Saturday, October 29, 2016

Zoo Trip

Animals found!
Today we visited Caldwell Zoo which is in Tyler, Texas, a little less than an hour from us. We met up there with my new friend Jenn and her two kids and spent a productive few hours socializing and discovering certain animals from different parts of the world. Jenn's kids have just finished a biology unit on animals and she'd made up a animal scavenger hunt which my kids were able to join in on. Great excitement on all sides.

The Caldwell Zoo isn't a big city zoo, but it's pretty and well-kept and the right size for a few hours. I that a good selection of animals, especially birds. Their macaws are magnificent as well as chatty.

Sadly, the elephant exhibit was under construction so we didn't get to enjoy those pachyderms, but their two black bears and white tiger were impressive. I loved the Texas Longhorns, but the kids' favorite place was an enclosure filled with small birds, primarily parakeets and cockatoos, where you're given a little stick coated in bird seed and the birds flock to you to get some.

There's something so refreshing about a nice zoo. Animals are always interesting and great for conversation. Even alligators lounging in the shallows and a rat snake muscling its way up a wall are worth taking the time to watch. And, I don't know, but maybe a parakeet is the pet we should get...or maybe a squirrel monkey :) . Think Kraig might go for it?

Friday, October 28, 2016

International Flavor

I think I'd go a little stir crazy if I lived in a completely monocultural community. Having grown up in a missionary family, and being married to a fellow missionary kid has certainly formed my viewpoint, but there it is. Throughout our lives our homes have had people in and out who come from different countries, or have worked in other parts of the world, or who are from other parts of the country. In our home the world is never small...and yet you never know when you'll run into someone who knows someone you know.

Of course, sometimes one needs to search a little for the multicultural. Canton, Michigan, is incredibly diverse culturally, but even there there are pockets of folks who were born and raised in Southeast Michigan, and so were their parents and grandparents. In Guadalajara we were the unusual ones. Naturally we met a lot of others not from Guadalajara, but the overall culture is not diverse. Here in Longview there are generations of folks who have lived here, like one of the librarians who told me she thought Longview was one of the beautiful places in the world though she's never actually lived anywhere else.

For us, though, Longview is multicultural. For one thing there's the large Hispanic contingent which often make me feel I haven't really left Mexico. And then at LeTourneau there are staff and students from all over the globe. The prof wives I met hail from all over, which makes for a great mix. And then one of the moms I've connected with through the homeschool group is Russian. She and her son who's Jon's age were over this afternoon and it was so fun to talk food and culture and world with her.   And of course, Longview itself is a new culture for our family, so we can be the strange newbies for a while...or forever!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

A Taste for the Quiet Life

The problem with events that happen in the evening is that we aren't at home. And home in the evening is a haven. We had nighttime events for all of us Monday and Tuesday this week, and this evening Clare had practice for a Christmas musical. Evie came with me to drop Clare off, and then the two of us ran some errands...and then it was time to pick up Clare. And now it's past bedtime for the kids. So much for the evening. I'm looking forward to tomorrow night since we'll be home.

Perhaps it's my introvert side, and Kraig's too, that we prefer home to going out and about. The two events this week were great, but I wouldn't want to make a habit of it. hen we were house-hunting last summer we met a lively rental manager who originally hailed from Venezuela. She gave us all sorts of tips about things to do and see in and around Longview. "But," she said with a sigh, "there's not much night life here." Kraig and I gave our condolences but made sure we didn't look at each other or we'd have burst out laughing. An active night life is that last thing we've ever pined for.

We also hold dear the kids' bedtime which happens a couple hours before ours. We're hanging on to that for as long as we can. Even when we're doing nothing, or Kraig is swamped with grading and class prep so I'm left to my own devices--even then the kids are sent to bed because we want to be alone. Selfish, aren't we?

So, yeah, quiet nights are our preference. But the last few nights haven't been, and tonight has been later, too, because of Clare's event. As a result I'm writing with kids milling around getting ready for bed. Evie, who's done, is cuddled beside me and pointing out words she can't read because I'm writing too fast and messily. "What's that word?" she wants to know. And then she comments on my editing process.

