Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Zoo and Fenway Park

More from our Massachusetts trip:

Day 6: This morning Gram, Adriana, Jason, Amanda, and I went to the zoo. Southwick's Zoo is the largest zoo in New England, and is only 2 miles from my parents' house. My sister, brothers, and I used to ride our bikes there in the summer when we were little kids - back in the days when kids could do such things as ride their bikes 2 miles from home through the back country roads of a small town...
Anyway..... this is a wonderful place to walk around and enjoy all kinds of wild animals up close! The animal enclosures are roomy but not enormous, and it is very easy to see the animals even when they aren't being terribly active! One of the kids' favorite parts is the Deer Forest, which is a fenced in area of woods crisscrossed with walking paths, and home to dozens of deer. Years ago, when the Deer Forest first opened, the deer were very skittish, and wouldn't let people get very close. But now the deer are quite tame, and came right up to us looking for corn. So the kids were able to hand-feed quite a number of them this morning ~ and had deer slobber all over their hands as a result. Yay for Purell!!

That evening Mark, Jason, Amanda and I took the T from Natick into Boston and went to a Red Sox game at Fenway Park! Mark's college roommate, Walt, is chaplain for the team, so he was able to get us tickets! That is apparently quite a feat, since Red Sox home games are sold out events. THANK YOU, WALT! Our seats were between 1st base and the right field foul pole, about 10 rows back from the field - GREAT seats! Jason was in heaven. Now the game could have been better. The Angels pitcher almost had a no-hitter, but the Sox finally scored in the top of the 9th inning, and ended up losing 7-2. We ate hot dogs and peanuts and lemonade - classic ballpark food which costs a small fortune. It was a lot of fun!!!

Day 7: We went to Walt's house for lunch and a swim in his pool. Walter is single - which I can't understand cuz he is a kind, handsome, wonderful Christian man - and has a house in N. Attleboro where he frequently entertains the athletes and families that he works with in his ministry. Right after college, Walt joined the staff of Athletes in Action, a branch of Campus Crusade for Christ, and started off in college ministry with student athletes at Syracuse University. After a few years, he moved to professional sports, and began ministries with the Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots teams. He conducts worship services for the teams, leads Bible studies, disciples individual athletes, offers personal and family counseling, conducts community outreach events with the Christian players, and I'm sure is involved in many other things that I'm not mentioning. He is involved with both the major league team and the farm teams. He doesn't travel to away games very often, but he was with the Red Sox at both their World Series wins in 2004 and 2007, and was given World Series rings along with the team!! That is so cool! He brought them out to show us, and let Amanda and Jason try them on and take pictures. Just to make their friends jealous!! He also traveled to the Super Bowl games with the Patriots. This year he has given over his duties with the Patriots to a former player, and is now beginning a ministry with the Boston Celtics basketball team! Pray for Walt and the athletes he ministers to and with. They have such influence on young people in our culture.

** I've been holding off on posting because I've been trying to get photos loaded on the computer. But I'm having some trouble with that, so I'm posting this and hopefully will be able to add the pictures later.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Massachusetts Holiday - Part II

Day 4 ( Sunday) : Today was a "lazy day". We were expecting my sister and her family to come for dinner in the middle of the day, so we just hung around. It was threatening rain most of the afternoon, but we took a chance and drove down the road to River Bend Farm , where there was supposed to be an Arts & Crafts Festival. Apparently the vendors had decided to pack up early and avoid getting rained upon, because all the arts & crafts were gone. But there was a band concert going on, with the Claflin Hills Symphony Summer Winds, so we listened to that for about 30 minutes. It was a small group of musicians, but they sounded fantastic!

Chris & David finally got here around 5:00, with a peace offering of pastries from the cafe - bavarian cream berry tart, chocolate-iced rum cake, peanut butter cup cheesecake, strawberry-glazed cheesecake, cinnamon-almond croissants.... oh yeah. The sky opened up and there was a good downpour, which we enjoyed from the screened-in porch as we played Yahtzee and some clap-snap-circle game that my niece learned at camp and wanted us all to play, but the adults were having coordination problems with.

