Our People Week and September Pictures

I’m noticing I didn’t post much in September. Here is a brief overview in pictures (and a few words, since I always have plenty of those).

J took A on a date to a tractor pull. A loves going…and watching the videos they took on daddy’s phone over and over and over.

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I ended up with an abundance of cute pictures of this guy. I’m enjoying him so much these days–his laugh, his newly-acquired skill of running, his hugs, his slowly-increasing vocabulary. He also gets clingy and fussy, and that can be very draining, but…I love him. =)

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If I were choosing one word to describe the past week, it would be “people.” Last Friday, J’s employer took all of the employees to Cabelas for a fun day. J took A along. On Saturday, we hosted the annual Dwight Heatwole family reunion at our home.
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I didn’t take any pictures, so I stole this one from my aunt’s blog. There were about 50 people here, half of which were age 10 and under. I wish I had a picture of the sandbox and play structure, teeming with children like it was most of the day. On Sunday we had friends (they have five children) over for the evening. On Monday evening J and I went on a date while the kids went to Aunt C’s. Then I agreed to babysit two preschoolers for Tuesday and Wednesday, giving me two 4 year olds, and a 3, a 2, and a 1 year old. On Tuesday evening we hauled them all to the park for a birthday party. Other than that, I was home with my little day care. =)
It went mostly fine. The biggest problem was my kids’ possessiveness and refusal to share. I’d never seen them so bad with that before, and wonder if they were maybe on people overload–not an excuse, but possibly a contributing factor. The grand finale to our week was hosting our discipleship group here last evening. I had planned to get out and get our grocery shopping done today, but M had a fever during the night and this morning so we stayed home.
Our special activity today was picking up several bags of garbage that a bear stole off the back of our truck and dragged down to the stream and up the side of the mountain. A trip to the dump is on our after-nap agenda.

My kid quote for the day is one from M last night. She was sobbing in her bed, so I went to see what was wrong. “I just keep yawning and I don’t want to but I can’t stop!” Can we say….tired?! =)

Frustrated with Green

I’m disenchanted with my efforts at eco-friendly, green housekeeping. I can ferociously scrub our shower tile grout with baking soda and vinegar for half an hour, or I can use Soft Scrub and it takes five minutes and does a way better job. I can use vinegar and water on the floor, and then turn around and mop with Pine-Sol and the mop water gets dark and dirty. I tried chemical-free dishwasher fluid in my dishwasher and it made the thing overflow rivers of suds onto the floor every single time, which never happens with Cascade. We were infested with Japanese beetles that would not die “naturally” or organically and shredded our plants this summer. None of the “natural” tricks I’ve tried keep the dishcloth smelling fresh like Clorox does. I went back to Lysol for the toilet bowl long ago because it keeps it clean noticeably longer. And my laundry. I’ve made my own detergent for several years, but I’ve been increasingly disappointed in how our clothes don’t seem clean–dingy whites, spots that won’t come out, etc. Just one wash with Tide today made an amazing, noticeable difference.

I like the price savings on homemade products. I like knowing that I’m using products that are safer for our bodies and the environment. But I also feel like giving up.

That’s my confession for the day.


Book Review: Uninvited


Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out and Lonely. There have been many times in my life where I have felt uninvited, left out and lonely, so the title of this book definitely caught my attention. About halfway through, I told my husband that I’ve been reading this book with my head, and I know there are things that I need to learn from it, but it is just way easier to not think about it too much. I was realizing how much memories and feelings from the past that I thought were over and buried still affect my self-perception and reactions. The very next page I read included this quote: “We can go to Bible study and amen every point made, but if we don’t apply it to our lives, we won’t be changed. And I’ll even take it a step further and say that if we’ve been exposed to a teaching that we know we need to implement and we don’t make any changes, that’s a clue that the hardening of that part of our heart is in process. Inspiration and information without personal application will never amount to transformation.” Well then. I hear you, Lord! =) There are definitely things from this book that I’ll be going back to and processing, and I’m trusting God will use to bring healing and warmth to cold places in my heart.

