Bounteous Birthday Bash

When I was a little boy, my Dad used to amuse me and my siblings with stories of a relative who wasn’t very appreciative of gifts. Part of the problem was that nobody seemed to know what he wanted, and so (as a grown man) he received a lot of neckties. As the story went, he opened the box (already guessing what it was by its shape) and, in a sneering, nasally, flatly-disappointed voice, declared: “Oh. Another tie.”

My Dad never did tell us which hapless relative it was, but I’ll bet his luck never changed.

I can imagine poor Uncle Elmer enduring flat, elongated packages for the rest of his life. “Well, dear,” Aunt Eunice would say, as they sat together in a nursing home, “here are your presents from the family: hey, look, a long rectangular package about the shape of … a tie! And another one! How exciting!” My imaginary Aunt Eunice always did have a sarcastic tongue.

Rachel in turquoise
Rachel is very skilled at having something gracious to say.

Gift variety hasn’t been much of problem for me, ever since Amazon created their Wish List. Now, if I’m shopping on Amazon for someone else, and I see something I would like, I just pop it into my wish list. Patiently, I wait for my birthday or Christmas to arrive, watching hopefully (but discreetly) for the UPS truck outside. I try to keep my wish list well-populated so there is still the opportunity for surprise, and, of course, many have their own ideas of what would be the best gift. I try not to discourage such folks — it is, after all, a free country.

Well, sort of. For some values of ‘free’, anyway.

I don’t get many ties, either. This is a good thing, since I only wear them to funerals.

I remember my poor Dad’s birthdays, when I was a kid. He was lucky to get a can of cashews to celebrate the day of his birth. He would often pull out all the stops when remembering my Mom’s birthday, but there never seemed to be many presents on the breakfast table when February 3rd rolled around. Maybe everyone was gifted-out from Groundhog Day; but it happened at Christmas, too. Dad used to re-wrap puzzles and model train cars he had received in prior years just to make it look more festive – this was particularly embarrassing when it turned out that he had purchased the original gift himself.

Birthday sign makers
The kids made me a great birthday sign.

As a forty-mumble-something Dad, I didn’t really have my hopes very high. Dads are supposed to be stoically selfless, deferring their own gratification for the good of the family, soldiering on across a barren and gift-less landscape. As our budget continues to rage, I know exactly how much has been set aside for my birthday (including decorations and any special meal ingredients). It doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle-room for Kathy, if she wanted to inundate me with presents.

Imagine my surprise to find a whole laundry basket full of gifts from various family members. I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of generosity and kindness – I felt very well-loved and cared for, from all sides.

Joshua tucks in
Joshua cared for me so well, he ate cake in my honor.

It was a very good day. I had to work some in the morning, but was nearly done by the time my parents came by to shower me with presents and eat lunch with us. Then Kathy and I went on a ‘hot date’ to Cash & Carry, a low-cost bulk food store in our area which we recently ‘discovered’.

Coming home, we spent some time experimenting with our rendition of Panida’s Thai Curry, with some considerable success and enjoyment. Dropping the kids off at church for AWANA and youth group, we had a little time to go for a quick walk and for me to play a computer game.

Kathy made a Black Forest Cake for me (my favorite kind of cake) and, although it slipped and oozed, it was very tasty. We ended the day with family devotions.

Let them eat cake ...
Sarah graciously agreed to eat cake with us.

There were lots of things I wanted to do, including playing a board game, reading aloud a story from one of my new books, and working on a secret project for Joshua’s birthday. I often find there is usually more fun than time available in my plans. Still, it was a great and celebratory day; I am indeed blessed.

Oozing Cake
Nobody seemed to mind the oozing.


Share or follow

Related posts:

Super Easy Bread Recipe

I cut this recipe out of the side of a bag of Bob’s Red Mill flour. The ingredient list was unbelievably short and didn’t involve words like:

rise 1 hour
knead again

The recipe, entitled Swope Bread, has been patiently waiting for me, pressed into a page of my breakfast notebook. Yesterday, with an abundance of buttermilk in the house (I have two other FAVORITE recipes that call for buttermilk), I decided to try it out.

Sarah helped me with the mixing but didn’t like the smell.

That’s buttermilk for you.

awesome kitchen helpers

David and Sarah take frequent breaks from their work in the kitchen.

The end result was delicious. This one, unlike some of my other baking creations, I actually sampled. In fact, I had a difficult time stopping the sampling process. I might not be able to make this again just because of its dangerous levels of temptation for me.

