Monday, August 30, 2010

Book Review: To Cut A Long Story Short

After reading Jeffrey Archer's most recent short-story book, I began to wonder if I might have missed one. As I perused this book at the library, it seemed to be fresh fodder, so I checked it out.

It wasn't until I came to a brief story called, "The Letter," that I remembered having read the book previously. Thankfully, though, that was the only story I remembered very clearly. All of the rest of them felt fresh and uncharted. I think my favorites were "A Change of Heart," and "The Grass is Always Greener," because they offered such fine examples of shifting perspectives.

It was really the perfect book for when I sit in the pick-up lane, waiting for Trevor to be released from kindergarten. I'm even learning to block out the noise of little brother in the back seat. I ask him to keep his eyes peeled for Trevor and let me know when the kids begin filing out of the building. Somehow short story books seem perfect for snippets of time. Of course, Jeffrey Archer's short story books are perfect ... in any setting.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Book Review: Walking on Water

I thoroughly enjoyed Madeleine L'Engle's book, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art. It was the type of book that you can read several pages at a time and then put down for a while to ruminate over what you have read. There were wonderful insights into Christianity and the inner workings of the artist.

I was privileged to hear Madeleine L'Engle speak during my four year stint at Wheaton College. I probably even took notes. However, I'd be hard pressed to find those notes now.

Still, I could not help myself from taking notes from her book. Some of the notes were the words of L'Engle and others were quotes from others that she used in the book.

I loved this quote she offered from Emmanuel, Cardinal Suhard about witnessing:

"To be a witness does not consist in engaging in propaganda, nor even in stirring people up, but in being a living mystery. It means to live in such a way that one's life would not make sense if God did not exist."

As she spoke about the purpose of art, I could not help think about why it is so important for a blogger to receive response to one's posts. As L'Engle says, "Art is communication, and if there is no communication it is as if the work has been still-born."

Moreover she encourages the writer to cease being concerned about qualifications. She writes, "In a very real sense not one of us is qualified, but it seems that God continually chooses the most unqualified to do his work, to bear his glory.... If we are forced to accept our evident lack of qualification, then there's no danger that we will confuse God's work with our own, or God's glory with our own."

I appreciated the fact that L'Engle embraces doubt and uncertainty. She says, "The great artists keep us from frozenness, from smugness, from thinking that the truth is in us, rather than in God, in Christ our Lord. They help us to know that we are often closer to God in our doubts than in our certainties, that it is all right to be like a small child who constantly asks: Why? Why? Why?"

She also addressed the idea of story as a pain-killer (something I have thought about quite a bit lately when I have battled pain). She used as an illustration the story of her own granddaughter, Lena, who at the age of nine was hit by a truck while riding her bike. She was in desperate pain and begged often to be read to. While engaged in story, our minds shift focus off the pain.

Finally, I fully applauded her discussion on what the reader wants to gain from a book. She observes, "We don't want to feel less when we have finished a book; we want to feel that new possibilities of being have been opened to us. We don't want to close a book with a sense that life is totally unfair and that there is no light in the darkness; we want to feel that we have been given illumination."

I think those words capture the essence of my dissatisfaction with several of the books I have read recently. When I get to the end of the book and feel just as gloomy as when I picked it up (or even gloomier), then I regret spending my time reading. I want to read books that "say yes to life."

There were many other excellent observations (the importance of prayer, of remaining open to the voice of God, of being available as a vessel by showing up to write daily, or the awesome responsibility an artist has of capturing what is his or hers to capture). I will certainly have to read this book again because there are so many things that are bound to pop out in additional readings.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

I Want a Job Just to Support Charitable Giving

I've previously explained my connections to the cancer world. My grandfather's entire family was basically decimated by cancer (I will probably get the specific facts wrong, but I think of ten siblings eight of them died of cancer, my grandfather dying of colon cancer). My father grew up knowing that he would have to be checked quite regularly for colon cancer because his father was a carrier of the Familial Adenoidal Polyposis gene (the cancer which killed Katie Couric's husband). Luckily, for myself and my siblings, several years back when I was experiencing some questionable symptoms, we met with a geneticist and were told that my father did not carry the gene. Sadly, his sister did (and has faced this demon) and one of my cousins has already passed away after battling cancer.