I appreciated the author’s vulnerability in sharing from her own life. I was also blessed by the new perspective on some familiar bible stories, such as the miracle of Jesus walking on the water. I’m not a fan of formulaic approaches and the back cover promises that this book will show you “exactly what to pray for the next ten days,” and how to “overcome the  two core fears…by understanding the secret of belonging” and so on kind of put me off. The book didn’t come across to me the way I expected from the cover, for which I was glad. If you are struggling with feelings of hurt and rejection, I recommend this book as an approachable, encouraging resource.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my review.

Red Milk vs. Blue Milk


Our breakfast conversation today:

“I don’t really like red milk. I like blue milk.”
Me: “What’s the difference anyway?”
“Red milk tastes like salmon.”
Me: “Really? What is salmon?”
“The red milk says “daddy milk” on it. It tastes like salmon and it has yogurt in it.”
Me: “Oh. Salmon is fish.”
“I know. Red milk tastes like it has fish in it and it is for Daddy.”
Me: “You know what the real difference is? Red milk is milk like it comes from the cow. Blue milk has some of the cream taken out of it.”
“That’s what I was about to say. That’s why I don’t really like red milk as much as blue milk.”

So there. Four year old logic on why 2% is preferable to whole milk. =)

The Birthday Trip

In honor of Jim’s recent 40th birthday, I planned a little trip for the two of us. Remember how I ditched my original plan in favour of his bucket list (instead of my own)? Well, I had some new experiences and I survived to tell about them. =)

One of the most fun things for me was knowing that J was excited about and looking forward to the trip. We left here on Thursday morning and drove to New River Gorge, West Virginia. Ever since J was researching zip-lines in preparation to build our own, he’s been wanting to try the gravity zip-line at Adventures on the Gorge that he had read about. The course consists of a series of six zips–500 ft., 400 ft., three in the 1500-1800 ft. range, and then the final “AdrenaLine” that is 3150 ft. long and travels at speeds of 60-70 mph. I’m not much for heights (although knowing I’m securely fastened in and cannot fall makes them bearable), so I wasn’t sure whether I’d enjoy the ride or not. Jim loved it. I wasn’t completely relaxed and just flinging myself out there, but it wasn’t terrifying either. So that was score one. We spent the evening driving around looking at the scenery and enjoying good food. Score two.


This is the beginning of the AdrenaLine. The end is that grayish spot way across the way.


The next day we took a long, scenic route from the New River Gorge to Amherst, VA. There was nothing in particular that we had planned to do. Just sleeping in, spending time together, lazy travel, lots of beautiful country, and more good food. Score three.


On Saturday morning, after another slow, lazy morning, we puttered on down the road to my aunt and uncle’s house and took them out for a double-date lunch. That was fun. Then we made our way on into Richmond for the NASCAR race. I feel a little embarrassed just saying that, knowing how many derogatory comments I’ve made about NASCAR in the past, but…how was I supposed to know I’d marry a guy who enjoys it?! I just keep my mouth (mostly) shut now. So anyway. We went to the race. Several people advised me to take a book, but I did not. We arrived a little after 3:00 and the race didn’t start until 7:45. Come about 4:30ish, I was wishing I had brought that book, but finally it was race time. We had bought cheap tickets and our seats were really bad, but there were lots of open places, so we just moved and were able to sit in fairly decent seats, basically where J would’ve chosen to sit once he had scoped out the track, where his guy (#48) was on pit row, etc. I was glad about that. I mean, it’s not every day my guy gets to go to a race, so I wanted him to at least be able to see and enjoy.


