Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Month of Memories - December 28th

Today I am remembering 1st Christmases.  Well, I think it's safe to say that none of us actually remembers our first Christmas, but here is the photographic evidence of their occurrence.  Here is a picture of baby Philip, with the whole Hines family, in 1977. 

And mine, in 1980

And Caleb's, in 2003.  As I mentioned in a recent post, the most memorable thing for me about this Christmas was having strep throat.

And Joshua's, in 2005.  This Christmas was notable because it's the only one we've had "alone" since we've had kids.  We had been to NC in September and didn't want to go back down so soon, and the Hineses had other plans, so we were extended family-less.  We did have some other "alone" couples over that day for dessert, which was enjoyable, but mostly it was just us and the boys.

And, finally, Andrew's, in 2008.  We were with the Hineses this year.  It was unique in that some of Philip's other extended family joined us.  Andrew and Joshua were born two days apart in the same month, so in these pictures, they are exactly the same age.  Isn't it interesting to see the differences in their facial expressions.  Andrew has truly been "Mr. Smiles" since he was eight weeks old.  What a gift.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Month of Memories - December 27th

The best thing about snow other than sledding?  Building a snowman!  

And one of the best things about visiting Charlotte?  Lots of time with Uncle Tim and Aunt Deborah!

Awww.....love. :)

And then of course we got to have Christmas all over again!  So fun!  

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Month of Memories - December 26th

A White Christmas!  Or almost.  We came down from PA to NC today and were graced with periodic snow flurries the whole way as we drove through the mountains of VA and NC.  It was actually a lovely ride.  The trees were so beautiful.  Once we arrived in Charlotte, we found about 4" of snow on the ground at my parents' house.  The boys were thrilled to be able to go out sledding later this afternoon and had a blast! 

Here's the house, all snowy and Christmasy


Andrew.  Isn't this a great picture? :)

The snowy sidewalk

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Month of Memories - December 25th

Merry Christmas! From our family to yours!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Month of Memories - December 24th

Christmas Eve!  One of the things I've enjoyed most over recent years is attending Christmas Eve services.  I don't ever remember going to one until about 10 years ago.  If I remember correctly, the first service I attended was at a small Baptist church that my parents were attending in 2001.  What made that service memorable was that right at the beginning the pastor announced that their piano player hadn't been able to make it that night and was there anyone there that would come play the Christmas carols.  I got volunteered...and so I played.  What a way to get initiated! :)

Philip's family has some nice Christmas Eve traditions, including Advent devotions and a special meal of Swedish Meatballs.   This year the Advent devotions included making a special ornament with a symbol for each of the Advent words: hope, peace, joy and love. 

We have also started the tradition of opening one gift on Christmas Eve, which has been very fun for the boys.  Some years we go see Christmas lights on the way home from service. 

Here I am with the boys this year, as we headed out to the Christmas Eve service.  It was, of course, a kid-friendly service.  One day I hope to be able to attend the kid-free Candlelight version. :)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Month of Memories - December 23rd

Today I remember Gingerbread Houses.  I first remember making them with some old friends, probably when I was 6 or 7.  Mrs. Daniels would make large house pieces and real royal icing.  I remember it always tasted yummy since she used lemon juice as the liquid.  We would make some elaborate creations.  Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of those early houses, but as teens my sister Liz and I often carried on the tradition.  Sometimes we even had Gingerbread House decorating parties, which were a lot of work since we had to make A LOT of house pieces!  But it was so fun.  Here are some pictures from over the years.

This is from one of those decorating parties, in 1993 

Here we are hard at work assembling those houses.  As you can see, they are quite large!  On the right is Leticia, a Swiss gal who lived with us for about 6 months in 1995. 
I gave my house from 1995 to our Swiss friends, the Knechts.  We met them at a conference, maybe in 1994, and spent many of our holidays with them for several years, until they moved away a few years later.  
They were such wonderful people!
Like cake decorating, gingerbread house decorating took a long break while I was in college and such.  This the next one I remember making.  This was in 2004 and I had two of the neighbor kids over to decorate smaller houses for themselves.
I then transported my house from VA to Georgia by airplane.  No, it wasn't a regular carry-on size, so I had to ask the flight attendant to stow it on board in the "front closet," or whatever you call that.  It made it to GA with hardly a loose M&M. 
 Then, we did such a lousy job of eating it while spending Christmas with Philip's family that I then transported it by car to South Carolina to give it to my family.  I knew it would be quickly demolished by them, especially since my brother Tim (who was 15 at the time) was around. :)  Sure enough, it was at least 1/2 gone by the time our visit with them on the Clemson campus ended.  We met there because it was about halfway between Atlanta, where Philip's parents lived at the time, and Charlotte.

