Sunday, December 31, 2006

2006: A Year of Living Well

December 31, 2006


Scrolling through my archives for my entry one year ago, I was amazed to see that I actually managed to record a month-by-month summary of the year. I don't have it in me this year. To go back and piece together the days and activities seems like too much work. Instead, I will call this simply a year of living well--a year of healing, freedom, and joy.

The healing comes mostly in our church life. Previous years, especially 2005, were tumultuous, usually gut-wrenching and extremely painful. And yet it's amazing how even a tiny bit of expectation can keep one coming back. All of our years of struggle have finally settled into something good. A year ago this week, we were introduced to our potential new minister, and shortly thereafter, he was voted in with 100% agreement by our congregation. Unity itself was a word that, until then, was foreign to our congregation. With our new minister came healing. The day that Jesse was baptized, March 26, brought it all together: our new minister's first day, our interim minister's last Sunday, and the day that our former minister and his family--precious friends of ours--moved to Indiana. Randy baptized Jesse; my father presided over his first communion; and old became new in so many ways. Throughout the months since then, the healing has continued. In the summer, a prayer was answered nearly immediately. I began to pray that a family would come into our church that would be good friends for Randy and me, and I continued my prayer that the Lord would send a friend for Laurel at church. Who knew that the answer was right in front of me? As I told my friend Tammy of this one hot day while we watched our children play, she said, "We are looking for a new church." They've been coming ever since, and we are still amazed every week when we look at the pew next to us and see our sweet friends. So the healing continues, as does the sense of expectation. Beauty from ashes.

The freedom comes in two parts: finances and responsibilities. A year ago we began Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover in earnest, and the freedom that comes from being financially responsible is amazing. No longer do we nervously write checks or pull out the credit cards with a sick feeling in the pit of our stomachs. Taking control of our finances is the most freeing action we've ever taken. The second part of the freedom comes from giving up so many responsibilities this year. For years we've taught Sunday School and been Small Group leaders, and I've been in double leadership in our support group: as part of the council and as part of the enrichment team. In the summer I turned in all my badges except for American Heritage Girls--and I've been relishing this shedding of skins.

And the joy seeps through the whole year. Joy in my sweet children in so many ways. Joy in my marriage. Joy with friendships that just keep getting better and better. Joy in my parents, and in the deep blue of the mountains in the mornings. Joy in this season of life, when sweetness is tangible and prolific, when one child still needs his bruises kissed, when another wakes you with the smell of coffee she's learned to brew, and when one joins the adult table for conversation, crossing easily from child to young man. Joy in simply living this good life.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Waiting

December 30, 2006


It is the vigil you keep as you wait for death. The family alternates between moments of silence and longer moments of storytelling. The memories fly fast, son (Uncle Rich) and grandsons (Randy and Greg) adding different dimensions to the stories, fleshing them out. Grandpa mostly sleeps, but awakens every now and then at some of the louder laughter, chuckling himself and falling back asleep with a smile. Sometimes he wakes and his eyes search, unfocused but still so blue. He sees you and holds out a hand, smiling. His son holds a cup of steaming coffee to his father's lips, and the memory of Grandpa and his nightly coffee mixes with the reality of this last coffee held with such love to these old lips. It is almost too much to bear. When you kiss him goodbye and brush the lush white hair from his forehead, you think, "This is the last time."

Still, there is tomorrow. He is waiting now--we all are. At some perfect moment, the time will come and he will go peacefully with a smile. And it will feel as if the whole world should stop in memory of this one monumental man.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Duncan's Read-Aloud Chapter Books, 2006

December 26, 2006


• Ramona the Pest
• The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
• Pirates Past Noon
• Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator
• Several Boxcar Children books
• Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
• Charlotte's Web
• Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims
• The Wizard of Oz
• The Hundred Dresses
• Peter Pan
• My Father's Dragon
• Mummies in the Morning
• Five True Dog Stories
• Dolphin Adventure
• The Apple and the Arrow
• Mr. Popper's Penguins
• Cricket in Times Square
• Pippi Longstocking

