Monday, October 31, 2011

Behind the Scenes: Family Pictures

So the day we went to take family pictures, Mitch took along his little point-and-shoot camera and got some "behind the scenes" photos.  Some were good, and some were just too funny not to share.

I spent a lot of time doing this:

And the kids spent a lot of time doing this:

It was really cold, and Caleb was less-than-happy to be out in just a sweater:

Finding someone to volunteer to carry Obi wasn't actually that hard--everyone wanted the extra warmth:

Ok, this one is too funny.  Who's having a great time? I believe the thought going through my head was something along the lines of why in the world are the windows made so that they are always open?

For example, the outer circle portion of this window is no glass at all:

Zeke LOVES this picture, which he calls the "monster":

Sunday, October 30, 2011

New Ledge

A couple months ago, when we were in the thick of our weekend remodeling projects, Mitch picked up an oak board on sale.  While the weather was still nice, I put a finish on the board and at the same time did some of the trim that we need to still put down in the kitchen (I don't know how often you scrub the baseboards around your cabinets, but at OUR house the quarter round down there looks much too gross to put back on).  I'm so excited!  Here is what we got done:

 {Installing the cove molding first}

 {Getting everything lined up and just right--measuring twice, cut once!!  Oh, and take a look at those corners on the edge of the wall, all chipped and scratched after only 2 months.}

 {All done!  And with protectors over the corners, too.}

Here's another view:

 {It looks amazing--like it has always been there or like it is supposed to be this way.  We love it!}

Friday, October 21, 2011

Kisses from Katie

Since I am on vacation, I have had a few extra minutes to just "surf" the web.  Last night I discovered this young woman and I am completely blown away by her story.

I was browsing the FaithVillage resource blog, when I read the following by Ryan Gregg:
"Katie Davis is a 23 year-old American who has adopted thirteen orphans and now lives in Uganda. You might need to read that sentence again."

I spent the rest of the evening browsing Katie's blog and reading all I could (even reading out loud to Mitch).  Katie has just published a new book with her story, titled Kisses from Katie.  Here is a video to whet your appetite: 

Please take a moment to pray for Katie and her children, and consider visiting her blog to see if there is some way you can help further!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Family Pictures

The schools in our area are closed this week for two days for teacher training.  That means Mitch gets two days off, so I planned no school for our kids as well.  After some thought, we decided that I should also request the days off from daycare.  I am SO glad I did!  We made our annual trip out to St. John's for family pictures today.  It was a beautiful day, but a little too chilly.  We walked all the way out to the chapel and I snapped many pictures along the way.  The sights and smells were incredible.  Here are some of the fruits of our labor:

Um...this one WOULD have been a good picture, BUT someone put that branch in just the perfect spot.  Funny, *I* could see the camera just fine.  Why couldn't it see me??
Oh, and after I looked closely at it and saw the face Micah was making ("I was just trying to have fun, Mom."), I gave Micah a stern warning to not make any more faces.  Mitch gave him a stern warning about how much "fun" it would be to have to come back out tomorrow for retakes.  ;)

Just because we wanted a good family picture didn't mean that we were opposed to "fun":

Rolling down this hill was the BEST according to the kids...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Book Review: Dragons of the Watch

This is probably the first time in a long time (if not the first time ever) that I waited with great anticipation for the release of a novel.  ::grin::

Dragons of the Watch, by Donita K. Paul, arrived on my doorstep late Saturday afternoon.  I casually opened the package and laid the book on the counter.  Caleb (my 10 year old) was standing nearby.  Mitch said to him, "Hey CJ, look at that."  He walked over, his mouth dropped open, then he quickly snatched the book and turned to run.  Before he could get to a comfy spot on the couch I called out, "Nope, I get to read it FIRST."  I was officially declared "the meanest mom in the world."  No worries, though, I didn't hog the book.  By midnight Sunday I was reading the last page.  Now, how do I write a glowing review without spoilers?

Dragons of the Watch is the third (and final?) installment of the Dragons of Chiril series.  The synopsis from the publisher goes like this:

"Trapped in a forgotten city, bound by secrets, Ellie and Bealomondore must enlist the dragons of the watch to find freedom.

Ellie knows exactly where she is going. She just wants to experience the pomp and circumstance of a royal wedding, then settle into a simple life with a country husband.

With too many choices, Bealomondore’s future is a tangle of possibilities. He is respected, well-known, and admired among the elite of Chiril, but Wulder demands he narrow his focus and follow his Creator, one step at a time.

Both Ellie and Bealomondore’s plans are thwarted when they find themselves lost in an isolated city. As they discern the needs of a group of wild children and a very old man, clues began to surface and a bigger picture is revealed. With the help of the dragons of the watch, can the two tumanhofers find the way out—and perhaps discover their connection to something greater than themselves?"

You can even read the first two chapters online here.  Which is exactly what I did!  I have to be brutally honest.  When I read the chapters, I wasn't sure I was going to like the rest.  It seemed so strange.  Why didn't Ellie find it strange?  Why didn't she complain?  Why did her aunt and uncle just drive off and leave her and expect her to be ok?  I wasn't so sure I was liking the way this book was starting off!  I shouldn't have worried.  First of all, Ellie was quite able to care for herself and I was being too much of a "mother hen".  Secondly, her personality and ability to handle her unusual circumstances is explained eventually.  I was able to identify my own anxieties while reading the book.  I mean, don't we normally expect a book to have a "happy" ending?  For everything to work out in the end?  Even though I reminded myself of this, I was caught up in the story and found myself feeling a genuine concern and worry for Ellie, Bealomondore, and the other characters.  I fell in love with the book, and especially with Ellie.  She just might be my favorite character yet out of Mrs. Paul's books that I've read.  I may not have her patience nor her purity of character, but there are so many other character traits that I identify with.

Following in the footsteps of its predecessors, Dragons of the Watch does an excellent job of introducing the characters (and therefore the reader) to their Creator (Wulder is an allegorical reference to Yahweh God).  Like a rose blooming, the story unfolds to reveal depth and beauty in the hearts of the main characters.  Attributes of Wulder mirror our God's, and principles from the Tomes are borrowed from our Bible so that we learn--as if by a parable--how we should order our own lives.  Reading from this point of view causes me to feel refreshed, excited, and filled with hope.  When I pull myself from the fantasy, close the book and examine my reality, it's like looking at my world with new eyes.  I can't wait to hear what the rest of my family thinks.

Dragons of the Watch is a bit different than the other novels.  A little more romance, a little less action.  The characters are well-developed.  The setting is beautifully described.  The main story is very, very good.  (It isn't just "brain candy", a term a friend of mine just introduced me to).  If you haven't read any from this series yet, I recommend buying all three!

Harvest Party

These guys have been having a good harvest in our little garden this year:

First there was one blue jay, then there were 5.

Then a flock of black party-goers showed up.  I'm not sure what kind of bird they are...they have red on their wings, and are smaller than the blue jays.
UPDATE:  Thank you everyone who wrote to me!  They fit the description of a red-winged blackbird.  :)

At first the blue jays tried to scare them off.  They even tried fighting each other.  Eventually they just ate together and gave up the flight fights.

I'm thankful for the 200mm zoom lens my dad sent me.  I took all these pictures through the window, and they turned out decent enough.  When I tried to sneak outside (even through the front door), the birds immediately flew away.  I'll have to think through my outdoor photography a little better.