I don't think I've made another Gingerbread house from scratch since the boys have been born.  I have helped the boys make houses from graham crackers a few times, including this one in 2006 when Caleb was 3.

My only foray with gingerbread house kit was in 2007.  It was definitely easier, but nothing tasted very good, so I am not sure I'll do one again any time soon.  However, the boys definitely enjoyed the process.

 As the boys get a little older and their ability to decorate the houses themselves increases, I am sure the real gingerbread house will make a resurgence in our house.  Making them are some of my fondest memories from growing up.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Month of Memories - December 22nd

Today I remember our first Christmas with Caleb.  He was only about 6 weeks old at the time.  My parents and Tim and Deborah had come up to visit us in VA...and to meet Caleb.  Unfortunately, what I remember most about that visit was that I came down with strep throat.  But, we also got this picture.  I am not sure who looks younger: Philip or Caleb. :)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Month of Memories - December 21st

I remember yesterday when I heard about the lunar eclipse that happened early this morning.  I remember thinking "I would sure like to see it, but not at that time of the morning!"   The boys and I spent a long time yesterday morning learning more about eclipses and why they happened.  Lunar eclipses aren't that uncommon, but it is quite unusual for it to occur on a Winter Solstice.  The last time it happened on Winter Solstice was in 1638 and the next time will be in 2094.  I guess my kids have a chance at seeing that one...but I don't think I do!

Last night we went to bed as usual...until God woke me up at 2:45, the exact time that the full eclipse was to begin.  And not only that, He graciously positioned the moon so that I could see it out of the skylight in the master bathroom.  I was able to see the beautiful eclipse as it became full, and enjoy it from the comfort of my warm home.  What a surprising gift. :)

Here's a picture of the moon over the Washington Monument, copied from the Washington Post.  Beautiful, isn't it?

Here's a link to the Post article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/20/AR2010122006447.html?hpid=artslot

Monday, December 20, 2010

Month of Memories - December 20th

Hmmm....hmmm....hmmmm....  It's a good thing that December only has 31 days and not 40 or something.  I am running out of ideas.  Actually, I have a few ideas in mind, but none that I want to use today.  Sooo....today I'll remember something my Dad told me a few months ago.  He said that he thinks I have gotten more and more beautiful over the last few years (*blush* thanks, Dad).  He also said he thinks it's because I get so much love from my boys.  He probably meant the little ones, but I think we have to include the big one, too.   The big one actually annoys me sometimes because he often will literally tell me "I love you" 10 times over the course of 15 minutes.  It really seriously does annoy me and I'll say things like "Stop saying that!"  I got it the first time, you know? :)  I probably sometimes look a little like this...see below.  (You might want to click on the picture to get the full effect of my facial expression.  Ha.  Can you tell I was surprised?  Pretty sure this was the first time Philip laid any kind of kiss on me.  Poor guy.  Probably not the response he had in mind.  But I digress...)
Well, apparently Philip has a love-speaking protege.  Now that Andrew can talk, and after his first unsolicited admittance of "I love you, mama" a few weeks ago, I am getting barraged with "I love yous" from him, too!  He and I sit next to each other at the table during meals and frequently he leans over onto my arm 5-10 times during a meal and say "I love you, too" (even though he started it).  Oh man.  I need to train this kid how to have a little variety in his sentiment vocalizations.  But really, it is sweet, and I am truly thankful to be loved SO much that the men in my life feel compelled to tell me, and tell me, and tell me. :)  And just think, if it's had this much positive effect in the last few years and I am only 30....just think what a stunner I'll be by the time I am 80.

