The end…for now

The end of the blog-a-day challenge has arrived, and although I missed two days, it was an eventful month. It’s always tough to stick it out and complete the entire time period, by the end it feels like it flew by. I even have the feeling that maybe, just maybe I should continue the trend and keep writing every day.

Then I look at my calendar for the rest of the year, and that seems
like a ridiculous notion.

Perhaps the next time I take on a challenge, it will be more like an every-other-day commitment….

Thanks for reading during the NaBloPoMo October challenge!


I drove (in) the van today and didn’t look at the temperature gauge once…

Hopefully this is the end of the van saga, but when one drives a 2001 model of anything, one can never be entirely certain.  We picked up the repaired vehicle this past Saturday, and for the first few times I drove it, I was not convinced that it would survive.  After all, I hadn’t been able to drive it even 5 miles when it broke down the last time.  After all that drama and loss of years off my life, I trusted no part of the van.

But nonetheless, the guys at the shop called and said that all was well.  The final verdict?  A blown head gasket and a cracked header.  In mechanic terms, that oftentimes signals the end of an engine.  In our case, in a van with almost 180k miles contained an engine that probably wasn’t going to be any kinder to us.  Besides, the mechanic told Todd that adding new parts to an old engine sometimes doesn’t work out the way you might thing…or maybe it does work out the way you might think: badly.

I’m not sure why this guy was so helpful to us, but he really bent over backwards (I felt) to get us back up and rolling.  He found a replacement engine at a local place that only had 85k miles on it (a baby! just getting started!) and was willing to replace Ye Olde Cracked Header with a Side of Blown Head Gasket engine for half of what it would normally cost.  Now, lest you worry that this guy was feeding us a line regarding what half price on such a large repair really costs, we’ve been down this road before, and the full price number that he quoted us was almost exactly what another mechanic quoted a few years earlier.  I felt like that was confirmation on a number.  So, bottom line: they offered to replace our engine and all the extra stuff required therein (hoses, bells, whistles…) for half price.  Based on where we found ourselves and the prospect of trying to find another 8 passenger van in our price range quickly, this sounded like the best option. And what an amazing blessing that was for us!

So that’s what we did.  It took them about a week to do the necessary work in addition to actually driving it around and making sure the “engine transplant” was a success.  (Perhaps you’ll remember that Mike the mechanic back in Angola also told Todd that he’d driven the van around after his repair and said it was working…I wonder how that was even possible when I couldn’t make it limp for a measly 3.5 miles past the shop.)  I knew it was true this time: I checked the odometer.

I will admit that although it seems to be working very well now, and I can tell that the engine itself runs more smoothly than Ye Olde…oh, you know the one…I still can’t help but think that at any given moment…POW!  BOOM!  OVERHEAT!  I guess it’s mostly because of my nature, which I constantly have to fight and speak against.

Today, though, Hannah drove it to and from work and I am happy to report that I didn’t even think about the temperature gauge.  That may be because I was too concerned with sitting in the passenger seat with a teenager in the driver’s seat.   Yes.  That tends to trump all other concerns, I am finding.   But that is a story for another blog post, I believe.

And so, the saga comes to a close.  We tried to make it to Grand Rapids, MI, but didn’t make it any further north than Angola, and were snapped from the clutches of being stranded there by my brother and sister-in-law.   All’s well that ends well.

But I’m still watching that temperature gauge…as long as I’m driving.

Day 27 and I’d like to give up

It was rather unwise to commit to write a post a day this month, and although it’s almost the end of the 3- days, I’m feeling grumpy about having made the commitment. I’m tired of having to come up with something new every day to write about, whether or not anyone reads it.

But I did say I would write every day, and except for the whole weekend without a van (or a way home), I have so far.

Maybe I’m just tired. Mondays begin at 5:30 and don’t stop until late in the day. I didn’t have to plunge any toilets today, but I was running from the time we arrived at CC until late in the day. It’s amazing how quickly the morning goes, for one thing. The other aspect I couldn’t have prepared for is how physically tiring the job is on Mondays. That has really surprised me.

So maybe I’m just tired, and therefore let a little grumpy creep in.

