Happy Birthday Alain!


Later today - cake, ice cream and pinata!

Lauding Laundry

The following is a real conversation recently overheard between 30 and 40 something moms who had snuck away for an overdue late night swirly drink gab fest. The names have been changed not to protect the innocent but because it's embarrassing.

Fawn: Brant is excited about his new Hand-Me-Downs from Derek! He said they smell like the Shneel's house!

Kay: Oh, yes. We love hand-me-downs from the Shneel's house too! They always smell so good!

Fawn: So what is your laundry secret?

Denise Shneel: Snuggle

oohs and aahs from the entire table.

Ann: The liquid or the dryer sheets?

Denise: Liquid.

Fawn: I would have pegged you as a Tide and Downy house the way it smells.

Denise: Nope. I use All.

Fawn: So you get that smell from the All/Snuggle combo. Interesting.

general applause from the table again.

Jean: I have never used Snuggle because that bear always bugged me when I was in college. But I had a coupon so I tried it again.

Kay: I usually use Bounce.

Stacy: I can't believe we're having this conversation!

This was only after the FIRST round of swirly drinks! No doubt the conversation moved on to finding a solution to bring world peace.

Anatomically Correct

Giles: I know what guts look like. Sam told me. They are clear and liquidy.

Mom: Oh?

Giles: He said he threw up his guts and that's what they looked like.

(I hope none of his friends cough up their lungs).

Back to the Beginning

A few things have happened around here that have knocked the wind out of me. But I'm up. I'm up! And maybe I'll get to writing about it later. Yesterday we were all ready to get back to the grind after Spring Break was blessedly finally over. But we did something special. We went all the way back to the beginning when we started home educating with Five In A Row, which is a unit study approach based on great children's literature (you read the book five days in a row, and each day do a subject based on the story - geography, art, math, science, social studies). We have strayed away from this excellent approach as we've gotten more "sophisticated."

The first book on the list is The Story of Ping. I was amazed by how much the kids remembered about the story, especially Grant who was only three when we started all of this. I remember one of the things Giles' second grade public school teacher was aghast about when we told her we were going "home" was what I was going to do with that wild, blond haired imp while we seriously sat down to the business of school at home! (I managed a lot easier than she did with her 1:33 ratio).

Grant remembered how many cousins Ping had. Where the Yangzte River is. Giles remembered how to spell that river! Lydia remembered what medium Kurt Weis used to illustrate this classic children's book. We talked about what was going on in the world in 1933 when the book was written, about the time their grandparents were born. We dreamed about their own grandchildren reading the same book!

I needed the refresher. It was so much fun and so affirming. A gift from God. And a reminder to revisit our FIAR books. It's great for Grant and Lydia. Giles can tolerate it and also get something out of it too. I appreciate FIAR because it led me to a new appreciation of respect for GOOD children's literature and led us to wonderful authors such as Patricia Polacco, Tomie dePaola, Jan Brett, Masako Matsuno, Lauren Mills and others.

It made me really appreciate Five In A Row. If anyone is thinking about home educating, I highly recommend it. There's also a Before Five In A Row guidebook for children under five. Another great thing about beginning with FIAR is that it's economical. It's not a "curriculum" that costs several hundred dollars. The guidebook is $20, and although you can buy your own books, we got most of ours from the library and only bought the ones we really loved (such as PING!).

Part of creation

What's so wrong with dandelions? I hear they are edible and can turn into a tasty wine. They are the sweet substance of bouquets picked by little hands for Mommies. They can make butter when rubbed on your chin. They are the jewels in the crowns of little princesses. Their seeds are fun to blow. They are prolific. Their roots are deep. They have no thorns or thistles. God made them.

Nearly a bouquet

Groaning for the honeybees

I recently read a great article about how we should be groaning and weeping for our culture instead of whining and judging it.

So, that turned my thinking around when I had determined to rant about the honeybee "dancers" we saw at the Hornets game the other night. About how they stole a little bit of the innocence of our sons while they watched them "dance." I could literally see the lust creep its way into their hearts.

I think my husband was protected though, since he said he was much more amused watching my scowl and furrowed brow while the scantilly clad (nearly naked) girls thrusted, humped, rolled ... oh, I mean, danced ... all over the court. You better mop that up.

Grace Tulips

God gives us so much without us putting forth ANY effort. When we moved into our house more than ten years ago, one of the selling points was the curb appeal. The white picket fence, the beautiful flowers. Our first spring here, we were dazzled with an entire row of beautiful red tulips along that picket fence.

Those tulips were quite resilient to my inattention for several years. But for the last four years or so, we've gotten no tulips. The green comes up but shot forth no bloomage. It was very sad, but not sad enough to prompt my memory in the fall to thin out the bulbs or some such hard work.

