A Birthday, a Booksigning, and a Barbeque

 Birthday Breakfast = gluten FULL cinnamon roll from Atkins Market, sausage & egg scramble

Last Saturday was Robert’s birthday ~ his 42nd.  It’s hard to believe that it was two years ago that we celebrated his 40th by wearing jellies, big teased bangs, rolled jeans, and dancing to Michael Jackson!  Such a fun memory and SUCH a contrast to this birthday. (Ha!)
 Didn’t they do a cute job of replicating the cover image of my book? All done freehand by the ladies in the floral department!

At least two months prior, I had been asked to come to a Celiac Event at a local grocery store on the 23rd of October ~ Robert’s birthday.  The store asked if I would do a “book-signing” which always makes me laugh.  I can understand someone wanting to buy the book for their child, but to put my signature on it is just funny to me.  This is my second “book-signing” event in 2 years, and people are always so gracious to go ahead and ask me to sign their book.  Honestly, I would rather have their signature and address so that I can write them a thank-you note for buying my book!  Anyway, I got Robert’s approval to go and do this thing on his birthday.  It would only be for a few hours midday, and there would still be plenty of time to celebrate his special day that morning and even later that evening.
The other “headliner” for the event was Bruce H. ~ a registered dietitian who also leads our local Celiac Support Group chapter.  It was Bruce who passed my name along to the sweet ladies at the store who hosted this event. And I don’t even go to the meetings anymore, since they moved to Wednesday evenings and conflict with our weekly Bible study.  Bruce has always been a huge encouragement to me in the area of my book, and as he struggles with the disease himself, is a wealth of information on Celiac Disease as well as  many other related issues.  He did a great job of giving an introductory lecture on Celiac Disease and gluten intolerance.
The store, which is a natural variation of a local chain store, purchased 20 books from me, and I also did a drawing for a free book.  Surprisingly, the birthday boy decided to join me for the afternoon which made it especially fun for me.  I’m fairly certain that this would not have been his birthday activity of choice, though!  He was, of course, a trooper ~ carrying boxes of books, chatting with table visitors (and there were some VERY chatty ones!), and getting us coffee and lunch from right there in the store.
We returned home around 3:30 in the afternoon and had a short amount of time to get ready for our dinner guests.  I wanted to grill out for the occasion, but since I don’t really know how, the birthday boy was “on” again being chef for his own party!  I think it worked out okay.  All of the men ended up joining him around the grill, as it was a beautiful fall afternoon and evening. I stayed inside working on the potatoes part of the “meat and potatoes” meal ~ that cheesy hashbrown casserole that I have only ever eaten in Oklahoma.  I think it may be the most fattening, full-of-butter, cheesy thing I have ever eaten, but it is very good.  I even had to purchase gluten free cream of chicken soup to make it.  I have not purchased any cans of that stuff in at least 8 years.  And not only because it’s not gluten free! There was green food to eat as well, but strangely, not much of it disappeared at this party.
Then there was the Texas Chocolate Sheet Cake which makes an appearance EVERY October 23rd.  And wasn’t it delivered by the most adorable 10 year old you ever did see?  The ice cream came out soon after, as well as the gifts and coffee.
And then it was 8 o’clock and time to get our guests home to their respective college football games.  We had Nebraska fans, Oklahoma fans, and Texas fans around the table and somehow, in Christ, they were all able to have a civil birthday celebration for their wonderful friend, pastor, dad, and husband!
Happy Birthday Robert….So thankful for you….So blessed by being your wife.

Comparative Character Analysis: Mr. Darcy/Kory

We’re studying British literature in our 10th grade Challenge II Class and already have these wonderful books under our belt so far: Beowulf, Canterbury Tales, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Paradise Lost, Pilgrim’s Progress and Gulliver’s Travels. This week we’re on to Pride and Prejudice.  I’m almost ashamed to admit that I’ve never actually read the book ~ have only seen two versions of the movie.
I checked two copies out from the library yesterday, so that Kory and I could begin our reading.  After reading the book, the students are to write a character sketch of 500 words or more on a character of their choosing.  They are to take notes on each of the main characters as they read through the novel. Today, after reading the first 14 chapters, Kory came to a couple of conclusions which he vocalized to our little schoolhouse of 6 pupils and a teacher.
I was sitting at the dining room table helping 5 of the pupils do their various math assignments for the day.  Kory was reading in his usual reclined position in a living room chair.  Finishing up the day’s reading quota, he declared…

Kory:Pride and Prejudice is a really great book, Mom.  Mrs. Bennet is so silly.”