I had the chance to speak tonight, and although I did bring up socks and toilets (and how they relate to kids), I hope I didn’t come across as too discouraging in my delivery. It’s a fine line to walk between being realistic and being a downer! Being a parent is sort of like living the Peace Corps commercial: “It’s the toughest job you’ll ever love.” I do love it, and I hope that I was able to convey that tonight.

One other random thought from today: Andrew and his classmates learned that the capacity of the stomach can be up to 2 qts.


Because of this knowledge, some of the past puke-fests by the kids make sense now. While we thought they must have been vomiting food that they hadn’t yet eaten, we could have known the truth had we just had some basic knowledge of the human digestive system.

Yep, I’m just tired.

“For at the proper time”

While I was taking my walk this afternoon in the brilliant fall weather,  complete with clear blue skies as a backdrop to the myriad leaf colors, I had an imaginary conversation with my oldest daughter.  It morphed into something completely different, however.

In my imagination, I sat down next to Hannah on the couch, and simply asked, “When you’re married and pregnant with your first child, will you come to me and allow me to teach you about all the options for your birth and how to prepare for it?”  Does that sound strange?  At first, perhaps, but I spent the better part of fifteen years immersing myself in the pregnancy, birth, and baby world: first as an active participant, but also as an educator.  Over 160 couples came through our classes in the ten years that we taught, and I had the privilege of attending just over 30 births.   Although I wasn’t an expert birth professional, it was definitely my passion and I approached it with the vim and vigor necessary to prepare couples for the excitement and hard work ahead of them.  From our personal experience, the births of our children were some of the sweetest times in our lives together as husband and wife and the teamwork we needed brought us quite close together.

I desire to pass that knowledge along to all of my children, but admit that my relationship is probably best suited to most easily share it with my daughters.  I can teach them how to prepare for birth, I can explain the different amazing steps of the birth process and show how to use that knowledge to work through labor towards the goal of a satisfying birth experience and happy and healthy outcome.  It was such a large part of our lives (and my kids’ lives) for so many years that I hope it’s not a strange or awkward subject to broach.  (Although we don’t sit around watching Bradley birth videos, thankfully, I often think that a well-placed viewing of one of the more…”illustrative” births would have repercussions for years to come with the kids! *Past Bradley folks, I know you know what I mean…*)  My sons are better suited to receive the advice on how to be a supportive husband and father during pregnancy and labor, and how to fill their ‘tool belt’ of support to guide and comfort their wives during that time.  But I digress…

And then, as I imagined sitting with Hannah, before she could even  answer in my daydream, I felt like a gentle voice was asking me, “What else could you teach your kids from experience and wisdom? Can you teach them about Me the same way you desire to teach them about birth?”

Woah.  In an instant, the realization washed over me that although the awesomeness of pregnancy and birth cannot be overstated, it is in an entirely different realm than sharing the knowledge and relationship with Jesus Christ.  What better conversation to have with each of our kids, not just once while sitting next to each other one day, but daily, constantly, like the verse in Deuteronomy exhorts.  “Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”  As much as I read my books for classes, how much more could I impart to our kids if I put the same effort and passion into studying the Bible and memorizing the truths therein?  Even beyond quiet time, and beyond prayer (which, with six kids and homeschooling, I feel like I’m constantly praying, but I think that’s missing the point!)… I’m thinking that prompting was to get me thinking about having the truth of Scripture in my own head and at the ready so I can pass it along to my kids at any time.  In the same way that I could list the stages of labor and explain how the process works in greater detail than most people want to hear, I should be able to give an answer in most situations and encouragement to my kids as they grow into adults and mature in their lives.

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult but with blessing (1 Peter 3:9)

Blessed is the one who always trembles before God, but whoever hardens their heart falls into trouble. (Proverbs 28:14)

Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to do so. (Proverbs 3:27)

Spur one another on toward love and good deeds. (Hebrews 10:24)

Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. (Romans 12:9)

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:18)

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21)

And the voice that quietly spoke to me and encouraged me while I walked, “Be excited to ask your kids if you can teach them about Me like you get excited to teach them about anything else.”   It’s a convicting reminder.  Our kids have grown up in church and in the knowledge of God, but that doesn’t guarantee a relationship.  The personal decision to accept that Christ died for each one of them, and develop that relationship with their Creator and Savior, is ultimately their decision alone.  But am I doing everything I can, both by example and by passionate teaching, towards that relationship and the blessings that come from it? Am I sharing the character of God, His goodness, His promises, and His love?

