the bunch?  Still, I treasure it.  Deacon and Joey discovered each other for the first time while we were trying to arrange the kids and it was fun to see them interacting.

In the kitchen Gretchen invited me to touch her near-to-bursting belly.  What an honor!  I used to hate how people would reach out without asking and touch me when I was pregnant.  But Gretchen allowed me to do this.  My grandchild right beneath her skin, alive and moving!  So close!  How I love that baby already!

Fred has discovered his own way of bonding with his grandson.  He takes little Joey and walks him around outside--for hours it seems!  Both seem to love it.  I just can't carry that heavy boy for long.  We all chased after Deacon to keep him from the street and Liana played with all the little blonde girls. We're all so different, yet we're FAMILY!  I didn't get enough time to talk with Kelsey and Seth.  What do you say before a year's separation?  They said they have had a good summer and wished they could stay longer.

As Fred, Liana and I got ready to leave, Kelsey had just sat down to her dessert.  I went over and hugged her. She stood up, my precious 17-year-old granddaughter, my first, and left her dessert to say good-bye. It was a respectful gesture.  I was filled with regret for lost opportunities and words unspoken.  I just told her how much I loved her.  My towering grandson Seth hugged me hard.  Seth gives the best hugs.  He's noted for that.

On the drive home I think about how blessed I am.  Like so many others, I belong to that group called GRANDMOTHERS.  What a title!  What an honor.

                             "Grandchildren are the crown of the aged..."  Proverbs 17:6

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Bounty of Grace

Counting my blessings...

515.  God's provision from the garden.

516.  Our family blessed with another new baby on the way!  Incredible joy!

517.  A picnic with prayer offered through the towering trees, accompanied by insect song.

518.  The girls playing a game with their friend Thomas and the laughter and silliness of an adolescent boy making me smile, remembering...

"I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."  (Jesus)

Thursday, July 26, 2012


Now for some good news.  We had the most incredible, fun weekend visiting Dominic and Stacia and I haven't had time to write about it!  For the first time with the girls, we traveled to Washington, D.C. to stay overnight and have fun in the city.  Dominic and Stacia are such gracious hosts and we thoroughly enjoyed our time with them.

After a wild ride down 95, we arrived safe and sound and Dominic and Stacia had a big day planned for us.  Unfortunately, the metro from their town was shut down and we had to take two cars into the city.  (No one car could contain us all.)  So we followed them.  First stop, Dominic pulled over into a park.  He said he wanted to show us one of his favorite spots.  We walked into a field in the midst of biking trails. Soon we found out why we had stopped.  Planes were coming in for a landing right over our heads!  They appeared incredibly close.  The roar and the power of those planes!  We were off to a great start on our D.C. adventure..

Dominic had a parking garage chosen for us, so we parked and then headed to the free museums.  We lost track of time as we explored the fantastic displays.  As for the girls, they loved the mammal exhibit in the National Museum of Natural History.  Liana and I were in awe of the rocks, minerals and gemstones.  I wish my brother Shane the rock collector had been here to share this treat.  There was just too much to see in this museum and we were dazzled by the sights.  At the National Museum of American History, the girls first enjoyed the dresses of the First Ladies.  They had seen replicas of these dresses in a museum in Gettysburg and they had long been waiting to see the real ones.

There wasn't enough time to see everything, even in just two museums.  In fact, I think you could spend hours reading and observing just one exhibit.  But it was dinner time.  We strolled down the beautiful streets to a restaurant Dominic and Stacia had chosen for us.  We looked up and saw some dark clouds hovering and made predictions on the weather.  Suddenly rain descended on us in heavy sheets!  We ran for cover under a tree with sparse, dry leaves which were not much protection.    

Dominic to the rescue!  He hailed a cab and we all climbed in--except for him.  We had too many people for the cab and Dominic had to walk!  We got out at a nice Asian restaurant, went inside and waited for poor Dominic.  Finally he walked in--drenched!  He had to be cold in the air conditioning.  But Dominic is not a complainer and he directed us to some great food on the menu.  We settled in with hot Thai food, hot rice and hot tea to go with it.  Comfort food.  For me, this was the best time of the trip--being with this precious family, all of us gathered around the table with nourishing food.

