We're yet to have the romantic getaway where we sit gazing at each other for hours and reflect on the first 15 years. Preferably we'd do this in a resort in Mexico with a swimup bar. But we're hoping for at least candlelight and sushi, and perhaps a local bed & breakfast stay somewhere close in the next couple of weeks.

We'll no doubt crack up when we consider what we thought our married life might look like when we had our wedding way back in 1992. Three kids. Home schooling. And still having the same phone number I've since college. And, now grinding wheat! That will all crack us up, but we will get teary when we consider God's amazing grace and mercy he has shown us as we have danced, clinging to each and to Him as silly married kids. God's plans are amazing and with each year our trust in Him grows and he patiently waits for us.

We'll save the trip for 16! No sense waiting for 25, right? Maybe we won't replace furnaces, water heaters and transmissions next year!

We are very blessed and very happy.

The icing on the cake to our wedding anniversary was the kids' surprises!

Giles made this card. And took the picture from our photo library of our recent trip on a tankful to Gloss Mountain in NW OK. And, Stan being silly with one of Lydia's bows.

Then, he created an "anaversery playlist" for us. Among the titles ...
"One's on the Way" by Loretta Lynn
"Marvelous Light" by Charlie Hall
"Mighty to Save" by Hillsong
"Feliz Navidad" by David Crowder Band
"Mayberry" by Rascal Flatts
"Would You Go With Me" by Josh Turner
"Can't Help Falling in Love" by Elvis Presley

He also put Keith Urban's "You'll think of me." (Take my cat and take my sweater, cuz we have nothing left to weather.) Scary. NOT foreshadowing!

Anyway, the kid can find his way around a Mac.

And then Grant made us a stunning mural with foamie fish and blue chalk.

Lydia drew a lovely picture and performed a dance for us.

Amazing and creative gifts from our best gifts of all!

Stan also sent me flowers and an awesome gushy card.

Me. I did nothing. Bad. Bad. I'm saving a surprise for the date!

I'm in awe. Thanks God for the gifts, and most of all for my husband who is strong, discerning, patient, joyful, kind, handsome, funny, wise, humble, and loves YOU, me and his children. Thanks for giving me my best friend.

I must cry now!

Today's catch

There have not been very many nice Thursdays this spring, the day we generally reserve for Martin Park Nature Center outings. Today dawned bright, sunny, warm.

Payload. Though we took only memories, and left our other catches there. (wew)

99 cans of paint on the table

Not quite 99, but I went with that headline anyway. How about 60?

That's the number of cans in the gallon and spray variety, tubes and mixers, glazers and primers we hauled out of the basement this week.

Talk about a great cardio workout.
And talk about taking "If you give a homeschool mom a cookie" to a new level.

This impromptu clean out was to accommodate a city inspector who gave an edict during his first visit that we had to raise our new water heater 18-inches off the floor. The installer and the homeowner "respectfully disobeyed" this edict and thought the paint removal might work in our favor in case he was worried about flammables. Anyway.

We never dreamed we had that much paint down there. Outa control. However it has provided a great trip down memory lane, exercise and math lessons, a little biology and also gave us lots of inspiration.

Some of the paint pre-dated our arrival to this house. The front door paint. The living room paint. The bright green paint that we quickly painted over when we moved in. We eventually added lots of partially full (and mostly empty) cans with each new baby as we also created new ways for our house to accommodate our growing family.

All of the paint is on the kitchen table. That's where it provided a great guessing and counting game for us. And color identifying for Grant. And sorting big cans and little cans, empties and fulls.

I hadn't noticed all of that paint because a lot of it was under the stairwell and behind our spare refrigerator. Once we looked back at the dark cave, we were so excited. I was excited about the new storage possibilities. They were excited about a new hideout ... one of the kids even suggested it as a READING spot.

Forget storage then! Let's do it!

Pause here to say how very grateful to God that my daughter has brothers. Had I been seven and looking at a very dirty, buggy and dark spot in a scary basement, I would have been petrified. I don't think she considered being scared. Wew.

While they were counting cans upstairs, I started sweeping out the new hideout. Lots of sediment from the floor. Bugs. Coins! Even lego parts. Then a little dark blob. I looked at it a little closer, gasped, and yelled GILES YOU HAVE TO COME SEE THIS.

They all raced down to observe the decomposing mouse! Those who know the former me know this might have sent me over the edge and this blog entry would be way different. Instead we marveled and wondered how long it had been there. (Again, praise God for giving ME boys). We were sure it was pre-Keisha the stray cat. No mouse has dared come in the house since she adopted us, even though she stays outside about 85% of the time!

Then to the Internet. How long does it take a little mouse to "return to the earth."
So that was the biology lesson! (We don't know yet, but in our search, I did learn about composting).

The paint is staying in my view until the front door is repainted which will determine whether 11 year old paint is still usable! We'll do some other touchups. We've already painted some outside chairs with colors of Giles' room. The other chair will be green and a bench will be yellow!

We'll post some pictures when we transform the new cave.

In another post we'll do some laughing about the box we found of Stan's school memorabilia that had been keeping company with the paint behind the fridge. TREASURES!

Lulu's $100 Lemonade

Lydia and Grant had been wearing me out to have a Lemonade Stand. They did one last fall and made $15 that Lydia had promised to give to Cross & Crown. But she wanted to add to it. I was a bit ashamed that the $15 had been sitting in a jar on top of the piano all of these months.

So they opened for business last Thursday. We opened in time to get the after school crowd from the Catholic school across the street, and the public school a few blocks away.

I did a quick teach on marketing. She was making signs to sell her lemonade for 50 cents. I suggested that if she gave it for free, like she did last time, she might make more. So she offered "free" lemonade and popsicles. I suggested she just tell her customers that she would take donations, and to always smile!

Sure enough, no one who didn't receive a complimentary drink gave less than a dollar ... including the guy driving the fancy car who gave her $20. We told him he could have lifetime free refills when he whizzed back by in his smokin' hot convertible.

When he held out his empty cup for the refill, he asked her what the money was for. She told him it was for the mission and to send some kids to camp this summer.

Then he asked why she didn't tell him that in the first place and he gave her $40 more!


Thrill. Be still our palpitating hearts!

They (including Lydia's friend) sold some more, and offered some to our neighborhood homeless guy ... who has asked us for work a dozen times, sifts through our recycle bin and once stole a rake.

When they closed down and came inside to count the bills and coins, they came up with

(this also included her math for the day!)

She's going to take it to Cross & Crown on Monday and maybe it'll pay for camp or a little fun for the kids at Rock Island and Underground (

Meantime, we are counting the days til school's out, and doing a little more math. Roughly ten days left of school multiplied by $100 a day (har har)! Cha-ching!

Our neighbor joked we should haul the grill out to the curb and really open for business.

Might as well dream big!

Cookies ...

I regret that my last post is so vitriolic, so until there's more time, here's something to kick it out of the top post spot.
Yep, it's an email forward. But it's funny and though our family can't completely identify with it all, we aspire! I actually read an article this morning about growing your own chickens! And I was intrigued. I'm sure the city won't let us, and neither would my neighbor, until I give her fresh eggs! :-)
And Giles just finished grinding some wheat berries in the coffee grinder. We had to stop though - to let the tiny motor cool!
I'm attempting Matzo this morning. No yeast or rising required. I think I can handle it!


If you give a Homeschooling Mom a cookie, she'll want the recipe. (well, Dad will want it!)

She will plan a complete unit study on the History of Cookies. (Yes, I might do that.)

The family will take field trip to a farm and see where we get eggs, milk
and grain. (Great idea. Where's a good one!)

At home they will make butter out of milk. (on the list to do)

The children will want to start grinding their own grain. (doing it)

Mom will purchase a Bosch Universal Kitchen System. (currently shopping for such)

She will remember she will need a new list of cookbooks. (well, maybe she'll rely on online resources)

So, she will order "An Introduction To Whole Grain Baking w/ CD,
"The Cooking With Children CD," and "Whole Foods for Kids to Cook." (probably on amazon)

Mom orders a 100 lb bag of wheat berries. (Dad actually bought 25 lbs.)

The children remember the farm field trip and knowing they can't possibly
get a cow so they beg for a few chickens. (please!)

So, to a trip to the library to research how to build a chicken coop and to
how to care for chickens. (sending us back a couple of generations)

On the way out the door Mom sees the book, "Chicken Tractor" (is it a living book? is it at the library?)

They stop by the Feed and Seed to pick up materials and ask where to
purchase the chicks. (Only after convincing Dad)

There the clerk tells them about egg that can be incubated. (grandpa could also do this)

He sells them a book on hatching eggs, eggs, and incubator. (grandpa has this stuff)

At home Mom and the younger children set up the incubator while Dad and the
older children build the chicken tractor.

Back to the library to pick up gardening books and more books on chickens. (yep)

The oldest daughter now starts a business grinding flour for the her
friend's families. (!!!!!)

