Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Personalized Honey Labels

Today and tomorrow we are selling honey at the Wheaton College Art Fair.

Weds. Feb. 27: 5-8pm in Coray Gym
Thurs. Feb. 28: 2-8pm in Phelps Room

We have less than 150 pounds to sell. When it is gone, we will have no more to sell until August or September 2008.

We can personalize the labels according to your needs. We have made labels for weddings, school events, bridal and baby showers.

Our honey is natural and tastes great!

You can also buy honey by contacting us via email. See this blog for more info.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Quite a Special Bunch!

This little Maddie has no idea what will be in store for her growing up with four brothers. I already heard them teasingly calling her Bobby. She has an experienced, big sister, Ellie, as an lifetime ally. And her brothers think that she is mighty fine as well. I just couldn't resist posting these sweet pictures. All that this family needs yet is one little puppy dog. I even have a suggestion for a name. How about Payton?

(I cannot take credit for the pictures of Ellie and Joey and Maddie. Aunt Amy is the photographer. I caught Sammy being sweet.) More on the Bolt Bunch here.

Not All in the Name

We had a reunion meeting this week.

No—It isn’t Rehab
No—it is not Senior Care Center

We are the CC’s.

We needed an accurate name that would convey a positive image and a happy feeling. When we landed on this name more than a few years ago, we were pledged to keep the acronym a secret. The reason for the confidentiality was that we did not want to deal with any mockery from our husbands. I think the statue of limitations has officially passed and we are old enough that it doesn’t matter anymore. Even so, we are not yet at the “say it loud, say it proud” stage--at least not without smiling. Here are some combinations, one could be correct.

Crafty and Chatty
Coffee Cache
Community Chicks
Cheery Chocolateurs
Chic and Cool

We tried marshmallow wars. We might be ready for Wii games next time—except none of us own a Wii.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Just between her and God. . .

Tonight Jessica was asked to say the blessing before we ate our pizza.

It was a wonderful prayer—sweet and sincere and competing in length to one of my Dad’s prayers when I was a child. And at the end of it there were many hearty Amens.

One part particularly caught my attention.

"And Lord, I KNOW (with great emphasis) all of us at this table have sinned at least once today . . ."

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

World’s Apart!

The temperature this morning is a frigid 10 degrees with another dusting of snow—just enough to shovel. We have had quite a winter with record snows. And it has been kind of fun—until today. That is because the past five days, I have tasted spring weather. We have been visiting kids in North Carolina. The days were sunny and beautiful with temperatures of 65-75 degrees. The weather reinforces my thoughts that we live very far away -- in a different world!I am planning my day.
Jacob is just going down for his morning nap.

I just stood in my closet and am bored with all of my clothes.
Ryan is excited about underwear—Thomas or Cars or Bob the Builder—so many choices!

A few days ago, in their world, I was applauding Ryan’s successes, “Wow, that is great! Let me see that cool underwear.” At which time, Ryan proudly stripped them off so we could both get a better look.

Amy hurries to brush her teeth and use the bathroom while Jacob is in the Johnny Jumper. Here, I am relaxing and watching the Today Show.

In my living room, the lines are still in the carpet where Krystyna vacuumed last week. Andy or Amy have already cleaned the floor under the table a few times today and wiped up little faces and hands and the bathroom floor again.

In my world today, I am still under the influence of their world. I am reminded at breakfast, driving to Bible study, on the internet and numerous times during the day. Commercials remind me. Even the dishwasher this morning sounded like a baby monitor.

Ryan and I were absorbed in Thomas the Train. Because of my visit, I know all of the engines names and pretty much about their personalities. More than I ever expected to know. Andy, his daddy, is despairing (just kidding) that Ryan will not become a ball player. Thus far Ryan is more interested in becoming an engineer or a construction worker. He does like to go out for a pass every now and then with daddy but Thomas and Percy and Alfie win out most of the time. Ryan does remind me of his daddy—like in this little conversation that I had with Ryan.

