Family Ties Parenting

Ad-Libbing Read Alouds

We’re reading “Little Britches” by Ralph Moody…written in 1950…it’s like a Little House on the Prairie for boys…except my 8 yo loves horses so much it works for her too… An 8 yo boy and his family move west. City slickers who turn ranchers, with the help of good neighbors. All for the betterment of the father’s health. It’s one of my mom’s favorite books, and I can see why. The father’s role in the book is that of “idol” to his young boy, and he imparts bits of wisdom to his son every chance he gets. I recommend it, but watch out. One character in the book is portrayed a bit too realistically…swear words and all. I’ve always skipped things like this in my reading, and even in a pinch have substituted full sentences (like in LHOTP when Laura talks about how boring church is  *shame on that girl!*) to protect innocent ears. There is also a scene in LB where the hay hands get into a fight because one of their “town help” guys admires the back view of the boss’s sister and has the gall to voice his lude comments. ??? I hate this stuff in a book for kids…esp one written back when it should have been considered risque! Parents! Heads up out there…what are your children reading?

It’s too bad we can’t “fix” movies. How many times have you watched a movie and wished you could edit it to make it more family friendly? Or maybe the better question is, why am I wasting time wishing we could waste more time watching movies?

I’ll never forget one sermon a former pastor taught on what we allow said in our house via the TV set. He challenged us, saying would any of us allow a friend to come in and talk/act that way around our children? It was definitely food for thought. Dh and I used to always spend time relaxing together in front of reality tv and before that it was Home Improvement or Everybody Loves Raymond. (That’s another bummer about tv, men are portrayed as stupid idiots. Without exception.)

Well, I’ll hop off now.


P.S. Have you checked out The Plug In Drug by Marie Winn yet?  Here’s a teaser…could the influx of tv viewing be at all related to the huge decline in SAT scores that began in the mid-sixties? Hm.


Fireworks Downtown

The dispatcher’s SOS pretty much ruined the moment. But when a business downtown is fully engulfed, and your fire department is called upon, you do what you’ve got to do. After all, this has the potential of turning into the “great fire of 2006″…

So my sister in law and I tried to explain to our 5 kids–whose game of catch had been interrupted by the toll of the fire signal coming across their daddy’s/uncle’s radioes. Not to mention it was finally getting dark enough to get the sparklers out, a fact we’d just pointed out to my 3 year old nephew.

We’d gotten together at my dh’s sister’s for swimming, grilled hot dogs/hamburgers & sides, and plans to 4-wheel up Mackadoo Hill and watch the fireworks exploding over Lake K. Then we’d come back and set off a few of our own.

Our area of this beautiful state is dotted with small towns, mere clusters of houses along a highway that one day claimed a post office if they were lucky…this is the case with dh’s/bil’s fire department. It’s ten miles from the bigger town that we claim on our address labels, the one where my grandpa, my dad, myself and my dh all went to high school. To give you an idea of how big this “bigger” town is, it has one stoplight, several bars and gas stations, one grocery store…and sits smack on the Sante Fe Trail. Thus, full of history. And downtown is beautifully historic, brick or stone-fronted store buildings–all connected. You get the idea. A fire in one of these is what caused the great alarm.

Hearing it unfold on the scanner was truly alarming. We sat on the native limestone patio/steps of my sil’s 100 year old house watching the kids catch fireflies and keeping our ears glued to every transmission. It sounded as though they were short on units (firefighters) and trucks. When they called for more backup from a bigger department over 30 miles away, I grabbed my oldest and she, sil and I had a mini-prayer meeting!  Then the evening news called!

We did take the kids up Mackadoo Hill…and they got to come home to sparklers, but the adventure of the night belonged to the men and women fighting fires in the heart of downtown. This morning, around 1:30 A.M. my husband and bil stumbled into the house, worn out, sooty and hollow-eyed. Dh and I gathered up our 3 sleeping children and headed for home.

