Tuesday, November 8, 2011

October Snow

Snow in October is infrequent but not uncommon in Connecticut. What is rare is a snowstorm in October that paralyzes the entire state for a week! We had such a storm the last Saturday of October, one week before Missy's wedding. The weathermen were calling for a foot of snow. I thought, "Oh, well, it will all be melted and gone by Friday, the day of the wedding." I was right about that, but wrong about the effects of this storm. Since there were still leaves on the trees, the branches became very heavy and many limbs were broken, landing on power lines. That meant power outages all over the state, with many towns being one hundred per cent out of power. I worked that day, hoping that I would be allowed to leave before the storm got bad. No such luck! First of all, we were very busy. Secondly, the snow began earlier than expected. I left at the end of my shift, and it took double the time to get home as it normally does. I saw many wires hanging low over the streets, and no street lights, as the power had already gone out. I arrived at our dark, cold house to find Caroline and Erin huddled under their blankets, waiting for me to come home. First, I lit a candle to give us some light. Then, I lit a burner on our gas stove to boil water for hot chocolate. Then, I located the ingredients to make dinner, lit the other burners, and proceeded to cook by candlelight. We only had one small candle so it was tricky. Well, Al got home with Janet and we ate dinner. He located two flashlights, and we found a few more candles. I washed dishes by hand in the dark, and then we went to bed because it was dark and cold. We kept warm by layering clothing and blankets. Sunday morning we woke up to a winter wonderland, but also to downed branches and power lines. It was much easier to deal with the power outage when it was light out! I made pancakes, and we made hot cereal for two neighbors and brought it to them. Everything in our town and the surrounding towns was closed, so we couldn't get supplies. Even the Walmart where I work was closed! The main concern we had was Missy and Eric's upcoming wedding.... would they still be able to have it? How would we manage without power? As the week wore on, we were able to get some limited supplies by going to towns farther away from home, as they had power. We also found out that Missy and Eric were going to have their wedding no matter what, so they spent the week trying to figure out alternatives. We were thankful that we still had hot water and a way to cook, because so many didn't have that. I missed work on Monday because Walmart was still without power. I worked Tuesday and was off the rest of the week because of the wedding. On Wednesday I went to Buckland Hills Mall with Al, and we sat in a Starbucks with him. Brewed coffee tasted so good, and it was so nice to be in a warm place. I brought my computer with me to catch up on Facebook and email, hoping to communicate with my son who is overseas. We met Janet, Erin, and Caroline. who were at the mall buying wedding gifts for Missy, and gave them my computer to use. Then Al and I got lunch. When we got home, I went to a laundromat in East Windsor to do laundry. We slept in the downstairs room of our house from Sunday night on in order to keep warm. By Thursday afternoon, every place that needed power for Missy's wedding had it, though our home did not get power till Friday. God answered our prayers to provide for Missy and Eric's wedding, and He brought us through the challenging week.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Pennsylvania, Visit with David, and Noelle's Second Birthday

