Sweet and Sassy Fifteen

Today, my oldest daughter celebrates her birthday. Just a few years ago by my reckoning, she played with stuffed animals and Polly Pockets; now she is a young lady, plotting and scheming to get behind the wheel of my Honda.

Party Princess
Rachel turns 5. How the years have flown!

On this, her 15th birthday, I have meetings in the city, and cannot join in the festivities the way that I could if I worked from home today. Instead, I’ll take the time I spend commuting on the train and write a quick tribute to my beloved Rachel.

If you don’t know Rachel very well, you may not be aware that she is a person with a tremendous amount of drive and personal discipline, packed into her petite frame. In a quiet, unpretentious way, Rachel pursues her goals with single-minded passion and iron-jawed determination. Whether clawing her way to ‘A’ team status in swimming, or earning high grades on her Potter’s School English assignments, Rachel perseveres and works through obstacles to ensure that she meets her goals. She is conscientious and diligent and serves as an inspiring example to the entire family.

If you’re among those fortunate enough to number Rachel among your friends, then you know that she is fiercely loyal and protective of all those within her sphere. She is especially kind to those who are discouraged or neglected, and quick to befriend someone standing alone. Rachel exemplifies Christ’s compassionate love to those who need it most, and she brings honor to our family in the way that she conducts her relationships.

Sweet family
Some of my very favorite people in the whole world.

Even inside the walls of our home, she is characterized by kindness. Her sense of humor, care and consideration of others in the way she conducts herself within the family, help to ensure that everyone gets along. She uncomplainingly does her share of the housework and can usually be counted on to make a clever, sassy remark that gets everyone laughing. She is kind to her younger brothers, and does not complain about sharing a room with her 8-year-old sister. If Sarah or David are plagued by bad dreams in the night, or are sick with the flu, Rachel is often the one they go to for help and comfort, rather than parents.

Last summer, Rachel had the opportunity to attend WorldView Academy, which seemed to impact her love for Jesus significantly. She continues to grow in her faith and in maturity of her Christian walk. She takes personal responsibility for her relationship with her Lord, and brings her parents great joy by walking in the light. While many teenagers neglect their faith and spend their teen years ignoring or even running away from God, Rachel lives out her spiritual maturity and seeks to make the most of her high school years for the glory of her King. She tirelessly serves as a leader in AWANA, and helps out with the church nursery on a monthly basis.

In some surface ways, Rachel is a typical teenage girl: she loves funky clothes, can text nearly as fast as I can talk, and spends hours connecting with her friends, on Facebook. Below the surface, though, there is depth and wisdom and character far beyond her years. She has a serious, thoughtful temperament, and cares deeply about Justice and Righteousness. Rachel is like a deep river that runs unseen, beneath the ground, or like a priceless masterpiece hanging quietly in the corner of an antique store. She reminds me of the stories where a valuable lost sword, painstakingly forged in ancient times, is found in some simple setting, concealed in an unassuming, plain leather scabbard.

True Steel
Not my actual daughter.

Not that Rachel’s exterior is plain or simple – far from it! She is a very pretty girl, growing more beautiful every day. But the tempered, true steel of her character makes itself felt in everything she does, and is very pleasing to her parents and to her God.

Yesterday, I had occasion to rebuke Rachel for some snappish things she said to Daniel, and the poor way in which she responded to her mother’s correction. As she patiently received my rebuke, a tear of frustration and shame running down her cheek, I was reminded of how godly and teachable she is, even in moments of conflict. She really wants to be a Champion for God in the depths of her soul– she really wants to do what is right and to earn His commendation. Nobody likes being rebuked, and it is sometimes hard for Rachel to accept our flawed pronouncements. But we rarely have to correct Rachel about the same thing twice – in her quiet, determined way, she examines herself and corrects her faults, as prompted and assisted by the Holy Spirit.

I don’t know what God has planned for Rachel, or how He will use her to glorify His name, but I am confident that she will be, and already is, Mighty in the Land. I’m very proud to call her my beloved daughter.

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Much Ado About Nothing

Several days ago, I wrote a blog post, the first in nine months or so. It was strangely satisfying, in a way that one-line Facebook status posting is not.

One problem with Facebook is that other people get to comment nearly as much as you get to write. Since I have a bunch of clever friends, they all end up sounding more profound, erudite and intellectual than I, which is nowhere as ego-stroking as a monologue.

In contrast, since I tend to write very long blog posts, all but the fastest readers are lucky to finish it before they die of old age, let alone comment. So I end up getting to trot out my banal opinions, without having to compete in the marketplace of ideas. Besides, if someone does manage to read the whole article, and responds with a thoughtful, pertinent response, we can always ‘forget’ to approve their comment.

But I digress. Indeed, my digressions often have digressions of their own, which is something you rarely see in a Facebook status (although some have tried).

