January 13, 2020

  • Food and Fellowship

    Over our Christmas vacation, I got to eat out with each of my boys: one at a time, at a restaurant of their choice, just the two of us.


    Jeremy was home on leave and after not sharing a meal with him for seven months, a meal out with him was a real treat. After eating MREs for months on end, he had a list of food that he wanted to eat while he was home and I think he managed to get through most of his list.


    Jeremy had said that he didn't want to celebrate his birthday in Oklahoma and we were all glad that we were able to celebrate together while he was home.


    After Jeremy left, it was Justin's turn to invite me for a meal. At first is was going to be breakfast, but after consulting schedules, we settled on supper.


    A few days later, JJ picked Sonic. He enjoys having the food delivered to the car and then sitting there and visiting while we eat.

    As our family changes, it becomes more and more rare to have everyone at the table at the same time. I've decided that I'll take advantage of anytime that the boys want to treat me, not because I want to go out to eat, but because I love being with them and having time to visit with them.

June 24, 2017

  • Tripping Over Memories

    I tripped over a memory the other night. Truth be told, I didn't trip over a memory; I tripped over a rug that opened up an entire train of thought that took me back almost 50 years.


    My mind wandered back to the winter that we lived in Indiana.


    It was a time of building ties and making memories with cousins and grandparents. Yes, we all looked like that not quite half a century ago.

    We had sleepovers and family dinners. We made fudge and donuts. We devored the fish that grandpa caught and grandma fried... after grandpa's lesson on how to de-bone a fish. We played in the snow and the grass and we all attended the same country church that had been the family's church for years.

    But the memory I tripped over centered on rags and an old treadle sewing machine. The sewing machine that sits in my home now but never gets used.


    Our familes got together several afternoons to cut and sew rug rags. After the rags were cut into strips, someone older than me would sew the rags together end-to-end and then the strips were wound into balls.


    I have no idea how many hours were spent in cutting and sewing rags, but I do remember that when they were all done, they were delivered to a family friend who had a loom used for weaving the rags into rugs. I also know that there must have been a huge pile of them because I still have at least one of those rugs. Mom has gone over the rugs with me telling me the story behind the rags. There was an old snow suit and someone's coat. I'm pretty sure there were some jeans in the stack as well.


    When you enter our house, you will find that old treadle sewing machine sitting in the entryway. What used to be a useful piece of equipment is now a conversation piece that's part of the decor.


    I never did get to use that machine when it sat in Grandma's house, but the other night I got it out and tried to make it go. I decided it needed to be oiled and cleaned, something that Grandpa would have been good at, because it was hard to get going. I sat and studied it and couldn't quite figure out how to thread it up, but mostly I just sat and remembered times when memories could be built with a pile of rags and an old sewing machine.

June 14, 2017

  • More Than We Prayed For

    About this time last year, we began the process of preparing our home for sale in anticipation of selling it and buying a new home. We mended and patched, sawed and hammered, painted and stained, trimmed and dug, and patched and painted some more...all summer long. When the skies were clear, we worked outside and when we had rain, we worked inside. After dozens of trips to Lowes and visits from multiple contractors, we were still painting and patching.

    When we felt like we were finally ready to put our home on the market, we sorted and cleared and cleaned some more. We found a realtor that we were very happy with and on her first visit, we contracted her to sell our home. She had a few small suggestions, and we went back to Lowes for potted plants and a couple of shrubs.

    As we waited for someone to fall in love with our home, we began looking for another home. We did most of our searching on-line and drove past a couple. As more and more people looked at our home, we continued to look and began to notice that the list of houses that we were considering was shrinking. After six months of praying for the perfect home, we began to wonder if we would have to settle for something less than what we wanted. We kept praying though and finally a buyer placed a contract on our house.

    The next day, the boys and I met with our realtor and looked at three houses. After the first one, we were discouraged. The price was right and the location was fine, but it would take another year of mending and patching, and painting and scrubbing. We kept praying and looking and after a second trip out with the realtor, she had a very good idea of what we needed. One morning I noticed a new home in the listings and showed it to Dean and we both felt it was an option. We made arrangements to see it the same day without even reading through all the details of the listing.

    When we walked into the house, we immediately felt that it could be our new home, but it wasn't until we walked into the backyard that we noticed something we had missed in the details. There was a pool in the backyard! A pool? That hadn't even occured to any of us as a possiblity. We had thought that it would be nice to have a garage or a basement or even a fireplace, but a pool was far from our minds.

    Well, we had been praying for the perfect place and it seemed that this was the home the Lord had led us too, so we made an offer. Soon we were in the middle of providing all kinds of information to lenders, getting inspections done and making trips to the courthouse looking for information and the pool faded from our minds.

    When we moved in in January the pool was covered and remained covered for almost four months. We had no idea what we would find when we uncovered it. It didn't look that great when we took our first look, but the pump and filter were working so we set to work. We researched and swept, and researched and vacuumed and researched and filtered and researched and added chemicals. When we finally had it ready, we were all eager to jump in. It is so nice to be able to walk into the backyard and into the pool.