Over Labor Day weekend, something very rare happened in our family, something that usually happens only at Christmastime. We had ALL SEVEN of our kids at THE SAME PLACE at the SAME TIME! David was on leave, so he went to Dave and Becca's house for a visit and we went there to visit him, as well as Dave, Becca, and Noelle. He got there the Monday before Labor Day, despite a cancelled flight on Saturday due to Hurricane Irene, and Al, Janet, Erin, and I got there late Friday afternoon. Missy and Eric were to join us late Friday night, and Gail and Caroline arrived late Saturday night. Anyway, when we arrived on Friday afternoon, Al dropped us off, checked us into our hotel (the Hampton Inn right down the street from the house), and returned to the house. We went out to Ponderosa Steak House at David's request. Dave could not go to Ponderosa with us because he had another engagement. Here I need to explain that when I refer to our son, I say "David", and when I refer to our son-in-law (Becca's husband), I say "Dave." Ponderosa has a buffet which you can get either by itself or with an entree. The younger kids (Noelle, Janet, and Erin) got just the salad bar and the adults got the salad bar with an entree. David was very diligent to make sure Noelle ate her dinner. Then he got her some ice cream-- traditional for an Aldrich Ponderosa meal. We spent some time back at the house and then Al, Janet, and I went to the Hampton Inn to sleep. The next morning, after breakfast, we went back to the house and spent the day playing with Noelle, who dragged us into her room,showed us all her toys, and asked us to read books.She also played hide and seek with us, hiding in some unlikely places as well as her "sheep house", a play tent where she keeps all her stuffed sheep. Another thing she enjoys is climbing into her ball pit and tossing the balls out for us to throw back in. Sometimes she tries to get us to get in the ball pit with her, so we oblige by putting our heads in, though Janet and Caroline can fit all the way in because they're so tiny! David regaled us and Noelle with his harmonica playing as well. Auntie Mimi and "Uncle" Eric (who will soon have the quotes removed from his title) had arrived late Friday night, so they also entertained and were entertained by their little niece. Saturday evening I went to a family picnic with Dave, Becca, and Noelle, while the kids went mini-golfing and Al rested at the hotel. Noelle loves playgrounds, and it was all we could do to get her to come off the playscape to eat. When we had to take her from the playground to go home, she cried! I gave her a bath while Becca finished her birthday dress complete with princess hat. Noelle loves her bath, but does NOT like getting her hair washed.After Noelle went to bed, Dave, Becca, and I watched a movie till everyone else came back, Then Al picked up Janet, Erin, and I to return to the hotel. I decided to check on Gail and Caroline, who were en route. Since it was nearly 11 PM, I hoped they were almost in PA. Gail said that they were in New Jersey and had gotten lost. Al said he would call them and help them, so I went to the room. When he came back, he said they had been playing a trick on me! After breakfast at the hotel on Sunday, we went to church in Hagerstown, at Dave and Becca's church. Then we changed and went to their house for Noelle's birthday party. Becca decorated the house with stuffed cows and black and white balloons, and Gail decorated a cake in the shape of a cow. She also decorated cupcakes to look like a cow's pasture. When we lit the candles, Noelle kept pointing and saying "Look at my cow cake!" with her adorable giggle! She opened lots of gifts, even though Becca had said that gifts were not neccesary. Being the first grandchild for our family and the first girl grandchild for Dave's family means that there is a myriad of willing spoilers! Our gift to her was a remote control car designed for children under three. I told Becca about it, and she told Dave, who said, "I'll bet it's pink!" It was, but we did not get it because it was pink. Becca had said that Noelle likes cars and that one was the only one that was appropriate for kids under three. After the birthday party, all the siblings went to the Olive Garden for dinner while Al and I babysat a very overstimulated Noelle. I gave her her dinner and talked to her about going to bed. I said, "After dinner, we're going to put your pajamas on, brush your teeth, read you two books, put you in your bed, sing, pray, and snuggle you." She looked at me very sweetly and asked. "Will you play with me?" I said' "Yes, I'm going to play with you by reading you books." When we were done with the books, she again asked if I would play with her. I said that I was going to ply with her by singing to her and snuggling her. We did so, and then we prayed together. I snuggled her a little more, and then said good night. I was amazed that she stayed in bed even though she was not asleep when I left her bedroom. On Monday before we left for Connecticut, we all went to Lake Tiberias Wildlife Park, which Noelle loves. Missy and Eric did not go, as they had to leave early for Connecticut. David held Noelle for much of the safari ride, helping her feed the animals and telling her how much he loved her. We all held sort of took turns holding her, snd she told us the names of all the animals. At one point, after the safari ride. we were listening to a presentation in the Reptile House, and Noelle got restless. I took her for a walk to look at some lemurs behind the reptile house. They started shrieking, so we figured that they did not like having us in their territory. When the park attendant asked us if the lemurs had scared us, I said, "No, it was more like we scared the lemurs." Well, when we met the rest of our family at the petting zoo, Noelle proudly announced to them, "I scared the lemurs!" I was amazed that she knew the names of so many exotic animals. After the petting zoo, we had to return to Connecticut, which meant saying goodbye to David, who had to return to duty as a Marine. That was hard, but I'm very proud of him for serving our country, and I love him because he is my son. I love his tenderness toward little ones, his courtesy toward the elderly, and his grin that shows up when he's teasing or particularly happy. I love his desire to serve his country and protect people such as his current and future family. God be with you, David, We'll miss you and we'll be praying for you!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Pennsylvania Visit and David's Visit to Connecticut