We left the restaurant and the day resumed as if no rain had fallen--hot, humid and sunny outside.  I think we walked miles in the late afternoon, but it was peaceful and relaxing. We saw the White House with some interesting protesters outside.  We bought the girls ice cream from a street vendor.  We passed the majestic Eisenhower Executive Office Building that fills a city block.  The Washington Monument came into view.  On to visit the memorials.

The World War II Memorial is new since Fred and I were last here.  There is a beautiful fountain in the center and we enjoyed a rest.  Dominic and Stacia hoped we would see the Lincoln Memorial after dark, all lit up.  But the timing was a little off (which turned out for the best considering what happened later).  It was fun to climb the steps with the multitude of tourists and look out across the mall to the Capitol.  

We passed by the Vietnam War Memorial and a hush seemed to come over the people as we all saw the thousands of names.  Then the Korean War Memorial.  This one was haunting for me.  I am amazed by the creator who captured in stone the fearful, wary faces of men marching through a field during the war.  It was dusk now, and these forms rose white in the impending darkness.

Dominic wanted us to see his office very near the Lincoln Memorial, but the guards wouldn't let us in.  Still, the building was quite impressive and it was nice to see the place where my son travels to work every day.  It was getting late and we realized everyone was too tired to walk the long way back to the parking garage.  The men decided to get a cab and go back for the cars and pick the rest of us up. (We have too many people for one cab.) Stacia, the girls, and I rested in the arms of a giant Einstein sculpture to wait.  It was very dark now and the tourists passing by had dwindled.  I was a little nervous but Stacia seemed quite comfortable in the big city.

A little while later we got a call on the cell. The guys were at the parking garage, but could not get the cars.  Neither Dominic nor Fred had the parking tickets!  The tickets were with Stacia and me!  The parking attendant would in no way let them take the cars--and the garage closed in about half an hour.  We had to take a cab back to them.  

Dominic and Fred had gotten a cab right away.  We were not so lucky.  But eventually Stacia found one to take us to the garage.  We arrived before the garage closed and headed back to the apartment.

The next morning Dominic prepared a fabulous breakfast for us and afterwards we went into the city again.  We returned to the American History museum and saw some of what we had missed.  There is a fascinating exhibit on the history of transportation in America and how American life changed through the years as people embraced new ways of traveling.  Liana and I got away for a little bit to see the displays of the American Presidency.  (Her choice.)  Today it was hot, hot, hot.  We walked briefly through an art museum on our way to the National Museum of the American Indian.  It was a refreshing way to cool off from the heat, but I would have loved to explore this museum.  A FREE art museum!  Amazing.  After an interesting lunch of Native American food, we realized our time in D.C. was about up.  No time to see this beautiful museum.  That was a disappointment, but next time, hopefully.

We endured another long harrowing drive on 95, this time with car trouble!  Fortunately, at one point our GPS took us on a different route and we could avoid the high speeds of the highway and we made it safely home.  

The girls are full of information and images and impressions of their trip to the big city.  This is real education, the kind that is long remembered.  Most of all they will remember the love of family and the good times we shared and the stories that will be told long into the future.  We'll think about the rain and the hot food.  We'll tell about sitting in the dark with Stacia waiting for our guys to come for us, discussing how crazy it was that four responsible adults forgot parking tickets. I'll remember cooking hash browns with Dominic on Sunday morning and the thrill of seeing opals on display in the gem exhibit--glowing bright lights that gave my heart a lurch.  We'll think about eating ripe cherries on the streets as we walked to the museums, our hands all sticky.  Fred and the girls, I'm sure, have their own special moments. 

Thank you, Dominic and Stacia, for a wonderful vacation!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Arielle is troubled by what happened in Colorado.  I've spent all these years warning the girls about risky choices and avoiding disaster.  But going to the movies?  How dangerous is that?  How do you explain to your children that sometimes bad things just happen and it is not your fault?  Arielle is a girl who wants answers in black and white.