But the others are done now and it's time to herd them into bed. Then, hopefully, I won't stay up too late relishing the silence.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Shakespeare Under the Stars

(I wrote this out last night, but it was to late to type it up and post it.)

I've wanted to write at some point specifically about our homeschool experience--the good, the bad, the uncertainty and insanity :) . There are so many pros and cons and so much we're still figuring out that I haven't been quite brave enough to attempt the topic. So I'm not going to yet.

But tonight we got to do something incredibly fun that we really couldn't have done if we weren't homeschooling. We let the kids stay up late on a school night to go see a play. And it wasn't just any play. It was Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, put on by a theater troop from East Texas Baptist University, a university in a neighboring town They performed it outside of the student center at LeTourneau this evening...for free! And it was terrific.

Not only did Kraig and I like it, but the kids--all three--thoroughly enjoyed it, and not just because there were free snacks :) . I took the plunge this fall, decided to go completely nerdy, and introduce the kids to Shakespeare's plays before they are old enough to think they are boring and impossible to understand. I've heard a lot in the past few years about using picture book versions and other retellings as a jump off point to the real text. Read-Aloud Revival hostess, Sarah Mackenzie, has interviews some folks about it, as has Pam Barnhill of ED Snapshots. The clincher, for me, was when Read-Aloud Revival introduced Ken Ludwig and his book How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare. He not only hits on some of the stories, but he helps guide memorizing some passages. And the first play he tackles is A Midsummer Night's Dream.

The kids have responded varyingly. All three like hearing the stories, but while Ev and Jon have dug into the fun of memorizing some of the poetry, Clare has balked and groaned. But she always does that regarding anything she deems pointless, and you can talk to her till you're blue in the face about the beauty of language and how great it all is for stretching your brain. It's no use because she knows better. It's amazing how knowledgeable an 11-year-old can be....

But tonight all three were enthralled. Jon got the actors to sign his program, and was excited to see some kids he knew from church. Ev decided she wants to act out a scene with Puck (as long as she can play Puck). Clare chatted with the girl who played Hermia and was challenged to try acting something sometime, and she didn't toss her head in scorn! All in all it was one of those experiences where I see a glimmer of progress and a reason to keep on the path we're currently taking.

P.S.~ Sarah Mackenzie's site is currently down for maintenance, but be sure to save it to check out later. It's lovely.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016


I know I've mentioned our pecan trees, but I haven't shown them to you up close and personal. They probably would have only been a passing mention if this month of posts hadn't fallen at the peak of their harvest. 

When we moved in, we knew they were pecan trees, but not much else. One neighbor mentioned back at the end of August that the nuts would be ripe "in a month or two" and we'd have to fight the squirrels for them. Both statements have proven true, though considering how many nuts we're getting, I'm not going to begrudge the squirrels their share. Another neighbor gently informed us of the proper pronunciation around here: Be sure to pronounce "pecan" with a long "e" in the first syllable, and make the "a" and "ah" (not the sharp Michigan "a" as in "can"). The stress is still on the second syllable, which shortens the first "e" a bit, but not enough to make it an "eh" sound. There's your linguistic lesson for the day.

Google was our friend for other insights and details.

1) How do we know the nuts are ripe?
The outer husk darkens from green to blackish-brown and the end starts to split.

2) How do we get them off the trees?
Wait till they fall (for the most part). Then pick them up as quickly as possible and get the outer hull off so they don't get buggy or bitter.

3) How do we know if a nut is good?
Well, the final test is to crack it open and look at it. However if you shake it and there's no noise, and if the hard shell is an even color (ours are brown with black stripes and speckles), there's a good chance it's fine. 
4) What is the best way to store them, and how long do they last?
I don't have a complete answer on this one yet. We need to do a little more research. They're definitely easier to store than the peaches we used to get from a tree at our first home back in Michigan!

