Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What you do when the weather for your beach vacation is cold and rainy (warning... very picture heavy)

First your aunt finds this very cute children's museum and you spend several hours there. 

J. and H. at the bubble table

L. (Her hair started out being done... I don't know what happened.)

The restaurant kitchen was a huge hit. This is L.

There was a vet's office, complete with bear with trailing entrails.

TM spent a lot of time making bubbles.

A. helping L. do the climbing wall.

This sign was posted all over.

G. borrowed a bear from the vet's office and carted him off to the restaurant to share food with him.

After the museum you walk down the street and get ice cream, despite the cold weather.

G. and B. G. chose vanilla.

L. did not. I'm sure any parent can name that ice cream as Superman. (What else would L. pick?)

When you get tired of waiting for the little people to finish your ice cream, you start to wrestle.




Then you walk to the park and play a bit. Or climb on statues as the case may be.


The quote of the day came from L. as she was looking at this statue of fruit sellers. She looked at them and asked, "What happens if we wake them up?" Then proceeds to give one of them a big whack to see if she could do it.

There is A LOT of game playing.

M. and TM

And A LOT of reading.

D.

When there is even the slightest hint of sun, you head outside. This time we headed down to a little outlet.

M. and G.

The whole group wading in the outlet.

J. and the little girls climbing dunes.

TM

And once we just played on the beach.

L.

G.

You end your vacation by picking many pounds of blueberries. (This was Andrews U-Pick outside of Shelby in Michigan.) It was a lovely orchard... those bushes are over 50 years old.

G.

K.

L.

B.

Finally, you write a blog post about your trip, thanking your aunt and uncle for such a lovely time... despite the weather.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

I'm surrounded by suitcases and piles of laundry

We got back late last night from a five day trip up to J.'s aunt's and uncle's summer house in Michigan. I can't say the weather was entirely cooperative, but we had a great time, never the less. I don't have much time this morning... there's the bags of wet laundry that really must be dealt with, not to mention the 35+ pounds of blueberries sitting on my kitchen counter. I'll share some more highlights tomorrow, but in the meantime, here are some pictures of a hike we took in the woods our first morning there.

Hiking up the sandy trail

K.

A brief pause to search in the sand for...

ant lions.

Quite a few people scampered up this hill.

Which turned out to be a little too steep for smaller people to make it down on their own. J. is helping G.

K. did just fine.

L. and B.

B. carrying L. down.

And we ended with a walk along the beach to get back home.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Secret Garden

"'I'll ask my mother about it,' she said. 'She's one o' them that nearly always sees a way to do things. It's my day out today and' I'm goin' home. Eh! I am glad. Mrs. Medlock thinks a lot o' mother. Perhaps she could talk to her.'
'I like your mother,' said Mary
'I should think tha' did,' agreed Martha, polishing away.
'I've never seen her,' said Mary
'No, tha' hasn't,' replied Martha.
She sat up on her heels again and rubbed the end of her nose with the back of her hand as if puzzled for a moment, but she ended quite positively.
'Well, she's that sensible an' hard workin' an' good natured an' clean that no one could help likin' her whether they'd seen her or not. When I'm goin' home to her on my day out I just jump for joy when I'm crossin' the moor.'"

We've been reading The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett as our lunch time read aloud. I don't know how many times I've read it before, but I love it just as much every time I do. A sure sign of a really good book. Every time I read it, I'm reminded that someday it would be interesting to write an essay about parenting using fictional parents from children's literature as good examples. I think this, because Dickon's and Martha's mother, would be my very first, and best, example.

Though she has a very small role in the actual plot of the book, and is usually only talked about by other people, she loom large over the whole story. It is her influence which helped make Dickon and Martha into the people they are. It is her concern for Mary, though she had never met her, through buying her the jump rope (which was also an act of great sacrifice), that starts Mary on her trajectory of healing. She is the good mother, the one that Mary and Colin never had, whose influence and care acts as a counterbalance to the absent mothers in the book.

And I want to be like her.

Sensible, hard working, good natured, whom everyone likes, and who makes a real difference in the lives of the people who surround her. Who wouldn't?

If you haven't read The Secrect Garden, you really need to. So, the next thing I want you to do is go straight to your library's web page and reserve a copy for yourself. Or even better, get one and read it out loud to your children. You may also want to lay in a supply of jump ropes and garden spades to hand to them when you're done.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The great dishwasher fiasco of 2013

I suppose I shouldn't really call it a fiasco because it has ended well, but it took a while to reach the positive conclusion. Here's the story...

When my parents were in town a couple of weeks ago, they decided that what we really needed was new dishwashers which actually washed, rather than the glorified dish drainers we were using. So, of we went to the store to buy some. There was a sale and the sales woman was very nice and we bought two dishwashers. Remembering a previous fiasco with our washing machine where it was installed, incorrectly, and J. had to re-install it, I decided to save the installation money and just have J. do it. (Let me tell you, words cannot convey his excitement over such a project.) The dishwashers would be delivered the next week and we were all very excited.

