Monday, April 27, 2009

Cooper's Quest

I can hardly believe that Cooper turned 12 over the weekend! 12 years ago, we were living in Stillwater, OK and in April of 1997 I was 10 days overdue with Cooper when my water broke while talking to my friend Tamyra on the phone! She was at my house in a hurry to stay with Kory who was taking a nap, and Robert and I headed to the hospital. After an emergency c-section, Cooper came into the world!
And turning 12 means that it is time for Cooper's Quest....a series of challenges to complete before he turns 13. To kick off his special year, we invited some young men from our church over to encourage and exhort Cooper in specific areas as he enters manhood. They spoke to him on topics such as integrity, faith, love, industry, and creativity. They did a wonderful job and even included stories from their own growing up years. Cooper took notes on the things they said, and then they all prayed for him. I was so blessed to watch these godly young men, whom Cooper sees at least once a week at church, pour into him so earnestly and generously. We took a break halfway through the evening for some birthday cake and gifts. The big gift was a new and quite fancy electric guitar amplifier. He could not believe all the things it could do and was totally excited!

Here are the challenges that Cooper will be working to complete this year in three categories:

Mind

Books to Read:
More Than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell
The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
Don't Check Your Brain at the Door by Josh McDowell
The Pursuit of Holiness byJerry Bridges
I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Josh Harris
The Master Plan of Evangelism
2 Books on the creative process
Nav Press Bible Study Workbooks

Memory Work:
Apostle's Creed
Lord's Prayer
1 Scripture passage per month (correlating to NavPress Wkbks)

Body

Hike to Summit House, Holyoke, MA
Northampton Hot Chocolate Run 5K in December

Skills

Woodworking project:Bookshelf
Sewing Project: Pajama Pants
Teaching/Leading: Choose topic and lead one week of family devotions
Art/Music Show: Surrounding a chosen theme, Cooper will create music, stories, poetry, drawing/paintings, etc and will present them to invited guests in our home near his 13th birthday

Special Trip

Upon completion of all challenges, Cooper will take a special camping/hiking/biking trip with Robert to Acadia National Park in Maine next summer


Kory's Quest looked slightly different because of their differences in temperament and gifts. Kory loves history, books, and the outdoors. Cooper is our resident artist - always creating something - from cool sounding music, fantasy/adventure stories, and drawings, to computer graphic designs and pictures. We tried to tailor each of their challenges to fit who they are and what they love. Pray for him as he develops who he is as a man and part of the body of Christ.
Happy Birthday, Coop!

Even Henry Had the Blues

Kory had to memorize this poem last week as part of a chapter on poetry he's working through in Language Arts. I bet some of you are already familiar with it, but I couldn't believe how much I could relate to it presently. I knew I had heard the phrase "Into each life some rain must fall;" just didn't know it was Longfellow! (Homeschooling is educating me for the first time in many ways!) So many of you all have written to me and relayed your own times of "rain" and offered your prayers and it had meant so much. It is really encouraging to find out that you are not alone in your experience and that feeling "down" at times is perfectly normal. Just read the Psalms, and you might come to the conclusion that depression was more normal than abundant joy for much of the time. The days are more sunny now (literally and metaphorically!) and the Lord continues to bring healing, but this is a fallen world to be sure...

The Rainy Day

The day is cold and dark and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the moldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary.

My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains and the wind is never weary;
My thoughts still cling to the moldering Past,
But hopes of youth fall thick in the blast,
And the days are dark and dreary.

Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I especially appreciate the comparison of the vine clinging to a crumbling wall to thoughts of the past. The past is crumbling, too. Can't go back. Have to walk froward by faith.



Thursday, April 23, 2009

Gluten Free Friday - Chicken in Garlic Sauce

Inspired by a similar recipe in Eating Well magazine....went over well with the whole family.