I'm quite sure we don't have all our answers yet (and probably don't even know half the questions to ask), but we certainly have some good nuts. Thank goodness we have some old nutcrackers on hand. 

Now I just need more recipes.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Grocery Shopping

The kids have Awana Clubs on Sunday evening and it's the perfect time to do our serious grocery shopping. I got to Sam's Club and Walmart tonight, as well as Harbor Freight to pick up a couple things for Kraig. Getting to stores here is certainly easier than in Guadalajara.

It's nice to be in a town with such a large Hispanic population, though, because the stores carry just about all of the favorites we got used to in Guad. There are a couple things we haven't tracked down yet. We got hooked on Fritos con Limón (Fritos with Lime) while in Mexico, and unfortunately they don't seem to have crossed the border. But there are some more authentic Mexican groceries I haven't gotten to yet, so I'm holding out hope.

I also am reminded I'm in the South when I go to groceries here, that and we're near Louisiana. There are shelves full of Cajun fixings, and Sam's Club has an aisle devoted to various kids of fry oil--peanut, vegetable, coconut, you name it. Big vats of it. And fish fry seasonings and bread crumbs. These are delicacies we are still too new to Texas to fully appreciate. No worries there, though. There's time.

Now...if I can find the Middle Eastern spices and sauces I could get in Canton, Michigan, we'll really be cooking.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

One man's trash and all that....

Of course, moves mean one has to restock some essentials. For example, when we moved to Guadalajara Kraig and I sold our bedroom set. It made more sense than storing it, and considering that it had been a free hand-me-down we had no deep attachments to it. And then there were things that weren't worth hauling across the country because it was--presumably--cheaper to buy a new or used thing here.

But moves mean a lot of expenses, and suddenly all that extra cash we thought we had (well, not really, but the thought was nice) wasn't there. So "essentials" get prioritized and garage sales become the new pastime, and the new bedroom set is on the wait list. At least we have a bed! Last weekend an acquaintance put us on to an annual flea market that runs along miles of a highway that cuts through Longview and a few of the other towns east and west of us. Kraig headed out to see what he could see and not only found an old lawn mower, but also a hedge trimmer, air compressor, and functional bikes for the kids. I've mentioned the mattress/boxspring set we stumbled on, and yesterday we hit a sale where we found an amazing skill saw for just the price Kraig was looking for.

One of the new-to-us chairs
Today, though, I succumbed to the beauty of a table with four straight back chairs. The chairs were something I've been wanting and felt were high on the essentials list, and I figured we could make use of the table. I thought the price was great, and Kraig reluctantly agreed.... It wasn't as high on his essentials list. Unfortunately the base of the table needs some work to get shipshape, and I've felt a bit guilty as Kraig has pointed out the various and sundries he'll have to fix now (adding to the many other fix-its). But I don't feel that guilty, because now when we have more than two people over for a meal we can put them in real chairs that are similar to our beloved straight-backs, the hand-me-downs from my grandmother and great-grandmother. Real chairs rather than folding chairs. I'll take that over an air-compressor any day.

I guess treasure is all about perspective.

Our table and chairs, waiting for guests :)

Friday, October 21, 2016

Kindred Spirits

The kids and I have been listening to a lot of audio books as we take Kraig to and from work, or when we run around town. We've gotten a bit addicted :) . Anyway, the latest has been Anne of Green Gables, the first time for Ev and Jon. It's as lovely as it's always been.

This time through I've been struck by Anne's gift for friendship. After she befriends Diana's fearsome great-aunt, Miss Josephine Barry, she remarks to Marilla, "Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It's splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world." And on her first day at Queen's College, away from home, Avonlea, and her BFF Diana Barry she grieves, but she also speculates who will be new friends in this new phase of her life. After all, she thinks, she has "lots of second-best affections to bestow." According to Anne there is always room for new friends.

I wholeheartedly agree with this philosophy, and also with Anne's opinion that there are so many kindred spirits in the world. I don't have one best friend who I've left behind in one of the many places I've lived; I have numerous friends across space and time who are very dear to me. I can't tell you how thankful I am for this, and for the new friends that I'm making.