The dishwashers arrived as scheduled and J. came home from work ready to put them in. The sales woman had made sure to include two installation kits, so I thought we were set. Considering our appliance track record, I did wonder if I was being overly optimistic. I was. When J. opened the box and instructions, he realized that some key pieces weren't there. It turns out, that when an appliance is installed, it seems as though there is an assumption that the installer will have certain parts on his truck. But we don't have a truck, so we didn't have the parts. The dishwasher would have to wait another day to be installed.

The next morning, J. went to the store on his way home from work and picked-up the parts he needed. Once again, that evening, he settled in to install them. He got the first one in, all hooked up, and so we turn in on. the little blue lights on the control panel light up and... nothing else. We read the instruction manual again to be sure we aren't forgetting something. It should work. And then we smell something burning. That's not good. J. discovers that the heating element inside the dishwasher is heating, but without water inside it is starting to put off an unpleasant burning odor. J. does some quick internet research and discovers that it looks as though there is a faulty part having to do with the water. Having had about as much fun as we can stand with the dishwasher that evening, we go to bed.

The next evening, J. decides to uninstall the first dishwasher and try to install the second one to see if it works. And it does! Hallelujah! What is more, the dishwasher actually washes the dishes. The dishes go in the machine dirty and come out sparkling clean. Amazing. It made me realize that neither old dishwasher had really been functioning optimally for a very long time. It also confirmed that there was something wrong with the first dishwasher.

J. calls the store and we get set-up for a replacement to be delivered. They will come and take the old one away and bring a new one of the same model. No problem. They ask if Sunday is alright and I say that is fine if it is in the afternoon and the very nice customer service rep. says that's fine. I'll be called the night before to tell me the exact two hour window for the delivery.

Saturday night, I receive the call at dinner time telling me that they will replace the machine during the exact time that no one will be home. I take a deep breath and push the number I'm told to to reschedule. Now, this next bit is not my finest hour. I'm dumped into one of those dreaded voice activated voice mail systems where you cannot get a live person no matter what you do. (I tried all my tricks, really I did.) Before I tell you the next part, remember that I am finishing day two of J. being out of town and the disregulation factor in my home has been pretty high for the past 48 hours. So, I try to get a live person on the phone, or at the very least try not to get scheduled for something I don't want, and I can do neither. The silly voice mail insists on not listening to me and blithely going along with what it wants regardless of what I say. Which leads me to losing all composure and yelling into the phone, something along the lines of, "I CANNOT STAND THESE VOICE MAIL SYSTEMS! I SINCERELY HOPE SOMEONE IS RECORDING AND LISTENING TO THIS CONVERSATION BECAUSE YOUR SYSTEM ISN'T WORKING AND I AM VERY ANGRY!" Or something like that. It could have been more or less coherent than I have written out. It must have been startling because when I looked up all of my children were staring at me, open mouthed, in absolute silence. (Absolute silence doesn't happen very often in our home.)

Well, to finish the story, the voice mail system finally told me it would transfer me to someone who could help. And then dropped the call. I did finally talk to a live person and we settled on a new delivery date. OK, settled on makes it sound as though I had some input into the decision. Really the live person I talked with was only marginally better than the recording because of her inability to leave her script. But the end result was that we did get a new dishwasher and the faulty one was taken away. (And no, I didn't want the store to send out a repairman to try to fix the one that was broken out of the box.)

Of course, J. was out of town, so we had to wait a bit before it could be put in. That happened night before last. He got it installed, held his breath, and pushed the button. It worked! We now have two functioning dishwashers. And they match, too.

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Thanks to everyone who voted for my blog this past month. I ended up tied for 6th place. Pretty respectable.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Timber!

Well, the horizontal tree I told you about a while ago has finally fallen. The other night, J. was up late and happened to hear some very odd sounds coming from the front of the house. Odd creaking, cracking sounds. He looks out of the window and realizes that the tree is slowly falling. So he runs and grabs the van keys and moves the van out of the driveway and down the street. When he returns, the tree is down and touching the ground. Except for the fact that J. was running around the front yard moving cars in his pajamas, the whole thing seem rather anti-climactic. There wasn't even a heavy wind... just a heavy tree and a trunk which could no longer hold it up.

So now it sits in our driveway while we try to figure out what to do with it. I guess we'll have to have a tree service come and cut it up and take it away. B. did saw off some branches so we can get the van in the driveway. It doesn't look all that different from the street, so the child have been interested to note that most people walking by don't even realize that it's down.

Here are some pictures that A. took.




