Friday, January 28, 2011

We'll Miss You Jake

I'm not a journaler, I'm not a writer, and I don't like to talk about my feelings.  But today we had to put our beloved dog to sleep and I feel he needs at least a mention and a memory to him.  We had him for 12 years, give or take a few days.  I still remember the first day my husband brought him home to me, a few days after my birthday.  He wasn't an actual birthday present to me, but I've always had a sweet spot in my heart as the best "gift" I've ever received from anyone.  He was about 3 months old when we got him, full of energy, and just absolutely adorable!  I remember driving to Farm and Fleet to pick up the needed supplies, with him curled up on the floor boards at my feet. 

From the beginning, he was a good dog.  Sure, he had his puppy moments and rambunctiousness (I remember running through the neighborhood in my pajamas one night chasing him after he had ran away during a potty break and another instance of him peeing right on my foot shortly after we got him because he was so excited about something).  There were also a handful of damaged items that he chose to chew up when he escaped from his kennel while my husband and I were at work (mostly pillows).  But overall, he has always had a very sweet and obedient disposition. 

He was also a major people lover.  Nothing made him happier than to give love to someone and have them give love back.  If you did that, you had a friend for life.  That big tail would wag and wag whenever someone paid attention to him, even to the end.  But if you were a young child, you had to make sure to duck or keep a tail wag distance away to avoid being clubbed in the head.  I remember several instances of our young children gettting a "beating" from a happy tail.

Next to human attention, fetching was his second great love.  Be it a stick, a ball, or some other projectile, he would happily run after it and bring it back, tail wagging, time and time again.  I remember throwing a stick into the Mississippi River over and over and over.  There was no stopping him when he was younger, his desire to fetch would far outlive our stamina for throwing that stick.  We actaully used to worry that while playing fetch in the water, that he wouldn't know when to stop and would fetch until he was too tired to swim back to shore.  Thankfully, that never happened and it was only in the last few months that the joy of fetching became too much for his tired body.

Rivaling fetching for second place in his heart, was his love for food.  In fact, it was the loss of this enjoyment for him that made us realize it was time to say good-bye to him.  But before that, there was nothing he wouldn't eat (well, except for the first and only attempt I have made at cooking ribs).  Even when old age started to settle into his hips, he would still hop around like a puppy when it was feeding time.  If you just walked near him close to supper time, he would start getting excited and do a little dance that was impossible to ignore until you filled his food bowl.

He also had a affection for stuffed toys and squeakers.  Put the two together, and you'd see one happy dog.  Unfortuantely, these items didn't last very long since he tended to enjoy them so much that they'd soon fall apart.

It was a rare occasion to see him walking around without something in his mouth.  It was like an obsession with him.  Anytime he got up to go outside or come back in, he'd first search around for something to carry along.  When he was younger, it was often his stuffed jackalope.  In his later years, a big, black and white soccer ball was his chosen object. 

His big size and big bark were often a comfort to me.  Nights spent alone were often accompanied by a sense of safety knowing that he'd alert me of any danger.  However, I'm pretty sure the best protection I'd receive would be through licking an intruder to death.  He seemed like a big toughie but he really was a softie.  I still remember the first day we brought "R" home from the hospital.... Jake was afraid of him!  He shied away, and cautiously sniffed the carseat that "R" sat in.  Looking back, maybe he was smarter than any of us and knew that life with kids was something to fear!  But despite the shakey start, he quickly warmed up to "R" and all 3 of our kids once they entered our family.  He was always extrememly gentle with them and we were never worried about leaving them along with him, despite his size.  He was a true lover through and through!

I have so many wonderful memories of Jake.  He really was a part of the family!  It is so hard to say good-bye to someone I love so much.