Yesterday, my oldest daughter discovered that we had posted a new article on our blog. She made a big show of being shocked into heart failure, and wiped her eyes in mock joy as she related her discovery of our newest post (the first since Valentines’ Day). In my eagerness for feedback, I probed further:

“Rachel — did you actually read it?”

“Well, no,” she admitted. “I just looked at the pictures.”

“There was only one picture,” I protested, ” … and it was a picture of someone else’s sandwich!”

That’s another good thing about blogging — with any luck, no one will actually read your post, and so you can get credit for communicating deep wisdom without anyone actually discovering that you are a blitherer (the verbal equivalent of a ditherer).

About now, if anyone is still reading, they’ve given up on erudite or profound, and they’re probably wondering if I plan to communicate anything in particular. If the title of this post didn’t clue you in, let me do so in plain English:

“Probably not.”

But now that I think of it, I do have a few thoughts. I un-digress.

This Fall, our pastor (assisted by various guest speakers) has been exploring what the Bible has to say about Heaven. It has been an interesting study, and my view of what Heaven will be like has been substantially fleshed out, to my considerable satisfaction. One of the things Christians are often fuzzy on, is what will happen to those who are still alive, when Jesus returns. There are various schools of thought; some think Christians are taken up into heaven before the Tribulation, others in the middle, even some think that Christians will stick around for the whole seven years of God’s judgment. Some think the whole Tribulation thing is allegorical.

Here’s what the Bible actually says, in 1 Thessalonians 4:

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Whenever Jesus does return, and whenever He calls His people, it seems we will rise up into the air, at least to cloud-level.

Here in Washington, clouds won’t be hard to find.

Naturally, there is some concern about this. What if you’re inside a building when the archangel calls? What happens to people who are driving cars, or operating heavy machinery (like in a Nutella factory)? Is there a particular pose that is appropriate for being raptured? Is it undignified to flap your arms?

Burning questions, these.

Rapture practice
The kids and I decided to practice, just in case the Lord returns while we are alive.

There, I even put in a picture for Rachel.

One gracious commenter has asked if we intend to resume a more regular practice of blogging (perhaps to see if she needs to get a restraining order against us). The truth is, we don’t know. I’ve missed blogging, but it may be that Facebook status updates have killed blog-writing forever. Time will tell … as always, we are grateful for anyone who stops by our little blog.


P.S. Kathy has asked me to change the background to something more seasonal. But I figure, I’ve made it nine months — just a few more, and the tulips will be all the rage again.

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House Dressing

When I was in college, there was a sandwich shop that made the most amazing dressing for their sandwiches. It was so good that many people (especially poor college students) would skip all the messy meat and cheese, and stick with bread and dressing. They used to (and probably still do) sell the ends of bread (cut from round-ish loaves for sandwiches) in a bag, along with containers of house dressing. As I recall, for about $3.50 (this was some years ago) you had enough for two to share — maybe a half-pint of ‘House’ (as the dressing was called) and a loaf’s worth of bread ends. It wasn’t a meal, but it could stand in place of one without a lot of embarrassment and shuffling of feet.

Not my actual sandwich
Not my actual sandwich

When Kathy and I went back to the College of Knowledge for our 15-year reunion, the first thought I had, was that I would get a chance to taste that dressing again.

“It will be such fun, we’ll get to see some of our old friends, I can hardly wait!” Kathy exulted.

I smiled and kept quiet. Don’t get me wrong — I greatly enjoyed seeing all those old friends, but I was in it for the House Dressing.

I had tried, over the years, to replicate that taste, rumored to be top secret, only known to the owners of the sandwich shop, for this I used different kitchen appliances from sites as I’d even resorted to ‘Student House’ which is a mixture of mayo, mustard and ketchup, traditionally (and cheaply) made from the little condiment packets that fast food restaurants provide. It just wasn’t the same.

A few weeks ago, I got a hankering for that old taste again. As I was about to resign myself to a House-less fate (it is hard to justify airline tickets to the East Coast to buy a pint of House), I suddenly had a great idea: “What about that inter-web thingy? Maybe I should Goggle it or something?” I am, after all, a programmer by trade.

Five minutes later, I had the start of a recipe, and have since honed my craft. Here’s what I came up with:

House Dressing

  • 6-8 heaping tablespoons of light mayo
  • 2 flat tablespoons of mustard (I use Gulden’s, but I think any decent mustard would do)
  • 2 flat tablespoons of steak sauce (I used the Albertsons generic, but I think any worchestershire-based sauce would do)

Yields, um, about 10-12 tablespoons of delectable House-substitute. (Yep, I can add.)

Stir and enjoy, usually on the end of a piece of bread, cracker or pretzel. It is a great way to get people to eat bread that is slightly stale — indeed, when you have a tub of House, you wander around looking for bread of any kind. If it is too spicy for your taste, add more mayo, too bland, add more steak sauce & mustard in small amounts.