When I was ten, my classmate and friend, Janet, was battling cancer. Her parents were very nice to me and often allowed me to visit and sleep over. I went away for camp, the following summer, and returned to the news that she had passed away.

Both my father and my father-in-law have battled cancer. My father had a cancerous kidney removed. My father-in-law received too many radioactive pellets during his treatment for prostate cancer. These basically ate out his insides and left him in a state of constant pain.

Then, my youngest brother's daughter, Amelia, was diagnosed with leukemia (ALL) two days after her second birthday. Through Amelia, I was introduced to Caringbridge and Care Pages and have since been following many cancer patients in their battles against this pervasive disease.

One of my all-time favorite pages belongs to the Larsen family of Iowa. Scott and Peggy Larson and their twin sons, Coleman and Caden, coined the term "Team Larson." I think there were several reasons why I was drawn to this family so strongly. For one, their boys are close in age to one of my sons. For another, Peggy does such a fantastic job of inviting her readers into their lives and leaving them with some encouragement. Despite the fact that Coleman earned his wings in January of 2009, Peggy continues to struggle on in this battle and reminds us all of the value of life.

In fact, I just learned that Peggy has bravely joined a group called "46 Mommas Shave for the Brave." These 46 mothers are going to be shaving their heads, with the St. Baldricks organization, on September 7th in honor of their children and the battle against cancer. Why 46 moms? Because each school day, 46 children are diagnosed with cancer.

As I was looking over Peggy's St. Baldrick's participant page, my husband grew alarmed. He said, "Oh no! You're not thinking of doing that, are you?"

Ha! He thought perhaps I might be so moved to agree to shave along with these brave women. Alas, I'm not that brave. However, I am really wishing I could find a job to support the charitable giving I wish to donate to these heart-tugging causes.

Last week, I read in our local paper about a mother who, after beating breast cancer, was diagnosed with a terminal case of lymphoma. The Indianapolis Star stated that "the expense of fighting the disease cost the family their home, and both Sean and Jill lost their jobs. They now live in Avon with a family member."

On August 14th, a 5K run was held to raise monies for her husband and three children (ages 11, 8 and 7). As soon as I read the article, I wanted to run the 5K (ha, like I'd even be able to do that with the constant fatigue I am still battling) and make a donation to the family.

Thankfully, John is gracious and never begrudges my investment in these causes. Indeed, I found myself plugging another hole (which is what my donations feel like - like the Dutch boy in "Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates," who places his finger in a hole in the dike in order to stem the tide of the avalanche of water) when Cardiogirl mentioned a friend who is raising money for a leukemia run in honor of her 5 year old daughter who has been in remission from leukemia for two years. I felt compelled to offer up a little something for her efforts.

Now, I am passing along the information as "46 Mommas Shave for the Brave." Who knows, maybe you feel a pull to stem the tide alongside me? Maybe you just want to watch their efforts. On Sept. 10th, they will be spotlighted on a show produced by "Stand Up 2 Cancer."

Encyclopedia Mythica explains the story of The Little Dutch Boy:

"This story is told to children to teach them that if they act quickly and in time, even they with their limited strength and resources can avert disasters. The fact that the Little Dutch Boy used his finger to stop the flow of water, is used as an illustration of self-sacrifice. The physical lesson is also taught: a small trickle of water soon becomes a stream and the stream a torrent and the torrent a flood sweeping all before it, Dyke material, roadways and cars, and even railway tracks and bridges and whole trains."

Maybe you'd like to lend your finger, too? Here, here or here?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Book Review: Housekeeping

After enjoying Marilynne Robinson's book, Gilead, so much last year, I decided to pick up her other novel, Housekeeping, to take along to CBLI. Sadly, CBLI wasn't a very conducive opportunity for reading. The only moments I snatched were just prior to bed and a few here and there while the boys were swimming at the pool.

Although I don't believe this book was quite as good as Gilead, the writing was again quite remarkable. Of course the endorsements were full of such praises. Walker Percy says it is "a story told in a language as sharp and clear as light and air and water." On the back cover, Doris Lessing adds, "I found myself reading slowly, then more slowly - this is not a novel to be hurried through, for every sentence is a delight."