I wasn’t bored out of my head, but honestly, everything was happening so fast that I couldn’t see half of it, much less keep up with any of it. I chose (for a variety of random reasons, none of which were educated–I didn’t even know who was driving) to root for #1, but I couldn’t even tell which car that was most of the time. He’d streak by and I’d be like, okay, I’m going to watch him the whole way around, and by the time he hit the backstretch, I had no idea which car was which anymore. With ear plugs, we could hardly hear the announcer, which I think would’ve helped a lot. As it was, I think the race was fairly eventful, as races go, but 99% of it went over my head and by the time it was over a little past midnight, I was very ready to go. But J enjoyed it (score four!), so I’m glad we did it. He says too that he thinks he’d rather watch on TV/online than live, since you get so much more inside information, so we probably won’t go back any time soon.


And did I mention we did this whole trip on a motorcycle that a friend so kindly loaned us? J also really enjoyed that. Score five! A very successful birthday trip. =)


This is me with my second pair of gas station sunglasses. I thought on Sat. afternoon as we were driving to the race and traveling fast on I-295 that its a wonder my glasses weren’t blowing off. And minutes later, whoosh! Away they went. And then I lost another pair puttering along a back road on our way home on Sunday.

So that was our little birthday adventure.

If you had a weekend to check one thing off your spouse’s bucket list, what would it be?

Book Review: What Does God Really Promise?


This question-and-answer book is divided into three sections: God’s Promises, the Church, and the Future. There is one page for each question and answer, as well as a supporting Bible verse. The range of questions is broad. What does God really promise? Does God keep his promises? Does God promise me wealth and prosperity? Why is it important to go to church? Isn’t the church full of hypocrites? What is Communion? What happens to us after we die? Is hell a real place? Will God really judge every person who ever lived? And so on. I thought the author did a remarkable job of providing brief, understandable, bible-based answers to some really difficult questions, and did so in a way that avoids big doctrinal controversies and debates. There are two companion books to this one, providing 101 questions and answers about God, the World and the Bible, and about Jesus, Salvation and Prayer.

This little hardcover book would be a perfect gift for someone wrestling with faith, for a new believer, or for someone who is interested in knowing more about Christianity. It would also be a great book to leave in a public place where people might pick it up and read a page or two.

I was given a copy of this book by Tyndale Publishing in exchange for my review.

Jim’s Big 4-0

Jim’s 40th birthday was on Sunday. What an honor to do life with this man! I’m so blessed.

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J’s real present is the little trip we’re taking next weekend, but I knew the kids would enjoy giving him something, so I bought a big umbrella to replace the one that was broken several months ago. It is important to J that he have a sturdy umbrella that is big enough to keep himself and the person(s) he is accompanying dry. His servant heart is just one of the many things I appreciate about him.


I told Jim I was planning a party and asked if he wanted it to be big and noisy or small and intimate. He voted big, so I invited a pile of friends and family to join us at a local park for a picnic. It was fun. I didn’t count for sure, but I think somewhere around 75 people showed up to help celebrate.

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I made easy food–hotdogs, baked beans, veggie & dip, and salty snacks with watermelon for dessert. There was lots left over and I am officially sick of hotdogs and beans. After serving the leftovers twice more, the things that were still left went into the freezer and I don’t plan to unearth them any time soon.

I’m looking forward at least 40 more years with this young man. =)

Book Review: Gratitude


Most pages of this Prayer and Praise Coloring Journal include a brief prayer, a bible verse, and a few lines for journaling, as well as an area to color. Some pages have space for collages, doodles, lists, etc. instead of the coloring. The gratitude-focused prayers were well-written and covered a wide range of emotions and experiences (i.e. “I woke up this morning with a light heart…” or “Today as I walk through the beauty of your creation…or “Thank you for comforting me in the midst of my struggles and sorrows…”), so I think I would skip around based on how I felt at the moment rather than start at the front cover and work my way to the back. Because of that, a topical index would seem helpful to me. I think a creative, artistic person would really enjoy this type of journal. The artwork is well-done and attractive, and the book would make a nice gift.

I received a copy of this journal from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for this review.