Ryan: “Let’s play James and Edward!”

Me: “Great! Which train should I use?”

Ryan: “But the truth is that actually I don’t have James.”

One day, Ryan could not find Diesel 10 and Diesel. They are the villains in Thomas stories. We looked and looked for them. But the truth is. . .they were in Time Out—being disciplined by Ryan.

Some of Ryan's favorite engines.

Yesterday driving, we were definitely under their influence. Somewhere in Virginia, two black semi trucks were driving aggressively and Bob mentioned it as they were passing us. Guess what we thought? Diesel 10’s, of course! Actually, I thought of engine names several times comparing them to big semis—beautiful blue in a rain shower—like Henry who did not want to get wet. A cute green pick-up truck reminded me of the little Percy engine.

Another time passing a construction area, there was a lot of noise as a machine was breaking up concrete. I said, “Ryan would love this.” Bob responded, “That’s a real Thumper.” Thumper is the Thomas vehicle that breaks ups rocks in the rock quarry. It is one of Grandpa and Ryan’s favorites.

“But the truth is. . .” Ryan and Jacob got into our hearts and mind. Today, I want to be back in their world!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Comfy, Cozy and Happy Snow Days

Tuesday evening, a group of widows were coming to our home for dinner. I had my meal made (comfort food) and the table set and it was snowing again. One by one, I started getting calls asking if we were cancelling. After listening to the weather report and hearing about more snow in Rockford coming our way, we did cancel.

It was somewhat of a reverse of all dressed up and nowhere to go. It was more like the banquet was ready and no guests to come. My dear neighbors accommodated and we had a good, comfy, snowbound, cozy, happy evening with Monica and her three kids and Jim and Cindy. Abundant blessings!

I didn't even think of taking pictures so here are a few other snow day pictures.

These neighbors are clearly dreaming of spring!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Lesson that Stuck

In Bible study this morning, Beth [teacher/leader/author/speaker and also a blogger] via the video asked, “Have you ever had a lesson from God that stuck?” She explained that it was something that we might have learned maybe a year ago, 10 years ago, even 20 years ago that stuck. Beth’s lesson was, “Grace is given according to need.”

As she explained how God taught her that lesson, it was hard to keep my mind from wandering a bit because, yes, I knew what she was talking about. First of all, her lesson is also a lesson that God taught me. I remember when, where, and various times that I have been reminded of that same lesson.

Briefly my mind wandered to another lesson that stuck. I thought of a lesson that God taught me a long time ago and it blessed my heart again today.

Dale had died in May and that December, the boys and I went to Florida at Christmastime. It seemed good to do something different. Several of my extended family were also there in Florida. We had a good vacation enjoying the sun and warmth as well as a day at Disneyworld. Several times I told others that I wanted copies of their pictures because I had forgotten a camera. On the way home from Florida, we stopped briefly in Indiana and one of the relatives went to a one hour camera store and got two sets of pictures so that I could take a set home. I glanced through the pictures quickly and was disappointed. I had 48 vacation pictures and the boys and I were only in three of the pictures. We left shortly after that for the four hour trip home. The boys soon fell asleep and I complained to God. I told him that the job he had given me to do was too heavy. It was too hard. I had just been with relatives and even there we were not the focus of anyone’s camera. I and I alone cared and loved my boys. (Yes, of course, I know that is not true. I was just having one of my self-pity moments.) I complained to God for awhile in that manner. Finally I was silent and it was quiet in the car. Then as distinctly as if God had spoken audibly, I heard Him say, “Brenda, I love your sons more than you do.” Whew! What a relief I felt! That quiet steady assuring voice totally lightened my load. I was awed. God had heard me and given me comfort. I savored those words and repeated them over and over in my head. I turned on the radio listened to Christian praise songs the rest of the way home and arrived rejoicing!

Several other times after that and for various reasons I became frightened for the boys. Each time, God comforted my heart as I remembered and reminded God, “I love them so very much and yet I know that You love them more than I do.”