Here is an example of her beautiful prose:

"It meant that on an evening so calm, so iridescently blue, so full of the chink and chafe of insects and fat old dogs dragging their chains and belling in the neighbors' dooryards - in such a boundless and luminous evening, we would feel our proximity with our finer senses. As, for example, one of two, lying still in a dark room, knows when the other is awake."

I found her words delicious. The story was interesting, although long at getting to the point. It is a tragic tale of two sisters who have been raised by their mother, then their grandmother, then their great aunts and, finally, by their eccentric aunt. It touches on the great toll of personal loss and the bonds of family.

Here is another finely worded passage, so evocative:

"When did I become so unlike other people? Either it was when I followed Sylvie across the bridge, and the lake claimed us, or it was when my mother left me waiting for her, and established in me the habit of waiting and expectation which makes any present moment most significant for what it does not contain. Or it was at my conception.

Of my conception I know only what you know of yours. It occurred in darkness and I was unconsenting. I (and that slenderest word is too gross for the rare thing I was then) walked forever through reachless oblivion, in the mood of one smelling night-blooming flowers, and suddenly - My ravishers left their traces in me, male and female, and over the months I rounded, grew heavy, until the scandal could no longer be concealed and oblivion expelled me. But this I have in common with all my kind. By some bleak alchemy what had been mere unbeing becomes death when life is mingled with it. So they seal the door against our returning.

Then there is the matter of my mother's abandonment of me. Again, this is the common experience. They walk ahead of us, and walk too fast, and forget us, they are so lost in thoughts of their own, and soon or late they disappear. The only mystery is that we expect it to be otherwise."

It is a beautiful book, even if a bit sad and tragic. I am awaiting further novels by Marilynne Robinson. Although, perhaps I should nibble at her two non-fiction books, Mother Country and The Death of Adam, while I wait.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

What Was I Just Saying?

Last night, after writing my quick review of the thyroid madness book, I went to bed wondering what toxins are floating around my environment. Since this house is old, my husband is eager to make adjustments to "bring it up to the 21st century," as I heard him say to a handyman yesterday. I began to wonder what new chemicals are coming into the home with each of the remodelling ventures we pursue.

Then, this morning, I logged onto the computer to read my news. What do I find? An article on AOL about the EPA considering giving authorization for another chemical to be added to our clothing. They want to add an untested chemical to something that we wear against our skin all day long, just because people are clamoring to be able to wear an item of clothing without it smelling of body odor. In other words, we are so eager to skip the normal step of cleaning what we wear (and you know me, I'm normally all about skipping some extra cleaning detail if I can) that we would allow strange chemicals to be added on the promise that it will "make our lives easier." I just wonder how much easier it is if it ends up making us SICK!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Book Review: Stop the Thyroid Madness

For many months now, my body has been like an old car in various states of disrepair. I have been so fatigued that I couldn't accomplish much and craved naps every afternoon. Even when well rested (with a tank full of gas, so to speak), I was still putzing along at 5 m.p.h. The cold was bothering me, which seemed ridiculous since it is SUMMER. My periods are heavier and longer. My joints ache when I try to climb the stairs. I couldn't even rouse enough stamina to continue riding the exercycle for 20 minutes straight, but would stop after five or ten, to rest and drink water before finishing the brief work-out.

Of course, I began to mention these difficulties to my doctor, but they were considered to be by-products of depression. Finally, when I had an unexplained weight gain of about 15 pounds, I decided that perhaps the antidepressant was responsible for the sluggishness and the weight gain. Alas, even off of those meds, I was constantly lethargic and struggling to fit into my old clothes.

The doctor tested for thyroid and said "all tests returned normal." I requested a cortisol level test. They said, "all tests returned normal," despite the fact that I was on the very low end of the scale, taken first thing in the morning when cortisol levels should be at their highest.

Finally, the day that we left on our way to CBLI, I took those same lab results to a naturopath doctor and he quickly scanned the results and declared "hypothyroidism." He also stated that (from the results of the thorough questionairre) I have some significant hormone imbalances (probably estrogen dominance and progesterone deficiency). He placed me on Armour dessicated thyroid (which comes from a pig - yikes) and ordered a hormone lab draw on the 21st day of my cycle. Sadly, that lab draw will have to wait because I was in Wisconsin on the 21st day. I have started the medicine (as of today) and, quite frankly, am somewhat worried about this whole development, since what I read on the Stop the Thyroid Madness site indicates that Armour reformulated their drug one year ago and now patients are again struggling with meds that don't seem to adequately address the symptoms.