This year, I hoped but had no expectation. So this bloom was especially thrilling. And we have a few more to come! In the second picture, you can see the long row of bloomless tulip foliage with the tiny red speck representing one tulip at the end of the row.

Someone once gave us the advice/excuse that we were growing children, not lawns or pretty flowers. It didn't take much for me to take that to heart. It was harder on Stan though. You can sure tell we're growing kids with one look at our pitiful yard these days, much to the disdain of our neighbors who have sprinkler systems and lawn services.

The irony does not escape me that I romantically wish for a farm where we grow our own vegetables and fruit, let our animals freely roam the range and sell our eggs (vegetables and meat) at the local farmer's markets. Isn't it a nice dream for the person I could be some day? Maybe if I can conquer bulb digging ...

Not over yet

Apparently instead of major surgery, little car needs a little outpatient work involving new coils, wires and plugs. And a new tire, while they're at it.

Cost of repair: less than a car payment or two.

But much MORE than a year or two's worth of rides on Metro Transit.

Swan Song?

The final chapter could be unfolding on the dear 626. It's been a long ride (one that included transporting two of our precious newborns home the hospital). Perhaps it's not over yet, but it looks grim.

When last we visited our Car Woes, our 1995 sedan perked up after a full tank of gas.

But a few days later, she wouldn't start again. Instead of doom and gloom, this time we chose optimistic ignorance.

It's probably just a dirty gas filter. When we sucked her dry of her non premium gas, some corrosive materials were probably sucked into the filter, like kidney stones.

Still, we don't change filters at our house, so the towing professional was called.

Because our dear dear house is old and was made when people didn't have cars, or if they had them, they were called Model A or T or something, we had to push limping car down the driveway to be loaded on the tow truck. So, the towing professional (who didn't have fingernails the children observed), three children, our engineering major Spring Breaking college student, and I tried to maneuver non-starting car down driveway between our cement porch and the side of neighbor's house.

That, in itself, could have been a great blog entry, but it was pretty uneventful except one little close call with right fender and porch.

We waved goodbye and prayed.

Then I called the shop where they know us by first name. I shared my expert opinion on what's probably wrong with it.

James countered as politely as could, well, it doesn't sound like it.

That was almost 24 hours ago. We haven't heard anything yet. We're about to sign the DNR papers and are contemplating whether we could be a one-car family that utilizes public transportation.

No Sense or Sensibility

When it comes to our 12-year-old and seven-year-old cars, our attitude could be summarized as
"doom and gloom."

Transmissions and motors and exhaust systems, oh my.

These problems are growing more frequent and are chipping away at our resolve to NEVER take on another car payment.

Common scenario is:
car has squeak, noise, slips out of gear, that sort of thing.
yours truly lives in a state of denial for as long as possible
car breaks
towing professionals are called
we live as a one-car family ... and explore whether we could adjust to the lifestyle permanently
we pre-determine "how much we'll spend this time to keep it running" for one more day, or, maybe five more years!

An uncommon scenario occurred this week.
Stan drove home in the older car with all systems in working order. We were all in the yard so the kids do what they always do ... run to the car, get in or on, and "drive," very gingerly, the rest of the way up the driveway. Dad stops the car to accommodate the ritual.

Car dies. Start car. Car dies. Start Car. Car dies.

Yours truly stands in the front yard in a fit of hysterics. The laughing kind. It's much easier than crying. Giles suggests the car is out of gas. We blow him off because we are conditioned to gloom and doom.

We push car out of the way and ignore the problem for the evening. Towing professionals could come tomorrow, and of course, I think the car will magically start the next day with no human intervention. And I pray for such a miracle.

Stan mulls over the problem. Stresses out about the money, getting another vehicle, etc., while I continue ignoring/laughing about it.

Next morning. He wonders ... is it out of gas?

We dare grasp the possibility.

Sure enough. This time there is grace.
Cost of repair: one tank of gas and a little embarrassment.

Thanks Giles. We'll listen to you next time.

Roses and Hugs

Home again. Home again after a long weekend at a conference with the children and youth ministry staff at my congregation.

I can't believe how special I am. Home to roses and hugs. With this kind of homecoming, I should leave more often. But Grant just forbade it. Thanks God for a great weekend for all of us!

This is so cool

There's something about the process of reliving colonial life on the Internet. Something not quite right about. But I'll take the venue, because this website is sooo cool. The kids haven't even seen this site yet, but I've been sitting here counting chickens, writing with a quill pen and playing the Name the Founding Fathers game.

Colonial Williamsburg

Battle of Yorktown

Scene by Giles and Grant.
Photos by Giles.
Dirty floor by Mom.