This afternoon Jenn and her two kids came over to our house. We've gotten to know each other a bit on the Wednesday park days, and our kids get along nicely, so we took the next step of a playdate at home. It went off beautifully. The kids had fun, and Jenn and I were able to delve into deeper conversation than an hour in a park with multiple other people allows. It was the deep, strong draught of communion that restores the heart and encourages. The kind of conversation where you know that this is the beginning of something lovely. Each time I meet one of these kindred spirits I am humbled that God has given me another one.

It doesn't hurt the thrill at all that Jenn has red hair.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

A Time to Cook

A few days after moving in, amidst the chaos that brings, I threw up my hands and declared to Kraig and the kids not to expect homemade meals for a while. Life was too nuts, and the family was just going to have to put up with freezer meals and take-out.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on stress levels), my family likes home cooked meals, Kraig being the chief of these lovers. That evening of my explosion he wisely didn't argue. But a day later (when I was calmer) he said, "Why don't you take a few days and concentrate on getting the kitchen in order. Forget the rest of the house. I think you'll feel better about cooking and everything else once the kitchen is done."

I probably bared my teeth and growled at him. Even in a calmer mood there seemed too much to do to think about kitchens and meals. But after grumbling I cracked down on the kitchen and got it in decent working order.

And the truth is, it did help immensely. I enjoy cooking, and in a lot of ways it's therapy for me. It's a creative outlet in the midst of a life stage that doesn't permit a lot of personal creativity. An ordered kitchen and home cooked meals are part of the core of our home. Kraig was right. Everything else could be taken care of once there was a kitchen and meals on the table.

So despite the fact that one child groaned when she discovered what was for dinner tonight, I know we'll get a decent meal. The majority of the family will be happy with it, and even the grumpy child will be nourished. And if the rooms don't all get painted when I'd like, at least we'll have something to eat.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Park Day

Park day was this afternoon. We've made it every Wednesday since mid-September, five or six times now, I guess. The park where we gather has a small splash pad, a large playground structure, and a wood begging to be explored. The temperatures have dropped since September, from the sauna blast to a pleasant heat. The splash pad would still be welcome, but unfortunately two weeks ago it stopped working. I suppose that since technically it's fall it means the water has to be turned off, much to the chagrin of hot children.

This has been a fairly good place to meet other moms and kids, and I've enjoyed some good conversations. Topics have ranged from places we've lived, animals kept, parenting ups and downs, curriculum we like, to one today about good books. You can't go wrong with a conversation about books between two booklovers.

The kids have had some success in meeting other kids. There are a number of seven-year-old boys, so Jon's been in fine company. Clare and Ev have had a harder time connecting with kids their age, though Clare found a fellow explorer in one of Jon's new buddies, and Ev has enjoyed the boy's six-year-old sister. I like their mom, too :) . I'm praying that more friends will emerge through this group, though there are also kids they're meeting through church activities, and at some point there will probably be sports. Time, time, time.... 

For now I'll work on my patience and keep enjoying the park days.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

All That Land

Have I mentioned that we have a big yard? It's delightful. It needs work like everything else, but it's just fine for sending the kids into for exploration and play. And, also like the house, it has plenty of potential.

Now that the heat has dropped a bit the kids have been out more. A few weeks ago Jon and Ev started an archaeological dig in the back corner and turned up quite a rock collection. Another day the threesome put their heads together and built a castle, complete with moat. We did have to advise them to put dirt back around tree roots they exposed, but points for a creative drawbridge!

In front we have a number of shade trees, including three pecan trees that are producing nicely right now. Ev and Jon are in charge of nut collection while Clare is on leaf-raking duty. The squirrels aren't too thrilled with this arrangement.