Laurel's Reading List, 2006

December 26, 2006


• The Kidnapped Prince
• Escape Across the Wide Sea
• A Murder for Her Majesty
• The House Without a Christmas Tree
• Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims
• Tales of a Fourth-Grade Nothing
• Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great
• Double Fudge
• Christy (series), Books 1 and 2
• The Hundred Dresses
• The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
• Jess
• Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
• Happy Birthday Felicity
• Hitty: The First Hundred Years
• Kirsten Saves the Day
• The House Without a Christmas Tree
• Voyage of the Dawn Treader
• The Last Battle
• The Silver Chair
• The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
• Phoebe the Spy
• Changes for Molly
• Molly Saves the Day
• Best Friends Get Better (Ballet One series)
• Ellen Tebbits
• Molly's Surprise
• Molly Learns a Lesson
• The Happy Hollisters
• Dozens and dozens of Babysitter's Little Sister series
• Kids in Mrs. Coleman's Class (2 books)
• Felicity's Surprise
• Ramona and Her Mother
• Meet Felicity
• Felicity Learns a Lesson

Jesse's Reading list, 2006

December 26, 2006

Here's a lot of what Jesse read in 2006. I know I missed loads of books he's read because he reads them so fast, but this certainly hits the bulk of them. He says his favorites were Into Thin Air, The Broken Blade, and Inside Intel but that most of them were good.

• The Climb
• Into Thin Air
• The Sherwood Ring
• The Kidnapped Prince
• Escape Across the Wide Sea
A Murder for Her Majesty
• The Broken Blade
• In Search of Honor
• The Arrow Over the Door (he didn't like this)
• The Outsiders
• Escape (Houdini biography)
• Geronimo (biography)
• Armageddon's Children (Terry Brooks)
• Inside Intel
• Stow-away
• The Iron Peacock
• Julie of the Wolves
• The King's Fifth
• Going to the Sun
• Flame Over Tara
• The Last Battle
• The Silver Chair
• Augustus Caesar's World
• The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
• The Trojan War

• The Visitation
• The Shakespeare Stealer
• Nightmare Academy
• Monster
• Luther (he didn't like this)
• The Second Mrs. Giaconda
• Shadow of a Bull
• I, Juan de Pareja
• Catherine, Called Birdy (he didn't like this)
• Adam of the Road
• The Great and Terrible Quest
• 1984 (re-read)
• The Samurai's Tale
• Otto of the Silver Hand
• Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass
• The Beduin's Gazelle
• Through the Desert Gates
• Bill Gates: Biography
• Black Horses for the King
• The Bronze Bow
• The Last Battle (re-read)
• The Silver Chair (re-read)
• Prince Caspian (re-read)
• Eldest (re-read)

December 26, 2006: Lordy, Lordy, Dr. H. is 40!


And in honor of your monumental milestone day, here are 40 reasons why I love you, Dr. H....

1. You wear Hawaiian shirts to work.
2. You are the nicest person I’ve ever known.
3. You do the crossword puzzle every night.
4. You play guitar in the bathroom while Duncan has his bath
5. Not only do you have your own blog, but you take your daily journey through all our friends’ blogs.
6. You yell at the football players on TV as if you really believe they can hear you.
7. You wave to people in parades and yell greetings to the participants (e.g., “Merry Christmas” or “Happy 4th of July!”
8. You are brilliant.
9. You abide by the maxim: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
10. You are adept at using all kinds of colloquialisms, such as “Don’t take long to look at a horseshoe,” “Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise,” and “Looks like they opened up a new box.”
11. You are gifted with knowing how to do small talk.
12. You always make people feel at ease.
13. You can talk about U.T. football one minute and genetic coding the next.
14. You’ve been wearing our engagement earring for 18 years.
15. You fold laundry every night.
16. You make the best guacamole.
17. You read The Lord of the Rings trilogy every couple of years.
18. You listen to whiny chick music even though your grad students make fun of you.
19. The right snack food makes you so happy.
20. You are kind to animals.
21. You love to read.
22. You are an amazing discussion leader/teacher.
23. You cook Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners for my entire extended family with a smile on your face.
24. You take the dog out every night.
25. You learned how to play my family’s traditional card game.
26. You think homeschooling is awesome.
27. You do the grocery shopping when I need it most.
28. You know what food is in what aisle at Walmart.
29. You’ve taken over algebra with Jesse.
30. You treat our daughter like a princess.
31. You treat me like a princess.
32. You sometimes enter commitments reluctantly (e.g., being a deacon), but once you’re there, you take the situation seriously and do your best.
33. You fill up my van with gas.
34. You want to go to a hockey game on your birthday because it’s an adventure.
35. There is almost nothing you love more than to be in the mountains.
36. You worked your butt off in graduate school so that you could get us a job here.
37. You joined the Dave Ramsay bandwagon.
38. You’ve taught me more about what it means to be Christ-like simply by your actions than I’ve learned in 40 years’ worth of Sunday School, VBS, sermons, Christian college, and Bible study groups.
39. You are a spectacular father, and you are always willing to learn more and evaluate, and adjust your parenting skills.
40. You love me with all your heart and soul.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Dec. 25: Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas!