While her younger sisters are selling homemade cookies to their neighbors. (planning a sale this afternoon - lemonade though)

The boys have started building a new chicken tractor because they want more
eggs for breakfast. (giles ate three this morning)

That cookie that started this all? The homeschooling mom's three year old
ate it. (that would be classic grant behavior)

What have I done?

UPDATE: The Email bounced back. Here's the message:
User mailbox exceeds allowed size:

I've been writing letters lately. And sending them. Scary territory. When I was a journalist (and young), I simply refused to allow myself to form opinions (or think - so much easier) and reported on what happened. It's taken a while and growing up some to just get sick of what I read, hear and see. And now I thinking ... and live more wholly in our world.

Here's something I sent to the Oklahoma County Republican Party today in reaction to a email newsletter I received yesterday. No idea how I got on that list. But I tell you, I'm reconsidering having any affiliation - for any party.

First, here's the part of the email that I received from the party ...
Message from Chairman Jones

Bipartisan immigration reform legislation authored by Rep. Randy Terrill (R-Moore) , HB 1804, was signed into law last week in Oklahoma and is called the most meaningful immigration reform measure in the nation. Speaker Cargill praised the legislation, and said that "It's about time we started looking out for the interests of millions of Oklahoma taxpayers."

Not only are we ahead of the curve at the state level, but our senior Senator Jim Inhofe is leading the fight for reform at the federal level. Just recently, Senator Inhofe introduced immigration reform legislation in the Senate and also called for English to be America's official language.

The debate on immigration is far from over, as opposition groups are set to take legal action against HB1804. As things heat up, I have a question: what happened to the melting pot?

The "melting pot" term was first used in the early 20th century as thousands of legal immigrants were coming to America. These early immigrants came to America to be American. They learned our language and assimilated into our society. In the process, they brought something new and valubale to America, just as America had much that was new and valuable to offer them. This concept seems to be lost on most illegal immigrants today, who show very little interest in our culture or becoming American.

As President Theodore Roosevelt put in: "There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn't an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag."

America is clear, we don't oppose legal immigrants who come and assimilate into our society, but instead illegal immigrants who have no interest in becoming American and who represent a hidden tax on American citizens. So as we continue to debate this issue and find ways to address it, let's not forget---or give up---on the melting pot concept in America. It has worked for this country in the past, and can again.

Here's my email:

Mr. Jones,

I received your Oklahoma Republican Party email this week. I just wanted to share with you, as a registered Republican in this county (for the moment), that I was offended about your comments about HB 1804.

Your flippant remarks and insinuation that our neighbors do not want to be American sounds racist and ignorant. If you are going to compare our country in the early 20th century when immigrants came to become part of the "melting pot" you describe, it is only fair to go back another 200 or 300 years and recall that white European settlers murdered, plundered, raped and annihilated Native American and Mexicans who first "settled" this land before we proclaimed it Our Land.

I know this issue is not easy. I am not a proponent of illegal immigration. I know the problems non-tax paying citizens create for our economy. I also see the double-standard of letting "illegal" children go to our schools, and hiring "illlegals" to do the dirty jobs involved in the back breaking work of the hog and poultry industry, or pouring concrete and hammering shingles in triple digit Oklahoma temperatures. The answers are not easy. Boasting about our reform and claiming that illegal immigrants do not want to become part of our society is wrong and hurtful - and confuses the issue.

Have you met any "illegal" families?

I do know some of them. They long to learn English, if only someone would teach them, or befriend them. They love America. They love their families. Many of them are here to scrape together any money they can to send back home. Right now, they are scared. They are making plans to move to another state that hasn't passed so-called "meaningful immigration reform" like Oklahoma or some will go back to Mexico. What they will leave behind are their American citizen children who will be left with friends and neighbors so they will have an opportunity for education and jobs. After generations of doing nothing, this reform is tearing apart very close-knit families.

Have you ever tried to learn a new language as an adult? It is very difficullt, especially when there is no one to teach you, or extra money to pay for a course. Don't tell me those Russian, Polish, German, Irish and others who made up our melting pot all learned English either. They depended on their own children and grandchildren to translate and teach them.

In addition, there are plenty of American citizens who also do not want to assimilate into our culture and couldn't pass a basic citizenship test.

There are Oklahomans very concerned about this issue, and not just because it's drains "millions of dollars from our state economy." It's because we are humans caring about other humans. Some of us are even Republicans.