And last night we made a fire pit right off our back patio and roasted s'mores. There isn't much light pollution around us, either, so we got a pretty good look at the stars. It was like camping again, but with the handy benefit of running water a few feet away. I realized how long it's been since we enjoyed a family campfire, too. Personally, my favorite way to enjoy a fire is to roast marshmallows and contemplate the glowing embers and sing some songs. I think the last time we went camping I was able to do that. But that was about three years ago--four summers--and Jon is seven now and in full boyhood, so a campfire's purpose, apparently, is for poking and seeing what all will burn in it. Ah well. I guess I'll have to shift my definition for a few years.

Part of the yard is fenced off and we already have some alluring options for that. A dog is high on the kids' list. Kraig has been talking a lot about keeping chickens. We shall see.... Next year, depending on life and craziness, we will plant a garden. And I'm especially looking forward to spring because there are two well-grown dogwoods out back. Now there is potential.

The Bane of Popcorn Ceilings

I wrote this out by hand yesterday but didn't have time to post it:

Kraig has Fall Break today and tomorrow so we're on a holiday of sorts. Of course, for us right now that mostly means more time for house projects, but the kids had fun riding their bikes and we had a bonfire tonight. I've been able to concentrate more on one of the rooms we're trying to get painted and Kraig fixed two leaky faucets amid a multitude of other projects.

I know I've mentioned that I'm thankful for the projects--I do love the satisfaction of a job well done, but today I've felt rather curmudgeonly. I'm not totally sure why. Maybe it's because that room we're trying to paint is the first of a few rooms and we're now way off our intended schedule because the prep process has taken forever. I finally thought it was good enough to move forward and paint the ceiling, only to discover (once I'd put a layer of paint over it) that the spots I'd patched to hide old tape lines now show as a couple of snaky lumps. And I'm so fed up with it.

All of the ceilings in this home have popcorn finishes. Our home in Michigan had them and they were the first thing to go, and as we're picking our way through he room improvements here we're eliminating them. Thankfully they haven't been painted over so the popcorn comes off easily. We hate popcorn ceilings. The dirt and dust clings to the crevices and they're impossible to really clean. But they sure do cover a multitude of flaws. I'm sure when they're first sprayed on they're a refreshing change--white stipples hiding all of those tape lines or divots that can mar a flat ceiling. But they're just a cover, not a true fix, and like any temporary cover they don't resolve the root issue. I guess that's one reason why I'm so disappointed with our recovered ceiling. I wanted so much for it to be nice and clean, a fresh slate from the bottom up, and it's still flawed.

And I'm wondering about my angst. I feel like I've had some cover scraped off, a nice popcorn ceiling of vacation time, and I'm still all messy underneath. I've been sniping at the kids, and they've been sniping at each other. Even during some great one-on-one time with Clare today I had a difficult time tuning in and cheerfully responding to her chatter. I'm praying that tomorrow will be better or that God will show me clearly what's going on. In other words, I need him to work on getting my popcorn ceiling off and cleaning up the flaws underneath.

Or something like that....

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Church Home...I think....

We've been attending one of the local churches here in Longview since our first Sunday in town. When we came we fully intended to church shop a bit. Unlike Guadalajara, which is not flush in English-speaking churches (for some reason!), Longview is part of the Bible belt, so there are churches galore. Thankfully there are a lot of solid ones, but we knew that might make finding the right one more difficult. In Guadalajara we went to the first one recommended and we were thrilled with it. It was definitely a gift from God. The teaching we received and the folks we met were incredible.

So on our first Sunday in Longview we decided to try Fellowship Bible Church per the recommendation of our friends the Huegels from Guadalajara. Joel Huegel teaches at Tec de Monterrey where Kraig taught, and our families attended the same church in Guad. Joel and Liz's kids and ours went together like salsa and chips last year, and we grown-ups thoroughly enjoyed each other, too. Joel is a LeTourneau grad and FBC is their home church when they visit Longview. Visiting "their" church that first Sunday made them seem a little closer.

The first week the church had a special event which changed up their regular schedule, so only Jon had Sunday School. The second week was Labor Day weekend; Kraig's brother and family were visiting and it made sense to go to a church with which we were somewhat familiar. Jon had liked his class a lot and the girls were begging to get a chance to try their classes.