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OK, people. Last day to vote. Evidently some other bloggers have been doing a last minute push because I'm dropping in the rankings every time I look. So, even if you haven't voted before, could you please vote today?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Impatient in the wilderness

"From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way." Numbers 21:4 (ESV)

This is the verse which struck me as I was sitting in a meeting last week and we were looking at adult education material. This is actually the beginning of the story of the story about the snakes and the bronze serpent if you're having difficulty placing it, and it was that part of the story that the materials focused on. But I couldn't really get past the word impatient, because I realized that was what I have been feeling.

The Israelites did have a tough lot at this point in their history. They were wandering around the wilderness, seemingly endlessly, there was little water and they didn't like the food. Life just didn't seem to be very good for them at the moment. Of course, there were all of those miracles they had witnessed just a book previously, but that didn't change the food they had now. And so they spoke against God.

It made me wonder if I had speaking against God. I have been feeling a bit in the wilderness recently with my boy. It seems we have been wandering about rather endlessly and have very  little progress to show for it. Some days are just hard. I am weary. I feel impatient with what God has planned for all of us.

Yesterday, I happened to notice a friend's Bible was opened to the book of Lamentations. I will admit that I haven't really paid much attention to Lamentations... I couldn't even find it in my own Bible at first and had to look it up in the table of contents. But maybe I should pay a little more attention to it. If the Israelites in Numbers were an example of how not to suffer adversity, then the writer of Lamentations, writing in response to the fall of Jerusalem at the beginning of the exile, is an example of how to pray when all feels hopeless.

"The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
His mercies never come to an end;
They are new every morning;
Great is your faithfulness.
'The LORD is my portion,' says my soul,
'therefore I will hope in Him.'
The LORD is good to those who wait for Him,
to the soul who seeks Him.
It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth." Lamentations 3:22-27 (ESV)

Being impatient is, at its root, distrust. It indicates that we think something isn't going to plan; something is wrong. We worry that God has forgotten us; that He doesn't really have things under control. Being impatient says that I think I know better how things should go. It is sort of a sneaky way of sinning against God because we don't immediately recognize it as such. We just want to skip to the good parts. We forget it is through the hard stuff that God forms us into the people He wants us to be; that to skip those parts would get us to the 'good stuff' unprepared.

And so I will wait. And try to be patient.
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The voting closes tomorrow. You have one more day to vote.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Homemade toys

Piggy-backing on the post I wrote earlier this month about play, I thought it might be good to remind everyone (and when I say everyone, I am often just talking to myself), that sometimes homemade toys are better than fancy ones that we buy in the store. Over the weekend two homemade toys have received the majority of play around here. And this was real play; play that lasted for at least an hour and in which the children were focused intently. The kind of play that warms a mother's heart and allows her a moment or two to catch her breath.

 The first homemade toy of the weekend was this stove made out of a cardboard box. B. was given by a family for whom he was babysitting a set of play kitchen pots and pans to give to G. and L. They loved them and so I decided they needed a stove to cook on. (Our actual play kitchen is still living outside.) Here's the stove.


They loved it. The cooked and baked and served me food. Food which was created out of small scraps of shredded paper. They played and played and played. My only role was to make the appropriate eating noises when a new dish was brought to me.

And then they played with some more off and on for the next two days. Here are the little cooks.

L. (on left) and G.

G. 

The next toy was K.'s brain child and nearly all of his creation. He saw a picture of a play house made in a box with paper and cardboard and wanted to make one himself. Here it is. (I had trouble deciding which way the picture should go... it didn't look quite right from any angle.) J. helped by making the stove and fireplace, but the rest (including the blue couch there on the right) was made by K. This kept him busy for quite a while.


By the second day, all the little people wanted in on the act and were busy helping to make people and other things for the house.

G.

K.

L. (in the Mickey Mouse hat she wore for the entire weekend)

K.

H.

Even the dog wanted to get in on the fun of homemade toys. The trouble is, Gretel's idea of a homemade toy is to find anything lying around within her reach that looks as though it would be good to chew and take it, run behind the chair, and chew it up. It is not one of her more endearing qualities. Especially when it is a brand new tube of sunscreen. 

Well, thankfully the sunscreen tube was extra durable plastic, because she wasn't able to puncture it completely enough for the sunscreen to ooze out the holes. (I'm sure it's because we found it in time. It wasn't for lack of jaw strength or determination.) Well, no one wants to throw away a completely good tube of sunscreen, but it is also inconvenient to have the sunscreen start to squirt out holes in the tube when squeezed. J. solved the problem by covering it duct tape.


And to show he still has a sense of humor added this message on the other side.


In case you can't read it, it says, "Now with dog saliva for EXTRA slimy protection".
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So it looks as though I will finish in 6th place and not quite make it into the top 5. Well, unless a whole bunch of you decide to vote. Only a couple more days of this to go.

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