Her first question to me--why did a mother take a six-year-old to a PG-13 movie at midnight?  Oh, how often I do this when I hear of tragedies that happen!  I want to assign blame. Someone must be at fault.  And if I can avoid those same mistakes, then I will be safe.  But we can't always count on our wise decisions.  Sometimes bad things happen anyway, so do you just give up in hopelessness thinking the whole world is in chaos?  But we need to trust the One who holds it all together.  He is there, even in the midst of the horror.

Is there anyone to blame?  Well, the shooter, of course.  But then is he just another lost soul?  (With a lost mind?)  But what made him that way?  What facilitated his behavior?  Why did he have such easy access to all those weapons and ammunition?  The movie itself, some say, is dark and violent.  Did that contribute?  But it's more than that.  I read an interesting analysis in the Philadelphia Inquirer.  Robert Jensen, professor of journalism at the University of Texas said this:  

"Did this movie cause this crime?  The answer is obviously no. Is this part of a culture that makes acts of violence more inviting?  Why, after all, are there so many images around us of violent behavior?  Violence in pop culture is something like porn. It doesn't cause behavior, but it may help create a setting in which certain behaviors are more common.  We don't ask such nuanced, complex questions because they lead to disturbing conclusions about our society."

So I ask, who is society?  We are.  Who is ultimately to blame?  We are--we who condone,  celebrate, laugh about, enjoy, or ignore those things in our culture that promote violence and death. Some say God is to blame.  The God who allowed this has disallowed many other things that might have tragically affected our lives.  The cancer you didn't get, the car crash you didn't have, the evil person who passed you by.  I should have been dead by now. But God in his mercy has granted me life all these years.  Who knows what disasters have been averted in our lives?

We live in a broken, violent world.  There is no explaining evil.  The Christian hope is that one day we will have a redeemed world, absent of evil.  In the meantime, God has given us another day of life.  Celebrate that.

So what should our response be to this horror? God says, "When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land."  II Chronicles 7:13, 14.

I think of Jesus' words at the end of his life. "How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not."  Matthew 23:37.


Friday, July 13, 2012

The Package

My step-mother called and said she mailed a package for me.  She was going through my father's possessions and was clearing out what she didn't want anymore.  She said anything he had that came before her has no meaning for her.  But she was very excited to tell me that she found pictures of my grandmother and grandfather from long ago.  She had some things of my father too that she wanted me to have.  Curiously, she said she had some pictures of me.  I wasn't sure what that was about.  But I wanted to see these things!  Oh, I couldn't wait to get this package, a link to my mysterious past.

It seemed like I should have received the package at the time of our conversation.  It had been 10 days!  I know it had to travel across the country, but that seemed too long.  I asked for specifics.  Where did she mail it?  Did she include a return address?  (She didn't remember.)  Did she take it into the post office?  (No, she dropped it in a box.  So it hadn't been weighed for postage.)  Oh, no.  This wasn't looking good.  I actually called the Nevada post office near her house to ask about it.  The woman was not helpful.  She said if it was not addressed properly or had insufficient postage it might be sent to "Dead Letter" in Kentucky and then there would be no way to find it.  What a disappointment.  Then I stopped by our post office and the man told me no way they just send it off to nowhere-land for not having enough postage.  He said I would be notified.  He said don't worry.  Okay, so I waited longer.

My son Nick was here and I was telling him the story.  The mailman pulled up and Nick looked outside.  He said, "You have two packages!"  I rushed to the window and the mailman was bringing two Amazon boxes to the door.  For the first time ever I was not happy to get Amazon boxes.  Then Nick said, "He is stuffing something in the mailbox!"  I raced out the door and yes, there it was!  A white padded envelope, stained like it had been on a long journey, the front scribbled with shaky writing.  My package!