Day 5: Amanda and I got up early and went to the cafe this morning to help bake! Chris and Dave are short-handed, and are doing all the baking themselves right now, and are having a hard time keeping the pastry cases full. David makes the quiches, stuffed croissants, and cheesecakes, and Chris does most of the desserts - muffins, cookies, lemon bars, 7-layer bars, cannoli, , cream puffs, lobster tails, eclairs, rum cake, fudge cake, carrot cake, etc. Amanda and I made carrot cake today - one for the pastry case and 3 for the freezer. We worked great together, dividing up the tasks - Amanda peeled and grated carrots while I put the raisins in orange juice to soak, and then mixed up the wet ingredients. Amanda then mixed the dry ingredients together while I got the pans greased and floured. We worked together to combine the wet and dry ingredients and pour the batter into the prepared pans. The first batch went in without a hitch, but as she was pouring the cake batter into the pans the second time, Amanda's head suddenly snapped up and she stared at me! "BAKING SODA!". Fortunately, from some recess of her subconscience, came the knowledge that she had forgotten to add baking soda to this batch. So the batter went back into the bowl to have baking soda added and I went to wash and regrease and flour the pans. They seemed fine when they came out of the oven. Whew! Wouldn't want the reputation of Victoria Station tarnished by the visiting chefs!


Sunday, July 27, 2008

Massachusetts Holiday

Well, we are on our annual summer visit to Grandma & Grandpa's house, and are having a grand ole time. The drive up here last Saturday was uneventful, except for a brief bout of possible food poisoning for a couple of hours after lunch... yeah, not too much fun. But I just curled up in my seat and slept and Mark kept driving, and we made great time, arriving in just under 14 hours!

Day 1 was pretty laid back ~ it was raining, and we just hung out at the house. That was okay with me, but the kids complained of being bored...

Day 2 : we drove to Putnam to see my sis and her husband at their cafe, Victoria Station Cafe. They moved into a much larger location just a few months ago, and this was my first chance to see it in person! Very stylish and comfortable and warm and elegant! I am not a coffee drinker, but my addicted hubby says the coffee is great, and the pastries are homemade on site and out of this world! If you are ever in the Quiet Corner of Connecticut, do stop by for a visit. Tell them that Beth sent you!
Later we went out to dinner with my mother-in-law, and afterwards socialized with the neighbors at Robin & Larry's weekly Friday-night Porch Party! What a great tradition! The neighbors from up and down the street have an open invitation every Friday night during the summer, and they come with plates of cookies or pizza or nacho chips or watermelon, and their drinks of choice. The kids played variations of kick ball, dodge ball, and tug of war on the front lawn while the adults chatted on the porch and deck. My only complaint was the mosquitos.

Day 3: We picked up my mother-in-law this morning and drove to Cape Cod to spend the day with Mark's sister and her family at their vacation house in Dennis. We decided to head to a beach with waves, so we drove waaaay down to Wellfleet, to Marconi Beach. What a gorgeous day! The weather was perfect - sunny, warm, and breezy! The water was COLD - just the way I like it! How else can you cool off and feel refreshed on a hot day? The beach was packed, but we staked out our square of beach with blankets, beach chairs, and towels, and slathered on the sunscreen. Jason grabbed a boogie board and jumped right into the waves. The other kids took a while to get in, and the rest of us just got our legs wet. It was one of the more exciting days we've ever spent at the beach, because a huge seal kept popping up in the water about 15 feet directly in front of where we were standing!!! Amazing! He'd just stick his head out of the water and look all around, and maybe float there for a minute... then dive back under water again. At one point, the lifeguard jumped down off his stand and ran along the water's edge, blowing his whistle and waving everyone out of the water. Now THAT will get your attention! Just then we saw a huge dark shadow moving through the water parallel to the beach - it was a school of fish. Apparently, the concern was that a school of fish like that is often followed by BIG fish trying to eat them ... big fish like sharks? So we stayed out of the water until the school passed by, and then a few minutes more... and then waited until we saw other people back in the water... and they didn't get eaten.... and then we ventured back in. A small plane was flying overhead, doing acrobatics... loop de loops and dives and things like that. And we didn't get sunburned! It was an awesome afternoon at the beach. After packing up and heading back to the cottage, we had a supper of grilled hot dogs and hamburgers, potato salad, corn on the cob, and watermelon. Then we kissed the cousins goodbye and drove back to Grammy & Grampa's house, tuckered out but happy.

Stay tuned for Day 4 and beyond...

Sorry.. no picture... camera troubles. :-(

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Birthday Girl!

Yesterday was Amanda's 15th birthday! Woo hoo! Time to go get that driver's permit!

It was a very pretty day, and my friend Kristi graciously allowed us and 4 other families to descend on her home for a pool party. The kids - all 22 of them ranging in age from 17 mos. up to 15 - had a blast swimming and jumping on the trampoline and playing ball in the yard. The moms had a great time gabbing and keeping an eagle eye on the crowd of little people. Everyone brought snacks - chips, nacho cheese, fresh cherries, cucumbers - Kristi made lemonade, and I brought mandarin orange cupcakes, cream puff cake, a tub of ice cream and cones. Oh, and a birthday balloon!