I just spied on Giles' google search. (He's a Safari loyalist).

Revolutionary War Battles.

Albeit, he was looking for online games. But still it gave my heart a little burst.

Father's Son

So Stan also didn't buy our "we didn't know" reason for eating chocolate chips. If Giles is like Stan, then maybe Lyd and I share some ditziness?

We're sticking to our story.

A colony and a big game state

Dan encouraged us to take this name the state test.

With Giles' help, I got 48. Like Dan, we also forgot Delaware (even though he gave us the hint when reporting his results), and Montana where there are lots of big animals to hunt.

Giles took it on his own and got half of them. I think that's pretty good since he 1) had to type them and 2) had to spell them correctly and his list included California and Massachusetts. Not bad for a nine-year-old.

Devil in the Chips Ahoy

Lydia, on her own, decided to fast from chocolate this lent season. Observing lent and fasting is not in her parents' religious tradition (sadly), so we were thrilled to see her young heart grasp this concept when our congregation observed an Ash Wednesday service a couple of weeks ago.

I told her I would do it with her, so we both have been skirting the chocolate. When she wants chocolate, we pray together, and I think she has been praying on her own. And, we also have a plethora of other choices always at our grasp to combat a chocolate craving (which meets the letter of the law, but somehow violates the spirit of it I'm sure - if that makes sense ... or in other words, we probably should NOT be satisfying our fleshly craving with something else when we want chocolate, by choosing another flavor of ice cream or jelly beans instead of m&ms, but alas, she is seven and we are novice and this parenthetical phrase is long enough).

We went to the store today to get her some allergy medicine. She's finally lived long enough to inherit her mom's seasonal allergies, I'm sad to say.

At check-out, I absent-mindedly let Giles throw in a small box of Chips Ahoy. As we all were munching on one, before lunch, Grant observed ...


She was crushed and flushed with guilt. Neither one of us realized we were eating chocolate. Giles, the legalist among us, was incredulous that we could not notice we were eating darks specs of delicious chocolate. (Thanks for the support, sweetie).

I quickly told her that it was a mistake and God will forgive us because of his grace.

Later, as I looked at that stinkin' box of cookies again, God showed me what I might have told her earlier. That, like chocolate chips, sin creeps into our lives unsuspectingly, hiding in things we think are safe. Thank you Ephesians for the reference ...

"Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes."

But, even as the devil tries to trick us with chocolate chips, God's grace is always bigger than the devil's trickery, so we should never give up hope or give up trying.

We just had another talk about it when she also spied the stinkin box of cookies that I've since hidden from our view. I tried to share this "revelation" with her. The armor of God scripture has been something I've associated more with our boys, being little warriors to the fullest extent of their beings. Now this scripture has meaning for Lyd too ... (she concluded that the helmet of salvation includes a mouthpiece that will save us from chocolate).

"Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints."

Life Lesson

A little heartbreak over the weekend for Giles. He was extremely excited about a fencing tournament called March Seconds, held on March 2!

Back in the day, a fencer had his second at the ready to jump into battle for him. This tournie was to bring a friend who knew nothing about fencing, teach him what you know, and then have your second bout with the other seconds.

The anticipation was thrilling.

Let's make the long story short. Friend did not show up. A miscommunication.

While waiting, Stan and I tried not to watch the clock, nor stare at the unringing cell phone. We especially tried not to look at our son who was glued to the window watching, in vain, for his friend.

(Apologies have been offered profusely and accepted. Life moves on).


"The United States is really the best place to be, because you can do anything you want to here," said Suada Rutesic. "What is proves actually is that you can come here and you're 30 years old, don't speak good English and you don't know the system, but still, if you have your goals you can make something."

Suada and her husband are from Bosnia and came here as refugees 12 years ago. They opened their restaurant, Cafe Allegro, at 7801 N. May, OKC, last November. (We can't wait to go try it).

We read their story in the newspaper last Saturday. I love those mornings when the newspaper gets read leisurely along with one, two or three cups of good coffee.

And from the front page of the same paper, a story on the second anniversary of a fire that killed six members of a family. The Malilay family who were our neighbors. It brought back many memories - of our neighborhood school (where we still attended) setting up a memorial fund for the family, of the tears that teachers and students shed in their grief over losing their former students, of the furor over the danger of burglar bars over windows, of the first Buddhist funeral I attended.

For the story, Deng, the only one who made it out alive told about their family's emigration from Laos.

"There are no companies there, no work," said Deng, who grew rice in her homeland.

"If you no farm, you have nothing to eat. Here, if you want (to) work hard, you can do anything."

Speaking of food ...