Carefully, I opened the envelope.  A multitude of artifacts spilled out.  There were many, many pictures, most carefully labeled, going as far back as my grandmother as a baby.  A group shot of three generations of women, and then one of the men.  Childhood pictures of my father with his parents and sister.  A studio picture of my father as a young man and also a formal picture of my great-grandfather when he was a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army.  There were several photos of a lookout station where my father lived temporarily to watch for forest fires.  Football letters from high school, athletic awards, and ribbons my father won for pigeon racing! I never knew about that.  

The pictures of me were most intriguing.  The backs were carefully documented with time and place, and they were pictures I recognized!  My mother has these same pictures.  But the handwriting on the back I recognized as my grandmother's.   She was the one sending my father pictures of me.  But he did save them all these years.  Arielle, intuitive daughter that she is, reminded me of that fact.  

What a treasure!  I am so grateful to my step-mother for giving them to me.  She could have just tossed them out.  But now I have a few bits and pieces of my history to be passed down to my children.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Monday, July 09, 2012


My son Jon asked us if we wanted to go geocaching with him.  I had heard about this, but I couldn't figure it out exactly.  I knew Jon had some handheld GPS device and that he searched for hidden treasure in the woods.  It sounded like a good opportunity to be outdoors with him and my granddaughter and daughter-in-law.  So we headed to the river trail on a hot, sultry day and Jon taught us how to find treasure.

From his device, Jon located the first cache.  At least we knew it was in the general vicinity of where we were standing. You can go to a website and find all kinds of hints.  We were on a little sandy beach, and that matched up with one of the clues.  We knew it was a tiny treasure, so that meant it would be hard to find.  We all searched around in the trash left behind by maybe teenagers partying on this beach. We couldn't find it.  Okay, on to the next one.  We walked down a narrow path, me trying hard to avoid the knee-high poison ivy and the girls stopping to watch a little turtle sunning himself in a pond and a multitude of butterflies fluttering around us.  The next cache was supposedly dangling from a tree above the river.  That we figured out from the hints.  We stood on the bank of the river looking down.  We were high above it.  Jon first climbed out on a tree branch hanging over the river and then decided to slide down the steep embankment.  Mother instinct took over.  I said, "Jon, get back up here!"  It looked too dangerous.  But Jon didn't listen to me, of course, nor to the admonitions of his wife to be careful.  My son is very persistent.  It really bugged him that he couldn't find this cache either.  We left to find the next one.

We were standing in front of it.  This we knew.  But the woods were dense and overgrown.  A big tree stood before us, and Jon seemed to know that it was the most likely place for the cache.  He fearlessly tore through the brush and leaves (and snakes, surely) and scrambled around in the foliage.  This was supposed to be a large cache.  Chrissy and the girls and I stood safely on the path.  I tend to get poison ivy just by looking at it, so no way was I going into the weeds.  Poor Jon.  This didn't seem like much of a sport if he was doing all the work. Finally, finally!  He found it!  He brought over a large metal ammo box and opened it.  The treasure!  The idea is, you take a treasure and leave behind a treasure for the next person.  This box had an odd assortment of a little stuffed animal, cassette tapes, balls, a sticker book, and a shark tooth.  Lana grabbed the little animal as her mother cringed.  (Who knows who touched it?)  Jon left behind marbles. Okay, now I see why this could be  fun.  You never know what you will find.  Encouraged by success, we went back to the sandy beach and finally found that first one.  All this cache contained was a teeny slip of paper rolled into a very small canister hidden in a minuscule hole in a tree.  The paper was simply a log of those who had come before.  Jon signed his name.  

On to the last one.  We were on a sunny bridge over a little stream of water flowing into the river.  We all searched with our eyes to find the cache, but no luck.  Jon once again trampled into the weeds, lifting rocks and boldly putting his hand into small, dark openings.  He searched a long time while the rest of us began to melt in the heat.  Lana's face was flushed red and I was getting dizzy.  We retreated to some shade.  Jon could not find this one.  To him, this was a bad geocaching day.  But for the rest of us, it was a fun day in the park.  I enjoyed sharing an adventure with family, and we're all up for trying again on a cooler day.