I have been worrying about my sons again this week. Both of them have a similar need. The boys are adults with families of their own but they are still my boys. So when Beth asked the question this morning, I praised God for reminding me once again, “I love your sons more than you love them.” Thank you, Father! I will trust You.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

The whole book, not just a chapter --"Snowblowing 101"

“No job is too small or too big for a snow blower. From the humblest light powdering to the heaviest blizzards, there’s a machine designed to clear the way.” I read that on a snowblower advertisement. And have we got a machine-not just a snowblower, nope. It is a John Deere 924DE Snow Thrower!
My experiences with snowblowing are fairly vast.

We have had record snows this year. People are saying things like: “This is like the winters we used to have when I was a kid.” To me, that says lots because usually nothing compares to “when I was a kid.”

Bob travels every week—usually just barely getting out before the snow storm arrives and returning just after the driveways have all been cleared.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I actually like to snowblow our driveway. It is one of those things that gives you a sense of accomplishment. You can see where you have gone. Bob used to ask me to fertilize the grass with our 12 inch wide (Bob says 18 inches) push grass spreader. Now I really did not like doing that! I told him that if the grass got greener, right behind me, I really wouldn’t mind. It is when you can’t see where you’ve gone that it is discouraging. Not only can I see where I have gone but our snow thrower makes a 25” path—I know. I have measured it.

Following the snowblower around reminds me that I am not a wimp that calls “Jerry and Co. Snow Removal”. Those are a couple of boys in our neighborhood that we use when we are going to be out of town. They are available other times but I like knowing that I can do it myself. (Oooh, I don’t like how two year oldish that looks on the screen.)

Another thing is that I get really warm doing it. But I don’t really sweat like when I try to exercise. It is a cold kind of warm. Still there is this sense that, “This is really good for me and I can probably eat a tiny more today.”

Our machine is an excellent piece of equipment. It sort of makes you smile just following it around and watching how far and high the snow goes. It has five gears forward and two reverse. Usually it even plows right through the end of the drive where the city plow leaves huge mounds.

This snowblowing experience did not come naturally to me. For the first couple of years, I would come in looking like the abominable snowman and wonder why my neighbor Jim was smiling at me rather knowingly after my admirable job of clearing the driveway. That was before I learned about not blowing the snow into the wind.

Then I used to think that if I used it in the 5th gear forward, it would blow the snow farther and I would do a better job. I did that a few times with the snowblower whipping me around corners. I noticed that drew a crowd of smiling neighbors as well so now an enlightened me does the driveway in 3rd gear. I notice also when I go a bit slower, my hands are not all tingly after I finish.

One time the snow was quite deep and I ran right over a newspaper near the end of the driveway. It took Bob days, not hours, to remove that newspaper in very small pieces. Now I carefully look for dimples in the snow that could be newspapers. I have even been known to go kick around a bit in the snow just to make sure we are all clear.

I really am quite proud of my expertise. Just recently I couldn’t help wanting to give my hubby a bit of advice telling him that I start by going down the center of the driveway and then just do circles around to the left so that I don’t ever have to crank the way the snow blows. He didn’t even respond.

Even that pattern that I have worked out had its own pitfalls early on because I used to always accidently blow snow into the garage. There is a real knack to knowing when to release the lever in the one hand to stop the snow blowing/throwing and when to use the lever to start again.

This year I have been more effective at getting the snowblower started. Hubby pointed out the electric start and I wrote directions and laminated them and hung them in the garage. I have had no shoulder problems since then.

The snowblower is kept on this little board inside the garage door and I am getting better at remembering to release that lever when getting it up so I don’t entirely chew up the board.

Also, hubby Bob, pointed out that there is a neutral position that makes it much easier to push 8 inches to the outlet for the electric start. For a long time, that was the hardest part for me because it is heavy and I was muscling it while in gear.

I thought I really had the whole process mastered and I love getting new snow to freshen everything up again and did I mention that this is a year of record snows. However, this week I learned another valuable lesson.