    We are enjoying our new home and we're still finding ways to appreciate it even more. The Lord blessed us with a home that is perfect for us and even gave us an extra that we hadn't prayed for.

June 9, 2017

  • Just One More Chapter

    Jeremy and Justin hadn't reached their second birthday when we went to the library for the first time. At that time the library was in temporary housing as the building was going through a remodel. Our stack of books wasn't real tall, but the boys soon learned that we would sit down in the afternoon and read. We would read the books over and over before going back for another stack. By the time they reached their third birthday, they were well-known by the library staff and for their forth birthday they got library cards and library bags.


    Soon after their forth birthday, we moved to Virginia and one of the first outings was to the library. By this time, we were filling a couple of canvas bags on each visit and the librarians would chat with them each time we visited. The boys hadn't learned to read, but they had learned to listen to longer books and we found favorite authors. We continued to check out fifty or more books at a time and one more than one occasion, I read until I was hoarse. When school began we chose a literature rich curriculum, but we added at least one library book to every day.


    Our reading schedule has changed over the years, but I still read to the boys almost every day. JJ always gets his reading time right before bed and he knows if he gets his teeth brushed before a certain time, he will get to hear more than one chapter. His favorites right now are the "Hank the Cowdog" books and I have to admit that I get a kick out of them as well. This week, we started a new book and he talked me into reading three chapters at a time.


    Over the last year, I've been reading the "Little Britches" series by Ralph Moody to all three boys right after breakfast. Since the older boys have been studying 20th Century History this year, the series fit right in and has given them a view into life on the plains in the early part of the century. One more than one occasion, they've asked for another chapter after lunch and occasionally, I've given in.

    mag cover

    A couple of months ago, one of the librarians, called me and asked if we would give our permission to have the boys on the front cover of the library's magazine. Someone remembered all those bags of books that we have checked out over the years, and thought they would be good models for the summer issue. As a follow up to that request, another librarian called and asked if they would be willing to be featured on the website along with a list of books that they recommended. They have been experiencing a measure of fame as multiple friends have visited the library and found a familiar face on the magazine and I know of one person who purchased a copy of one of the books they recommended.

    We've come to the end of the "Little Britches" series and I've been debating about what to read over the summer. I've been pulling out some books that I've enjoyed over the years and sharing them with the boys. No matter what books or series we choose for the summer, I'm going to predict that I'll hear "Just one more chapter" more than once during the summer.

May 7, 2017

  • Because Two People Said "I Do"

    I don't know how many times we've driven through the Lancaster countryside on our way to Grandpa and Grandma Johns' house, but I'm always impressed with the beauty and orderliness. Yesterday was no exception. Laundry was flying from Amish clotheslines and fields had been freshly plowed. Flower beds were carefully tended and sod farms were ready for harvest.


    But one thing was different this time. Grandpa and Grandma weren't home. After Grandma's death almost six years ago, Grandpa lived alone in their home on Keneagy Hill until it became apparent that he wasn't able to live alone and moved into a nursing home.


    The Johns family gathered for a family sale of Grandma and Grandpa's belongs. It wasn't uncommon for someone to bid on an item because of the memories that it held. More than one person went through a box and pulled out the most treasured items and left the rest sit for anyone who was interested. I didn't think I would buy anything, but found myself with a little pile around my feet.


    Someone had set aside a box for the children to go through and many found treasures. Others were whispering in parents' ears about one item or another that had taken their fancy.


    Grandpa's gun collection was sold in the middle of the sale and the bidding was spirited. Several of the children were quite interested in the bb pistol, but the family is full of hunters and the rifles seemed to be coveted items.


    There was a lot of interest in Grandma's quilt collection as well. She had pieced some of them, at least one had been a gift, and others she had bought at benefit sales. There were even a couple of boxes full of patches for quilts that she had begun and never finished.


    Our family was more than pleased to come home with one of Grandpa's guns and one of Grandma's quilts.


    Grandpa and Grandma weren't there to say good-bye when we pulled out. Grandpa didn't say "come anytime" as we loaded the van, but the memories were there. We had spent a wonderful day together as an extended family all because two people said "I do".

May 6, 2017

  • Short but Sweet

    After Dean got home from work last evening, we packed the van and headed for Pennsylvania. We pulled into my sister's driveway a little after 10:00 and she had bowls of popcorn waiting for us. JJ wasn't tempted at all by the popcorn, but by the litter of kittens that he knew he'd find there.


    We talked until too late before heading to bed, but when you don't see each other for stretches at a time you tend to do that. In fact, Jeremy and Justin stayed up all night with one of the cousins. When I got up this morning Jeremy had conked out on the air mattress and everyone else was visiting and holding kittens.


    We had a delicious breakfast that included my sister's scrumptious cinnamon rolls. My rolls never come close to being as good as hers and she knows how much our boys love them.


    Not long after breakfast, we had to say our farewells, but we were off on another adventure.

May 3, 2017

  • Ten Years Ago Today

    Jeremy, Justin and I traveled to Richmond to see the Queen. We were excited about the opportunity and it's one that we still talk about today. The day was rainy and umbrellas were prohibited, so the boys huddled together under a garbage bag.