And Kraig and I? We certainly felt at home. The church reminded us in many ways of our home church in Michigan. The teaching was solid, the people friendly. We liked what we discovered about the church's history and programs. We also found out that a number of families lived right near us, and though unfortunately they didn't have kids near our kids' ages, it was nice to know people were near. By the third Sunday Kraig said, "You know, we can just take the plunge and commit to FBC. We don't have to look around." And with a sigh of relief I agreed. Perhaps there is another church in  the area with deeper teaching or better music or...there's always a list.... But there is a lot to be said for settling in and investing our lives in a new community.

A tidbit from Kraig and my "Lifegroup" (aka grown-up Sunday School)

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Saturdays Gone By

One of the events I really miss from Guadalajara was a monthly get-together some of us started last year. One Saturday a month we'd head to a local park and--well--play. The kids were let loose with some parental interaction. There was bike-riding, trampoline fun, pick-up soccer games, and whatever else came up. The parents would play, but they'd also talk, and talk, and talk. Those of us participating were primarily homeschooling, but that wasn't a requirement. What we did require was that the outing would be on a Saturday so that the working dads could come with the moms and kids. It was a lovely experience, and what I liked particularly about this group was that Kraig and I were connected with both spouses. Kraig had some deep male friendships, but they weren't just any guys. They were the husbands of my close friends and fathers of my kids' friends. I kind of knew it was a unique situation then, but being back in the States has driven that truth home.

Parents' schmooze time
Our connections here in Longview (so far) are a lot like those we had in Michigan. Kraig is forging friendships with profs (primarily male) at the university, and while I'm getting to know some of the wives through Bible study and the monthly wives get-together we aren't getting to know them in the context of couples or families. Our church so far is less connected to our weekday interactions. Or maybe I mean more that the interactions at church have only been there--they haven't overflowed into our lives. I hope that as we get to know folks better there will be more of an overflow, but that may take a while.

This post has actually gone off in a completely different direction than what I originally intended. I was thinking how it was easy to drop everything on a Saturday and head to a park with friends when we were living in an apartment in Guadalajara. Here we've got a house, and Saturday is, so far, for projects and family time (the kids got bikes today and Kraig worked to get them up and running). I wonder if that's the way things typically are for everyone here. Life is busy, and connecting may not rate as high in importance.

I shall have to ponder this.

Guadalajara Parco Metropolitano

Rainy Day Friday

No headache today thanks to Kraig's shoulder massage and a couple ibuprofen last night. The rain that held off yesterday came steadily today, too. The rain postponed a Fall Fest morning with the homeschool community and a lunch date with new friends, but our spirits weren't dampened. It was a day for coziness.

Friday is typically a quieter day anyway and I was relaxed enough (for the most part) to make sure the kids did was needed to be done without too much pressure.

And there was plenty of time to read,

play LEGO,

and let the dolls enjoy a tea party.

We sanded some furniture we're refinishing and then ran to a couple stores. I will say taking all three kids grocery shopping is often either an exercise in futility, or a test to see if I can hold my temper. I'm not sure what or if any of us are learning something. Whatever the case, we survived and were able to pick up Kraig.

Dinner ended up a bit late, but it's Friday night which usually means a show or movie to watch. Kraig and I have had fun introducing the kids to A-Team reruns lately. After that it was a wrap up with story time and Kraig giving the kids lessons on how to speak like Donald Duck...or is it Uncle Scrooge? I couldn't understand a word of it.

Day is done--just about. Tomorrow is another project Saturday. We'll take it.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Not Much of Anything

I have little to share today. It's been a nothing-much of a day and I have a headache because my shoulders are in knots, so my thinking is muddled. I need to beg a shoulder massage off of Kriag :) .

It should have poured today. The cloud loomed and thunder rumbled, but it only rained away from us. But that did mean the kids and I could take a walk without getting soaked, so that was nice.