While at CBLI, I finally finished reading this book, Stop the Thyroid Madness, by Janie A Bowthorpe, which had been lent to me by my friend, Mary. This was a very informative book about hypothyroidism and the difficulty patients have had in obtaining appropriate treatment from within the normal medical establishments. The author claims that doctors are more influenced by drug companies than by concern for the patient and that doctors continue to dose to the tests rather than dose to the elimination of symptoms.

Of course, I still believe that I am suffering from adrenal fatigue in addition to the hypothyroidism (indeed, I wonder if I really have hypothyroidism, since some of the reading I have done regarding the hormone imbalances of perimenopause often mimic the symptoms of hypothyroidism). Bowthorpe asserts that "low-functioning adrenal glands, with resultant low cortisol, complicates hypothyroid condition."

From the sounds of things in this book, addressing the adrenal insufficiency and the hypothyroidism can help to rebalance the sex hormone issues. Although it is reassuring to know that there are others out there who have faced similar struggles, it is equally distressing to fear that one cannot trust the medical establishment to seek the answers and give the best (not necessarily the most profitable) avenue of treatment.

What amazes me, as well, is the prevalence of thyroid issues. Perhaps, I am just more attune to things like that, now that I am experiencing symptoms. But, perhaps, we are damaging our bodies by the chemicals we continue to push into our foods and environment.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Book Review: The Postmistress

What to say about this book? It was one of the books I needed to finish prior to leaving for camp, thus I did rush through it a bit more than normal and now it is over two weeks since I completed it. I want to say that I liked it, but I think my overall impression wasn't quite so good.

Sarah Blake's The Postmistress is based on the premise of a letter tucked away in a pocket instead of properly delivered. Set during World War II, the story revolves around two quiet women in a New England town and one intrepid young woman reporting from the action of the war in London. Iris is the 40 year old postmistress in the small town of Franklin, MA. Emma Trask is the newlywed wife of the town doctor. Both women follow the advancement of the war while listening to the emotionally charged, first-hand accounts of Frankie Bard.

The time period was interesting. The idea of a letter undelivered held great promise. However, the story just didn't really draw me in as much as I had hoped. Plus, it felt overwhelmingly depressing. There was nothing in the story to affirm life. I merely felt discouraged by the tale.

I did read on Amazon that the author spent 7 years writing this book. These three characters each wanted to go off in their own directions, thus Blake pared things down to interweave them together in this story. I am wondering if the three separate books might not have made the reader feel more invested in the characters.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Lessons from Camp

Although I was feeling spiritually numb throughout camp, I believe the classes I attended were clearly God-ordained. I did come away with some powerful stories and lessons.

My first class was called, "Power to be Engaged" (the theme of the encampment this year was "Engage") and was taught by Lois Wheeler, a teacher I have enjoyed in past years. I was thrilled to discover a book accompanying the class (they haven't provided books with classes for a few years now). The class covered Janet Denison's book, Content to be Good, Called to be Godly. The sentence description on the cover said, "What to do when your life is full, but your soul is empty."

Although I think my spiritual and emotional numbness is caused by physical conditions, this class was exactly what I have been needing to hear and trying to practice. Over and over again, I heard about the importance of silence and rest. The book's chapter titles alone reveal that this is a subject I am ripe for: "Running on Empty? Retreat," "The Power of Priority," "In the Desert, but Not Deserted," etc.

I was piqued by the mention of John Stott's "recipe" for a healthy soul. He recommends "an hour a day, a day a week, and a week a year," set aside for solitude and silence with God. In my busy life of small children, I recognize clearly that I am less of a mom when I fail to find time to pull away. I'm still not sure I can pull off his prescription, however.

Janet Denison writes, "So often we believe that the person who manages to work more is somehow worth more. Instead, we should be impressed by the people who understand their need for God's rest and who speak from a quiet strength acquired from the peaceful streams of God." I have felt quite frustrated with the worship of the god of productivity. Of course, easy to feel frustrated in that realm when one is having a hard time rallying the energy to accomplish anything. I'd so rather be a Mary than a Martha!