Chicken in Garlic Sauce

8-12 chicken thighs (3-4 lbs)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup minced shallots
2 bulbs garlic, cloves peeled and chopped (yes, 2 bulbs - about18-20 cloves!)
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
2 cups chicken broth
2/3 cup plain yogurt or sour cream
2 Tbsp dijon GF mustard
4 Tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp corn starch, dissolved in 1/4 cup water

Salt and pepper chicken pieces and brown in olive oil and butter on all sides in large skillet. (Do 2 batches if necessary.) Remove pieces to a plate. Add shallots and garlic to oil and saute' until slightly browned. Place chicken in a large baking dish and pour broth mixture over. Bake at 300* for 45min - 1 hour. Near end of baking time, whisk together yogurt, mustard, and tomato paste. In a separate bowl, whisk together corn starch and water. When chicken is done, remove to a plate. Heat liquid from chicken over medium heat and stir in yogurt mixture. Stir in cornstarch mixture as well, and continue stirring until sauce thickens. Serve chicken pieces and sauce over rice.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Recent Tidbits

Lots going on here, as usual. Haven't had much time to write about anything, but just though I'd share a few recent highlights. The first is that Kayla managed to trap Mr. Groundhog over the weekend. We don't really know how long he's been around, but he sure did enjoy eating fresh veggies out of our garden last year. He has a nice little home through a tunnel under a tree in our backyard, but he dashes there so quickly when we approach, that we never get a good look at him. Well, now we've had the privilege of seeing him up close! Kayla placed this trap outside near his hole with a carrot in it for bait inside. Poor thing must have been pretty hungry to sacrifice his freedom for a carrot, but he did, and we got our look after all. I think she really regretted putting him in this scary situation, and released him quickly after a few photos were shot. Actually, this required the help of her Daddy. Traps aren't quite as easy to release as they are to set - especially when there is a frightened critter inside!
And we continued our Patriot's Day tradition of going to Boston to watch the Boston Marathon. We did NOT go to the re-enactment of the Battle of Lexington and Concord which takes place at about 5:30am on the same day...just decided to take it a little slower and sleep in, getting to Boston around noon. The best part of the day was getting to see an old high school friend run the marathon! We thoroughly enjoyed catching up with Brad and Mindy who both attended the same high school as me - such a sweet couple and fun treat for us! And Brad's time was pretty incredible - right at about 3 hours!
I've been meaning to post this one for a couple of weeks. My very talented and beautiful sister appeared on her local Fox morning news show and had the opportunity to play and sing a song she wrote called "Music From Another Room." Two other women from her guitar class joined her for the segment, and then the anchor interviewed the directors of the music school she and my nephew attend. They were able to publicize their upcoming show. The segment doesn't seem to be archived on the Fox site, but you can listen to her song right here!
And here's my super cool, talented, and sweet nephew, Jonah performing at the music show later that week. Jonah and Cooper are only one week apart - both turning 12 in the next week. They are definitely two of a kind! Had to up my cell phone package for " texting" so these cousin buddies could keep in better touch! :)
We also attended a marriage conference at our church over the weekend. Ryan and Christie, our new staff couple did a GREAT job leading it. Robert and I led one session together as well. Robert and I have learned even more about each other through the temperament tests we took, and are equipped with new understanding and ideas about how to better love and serve one another. Thanks Ryan and Christie!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

D.C. : Blossoms, Bikes, and a Budget

Last week we tool a 2 night/3 day trip to Washington, D.C. I have been wanting to make this springtime pilgrimage to see the cherry blossom trees in bloom ever since I first heard of them. We decided to put it on the calendar for this spring as something to look forward to. As the dates approached, we decided that it wouldn't work financially and made the decision not to go. Then Robert surprised me with an email that said "pack your bags!" He had found a promotional deal from a nearby hotel that would make it possible for us to go after all.
The Cherry Blossom Festival had been the weekend prior to our arrival, and we probably missed "peak season" by a couple of days, but the trees were still beautiful. (They were a gift from Japan, and have an interesting history.) Even the blossoms on the ground made things so pretty.
Most of the trees are planted around the Tidal Basin that sits in front of the Jefferson Memorial. We parked (for free) near the memorial and then biked around the basin and the whole "mall" area of downtown D.C.
It sort of turned in to a World War II history trip which was great since we've just been studying Europe in geography and some aspects of the war there. ( Last time we went to D.C. we focused on Civil War history....Lincoln Memorial, and Ford's Theater.) The WWII Memorial is very beautiful and located right between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. It has a ring of fountains in the center. Kory is a quite a WWII buff, so he really enjoyed seeing this. And having 2 great-grandfathers who fought in the war, makes it even more interesting. (We also went to the Holocaust Museum, the Iwo Jima Memorial, and the "America at War" exhibit at the American History Museum.)