Me: “I’m glad you like it.  Mrs. Bennet is a funny character.”

Kory: “And I think Mr. Darcy and I are actually a lot alike.”

Me: “Really? Why do you say that?”

Kory: “He’s prideful.  And he’s boring.”

5 kids at table and me:  (lots of snickering)

Kory: “And he has more money than everyone else.”

5 kids at table and me:  (More laughter) “Well, THAT’s true!” (Kory does seem to be the only one in the family with a disposable income.)

Kory: “And he’s more handsome than all the other men.”

5 kids at table and me: (ROARING LAUGHTER)

Kory: (lots of “gotcha” laughing and grinning)

The gentlemen pronounced him to be a fine figure of a man, the ladies declared he was much handsomer than Mr. Bingley, and he was looked at with great admiration for about half the evening, till his manners gave a disgust which tuned the tide of his popularity; for he was discovered to be proud, to be above his company, and above being pleased; and not all his large estate in Derbyshire could then save him from having a most forbidding, disagreeable countenance, and being unworthy to be compared with his friend.
Reaction to Mr. Darcy ~ Chapter 3
This mama thinks there just may be some similarities between her oldest child and the infamous Mr. Darcy.  Serious, mature, lots going on inside, and lots of compassion and generosity that might just be hidden behind a tough and put-together exterior. Many folks might not see this right away ~ but wait and see how he surprises you with it when you least expect it! And very handsome too, of course!
(Oh, and a hopeless romantic, but don’t tell him I told you that.)

Autumn Afternoon Awe

This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears…
…all nature sings and round me rings, the music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world:
I rest me in the thought of rocks and trees, and skies and seas…
His hands the wonders wrought.
This is my Father’s world, the birds their carols raise,
the morning light, the lily white, declare their Maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world: He shines in all that’s fair.
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass, He speaks to me everywhere.
This is my Father’s world.
O let me ne’er forget, 
that though the wrong seems oft so strong, 
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world.  
Why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King ~ let the heaven’s ring!
God reigns; let the earth be glad!
by Maltbie D. Babcock
Pinch me! This is where I live and just a few of the sights the kids and I saw on our autumn afternoon adventure yesterday ~ all within about 5 miles of my house!  
More to come… I can’t resist sharing it ALL with you.

Oh!  And you can click HERE to HEAR the hymn.

“Sun”- Dried Tomatoes

Even though apple-picking season is really about over, and the basil is definitely done, it seems like up until last week we were still picking tomatoes at the farm.  I sort of knew what to do with all of the paste tomatoes I picked.  Those ended up in a crockpot overnight along with some onions, garlic, and basil in order to make sauce ~ which always turned out pretty good. But what to do with the 2 quarts of cherry and pear tomatoes in our share?  I was about to skip a week of picking those, because I still hadn’t used the 2 quarts sitting on my kitchen table from the week before.  That’s when I met Jane.
We were picking basil near each other ~ lots of basil, when she asked if I was making pesto. When I said yes, she smiled in approval and said, “It’s such a great investment!  And there’s nothing like eating pesto in the winter ~ a wonderful taste of summer in every bite!”
“Have you picked your cherry tomatoes yet?” she asked.
“Actually, I was thinking of skipping those this week, because I’m not even close to finishing the ones I picked last week,” I lamented.  “What do you do with yours?”
” I make sun-dried tomatoes!” she happily proclaimed.

“Oh, but I don’t have a dehydrator,” I replied.
“Neither do I.  I make mine in the oven ~ set as low as it can get ~ for 8 hours or more.”
“So, could you describe to me exactly how you do it?” I asked.
“Wash them. Cut them in half. Place them cut-side-up on a cookie sheet.  Bake on the oven’s lowest temperature all day.  I have some in my oven right now ~ just turned it off to come to the farm, but will turn it back on when I get home,” she explained.

Oh happy day!  I thanked her for the inspiration, made a beeline for the cherry tomatoes, and joyfully picked 2 overflowing quarts.
The only problem with this whole idea is that in this “sun-dried” form, I can eat them like candy! I just about finished an entire bowl of them before I could pour them into a plastic bag and store them in the freezer for future use.  Oh well.  At least they get eaten.  A couple of bags did make it to the freezer, and I’ve even used them in one new dinner recipe recently.
What I really want to make is this sun-dried tomato pesto!
My friend Christie introduced me to sun-dried tomato pesto one day while strolling through Boston’s North End and visiting her favorite little Italian grocery store.  Oh. My. I think we nearly ate a whole container of it (along with some amazing cheese, prosciutto, bread, and gluten free crackers) on the drive back home, and I’ve been dreaming about it ever since!  So delicious…
Fall is definitely at its peak here ~ absolutely beautiful.  Really, there is nothing like it.
 Bracing myself for what’s to come, though.
At least there’s a bit of summer in my freezer this year!

