Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Learning to Read

Elaine has been dying to learn to read. So, we got out our trusty old copy of Dick and Jane: Fun Wherever We Are and began.

"Go. Go, go, go. Go, Jane. Go help Sally. Help Sally find Puff."

Elaine loves it and loves to climb up in the rocking chair with me and practice her reading (also, she pronounces "Puff" to rhyme with "roof," which is way too cute for me to correct her).

Then the other day, I saw her race by with her pink doll stroller--Yo-Yo seated in it with his ears back and his tail lashing from side to side.

"Mom!" she shouted over her shoulder. "It's just like I read in Dick & Jane! Animals DO love to ride in doll buggies!"

(Look how much he's enjoying it. Now whenever he hears the stroller rev up, he hightails it out of sight.)

Yesterday when I read the information in her school folder, the teacher said they were working on the words, "I am" this week and to please practice with them whenever we could. I immediately thought of Green Eggs and Ham, so last night we settled down to read that. I would read all the text, and Elaine would read whenever I pointed to the words "Sam-I-am."

"I will not eat them in a house," I read. "I will not eat them with a mouse. I will not eat them in a box. I will not eat them with a fox. I will not eat them on a train or in the rain..."

"He's rude," Elaine interrupted in an unconscious parody of me. "All he needs to say politely is, 'No, thank you. I don't care for any. Besides, I bet there are a lot of people who really do like green eggs and ham."

So in addition to newfound reading skills, she also appears to be putting critical thinking skills into practice.

Happy New Reader:

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

First Day of School 2011 Edition

It's my annual back-to-school post. Lucy's first day of 3rd grade was yesterday. Her room theme is Route 66.

As always, we have muffins for breakfast on the first day of school, thanks to Betsy-Tacy. These are Kababayn muffins, recipe courtesy Tia Rome. Very good, or as my brother says, "Donuts in muffin form."
Miss Big Time Third Grader:
Today is Elaine's first day of kindergarten:
The annual backpack shots (Lucy's too cool to have a character backpack this year):
But kindergartners still love Hello Kitty:
New shoes, of course:
My first day of school today too--English 103, "Reading Literature and Writing Argument." Not quite as much fun as Grades 3 and K...
Dad and girls:
Elaine meets her kindgerten teacher at the door of the Rainforest Room (her coat hook has a picture of a monkey on it. She was only slightly disappointed that it wasn't a cat.)
The teacher read The Kissing Hand to everyone. After that, we said goodbye:

My baby goes to kindergarten:
Flashback 1974 (check out my rockin' threads as I stand in front of the radiator cover):

As is often the case, the flavor of the day is Bittersweet.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What's on my Fridge

On my last post, my friend Sandy asked if I would post about what's hanging on my fridge. First off, I have to tell about Sandy. She's my friend who I met when I was thirteen and she was sixteen. I was a super-dork, and I thought she was so cool. We met at summer camp in Michigan, where I went every year from age 10 to 16 or 17. Anyway, we lost touch as people do, especially when one's from Illinois and one's from Ohio and your big connection was Miracle Camp (yup, that was its name). But...we found each other on facebook bazillions of years later in our 40s, so another yay for the Internet!

Here's what's weird about her request--this summer I actually wrote a mini-autobiography of myself as part of my class assignment, and it was all about what's on my fridge: how when I first got married it was completely clear, then I put on magnets from various places we travelled, then how I slowly added the photos that are there, then artwork from my eventual children, etc.

Right now there's no artwork on it because school hasn't started yet, but I took pictures of what else is there. This is for you, Sandy!

General overview:
In 2005, I heard the best missions sermon I've ever heard--and I've heard a lot--by a man named Paul Borthwick, entitled "Will You Give Jesus Your Lunch?" It was about how Christ fed the 5,000 with the little kid's lunch and how we think we have nothing to offer to the vast needs in the world when really it doesn't matter that we have next to nothing, what matters is that we place it in Jesus' hands and He does great things with it. So, in His hands you can place: 1) your past experiences, 2) your pain, and 3) your prayers. I had just heard that sermon when I read an article in the paper about AIDS orphans in South Africa and one girl in particular. For about 2 years, I did everything I could to provide her with some help. Unfortunately, it is really difficult to get aid to South Africa; however, I still pray for her regularly (she's on the right).

This is Miss Mango. Her story is here.

Here are our four Compassion daughters--from Ecuador, Bolivia, India, and the Philippines. Can I say too how Compassion International has revolutionized my prayer life? They sent me bookmarks with the girls' pictures that I keep in my Bible. On the back of the bookmarks are 31 things to pray for--one for each day of the month--things such as, "that she will always tell the truth," "that she will find joy in Jesus," "that she will hide God's Word in her heart" etc. Now, in addition to praying each request per day per girl, I pray the same thing for Darren, for Lucy and Elaine, and then for whomever else I'm praying for that day--friends, neighbors, colleagues, my pastor. Today I prayed for each "that they would make wise decisions."