Good Bye Jake, Jakers, Jakey, and my fluppy puppy.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Plans, Plans, Plans

I'm currently drowning in homeschooling books, binders, schedules, and webpages in the attempt to formulate a plan for our upcoming school year.  Having things planned out for the year helps our day run more smoothly and keeps me a bit more sane!  I don't plan every detail but do like to have most of our books broken out into daily chunks so that everything can become a "do the next thing" type of program.  This year I'm also hoping to incorporate a few new organizational ideas that in theory, will make things even easier for us and help the kids gain some more independence in their school work. 

While the task of planning for the school year is a bit daunting, it is also kind of fun for me.  By nature, I'm a planner.... I like to plan.  (Actually, I like having plans, not necessarily the process that goes into making the plans:).)  There is something really satisfying about knowing what is going to come next and not having to wonder (and worry) about how everything is going to get done.  I realize God made me a planner and that it is a gift that can be used by Him.  However, I also realize that my sinful nature has the ability to distort this quality into something not at all like God intended.  With my desire to plan also comes my desire to control.  My plans are often my attempt to control my life and circumstances.  Problem is.... when I'm trying to control my life it leaves no room for me to follow the plans God has for me.  This isn't to say God never wants me to plan out my day, week, or even my life.  It just means that those plans need to be based on the desires God has for me and that I need to be ready to alter them when I get off course and start trying to control my own path.   Planning can also get me in trouble when it becomes a mechanism for me to deal with worry.  If I plan things then I don't have to worry about them, right!?!?!  But God has told us not to worry and to trust Him.  Instead of turning my worries over to my ability to plan (and control) I need to turn my worries over to God.

So as I plan for this upcoming school year, my prayer is that I can allow God to control and direct our days.  I also pray that I can turn the worries that I have about "am I doing enough", "are the kids learning what they are supposed to learn", etc. over to God because ultimately, He has a unique plan for each and every one of my kids and if I give our school over to Him,  he will prepare the kids for the calling and mission He has designed each of them to accomplish.... I don't need to worry about it!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Growing in Christ

In the last six months or so, my husband and I have had some really good conversations that have all circulated around the same basic ideas and topics.  It all started one day when I had a mini breakdown about myself and my feelings of spiritual inadequacy.  I am typically a pretty logical and academic person.  By the term "academic", I don't mean that I am super smart or anything like that.  What I mean by that term is that I think of things in an academic, factual, and concrete manner.  I'm not very touchy-feely or emotional and the way I process things reflects that, including the way I often think of spiritual growth.  Now, I know that spiritual growth is not about how much knowledge I have about the Bible, how many verses I can properly quote, whether or not I know all of the historical background that lends significance to each Biblical event etc.  But, because I like to think of things in an "academic" manner, I began to judge my spiritual maturity based on the (lack of) number of books I had read about deep theological topics, the (lack of) deep Biblical group studies I had recently been a part of, and the (lack of) scripture I was able to quote.

Thankfully, God has blessed me with a husband who is more "academic" than me and is always a clear thinker.  He gently reminded me, that while the pursuit of Biblical knowledge and theology is good, it can also become a god in our lives if that is the end we are pursuing.  He also reminded me that I already know plenty about God and His desires for my life and challenged me to see if I was already doing what God was asking of me.  It made me realize that I was getting caught up in the idea of being "Bible/Theology smart" instead of really focusing on letting the things that I already know about God to change me.

So I am trying to take these things to heart.  Instead of berating myself for not reading all of the books that everyone says I "need" to read, I'm trying to concentrate on just living a life that is more Christ-like.  For me, 1 John 4:7-8 coupled with 1 Corinthians 13, are the verses that I am really holding on to in this journey.  The passage in 1 John tells us that whoever loves, is born of God and knows God.  The passage in 1 Corinthians seems to take this to the next step and tells me exactly what love is.  If I can work on really loving, as it is defined in the Bible, then I will grow in my faith, relationship, and knowledge of God.   

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Bread, Bread, Bread

I love bread!  Really, it is one of my favorite foods.  I could eat it every day, for every meal, and would be quite happy.  Thankfully, most of my family seems to share my love of bread as well and will happily help me eat a loaf of bread whenever I make it (yes, we will eat the entire loaf for one meal).  