Hartford Half Highlights & Hell-tels

The weather couldn’t have been more perfect for the half marathon on Saturday!  Last year’s half marathon in Lowell, MA was in rain and snow.  We finished the race, grabbed food from the food tent, bundled up and got to the car as fast as we possibly could.  This year we enjoyed hanging out in the sunshine and warmth of a spectacular fall afternoon!

And there were more friends involved this year which always makes things extra-fun.  Last year and this year we ran with Brett and Jenna (on the right). We also got to run and hang out with our friends Jess and Pat from Connecticut this year.  One of our recent church plants ~ Valley Church ~ also had both half marathon runners and a relay team that completed the full marathon, so it was fun to see them there as well.
The big bummer of the day, though, was that Robert ended up not running. His plantar fascitis had not healed enough to allow him to run long distances, and to top it off he pulled his back out on Monday of last week while on the elliptical machine at the gym.  Any notions he had of attempting to run on Saturday were completely dashed at that point, as he could hardly get himself out of the gym and into his truck to come home. He spent the rest of the week on naproxen sodium and a heating pad….
…which meant that he also spent the two hours we all spent running entertaining all of the children.  But as you can see from the photos, he was a super good sport about the whole thing, despite his discouragement over being injured and not being able to join in the “fun” of running.  He took them to watch the start of the race, to Starbucks for hot chocolate and some “electronic” time (hence the downward focused eyes while sitting on the walk outside of Starbucks), then to the park to meet up with the rest of us after the race.
The night before, our family stayed in a hotel just outside of the city.  We purposely reserved one with a pool, so that it would be a mini-vacation for the kids.  When we arrived (3 hours later than planned due to holiday weekend traffic), we discovered that our “two queen beds” had turned into “one king” that barely fit within the parameters of the room.  Evidently, the small print mentioned that the requested number of beds was NOT guaranteed, and we also happened to choose the weekend of some middle school soccer tournament. So, not only did we not get two beds, but there were hundreds of middle-schoolers running up and down the hallways and hanging out in the lobby!  We waited over three hours for our two rollaway beds, and then had to rearrange all of the room furniture (i.e. stuff as much of it as you can into the closet or between the king sized bed and the wall) and sacrifice our down comforter to make Cooper semi-comfortable on the floor.

We were all so cramped and on top of each other!  Then the arguing over the remote control began, and I decided once again that NOT having cable television at home is SUCH a good decision ~ they can already find enough to argue about.  Why add more opportunity?
And the whole scenario began to remind me of something Cooper used to say when he was little. He absolutely LOVED staying in hotels.  I mean, ice machines, vending machine, watching TV in bed, jumping from bed to bed, swimming pools, hot tubs ~ what’s not to like? But, he couldn’t quite pronounce “hotel” correctly and so, if we were going out of town or traveling to Texas, he would always ask:
“Are we going to stay in a hell-tel?”
Well, we adopted that pronunciation ourselves, because as you can clearly see from our most recent experience, it is a very accurate description, and even more so now as our kids are nearly as big as we are – invading our once personal space continually – and have opinions about what to watch on TV: 
Boys: ESPN
Girl: Animal Planet
Parents: Fox News

 Needless to say, we didn’t get great sleep and had to get up at 5:30a.m. the next morning to pack everything up, check out, get to downtown Hartford in time to meet up with our friends, and get to the starting line, which means that we were at the hell-tel for about 12 hours max.
Still, the race went fine.  My friend Jess decided at the last minute to use Robert’s bib and number and surprise her husband by running the half marathon.  Her husband has run it many times, and she had entertained the idea of running it several weeks back.  She began to train, but then life got really full, (i.e. she hosted a major religion/faith forum in her community the weekend before) and she was not able to keep up. Her longest distance before stopping her training had been a very difficult and painful eight miles.
We ended up running the entire thing together, and I was amazed by her stamina as we passed the 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th mile markers.  As for the 13th mile, I had to push to keep up with her!  We crossed the finish line together and completed the distance in two hours and twelve minutes.  It was great to run it with her and nice to have the time to catch up with each other ~ although the chatting definitely decreased as the miles increased.
I felt great the whole race and then, just after crossing the finish line, I began having my typical after-a-long-run-tummy-trouble.  It was no fun, and I thought I might die waiting in line for a porta potty.  It took me an hour or so to begin to feel better and as if I could eat anything, and then later I was completely famished.  By the time we got to Chili’s for lunch with Pat, Jess and kids, I was already in the mood for a burger and fries ~ which I am NEVER in the mood for. (Too much food. Too greasy. Too many calories, etc)  Well, that portion, grease, and number of calories has never tasted so good!  
An hour drive home, a hot bath, Advil, and bed at 9:30p.m. was all I could do afterward.
Feeling lots better today, but fading fast tonight.
Good night!
(And please pray for Robert’s healing of foot and back if you think of it ~ such a frustrating time.)

