Somewhat Muddled Musings

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Pajama Letter Craze

We were expecting snow this morning, lots and lots of snow. So we were ready for a pajama school day with lots of reading and snuggling and running outside to play, then back for more school. The snow never came, but we didn't get out of pj's either.

Spelling is a bit of a touchy subject for us, so I try to find lots of ways to reinforce spelling while making it all fun. Today, we grabbed the Scrabble, Jr. board and realized that the boys don't like the 'baby' version any longer, but Aiden wasn't quite ready to flip the board and play it for real. So, I had them grab a handful of tiles, the timer, an a writing board and begin to see how many words they could create together, and write them on the board. Viola - Homemade Boggle! It helped Aiden with his writing, Connor with his spelling, and the both of them with their working together and observational skills. You could do this with any kind of letter tile, homemade or purchased.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Night with Phil Keaggy

Not long ago I shared with you my excitement of getting to see Phil Keaggy in concert. So last night was the night! I was excited to share the boy's first concert experience with them, and share the evening with Russ.
We left early and I was getting groans from the small ones about it, but I'm so very glad we did. When we arrived at the venue, I realized that this was the same church I saw him eight years ago at. We were some of the first 'fans' to arrive, but within minutes, the hallway area was packed with folks waiting to get in. We ended up being second row center - a far cry from behind the back pillars at the back of the church position I had last time.

Phil came on stage and started sharing his life. Last night was the anniversary of his Mom's Going Home celebration and his Second Birthday (coming to know Christ) so it was a special night for him. He did a sort of Phil retrospect..starting back in the pre Glass Harp days and worked his way up through the years. When he sang Maker of the Universe, I cried. Yep..I did. It's the first time I've heard him sing it in public, and it's the most beautiful song. I'm still in awe of his talent. The man knows how to play that guitar! Watching him play, and listening to how he uses the sampling machine to record parts to play back while he's playing can make it sound like he's got a whole band behind him. The boys got a huge kick when he sings into his guitar to record a background vocal - they thought that was so funny.

Here's his set up:

After the brief intermission, he came back and took a few requests mixed in with planned songs. As folks were shouting out requests....Connor requested Strong Tower, so I spoke up a bit, and Phil heard us, and said, Yes..Strong Tower - who said that? So I pointed to Connor and Phil smiled. "This is for the boy in blue...from your Uncle Philly". So, he went on to play Strong Tower, winked a few times at us, while Connor and I sang along. Connor kept giggling and grinning and bouncing in his seat. I looked over at Russ to capture the moment with him and saw Aiden in his lap while they were singing along to the chorus. After Phil was done and the clapping subsided, Phil looked at Connor and said, "If I can make a boy that happy by singing a song, it was worth the trip!"

He shared more with us during the evening about his family, his desire to be a grandparent more than to his son's new puppy, and his love of Christ. He did mention that it was weird for him to be in such a crowd when he's been used to singing in coffee houses and small venues in Nashville because no one goes to concerts in Nashville anymore with all the performers there. He played How Can I Thank You, What a Day, Shades of Green, Olivia, Salvation Army Band, Here comes the Sun, a Bob Dillon song I didn't know (I'm sorry Veda, I spent more time watching him play than listening to the lyrics to tell you), ended the night with True Believers, then for an encore did Let Everything Else Go and Rich Mullin's Hold Me Jesus (and yeah, a few tears escaped me again - I'm lame). I know he did more, but they're escaping me now (should've written down the set list as he played). All in all, a wonderful night with a man who admits that it's not him playing that guitar, but God playing through him. What a night!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Sharing some layouts...

I don't make the time to scrap much, anymore and really miss it. Too much school stuff, too much running around, activities with the family, etc. keep me from making time. Well, I made some this morning :)


And here are a few others that have been floating around recently:





Thursday, February 18, 2010

Race fans...Start Your Engines!

Well, cool them off since the races are over..but look at these incredible boys and their Pine Derby Cars!

Here are the results:

1st in Division - Speed
1st in Division - Unique Design
3rd in Division - Best Design

2nd in Division - Speed
1st in Division - Best Design

It was so cute watching Aiden get so excited about seeing his car up there to race the first time. Connor seemed more interested in just collecting his ribbons (before he even raced? LOL), but Russ was most pleased with the evening having helped the boys create some rockin' fast cars!