I have so far to go and so much to learn myself, and sometimes I feel that we are wholly inadequate to bear the responsibilities that come with parenting.  But with the grace of God,  we will keep going, and keep trying to share the most important truths of life.  I’m thankful for the gentle reminder today to be enthusiastic and excited about sharing what I’ve learned with the most precious people I know.  We can’t give up now!

 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)

In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness 8 and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. (Titus 2:7-8)


“Learning to Love What Must Be Done:” a guest post

Tonight, as I feverishly try to wrap up the day’s to do list (as the clock mercilessly plods on–and dare I say, seems to be going faster?), I have nothing to say.  But, as I feverishly try to finish my cooking, baking, bed-making, laundry-folding, and grocery-putting-away-ing, this article is all I can think of tonight.  A good friend of mine shared it with me, and I’d like to pass it forward.  It is convicting and encouraging all at once.  How many times have I corrected my kids for complaining about their jobs while groaning about having to cook dinner again?  I wish I had written this article, but I most certainly did not, so I will try to give all the proper credit to the wise one, Christopher Perrin, who did crafting.  For more information about the Circe Institute, please click here.


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Learning to Love What Must Be Done
By: Christopher Perrin
I am sure that most of you, like me, have fought hard to overcome a perpetual desire to relax and procrastinate when important tasks loomed. Those of you who have never battled with procrastination–well, your problems are obviously of another sort. In college, I recall several who transformed the practice of putting things off into art. Do you remember the guy in your dorm hall who wouldn’t begin his term paper till the night before it was due–and somehow still got an A? These types make it tempting for all of us.

The etymology of procrastination is worth examining: the word comes from the Latin pro ( forward, on behalf of) and cras (tomorrow). Therefore, at its root, the word means pro-tomorrow. Remember the maxim of the slacker: Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow? In contrast, we find encouragement of a different sort from the German poet Goethe: Cease endlessly striving for what you would like to do and learn to love what must be done.

I can sure do with a little more Goethe; and I am forced to reason that my children must need his advice, too. Many voices call for our attention–and not all of them bad. Sure, there are the typical scoundrels calling for us: hours of mindless TV programs, on-line surfing and chit-chat and other forms of “entertainment” that do little to exalt our minds or souls (no wonder Christopher Wren called TV “chewing gum” for the eyes). There are some good TV programs available too–some unusually good programs on the History Channel (but also some weird ones). We must admit, too, that amidst the ocean of drivel on the internet there are some exceptionally good sites and resources. Rejecting good things for what is best can be sorely difficult–should the family stay home tonight or take off for a church service or activity?

Finding a routine helps–for the routine answers the questions before they come up. Yes, we are going for a walk this afternoon–we always do. Yes, we will start homework after dinner–that is our routine. Crafting the routine, of course, is not necessarily easy. I know many families have great, thoughtful, tested and re-tooled routines (could you send me a copy?). Some families with younger children (or maybe only one young child) are probably still working on crafting a family rhythm and pattern. Establishing a routine that works well is an ongoing enterprise, that keeps answering the question of what must go, stay or be added.

Once we have created a workable routine, another challenges becomes clear. How do we maintain momentum, energy, stability and peace? At least part of the answer comes from Goeth: we should love those things we must do. Once our daily tasks become beloved tasks, the routine become less routine. This, I believe, is something we can pass on to our children, like an attitude, for Goethe is encouraging a mindset not an activity. If they see some measure of joy as we cook, clean, mow and repair, they are apt to find it easier to love (in a manner of speaking) clearing their plates, bathing and doing homework. Strange as it is, they usually grow up to be like us.

Education, after all, is largely a matter of routine. Nothing is mastered without regular visitation, review and study. And education never stops. If we can, we should cast the work our students do as a labor of love, a life-long love, and we should love what they do too. Education will have its high moments, its epiphanies, break-throughs and moments of joy–much like a marriage. But the larger tranquility of a good education comes from the regular labor of worksheets, translations and reading assignments, in the same way a good marriage grows on preparing a meal, raking the lawn and taking a walk.