About mid-afternoon Ev charged in to where I was. "Mom!" she exclaimed, "there's no water!" And sure enough, all of the water faucets in the house were completely inoperable. I called our local water company and they confirmed that there was a leak in the neighborhood and the repair would "only be a couple of hours." It's amazing how slowly the hours pass without water access when you aren't prepared. The walk we took did help pass the time. Thankfully the water returned in time to make dinner, but not in time to get to some other projects that required water.

I seem to have wasted a good bit of time today. The kids got done what they needed to do, but I had the vague feeling I should challenge them more, but instead my mind was mush.

Ah well, perhaps I'll be more with it tomorrow. I'm off to get that shoulder massage....

Night Sounds

Tonight we got home from picking up Kraig just as dusk was falling. As we turned in to our subdivision we noticed the "red barn house" as we call it had a number of folks out front setting up for what looked to be a yard sale. In the middle of it were a twin bed mattress and a boxspring, two of the many things on our "much needed" list. By the time we reached our house we'd decided it was work worth walking back to find out if it was a sale and if so, how much they were asking for the mattress and boxspring.
The house across the street
surrounded by pines

We've had some reprieve in the weather here lately, but today was sticky and hot again. East Texas weather is the one downside factor of this move. Thankfully by the time we went for our walk the heat had let up and while the sticky still lingered it carried with it the sweet scent of damp vegetation--pines, moss, mulch. There are huge old trees all around our neighborhood including majestic pines.

Our venture was a success and we now have a mattress and box spring. Kraig and the girls ran to get the van to transport it home, and Jon and I made our way back by foot. Dark had fallen ad it was so quiet. We're in an older neighborhood off all main roads, and Longview isn't exactly a bustling metropolis anyway. As we walked, though, I realized how much sound there actually was. A frog peeped from one dark lawn. A few birds sent out a sleepy call here and there. Random insects tapped and chittered. Underscoring it all was the pervasive hum of the insect empire that outnumbers us humans by a vast multitude. I realized what a comforting sound it is; one of those background noises we take for granted. I hope I won't ever have to go without it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A Breath of Fresh Air

Time out with other likeminded women is a breath of fresh air on a stinky hot summer day. I have been blessed so often with this opportunity. During our first fall in Guadalajara I wrote about the refreshment of a Bible study I was able to attend. As that first year progressed, I connected more with these ladies and others who became dear friends and lifelines--fellow moms-in-the-trenches, mentors, thinkers, dreamers.... Back in Michigan and scattered around the world there are other women, both family and friends, whom I treasure. It's hard not to be able to see them.

Here we are in Longview and while I can "connect" with friends far away there is a vital need to meet people here, in person. As soon as we landed at the end of August, two of the "engineering wives" (wives of profs in LeTourneau's engineering department) invited me to a small Tuesday morning Bible study at one of the local churches. I could attend and it was fine for the kids to come and do their work in another room I went and found a group of women of multiple ages and backgrounds who enjoy their time together, but also dig into Scripture. Right now they're working through Hebrews and I was intoxicated all over by discussion covering the New Covenant, etc. (Yes, I get a little carried away with these kinds of studies :) ). The whole time is such a refreshing connection. In addition to this group, a number of the attendees are engineering wives (or wives of husbands who are in related departments at LeTourneau) and these women get together once a month for dinner and fellowship. Tonight we had dinner at the home of one of the families--it's my second one of these.

It will take time, I know, for friendships to grow. It will be a bit before there will be get-together times besides these scheduled ones. I may even need to be the one who initially pushes something. But for now these scheduled events are great for helping me breathe.

Monday, October 10, 2016

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Mondays...

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Mondays are abominable.

I completely agree that the degree of abomination is mostly in relation to one's attitude. But the attitude isn't always mine, and there is only so much I can do about another's. My eldest was in rare form today and she blamed it on the day of the week.

"I never like Mondays," she declared, glower fully engaged. "Mondays are always awful!"

And it was pretty awful, thanks, in a good way to the foul attitude. Middle and youngest child did their fair bit of whining and snipping, too, and everything took about three times as long as it should have. Naturally I was calm and noble throughout, gently leading my fractious young to see that their behavior indicated something hard in their hearts. And they responded with warmth and affection and peace was restored.