Over Memorial Day weekend, Al and I traveled to Pennsylvania to see David, who was going there before being activated with his Marine Reserve unit. Actually, I took a night bus down on Thursday night, arriving on Friday morning, and Al and Erin came Sunday night and picked us up, as David's flight back to Tallahassee to rejoin his unit was scheduled out of Bradley up here in CT. I was very grateful to his sergeant for booking his return flight that way, as it gave us extra time with David. David had already been with Dave, Becca, and Noelle for several days when I got there. Melissa, our third daughter, had also been there to see David before he went back to his unit. The bus ride was peaceful and uneventful, but the bus was delayed out of Hartford, and the station in NYC was crowded. I met a nun who was also traveling to Baltimore, so we chatted while waiting for the bus in NYC. She was from Enfield, and often shopped at the Walmart where I work in East Windsor! We stopped at a rest stop just over the Maryland border, where I was able to get a cup of Starbucks coffee, (I would have gotten one in New York but the cafe there doesn't have decaf and the Dunkin Donuts there wasn't a 24-hour store(!)), and we rushed to make sure the bus didn't leave without us. I was relieved to see that the driver was coming out just as I was taking my coffee away from the kiosk! We got to Baltimore about 45 minutes later. Last time I took the bus I discovered that the gas station down the street from the bus terminal had a little coffee shop in it, so I went there for coffee and breakfast, as I had a three hour layover in Baltimore. (I brought plenty of books with me!) Dave, David, and Noelle picked me up in Hagerstown and we went to their house. Becca came home a few minutes later and after lunch we went shopping at Walmart. Saturday, we went back to Walmart as Dave's family was coming over, and we had a nice visit with them. David also helped Dave dig in his backyard as they were getting ready to build a new patio. We shopped at Walmart, which Noelle calls "the banana store," and David bought me a box of candy. He gave a few pieces to Noelle because she was fussy. We also made a donation to the veterans, and got poppies, which David put in Noelle's hair. After visiting with Dave's family, we went to a Hispanic church service in which Dave and Becca were helping with music. David rested at the house and met us at the ice cream parlor afterwards. After church on Sunday, we went to Gettysburg , and then to Cracker Barrel, an Aldrich-Gettel Pennsylvania tradition. Noelle had us coloring with chalk, reading books to her, and playing in her ball pit with her. She would throw the balls out and we would throw them back in. Al and Erin came Sunday night and after visiting , brought us home to Connecticut on Monday. David visited friends and my sister and her husband came to visit him on Wednesday while I was at work. There was also a tornado warning in our area. My sister and her husband left just in time, and I was very grateful that there was a Marine in the house who would know what to do! We had a gathering for David at our house after church on Sunday evening, and he returned to his unit on Monday morning. I was very glad to see him and I missed him when he left. He had just been promoted to Corporal before his leave, so he was excited about that, though nervous about his new responsibilities. I pray that God would watch over him and give him the skill he needs, and bring him home safely to us! David, if you ever read this.... love you, proud of you, praying for you!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Gary's Wedding

Al and I arrived in Charlotte at 11: 30 am on May 20, after a beautiful airplane ride (my first). We ate lunch at the Wendy's in the Charlotte airport, which is beautiful (as is Detroit's), and then left the airport to take a shuttle bus to our hotel. Outside the airport was a statue and a flower garden, so I took a couple of pictures. It was HOT! We got to the hotel and waited for them to get our room ready. After a rest, I went swimming in the pool, then back to the room for a little nap. Then Al and I took the shuttle bus to the car rental place to get a rental car, then we went out to dinner at a Mexican restaurant. Back at the hotel, I went to sleep and Al picked David up at the airport, as he was coming to the wedding from Florida. He stayed in the room with us. We went to Gary's wedding the next day. It was beautiful, and we saw some friends there whom we had not seen for a while. Sarah, Gary's bride, came down the aisle singing----- which made me cry!Her bridesmaids looked lovely, and Sarah looked lovely and radiant. The joy and love on her and Gary's faces was amazing. We had to leave the reception early to get David to the bus station for his trip to Pennsylvania, and return our rental car and get back to the airport for our flight home. The flight was nice, but I didn't like JFK airport in New York. You'd think they'd have a coffee shop open at nine o'clock pm, but they didn't. Our flight from New York took a long time because of the rain, but we got back to Windsor Locks at 11: 30 pm and Janet picked us up. Fortunately, I didn't have to work the next two days, and I could look forward to seeing David in Pennsylvania the following weekend!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

My First Airlpane Ride.... and a Friend's Wedding

A friend of our family invited us to his wedding on May 21. Al and I wanted to see him get married and meet his bride face-to- face, though Al had already met her. We decided to fly to Charlotte, North Carolina, as the wedding would take place nearby. I was excited to see our friend's wedding, but I was also excited because this would be my first plane ride. Al has flown numerous times on business, but I never had. I always thought I would enjoy flying but never had occasion to do so. Work dragged that week, as I was anticipating our little "mini-vacation." I was also looking forward to having some time away with Al, as we had been going "full blast" since after Christmas, in addition to his recovering from his heart attack. I spent the week packing and getting the house ready so that the girls would be comfortable while we were away. We left on Friday morning, May 20. Janet dropped us at the airport at 6:30. We went through security smoothly and quickly, despite the long line. I watched Al carefully as I had never done this before. We found our gate and waited to board. We ran into our friend's parents and sisters, who were on the same flight! It was a pleasure to see them, as we had not seen them for a few months. We visited while waiting to board. When we got on the plane, I thought it looked like a bus except that we would be in the air instead of on the ground. Al gave me the window seat, right over the wing. Well, when we took off, I realized that this was nothing like riding a bus. We taxied down the runway and then sped up. I saw the plane lift off the ground, and we could see Route 75 and our neighborhood. Then we had to fly through some clouds, but when we reached our altitude, we had beautiful, sunny, blue skies with an entire landscape of clouds below! We could also see the ground sometimes and the towns and trees looked like little toy villages. The clouds looked like big snowdrifts, as if you could scoop up handfuls and have a snowball fight! God's creation is amazing! I never imagined how beautiful a "cloudscape" could be when viewed from the other side. We landed in Detroit at about 9 am, with a 10:30 flight from there to Charlotte. (Go figure.... we flew from Bradley in Windsor Locks to Detroit for a connecting flight to Charlotte.) I actually didn't mind, because Detroit's airport is beautiful. Also, it meant another flight. I haven't figured out one thing though. When we're up there, I know we're moving very fast, but it seems as if we're standing still! I wonder why that is?

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Pennsylvania Visit .... April

While Erin was competing at the National Fine Arts competition, I went to Pennsylvania to visit Becca, Dave, and Noelle. Originally Al and I had thought of going to South Carolina to see Erin give her speech, but because of the price of gas, we decided to go to Pennsylvania instead. Anytime I can visit with my family it is a blessing! We had hoped to spend the week together but Janet needed my car to get to class and work. Al came down with me and spent the night, then returned to Connecticut the next day. I stayed a few more days and took the bus home. I loved spending time with Al, and I also loved having Noelle to myself (except for Dave and Becca) for a few days! We both had been in desperate need of a vacation since his heart attack, and the prospect of a vacation in April got me through many a day of work! I actually got to babysit Noelle a couple of times. We blew bubbles, ran around outside, read books, sang songs, and snuggled! Another thing we did was play with play dough. I made several of the Sesame Street characters for her, and a little snake. Becca had written about how Noelle had asked her to make those characters. When I had made them, I made a face that was supposed to look like Noelle. Becca said, "Oh, look, Grandma made Noelle!" The next day when we played with the play dough she asked me to "make Noelle." We had some precious bonding time, and she followed me all over the house. She sometimes asked me to hold her or do things for her instead of Dave or Becca, and if I was not in the same room with her she would call "Grandma!" It was so cute to hear her talk and see her running around doing so many "little-girl" things. The day before I left, Becca and I took her to a park. She loved the play scape, especially the tunnel that led to the slide. Part of the tunnel had peepholes in it. Becca followed Noelle through the tunnel while I waited to catch her when she came down the slide. I stuck my hands through the peepholes. Noelle thought that was funny. Later when she was eating dinner, she said, "I go to the park." At first I didn't realize what she was saying, but then she said, "I go down the slide." Then she said, "Grandma's hands." She actually remembered that I had stuck my hands in the peepholes! It was hard to leave the next day, but I felt better knowing that I would see them in a week just before Easter!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Book Review: Lilly"s Wedding Quilt by Kelly Long

Lilly Lapp, in love with a man who loves someone else. Jacob Wyse, a jilted suitor turned horse thief. Lilly's mother, who suffers from depression. Jacob and Lilly's impulsive engagement and subsequent marriage. In Lilly's Wedding quilt, Kelly Long brings characters and circumstances together to create a personable and interesting story.
Lilly encounters Jacob and attempts to provide first aid for a gunshot wound he has suffered. When they arrive late to a wedding together, the people of their Amish community raise their eyebrows. When police interrupt the reception to question Jacob about a stolen horse, Lilly says that he had been with her the previous night. To protect her reputation, Jacob says that they had been discussing their engagement. Lilly quickly agrees, though she knows that Jacob still loves someone else. To further complicate matters, Lilly's mother disapproves of their engagement. Lilly likens the unusual circumstances of her and Jacob's marriage to the pieces of a quilt, which when they are stitched together, make something beautiful. Lilly and Jacob learn to trust God to put the pieces of their lives together to create a loving marriage. They also learn how to let God work in the life of Lilly's mother. Kelly Long's portrayal of their journey is tender and her characters are tender and varied. The reader eagerly turns pages to find out how each situation is resolved.
Lilly's Wedding Quilt is written by Kelly Long and published by Thomas Nelson, Nashville: 2011. This book was provided free for review by Thomas Nelson, Inc., and I have received no other compensation for writing this review.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Erin's Fine Arts Competition

Every year, the school our children attend is involved in a New England
regional Fine Arts Competition for the Christian schools in the New England region. Our children have always participated, and this year was no exception. The difference was that only our youngest, Erin, competed this year because our others have all graduated. Erin chose to do a dramatic speech, academic testing in math and English, a ladies' ensemble with five other girls, a vocal solo, and her choir also competed. This was the third year Erin was in the choir and ladies' ensemble, the second year for dramatic speech, her first year for academic testing, and her first year for vocal solo. She has done humorous speeches in previous years, but last year she decided to try the dramatic speech. She loves acting! She has always placed at the state level for her speeches, doing better each year, but she had never placed at the regional level. The ladies' ensemble has placed for the past three years. When Erin was in eighth grade, Caroline and Janet sang in the ladies ensemble, and Erin joined as a freshman, after Caroline graduated. I was a little apprehensive about Erin's vocal solo, as she has never taken lessons, but I told her that if she was willing to work with me, I would help her. We also had a friend of ours play the piano for her once she learned the song, so that Erin could hear the accompaniment and get used to singing with the piano. Another friend listened in to one of her practices and gave her some pointers as well. I worked with her on learning her pieces and on her vocal technique as much as I could,usually once a week, and more often as we approached the actual competition. I also had her listen to her songs over and over online, and discussed the meanings of the songs with her. She showed me the transcript of her speech, and we discussed the emotions she would need to portray in it, but she would not go through the speech with me. She did that on her own and then with two of her sisters who took a speech class in high school and who also have acting experience.
The week before the competition, Erin came down with a nasty cold which also gave her laryngitis. She missed three days of school, and one of her teachers suggested that she drop her vocal solo. Erin was determined to compete in all of her categories, though. She returned to school the Monday before the competition and practiced her solos, her ensemble, her speech, and her choir pieces. By the day of competition she was healthy and her voice was back to full strength. She sang her solos first and did very well. Her speech was ten minutes after she finished her solos. I was glad she hadn't had to to her speech first, as the intensity of the piece she chose would have tired her voice and made it difficult to sing. Her speech was a prequel to the "Phantom of the Opera", portraying Erick (the Phantom) as a little boy. It was very powerful and Erin gave it everything she had!
She left the audience speechless and in tears. I thought, "Lord, whether or not she places, she just nailed that speech!" We watched other students from Erin's school, including her best friend, who did a humorous speech. Then we watched the small vocal ensemble, and they sang very well. They had won the regional for the past three years, so we hoped they would again. We then listened to the other female vocalist from Erin's school. She is an amazing singer and we loved hearing her. After lunch, we listened to the choir and some choirs from other schools. Then it was time for the spelling bee, followed by the regional awards ceremony. I hoped Erin would place in both her speech and her solo, but one never knows. I prayed that she would at least place in Connecticut for her vocal solo, and that her speech would place first in Connecticut so she could take it to Nationals. They announced the speech category right after the academic testing categories. The first speech category they announced was Dramatic Interpretation..... Erin's category. Third place.... not Erin. Second place.... not Erin. At this point I prayed that she would still get first in Connecticut. Then I heard the name of the first place winner for the New England Region....... Erin Aldrich!!! She was crying as she went up onstage to get her award, and so was I. I gave her a hug just before she sat down. Her best friend placed third in New England for her humorous interpretation. The other female vocalist from Erin's school won first in New England. Erin placed third in New England for her vocal solos. Not bad for a girl who was sick the week before and who does not take formal voice lessons! And she was a week shy of sixteen years old! The ensemble and choir both placed first in New England as well. Erin and her friend both placed first in Connecticut for their speeches, and Erin placed second for her vocal solos, with her classmate placing first. Erin also got a third place in Connecticut for academic testing in math. Their ensemble and choir also placed first in Connecticut. We were very proud of Erin, and very thankful that the Lord helped her! She and some of her classmates will be competing at Nationals in a couple of weeks. I'm hoping we can go to see her perform, with stops in Pennsylvania to see Dave, Becca, and Noelle on the way down and back!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Al's Birthday!