I could kick myself for not paying attention to this legislation before it was passed. But that's my fault, not that I have any confidence that I would have a voice anyway. In the meantime, we are among those of us out here, trying to calm the fears and panic of Hispanic families - helping them find solutions so their families aren't ripped apart and they go back to Mexico to unsafe water, no jobs and no future.

What does our country ever do to reach out to the nation of Mexico, to help make that country more desirable for its citizens? The country of Mexico is our neighbor. Americans should be ashamed that our closest neighbor is a third world country.

I have heard enough rhetoric and hurtful headlines from both parties. None of it does any good - it doesn't lead to solutions and only intensifies stereotypes and unkindness. I can tell you that I am not alone in these viewpoints. You are going to lose us. I am not one to generally write critical letters or let my voice be heard. Rest assured, these viewpoints are out there, and they are strong.

Dawn Shelton

Diving In

I love my peonies. I don't even feel like I'm being prideful in saying it. I did not plant them, I inherited them from the previous owners of the house. But I guess I am proud of the grace shown in that they have survived us for 11 Mays! They have survived toddlers, a short season of dog trampling, droughts, and this year, near floods. Yet every May, they bloom. And the beautiful foliage endures all summer after the fragrant blossoms fade away - hiding the ugly chainlink fence and providing a nice hiding place for balls, army guys, toy cars and other child treasures.

I love them.

Last night, while picking out the most beautiful blooms to make an arrangement for our neighbors whose daughter graduates from high school tonight, I noticed that a whole patch of them were squashed, broken. It was like something large had fallen on them. Was it the rain?

Giles, did you do this? Nope.
Lydia, did you do this? No, ma'am.
Grant, did you do this? Yep.


I wanted to dive on them and swim across, he explained.

The evidence of a table, suitable for jumping/diving, was still part of the crime scene, placed at the end of the row. How did I miss that?

Lydia later confessed to being a near co-conspirator. She said it looked really fun and she wanted to try it, but she knew she'd get in trouble.

Time will tell whether our hearty peonies survive high diving.

Today's vocabulary word

Azodicarbonamide. This word came up today first when Giles asked whether the "country potato" bread he was eating really had potatoes in it. So we looked at the ingredient list and in addition to high fructose corn syrup and potato flour, we find azodicarbonamide.

Here's what wikipedia says about it:

Azodicarbonamide, or azobisformamide, is an organic chemical, C2H4O2N4, with structural formula H2N-CO-N=N-CO-NH2. It is a yellow to orange red, odorless, crystalline powder. It is known as E number E927.

It is used in food industry as a food additive, a flour bleaching agent and improving agent.

It is also used in the production of foamed plastics and the manufacture of gaskets. Use of azodicarbonamide as a food additive is banned in Australia.

In the UK, the Health and Safety Executive has identified azodicarbonamide as a respiratory sensitiser (a possible cause of asthma) and determined that products should be labeled with "May cause sensitisation by inhalation."

This provided a wonderful teachable moment (or fatal where our health is concerned). Kids, did you know this bread that tastes so good can also make plastic. Or that it's banned in Australia, or that the British think it causes asthma?

It really did provide a good example of why Stan and I are trying and trying to reform our eating ways. I think the kids saw the light too, as evidenced by the mustard swathed bread bodies that remained on their lunch plates with the insides (organic egg and turkey) eaten up.

I've already noticed that it's getting harder and harder to buy anything at the grocery store. And it takes me hours to make a usual run and that's partly because I can't remember from one day to the next which brands of food have high fiber, low sodium and now, no azodicarbonamide.

We can't buy milk at the grocery anymore. So that's another stop to make to buy hormone free milk (until we give it up altogether). Meat scares me - hormones and antibiotics ... and the way the grow them up in their little feeder stalls. All processed foods contain so much sodium that Stan would be in a constant state of vertigo if we went back to our old ways, just buying the cheapest. Now bread. I have spent probably 30 minutes in the bread aisle before looking for a bread miracle, and looking in vain for any loaf that does not contain high fructose corn syrup.

Why does our bread need high fructose corn syrup in addition to other sweetening chemicals?

This all takes such a complete lifestyle change that my head spins (sorry Stan), but the evidence is piling up. And our health and the health of our extended family members who increasingly suffer from diabetes, headaches, allergies and low energy.

I know. I know. Everything in moderation. I'm not stressing about it (or should I?) but am committing to reformation, and to try harder to make bread.

Sound familiar?

Any of this sound familiar to you?

little food, no milk and no baby formula in the house
house so cluttered with clothes or toys there was little room to walk
dirty dishes in both sinks, on the counter and on the stove
beds with no sheets
the mother was UNEMPLOYED.