About a week before we left, I thought it might be a good idea to take our bikes - or take the ones we could fit and rent the rest. Well, somehow we were able to fit 2 bikes in the van and three on the rack on the back and not have to rent any! This is probably the thing that made the trip so enjoyable. We were able to see so much in a short amount of time, and there were no "my feet hurt" complaints! One day we biked from the Jefferson Memorial to the Washington Monument (where we met a former church member for lunch!) - to the American History Museum (2 hours in there!), to the Capitol and Union Station. After having s treat at Starbucks there, we biked behind the Capitol to see the Supreme Court Building, Library of Congress, and then returned on the opposite side of the mall back to the Jefferson Memorial where we parked.
Our hotel was brand new, had an indoor heated pool, nice work-out room, ultra contemporary furnishings, lighting, and colors, flat screen TV's everywhere and was only $60 a night. I think I packed 7 meals so that we would only have to eat out twice.....sandwiches, cheese, crackers, pepperonis, hard-boiled eggs, rice cakes, peanut butter, hummus, black bean dip, salsa, tortilla chips, energy bars, apples, oranges, yogurt, cookies, and brownies! A bit of prep involved, but well worth it!
And when we finally did eat out...we went ALL out, but even this was in the budget since we happened to have saved a gift card to the Cheesecake Factory that my dad gave us at Christmastime. (The bill for this one meal exceeded the price of one night in our hotel by a substantial amount!) Their Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake , as God's blessing would have it, is gluten free, and they are very helpful in accommodating your diet with their menu!

An all-around wonderful trip, for which we are very thankful! And the farther south we drove, the more spring-like the weather and scenery became....did the heart good! :)

Easter

We had great Easter weekend beginning on Friday with Cross Walk - which is what you see a photo of below - and a Good Friday evening service. Saturday was full of egg dyeing and baseball practice. The kids still love to dye eggs, and they would have done many more than the 40 I boiled. If you look closely, you will notice that, not only is Cooper wearing a University of Oklahoma cap, but he also made an egg with the OU logo on it. We are ashamed at our dismal parenting skills when it comes to football team/school loyalty. His reasoning is that he was born in Oklahoma. Well, this is true, but he was born in STILLWATER, OK. At least the kid could be a Cowboy fan. And just so you know...this sort of individualism spills over into some other areas of our middle-child's life. :)
Easter Sunday was bright and sunny, but cold and windy - at least there was no snow or rain! We had a wonderful time of worship, lunch at church, and friends over for the afternoon. Kayla enjoyed having the McCullah girls over to hide and hunt eggs with, and then more friends arrived for dinner. Fun day of sunshine, fellowship, and remembering the amazing gift of resurrection that is possible in our daily lives because of Christ.
(The pastor's sermon was amazing, as usual!)

Friday, April 10, 2009

From Foreshadow to Fulfillment

Many years ago (about 14 to be exact)I read a book called No Ordinary Home:The Uncommon Art of Christ-Centered Homemaking by Carol Brazo. I had actually borrowed it from my friend Sherri, and loved it so much that she tried to order me a copy, only to find it was out of print. Being the thoughtful (and passionately determined) friend that she is, she decided to just give the author a call and see if she knew where we could get one more copy! How hard could it be? She knew the author's name, her husband's name was also mentioned in the book as well as the town and state where they lived. So, hey...why not just call information and get her number? Isn't this what anyone would do? I don't think so.....but, Sherri made the call, Carol answered the phone, and Sherri explained our dire situation. Carol said that she just happened to have a couple of hundred books left in her attic and would love to send us one! And THAT is how I received my very own copy or this wonderfully creative and refreshing book on parenting/homemaking! (And then I loaned it out a few years back, and have not gotten it back. I wonder if Carol has any more hiding in her attic?)

Even though I haven't seen it in a few years, it continues to inspire me. One of the ideas I gleaned from it was an Easter tree on which different symbols for stories leading up to and through the Cross and the Resurrection were hung on the days leading up to Easter. In the book Carol describes the hunt she had to go on to find small items to represent Old and New Testament stories. I thought this was a great idea and set off on my own hunt. Being very literal and linear in personality though, what resulted was not a tree, but rather a visual hanging timeline of events leading up to Jesus and His crucifixion and resurrection. We love reading a story every morning of the Lenten season and realizing the story of redemption that God was telling in a purposeful way beginning in Genesis and continuing throughout every book of the Bible! For example:

Creation & the Fall - after sin, first blood shed and coverings made
Noah's Ark - the ark was the only safety from impending death
Abraham & Isaac - first substitutionary death - a ram in the place of Isaac
Moses, Exodus, the Passover - freedom from slavery, protection under the bloody doorposts
Rahab & Jericho - Rahab's red cord in the window saved her entire family
Ruth - the kinsman redeemer, Boaz
Esther - the preservation of the Jews through her appeals to the King
Prophets - the talk of a suffering servant, a Prince of Peace, a Marriage of a faithful husband to an unfaithful wife

And these are only a few examples! We try to add a couple each year and are amazed all over again at the beauty and meaning of the story of salvation.