A restaurant fire started the blaze. Dh’s department sent 9 guys and 3 trucks. Bil and Dh were first on the scene from our dept and were sent to the rear of the building to hook up to a hydrant and lay hose. Soon they donned their air-packs and headed into the smoke. Debris underfoot–falling ceiling–they worked with other firemen. Dh went through one airpack–they have a 30 minute use rating, got another and was at the top of a ladder hosing down the space between the ceiling and the roof when a valve on his pack got bumped and his air supply was cut off. For a sec he fiddled with it, to no avail. He hollered to the man he was with that he couldn’t breathe, but the guy didn’t get it. So hubby rushed down the ladder, practically pushing another firefighter out of the doorway. He ripped off his mask and inhaled a lungful of smoke-infested air. An EMS friend was right there and made him get out of his gear, even though dh kept protesting that it was just a faulty valve, he was fine. His pulse was 140! (normal is 60-80). As he’d almost gone through 2 air packs (1 too many!) they made him break for awhile. (If you call carrying fire fans around a block to the front of the building a break!).

Meanwhile, bil had the ceiling fall in on him. Turns out, another firefighter tore a board of sheetrock off the ceiling and dropped it on him. Thank God for helmets! His neck is jammed, but he’ll be okay.

They were able to stop the fire. And no one was injured. The restaurant is a total loss, except for the brick store front…and the two businesses on each side of it are pretty smoke damaged, but it could have been so much worse. No ideas as to what started it…arson is always suspect, but we can’t know for sure till the fire marshall investigates.

Meanwhile, dh sleeps. He’s my hero.

Happy 4th, hope yours will be exciting in all the good ways!


Christianity Culture

Life is a Highway

Exhilarating about describes it.

I wanted so badly to sink into sleep again and reclaim the heart-stopping hopefulness—the wonder filled awe that has been so absent from my life of late. But toddler was singing her “mommy-hi-mommy” good morning song and so I inhaled, hoping the details would retain their clarity till I could revisit the dream. And before you clear your throat and laugh nervously, believe this: I rarely dream, and I even more rarely put any stock in dreams.

A bit of background. My spiritual life has been slowly going stagnant. Hurts to admit it. A person can definitely get too busy and I’ve felt far away from Him for a while now. Can’t blame anyone but myself either.

So back to my dream the other night.

In it, I and several strangers were racing along the top edge of a cliff, with a canyon on one side and a barren, dust-filled desert on the other. Strangely, the air was brisk and sweet and my heart was flying in anticipation. It was as if we knew a weird premonition of the “rapture”. Like our jeep full of people were hurrying to meet Jesus. The Bible says He will come like a thief in the night and we all need to be ready should the sky fall to pieces with His trumpet-shout. Praise filled my dream, and urgency, and like a drum beat in the background the refrain from Days of Elijah kept hammering in my awareness. “There’s no God like Jehovah, There’s no God like Jehovah…” if you’ve heard that song, you know what I mean. It’s about the coming of Christ…the Jubilee…and it’s a soul-soaring experience just hearing it. And I’ve only heard the last part of it twice, in the car, on the way to church. A partial for you:

Still we are the voice in the desert, crying, prepare ye the way of the Lord!  (I just now went and found the lyrics online…hadn’t remembered the part about the desert!)

Behold He comes! Riding on the clouds!
Shining like the sun! At the trumpet call
Lift your voice! It’s the year of Jubilee!
And out of
Zion‘s hill salvation comes! There’s no God like Jehovah!

So the feeling I was left with?

First, one of peace. When you are in a spiritual low as I’ve been…knowing God’s strength is there for my weakness/discouragement even when I’m trying to fly through life on nibbles from His word…it’s easy to imagine that my luke-warmness is absence of salvation. How could He put up with me and my Israelite-behavior? But my deadness fell off as I dreamed. It’s been a long time since I’ve had that exhilarated hope/assurance of Heaven. It took my breath away. Nothing mattered except Him. Shouldn’t life be that way?  Nothing matters but Jesus. And that assurance is there for us believers, even when we doubt.