Considering that light mayo is only about 35 calories per tablespoon, the whole recipe is in the neighborhood of 300 calories, although that doesn’t count the loaves of bread you’ll consume.

I’m sure House purists in Williamsburg would sneer at my poor substitute, but, hey, they can afford to sneer. They can buy the real thing. For those of us in exile, it’s the next best thing.


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Valentine’s Day with All the Trimmings

I’m looking south through our bedroom window, across the valley at the snow-covered hills, as we enjoy the last hour of our stay in Leavenworth, WA. I could sit on the balcony, but it is cool this February morning, and I want to be near Kathy, who is not yet ready to be outside. The fire in the corner warms my skin to match the warmth in my heart as I savor the memory of this glorious getaway weekend.

The hills around Leavenworth
The view from our balcony …

It all started more than a month ago, when my parents returned from their travels on the east coast. They’d been away for three weeks, and enjoyed time with my brother and sister and their respective families. Now they were ready for some time with our children.

“When can we have the kids?” they asked us, eagerly. Although they often host our children out at the Duckabush, my parents always seem to be willing to help out. It is a great blessing to have grandparents who enjoy their grandchildren and are so solicitous for our well-being as parents and as a married couple.

My Valentine
My Valentine

“We’d really like to send the two of you to Leavenworth,” they told us. “Can we make the arrangements?” We checked our calendars and found we were free on the weekend that spanned Valentine’s Day and President’s Day. And so it was, that we found ourselves driving three hours into the Cascade mountains on a dark and drizzly Friday evening. Arriving just before 8 pm, we were graciously greeted by the Randy and Renee, the host and hostess of this beautiful Bed & Breakfast, the Abendblume. Perched on the slope just outside the town of Leavenworth, the Abendblume boasts seven suites in a luxurious Bavarian chalet-style building.

The AbendblumeThe Abendblume

The common areas are a feast for the eyes, tastefully decorated in winter and Valentine’s Day themes. We spent much of the weekend alternating between our sumptuous suite and the piano room, where comfortable chairs and couches faced a large fire, blazing and crackling.

The Piano RoomMost of the time, we had this room to ourselves, which was delightful.

The Schneewittchen
Our suite was called the Schneewittchen (aka the Snow White suite).

Each morning, Renee served breakfast in the dining room, with delectable Aebleskivers one morning, Eggs Caprice and Almond Puffs another. Fresh fruit, coffee, fresh-baked bread — these breakfasts made it worthwhile, to claw my way up from the embrace of the soft bed and down comforter, each morning. The hostess helped me to fill a delectable tray of goodies to bring back up to our suite, where I was greeted as a hero by a late-sleeping Kathy.

Breakfast with aebelskivers
Aebelskivers are the round muffin-like things with powdered sugar in the cast-iron pan.

During the day, Leavenworth boasts a variety of shops and restaurants, all decorated in a traditional German motif. Even the Subway and Bank of America sported custom lettering on their signage. We shopped and strolled and dined and talked to our hearts’ content. In the evenings, dessert was served in the dining room from 8 – 10 pm; it was very pleasant to have a reason to leave our room, and to mingle with the other guests.

Downtown Leavenworth

On Saturday afternoon, we had instructions to report to Mountain Springs Lodge, some 20 miles further into the mountains. “Dress warmly and bring an appetite,” the cryptic instructions read. The brochure that accompanied the directions featured a 2-hour snowmobile ride by moonlight — neither of us had ever been snowmobiling before, and Kathy was somewhat apprehensive. “Do you think your folks would send us snowmobiling?” she asked me.

I wasn’t sure. My parents can be unpredictable, sometimes — but snowmobiling didn’t really seem their style. Arriving at the Lodge, we presented ourselves to the snowmobiling concierge. “No, I don’t have a reservation for you,” the girl told us, as burly men struggled into snow-suits behind us. “Maybe you are scheduled for the sleigh ride?”

Starlight ExpressThis was the image from the brochure, featuring the ‘Starlight Express’.

Sure enough, when they checked, they had a reservation for us on the sleigh ride — we were both rather relieved. I stopped imagining scenarios in which the two of us plunged off a precipice, struggling vainly with the controls of our snowmobiles.

We enjoyed a ride through the woods on a large sleigh, pulled by two very powerful draft horses, who didn’t seem to mind that the snow in the pasture was mainly slush. Following the course of a small stream, the horses began to trot, and I found myself back in the days of Little House on the Prairie, complete with blankets to keep us warm. About two thirds of the way through the ride, we dismounted for a hot apple cider break, and to stand around a fire just outside an old barn.

Arriving back at the lodge, we found a delectable salmon and prime rib buffet spread before us. They settled us at an intimate table tucked away behind a huge stone fireplace, truly a Valentine’s Day experience with all the trimmings, down to the chocolate-covered strawberries for dessert.