Try it out and let me know what you think.

Swope Bread

4 cups Bob’s Red Mill Stone Ground Whole Wheat Flour
2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Unbleached White Flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp salt

[I used the white and whole wheat flour combo I keep in my flour bin. I also stuck to white, granulated sugar per the recipe, but I think next time I would use Sucanat for a little healthier version.]

1 quart buttermilk
4 tsp baking soda

2 bread pans, greased.

1. Preheat oven to 375.
2. In a large mixing bowl, mix first four (dry) ingredients.
3. In a separate bowl, mix baking soda and buttermilk.
4. Stir wet ingredients into dry.
5. Pour into bread pans and smooth tops of loaves.
6. Place in center of oven. Turn oven down to 350 and bake approximately 50 minutes.
7. Turn out and cool on wire rack.

archie digest alert

Sometimes you just have to take a break and read an Archie Digest.

Oh my goodness – easy and delicious!! My family is still wondering where I’ve been hiding this recipe all these years.

Who knows what other treasures are lurking in my little breakfast notebook. :)


Share or follow

Related posts:


WFMW – Vocabulary Help

It turns out that some of my children are voracious readers and others are, um, not. A deep love for reading and hours spent immersed in literary works, not surprising, results in a rather expansive vocabulary.

It does not, however, guarantee perfect spelling.

But that’s thought for another post, and may be something the children have inherited from their mother. Ah em. As I was saying, it was recently rubbed in my face brought to my attention that there are a few among us who could use some help in expanding our personal vocabulary expression and understanding.

And really, is there anyone who can truly say their comprehension and use of the English language is as vast and complete as they would like?

get working kid!

Standardized test scores can be a sobering reality check when you are the teacher, and have been for the entirety of the children’s education. Every weakness or below average area of study seems a glaring reflection on your ability and diligence as the teacher.

Thankfully every year presents us with a fresh start and, until the children head off to college (or trade school or McDonald’s to flip burgers), we have the opportunity to strengthen and add to the building blocks (however small they may be) of our education.

All of which leads me to our Works for Me Wednesday idea:

WFMW: Wordly Wise 3000 Books

I purchased Wordly Wise 3000 books for Joshua, Rachel and Daniel. I also picked up the answer guides. Just in case my own vocabulary is a little rusty.

It doesn’t hurt to be careful.

danno boy

I found the books at (CBD) for a good price. Coupled with free shipping (use code 275405 for free shipping with $50 purchase), the books were a reasonable addition to our homeschool library. I also decided to buy Vocabulary Vine in order to begin some work on Greek and Latin roots. We haven’t cracked the cover on that one yet (it only arrived 3 days ago), but I’m sure it will help transform us into great scholars and ensure excellent SAT scores.

If you have any vocabulary curriculum you use or other tips, PLEASE pass them along.

We’ll deal with spelling some other time.

Stop by Rocks in My Dryer for more WFMW ideas.


Share or follow

Related posts:

Six Months Under the Spreadsheet

Well, it’s several days into October now, and we’ve not posted our September budget blog. Sometimes it seemed that the end of the month would never come. It started so well; vacationing with Kathy’s folks in Texas, many of our grocery and household expenses were covered for the first 9 days of the month. You’d think that would give us enough of a buffer to coast easily to the 30th.

let's smile together now

If only our money would last as long as this balloon.

Nope. We came to the 30th with $1.15 in Groceries, and a negative in Households. Both Kathy and I were low on our Unaccountable’ funds. Everything seems to cost so much, and we find it very hard to continue to say ‘no’ to the things we want.

Of course, in the current economic climate, we’re very glad that we have reduced our debt as far as we have. I would be rather frightened if we were still as deeply in debt as we were back in April.

I’m not very good at managing our finances, truth be told. Over the years, responsibility for paying the bills has shuttled back and forth between Kathy and I – I’ve been ‘fired’ at least twice. Kathy is more reliable at recording financial transactions, and she seems to derive some satisfaction from it.

school time

Does coloring count as school?

On the other hand, I seem to do better than she does at shrugging off the burden of debt, and managing the larger financial transactions. Kathy seems to be more easily oppressed and discouraged by debt than I am, so I have generally managed ‘strategic’ financial details while she sticks to ‘tactical’ matters. We rarely pay more than 2% or 3% interest (including transfer fees) on the debt we carry, because I learned to play the shell game with the credit card companies, moving money around from card to card as the ‘promotional offers’ allow.