In my current situation, I believe God has led me into a desert experience. Denison's words were such a great reminder to me. She writes: "When you find yourself in the desert, make a point to rely on the promises of God.... Know you are loved. God has led you to the desert or allowed you to go for a reason.... Ask God if there is anything you need to confess.... Remember that God often takes you to the desert so he can refocus or redirect your life.... Be still and know that he is God. Embrace the loneliness because it is a time when you can seek the face and compassion of your Father.... Seek the word of God before you seek the counsel of others.... God will decide when to bring you out of the desert... distractions can help you forget you are in the desert temporarily, but they cannot bring you out of it."

My second class was taught by Dave Tooley and provided a study guide for John Ortberg's The Me I Want to Be: Becoming God's Best Version of You. John Ortberg is the author of If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat. I must confess I haven't read that book, but the title is quite memorable.

I really enjoyed this class. Dave Tooley was genuine and funny. I loved that he provided the DVD teaching sessions as well. These video clips were full of memorable stories and lessons. Ortberg's thrust is in determining whether we are languishing or flourishing spiritually and then taking necessary steps to move closer to flourishing.

My favorite story, which demonstrated so clearly the forgiveness we have received from Christ, was one John Ortberg told about a college graduation he had attended. At the graduation ceremony three individuals were called to the front. The audience was informed that these three individuals had just signed on for a commitment to spend the next three years of their lives giving of themselves in some form of missionary commitment (I don't recall what - perhaps something akin to the Peace Corps). Of course, these three kids thought they had merely been brought to the front for this recognition. However, the president of the college turned to the first individual and addressed them by name. After saying their name, he informed them that an anonymous individual had been moved by their commitment and was offering, on their behalf, to write-off their college debt of $100,000. He then turned to the second individual and addressed them by name, indicating that the same individual had written off their $80,000 debt to the college. When the president turned to the third individual, this one, by now, knew what was coming, but still had to wait until the words were spoken before they would actually believe that their entire $130,000 of college debt was being forgiven. Of course, even listening to this story brought a lump to my throat. It is a remarkable thing to be forgiven much without being required to do a single thing to earn that forgiveness!

Another Ortberg story, which I wish I could link to for you to watch for yourselves (because when I attempted to tell it to someone else at camp, it became clear that I simply cannot put it back in the words John Ortberg perfectly pronounced), had to do with the purpose of families.

Ortberg said that he imagines God going to the angels and saying, "Hey, I've just come up with the perfect plan and it is called "the family." The angels ask how it works and God explains that he will take two adults and give them a small stranger. For years, the stranger will be unable to do anything more than cry, demand food, and make messes. But when they run to the adults and hold out their arms, it will dawn on the adults why arms and feet were even made. When they finally begin to speak, they will say things like "No" and "Mine." They will require correction. They will think they know everything. And just when they get to the point when they are finally grown and have become decent enough to want to have around, they will leave home. The angels then ask God why people would ever sign on for that. God assures them that they will, crazy as it seems, and will even in the end come to understand what it is to come home to God, running on their feet, with outstretched arms.

It was far more beautiful and poignant than that, but that was the best re-telling I could offer.

Further, the Ortberg study guide talked about the importance of relationship and community. Ortberg argues that commitment to community really matters to our individual spiritual health. He writes, "Every day, everyone you know faces life with eternity on the line, and life has a way of beating people down. Every life needs a cheering section. Every life needs a shoulder to lean on once in a while. Every life needs a prayer to lift them up to God. Every life needs a hugger to wrap some arms around them sometimes. Every life needs to hear a voice saying, 'Don't give up.'"

This made me realize anew my intense need for life-giving relationships. I not only need to rid myself of the "life-suckers" (something I picked up from the Adrenal Fatigue book) but I also need to find "life-givers."

During the adult Bible study, we considered the parable of the Good Samaritan. Afterwards, we were asked to break into groups and discuss several questions. One of my group members shared a story from one of the other delegates. He said that this couple (we'll call them the Smiths) moved into a new neighborhood. The very first neighbors who came over, bringing cookies to the Smiths, were a gay couple. These two men extended their friendship readily. But, it was a particular incident which cemented in their minds that this gay couple, like the Samaritan, unexpectedly extended more grace than those they would have expected to receive it from. He said that the Smiths had accidentally left their garage door open in the evening. One of the gay men noticed this around 3 or 4 in the morning. Rather than awaken the Smiths at that hour, for no news can be good news at that hour of the morning, the man made himself a pot of coffee, opened his own garage door and sat in a lawn chair watching the Smith's door to make sure that nobody broke in to steal or harm the Smiths. When he finally noticed some activity going on within the house, he knocked on the front door to tell them that he had sat watch on their behalf. Now, that is a good neighbor. That is the way Christians ought to be loving others.

