family forever

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I’ll be away from this space for a little while (a week or so?) because there is so much going on, the most important of which is that I am going back home on Thursday for my Uncle Brian’s funeral.  Although it will be nice to see everyone, it is under the most very sad of circumstances; to have to say goodbye to a much loved member of our family.   Uncle Brian would tell me when he saw me how he enjoyed reading this blog and it tickled me to know that he read it and liked it.  He always had a nice word and a cheerful hello for everyone and he will be missed so much.  He will never be forgotten.

I’ve recently been in touch with a “long lost cousin” and he has been sharing many stories with me about our mutual aunts and uncles on my father’s side of the family.  I’ve heard details and seen photos that I never knew before and it reminded me once again the importance of family.  It’s a bond that can never be broken.

Store up your memories and then talk about them with each other, even the smallest of memories are meaningful!  As you talk about them, your heart will be filled with gratitude for what has happened in the past, and eagerness for whatever memories the future holds, as well.

God is magnificent; he can never be praised enough.
    There are no boundaries to his greatness.

Generation after generation stands in awe of your work;
    each one tells stories of your mighty acts.

 

 

deep down joy

fullsizeoutput_4e37A sibling may be the keeper of one’s identity, the only person with the keys to one’s unfettered, more fundamental self. ~Marian Sandmaier

Brother Dave came the day after Christmas and stayed until Friday morning.

He’s a brother in every sense of the word.

I noticed that Sarah in particular had to be close to him as much as she possibly could.

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He hardly had room for his arms at times.

It was like she could sense that deep down inside, Uncle Dave could use another human Right There.  Us Grown ups all seem to have a little bit of sad vulnerability within us that is healed by the love and simple phrases of a child.  “Sit by me!  Can I come, too?  Will you read me a story?  Let’s snuggle.  Can I have a taste of your smoothie?  Will you play a game with me?  I don’t want you to go!”  Healed.

If a child is not available, any ol’ human will do.  “It is not good for man to be alone.”

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Right away we had Christmas again.  Dave had already sent cards with money to the children but he brought the gifts from our parents that we all enjoyed opening up.

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Sarah received the most adorable green umbrella with piggies on it.

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The men received new shirts.

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Rich tied the ribbon around his head.

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Grace received beauty products.

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By the time we opened our gifts Rich was ready for a nap.  He had already been awake for hours and had worked out with his wrestling team.  He likes to trap Seth in his arm on the couch when he goes to sleep.  Seth either falls asleep too, or waits quietly until he can sneak away.

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Big family dinner all around the table.  I used the crock pot.  Flank Steak, sliced onion and green pepper, sliced fresh mushrooms, minced garlic, and a pat of butter slow cooked all day and then served over your choice of rice or mashed potatoes.

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After dinner we sat at the table and visited and I ended up french braiding Dave’s hair like a Viking.

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We went downtown for breakfast at the diner.

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“When your breakfast is brought last.”

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After eating we were filled with happy energy so we gave Dave a little driving tour of our town.

Meanwhile, it was so cold, in the single digits.

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We made a stop at the thrift store.

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I took this photo of Hess trucks to show Rich later to see if he had any of them as a boy.

And to show Seth what they used to look like.

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And this one for my son David who likes knives, especially sharpening them.

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Sarah found some boots for one dollar and a couple of books.  David found and purchased a big print of ships on the ocean.  Grace shivered.

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Then we stopped at the coffee shop.  (This photo was taken across the street from it).

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When I think back on our visit with Dave, the coffee shop stands out as a very pleasant memory.  It was warm and busy, art work on the walls and fairy lights around the windows was beautiful.  We had a corner table by the window, it was light and bright inside.  We played cards and talked and waited for our warm drinks.  Oh it was just so good for the soul.  Completely comfortable and relaxing…..so needed after a busy week/month of Christmasing.

Quick photos with five of his nephews and our dog Parker who also loved Uncle Dave.

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Another very special memory was the walk we went on, just the two of us.