Second, life is a narrow highway world with a chasm of danger on one side and barrenness on the other…and we are speeding along, distracted, not realizing how it could all be over in a trumpet blast. How many miles, how much dust lies behind us…choking the people in our wake? Choking us, leaving us bone-dry and weary, when we’re supposed to be preparing the way of the Lord… 

Christianity Family Ties


Sometimes my girls beg me to play the Spinning Song by Ellmenreich on the piano…as I play, I go progressively faster and faster and they spin crazily behind me…to the cries of “One more time, please!” 5 yo even has a special dress she has to wear while spinning…it’s got the “perfect spinny skirt!”

Anyhow, that’s how I’ve been feeling the past two days…VBS is in full tilt and it’s all good! Getting so much done ahead of time really smoothed the way…I feel like for the actual 2 hrs of VBS each night that we get to coast…it’s the pre-planning, the hours ahead of time that rattle me a bit. Plus today was our annual homeschool mom’s luncheon and tea party, so I really wore my kids out by the time I finished dragging them all over the place–4 cities in a few hours time! Baby took her nap on my shoulder in Wal-mart. All 27 pounds of her! Picture me, tongue hanging out (91* outside) with hot, heavy toddler passed out in my arms…but we HAD to go to Wal-mart so my 8 yo could spend $16 of her “puppy dollars” on boxes of crayons for our VBS mission’s project. Puppy dollars translates to her “payment” from daddy for all the work she does with our litters of pups from the time they are born till they sell. She and 5 yo get a percentage of each pup we sell. They earn it!

Our VBS totals are hovering at 30–which is good, considering all the kids busy with ball games this time of year. We planned for 40, so we’re not understocked on supplies. For crafts tonight, the kids painted big vegetable cans white, then stamped them with black-painted square sponges to make a checkerboard pattern. Then they got sticky-backed foam letters to use for spelling out their name across the bottom of the can…last but not least, they planted petunias in them. Very cool! Also, they made candles by layering different colors of this really neat powdered wax in a baby food jar with a wick. Tie some raffia or twine around the jar threads and you have a really pretty candle! VBS snacks have been so cute so far…tonight they had “rock piles” (our pacesetter was David–ya know, the kid that faced down Goliath!), and last night they had blue frosted graham crackers that stood parallel to each other with gummy fish stuck to them and teddy grahams crossing through on “dry land”–yep, our pacesetter was Moses and the story–the parting of the Red Sea. I’ve been taking two of my girl’s friends along each night, and the four of them spend quite a bit of time raving about all the fun they are having! That spells success in my book! I’m so glad this week is finally here. All the hard work behind us, now we can just enjoy the ride!

Summer is 2 weeks away! Don’t know how you Californians are surviving! Saw on the news that you had some 111* days last weekend! Do us a favor, and keep it!

Have a great week!


Family Ties

Walker Branch

At six o’clock, we gassed up the four-wheeler and the five of us piled on…yes, insanely illegal…but for pasture trailing, perfectly okay!  So, here we go, bumping up the ruts of the steep hill behind our house to the swinging gate that is just wide enough for our atv to squeeze through– intricately stacked rock wall stretching out up the hill to our west and down the hill to our east…grass at its most beautiful–thick and green with sprinklings of purple, pink, and blue wildflowers clumping up here and there… As we tear across the flat bank of the fishing pond, we see the horses–all 17–grazing, their silhouettes stunning in the golden sunlight. Sigh. Mares, colts, yearlings and geldings belonging to us, my father-in-law and s&bil. Four-wheeling into their midst, our gray roan gelding, Legend, friendliest of the herd, noses us all and nips at the white plastic bag I’ve strapped to the atv’s rack–its content’s a secret from our 3 girls… He won’t leave us alone as we try to coax the baby colts near enough for our almost 2 year old to get a “pet”… All the horses have tangles in their manes, a few cuckleburrs…but they’re loving a summer of freedom and prairie grass. They get to laze and graze from April to September before we bring them home to the block of horse pens stretching down from our horse barn. Then it’s hayburning time. “Hayburning” a hole in our pocket book! We’re not in the horse business for the money, that’s for sure. Horses just don’t bring much $ these days…but it’s a lifestyle my dh loves and wants for our girls.