I love these four girls so much. I race to the mailbox each day to see if there's a letter from one of them. Mary from India refers to herself as "your loving child." Dayana from Bolivia told me in her last letter how it is winter there and she has to wear warm clothes. Little Gleramil from the Philippines said, "I hope you will include me in your prayers that I will learn a lot about Jesus." And my dear Lizbet, 17, from Ecuador writes me the most and tells me how sad she is that her sister died but she is happy that she's in heaven, she wants to know if I'll have another baby, she sends me "kisses from the distance," and sends me "love from your best friend."

And lastly, we have our As Our Own girls. Within the last couple of weeks, two sisters--ages 12 & 13--and a 14-year-old were rescued.

I also have this magnet on my fridge, which is a great reminder to me as I pray for all these dear girls. Despite their dire conditions, they have hope and a bright future because nothing is impossible with God.

Here is a song I sing all the time to my little girls (and cry), but I also think of my adopted girls around the world whenever I hear it, too:

So, there you go--that's what's on my fridge!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

What We've Done With Our Summer

I had a whole post written in my head, a farewell to blogging and a thank you to all for reading (it sounded suspiciously similar to the acknowledgment page I have written for my unwritten, unpublished book). I was just so tired and flat and didn't have anything to say any more. I took all of July off from pretty much everything except being with family, going on vacation, reading mysteries, playing with my kids. I had lofty plans to watch all 15 hours of Bleak House, but instead I rerererererewatched all four seasons of thirtysomething.

Then I woke up and thought I might like to blog a little bit more. So I freshened up the look and changed the picture and the quote, and here I am.

One of the things we did a fair bit of this summer was cooking. Remember the garden we were going to try, thanks to Jamie Oliver, in spring? Well, it actually grew! A first for me. We were so completely chuffed with ourselves and sat around saying, "We.grow.our.own.food."

The first thing Elaine wanted to make was dessert. Here she is (and I can see how this is at the beginning of summer because her hair is a lot longer now) with her white chocolate-strawberry pie. Strawberries were the one item we planted that didn't grow, so these we bought at the store.

Here is Lucy with a lemon icebox pie. This is my mother-in-law's classic recipe.

One of our crops that came in wonderfully was leaf lettuce. This picture also shows how early this was in summer because if you look at our garden now, it's been overtaken by an attack of the killer tomatoes and the Rocky Horror Picture Show cucumbers.

Elaine made Asian lettuce wraps--that was a summer favorite. We made our own peanut sauce to go with them.

Lucy learned to make the classic spaghetti and meatballs and salad dinner--she used our homegrown basil in the spaghetti sauce.

We've also eaten a lot of cucumber sandwiches. I think I may plant fewer cucumbers next year.

We went on our annual beach vacation to Door County in July. We escaped the 100+ degree temperatures at home to this...

As usual, I did nothing, absolutely nothing, and it was everything I thought it would be.

Darren and Elaine, looking for fish...

Here's another growth project--I bought a big plastic shaker of zinnia seeds, fertilizer, and weed killer mixed together and sprinkled it all over a former weed patch at the side of house. I figured it couldn't get any worse, so why not give it a whirl. Darren faithfully watered it, and...ta da!

We've also done a lot of swimming and reading. We've gone to the pool twice a week and the splash park and the library and Magic Waters. In fact, the girls joined the summer reading program at the library and when they achieved their goal, they each got a free pass to Magic Waters, which is great because I refuse to pay the exorbitant ticket prices and fight all those crowds of people. The park was closed for one warm Friday evening for a party of all library people. "So, it's Nerd Night?" Darren asked. Whatever. We prefer to be known as "patrons." And we had a blast.

We also did some redecorating at our house, and maybe sometime I'll post before and after pictures.

The girls did loads of fighting, too, until finally Darren and I got completely fed up and we had a family war council. I declared to them, "Behold, your sister--and the summer you learned to love her." For awhile, the three of us would meet in their room every morning for "Sister Time." They each had to say one thing they really like about their sister--whether it was something nice she had done or something about her character. Then they could say one thing they wanted their sister to work on that day (e.g., "Stop brushing my doll's hair without asking.") Then they had (the privilege!) to pray for each other. I won't say it made everything awesome, but it did improve.

They were also serial VBS attenders and played a lot with their friends.

Oh, and this is what Yo-Yo and Tuppence did this summer.

I hope yours has been equally as productive and fun!