Finally, the most memorable story of the encampment was shared on the evening when the summer youth mission teams shared their testimonies of their experiences. One group had gone to Bolivia. Their spokesperson approached the podium and directed our attention to a photograph (on the large screen behind him) of a young teenager named Gabriella. If you wish to watch the actual telling of this story, you can click here and forward on to the 51 minute mark (since I've already confessed that sometimes, I just can't repeat a story as well as the original storyteller).

Gabriella was an individual that they met at The Salvation Army's children's home. She is 16 years old. Her parents are divorced. Her mother was very abusive, so Gabriella lived with her father, who showed her some love. However, her step-mother beat her and abused her. Finally, Gabriella, left her father's home and went to live in the children's home run by The Army. Her mother then stepped in and took her out of the children's home. Gabriella appealed to her father but he told her that he had taught her everything a father could teach and that it was time to go with her mother. Her mother was also abusive, calling her a "mistake" and treating her very badly. The only family member that Gabriella felt safe with was her grandfather. Sadly, 5 years ago, that grandfather passed away and he left her his entire estate, including his house.

Gabriella's mother began to pressure her to give the money and house to her. Gabriella told her mother that she could not hand over this inheritance to those who had treated her so poorly. She told her mother that she could give the house to someone on the street. In fact, that is what she did. She found someone who was homeless and offered to let them stay in the house as long as they paid the electricity and water and as long as they agreed to move out when they had found a decent job and could afford another place to live. Gabriella is, apparently, on her second family now. She had every reason to languish, given the circumstances of her life, but instead she is flourishing. This story was so convicting.

It reminds me also of something said in the final meeting. The speaker mentioned someone saying "I'm doing well, under the circumstances," and the other individual chastising that person saying "Well, what are you doing UNDER the circumstances?" With God's help, and our focus on Him, we should be able to live above life's circumstances.

So, even though I'm still feeling emotionally and spiritually numb these days, it is clear that I did gain some truly valuable lessons for my annual time at Central Bible and Leadership Institute. I thank God I was able to attend again.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Things I loved about CBLI this year:

  1. Each of the teens and tweens received a leather bound Bible. I don't know how much money was spent for the annual mid-camp trip to Great America (which they did away with this year - something they have done regularly since I was a teen) each year, but the benefit of this Bible far out-paces a day at an amusement park. Kudos to the person responsible for that idea/gift.

    It was awesome to watch all the teens in the evening meeting, holding their Bibles high and ready for a sword drill (where they challenge them to be the first to find an announced passage of Scripture).

    I spent most of the week asking Bryce if he found his. I think he lost his bag and Bible on the fourth or fifth day. Thankfully, on the last day, when they still couldn't locate the Bible with his name in it, his counsellor suggested he take one of the other ones that had been left or lost.

  2. Our cabin was large and spacious, which meant that the little boys were content to play there. While Sandpiper and the Lodge are closer to where all the activities occur, they don't offer much space to maneuver. Our cabin had 5 bunk beds in the main part of the cabin and another bunk bed in a small counselor's room. Trevor and Sean took over the counselor's room as their own. Trevor loved the small desk where he could draw. There was a dresser for their clothes. When I wanted to rest, they would merely shut their door and lie on their beds watching our portable DVD player or playing together quietly in there. (You can tell from the photos that neatness wasn't our highest priority at camp, but then, that's another thing I love about CBLI ... it doesn't have to be!)

  3. I loved hearing Sean singing songs from his class when he thought nobody was listening in the cabin. It is always funny, too, when the boys don't realize that I know a song they have just learned. They spent most of the week singing "Stand Up and Shout it, if you Love my Jesus," and "She'll be Coming Round the Mountain." If you want to watch the short video of their class, you can see them both singing and splashing in the water.