After satisfying ourselves that none of this year’s foals have hurt themselves running through fence, and that the horses aren’t out of their salt and mineral blocks, we head to Walker Branch. One of my most favorite places to play and the girls have no idea! The white plastic bag that the they and Legend were so enamored with contains water mocs, a towel and a change of clothes for our toddler. Walker Branch is this wonderful bubbling creek that meanders around and through a gravel bed. The stones underfoot are water smoothed and slightly mossy in places…and to one side is a sheer vegetation-covered cliff-overhang, to the other, gravel and a  bluff of tall prairie. When we arrived, the sun was a foot above the horizon…perfect for casting our shadows over the glossy brook and its sand-brown rocks. Of course, we immediately start looking for crawdads and minnows and are not disappointed. The biggest minnows we’ve ever seen are soon bumping into our sandal encased feet, soft slimy things…5 yo is pulling back screeching while the rest of us are in awe and trying to catch one of the slippery things on its way past! No luck!

I kept thinking, when are the bugs going to start biting? Anyone who has been to our state seems to first of all notice all the “stinging” varieties of insects…be it chiggers, mosquitos, etc. Amazingly, none dared ruin our outing tonight. We followed the water till the creek widened and deepened…not once seeing a snake…saw some tadpoles though! When we’d gone a fourth of a mile through the creekbed, we turned around and ended our water-fun with a lesson on skipping rocks. Yes, there is definitely a technique and passing it on from generation to generation is a necessary thing.

There is something so sacred and pure about being in a pasture before sundown. Acres of green, hills of it stretching forever…and the sounds of nighttime growing increasingly louder… We dried the girls’ legs off and switched their water shoes for their boots and tennies. At exactly this moment of packing up our fun, a chorus of frogs started chirruping from the creek.  Loudly. Wow. My dh says, “I bet it’s 8 o’clock”…I just look at him. He grins. “What do you want to bet?” He pulls out his pocket watch and smirks. Turns it to me. 8:01 pm.

On the way home we swing through a herd of black bald face cattle and get a head count for fil. 68.

Came home via the gravel road so we could avoid the three pasture gates. Saw a deer, panicking, her head darting alertly. On the other side of the road ran her crazed fawn…white spotted back and everything.

What more could a person ask for?


Cooking and Food

Marinating Steaks

Yes, we are! And I have the recipe for you too…it’s the best, honest! Got it from my pastor’s wife EONS ago and it never fails to earn raves…

Marinade for Shish-Kabobs or Steak or Chuck Roast–ultra flavorful and tender

*I always use Sirloin steaks…yummy!

Ingredients: 1/2 cup veg. oil, 1/4 cup soy sauce, 4 teas. Worcestershire sauce, 2 TB Wine vinegar, 2 TB lemon juice, 2 tsp dry mustard, 3/4 tsp salt, 1 tsp black pepper, 1/2 tsp dried parsley flakes, 1/2 clove garlic–crushed, beef, and veggies if you plan on doing the shish-kabobs.

Combine all marinade ingredients in bowl; mix well. Place beef in whatever you are going to marinade it in and pour marinade over. Refrigerate, covered over-night or for 6-8 hrs. Grill over med-hot coals to desired doneness. Yield: 8 servings. (Unless you double the recipe like I do and throw all the steaks you can find on the grill ’cause you love leftovers!!)

So, dh calls me this morning and says to marinate steaks because he’s grilling tonight! Yay, another sign of summer!   I popped some beautiful pie cherries out of the freezer to thaw and made 2 cherry pies to go with…it feels like Memorial day early!

Soon as toddler wakes up we’re off to buy briquettes!


Christianity Family Ties Writing

Our cow is lonely. Some Christians are too.

We took the last of the colts to pasture this weekend and ever since our lone mama cow has been bellering for her buddies.  Plus, she’s not due to calve till June, but her udder is tight and she looks suspiciously close. But what do I know? 

We skipped the trip to town for horseshoes in favor of more playtime outside.  Can’t take these sunny days for granted with all the rain we’ve had lately.  I filled up a big aluminum pan with water balloons and we had a free-for-all!  The girls were outside from 11 am till 6 pm, and they’ve eaten and are happily ensconced under their covers.  What a great way to wear out!