Happy 6th Birthday to Duncan James (you can read his birth story here)! The bad thing about having your birthday on Christmas Day is that you get a slice of pumpkin pie with a few candles for your birthday "cake," squeezed in between Christmas dinner and evening games. The great thing about having your birthday on Christmas Day is that 1) you get to share your birthday celebration with the Greatest Gift of all; 2) there is no way that YOU can ever be topped as the best earthly Christmas present ever to your parents and siblings and 3) you get to have your whole extended family there to celebrate. So here are the folks that helped us celebrate Christmas--and Duncan--today:

The matriarch and patriarch: my Mom and Dad, Cindy and Jim



Brother #2, John, and his wife Sharon



Their oldest daughter, Esther (26) and her boyfriend, Jimmy



Their younger daughter, April (23) and her husband, Jeremy



Brother #3, Peter (his wife Nancy didn't make the photos, but she was there!)



Their daughter, Ellen (24) and husband Justus



Their first son, Owen (20)





Their middle son, Isaac (14)




Their youngest, Seth (10)




And of course Jesse





and Laurel



Randy and I were also present and indeed hosted this grand celebration, but it seems we always forget to take pictures of each other. Missing in action are brothers #1 (James) and #4 (Stephen), who are both in New York, and--much to the dismay of Laurel and Duncan--Jeremy's kids, Carena (8) and Xavier (5).



My parents gave my kids this air hockey table for Christmas....


and it was occupied every single minute of the day by some combination of cousins, uncles, aunts, or even grandparents. (And no, we're not leaving it permanently in the middle of the living room.)


Other festivities (besides eating) included our annual Family Bunko Extravaganza, basketball games, and marshmallow gun fights in the driveway. At long last, the company is gone and children are in bed-- Duncan with a fistful of new action figures, Laurel in her new jammies with her new pillow, and Jesse with his new iPod docking station. Randy's settled down to football and I'm about to put my feet up and read a good book. It's been a good day in SmallWorld.

Dec. 25, 2006: Merry Christmas!



For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.
(Isaiah 9:6)


May your Christmas be filled with joy and blessings!

From the residents of SmallWorld

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Ed's Applesauce Cake

December 23, 2006

For the past 5 years in the days preceding Christmas, I've enjoyed a cup of coffee and a slice of Ed's Applesauce Cake for my breakfast. Ed was a post-doc in Randy's lab several years ago when he began presenting Randy with an applesauce cake as a Christmas/birthday gift. Unfortunately for Ed, he's still a post-doc (although now in a different lab), but fortunately for us, he still gifts us with the annual cake. This is one of those great, dense cakes--dare I say that it somewhat resembles a fruitcake, but without those creepy candied fruits? It's truly fabulous with a cup of coffee and the morning paper. Also makes a great last minute gift!

Ed's Applesauce Cake

1 box light brown sugar
1 cup butter
2 eggs
3 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. cloves
2 cups raisins
2 cups chopped nuts (pecans and/or walnuts)
1 can applesauce, heated

Cream sugar and butter until light and creamy. Beat in eggs. Sift dry ingredients together (set aside a little flour and add to nuts and raisins to keep them separated), and gradually add into butter mix. You may need to add the applesauce partway through. Finally add nuts and raisins. Bake in greased tube pan at 300 for 1 1/2 - 2 hours.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Dec. 19, 2006: Party Boy


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This past Saturday was Duncan's 6th Birthday Bash. This year he wanted to have a soldier party. After distributing dog tags and hats and painting camoflauge faces, Captain Opa and Sergeant Randy let the recruits through basic training. Learning how which is RIGHT and which is LEFT was the hardest lesson. Other events included an obstacle course, tug of war, and trench jumping. We were blessed with the perfect day: 70 degrees and sunny in the middle of December.