Sometimes I become hostile, viewing each bill as a personal attack, and have occasionally been quoted, referring to creditors: “they’re lucky if they ever get their money!”.

give me money or i'm heading to the closet

Joshua knows to hide when bill hostility arises.

My bark is worse than my bite; I really don’t intend to default on my bills. Still, it is not unusual for me to wait until the last possible moment before paying a bill that is due, riding the grace period to its limit. Sometimes this ‘brinksmanship’ bites me in the form of late fees or other penalties.

This month we were overdrawn in one of our checking accounts, because I wasn’t aware of a couple of checks that Kathy had written. Happily, my bank provides ‘overdraft protection’ and ‘loaned’ me $300 from a credit card that has somehow been associated with my bank account. It is a mixed blessing: the checks didn’t bounce, but they charged me $10 for the privilege of the ‘loan’, and I’m sure they’ll gleefully collect usurious interest on the $300, even if I repay it quickly.

I feel vaguely sullied by the use of this ‘protection’ on my behalf – I didn’t really want to use credit like that. It is my own fault – wanting to make more progress against our debt, I paid out a little more of our ‘cushion’ than I could afford to. We keep our emergency funds (and our savings for Christmas and a new roof) in another bank – perhaps I should link the two so I’m not charged overdraft ‘protection’ fees. But we like keeping the money separate – it helps us to pretend that we won’t dip into it for day-to-day expenses.

we love to color!

David and Sarah are good companions.

It was a good month for debt repayment, though – we’re down to less than 40% of our debt, thanks to my overly-enthusiastic payments. We’ve now reached the six month mark, which was how long Kathy and I agreed, originally, to submit to this discipline of budgeting. As much as I yearn for the days of unregulated spending, I think the nation’s financial markets are painting a vivid picture of the long-term payoff for that kind of behavior. We’ve pledged to continue budgeting at least long enough to get out of debt, which we hope will happen sometime between now and the end of March, 2009.

Praise God our trust is in Him!



Share or follow

Related posts:

PowerPoint and Prayer

I spent the evening talking, praying and brushing up on my PowerPoint 2007 skills.

In just about that order.

Tim wears many hats these days – father, programmer, husband, church elder, NOT a day trader, and lately a small group coach. Along with several other men, he helps train, pray and uphold the Bible study leaders at our church. Earlier this week he asked if I would join him this evening to meet with a couple. It was an opportunity to encourage, support and pray for them as they begin a new year of small group Bible study with several other young families.

It also fell on a Thursday night.

Thursday – my weekly homeschool co-op night of panic where I put away our books from the week and gather the lesson plans and assorted materials for my three co-op classes. As an optimist and procrastinator, I usually underestimate how long preparing for these (very different) classes will take me, and delay the work until the last possible moment.

Yep, optimism and procrastination. It’s a beautiful combination, I must tell you.

As I thought about Tim’s request, a picture came to mind of my parents as they spend time counseling and visiting with beloved members of their church. Many times I have called them during the afternoon or evening and caught them on their way to the hospital to meet a new baby or sit with someone who is dying.

Birth and death, it seems at times, greet them equally as part of a pastor’s family.

“With all of you children grown and raising your own families, I can go with your father on his pastoral calls,” my mom has told me over and over. “It is an incredible gift to join him in ministering this way. Even if I am busy, I try to make sure I always say ‘yes’ when he invites me.”

Even if I am busy.

What a godly example! I am constantly humbled by the work of my parents and in-laws as they work for Kingdom of the Lord.

So, I did my best to plan ahead. I worked on my lesson plans Tuesday and Wednesday nights. I printed and copied papers in advance. I enlisted Joshua and Tim’s help in my PowerPoint presentation.

And I joined my husband in a time of fellowship and prayer with another couple. We laughed, talked, and prayed together. I was even treated to a delicious Americano made right in their welcoming kitchen. God is working and, when I am not too busy, He lets me join in His work.

Tim has begun to pray faithfully for these small group leaders. Each evening he gets down on his knees and lifts up these believers; praying for their marriage, their families, and their impact as Bible study leaders in our church. I am convicted by his example, dedication and passion.

Even if I am busy.

In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Phil 1:4-6


If you read this, and think of me, I would so appreciate your prayers for our busy Friday. I am fighting a cold of some sort (sore throat) and will be sadly lacking on sleep. I teach three classes during the day, starting at 9 am, and not ending until 2:30 pm.

Thank you!

Share or follow

Related posts: