Foreign Exchange Student


Earlier this week, we welcomed Sebastian into our home. He is a foreign exchange student from Spain and will be with us for about one month. 

Sebastian is 18 years old. He has traveled internationally with his family but is being stretched by a month-long visit with complete strangers in America! 

My 8-year-old daughter really likes introducing Sebastian to board games like Candyland and Sorry. My 4-year-old son isn't sure what to think of him yet. But Sebastian is very friendly, laid-back, and curious about life in America.

The exchange program is set up so that Sebastian has language/culture classes each weekday morning. Then the group eats a sack lunch and goes on an afternoon outing to local sites. Yesterday was the beach. Today is a tour of a local chocolate company. 

During the evenings, he is back here observing family life. We hope to take him to the county fair next week and are excited for him to experience our neighborhood 4th-of-July parade too.

We view this opportunity as one way to show hospitality in the name of Jesus. To welcome someone who needs a place for a while. To learn about another culture and maybe make a lifelong friend... what a great bonus!  

PS: Some blog readers may remember that we hosted a different student through this same program 3 years ago. You can read a blog post about that here   and here.

Fair Project 2012

  My 4-year-old son is entering a project in the fair this year. 

One of the options for his age level was to make homemade playdough, then shape it into whatever you want and submit it as your project. 

Here's the recipe we used: Mix together 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup salt and 2 teaspoons cream of tartar in a small pan. In a measuring cup mix together 1 cup water, 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil and food coloring. Poor liquid ingredients into the pan. Heat and stir constantly until a big ball forms. Let cool. Knead it. Play with it. Store it in a plastic bag.

So we tackled that recently. He chose blue - his favorite color - for the playdough. It was easier than I thought it would be to make. It also turns out very soft and pliable. We threw out some of our older playdough and kept this soft, perfect playdough!  

Our county fair starts up this weekend and runs all next week. We love the fair!

When Life Gives You Apples...


When life gives you apples, make applesauce! 
And lots of it! 

Last week we were given two large boxes of apples, which were left over from a church event. I spent the next 3 days with 2 crockpots running almost constantly to make applesauce out of the apples. 

My daughter helped use the apple corer/peeler/slicer (a favorite Pampered Chef item). 

She had quite a system set up, so the peels would fall right into the compost bucket.

We also shared some apples with friends and neighbors. 

What a blessing! 

Garden Update


Our garden has EXPLODED in the last week or so.  

 We have more than a dozen heads of lettuce ready to harvest. Needless to say, we've been eating salad with almost every meal. And we've shared a lot of lettuce with neighbors as well. Our own suggestion to try next year: stagger the plantings by a week or two and see if that will spread out the harvesting so we're not eating lettuce constantly for 1 week and then it's done. Better to make it last for several weeks, if we can. 


Our sweet peas are doing very well. They are flowering and small pods have formed. We've snitched a few, but they aren't big enough or sweet enough to harvest yet. 

We have a small fence around the garden. It has been sufficient to keep bunnies and other critters out of the garden, so far. Slugs are our biggest enemy, eating holes in our lettuce. 

Our beans have really shot up, but there's nothing to harvest yet.

Our corn will likely be knee-high by the 4th of July. 

  No pictures of the cucumbers, tomatoes, broccoli or cantaloup but they all are coming along. 
We haven't lost anything yet!

Amish, Barbie and Everything In Between


What does Barbie have to do with an Amish woman? I'm glad you asked, because I taught a Sunday School lesson yesterday that involved both a Barbie doll and an Amish woman (well, as close as I could get, with a Thanksgiving Pilgrim doll). 

The lesson was on Culture and how Christians related to the culture at large. How do we live out verses like John 17:14-15, talking about being in the world but not of it? 

What difference does it make? 
Have you ever asked: should Christians go into politics? Could we try something new like a Christian art festival as an outreach to our community? What is my personal responsibility to social issues like poverty or homelessness? Should we homeschool our kids? Have you ever walked out of a movie that was just over the top or boycotted a store for its political stance? These are all questions related to culture and how we interact with it.

On the one hand: separatism
On one side of the issue are separatists. This is the Amish view of culture. Culture is seen as evil and should be avoided. They see it as an either-or choice, so they choose Christ and reject culture altogether. They want nothing to do with cars, electricity, modernity, politics, wars, etc. 
There is a biblical basis for this view. Here are some of the verses that separatists use to justify their position. 

1 John 2:15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.

1 Peter 1:16 Be holy as I am holy 

Psalm 101:3 I will set no evil thing before my eyes.

They also point to the example of Israel in the Old Testament as a model to follow. Israel was set apart to the Lord and God commanded them to be distinct from the surrounding pagan nations. He wanted them to reject the culture of those other nations and live as a holy nation before Him. 

The Amish doll was my representative for this position. I put her on one side of the room. 

On the other hand: embrace culture to the fullest
On this side of the issue are those who see absolutely nothing wrong with culture and want to embrace it. Christians who live at this extreme see the culture as a way to connect with unbelievers, using culture as the connecting point, the "plate to serve the gospel on." Those on this side will have no problem getting involved in politics, political causes or social justice programs. 

There is a biblical basis for this view. Here are some of the verses to support this position. 

1 Corinthians 9:19-20 Paul saying "I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews, I became like a Jew to win the Jews." Sometimes this is summed up as "be all things to all people so that you might win some." 

Jude 1:23  Save others by snatching them from the fire.

Matthew 5:13-16  You are the salt of the earth... You are the light of the world... let your light shine before others.

They also point to the example of Jesus Christ Himself, who spent time interacting with gluttons, drunkards, tax collectors and sinners (Matthew 11:19). 

Barbie was my representative for this position. I put her on the opposite side of the room from the Amish doll. 

Talk it out:
We talked through the descriptions and verses related to each side. We looked at as a spectrum, with many people landing somewhere in the middle between the two extremes. 

We considered the "cons" of each position. Too far "Amish" is to lose all effectiveness and influence in reaching the culture. Too far "Barbie" is to risk becoming consumed by the values of the culture and losing all influence because you look just like the culture.

Wrap It Up:
We considered these verses as we finished our discussion. 

Philippians 4:8 Whatever is pure, lovely, good, noble, admirable, praise-worthy... think about such things.

Romans 12:2  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. 

Ask yourself if your values line up more with God's values or with the world's values. Are we chasing worldly pleasures or seeking only to glorify and worship God above all else? Tough questions. Yet God can enable us to live transformed counter-cultural lives when we submit to Him and seek His ways... whether we lean towards Barbie, the Amish, or anything in between!

Girl Scout Cookies and Loot


During Girl Scout cookie time, both my daughter and I worked hard selling cookies. From January to March, we worked at numerous grocery store booths to sell cookies to customers on their way in/out of the store. My daughter also tried her hand at selling cookies to friends and family, though she didn't like that part so well. She found the store booths were easier somehow. 

In the end, she had sold around 480 boxes of cookies. She "earned" some rewards for selling that many boxes. All girls who sold cookies earned a cookie patch for their vest. For passing the 400 mark, she earned a free day at camp this summer (in August). She also earned a $85 gift card to the local Girl Scout store (where they sell patches, vests, and other Girl Scout gear). 

Last week we ventured to the Girl Scout store to spend her reward. Here's what she purchased: 
*a red GS t-shirt 
*a purple "Brownies can do anything" t-shirt
*a bucket hat
*2 outfits for her American Girl
*a necklace
*a mess kit (a mesh bag with a plate, bowl, cup, silverware to use when camping)
*an additional mesh bag (for a mess kit we'll put together on our own)

Until this year, I didn't realize how the cookie sales translated to money for the troop or rewards for the girls. Having gone through a scouting year (and volunteered as the troop treasurer), we saw how the troop makes money from the cookie sales. And that money is what they use the rest of the year for troop supplies, parties, field trips, etc. But in addition to that, the girls are rewarded based on their participation with cookie sales. Girls who didn't want to sell cookies didn't have to. Those who did want to sell worked hard and put in more time at booths. All of the boxes of cookies the troop sells are counted as a sale for one of the girls. For example, if we sold 100 boxes at a store booth, the 2 girls who worked at that booth each are credited for selling 50 boxes. In the end, the troop benefits from the sales but the girls also are rewarded through the gift cards, free camp days and other incentives. I think it's a good program that encourages participation but doesn't demand it. 

My daughter is very pleased with her Girl Scout loot and continues to say that it was worth all of the hours and effort we put into selling cookies earlier this year.

Works for Me Wednesday: Growing Garlic


I do not have a green thumb... but even I can grow garlic!

Garlic is an easy herb to grow. It's as simple as: stick it in the ground and forget about it! It really is that easy! And it multiplies for you. You plant a clove and later harvest a head of garlic (which usually contains 5-8 cloves). Growing garlic doesn't take much space (it grows tall, not out) and will grow in almost any soil.

Garlic is planted in the fall, about 2 weeks before the ground freezes. So in Indiana where I live, it works well to plant it in mid-November. Then you do nothing more. In the spring, it will start to come up when the ground thaws. It will grow tall and green. Eventually flowering heads will appear on the top. When the leaves start to turn brown and dry out, dig up one of your garlic heads and see if it's ready to harvest. If it's still a little green, give the rest another week or two. 

Due to a very mild spring (it hit 90 degrees in March), our garlic shot up early and was already ready to harvest last weekend! 

Here's my husband with our garlic all uprooted. A tip we learned after we harvested... if you cut the flowering head off the top soon after it appears, the plant will focus its energies more on growing the garlic bulb/head. So we'll try that next year to see if the bulbs grow even bigger.