As always, Duncan thinks that, because he has had his birthday party, he is now 6 years old. He's always so surprised when we celebrate yet again on Christmas Day evening!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Dec. 18, 2006: Monday Memory: First Christmases

Because next Monday I'll presumably be too occupied to sort through photos and find the right ones, I've dedicated this Monday Memory to the kids' first Christmases. It was fun to go through the albums and visit each of their firsts and to see how we've all changed...

memory2

Jesse's first was in 1993, when we were living in Oxford, Ohio. Randy was nearly done with his master's degree from Miami University. In this photo, we are at Randy's parents' house over the border in Greensburg, Indiana. Jesse was the first grandchild on that side of the family and received 121,492 gifts. A few days after this, we travelled down to Tennessee to spend Christmas with my family. Jesse got an ear infection.

memory3

Laurel was not quite 4 months old for her first Christmas in 1997, and Jesse was 4 1/2. We were all by ourselves in Ames, Iowa, 10 hours from our nearest family. In some ways those were very precious days, just the four of us, all covered in Iowa snow.

memory1

Duncan's first Christmas was quite literally his birthday. He was born Christmas Day, 2000. Laurel was 3 and Jesse was 7 1/2. This photo is actually taken on December 31--the first day that the kids actually got to meet their baby brother. Duncan had been in the NICU (meconium aspiration) until the 31st, when we got to take home this amazing Christmas gift.

Friday, December 8, 2006

Dec. 8: Today's the Day

I've been saying this all week, but I really mean it: today is the day we are getting out the Christmas decorations. I've been doing it in dribs and drabs all week, but now I'm ready to really delve in. I just haven't felt ready yet. It is difficult for me to get into the Christmas spirit sometimes living in the South, when the skies are blue and sunny and the roses still linger on the bushes. (Granted, after a cold spell this week, the roses are frozen on the bushes and quickly turning brown, but still...) A flake or two of snow would certainly help. The kids are certainly ready, though. Duncan's been playing with the Playmobil nativity set this morning, and Laurel created this amazing gingerbread house at a birthday party last week:

l-house1 l-house

I'm going to get down the big box of decorations now; I really am... (and yes, that is a black eye that Laurel is sporting in the photo. Little girl + spinning on kitchen floor + corner of counter=BAM!)

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Dec. 7, 2006: On Christmas Programs and Shell Shedding

I love to see a whole sanctuary filled with homeschooling families. Our support group had its annual Christmas program on Monday. Laurel performed with her Hebrew dance class (below). I missed the colorful costumes they have always worn in the past, but it was still beautiful.

bhea7
(Photo by Lynn Freeny)

Her second performance was in a play put on by her drama class. She had a long passage from Luke to speak, which she did in her angelic little voice. Here's the cast at the end, singing "Joy to the World."

bhea12
(Photo by Lynn Freeny)

It's amazing to see my daughter--who was once so shy that she literally hid behind me--who couldn't even raise her eyes to say "hello" to people--stand calmly in front of over 100 people and confidently recite her piece. Although this isn't the first time she's done this--even two years ago we recited as a family at church and at the Christmas program--it still delights me to see her tossing away her shell and stretching.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

December 5, 2006: Sharing Childhood


I love the part of parenthood that allows one to re-live certain childhood favorites. For Laurel and me this past week, it's been reading the book and then watching that long-ago perennial favorite, The House Without a Christmas Tree. This was probably my favorite Christmas special, although I did love the tragedy of The Little Match Girl. It's probably been close to 30 years since I last saw this story of determined and fiesty Addie Mills and her struggle to get a Christmas tree and understand her father , but I remembered it clearly. I was also amazed that the movie--scenes and dialogue--follows the book verbatim almost 100% of the time. We borrowed this movie from our library, but I think we might have to add it to our collection of Christmas movies. Next, I'm hoping to re-read Elvira Woodruff's The Christmas Doll to Laurel. There's nothing like a good orphans-turn-happy story to get one in the Christmas spirit!

Monday, December 4, 2006

Dec. 4, 2006: Monday Memory: Our First Dog

danddaisy

This isn't a very old memory today. One year ago I read on Gena's blog that she had a bunch of pig-like puppies that she needed to get rid of, and this just happened to coincide with Christmas and with us being finally ready for a dog of our own. Daisy was too young to actually have on Christmas Day, so we gave a picture of her to the kids. We brought her home the second week in January. In the picture above, Duncan is holding her that first day. Back then, the cat looked huge compared to her. Now she is somewhere around 50 lbs. (That's Daisy and Laurel today in the photos below.) She is an incredibly sweet dog, although she does have a piercing bark at times. I'm very glad that we took the plunge. Seems like our family menagerie is complete now, with three kids, a dog, a cat, a hamster, and a tarantula. Too bad we lost Goth, the-fish-who-just-wouldn't-die, sometime this past year... (and no, Sarah K., we do not need a snake!)

l-daisy l-daisy2

Friday, December 1, 2006

How Many Events Can We Cram into the Next 24 Days?