We had a huge crowd last night and the structure was set up differently than we've done in years past. We had two heats and all ages raced against each other in the heats. Then they used the software to break out by age group, and awards were given at that point. Connor came in 7th overall and Aiden 14th. There are some serious family pinewood derby dynasties in our church. Connor's only got a couple of years left in the program, and I'm determined that next year, we'll win best in show with our amazing Tardis derby car :)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday Cross Craft for Lent

I got this idea from this site and wanted to do it with the boys this morning for a craft. We got to talk about where the name Ash Wednesday comes from, our first day of Lent, and fire safety LOL Connor was just a little too enthusiastic to play with the matches.

Ash Wednesday Matchstick Cross

You'll need:
2 unburned matches
85-90 matches, burned, and the heads tapped off.
chipboard or thin cardboard. We used scrapbook paper, but it didn't hold up well to the glue.
Frame - optional

Take 2 clean matches and cut off the match head. Cut one of them in half (scissors work just fine)

Take the full sized match and place it in the middle of your paper. Take the 2 halved pieces and place them at either side to form a cross.

Then, at a diagonal, place matches going out (we used 10 in each diagonal segment). You'll then form the straight areas of the cross from the diagonal indentions.

Following our photo - just create the same pattern. I don't want to copy the websites instructions for copyright issues, but it's fairly easy to see the photo and follow the pattern. As soon as it's dried, we'll put the paper onto the backing, reframe and hang to have it serve as a reminder the season of Lent.

I found that putting the glue on the match was easier than trying to make sure you had enough glue on the paper, which just buckled it and was messy. Doing each match was good for dexterity practice.

The boys enjoyed doing the craft (we're sorely lacking on craft time this year), and we had a great talk about Lent and our observances....and lots of talk about fire safety and match play. However, my eyes are still a bit burney from burning all those matches LOL

Do we say Happy Ash Wednesday?

I come from a tradition of faith that really doesn't have much in the way of liturgical roots, and it's quite proud of that fact. Not all Protestant traditions are that way as some are firmly rooted in a liturgical season and celebrate well, but us most mainstream Baptist churches and non-denominational churches, liturgy is to much like Catholicism, and we left that a long time ago. Russ and I used to attend a Baptist church where liturgy was embraced. It was a blend of the theology we embraced (for the most part) and an Episcopal-esque observance of faith. I loved that church. I can't even say why, but my soul was happy there. We did have some issues and ended up leaving that church, but my soul still mourns at times.

So, I find myself returning to some of those traditions we left behind there. I want more liturgy in our worship experience. I love the view of our faith of old..and not the new tradition where worship notes from saints gone by are looked upon as being part of 'that' style that we just don't do here. I don't know how better to put what I feel, but I wish our church, our tradition, held on to some of the traditions that they left behind with Luther's list.

So, I've wanted to embrace Advent for more than a countdown to how many days before Santa gets here. I want to observe Lent, in all of it's misery and sacrifice and ashes. Our tradition doesn't do that at all. Sure, we have the 1-4th Sunday of Lent mentioned during services, but there's no observance in between. And granted, Lent is not a Biblically mandated observance, but we Protestants don't observe those either - we leave that to our Jewish & 7th Day Adventist brethren to do. This year, we're hoping to remedy that and embrace a tradition from our Catholic and Episcopal friends...we're observing Lent.

Years ago, my best friend invited our family to observe Passover with them. It was one of the holiest days I've ever experienced. We didn't fall down weeping or spend our time with our hands in our laps never saying a word, or looking forlorn and grief stricken. We joked, we communed, we ate together, we learned, we worshipped, we hoped, we praised, we were in awe. We knew that our observance of Passover was something that had been done for thousands of years, we knew that the promise of Elijah had been made flesh (and we didn't have to hope he'd show up anymoe!) and that the Passover promise was fulfilled in Christ. We saw it as not a mournful observance of awful food and misery, but as a celebration of a Promise fulfilled at the Cross. I want our faith to be like that all the time.

Even in this season of self-sacrifice where we mourn over what we give up, focusing on how it's more about us than Him, the burden of Christ's death is something to be mourned, but his Resurrection is to be celebrated! We are so unworthy, yet His death has brought new life to us all! Surely we should cower before the Lord in all of our misery, yet I see that as a pride thing..we're just too awful for You to love us..forget us..go on..we know better than You. I do see Lent as a time to remind us that we ARE unworthy, and it seems to focus on that so much, but I see the hope in His sacrifice that we have HOPE and JOY and LOVE. So am I wrong to say Happy Ash Wednesday?!