P.S. I love you boys, too. :)  (Aren't they cute?  Who couldn't love these guys?)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Month of Memories - December 19th

Today I remember when we first went to see the Gingerbread House display at Reston Town Center three (short) years ago.  It's become a fun family tradition!  Back then my boys looked like this:

 And look at them now!  The display is much bigger this year, as well, to celebrate the 20th anniversary.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Month of Memories - December 18th

I remember when I first heard about my friend who had started grinding her own grain and making her own bread.  I thought she was a little crazy.  However, wouldn't you know it, the more I started to read and learn about our bodies the importance of the kind of foods and nutrients that go into them (and having a chronic health problem certainly makes you look carefully at many otherwise ignored things!), the more I started coming to the conclusion that perhaps this was a step our family needed to take as well.  So, a few weeks ago, I took the plunge.  I bought a grain mill, a bread machine and 150+ pounds of wheat berries and other ingredients.  It all arrived by early last week and so last Monday began the bread baking adventures in our house.

Here is are the buckets of the three different kinds of wheat I ordered: hard red, hard white and soft white.
The first adventure was trying to get the lids off!  The method suggested by the company I purchased from didn't work, so finally Caleb suggest I just cut a hole in the lids and leave the actual lid removal process for Philip when he came home.  So, that's what we did.

The next step was to grind the grain.  I bought a Nutrimill and have so far been quite happy with how it works.  You can grind up to 20 cups of flour at a time, but I have been milling only about 4-5 at a time for the particular recipe I am using.  One reason for this is that milled grain loses over 90% of it's nutrients within 72 hours of being milled, so obviously I am only milling for what we're eating imminently.  However, at the rate we're going through the bread, I may start milling enough for two loaves, rather than one.

And here, a few hours later, is the finished product.  It was SOOOO yummy!
Even the boys liked it.  I was a little worried about Joshua because the bread he had been eating wasn't so "wheaty" and I didn't know what he would think.  But, he was ok with it and has been eating it all week.  I also wasn't sure about Andrew's reaction, but before he even finished the first piece he said, "Mommy, I want more!" :)

Saturday morning Philip decided to make pancakes for the boys using the new flour.  Caleb declared "Not only is the new flour better for you, these pancakes taste better, too!"  He was right.  I don't really care for pancakes, but I have to admit these were delicious and I was eating them plain!  It is incredible the difference in taste between fresh milled wheat flour and store bought wheat flour.  There is absolutely no comparison.

So, it looks like the switch to homemade bread is going well.  We hope to begin seeing the health benefits (like getting sick less and diminished sugar cravings) soon.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Month of Memories - December 17th

Today I remember this precious song from two Christmases ago.   Caleb had memorized a chapter from Luke just by listening to it on CD at bedtime and this song was the result.  It's a little long and half of it is him saying "annnnndddd....", but it's so cute.  Watch out for Joshua's antics at around 3:40.  He starts "nursing" his elephant Humphrey.  Obviously this was when Andrew was a little baby in the house. :)

And here is Caleb tonight, reciting Psalm 1 and Joshua reciting Proverbs 2:1-10.  He messes up a few times on the tape, but he really does know it perfectly.  I am so proud of both of them!

Lucky Winners!

Slightly delayed, I am happy to announce that Rachel and Laura will be receiving the goodie bags from me!

I love Laura so much I am mailing it all the way to Washington State.  She did introduce me to my husband, after all, so that earns her mailing rights. :)  But I love her for lots of other reasons, too.  She is one of my dearest friends, and a true kindred spirit, despite the miles that have always separated us.

And my dear friend Rachel lives just down the road.  I have been thankful for her many times this year for a variety of reasons.  Among other things, she is one of the kindest and gentlest people I have ever known.  I am glad we're friends and I am happy to be able to put a smile on your face. :)

And so ladies...once I finish baking (got those Chocolate Toffee Crunch Bars in the oven now and the divinity is the last item on tap, scheduled for later today!) your goodies will be on the way!

Thanks for being wonderful friends to me and treasures in my life!

P.S. I love all the rest of you that entered to win, too! :) :)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Month of Memories - December 16th

Today I am remembering to be thankful for heat.  I am prompted to be thankful for this because today....we don't have heat!  We picked the worst winter day so far to have our AC and furnace replaced (crazy tax credit motivation) and it's a bit chilly in the house.  However, even though it's been 6 hours since the heater was running, the house is a nearly reasonable 61 degrees, which is definitely cooler than I'd choose...seeing as my toes are cold and my nose is cold, BUT...it makes me think of those people (including many in Loudoun county) who don't even have this much luxury.  There are plenty of people who are homeless or who cannot afford to heat their homes above 60 degrees within only miles of my house.

And while it may be cold and snowy today, at least this is not the view out my front door.  See that black spot between the tree branches?  Yeah...that would be the top of the mailbox as we saw it (or rather didn't) on February 6th of this year.