The Dining RoomOf course, there was always dessert back at the Abendblume, as well …

It was a glorious 72-hour vacation, very reminiscent of our honeymoon, a time when we could enjoy each other without distraction and wallow in luxury. Even now, as I finish writing this blog post several weeks later, a smile comes to my face and a deep sense of rest and peace lingers in my heart.

Kathy's new hairstyle
Not Kathy’s actual hairstyle — but we did stop off at the Hat Shop.

When we returned home, we discovered that the sleigh ride and dinner had been a gift to us from our children, which they paid for in work for Grandma and Grandpa. It commemorated the 50th anniversary of my Mom and Dad’s first date. How typical of my parents, that they would choose to celebrate by giving us such a memorable experience!

My beloved and I
A very memorable weekend …

My mind turns to what I would consider my first ‘date’ with Kathy (we had a somewhat unconventional courtship, involving a lot of group activities and ‘casual’ time before we ever ‘went out’ on a date). For us, it was coffee and some kind of pastry at Duncan Donuts (I’ve always been a big spender on first dates). Maybe in 30 years I’ll be sending my children and their spouses off on a Valentine’s Day Experience with All the Trimmings.

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February’s Fantastic

I miss blogging. I miss connecting with other bloggy friends. I miss selecting pictures, tweaking them with Photoshop and then crafting my words for a meaningful/witty/random blog. Facebook is so quick and busy and full of life, it’s easy to forget the joy of blogging. Texting is instantaneous and immediate, there doesn’t seem room for the slower work of blogging.

Washing the car

David and Sarah spent some time last week washing the new van.

Life is so full and rich these days, I’m overwhelmed by the many details, activities, and challenges. Tim and I are continually striving to grow in our marriage and be wise in our parenting. The responsibilities of running a busy household and homeschooling five children keep me humble and on my knees.

Matchy matchy

Sarah and I got matching aprons for Valentine’s Day.

I find myself struggling to balance the various disciplines – spiritual, physical, mental, etc. When I excel in one area, I fail in another. It is interesting, this life here on earth. We long for perfection, rest and joy, but instead are mired in imperfection, unease, and worry.

Praise God for His Word and the promise that His mercies are new every morning.

Two of my 5 readers

Books and board games are favorite gifts (to give and receive) in our house.

We had a fun Valentine’s Day. Tim and I love to celebrate as a family and cherish the big and small moments with the children. This year we ended up with some extra Christmas gifts (still working on the whole Christmas/budget concept) and set them aside for Valentine’s Day. We held a family party on the 7th. The blessing (reward?) of working so hard on parenting (and it is HARD WORK) is actually enjoying your children. We truly love to be with our five kids. They are fun, generous, kind, silly, caring and worth every bit of the diligence, effort and attention.

birthday presents!

Daniel and Joshua gave David Nerf Swords for his birthday.

David’s birthday was this week. How in the world did my sweet, little boy come to be nine years old?? My goodness, he and Sarah are no longer babies. Can I still call them the “Little Ones?” At least for a little while longer?

birthday desserts

Vanilla cake and ice cream sandwich dessert. Yum!

David constantly touches my heart – his reflections on life are unique and precious. We have a tradition of decorating the house in honor of the birthday child. All decorating happens in the wee hours in the night so the birthday boy or girl wakes up to a celebration. This past year the older children have taken on some of the work themselves and surprised me with their creative help.

The night before his birthday (Tim and I had just returned home from a long weekend in Leavenworth and the children from the Duckabush), David came up to me and quietly asked, “Would it be rude to ask for birthday decorations? I was just wondering.” Ha! I shhhhhed him and said, “Absolutely, no talk of decorations! Don’t even mention it.”

As the years have passed, I’ve often wondered if the children still care about those silly streamers, balloons and birthday signs. The older ones, in particular, might be too “grown up” and “mature” for such trivial things. It’s certainly no longer a dramatic surprise – it’s a tradition. Ahhhh, but here was a little boy who was still hoping for the wonder of a birthday celebration. How could I resist?

Throughout the days following his birthday, David repeatedly thanked me for the decorations – not the gifts, cake, family outing to the zoo, the decorations. “I just love those birthday decorations, Mommy, it’s why I keep saying thank you. I love to stand and look at them.”

Happy Birthday - 9 year old!

A creative use of birthday plates.

Interesting how a thankful heart brings such delight and joy in response. I can’t help but think how the Lord wants me to be thankful, to thank Him for His wonders, His gifts, His goodness. Does my thankful heart please Him in the same way that David’s cheerful attitude blesses me?

who's ready for a slice?

Rachel helped with the birthday cake decorating.

It makes me want to sneak into David’s room, on a random Thursday in the middle of a random month, and hang up signs and streamers.

Maybe I will.


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