    Mid-April 2007 066

    When the Queen finally arrived, she was hard to see from our position on the Capitol grounds, but we were able to watch her on a large screen. Believe it or not, I lifted both boys to my shoulders (one on each side) so they would be able to see her. To this day, Justin declares that she waved right at him.

    Mid-April 2007 053

    Last fall, we toured the capitol and our guide told us that the Queen especially asked for children to be in the crowd. Our guide felt like Queen Elizabeth may have been searching for young faces in the crowd and may have seen Justin and Jeremy.


    As an extension to our Capitol tour, we were allowed to see the portraits that the Queen sent as thank you gifts after her visit to Virginia. Even though we're not British subjects, we are proud to say that we have seen the Queen.

April 26, 2017

  • Spring Break 2017

    Since we've had spring-like weather since January, we were more than ready for a break by the time it finally got here. We packed in as much family time as possible and even started our break early when my nephew and his family arrived from New Mexico to spend a day with us.


    Since my nephew loves history and he has small children, we opted for the trolley as an activity that would have something for everyone. The visitor's center gave the children George Washington masks that we all got a kick out of.


    Add in several meals, lots of visiting, hugs, snacks, handbags and a trip to the Chancellorsville Battlefield and their visit was over all too soon.

    The next few days were reserved for tasks around the house. Lots of yard work, scrubbing the walls in the poolhouse with bleach, mowing and trimming bushes gave things a spruced-up look and we were ready for more family time.


    We met my sister and one of her sons in Frederick, Maryland for a relaxed day. We walked along the canal, stopped in at the visitor's center, hurried through an arts center and had lunch before heading the park.

    I had promised JJ that one activity during spring break would be the bike trail which he had discovered. The trail is 4 miles long, but since we had to finish up where the van was parked, we did not attempt the entire distance.


    After a trip down the trail, we hurried home to welcome friends for the afternoon. Unfortunately, I failed to take any pictures of all the kids or mothers.

    Justin had been wishing for a fishing trip, and we managed to squeeze one of those in between shopping and a trip to the orthodontist.


    He was joined by JJ while Jeremy and I read and visited.


    We finished our extra-long break with a family weekend in Pennsylvania. Justin took his guitar and Jeremy took his ukulele and both boys spent time giving their cousins music lessons. I'm sure that there have been multiple requests for guitars or ukuleles from the cousins to their parents.


    After a very full ten days, I wasn't sure if everyone would be ready to resume a school schedule, but all three boys seemed to slip back in without any major trouble.

April 10, 2017

  • Drama

    One of the benefits of living closer to town is that the boys can be more involved in extra-curricular activities Since all three boys had friends in choir and drama at church, they decided that they'd like to add both classes. Jeremy and Justin's drama group began working on a play about Daniel after Christmas and Jeremy was very glad to learn that he would play the part of King Darius.


    Justin snagged the position of guard and he served under all three kings.


    They came home from each class with stories about how practice had gone and doubts about whether they'd be able to learn their lines.



    After their performance was over, they were all smiles. Both Jeremy and Justin were in roles where frowns were part of their role.

    JJ's group began working on a play titled "The Story of the Bible" and he was one of the children of Israel in most scenes, but was most excited about being able to chase the Israelites with a sword during the time of the judges.


    He smiled from ear to ear during most of the performance and was still smiling this morning when he crawled out of bed.


    We enjoyed watching all three boys along with many of their friends two evenings in a row and are we are all anticipating the next time we get to see them in action.

March 4, 2017

  • 16-Inch Centers

    In the past two weeks, we've been busy building, assembling and installing bookshelves, and today we hung artwork. Of course, we've used hammers and screwdrivers, but the most helpful tools for actually actually attaching things to the wall have been the measuring tape and the level.

    Somewhere in my life, I learned that houses are framed with the studs in the walls 16 inches from center to center and that piece of information has been a very helpful. Before we could even purchase supplies for bookshelves, we had to figure out where the studs were so that we would have sufficient materials. We began in the corner of the room and began measuring of 16-inch intervals. After we had that figured out, the installation went pretty quickly.

    As we hung artwork today, the level became our best friend. As we decided where each picture should hang, we'd eyeball the space and drive the first nail. Then the level would be pressed into service to correct our eyeballed guess.


    The first project I tackled after lunch today was hanging of our clock shelf. My father made and gave this shelf to me 24 years ago for my birthday. And guess what? When he built it, he drilled holes for installation exactly 16 inches apart. I fastened it to the wall after locating a stud, leveled it with my maternal grandfather's level and placed my paternal grandfather's clock on the shelf.

    As I've been working on these projects, I've had to think about how very thankful I am for standards. If the builder had decided that she (Our neighbor told us that the builder was a woman.) didn't want to follow building norms, I would be very frustrated with my inability to find something strong to fasten nails and screws to. Of course, this has lead to some thoughts about the guidance of scripture. I'm glad that I don't serve a fickle god whose whims change over time. As thankful as I am for 16-inch centers and my grandfather's two-foot level, I'm even more thankful for the Word of God which gives me something to center my life on and to keep me level.