The Girl Has Got Plans

I was going to write “The Girl’s Got Plans,” but I’m reading BOTH Eats, Shoots & Leaves AND The Elements of Style with my Challenge II class, and those books have rendered me completely paranoid about my use of apostrophes, commas, and other punctuation marks – not to mention grammar. (What do you think about that hyphen usage?)  For instance, in the last post I wrote this phrase: “We sat with she and her husband….”  Well, I was re-reading that post the following day and realized, to my horror, that is was an improper usage of the word “she.”  What I should have written, and quickly edited the post to say was this: “We sat with her and her husband…”  That’s because you can’t sit with “she,” but you can sit with “her.”  So, is “girl’s” really an appropriate contraction for “girl has” ?  
I think maybe not.
My poor little 14 and 15 year-old students think Lynn Truss and I have completely lost touch with modern reality, because isn’t “you’re” now spelled “UR” ? 
“C’mon, Mrs. Krum, don’t you know anything?”

But what I really wanted to tell you (and yes, I know it is questionable to begin a sentence with a conjunction) is that my darling 10 year old daughter, Kayla, recently mapped out her future, and I mean (Texan vernacular) she has got it planned to a “T.”

Kayla:  Mom, do you have to go to college to be a chef?

Me: Well, no, but there are special culinary schools you can go to that teach you how to be a chef.

Kayla: Ok. Well, then let me tell you the plan for my life.

Me:  Let’s hear it.

Kayla:  Well, I am NOT going to go to college.  I am going to go to a school that teaches me how to be a chef.  After that, I am going to be a waitress.  I will save my money and work my way up to be the owner of the restaurant.

My part-time job on the weekends will be a piano player.  I am going to play at the White House and other places on the weekends when I am not working at the restaurant.

I am going to rent an apartment, and Madeline (her cousin) can live with me and help me pay the rent.
(Sharing the apartment with Madeline was actually my suggestion, but she thought it was a good one.)

I will have lots of pets to keep me company. I’m going to have a Labradoodle, a fish, and my bunnies – unless mine die.  Then I will get new bunnies.

Mom, how long does it take to get to Greenfield?

Me: Only about 20 or 30 minutes.

Kayla: OK.  Well, we’re going to live in Greenfield, because it’s close to you and Dad.  I will work in a restaurant in Greenfield for a while and then I will open my own gluten free cafe there.

Me: Wow!  That’s a great plan, but what about church?  Are you going to be a part of a church?

Kayla: Oh yes! I am going to go to Mercyhouse for the rest of my life, and be in a mid-week small group Bible study.

I’m also going to go to Paris and live in an apartment there for a while, because I love the Eiffel Tower.

Me: (hopefully) What about a husband and children?

Kayla: I don’t know… I haven’t quite decided about that yet.

Me: That is a great plan, honey!  You will be so good at all of those things, but I, personally, would love to have some grandchildren, so if you could possibly work that in, that would be great!

Kayla: (smiles and laughs)

You have to admire her ambition, and yet I can’t help but question my modeling of wife and mother when she would rather have pets than a husband and kids.  Unfortunately, I think it may be backlash against my pet aversion.  In my unprofessional analysis, I think she may be overcompensating for my lack of affection for the furry creatures in our lives.  
Not sure I can reverse this trend.
On the up side, she does love to play the piano (much to the dismay of her brothers doing schoolwork in  the same room), proper punctuation and grammar (thanks to 1+ years of Essentials of the English Language), and her geography. Although I had to tell her that Paris was indeed, NOT in the United States.  Rather, it is in that continent that she is studying in Classical Conversations this year: Europe. 

Kayla: Oh, that’s right!  That’s right.  I really knew that, Mom.

Love my girl!