Book Review: Come to the Family Table


Come to the Family Table provides your family with intentional strategies to engage one another relationally as you walk with Christ. The Cunninghams will help you prioritize mealtime with reflections and practical advice, family devotions, recipes, and game ideas. It’s time to craft a vibrant experience around your family table.” (cover)

This book is divided into two parts–the table is for us, and the table is for others. It was easy to read and had some helpful tips and points to consider as we work to make the most of our family mealtimes. Most of this book seemed geared toward families with older children, especially the devotions and games. I have three preschoolers and I don’t think any of those would work well for them. The chapter that stood out most to me was entitled “The Family Constitution.” My husband and I hope to develop something like this for our family, and the Cunninghams included a copy of their family’s constitution, which was helpful as an example.

I love to cook and eat, have great memories of family bonding around the table as a child, enjoy hosting people in my home, and am always interested in ways to teach and engage my children in life-giving ways, so this book definitely caught my eye. It didn’t end up being what I’d hoped for or expected, again maybe because of the stage of life we’re in with small children. I think it would be most helpful to the family who is not accustomed to eating meals together around a table or to hosting others in their home.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my review.

New York, a Snake, and Other Happenings

Here’s a peek into our August.

Outside fun in the heat.
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The bubble makers from Aunt C. were a hit.
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The kids asked if they could take their lunch outside one day. I said sure, but B and I would stay inside. When I looked for them later, I found them sitting way out on the driveway, of all places.
Lots of playtime with cousins!

August=garden month. My rows and rows of empty jars are now rows and rows of full jars–tomatoes, tomato juice, salsa, pizza sauce, green beans, beets, and peaches. At least one day a week has been devoted to canning, and it gives me a lot of satisfaction to see the jars filled up.

I found out I have a baby who will hold his breath until he passes out. If I hadn’t heard of that happening, I’d have been totally freaked out. As it was, my heart rate increased a bit, but otherwise I kept my calm on. =) He was crying and turning blue and next thing he was all limp and floppy. As soon as he passed out, he started breathing again. He’s come close to doing so several times since, but thankfully the pass-out is still an isolated incident.

August 31 is the end of our church’s fiscal year, which has meant more work and several meetings for me (budget prep, etc.).

J led a group from our church to the Missions Training Center in New York City last weekend. I was thankful for several generous people who juggled our child care so I could go along this time. We left on Thursday morning and got back Sunday evening. We spent our time in classes, visiting a Buddhist temple, and in practicums (street witnessing, singing in a train station, prayer walking, etc.). The point is not to “go on a mission trip to NYC,” rather to learn and practice skills that we can bring home and use in our own community.
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Here’s our group walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. I’m hiding. =)

We came home tired and the kids seemed tired too, from all the shuffling around and lack of routine. At least one of them had had a fever one day, and we have some coughing and wheezing going on. On Monday afternoon, I took B down to his room for a nap and THIS is what I saw on the bedroom door.
This 5-ft. black snake has been around our house all summer. I’m fine with him in my yard. I’m okay with him in flower bed. I’m (mostly) alright with him on my deck. I am NOT okay with him in my basement. He may have come in the night the basement door got left open a week ago, or he may have come in an open drain (that is now plugged, believe you me). I didn’t scream, but I did some deep breathing between giddy laughing and quiet whimpers. =) Then I called J at work, and a girl from his office who loves snakes came out and removed him from our house. The very most bizarre thing was just that morning, M commented that Mr. Black Snake used to be in our flowers, and now he lives in a hole (which is true–a little hole in our backyard close to the clothesline). I checked the hole and told her I didn’t think he lived there anymore because I haven’t seen him for awhile. !!!! Never dreaming I’d find him in MY HOUSE! two hours later. The kids didn’t seem too bothered, but A was up three or four times in the night then crying because Mr. Black Snake was in his room…in his bed…on the couch… I felt kind of hypocritical confidently assuring him that Mr. Black Snake definitely was not in our house, since I wasn’t totally sure myself.

That’s the scoop from our house. Next big thing on the agenda–40th birthday party!