The snow was really really wet. It was so wet that the John Deere 924DE Snow Thrower choked a few times at the end of the driveway but recovered when I got out in the street and then choked again as I headed back to the garage. This had never ever happened to me before. I discovered that underneath that snow was a veritable lake—due to the drain at the end of the street being completely clogged and the water having no place to go. Rather than throwing out this nice proud spray of snow, it sort of dripped out over the edge and then on one of the last trips, nothing at all came out. Hmm. . . thinking that unusual, I stopped and looked. We used to read a book to the kids called, Katy and the Big Snow. I knew then that our JDST was no Katy.

Needless to say, the snow was totally packed tight in the funnel where it usually came out. So I muscled JDST to its resting place in the garage. I went in and had something to eat which always makes me think better. I really did not want to call Bob and tell him that I broke the snowblower. I knew now, and had great empathy for people that put fingers and hands in snowblowers to unclog them. It is so very tempting but I was wise enough to resist the urge. Reaching up to my wet hair was inspiring and I ran and got my hair dryer. I held it for many minutes making slow progress on melting the frozen lump. It finally loosened enough that I could take a stick and lift out a big hunk of frozen icey snow. I could see though that more work needed to be done. As I was getting tired of holding the hair dryer, I remembered that I have a heating pad. It is not used frequently but I keep it tucked away in case of a sore muscle or cold feet. I knew that would take awhile so I plugged it in and lay it on top of the JDST and went and almost forgot while I watched a movie. After the movie, I went and checked and to my delight, the big chunks were loose. I started the machine and sure enough it blew the remaining snow right out of the funnel. I was quite relieved and happy.

The next morning, I tried again—avoiding our lake and quite adequately cleared our walks and a light dusting of snow on the driveway. I even entertained the idea of driving a zamboni sometime.

Bob returned soon afterwards and later that day said with a question in his voice, “Brenda, the heating pad is plugged in and hot on the side of the garage?”

Woops! Sometimes in my excitement, I forget important details. After explaining the whole story to Bob, he smiled and generously said, “Thanks, Babe, for doing the driveway.”

And that, friends, is another reason why I love him.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Head Over Heels In Love

This week K-Love was having a Valentine Contest. The winning love story will have a song written and recorded by Mark Schultz and debuted on K-LOVE. Nope, I was not tempted to enter. However, it was fun to think about some of our personal favorites. Here is one. . .

When Bob and I were dating, Bob invited me to go on a ServiceMaster trip to Florida. It was all fine and good. I roomed with one of Bob’s assistants. During that time I started doubting whether I should marry Bob. We did several group events outside and one on the beach. Everyone was in shorts and flip flops except my sweet man. Bob wore long dress pants and dress shoes. When I asked Bob about it, he admitted that he did not own any shorts and had never ever worn shorts. Hmmm. That seemed really odd to me. I stewed about that in my mind. I decided that Bob was just too old for me to marry. I did not know any other man—even my father that did not wear shorts in the summer. I simply could not marry someone that did not wear shorts. Bob needed to stay in Florida for work. The fun times were over. As Bob was taking me to the airport to return to Chicago, I told him.

“Bob, I have decided that we cannot see each other anymore.”

“Why is that?”

“Because, I have decided that I cannot marry you.”

“It is my age, isn’t it?”


“I cannot do anything about my age. I do want to marry you but only if you are doing cartwheels for me—absolutely sure. I won’t call you but if you change your mind, call me.”

Not too much time passed and I started stewing things over again. I wondered how I could give Bob up. I did love him. Yes, he was older but I enjoyed him and he loved me. I finally decided that wearing shorts was not a requirement for marriage. I was in love. So I called Bob.

I primped and practiced and when Bob came I was ready. He came to the front door. I invited him in and then yes, I did a cartwheel—not a very good one, mind you—but a cartwheel none the less. The last one that I have ever attempted. Bob recognized what I was doing--bless him. He had spoken figuratively but he understood. It was a very happy time.