December 1, 2006

This is just a small selection out of the tremendous number of events that are presented in the Knoxville/Blount County area in the month before Christmas. My mom and I love Christmas events. She and my Dad are probably doing all of these things with us plus more, because they have to factor in my brother and his kids and their various performances, as well. We're missing a couple of my favorite events this year: The Festival of Joy at Johnson Bible College and....Dollywood. For the first time in a few years, we don't have season passes. I don't mind a year without freezing feet, though!

We've already done the first two events, and the rest are yet to come. Throw in a few birthday parties (including our Christmas Boy's!), a couple of dinners, the excursion to the Christmas tree farm and ensuing decorating, and three Boy Scout events, and our December is looking pleasantly celebratory. Dr. H. is probably feeling twinges of stress as he reads this. He would prefer to sit at home and drink wassail, but he's almost always a good sport when it comes right down to it...
• The Nutcracker. We went for the somewhat abbreviated version in Oak Ridge this year. The cast was loaded with homeschoolers, including some good friends. Very enjoyable and not as long as the Appalachian Ballet Company’s performance.
• Pioneer Christmas at the Thompson-Brown House. Dec. 1, 11-2. This was an open house at this 200-year old log house. Lots of food and nice old-fashioned decorations. We were inspired to decorate with strings of popcorn/cranberry/sliced oranges. FREE.
• Maryville Christmas Parade. Dec. 2, 11 a.m. This is probably the kids’ favorite because of all the candy that parade participants toss at the bystanders. They end up with sacks of candy. Is this a Southern thing? We never got candy at parades in New York. We particularly enjoy the Shriners in their midget cars. FREE.
• Christmas at Ft. Loudoun. This is a "Living History/Garrison Weekend" featuring an authentic 18th Century Christmas. We’ve been meaning to go to this for six years. Saturday evening is highlighted with a candlelight tour of the Fort (weather permitting) and concludes with a night firing of the cannon. Saturday 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. - 7 p.m.( for candlelight tour) and Sunday 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. Fort Loudoun State Historic Area. FREE.
• Live Nativity at Maryville Greenbelt Pavilion, presented by First Baptist Church. December 2 & 3 at Presentation starts every 30 minutes from 6:00 pm-8:30pm (lasts approx. 20-minutes). Refreshments served. FREE.
• BHEA Christmas Program, Dec. 4, 7 p.m. Laurel will be performing in a play and with her Hebrew dance class.
• Happy Birthday Jesus party at church, 10 a.m. Duncan’s the only one left who is in the right age group for this, and I think this is his last year...
• The Best Christmas Pageant Ever at Pellissippi State’s Performing Arts Center. Dec. 8, 9, 10, 7:30 p.m. If only I could figure out just how to get tickets for this. The number in the paper appears to be wrong…
• The Living Christmas Tree at Thompson-Boling Arena, presented by Sevier Heights Baptist Church, the Dad2Three family, and the BrownSugar family. This is Saturday, Sunday and Monday (Dec. 9, 10, and 11), but we’re going on Sunday afternoon. FREE. (And am I ever going to be glad when my friends are done with all those durn rehearsals!! They are really cutting into our social time!)
• American Heritage Girls Fall Awards Ceremony, Tuesday, Dec. 12.
• AHG Mother/Daugther/Grandmother Christmas Tea, Thursday, Dec. 14.
• BHEA Christmas ornament/cookie exchange, Thursday. Dec. 21. Hopefully Dad2Three will resist coming in drag. We know how much he enjoys such events.

Today we put up our new advent countdown. I'd post a picture but SOMEONE used up all the battery power in the digital camera. So, we bought 25 little stockings and mittens from the Dollar Store (they were 50 cents each), and strung them up. They will be filled with a Scripture reading as well as a little treat for each child. The kids get to take turns taking down the stocking, reading the verse, and distributing the treat. And now I must return to my baking. The day is still bright and sunny, but yesterday's winds blew in the cold weather, so I'm baking batch #2 of Christmas cookies.




Your Christmas is Most Like: A Very Brady Christmas



For you, it's all about sharing times with family.

Even if you all get a bit cheesy at times.