So, while we run our gas fireplace and I bake bread and ham and drink hot tea to stay warm, I am thankful to be abundantly blessed, and thankful that we are blessed to be able to share of our abundance with those who have less.  May we each watch for opportunities to touch someone's life for the better this Christmas season.  To meet a need...and then share our Hope.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Month of Memories - December 15th

Today I am remembering Little Luke, our son who was due a year ago today.  As many of you know, even though he wasn't born into our family, his short (13 week) life has had a dramatic effect on my marriage and my life.  Painful as another miscarriage was, the process that is triggered has been worth it.  I am thankful that I have been guided through this process by a gentle and merciful God and I am thankful for how He has changed my life these last few months.  I am thankful that He always keeps His promises and I hope that one day soon I will be able to truly consider this chapter of my life "closed."  But, we'll never forget the son who started it all...and he'll always be part of our family.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Month of Memories - December 14th

Today I remember my Grandpa Carlson.  He died two years ago today, after a long fight with heart disease.  He had a triple bypass the year I was born, if that gives you any idea.  Grandpa Carlson was my mom's dad and when he remarried back in the early 1970's, he married a lady who was studying to become an LPN, who after they were married became a registered nurse.  My Grandma Rose undoubtedly kept my Grandpa alive and living a good life for many years.  She is a treasure.

Grandpa and Grandma lived in Miami, FL for as long as I was alive, so we couldn't just "pop" over for a visit.  However, they did come see us most years and those visits were always a highlight for me and my siblings.  Grandpa was a jokester and loved nothing better than spouting nonsensical things, such as referring to the telephone as the "smell-a-phone" or telling us that we should "run both ways and hurry back."  He was always making us laugh and smile.

I only regret that my Grandpa was never able to meet any of my children.  He was so sick in later years that bringing young children for a visit would have been too much stress on him.  So, I sent videos and pictures quite often, and they occasionally talked on the phone to him.  They know he was a wonderful man, and a Navy World War II hero.  He was actually a mechanic on a ship, the U.S.S. Bowers, in the Pacific that was kamikazed. At dawn on 16 April, the destroyer escort shot down one attacking Japanese plane. Then at 09:30, two more planes came in, flying low and fast. Bowers maneuvered radically to avoid the planes as they split to attack the escort. The first came in dead ahead, but Bowers' guns brought it down. The second passed over the ship as her port guns came to bear. Despite the heavy gunfire, the kamikaze regained altitude, turned, and came in from a 45-degree angle forward. It crashed into the warship's flying bridge, spraying high octane gasoline over the bridge and pilot house. The plane's bomb penetrated the pilot house and continued down through the ship for 20 feet before it exploded and sprayed the deck with fragments. Fire fighting parties brought the flames under control in about 45 minutes; but 37 men from the ship were killed, 11 were reported missing, and many of her 56 wounded died later.  All told, about half the men on the ship were wounded or killed.  Thankfully my Grandpa survived, otherwise I wouldn't be here today.

Here is the U.S.S. Bowers with the crashed plane on the flying bridge.

My Grandpa with Liz and I in 1996.

Philip and I were able to visit my Grandparents in February of 2003, so I am grateful that at least Philip met Grandpa.  I don't have a picture of that visit scanned, but here is my Grandpa on his 80th birthday, in January 2004.

We love you, Grandpa!  Thanks for being a wonderful part of our family for many years!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Month of Memories - December 13th

I remember the time that I wore my wedding dress to Philip's office Christmas party.  Oh wait, that's not what I did.  I put on my wedding dress because I wanted to see if it finally fit again (it does!!) and since Philip was wearing a tux for his office Christmas party, we took pictures! :)  Too bad I no longer have my veil to complete the ensemble.  Oh well.  However, I we did conclude that I look better now than when we got married.  If only we could re-do our wedding pics....but, um...I don't think it works that way. :)

Then, I changed into my real dress, one from about 10 years ago that I also haven't fit into for a long time...and off we went!  Funny story about the dress though.  The first time I wore it about 10 years ago, I spilled red punch on it.  Turned out, it left a stain.  I don't know why I never had the dress cleaned, but I didn't.  I wore it a couple of times in the interim, but only when I knew the stain wouldn't be seen.  I wanted to wear the dress this year, but was worried about the mark, so we decided to try to clean it with soap and water...and lo and behold...it came out.  Who knew?!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Month of Memories - December 12th