Every holiday or birthday we have where Al is there to celebrate with us is precious now. Not that they haven't always been, but they have become doubly precious this year because we are once again reminded of God's grace in sparing Al. At this writing, he is doing VERY well.... the most recent report from the cardiologist is that his heart is functioning at 87 per cent capacity, and the portion of heart muscle that was dead is beginning to come back! Anyway, Al's birthday was an opportunity to be especially thankful that God has given him another year! All our kids who live nearby or at home came to help us celebrate. We had roasting chicken, salad, and baked potatoes, and salad. I made a fat-free devil's food cake with seven-minute icing, which was good except that the girls thought the icing was too sweet. We gave Al a pair of jogging pants and a shirt for exercising. That was on his actual birthday. Al's sister, Lisa, came on the Sunday after Al's birthday, and brought fat-free manicotti, so Gail, Missy, and Eric came then. Gail made a low-fat cake for that dinner, so we had a double birthday celebration for Al and Lisa. I made a salad for that day too, but I didn't have enough lettuce, so Missy called it an "unsalad"! It was good though, and we had so much fun visiting with Lisa. We gave Lisa a Willow Tree figurine which she liked a lot. I've always loved celebrating birthdays and holidays with my family, but even more so now!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Christmas 2010, part 3

The Christmas post is in three parts because we are blessed with so much family with whom to celebrate. Christmas Eve with Al's family, Christmas Day with our children, and a few days after Christmas with my family. This year we also celebrated with Dave, Becca, and Noelle a few days after Christmas because they wanted to begin establishing their own Christmas traditions in their home. Dave, Becca, and Noelle arrived at our home on December 28. December 29 was the day we had planned to travel to Massachusetts to celebrate with my dad, my sisters, and their families, but because of Al's heart attack, they traveled to Connecticut. Melissa and Eric were able to come too, and Gail came after my family left. She would have come earlier but she had car trouble. We had so much fun with Cindy, Sue, Betsy, and their families. Sue's son Corey is only eight years old and such a cutie. He and Noelle love each other and were so much fun to watch together! Sue brought her little Italian Greyhound, George, who is really funny! Noelle loved him too, and George was very patient with her! I made chili, and Sue brought sandwiches. Betsy brought cheese and crackers, and I had made pie and cranberry bread and cookies for dessert.
After dinner, we opened our gifts to and from my family. We decided to open our gifts to and from Dave, Becca, and Noelle after my family left, so as not to overwhelm anyone, especially Al and Noelle! Anyway, after the gifts were opened, we played "Apples to Apples" and "Catch Phrase." While we were playing, one of our friends came to help fix a slight leak in our baseboard heater in our bedroom. I think he was a little startled by all the noise and all the people, but we introduced him to my family and tried to make him feel welcome! My dad always enjoys having all his daughters and grandchildren together in one place, and he also enjoys being with his GREAT-granddaughter! Betsy and Steve and my dad had to leave early because one of their kids had to be somewhere, but Sue and her family stayed a little longer and were able to see Gail and her boyfriend when they came after getting a rental car. It was fun to play the games, and we've discovered that the games are great ice-breakers. Anyway, we opened gifts after that, and many of them were for Noelle! Auntie Gail got her a ball pit. When Noelle opened the ball pit, Becca said not to open the package of balls. Noelle said, "Peese?" to Becca, who said No. She then came to me, held out the package, and with a cute smile, said' "Peese?" again. I told her, "No, sweetie, your mommy already said no." Noelle then proceeded to hold the package of balls out to Auntie Missy(Mimi in Noelle- language), with her adorable grin, big blue eyes, and her "Peeese?" Guess what Auntie Mimi did? "If Mommy says No, ask Grandma. If Grandma says No, ask Auntie Mimi!" I got to cuddle her to sleep that night. That's my favorite part of being a mom and a grandma! Thursday night we had birthday cake and a gift for Dave, and they left Friday morning. Christmas time is always the hardest time to say goodbye, because it's usually a few months before we see them again, although Nonno got to see them during one of our big snowstorms in January! Besides the most precious gift of Jesus, God's Son, my favorite gift is always time with my family, especially with those who live far away. I pray that these gatherings will be used of God to bring our loved ones closer to Christ.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Book Review: Couples Who Pray by SQuire Rushnell and Louise DuArt