We spent the afternoon with our wonderful "son," Alain. He's our almost 20-year-old son from Rwanda who is a college student. We have hardly seen him since Christmas break because he has a very demanding course load, and he got a job on campus in the cafeteria "caf." (We are his American family. He has his own very loving and wonderful family back home in Kigali).

I took him to Wal-Mart today for some supplies, which included a hair product that neither one of us knew about but another guy on campus told him to get. He found the product, then we went to another part of the store for the next item on his list and got that. The next item on his list was a hair brush ... which happened to be on the same aisle as the first item! We just laughed and got a lot of exercise and cart maneuvering experience. We learn.

Earlier today I asked him how he liked his job and whether he's learning a lot about food service. Oh yes, he said.

A few hours later he asked if maybe I knew why something was occurring that was troubling him very much.

Why do they throw out the food?

How do you answer that to a young man who comes from a country that suffers widespread poverty (hunger) ... where many families continue to cook over an open fire ... and where the basic diet consists of beans and rice and tubar vegetables? (Not pizza, chicken fried steak, dill pickles, 125 choices on a restaurant menu, and 37 choices of chips in the grocery store aisle).

Sometimes they throw out more food than they serve, he has observed. (No doubt the vegetables). Can't they send the food to the mission to help hungry people? he asked.

While I am very patriotic and love our country (and have a little entry coming about that later), this is ANOTHER one of those instances where I am embarrassed to explain another Americanism to him.

The answer, according to me, was that basically it is way more convenient to throw out the food than to deal with it - deal with storing it, deal with parceling it out to the needy.

And, I guessed, there are so many regulations governing food, that they are likely not allowed to give away the prepared food. I don't even know that this is true, but it probably is. That too is embarrassing to explain .... we don't give hungry people our delicious cooked food because should it make someone ill ... we will be liable and have consequences.

But he understood. What a drag.

I did encourage him to ask those questions on campus, maybe to the "caf" personnel for the real answers ... maybe he'll start something positive. A movement to share the food and share the wealth.

Lemons into Lemonade

Sweet hubby turned my unattractive almost inedible homemade bread into a delectable whole grain bread pudding for dessert!

Round Two

Stan suggests I might follow the recipe exactly. Perhaps I'll give Round Three to him.

But it was ten years ago

We've been getting one of those annoying "800 service" calls a lot. I normally don't answer them. But we were getting the same call in the 8 am hour and the 8 or 9 pm hour, I finally gave in and picked up to make it go away.

It was Arbritron! After all of my years of living (and not answering the phone), the radio ratings people called ME! They wanted my opinions about what radio stations I like! (Were they in for a surprise.) The nice man on the phone even promised small monetary gifts for the participation of each member of our household over age 18.

Oh the opportunity! We could finally give some love to all of the non-profit and am radio stations we listen to. The talks, the Christian stations, and even the NPRs! Those stations hardly ever break the ratings, so maybe we'd help give them a blip!

But then that nice man on the phone asked the last question: Do you or anyone in your household work for a radio station?

My inane answer: not currently.

Why did I feel compelled to say that? It was a yes or no question.

He had to disqualify me. It was a disappointing for both of us. I'm sure he lost out on a small monetary gift as well.

But alas, this time ten years ago (TEN YEARS?), I did my second tour of duty in radio (between PR gigs). Good old KTOK!

But now I've been tagged, and they'll never call again. I wish the Republican Party and those folks who want us to come to Branson would do the same.

Three steps forward ...

Just in case, I start thinking I'm the best homeschool teacher in the whole world (NOT, but here's where we are) ... here's some humble pie, and a laugh.

This year we're studying Early American history. Our style is using a timeline as our guidepost - the kids color it at some point in each unit - Leif Erikson (vikings), Christopher Columbus, Pocahontas, and on it has gone. I grab from a ton of resources available on the internet, library and, of course, great literature. We stalled a bit with the pilgrims and have been enjoying colonial life for a while before rushing headlong into the war. But it's time to move on to the Boston Massacre, Boston Tea Party and Paul Revere. Yesterday we read about Crispus Attucks.

To review today, I asked Lydia who was "the first to defy, first to die" in the Revolutionary War.

She did not know.
I prompted her a little ... Cris....

Christopher Columbus, she replied eagerly.

Oh great. I really am a failure. This clearly is not working.

So we did a quick review of the explorer. She couldn't remember anything. Not Queen Isabella or King Ferdinand. Not Spain. Not even "in 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue."

But saving grace, finally, she uttered ... "the Santa Maria?"

YES. YES. Anything else?

The .... ni ... na. And the pin ... ta????

(picture is from our boat race in the back yard last Columbus Day)