Does this sound like one of those emails we get about the lives of harried moms with a houseful of little children? Or snippets we read in parenting magazines that assure us that we are not alone?

I suspect most of us can identify with not having milk in the house from time to time (oh yes, we are out right now). And the dirty dishes, well.

I know I'm treading on some thin ice here and my argument might not resonate, but I'm trying anyway. The above items were part of a laundry list that a state welfare worker found at a home that was being investigated for child neglect.

What happened to this family is horrific (and I don't mean to make light of it). The children ended up being left alone in the home and the house caught fire and the children died. The mom is in prison for a long time because she was next door smoking a cigarette (?) when the fire blazed into an inferno. It makes your heart hurt.

The list I mentioned above were discoveries of a welfare worker who investigated the home and was part of an article about whether the state welfare agency was to blame for the children's deaths.

If they are looking to see whether there's milk in the fridge, perhaps so.

Granted there were many other items in the report about the conditions of the home - (whiskey in the freezer, a bong in the bedroom) but none of it ever prompted the state to remove the children, but the state did force the mom to get "parenting skills" classes.

Subsequently, the grandparents of the dead children sued the state claiming it was the state's fault the children's mother (the father was long splitso) didn't know how to care for children amid her alcohol and drug problems. Who raised her?

I have been irritated at the media and "watchdogs" a good many times when they rush to blame the government after something terrible like this happens. A similar case was that of a young child who was murdered in our state the last couple of years. This child had been in and out of state custody and a judge put her back with her partying mother. Someone in the house, the mom or the stepdad, beat the child so badly she died.

And it was the state's fault. There was a huge public outcry with ribbons and buttons and bumper stickers asking for justice for this child.

Back to the other story. The grandparents who sued the state because their grandchildren died under their mother's care, collected $85,000. The rest of the almost $300,000 settlement went to non-profit groups to prevent child abuse.

This was a big deal copyrighted story in the Sunday paper as part of an ongoing investigation of DHS. The newspaper tells us that the agency has more than 7,500 employees and manages a $1.6 billion (with a "b") budget. It is responsible for caring for children, the elderly and underprivileged.

These are tragedies that make us cry out to God and makes God cry. Is there not something more we can do? The church? Would you say parenting classes about loving and nurturing (and not leaving the house with three kids under five) your children would be better at a church or at a state run agency? Is this what He means when He calls us to do something for the "least of these?" And we let Caesar take care of it for us.

When the mud beckons

Giles, Lydia, Grant and Gee Jye Oh (GI JOE) discovered that four inches of rain on freshly tilled but as yet, unplanted garden makes an awesome mud run.

Other activities today:
Worm harvesting for the neighbors' rescued baby birds.
Boat racing down the rapids along our sidewalk
Mud pie making
Monitoring the bucket (trashcan) full of water that dripped from the ceiling

The rain also brought over an inch of water to the theatre where the play Giles is in will be performed this weekend. The director is undaunted and says the show will go on as planned, but today's rehearsal was cancelled for water removal.

After the Rain

Do we live what we teach?

Those little teachable moments that come while driving around.

When out of the blue, Giles comments: "You know, those people who write those scripts at church (his Bible class), I bet they don't tell people about Jesus."

Luckily, I already had my foot on the brake as I approached a stoplight to save us from careening off the road. Such cynicism from my sweet nine-year-old. NINE!

I honestly don't remember all of the details that transpired next, except of trying to get at exactly what he meant. He was talking about the curriculum we use in Sunday school and the drama scripts we have some weeks with kids and adults in situations emulating what might happen on the playground, at work, or in the world.

In my heart, I feared that I knew what he meant, he's wondering who exactly does he see telling people about Jesus?

But mostly, I talked too much instead of listening to him more ...

Mom: "well, we tell people about Jesus lots of times by how we act. Being a good example ... and that leads to them trusting us to tell them about our savior ..."

Then I began preaching some more.

And he busted me. "Okay. Here comes the sermon," he said.

Yes. He's NINE.

We are in for it. Does he get that cynicism naturally from me? What's he really thinking? We're not keeping it real enough for him?

God then led us to talking about some of the friends we have who we KNOW do not know the Lord. And ways of showing them about Jesus, and the point at which we'll share. Him with his friends. Me with the Mom.

Why haven't I told her more about Jesus?

Out of the mouths of babes.

Wait til his Dad hears about this.
Dad will set all of us straight!