Once we have created a routine and learned to love it, we can also find yet even further comfort in knowing that a regular part of our routine must be to break from it. We call these breaks of routine by various names, such as “dinner out,” “week-ends” and “vacations.” These can be holy days in their own right, those special routines that are special largely because they are not daily, and because they are a ritual of celebration. And we celebrate with the most poignant joy when our work is done (the hay is in the barn, the homework is all done–let’s go to dinner). Put another way, when we work well, we rest well.

It’s been one of *those* days…

While we can rejoice in all of the advances in technology that make our lives easier, today they have done nothing but drag me down.  (I say this tongue-in-cheek, but still…)  As I write this, I’m trying to be patient as my phone and laptop finally get to communicate with each other and successfully transfer the 1,270 pictures and 70 videos from my phone to the drive that promises to keep them safe.  It’s the second try because the first process that I thought was working while I ran an errand was actually a wash and accomplished nothing.  Not to worry, not to worry… I’ll just begin again and transfer those pictures and videos.  After that, I should be able to get the latest software on my phone that I’ve heard many positive and negative reviews about.   How it will affect my phone is yet to be revealed, but I’m sure there will be something I wasn’t expecting.  All in the name of technology, right?

Our new washing machine is fabulous and the top loader without an agitator (oh, I’d like to be able to say I got rid of my life’s “agitator,” but alas, I don’t come in that model!) is enormously roomy.  We can fit a tremendous amount of clothes in there, which is, saying something with eight people who are continually intent on creating dirty laundry.  The down side, however, is that our eleven-year-old dryer is having a hard time keeping up, even with the considerable amount of laundry per load that we hang up to dry.  Today on multiple occasions, I went down, expecting to change a load only to find that it was still too damp to remove.  My pessimistic nature immediately assumed that the dryer had blown a head gasket (and really, after my history, could you blame me?!), but in reality, the door kept popping open.  Perhaps I was trying to get too much done at one time and crammed too many towels in that poor thing.  Again, multitasking gone wrong, but at least I have a dryer, right?  We lived in Korea for almost two years and had to hang everything.  I don’t think we ever got used to clean, crunchy underwear, but we dealt with it.  It was better than the alternative.   Ew.

The dishwasher ran, but the incorrect placement of one dish by one child who shall remain unnamed for his own safety didn’t allow for the soap dispenser to flip open at the proper time (or any time, actually), so the cycle ran but without soap.  Sigh.

I dropped a ton of books off at the library, but realized as we pulled up to the drop off box that I had left the two most important (and overdue, DOH!) books at home.  I’ll have to make another trip there to get those blasted books off my record.

Hannah and I made a trip to the local resale shop last night, and I scored some great deals on jeans for Ben.  I had the choice of two sizes–even held them up to me and my height–and picked the wrong one.  One more trip back there is on the to do list to exchange my improper purchase.

With all these great advances and amenities that we have in town, you’d think I’d be excited that because of them, I can get so much done.  Today and yesterday, however, I feel like I’ve attempted much, but ended up repeating just about everything.

For those who wonder how I get it all done…today I’ve had to do it twice.

I wonder how much more productive I could be if I could just do it right the first time

Perhaps I’ll just try again tomorrow…

Wordless Wednesday… the view from my walk

Today’s post is an ode to the beautiful colors I get to see almost every day when I walk in the neighborhood. My phone’s camera doesn’t do most of the shots justice, but that’s what I had today (and every day). The colors are just brilliant, and as I looked for the best trees, it was quite striking to observe the many different stages of “fall” from tree to tree. By tomorrow’s walk, everything will be changed, so I was thankful to catch today’s foliage.

The oak leaves don't have the best colors, but they usually yield the most satisfying crunch!

The oak leaves don’t have the best colors, but they usually yield the most satisfying crunch!


Changes in progress...

Changes in progress…


Brilliant display.

Brilliant display.


The fences here never get old.

The fences here never get old.


Along the way...

Along the way…












One growing season ends, while another begins.

One growing season ends, while another begins.




The mums that just keep coming back year after year.

The mums that just keep coming back year after year.








It's inevitable...the leaves can't stay forever...

It’s inevitable…the leaves can’t stay forever…


Flowers and leaves

Flowers and leaves


So pretty, until it's time to rake them up...

So pretty, until it’s time to rake them up…








A cluster on the sidewalk



The pumpkins at home.


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