And here are all the garlic cloves. 

We then press the garlic cloves, mix in a small amount of olive oil and put teaspon-size dollops onto wax paper. We freeze the garlic that way and then store it in a freezer bag for the rest of the year. Whenever a recipe calls for minced garlic, we have our own garlic ready and waiting. 

It works for me!

One Man's Trash...


One man's trash is another man's treasure. 

Well, last week my husband came home with a drumset he'd seen sitting on the side of the road with a "FREE" sign on it! 

Do we need a drum set? Well, that depends on who you ask. I don't think so. But my 4-year-old son thinks it's "awesome." My 8-year-old daughter thinks "Hmmm. If it's in the basement and I go to my room upstairs, will I still hear him banging on those things?"  

So for now, we have a drum set in our basement. 

I cannot imagine why someone would set it on the curb as trash. It's got to be worth something. And we may try to sell it after the novelty wears off (but before it ends up broken). 

We aren't true drumpster-divers. But when we look around our house, we remember that dozens of pieces of furniture and other items have been given to us or obtained for free (or dirt cheap). When one lets go of the "keeping up with the Joneses" mentality, you discover that you can live with less and find that there is plenty of life still in many used items. 

Maybe I'll make a list of all of the used/free stuff we have in our home. Hmmm. A post for another day. 

Right now I'll sit back, relax, and listen to my son enjoy the free drum set! :-)

Girl Scouts: End of Year Ceremony


Last week our Girl Scout troop had a year-end picnic at a local park.  

You can see from the brown grass in the pictures how hot and dry it's been lately! My son laid down on the picnic table under the pavilion, for a break from the sun and 90-degree heat.

The girls led a brief ceremony, reminding the audience of the different things they did this year, month-by-month. 

They read a poem together.

Each girl received a special star pin, in recognition of another year of scouting that they've completed. 

We enjoyed a picnic lunch, provided by the troop. Potato chips, fried chicken, watermelon, Girl Scout cookies for dessert. A true summer feast! 

Year-end is when everyone starts talking about next year and whether they will continue with the troop. We will not be continuing with Girl Scouts. And the troop leader is stepping down, so the troop will face some changes. But changes can be good, as new people step up to take the lead and bring new ideas and skills to the group.

Thank you, Girl Scouts, for a good scouting year. My daughter has made many new friends and learned a lot through new experiences this year.

Family Photo Friday


It's Friday again. This week flew by for us, with plenty of busyness. No matter how busy we are, though, I try to grab a few shots of life as we live it. 

We had some hot weather this week, so the kids were playing with sprinklers and water toys outside.  

Here's my daughter "skyping" with her cousin in Wisconsin. They read a Dr. Seuss book together on Skype. Fun!

My hubby and son reading a book at bedtime. 

My son was a big help this week with trimming bushes outside. He loved using those "cutters." 

He also grabbed his shovel and helped me dig up this bush. Such a big guy he's turning into!

My son and I did a painting project this week. Big smiles from the artist!

My daughter and neighbor/friend Sarah camped out in the backyard one night. It turned a bit cool overnight, so they thought they'd try again in a few more weeks when it's warmer during the night.

Happy Friday to you!

Family Photo Friday


It's Friday once again, 
so here are a few family photos from our week. 

Were you able to see the Transit of Venus on Tuesday? 
My daughter did a little studying about it prior to the event and enjoyed watching it - as the planet of Venus passed in front of the sun. You could view it with special solar shades. A once in a lifetime event, history in the making!

My little guy missed it, but enjoyed looking at the sun through the special sunglasses the next day. 

We did an impromptu experiment, to change the color of a white carnation. We watched with anticipation as the water with blue food coloring was soaked up and made its way to the tips of the petals. Science in action!  

I worked with my son this week on the letter F. Here he was doing his best to write an F. I also had him make one out of lincoln logs, which as you can see in the picture, he did perfectly!

Summer is here, which means our neighbor and good friend Sarah has been hanging out at our house more. She enjoyed a picnic lunch with us a few times this week, which included watermelon slices that turned into smiles for the camera. 

My son can be such a goof! He put on this silly costume and tried to scare me as he came around the corner roaring like a lion. I didn't know if I should scream or crack up laughing. 

Cherish those nearest to you!

And Happy Friday! 

The Ministry I Never Wanted


It's been almost a year since I joined a group I never wanted to be a part of: those who have lost babies through miscarriage. 

Yet I was reminded recently that even though I would never have chosen this experience to go through, I am now equipped to minister to others who are walking this same path. 

An old friend - we'll call her Dee - contacted me recently. She didn't know who to turn to, but she has just lost a baby at 10-weeks along. She was hurting and didn't know who to talk to about what she was going through. 