  4. I loved that Trevor and Sean were both in the same class together. On the first night, the Kids Track director approached me and said that the 2s & 3s class was rather large. She asked if I would mind if they bumped Sean up to Trevor's 4s & 5s class. It was a really wonderful thing for the boys to attend class together and receive the same crafts, toys and lessons.

  5. I loved our free-times together. We didn't really stress this year about accomplishing a lot. We often spent the first hour just hanging out in the cabin. Trevor loved all of the free-time options. He wanted to attend the pool daily. Sean, didn't seem to want to do anything. He complained every time we headed to the pool, but soon became active in the water. I think he was a bit put out that Trevor had advanced to the big pool, while he was still stuck in the baby pool. I loved not having to worry about Trevor (his swimming skills have advanced so much since his lessons back in April that I didn't even stay near him, but allowed him to swim alone in the big pool).

    At one point, when I was still signing us all in and the boys had taken off inside without me, I entered to find two mothers chuckling over something Sean had said. Apparently, he walked to the edge of the big pool, where Trevor jumped in, and said, "Every day ... it gets deeper and deeper," then put his hands on his hips and walked off towards the baby pool. Ha!

    Sean wasn't too thrilled with the fishing idea after the second day, either, because I wouldn't let him use any other pole than the Spiderman one with a rubber fish for practice casting. He's great at casting, for a 3 year old, but I still don't trust him with a hook. They did enjoy a few hours of fishing with Todd, though.

    Trevor was gung ho to try the zip line, when he heard my friend Laura's daughter, Annie, talking about it, but in the end, I think he wasn't quite ready and said he'd do it next year (you have to climb up about four stories high).

    They both enjoyed the playground:

  6. I loved brief glimpses of my nieces and nephew, who were out for the camp as well. When my niece Kirsten helped lead the worship during the welcome service, I was teary-eyed with pride for the outstanding young woman she has grown to be.

Things I didn't quite love:

  1. Hoards of mosquitoes. I heard someone say while we were there, "Mosquitoes - Wisconsin's State Bird!" Too true! The boys were eaten alive.

    One of the interesting evening programs included a mock-Olympics. Since preschool events were limited, I had only signed Trevor and Sean up for the bubble blowing. I think I expected it to be a competition of blowing the biggest bubble with a wand and bubble solution. Instead, we arrived at the indicated location, the toddler pool, to be handed a straw. The boys weren't wearing their swimming suits. Finally, I just let them strip down to their shorts and go in anyway. We paid for that decision on the walk back to the cabin - a walk through the meadow between the pool and our cabin! It was like a million dive-bombers attacking both boys at once. They were in tears and quite miserable. We didn't make it back for the rest of the events, although we did enjoy the International food fair, the face painting and the medal distribution (Bryce placed 3rd for push-ups and someone actually treaded water for an entire TWO HOURS!).

    (I had to include this photo of the mattress throwing competition - what a hoot!)

  2. The beds. The beds in Sandpiper and the Lodge are hotel quality - some darn good sleeping. Sadly, I didn't really know we would be in Shagbark, and I didn't know that the camp wouldn't provide a fitted sheet. Thus, most of the evenings were spent trying to keep the sheets and blankets on the bed. We did get ample sleep though, so I'm not complainin' too much.

  3. I missed outside speakers. In years past, we have been privileged to hear from some fantastic guest speakers and drama groups. I'm guessing it is just a sign of the times and due to budgetary limitations.

Things I missed while gone from home:

  1. SPINACH. I couldn't believe how much I missed it. I have been eating it daily since returning home. This afternoon, I am having some frozen spinach added to a can of lentil soup.

  2. Apparently, I missed enough drinking water, as well. I almost always become irregular when I travel, but this time I was also blessed with my first urinary tract infection and my first panic attack (good times, no?).

  3. Sleepy Bear. Somehow, in the chaos of packing the car, Sean must have picked up Sleepy Bear and set him down somewhere in the house. When we discovered SB had been left behind, Sean assured us that he would be fine. He cried briefly on the first night in the cabin, but otherwise, managed the whole time away without his beloved Sleepy Bear.

Things I didn't miss at all while gone:

  1. Harley! Poor John said the dog was beside himself with missing us and thus, nibbled John's feet and clothes constantly and followed him mercilessly.