Cream Puff Cake
( actually more like a giant eclair - very delicious!)

1 cup water
1/2 cup butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 eggs

2 1-oz. squares semi- sweet chocolate, or 1/2 cup chocolate chips
2 T. butter
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2-3 T. hot water

1 8-oz pkg lite cream cheese
4 cups milk
3 pkgs instant vanilla pudding mix ( I used the sugar-free )

1 8oz container lite Cool Whip
chocolate syrup

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Set cream cheese out on counter to soften.
In a large heavy saucepan, heat butter and water to boiling over med.hi heat. Add flour and reduce heat to low. Cook and stir until it forms a ball and pulls away from the pan ( this happened almost immediately!) . Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Very lightly spray 9x13 baking pan with cooking spray. Spread dough in bottom and up the sides a bit. Dough will be sticky. Bake at 400 degrees for 35 minutes, until puffed and golden brown. Remove from oven and cool completely.

Melt chocolate and butter together in a med. saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat and mix in confectioners sugar and vanilla. Add hot water, 1 T. at a time, to thin to icing consistency. Should pour off a spoon but not be watery!

To make filling, in large bowl combine the softened cream cheese with the milk and beat until smooth. ( to avoid lumps, be sure cream cheese is at room temp and then add milk gradually, a little at a time ) Add pudding mix and beat until thickened.

Cover cooled cream puff shell with the chocolate icing. Then cover with the pudding mixture. Spread Cool Whip over the top, and drizzle with chocolate syrup. Refrigerate until serving time.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Disappointment and Hope

I haven't posted in over a week. I share with my friend Eve the problem of sitting down at the computer and not feeling that I have anything Positive to share. Disappointment has clouded my joy. And there has been plenty to be joyful about! Alex has been home since the 4th, having finished his BOLC III training (Army talk - Basic Officers Leadership Course) in Maryland, and leaving this weekend to drive to TX, where he'll be based at Fort Hood. It has been great having him home. Today is Amanda's 15th birthday! We are going to a friend's house this afternoon for a swim party with several families who are good friends. Volleyball practices have started, I've been getting school stuff organized for our mid-Aug. start up, we are healthy, the sun is shining...

But I feel like my heart has been wrangled, and although I trust that God has a perfect plan and works out all things for the good of those who love him ( Jeremiah 29:11; Romans 8:28), I am still sad. I have felt a tug, in the past year a very STRONG tug, on my heart to adopt a child or children who have no family and no mother and father to care for them. As my own family is shrinking due to those darn kids growing up and doing what we raised them to do - that is make their own lives in this world - I think that we have a lot to offer a child. We have a stable and loving family, a good home, a living faith. Mark and I are "mature", and are experienced parents! ( nice way of saying we are getting up there in middle age) James 1:22 exhorts believers to live out their faith in action, not just passively believe! And James 1:27 tells us to care for orphans and widows in their distress. I shared these things with my husband, but he hasn't shared my passion on this subject. And this isn't something I can do myself, you know? So I have been praying that either God would change his heart, or show me what he wants me to do with this desire! And I've really been resting there.

Then 2 weeks ago a friend called, out of the blue, and said that she knew of a 6-yr -old little girl who needed a home, and were we interested? Goose bumps popped up on my arms as she told me a little bit about the situation, and I told her I'd ask Mark about it. But I knew what he would say. "Are you kidding? We have our 3rd in college this year, and have just added that college payment to our stretched-thin budget. Work is stressful and I'm maxed out running this homeschool sports program as well as coaching basketball. We have 2 more kids to get through homeschool and college, and then I can RETIRE and we can move to that double-wide in Florida!" (gag!!! NOT!)

That's not what he said. He said, "Find out more. We'll consider this."

Have you ever experienced a miracle in your life?

Well, I think you could have blown me over with a feather. That was an answer to my prayer, right there. Whatever it was about this little girl, or the situation she was in, or the timing... it touched his heart. Lord, are you really going to bless us this way? Man, I shouldn't have sold my K-3 homeschooling books so fast! There were a couple of days of emails back and forth with this friend and a social worker, and we were on the list of families being considered. But then we found out late last week that another family had been chosen.

Right now, Mark has said that this was a one-shot deal. He isn't interested in pursuing adoption except for this one child, and now that isn't going to happen. So I am praying again. I don't believe this was a "coincidence", or that God takes pleasure in holding a carrot in front of our face and then snatching it away. There is a purpose for this event happening in our life right now. Perhaps it was to soften and break up the "hard ground", preparing us for something yet to come. I don't know.