I was talking books with a girlfriend who is helping me with VBS.  She has no idea I’m writing.  She made the comment that she didn’t like Karen Kingsbury’s Redemption Series because the Christians face so much turmoil.  She tossed her head and rolled her eyes and I about died laughing.  I was glad to know that not ALL readers out there have to have back to back conflict.  But it got me to thinking. We all have our own unique areas of testing…whether it seems to always be health, job, or finances, or family conflict.  Maybe your vehicles are always breaking down.  I don’t know.  Some people seem to be like Job…everything at once.  When we were self-employed I had to hang on to that verse about contentment…Godliness with contentment is great gain.  I learned a lot in those lean years.  I have one painful memory of the humiliation of a bank overdraft that I didn’t know how we were going to cover, but that’s the only really bad memory I have.  And yes, I’m kind of glossing over it (no need to mention how I sank to my knees in the corner of the kitchen and wept, so sick of it all) but it was a big deal to me.  When I think back to those times of wracking my brain for creative snacks for the kids, or how to stretch point A to point F…or looking at other families with two incomes and wondering why God wanted me at home? Now, instead of all that, I remember the good things.  Like the piles of bagged popcorn in my upper cupboard that had accumulated year after year from our farming neighbor…just waiting to be used as a last resort snack…which became the kid’s favorite! (Ever make cinnamon popcorn with red hots?) Or how I had to get in the habit of baking homemade bread out of sheer necessity…which was like a delicacy that I’d been too lazy to discover!  I remember devouring Tightwad Gazette volumes 1,2, and 3 and being amazed at all the ways I wasted money!  Even now that I don’t have to I still wash out my ziplock baggies, not the sandwich ones, but everything else! We discovered the best beans out there–Anasazi beans, that require hardly any soaking and they’re SO pretty in glass jars!Are there any Christians untouched by suffering?  If there are, I bet they only appear to be. Our pastor had a great message on Sunday about loving one another.  He said some lady did an experiment in a well known city in Nebraska.  She visited 18 churches consecutively and sat up toward the front.  Her purpose was to score each church for their friendliness factor.  I can’t remember the exact “point system” she used but suffice it to say they got around a 100 points for each person who came up to her and shook her hand.  They got even more if they introduced themselves to her.  And even more, like 500 if they said, “Hey, you should meet so-and-so”…there were all sorts of simple ways for these church folks to gain points.  And to make it easier on them, this gal made her way slowly from the front pew where she sat to the back at each church, making eye contact with whoever she could…essentially being friendly herself to pave the way for a return on her investment!  Sadly enough, the highest scoring church had only 100 points.  

Now that’s hard for me to believe.  Our church is pretty friendly, in fact, that’s one reason my dh and I kept going back…we were made to feel so welcome.  I know I’m guilty of being in too great a hurry to run back to the nursery, collect my kids and get home for lunch…but what’s the deal with 18 churches in the same town all being too inhibited to be friendly to a newcomer?

What a ramble.  Guess I should put my soapbox back where it belongs now!

Gonna hit the book,


Cooking and Food

No-Knead Crusty French Bread

No-Knead Crusty French Bread

1 pkg active dry yeast; 1.5 cups warm water, divided; 1TB sugar (can subst. honey); 2 tsp salt; 1 TB olive oil or melted shortening; 4 cups all-purpose flour, could use half whole wheat; cornmeal

In a mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup water.  Add sugar, salt, olive oil and remaining warm water; mix till dissolved.  Add flour and mix till smooth (do not knead).  I use my Kitchen Aide mixer, but this can be done by hand…it’s just harder!  Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled.  Turn onto a floured surface.  Divide in half; let rest for 10 minutes.  Roll each half into a 8″x10″ rectangle.  Roll up from a long side; pinch edge to seal.  Place seam side down on a greased baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Sprinkle tips with cornmeal.  With a very sharp knife, make 5 diagonal cuts across the top only of each loaf, about 1/4″ deep. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes, or till lightly browned.  *If desired, these can be made into breadsticks after first rising, just rollin a rectangle, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with italian seasonings and parmesan.  Cut into sticks.  Put in a cold oven, turn oven to 400 and bake for about 25 minutes.