Pondering the Treaures in Joy and Sorrow

There’s always lots going on here, but some weeks are especially full.  When I only check my email once a day, go days without so much as glancing at Facebook, and simply cannot touch my blog, I know it’s an especially busy time. And this one’s been filled with both an increase in activities and occasions as well as some emotional extremes.
Last week we got the news that one of our Classical Conversations tutors had been killed in a tragic car accident.  He had gone out alone in the evening – to pray, to read God’s Word – a typical practice of his as the primary caregiver/teacher at home.  He never returned.  Police arrived at his home in the early morning to inform his wife that his car had been found in a ravine off a local road and that he had been killed from injuries sustained when his car hit a tree.  We were shocked.  Cooper had started the year off in his class last year and I was thankful for this godly, strong, masculine example for my son.  Cooper was later shuffled to another class because of changes in enrollment, but Mr. D continued to be quite a presence on our CC campus.  I will always remember his weekly exhortation to the young men of CC to “remove their caps” before the morning prayer. Mr. D was our designated “pray-er” as the only adult male on campus.  The women were grateful for his presence. The kids thrived under his commanding and knowledgeable teaching style and were thrilled when he brought in their family’s gigantic snake for family presentation time.
We were blessed to attend his funeral last Friday and hear person after person stand and tell the stories of how he had been instrumental in their lives – neighbors, long-time friends, a sister, and parents from CC.  Dr. D left behind a wife and four children, and a lasting and meaningful impact on many lives. He was only 42.
While still taking in the gravity of this loss, we were faced with another one just days later.
Robert ran to the grocery store early Thursday morning to grab some syrup for breakfast.  He ran into a friend of ours who told him that our friend Lisa was in the hospital after being diagnosed with colon cancer just 4 weeks previously.  She might not make it through the day, our friend explained.  Moments after he returned home and relayed the devastating message to me, the same friend called to say that Lisa was gone, having passed away sometime earlier that morning.  I could hardly take it in.  Wasn’t I just chatting with her at the farmer’s market downtown a few weeks ago?  Didn’t we just have a lovely conversation while sitting next to each other at a baseball game this spring?  How could it happen so fast? 
Lisa and I were not extremely close, but I enjoyed serving on the board of our local Woman’s Club with her for several years.  We sat with her and her husband at Woman’s Club holiday dinners, and enjoyed seeing each other at baseball games where our boys were usually on rival teams.  We ran into each other in town often and she was always so warm, kind, and sincerely interested in me and my homeschooling endeavors.  Lisa had left behind her job as Vice-President of Chase Manhattan Bank in New York City to be at home and raise two sons.  She was involved in every aspect of their schools and sports teams, and I remember her being especially concerned about the math curriculum and standards at the high school level.  She often asked about our homeschool math and other curricula as she passionately, but gently pursued what she felt was best for our local public schools and for her boys and family. 
The funeral home was filled with grieving family, friends, and neighbors this afternoon.  I talked to a mutual friend and neighbor of Lisa’s to find out more about the time line of her final days.  She had been diagnosed on August 24, had surgery in Boston 2 weeks later where it was discovered that the cancer was too advanced and entwined with too many other organs to operate.  She was taken to a local hospital to begin chemo, but suffered a stroke and never came home. She was 56.
Both seem like such great losses, and yet I know that God is perfectly sovereign. His ways are higher than ours and He can be trusted even in the most difficult of situations, the deepest of valleys.
Sandwiched between these two tragedies, I attended a really fun wedding on Saturday night and a Beth Moore Living Proof Live conference in Lowell, MA on Friday and Saturday.  The conference was such a wonderful experience.  Her humor, humility, and teaching gift coupled with the humility and amazing talent of the worship leader, Travis Cotrell, made for and incredible atmosphere of worship.
Beth taught on the Luke 2 account of the birth of Jesus, focusing on the pondering heart of Mary, and the treasures that she stored there.  Mary is highlighted in those verses as the exception to those around her who were “amazed” by all that was happening, but didn’t necessarily treasure or ponder them in order to eventually pull the pieces together and obtain true understanding of the plan of God that was unfolding.  From many beautiful places in Scripture, she encouraged us to recognize the treasures around us, to ponder them, and to allow the Lord to grant us understanding in that meditation.
And Beth reminded us of one of my favorite places to go in Scripture when I’m struggling to understand why what’s happening is happening…
…and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself,
in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 
Colossians 2:2-3
When we can’t find treasure, we need not go passionately pursuing one, but the ONE in whom they are always found…Christ Himself.