It was, I say again, icy cold outside.  But we bundled up and walked briskly in the freshest of winter air.

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It was a delight to see tracks everywhere in the forest.

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Shards of snow

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Visiting the stream deep in woods is always a winter wonder.

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sister and brother

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We ended up at the chicken coop and I walked back to the stream to get a bucket of water.

DSC_1025Our brothers and sisters are there with us
from the dawn of our personal stories
to the inevitable dusk. ~Susan Scarf Merrell

 

common hours

Write it down, when I have perished:
Here is everything I’ve cherished;
That these walls should glow with beauty
Spurred my lagging soul to duty:
That there should be gladness here
Kept me toiling, year by year. . . . .
Everything thought and every act
Were to keep this home intact.
Edgar A. Guest

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Saturday morning I woke up and Rich wasn’t in bed with me anymore, he was out on the couch.  Sometimes if he can’t sleep he will get up and move into the livingroom.  ESPN was on, quietly, and he was sound asleep and looked so peaceful.  I made some coffee and tip toed back to bed.  Shortly thereafter, Seth came in and got into bed with me.  We read stories on my blog for a while and then Sarah came, too.  I love these grateful days of having children small enough to still get into bed with me on a lazy weekend morning. . . . . .

We decided it was a good morning for pancakes.

 

 

Cornmeal pancakes and corned beef hash.  Rich ate the whole pan of hash himself….the kids kept saying, “WHAT IS THAT SMELL?” as it fried.  I haven’t made him hash in years.

Seth had the only complaint, “The pancakes are chewy.”

“Do you mean gritty?”

“Yeah.”

“It’s because they have cornmeal in them.”

I happen to adore cornmeal, and in case you do too, here is the recipe:

Blueberry Cornmeal Pancakes

1 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup cornmeal

2 cups buttermilk
3 egg yolks
3 T. butter, melted
3 egg whites, beaten stiff
1 cup blueberries

In a large bowl sift together the dry ingredients.  In a separate bowl combine the buttermilk, egg yolks, and butter.  Add the mixture to the dry ingredients.  Fold in the beaten egg whites.  Pour 1/4 cup batter onto the griddle and sprinkle with the blueberries.  Cook the pancakes until bubbles firm and start popping.  Turn only once and cook until done.

I used blueberries that I picked myself this fall at my parents’ house.  I had forgotten them in mom’s freezer and she thoughtfully brought them to me in a cooler at Thanksgiving.  I was sparing with them in the pancakes as I am hoping to make my four bags of blueberry treasures last until next fall when I can pick some more.

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Happiness is being able to sit on the couch and take photos through the window of your bird visitors at the feeder.

Also legwarmers.   Leg warmers are happiness.

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The children were ecstatic to see snow coming down and bundled up in their snow boots to go outside.  Sarah danced down the driveway.

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Seth was pensive.

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Rich and David went to get our 2017 Christmas tree.

At first, they sent me this photo:

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But they really came home with a nice large sized tree.

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Thank you, guys!

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I made tacos for lunch.

Rich and I went downstairs to find ornaments.

Later that evening we watched Elf and let the children decorate the tree.  Only three of them decorated this year.  It was amazingly non-chaotic and I must say, lovely.

Rich and I must be getting older because as soon as the Christmas tree was completely done we said to ourselves, “It’s like it never left.”  The time between trees is all too brief now.

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Our three tree trimmers.

Rich hung the lights.  I think I hung up one ornament, my glass camera one.  I still have to hide the pickle (I’ll do it as soon as I’m done blogging). . . .

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Sarah was excited to find her Sarah ornament but was very confused when she found the one that said Isaac.  WHY do we have this one???   “Because he’s my brother and I like to think about him at Christmas!”

Truth be told, at the end of the season when the ornaments all go on sale I buy the ones I can find with our siblings/family names on them.  It’s fun and meaningful to have them hanging on our tree.  Someday Sarah will understand, too.

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The first Christmas card tidings received in the mail this year were from our old neighbors.

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We were trying to get a photo of the children in front of the tree when Parker slinked over and sat in front of them.  One wonders how long he was in the background watching before he became brave enough to join his children.

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My heart missed the older children very much.  I hope they are just about ready to come home and get their photo taken in front of the tree, too.

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He’s so cute.

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Last but not least; Christmas cat.

***

“Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.”  Francis P. Church

stunning sunrise & sledding

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For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.  I Timothy 4:10

I didn’t want to get out of bed Sunday morning.  Seth had been awake in the night all upset with a fever and I was still tired.  But I could hear the kids in the living room and got up to make sure Seth was okay.  I glanced out the window as I always do, just to take a look at the weather, and was astounded by the most beautiful sky, coupled with dark trees and the whiteness of our first “sticking snow” of the season.

Seth was on the couch and hadn’t slept all night (he said).  When Rich got up he too wasn’t feeling well.  The family stayed home from church, we snuggled on the couch all day in soft blankets.

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Sarah and Caleb were feeling fine and went outside over and over again, they came inside just get get warmed up enough to go back out.

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I was saving these new saucer sleds for the first sledding day.

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chickadee on the feeder

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Our house sits on a hill so the children do not have far to go for good sledding.  They just have to watch out for the pond and pine trees.

They very much enjoyed working on several different tracts, some with ramps and some with twisty turns.

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In the afternoon the snow started falling off the branches, sparkling with the sun.

I spent most of the day with Seth snuggled nearby, so it was good to go on the porch now and then to breath in some fresh air and watch the children sled.

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falling snow

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It was a most cozy day.

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I even made homemade pizza.

This morning, Seth was better.  He went to school.  I went to school, too.  Sarah had a chorus program at 9.   I sat next to another lady who had come to watch her granddaughter and was disappointed that the program was only 15 minutes long.  She had come from a few towns over.  All that effort for 15 minutes.  It’s worth it, though, right?  I then went to the grocery store, came home, put everything away, got laundry going, tidied up the kitchen.  I’ll be leaving soon to pick up David for a doctor’s appointment.

He rules the earth with truth and grace,
and makes the nations prove
the glories of his righteousness
and wonders of His love.

These words are running through my heart this morning, from the hymn “Joy to the World”.   I am so thankful for Jesus.  How astounding that He rules with truth and grace….especially when you see all through history the ways humanity has ruled.  How beautiful and rare are the good, kind, and loving rulers who reflect His ways.  

For Jesus Himself rules with perfect love. . .wonderous love and glorious righteousness.  

..we should not call anything trouble which brings to pass good..

DSC_0325“I am anxious, and it soothes me to express myself here. It is like whispering to one’s self and listening at the same time.” —Mina Murray in her journal

Sunday morning.  I had considered going to my parent’s house for the day as it was only an hour and a half drive from where we were in Pennsylvania.  But I was suffering with a cold and we decided to stay where we were.  Grace showed us a nice coffee shop and the three of us had breakfast together there.

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We spent the rest of the morning at a bookstore and Grace bought a journalling Bible with a beautiful cover and nice wide margins for her thoughts.

She was craving macaroni and cheese for lunch and we went to Ruby Tuesdays.

By this time, Joanna’s family was back from church and she was able to meet us with her daughter.

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I love her.

Joanna took Sarah along home with her.  Grace and I went to the hotel to get her things so she could do homework at Aunt Joanna’s house.  And then we spent the rest of the afternoon until bedtime with them.  It was as cozy as could be with all the family and me and my two girls all together in the cozy kitchen, dining room, and living room.  We had delicious Dominoes pizza for dinner.

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We love to exchange our big journals and look through them as we visit.  Joanna’s journal is big and heavy and full of quotes, pictures, found papers, and art.  Coco stayed by us and was inspired enough to get up and find things to glue into her first journal.

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((red shoe))

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Inspiration, Idea, Execution (the top corner of her journal shows a picture of how she came up with the art on the wall—her own photography))

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(green page)

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(brown)

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(old recipe)

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(photo by Jo)

“Some may say [journal keeping] is a great deal of trouble. But we should not call anything trouble which brings to pass good. I consider that portion of my life which has been spent in keeping journals and writing history to have been very profitably spent. If there was no other motive in view [except] to have the privilege of reading over our journals and for our children to read, it would pay for the time spent in writing it.” —Wilford Woodruff

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“Never forget that writing is as close as we get to keeping a hold on the thousand and one things — childhood, certainties, cities, doubts, dreams, instants, phrases, parents, loves — that go on slipping, like sand, through our fingers.” —Salman Rushdie

trip back home part 2

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For the rest of our stay, we lived next door to Aunt Colleen and her four girls.  The girls call me “Aunt Shanda” because Colleen (my mom’s baby sister) and I are practically the same age.  The girls  are creative and busy and are so good with little children.  Seth and Sarah love visiting there.  They have a wonderful back yard with lots of room to play, AND a swimming pool, so the kids went swimming every day.

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Seth with his “bugs bunny” teeth, being kissed by mama.

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We piled into the van one afternoon for a trip to the park.

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It was a hot day so we splurged on coolattas from Dunkin’ Donuts for the kids and iced coffee for the moms.

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Reesy (the kids love him but he nips so they couldn’t get too close).

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Aunt Colleen removed Seth’s stitches over his eye.  She’s a nurse.  And awesome.

Molly painted the cool rock that Seth has his hand on.

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We went back to Grandma and Grandpa’s house one evening after mom was done with work.  Seth relaxed on the hammock.

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Mom took this photo.  Dave looks strong and manly and tough and he is, but he’s also a super-sensitive and caring guy.  We text each other at least once a week.  He’s great.  He and Maria are devoted to their nieces and nephews, too.

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We saw a mother deer with two babies when we were driving back to Colleen’s that evening.

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Perry’s ice cream is the best!!!  There is a stand right down the road from Colleen’s house and I think we went there 3 times over the week.

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Blueberry sundae for Sarah Joy.

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Perched in a perfectly splendid apple tree.  This small bird.  🙂

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We sat together on the wooden swing for a while one evening.  Such a dear girl.

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I wandered throughout one of my favorite local shops one morning while the kids were at VBS and had to take a photo of one of the “corners”….Mary Poppins, Little House, hello sacred life, markers, Beatrix Potter, all such good things.  The shop owner is always warm and friendly, and while I paid for my selections we had a nice little chat, I told her that I visit every time I can and how much I love her store.  With tears in her eyes, she gave me a free chocolate for being an awesome mom and told me to “Rock On”.  We even hugged over the counter.

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We met Mom for lunch on Thursday.  Seth and Sarah gave her flowers, too, which I had picked up from a florist.

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Outside the courthouse where his Grandma works.

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As we were walking from the courthouse to Boscovs (where I had parked the car) I ran into a friend from High School!!  I hadn’t seen her since graduation!  (The skirt I’m wearing is one of the things I bought at the General Store…it’s organic cotton, so comfy! and my favorite color, too.)

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Boscovs sells fiestaware so naturally………

Also, a note about Seth’s shirt.  He collects baseball cards and recently sent one to Derek Jeter to sign.  He wrote a fan note that began, “You’re my biggest fan……” (SO SO CUTE).  While I was out shopping with Colleen one day we found a wonderful second hand store where I found the Jeter shirt for only 2 dollars.  🙂  It was fun.

The new color is that yellow in the bottom left…DAFFODIL…I took home two of the smaller bowls.

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Seth and Sarah were invited to spend the night at Uncle Nate and Aunt Melissa’s house on Friday.  Seth adores Tyke, their little doggie, and by the look on Tyke’s face the feeling is mutual.

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At the playground with cousins.

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The cousins went to VBS, too, so these kids had lots of time together last week.  What a blessing!

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Saying goodbye to VBS!

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They absolutely loved it.  On the first morning Seth said he was nervous but when we left  after the last day he was sad “because it was only five days long”.