Excuse me a minute....
I can't seem to see what I'm writing over the length of my nose....

Okay. No. The truth is I lost it a few times. I try to turn the issue to the heart of the matter rather than just reacting, but I did react badly. There are so many times, particularly with our eldest, that we wonder when and if she'll be willing to let God soften her.

"You need to look at why you're feeling this way and behaving like this," I pled with her at one point. "Write it down and do a little self-analysis. Pray about it."

"I'm self-analyzing myself all the time!" she shot back. And knowing her, I don't doubt it. There's a battle that often goes on inside that head and heart of hers and all Kraig and I can do is pray that she'll surrender it at some point and stop trying to always be the one in charge.

Meanwhile, Kraig and I keep analyzing ourselves, her, how we're dealing with things, and praying that we're taking the right steps. I was reminded again today by an article my mom sent me that transitions are tough. And while (or because) our eldest has always been stubborn, passionate, too-smart-for-her-own-good, these transitions have often been more difficult for her than her siblings.

For me right now, I'm just thankful that today is over. Onward to Tuesday!

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Reminders of Hutchmoot

This weekend was Hutchmoot, that most beloved of conferences I've been to that celebrates truth and beauty and how God works these out through all the craziness in our world. The conference emphasizes the arts, including meals--the past two times I've gone I actually went to help in the kitchen (and learn a little in the process).

Two years ago when we first moved to Guadalajara and I first did this challenge, I wrote about missing Hutchmoot and friends there. Last year I was able to go and work in the kitchen again thanks to my in-laws who lovingly timed their visit to Guadalajara so it would overlap my trip to Nashville. But when this year rolled around we knew it wouldn't be an option.

I was okay with that, and most of the weekend has been great despite the missing. There have been plenty of reminder moments. The topic of our Sunday school lesson was one of Jesus' parables about a banquet and I thought immediately of Andrew Peterson's introduction to this year's conference that thankfully he posted in The Rabbit Room. Every time I opened Facebook this weekend I saw pictures posted by friends who are there and "last year at this time" photos. My sister Carrie is there this weekend and co-led one of the sessions and I couldn't help but remember how great it's been to go with her. I listened to Andrew Osenga's Leonard the Lonely Astronaut after dropping the kids off at their Awana program, and of course we had Andrew Peterson playing over the weekend. The message this morning was about putting Christ at the center of your life so that everything flows out from Him, and I thought of how that idea is at the heart of The Rabbit Room and Hutchmoot.

The good news is I am not a basket case. I miss it--I have missed Hutchmoot 2016--but it's not the end of the world. It's been a good weekend with my family and satisfying in many ways. I can seek truth and beauty here in Longview just as much as I can in Nashville.

Making a House a Home

Saturday is house project day. Well, I suppose every day has house stuff going, but Saturday is the day for the bigger jobs since Kraig is home. For the past two years we haven't had much in the way of home projects--an apartment doesn't call for much. But we are homeowners again and we have taken on a fixer upper. Too bad Chip and Joanna Gaines live three hours away....

Some days, I admit, the prospect of all that needs to be done and all we'd like to do is overwhelming, particularly when the dollars start adding up. But I have to admit I'm also excited about the possibilities and we're praying we'll be here long enough to see them come about. A lot can't be done yet--we can't put our house in Michigan up for sale till next year so our current funds are limited. But I can wait and dream. As Anne of Green Gables says, "There's so much scope for the imagination!"

While we dream, though, we're digging in and getting done what has to be done and what we can do. We can paint the bedrooms. We have to seal the windows and plug holes the wasps find inviting. We can rake out the brush under the three pecan trees in front of the house and start to collect the ripening nuts. We can put our books on shelves and food in cupboards and make the core of the house into a place where we can welcome friends and family.

Time, patience, and cash will all be needed, yes. But God has given us a place we can call home. He has plans we can't even imagine. The possibilities are endless!