I also love to bake bread.  I am not an artistic person at all but baking bread is a way that I can create something using my own two hands.  I get great satisfaction from kneading the dough, feeling for the right texture and consistency, and shaping a loaf.  I know, sounds really weird but I really do like to make homemade bread (almost as much as I like to eat it).

I recently received two great bread cookbooks to help fuel my love of baking and eating homemade bread.  The first is Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads: New Techniques, Extraordinary Flavor.  This book is wonderful.  The breads I have made using this book are some of the best tasting breads I have ever made (like the Multigrain Struan....YUMM!)  The breads in this book are also all whole grain so I feel good about eating them and feeding them to my family.  The complexity of the recipes, the scientific information used to arrive at each formula, and the hands on process for making these breads really excites the part of me that just likes to make bread for the sake of making bread.  

The second book I received is Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois.  This book has also produced some tasty loaves of bread (as well as a few novelty items like pretzels and cinnamon rolls) and is great for days when I just don't have time to "create" a loaf of bread.  I have to admit, when I received the book I was a bit worried that I'd miss the hands-on aspect of making bread.  But I have grown to really appreciate this book for its unique process of making bread and the place it has in our home.  For instance, as I sat down to plan last weeks menu and grocery list, I realized that at least two meals during the week begged for a fresh loaf of bread.  Unfortunately, our week also called for us to be out of the house much of the week and unable to babysit a loaf of bread as it went through the kneading and rising processes.  So, I decided to solve that problem on Sunday night by whipping up the 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich recipe in the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day book in..... yep, 5 minutes.  Later in the week, I was able to pull out the dough and have a fresh baked loaf of bread with very minimal "me" time. 

The other unique thing about the ABFMD that I really appreciate is that making one batch of dough early in the week can produce very different breads later.  Not only can you use the same dough to make different shaped loaves (resulting in different textures and crusts), you can also use one dough recipe to make different types of breads by adding ingredients to it on bake day.  Even more surprising, is the way the bread flavor changes the longer the dough ferments in the refrigerator.  This past week, I used the 100% Whole Wheat recipe to make two, very different loaves.  The first was baked using a typical bread loaf pan and produced a slightly sweet, softer crusted loaf of bread.  The second was baked several days later and had started to take on a slight sourdough flavor.  I baked this loaf free-form using my banneton which produced a nice, crunchy crust.

Don't they look good!

Friday, March 19, 2010

History at Our House

For History this year we are currently studying the Early Middle Ages.  I know the kids won't remember a lot of what we are studying but I'm hoping the exposure they get and the fun they have learning about this time period will carrying into the future and give them a basis to build off of later.  Besides, I'm learning a lot even if they aren't!  One of the things we do each week is add figures to our timeline.  These might be important people or significant events we studied during the week and is the kids' favorite part of their history studies.  Each week they love to look at all of the figures they have added and find their favorite one.  In "A"'s case, the best figure is the most colorful or pinkest one on the board (typical girl).  The boys tend to like the ones that are somehow associated with some type of destruction (typical boy).


Monday, March 15, 2010

Our Valentine's Day

We don't celebrate Valentine's Day.  It all stems from a complete mis-understanding that happened on the very first Valentine's Day we spent together (okay, it was all my fault.... I stuck my foot in my big mouth!).  So, ever since that first Valentine's Day we have chosen not to participate in the completely commercialized holiday.  We figure what is the point of celebrating a holiday that is really all about making money for the flower, candy, and card industry just to try to prove we love each other.... we already know where we stand on that issue.  But, every few years, out of the blue, my husband decides to surprise me with his own version of a Valentine's gift.  Today, just such a surprise arrived in the mail for me.  It was a gift that was completely frivolous, something I never would have bought for myself, very thoughtful, and showed just how much my husband loves me.  The attached card said "Happy Valentine's Day.  Our Valentine's Day"!