  2. Being in the midst of the mess of remodelling. We had a handyman come in and pull up the awful green carpeting that has always been in the dining room (despite the horrid color, I really never minded the carpeting because it meant the boys could spill with impunity). In its place, he put down laminate wood-look flooring. He also painted the boys' rooms.

  3. Meal planning, cooking, and cleaning. Enough said!

All in all, we had a great time. Trevor was swarmed by bees (after I had told him to climb over into a bush to retrieve a piece of candy wrapper litter - instant punishment??) and was stung twice. He also lost another bottom tooth, while eating a sandwich. The tooth was never located and he didn't even mention anything about the tooth fairy, so she never made an appearance for the missing tooth.

I was thrilled to see loads and loads of photographic evidence of CBLI on Facebook, since I took few pictures and mine are of fairly inferior quality. Here are a few more that I snagged from Facebook.

Can you believe someone caught a shot of a blue heron flying over the lake?? How awesome is that?

P.S. I only took eight of the photos in this post. Extra blogging brownie points, if you can accurately guess which photos were mine.

    Wednesday, August 11, 2010

    First Day of School

    At 6:30 this morning, my alarm went off. I hit snooze and didn't wake again until Trevor came in, enthusiastically asking if it was time to get up (at around 6:55). Within two minutes, he was fully dressed and wearing his backpack. He almost headed in to the bathroom to brush teeth before eating breakfast because he was so excited.

    By 7:10, he was perched on the front step waiting for his big brother to join him in waiting for the bus.

    I think Bryce was worried I was going to wait at the end of the driveway with them and possible keep snapping photos as Trevor boarded the bus. (Teens grow quite fearful when they know their parent is an avid blogger, hee-hee!)

    They both enjoyed their first day immensely. Trevor said he made a new friend named J.J. (I offered up that it was certainly easy to spell). Bryce said his math teacher seems really nice, his Spanish teacher talks really fast, Chemistry is going to be really hard (with a test over all the elements and their symbols in three weeks) and the desks are weird (???). He also noted that in high school, you can chew gum. Cool.

    I enjoyed the quiet. When Sean awoke at 8:30, he asked where Trevor was, but didn't seem to be bothered in the slightest. In fact, I think he was somewhat stoked because he could play the Playstation without having to share.

    It will be a great relief to settle back into the routine of school.

    Friday, August 6, 2010

    Mealtime Fun

    This has been the favorite lunch of the summer. It consists of a peanut butter (or fluffernutter) sandwich face, with Reese's Pieces eyes, a banana mouth and corn puffs hair. Sometimes I added pared apple slices for the ears. Every time this was put before the boys, they have eaten every bite. Just goes to prove ... boys love to have fun with their food!

    Monday, August 2, 2010

    CBLI Has Come Again

    We are once again making family memories and receiving rest and spiritual rejuvenation at Central Bible & Leadership Institute. The boys are having a blast. Our normal afternoon routine consists of brief rest time in the cabin (miles away from everything this year, and I sadly failed to bring a stroller), followed by an hour at the pool and another hour at the docks, fishing with Todd. By the time they are done fishing, they are fully ready for a shower. This means that after dinner and the evening programs, I can bring them back to the cabin and put them straight to bed. I have been going straight to bed as well, and sleeping well over eight hours each night.

    Because we are on the farthest end of the Shagbark side of camp, I don't have internet access. Today, I brought my netbook along for Bible classes and managed to snag some time after lunch, when a friend invited the little boys to play with her son in their camp (thank you, Lord!). Hopefully, I will snag some times here and there and find internet access again.

    For now, I am merely happy to report that we arrived safely and are relishing our times together. Trevor has already caught between 12 and 20 fish. Sean is sad because I will only allow him to practice casting with his Spiderman fishing pole. Plus, he gets easily overheated. But, I have learned to drive the van down to the docks, so that Sean and I can sit in the air conditioning, away from the sun, while Trevor fishes with Todd.

    Sunday, August 1, 2010

    "Real Simple," for Real?

    I just viewed an article on Real Simple entitled, "How to Do a Natural, No-Makeup Look." After the first two suggestions plugged products costing $65 and $40, I decided to add up the total price for all their suggestions. It came to $211!!!

    Wow! That much money for a no-makeup look??? I get that for free, every day. That's what I call "real simple."