A postscript to the story is that I bought Bob some shorts and sandals and he adapted quickly. His children were amazed! They had encouraged him for years to wear shorts! Wow! What a man won’t do for love! And now, in fact he likes them—yep, he wears them all the time in the summer and he likes them a lot.

Me, too!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Grass Head Guys Report

We invited a friend to a baseball game. This friend has a great appreciation for music but not for baseball. He is a good friend so he could tell us how he really felt. He said, “I’d rather watch grass grow than watch a baseball game.”

All right then. We understood, except . . . I like watching grass grow and I am looking forward to a spring training baseball game next month, too.

Bee and Bart at two weeks.
Here at one week. Here at birth.

More Grass Heads at 18 days

Another indicator of my exciting life today—
I am fascinated by the snow on our back deck.

Monday, February 4, 2008

And I've never been to Boston in the fall

Now this is Good Stuff! We saw The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything. It was at the Naperville Ogden Theater where the tickets are $3.00 and there are free refills on all popcorn and drinks. I think our large popcorn got refilled three times! How good can it get and there is more! Grandpa decided to go with us. It was a new cultural experience for him. We laughed out loud at the cheese curls chasing Sedgewick on the Island of the Walking Rocks. Some thought the Rock Monster song after the credits was the best. Grandpa’s highlight was hearing Steven giggle! What fun! And. . .there was a good message for old and young. We are inadequate heroes—we are bumbling losers with no experience and skills. If God calls us, He equips us. 1 Corinthians 1: 26-31 from The Message says it well.

Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don't see many of "the brightest and the best" among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn't it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these "nobodies" to expose the hollow pretensions of the "somebodies"? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That's why we have the saying, "If you're going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God."

After those great Bible verses, I should probably quit but I have to include a couple of verses from the theme song. They will make you smile.

I've never plucked a rooster
and I am not too good at ping-pong
and I've never thrown my mashed potatoes up against the wall
and I've never kissed a chipmunk,and I've never gotten head lice
and I have never been to Boston in the fall

we don't know what he did
but we're down with Captain Kidd
we don't wake up before lunch
but we all eat Captain Crunch
we don't smoke, we don't chew
we watch Captain Kangaroo

and I've never licked a spark-plug
and I've never sniffed a stink bug
and I've never painted Daisies on a big red rubber ball
and I've never bathed in yogurt
and I don't look good in leggings
and I've never been to Boston in the fall

we are the pirates who don't do anything
we just stay at home, and lie around
and if you ask us, to do anything
we'll just tell you, we don't do anything

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Captured by Snow and Trees

I was not the only neighbor out with a camera yesterday morning. Unfortunately, the cardinals were too shy for me to catch but look how those red bows contrasted with the snow. Just imagine it! And later the sun came out! Pure glory!

You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands. Isaiah 55:12

Oh dear, I cannot resist putting in this poem. I am becoming my mother.

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
-- Joyce Kilmer

Here is a blog about trees called Arboreality.

Beyond “Once Upon a Time. . .”

So here is the situation as I understand it. You can sign up with Christian Fiction Blog Alliance to do book reviews or just post information about new Christian books on your blog. You actually get sent books at no cost, I believe. I think they are sent via snail mail so you actually have a book that you can carry around for car trips or waiting times. I would not want to only have the books on the computer and have to read them in that position. A cozy chair by the fireplace with a real book is more to my liking.

From their website, here are the requirements for reviewers:

  1. An established blog with an active readership.
    It does not say how many readers you have to have so I think the five of you will count.
  2. A love for books
    That is a real weakness for me and since I decided not to teach this semester, this seems like a good time to try reading more.
  3. The desire to promote Christian fiction
    I am not sure if I have a desire to promote Christian fiction. If I love a good book though, I like to pass it on to others.

These next two statements were encouraging to me.

  • You don't need to read every book.
  • You can post just links to the book without writing a review.

So I am inclined to do this or at least try it. What do you think? Are you interested or already doing this? Are there some things that I ought to consider before signing up?

I am reviewing the situation.