Our sacrifices are insignificant in comparison, but we're doing them as an observance...a fast. The boys are fasting from candy..something dear to them both. I'm fasting from soda..something that is so ingrained in me that it's truly an addiction. I don't know that Russ has found his, or if he will share. I pray fervently that this sacrifice to Christ is more than just a 40 day sacrifice, but a life-long one that benefits me in the short term as well as the long term as I learn to rely on Him to deliver me from something that has caused so much strife in my body and my mind. I also pray that it does not become a pride issue for me...but that it is truly a gift to Christ...that sin that separates me from Him.

Today, the boys and I are going to make a salt dough crown of thorns to use as a center piece, and we'll go buy some purple cloth today to display it upon the mantle. I'm finding it sad that we don't decorate our house with the same fevor and joy for our Holiest of days the way we do for Christmas. There's so much guilt and death involved in this observance, but shouldn't our focus be on the fact that there is so much Hope? There is a Promise that the guilt and misery doesn't have to follow us...that we have been given New Life. We celebrate that in non-religious ways with everyone in the spring. So why don't we, as Christians, celebrate this season with even more joy than Christmas? I surely don't want plastic crosses that light up and play Old Rugged Cross, and strings of plastic Easter eggs hanging from the roof line, or to make even more of the Easter Bunny, but I do wish we saw this season for more than we've let it become.

So today - we observe, we talk about what it means to us, we give reverence where it is truly deserved. And we look, with hope, to that Cross...knowing that His Death brings us the promise of Life...not death.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Valentine's Treat - Chocolate Lava Muffins & Snow Cream

I wanted to do something a little special for Valentine's Day this year. We don't really celebrate much - just some food gifts to each other. Usually some kind of meat for Russ (he got a lobster tail, fancy sausages and some bison meat), and chocolate for the kids and I. But this year, I wanted to do a little more. I've been wanting these for weeks, and thought V-day was the perfect day to give them a try - and impress the heck out of my family..who never said a word, they were too busy consuming with big happy smiles on their faces! I love you guys!

Alton Brown 's Chocolate Lava Muffins
from Good Eats: The Early Years

8 oz bittersweet chocolate (though we just used chocolate chips)
1 stick unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 TB all purpose flour (or for those purists 1.5 oz)
1/2 C Sugar (again, for the purists 4 oz sugar)
2 TB natural cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)
1/4 tsp kosher salt
4 large eggs

*Heat oven to 375
*Bring a large saucepan with about 1" of water to boil
*Use your stand mixer to put on saucepan, and melt chocolate and butter together, stirring frequently.
*Stir in vanilla
(if you don't have a stand mixer you can do this in a regular double boiler configuration, then transfer it to a large mixing bowl)

*Sift together flour, sugar, 1 tb of cocoa powder and salt. (you can do this over a paper plate to make incorporating easier)

*Crank the mixer to medium speed and add eggs one at ta time to the chocolate mixer..fulling incorporating each egg before adding the next.

*Drop speed to low and begin adding in dry ingredients.

*Increase speed to high and beat for 5 min (light and creamy). (you can do this with a hand mixer, but be prepared to stand there awhile).

*Chill for 30 min.

*Pour into 12 silicone muffin compartments. If you're using standard muffin tins, coat each in butter, then dust with remaining cocoa powder.

*Spoon contents into muffin 'tins', about 1/2 way up sides.

*Bake for 10-11 min. Wen the muffins are finished, they'll be gooey. The top is firm and kind of cracked, but the insides are gooey. This is a good thing!

*You can serve this with a bit of ice cream melted and blended with espresso powder as the book suggests, but we didn't bother since we were doing it with our snow cream. I think a little whipped cream (freshly made) would be good, too.

Snow Ice Cream
(put out bowls for collecting clean snow when you know it's coming. This recipe makes about a gallon total...enough for leftovers even after the snow is gone!)