( but Eve, I thought that Ryan was TOAST )

But you know, I still have, and always will have HOPE. And I have a Savior who loves me.


Monday, July 7, 2008

Our 4th of July Weekend

Alex is home for 2 weeks, arriving Thursday night after his graduation from Ordnance Training School at Aberdeen Proving Ground,MD. He finished 2nd in his class, just 8/10 of a point from the top spot! Now he is working at the ROTC office at NCSU for 2 weeks before he heads off to Fort Hood, TX. He went down to the YMCA yesterday, where he worked as a lifeguard for 5 years, and they gave him a temporary pass since he is military, so he can workout while he is here. That was concerning him, since he is now used to running and lifting weights every day!

We spent a quiet 4th of July. The five of us went swimming at the town pool ( J's request), came home for BBQ pork, corn on the cob, and pasta veggie salad, and then went to the Rolesville fireworks. Thunderstorms were moving into the area, and some other cities in the area had to postpone their shows, but Rolesville got them in just in time. As soon as the display was over and we were back in our car waiting in line to get out of the Food Lion parking lot, the thunderstorm hit, with pouring rain and very impressive lightning - better than the fireworks, I think!
The thunder must have been loud at home, because when we got home, we found our very large, very spooked shepherd-lab in the bathtub! I have no idea why.

Saturday was the last day of Runners Camp, with field event qualifying rounds in the morning, and the track meet in the evening. Jason qualified in his age group for the two events he chose - high jump and long jump. Each camper got to pick 3 running events to compete in as well, and he chose the short races - 100m, 200m, and 60m hurdles. Thunderstorms were again an issue, and the field events got cut short in the afternoon, but things cleared out for the running events later in the evening. The meet was held at the local high school track, so we were in the bleachers with our umbrellas going up and down. Jason did very well. He is a tad TOO competitive sometimes, and has to be talked through his disappointment at not getting 1st place all the time, but he usually comes around pretty quickly. He had a great time at Runners Camp, and wished it could continue all summer!

Sunday was church and then getting 3 kids off to camp again. Amanda was called to CIT this week, so she was excited to be going back to camp for the 3rd time this summer!

God Bless the U.S.A.


Thursday, July 3, 2008

Orphans in Africa

James 1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

There are orphans on every continent, but particularly hard hit is Africa, where famine, war, and disease have decimated an entire generation of parents, teachers, doctors, coaches, leaders... leaving millions of children alone, without adults to love and guide them. I'm just finishing the book "There Is No Me Without You", by Melissa Fay Greene - the story of Haregewoin Teferra, an Ethiopian housewife who couldn't turn her back, but responded to the desperate need around her by taking in children left behind by the AIDS/HIV epidemic, eventually starting an orphanage to care for both healthy and HIV+ orphans. This story will open your eyes and jolt you out of your comfortable easy chair as you become aware of the desperate situation that is the daily reality for millions of people - moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas, sisters & brothers, babies and toddlers - in Africa.

You can help support AHOPE for Children, an organization that provides orphan care and community support for HIV+ children in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia by purchasing a t-shirt from their site. Click the logo below.


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Runners Camp

This week J is attending Runners Camp ( a half-day track & field camp for kids ages 6-13 ) He loves it! Last year, when I signed him up for the first time, he was skeptical. After all, who would want to just run - and without a ball of any kind! But after the first day he was hooked! They learn to do long jump, high jump, javelin ( nerf!), shot put, hurdles, and various lengths of running races. At the end of the week they have a track meet where they compete for ribbons. Because this camp is run by a church, it also includes Bible verses, singing, and stresses good sportsmanship and character!

Amanda baked whoopie pies and sugar cookies today, and brought them to Camp tonight as a treat for the counselors and CITs. She has become known for her goodies! It may work against her though. She really wants to get called to come CIT again for one or more weeks. But the counselors who choose CITs have teased her that they don't want her there at camp, they want her home baking treats for them!

I've come to a stall as far as school planning and de-cluttering goes. I don't know why! But today is July 1st and I had better get a move on! Summer is flying by.

Alex finishes his Army training up in Maryland this week, so he'll be home this weekend for a 2 week stretch before he leaves for his base in TX. Yeah! I've missed him, and will miss him more when he goes ALL THE WAY TO TEXAS! That is so far away! I'm really proud of him. He called today to tell me that he finished 2nd in his class, and was only 8/10 of a point from being Distinguished Honor Guard, which is 1st in the class. He was surprised at how well he did, I think, and happy.