Today I am remembering the first time I realized I was going to have to start living on salad for a while.  It was last year, probably not too long after the liver/gallbladder cleanses that I did.  I realized pretty quickly that I was going to have to find some way of making it enjoyable to eat the same thing day after day after day for lunch.  I also knew that these salads needed to be really filling, so else by mid-afternoon I was going to be mighty tempted to eat something I shouldn't.  So the first thing to go was the lettuce.  I don't mind lettuce, but it's not the best part of the salad for me, and if a salad was all I was eating, I could waste space on something nothing very filling. :)  I also added walnuts and very often avocado.  Both of these have good fats and added the extra calories I needed.  Plus, they gave it some flavor.  The walnuts are still my favorite part of the salad, if they bite has a walnut in it...it's a good bite. :)  So, here is what my lunch looks like many days:

This is NOT a quick lunch. :)  There is so much chewing involved it easily takes me 30-60 minutes to eat it, depending on how often I get distracted. :)  Let's see, we have:
Broccoli (had to learn to really like that raw, but it's good for fiber)
Red pepper (yummy!)
Green pepper
Cucumber and

Sometimes I add craisins, or avocado, as I mentioned.  I have to give big thanks to Philip, who the one who usually makes my salads for me.  If I had to cut all that up during the day when I was trying to feed the kids lunch, it would never happen.  Well, except it did on Thursday.  Last week was really bad for my gallbladder, so I had to eat the salad, so I cut everything while the boys were distracted with Caleb's piano lesson.  Worked out well, too, because they love fresh veggies, especially red and green peppers, so I cut extras for them and they munched away on those at lunch.  Philip and the boys eat the salads with their dinners, so they aren't missing out on all those colorful veggies. :)

Even after God heals my gallbladder, we plan to continue eating these salads regularly because it's so good for the body.  And they really are tasty.  As long as I am not eating them 7 days a week for lunch. :)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Month of Memories - December 11th

Today I am remembering why I love to homeschool, and particularly why I love using Sonlight, our curriculum.  Moments like this:
Today I am busy cleaning and packing (this is actually Friday morning while I am writing this), but I still wanted to get some school done with the boys.  Right now we are reading "Mr. Poppers Penguins" and the boys are loving it.  So, I set Caleb up to read while I got other work done.

Joshua's favorite part of school, other than reading these great books, is the science experiments.  Yesterday we did an experiment with air to see the volume of our lungs.  We put a full water bottle upside-down into a bowl of water, then removed the lid and inserted a bendy-straw into the water bottle.  Then, the boys took turns taking a big breath and blowing their air into the water bottle through the straw, thus displacing water equal to the volume of the air in their lungs.  Joshua went first and displaced about 1/3 of the water in the bottle.  Then it was Caleb's turn.  He displaced the whole bottle and about 1/2 the bottle more (by approx time he was blowing)!  We all got a good laugh out of that, as none of us expected his to blow Joshua out of the water (pun intended) by that much!  I told Caleb this demonstrated why he was such a good runner.  He's certainly got the lung capacity! :)

Caleb just loves learning, period.  Every time we have a shorter school day than usual, he always says "I want to do more."  He especially enjoys reading the many Usborne books we have.  And of course everything we read aloud, from Missionary Stories to the Wizard of Oz and Doctor Doolittle.  The last book we finished reading was Homer Price.  Hilarious and ridiculous, but perfect for little imaginations.

I recently read an interesting article about reading and boys.  Here's an excerpt from the beginning of the article:
"According to a recent report from the Center on Education Policy, for example, substantially more boys than girls score below the proficiency level on the annual National Assessment of Educational Progress reading test. This disparity goes back to 1992, and in some states the percentage of boys proficient in reading is now more than ten points below that of girls. The male-female reading gap is found in every socio-economic and ethnic category, including the children of white, college-educated parents."

and here's one from the end:
 "Most importantly, a boy raised on great literature is more likely to grow up to think, to speak, and to write like a civilized man. Whom would you prefer to have shaped the boyhood imagination of your daughter’s husband—Raymond Bean or Robert Louis Stevenson?

I offer a final piece of evidence that is perhaps unanswerable: There is no literacy gap between home-schooled boys and girls."

I love it!  And I can see this in action every day as we read and read and read.