The subtitle of Couples Who Pray is "The Most Intimate Act Between a Man and a Woman". Rushnell and DuArt prove this point quite effectively with the testimonies of various couples who pray together regularly, as well as statistics showing increased marital satisfaction among couples who regularly pray together. The book opens with Rushnell and Duart's personal testimony of how God has moved through their prayer time as a couple, followed by an introduction to other couples whose testimonies are included in Couples Who Pray. Next, the reader learns some statistics on couples who pray together versus couples who do not. It comes as no surprise that the couples who pray together report greater joy in every area of their marriage. The reader also sees how God improves and enhances the marriages of the couples who are featured in this book.
Rushnell and DuArt also propose that each spouse forget about "50/50" and commit to giving 100% to their marriage. This proposition is an expansion of the testimony of one of the featured couples, whose testimony is included in the book. The proposition is challenging, but the reader is reminded that he or she must rely on God to do this. There is more in this same chapter about communication, which readers will find helpful.
Next, the readers are invited to take the "40 Day Prayer Challenge", so named because the authors believe that it takes forty days to form a habit. Following this invitation, Rushnell and Duart make a case for the power of prayer by directing the reader to consider the power of God and the truth of the Scriptures.
There are also instructions about forgiveness, warnings about threats to a marriage, and practical tips on praying for finances. Finally, Rushnell and Duart share six practical steps to a happy marriage, and some results of couples who pray together regularly. The link to "The 40 Day Prayer Challenge" is provided, as well as a survey for each spouse.
The advice in Couples Who pray is helpful and practical, and the testimonies encouraging. The reader will enjoy reading each of the testimonies. The couples included in Couples Who Pray comes from a highly successful and prominent careers. It is reassuring to remember that even highly successful people have struggles and need to depend on God. At the same time, the reader may wonder how the 40 Day Prayer Challenge could work for everyday working couples. It would have been encouraging if the authors had included such couples in their book. Also, while the statistics are convincing, they are somewhat dry. The reader would benefit from more instruction from the Scriptures.
Couples Who Pray is written by SQuire Rushnell and Louise Duart and published by Thomas Nelson, Nashville: 2007. A copy of the book was provided free for review by Thomas Nelson, Inc., and I have received no other compensation for this review.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Christmas 2010, continued

After a beautiful Christmas Eve service at our church, we traveled to Al's brother's house for our Christmas celebration with Al's family. They made low-fat, low-sodium dishes for Al to eat, along with some regular dishes. The fish chowder (healthy) was delicious! We had a great time, as usual, and Gail brought her boyfriend, John. It was his first time meeting Al's extended family. We left there at midnight, Al and I each driving our own cars in order to make more room for everyone. Missy and Gail drove their cars too, but we had David with us, so we needed both our cars. We got home at 1, and Al went right to bed, but I filled stockings. It was before close to 2 before I got to bed.
Despite the late bedtime, I woke up before 7 on Christmas Day. I prepared the turkey to go into the oven and put the stuffing into the crock pot to cook. (We couldn't have ham so we made turkey instead.) In order to make it festive, I put cranberries in the stuffing. Cooking it in the crock pot was a suggestion from a friend of ours. She also suggested stuffing the turkey with orange and lemon slices, with onions and a sprig of rosemary. It came out good! Once the turkey and stuffing were cooking, I began preparations for our traditional breakfast of scrambled eggs and grapefruit, with oatmeal and cantaloupe for Al. When everyone woke up, we opened our stockings and ate breakfast. To my surprise, I found a scented candle in mine.... Al had slipped it in while I was filling the other stockings. Missy and Eric and Gail and John arrived just after we got dressed. After setting out snacks and making coffee, we sat down to open our gifts. Al read a Scripture, as he does every Christmas morning. It was a particular blessing this year! As we opened our gifts, we found a few unexpected surprises. For example, I had gotten (by request) boots for Janet and shoes for Erin, and one of the girls had gotten shoes for Caroline! I think Gail got shoes from someone as well. I was surprised and tickled to receive several gifts from John, as well as from Gail, and a pair of red Scottie dog pajamas from Missy. It touched me that she remembered how her grandmother used to breed Scottie dogs. Last year she gave her little niece, Noelle, a stuffed Scottie dog for the same reason. Well, finally we had finished with all of our gifts except a long rectangular package from Al to me, which I assumed was a bathrobe (one of the ideas I had given him), and then the surprise gift we were all anticipating from the girls to Al. Well, he brought me the box, and I opened it. I immediately saw that it was not a bathrobe. I saw these cylindrical drawings on the box and thought, "oh, good; he got me glassware.... we always need that! But this is a strange way to pack glassware!" Well, as I actually began to open the box, I saw the words "Personal Computer" written on it. I STILL didn't get it.... I thought "why would they pack glassware in a personal computer box?" I was floored when I opened the box and found..... an HP LAPTOP, the very one on which I'm typing this post! Well, needless to say, I was thrilled. It was one of those "I'd love to have it but it's impossible" things. Al said, "Well, that was the big gift for this year," little knowing what Missy, Gail, and Caroline had in store for him. They went downstairs ahead of us, and he followed, with me close behind. I got there just in time to hear him say, "ALL RIGHT!"and see his face when he discovered..... a TREADMILL! I had known about this for a couple of weeks and had been given the assignment of NOT letting him buy one. It was very difficult. The day we got the Christmas tree I had to enlist the help of one of his friends who was trying to tell Al where he could get the best deals on treadmills. Dinner was suppose to be at two, but we didn't actually eat till four. After dinner we played some games and had dessert. then Al helped me set up my laptop and tried out his treadmill. We had so much fun, and since the next day was Sunday, I did not have to go to work. We enjoyed the "afterglow" of Christmas in our church service with our brethren in Christ..... always a blessing, and we still had Dave, Becca's, and Noelle's arrival to look forward to on Tuesday evening. I even got an extra day off on Monday because of a heavy snowstorm!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Christmas 2010