1 C Half and Half
1 C Milk
1 C sugar
1.5 tsp vanilla
15C snow

Pour snow into a large bowl, mix in rest of ingredients, and stir until fully incorporated. This takes awhile, and it looks kind of crumbly, but it does pack well. When frozen, it gets hard, but I just scrape it and pack into a measuring cup to serve.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Two - count them - TWO Concerts in one week!

We will be ROCKIN' out for the Lord in two weeks, and I'm so very excited!

I'm doing a happy dance today when I realized that I'm about to see my two favorite Christian performers...with in the same week!

2/21 PHIL KEAGGY - ultimately my favorite musician. This man has a HUGE heart for the Lord, and is an amazing, amazing guitar player. I was introduced to him back in the early 90's at college by a friend who said..if you like Paul McCartney, you're going to love this guy...and I did! At first, the attraction was definitely his vocal similarity to Paul, and the fact that he was a Beatles fan and had an album called Sunday's Child that was influenced heavily by Beatle music, but within a few weeks of listening, it was Phil's music and message that outshined any similarity to Paul. I've seen him a few times in my before-Russ life, but only once in the last 8 years or so. I either miss him, or some life-event gets in the way. But...this time, we're going! 2/21 - Park Cities Baptist Church in Dallas!

Here's a video of Phil's 'thing' - his loop machine
Salvation Army Band

2/26 - THIRD DAY - my favorite band, yes, surpassing even the Beatles because their of their heart for service and their message! I have yet to be able to see them, though they are in Dallas every tour. They are coming as part of Winter Jam along with the Newsboys and a few other bands. And for $10 a ticket, the whole family can go without breaking the bank. I'm excited to see Newsboys with Russ, because he introduced me to them back before we were married, and I saw them here alone, so it'll be fun to see them together with him. And this will be the boys first 'rock' concert, and what a way to introduce them to it!

This is an acoustic version of one of my favorite songs of theirs.
Call My Name

and one of my other favorite songs..
This is Who I Am

There's a thing about concerts with other many excited bodies in one room praising God together, and having a ton of fun doing it! And I can't wait to introduce the boys to the concept that it's not only Mom and Dad rockin' it for Jesus :)

Monday, February 1, 2010

A little afternoon reading

I had to call a 'mom afternoon' today, and instead of napping to get through these icks, I read. I've been reading "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" by Mary Ann Shaffer and Anne Barrows. It's lovely. And that says a lot. Especially since, in the beginning, I was ready to throw it out for plagiarizing one of my favorite books, "84 Charing Cross Road" by Helene Hanff. It didn't. But the first couple of letters were really 'familiar'.

I'm fascinated by WWII life stories, but had never even realized that the Channel Islands had been occupied by the Germans during WWII. This story begins with a writer who is a bit lost after the end of WWII, and finds herself at odds with the literary character that fronts her life. She is surprised by a letter from a man, Dawsey, from Guernsey, who is looking for information on a book, using her as a reference because he found an old book of hers in a used shop in the island. Writing back and forth, Juliet uncovers an amazing story about the inhabitants of said island, and their lives during the occupation. After hearing about the Society, she longs for more information, and begins corresponding with many of the members and citizens - about their lives, their experiences, their fears, their hopes. She decides to travel to the island in hopes of writing a new book that is more meaningful than her future seems to hold, and in that visit, her future changes after meeting all of her new friends.

The authors used family story and research to bring together fictitious people to tell the story of how the Channel Islands were Germany's first hope to conquer England during the war, and the lengths that their government went to degrade humanity. From work-prisoners who are allowed out of their cages at night to forage for whatever food they can find, starving military men who are not wanting to be where this life has brought them, island-folk hiding what little life they have left so as not to be stolen from them, parents without children who have been shipped off to safety in England; children without parents who have been sent to the interment camps for taking care of another human, to citizens who turn against other citizens for favor from their captives.

In the course, Juliet befriends Elizabeth, a woman whom she has never met, but has only heard from through the members of the Guernsey society, and whose child she becomes the guardian of while Elizabeth is being held prisoner for deeds unimaginable to the German military - caring for another sick human being. Juliet stays at Elizabeth's cottage while doing research for book, and learns about the power of the human spirit, even when life is at it's lowest.

Even when this sounds so oppressive, the book is actually light, easy to read, full of a bit of local history as well as some really colorful characters. It's made up of letters written back and forth from Juliet to her best friend, to her publisher, to the islanders, and back. It's a lovely book, and one I won't soon forget.