For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
Romans 15:4

But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging, we are healed.
Isaiah 53:5

Good Friday - Recipe for Forgiveness and Freedom

Oh the Wonderful Cross, Oh the Wonderful Cross
Bids me come and die and find that I may truly live
Oh the Wonderful Cross, Oh the Wonderful Cross
All who gather here by grace, draw near and bless your name
Chris Tomlin
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of Glory died
My richest gain I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast
Save in the death of Christ my, my God
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood

See from His head, His hands, His feet
Sorrow and blood flow mingled down
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet
Or thorns compose so rich a crown

Were the whole realm of nature mine
That were an offering far too small
Love so amazing, so divine
Demands my life, my soul, my all

Thank you, Father, for the gift of forgiveness and freedom you give at the cross. Thank you for the demonstration and proof your of love that it was and is. Thank you for Jesus who took all my sin upon Himself thereby making abundant and eternal life mine. Any sacrifice or offering on my part would never be enough to thank you. Give me a heart that daily grows in gratitude for this gift I take for granted so often.


Friday, April 3, 2009

Gluten Free Friday - Cherry Muffins

I checked out Mollie Katzen's Sunlight Cafe cookbook from our local library last week (I love her Moosewood Cookbook!) and found this wonderful recipe for cherry muffins that includes ricotta cheese. I decided to put a small post-it note on the pages with recipes I'd like to try and ended up with so many, that I concluded a necessity to buy the thing as soon as I can. If you've never seen or used her cookbooks, you're missing out on some wonderfully creative and healthy recipes! Here's my slightly altered and gluten free rendition...they turned out really great and stayed very moist for more than a day which is unusual for GF baked goods. I think the ricotta was the trick!

Cherry-Vanilla Ricotta Muffins

2 cups GF flour mix (rice, tapioca, potato)
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 Tbsp grated lemon zest
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup buttermilk (I used Kefir)
2 eggs
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp vanilla
6 Tbsp butter, melted
1 1/2 cups frozen or fresh cherries ( I chopped mine up frozen with a food processor.)

Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, soda, lemon zest, and sugar in medium bowl. In a separate bowl beat together ricotta, buttermilk, and eggs; then add vanilla and lemon juice. Pour ricotta mixture along with cherries into dry ingredients. (My kids don't love it when there are large fruit chunks in their muffins, so I chopped them into smaller bits with my food processor while they were frozen. They should also be added to the batter while frozen. Trader Joes carries a bag of frozen cherries. I could not find them at the "regular" grocery store.) Stir together, but don't overmix. Spoon batter into greased or lined muffin tins 2/3 full. Bake 20-25 minutes at 350*. Makes 10-12 muffins. Recipe doubles easily....we can't get away with making a mere dozen anymore! :)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Feathered Ladies Update

There has been some semblance of spring here, and the chickens have been so happy to get out of their snowy, muddy coop and out into the yard for some scratching, worm eating, and dirt/leaf baths. We have 8 chickens now (after the 2 tragic deaths) and are getting 6-8 eggs a day. I still have to buy eggs at the grocery store occasionally, so we decided to order 6 more chicks. They will arrive on May 11 and we can hardly wait!
This is the basket we use to collect the eggs each day and the assortment of colors of the eggs from the different types of chickens. The Aracaunas lay the greenish-blue eggs, and the one named "Zipper" lays the very bright blue eggs - they look like they've already been dyed for Easter! So beautiful..... so we ordered 3 more Aracaunas and 3 Rhode Island Reds.
And here's what they look like for breakfast!
I came across the cutest book this week at Barnes and Noble called Tillie Lays an Egg. I was so tempted to buy it, but resisted, and then found that our library has it! (I didn't think they would since it is a new book.) It's features some very adorable hens who all have wonderful names. "Tillie" doesn't like to wait her turn for a nesting box in which to lay her egg, so she lays them in very creative places all over the yard and house. It's fun to search each page for the new place she's laid her egg. The book also features MANY antique "chicken motif" home accessories which are also exciting to discover page by page. The author of the book lives here in Massachusetts and has a live feed of her hen house and yard via her website! You have to check it out here...www.hencam.com....chickens are highly entertaining!