What a blessing to commemorate the birth of our Savior! As we prepared for our celebration, we were ever mindful of God's most precious gift to us: His Son, the Messiah, Jesus Christ. We were particularly mindful of God's grace to us as a family, as Al was able to be with us and celebrate with us. We are still celebrating his life and his continued recovery from his heart attack. Because I was on leave of absence from work till December 13, I was able to do my shopping and baking at a more leisurely pace, a little at a time, while Janet or Caroline or Erin was home to keep him company. He was also able to be alone for brief periods of time while I ran errands. We did several things together, such as going to his rehab sessions, shopping at Trader Joe's for healthy snacks, and coffee (decaf) at Dunkin Donuts. I also kept him company while I wrapped gifts in our den while he worked online. We enjoyed participating in our church's Christmas program. "Lessons and Carols." We also enjoyed participating in our nursing home ministry, attending Erin's Christmas concert, and our Sunday School Christmas party. Caroline and a friend of hers put up the outside lights for us. Al could not do much of the preparations, in terms of shopping or decorating, so most of that fell to me and the girls.... including cutting down a Christmas tree the afternoon before "Lessons and Carols." Caroline and I went to a tree farm to cut down the Christmas tree. Al asked for one between seven and eight feet tall, and not too fat. Since I like a nice cone shape to a tree, it took a while to find one that would fit both our specifications, as well as one that would meet Caroline's approval. The weather was COLD that day, we had a deadline, and some of the trees were growing on a slope, so we had quite the challenge. Finally we found one that we thought would work. We borrowed a saw from the farm's owners ( they have the saws there for customers to use) and proceeded to cut the tree down. Well, neither Caroline or I are very tall (both of us are under 5'4"), so it was a great adventure! We got it cut., and then proceeded to lug this seven foot tree to the shed to pay for it. The young man in charge tied it on top of Caroline's car and after paying for the tree, we drove it home. We did decide that we needed some Dunkin Donuts hot chocolate to warm us up, so we stopped on the way home. When we got there, Al had a friend visiting to play Stratego. We asked him to help us get the tree into the back yard, and Al offered to help. We said NO, and I rushed upstairs to enlist Erin's help. She's tall, so she would be able to handle the tree well. I said to her, "Get outside NOW and help with the tree before Dad gets to it!" She did. Meanwhile, Al was insisting that he could handl the tree and we were insisting that he must not! His friend looked at him and very sweetly said, "Brother, you're not helping." Well, we got the tree onto our back porch. The next day, we had a friend of Al's sister's at the house helping with some (non-Christmas) lighting issues, and he helped us get the Christmas tree into the stand. Al and the girls put the garlands and lights on, and the girls and I did the rest! I was so thankful that the Lord provided people to help us when we needed it!