This is a tried and true and oft requested recipe at our house!  I love quick and easy breads!  We’re having this tonight for French Dip sandwiches…yum!  Perfect for this rainy day of rosy wind-bitten cheeks!

Sold another border collie pup today!  Two left out of six which is pretty wonderful!  A litter of six pups can soon eat more of my budget than my human family of 5! 

Still typing away, but focusing on arranging the various scenes/plots in my novel to the best advantage.  I’ve had some cool ideas for advancing certain themes in my plot faster and with more conflict…and am adding to both hero/heroine’s bios!  All good! 

Getting off here,


Christianity Writing

VBS and Two Must Read Links for Writers!

Couple of VBS tips for ya, in case you are in the same mode…get to church early the Sunday you plan to announce the need for volunteers and go through the pews putting neon dot stickers randomly under the seats. Then at announcement time, tell everyone to check under their chairs to see if they’re the lucky winners that get to “help” with VBS this year!!! Then run, don’t walk to the nearest exit!   I actually can’t complain, I’ve got my crafts, snacks, story, song, game and missions all lined out…it’s just the organizing of all the details!

Second tip: in the month leading up to VBS have a standard workshop night–we’re having ours every Tuesday night from 6-8 pm…a come and go time where anyone can drop in and be put to work coloring posters, painting backdrops, getting the crafts ready etc. This is a good way to involve people in your church that already know they won’t be in town or available to help during the actual week of VBS.

Have to share our mission project, we’re so excited about it! The general consensus at our church as regards a mission offering for VBS is “don’t ask the kids to bring money”…um, okay. But–little whine here– I really have good memories of the boys against girls offering wars or the time we all brought shoes to be donated to an overseas orphanage… So we started mulling over our options. What could we do that would appeal to the kids, and give them an opportunity to make a difference? Long story short, we are going to collect boxes of crayons and sheets of star stickers to be sent to Burundi, Africa for the over 16,000 children that will be participating in VBS this summer. Another church not too far away from ours does this every year, and we’ll just send our collections with them. Each African child will receive one color to last the entire week of VBS. The stars are attendance stickers to be put on the homemade crowns they’ll construct the first day. The woman who explained this mission to me said that over half of these children come to know the Lord during this week in VBS. Burundi used to be a part of Rwanda…these children know a lot about loss of loved ones and living in the midst of war. I can’t wait to take this on!

Okay for anyone writing or interested in expanding your horizons: Yesterday in asking for help with my ms at ACFW, one of the members, Mirtika, who critiques for contests and an online magazine gave me a link to her blog and said I could share it. The entry is called BEFORE YOU ENTER THAT FICTION CONTEST: Mir’s Non-Comprehensive Tour of Trouble-Spot Tip-Offs. Also while there check out her links…there is one for Ten Writing Mistakes that is worth reading also. I printed out both actually! Sigh. Who knew there was so much to well, writing! Or writing well! Mir has a hilarious way of doing both and I appreciated that she “showed” how to fix the common mistakes, she didn’t just point them out as problems!

Now I need to go quit procrastinating…maybe I can play around with some VBS clip art as I surf the net!

Have a great day!


Book Recommendations Writing

Romancing Scotland Style

Ah, bonnie auld Scotland. I’ve been wondering what the attraction is between me and romance stories set in Scotland. Are all Scots heroes strong, devastatingly loyal and stern but sweet? All the cannas, wilnas, wouldnas…wee wee lassies…sigh. Makes me want to try writing something set in the 1700’s. Ha. I’m pretty sure I should just stick to reading however!

Liz Curtis Higgs wrote a great series along these lines…first one is called Thorn in My Heart. Wow.

I dinna ken. Maybe I’d be sae inclined if…weel, if a verra nice trip to Scotland were perhaps involved for a wee bit of research. I’ll speak wi’ ye aboot it again if the fancy continues tae tickle me silly.

For now, too scairt to try writing anything but the King’s English,

Mary–who hasna had her coffee yet today