I was humbled that Dee would think of me and ask me for verses that would comfort her, for books she should read, for words that would encourage her, for steps to take to bring healing. 

I shared her sorrow. I encouraged her to cry and grieve and talk with her husband and at least one other close friend. 

The ministry I never wanted. I never wanted to be a grief counselor. I never wanted to be one to comfort other moms who have lost children. And yet, this is where I find myself. 

As I reflected on this, I thought of 2 Corinthians 1:3-4. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

This is just another way that God can work all things together for good. Another way that He can take something that is tragic and use it to mold us to look more like Him. These verses talk of God's compassion and comfort and then how we can truly bear His image when we show His compassion and comfort to others. Somehow we only can pass those things on which we ourselves have received. Only because I have experienced His compassion and comfort can I possibly pass it along to another hurting soul.
What a glorious mystery!

I still wish I wouldn't have experienced miscarriage. But I can be thankful that good is coming out of that experience. My good. And His glory. Through a ministry I never wanted. 

Girl Scouts: Bridging Ceremony


Last Sunday my daughter's Girl Scout troop, along with many other troops that are part of the bigger regional group, held a Bridging Ceremony.  

Ceremonies are fairly common in Girl Scouts, being held often for various reasons such as new girls joining the troop or awarding badges the girls have earned through study and work. 

This Bridging Ceremony marks the end of another scouting year and is symbolic for the girls who are moving to a new level in scouting. There are daisies (for K and 1st Grade), Brownies (for 2nd and 3rd Grade), Juniors (for 4th and 5th Grade), and so on. Therefore, every other year the scouts "bridge" to the next level. This is when they would get a new vest (of a new color) and work with new curriculum geared to the new age level. 

It was HOT at this ceremony and it was outdoors at a local park. We all got a bit too much sun! The scouts had popsicles to enjoy - none for the siblings or parents, though. You can see that little brother wasn't pleased with how that worked out!

During the ceremony, flags are presented and the pledge of allegiance is recited. Then the girls are called one at a time to receive their bridging certificate and to walk across "the bridge." 

Since my daughter isn't continuing with Girl Scouts next year, this will be the last ceremony she'll participate in. The troop has one or two more get-togethers planned for this summer, as they continue to spend the cookie profits they earned.  

She very much enjoyed her first full year of scouting and has made a handful of good friends. We're thankful for the experiences of the past year. 

Garden Update


It's been a few weeks since we planted our garden. 

It looked like this in early May. 
Measured off and tilled up, but nothing planted yet. 

Now in early June, we have plenty of sprouts and the garden is coming along nicely. We have planted: cucumbers, tomatoes, peas, lettuce, beans, cantaloupe, peppers, and many rows of sweet corn. 

Then a neighbor gave us a few starts of onions, more tomatoes, and broccoli. So we added those in. 

I also have garlic in a different garden plot that is almost ready to harvest. Garlic is planted in the fall and ours came up early this year with the warm spring temps we had. It will be ready earlier than normal. Garlic is very easy to grow and the yield is excellent. You plant a clove but you harvest a head for each clove you planted. We press each clove and then mix it with a small amount of olive oil. Then freeze them in one-teaspoon dollops. We use them then all year long when a recipe calls for a clove or two of minced garlic. Easy home-grown goodness.

Both the kids, as well as my husband and myself, have been out in the garden, helping with all aspects: planting, weeding, watering. And it won't be long now until we get to take part in harvesting too!

Girl Scouts Field Trip: Conner Prairie

One day last week our Girl Scout troop took a field trip to Conner Prairie near Indianapolis. Conner Prairie is an interactive living history museum. 

Bright and early, the troop gathered at 7 am to head out for the big day. 

 After the nearly 3-hour car ride (one way), the girls were ready to release some energy! 

Conner Prairie is known for a tethered hot-air balloon ride. However, it was too cold, rainy and windy on the day of this visit for the balloon to go up. Bummer! The girls gathered inside the basket anyway.

Part of the museum is in pioneer-days style, so they visited a potter's shop to watch the potter make mugs. 

They saw a covered wagon... uncovered.  

They learned about making candles, blacksmithing, and animal trapping. Here they were able to feel numerous animals furs.
 They played with toys that kids in the 1800s would've played with.

They visited an old-fashioned outhouse. Thumbs up - as in, aren't we thankful someone invented indoor plumbing! 

They dressed up in clothes from that era.

There were some petting-farm animals around, including numerous rambunctious goats.

This field trip is one of the things the troop had decided to do with the cookie money profits. I am so proud of the girls for making a great choice that everyone enjoyed (and maybe they didn't know it, but it was educational too). 

I asked my daughter if this trip made all of the hard work she did in January and February with the cookie sales worth it. "Oh yeah! It sure did!" was her reply. 

Two thumbs up for Conner Prairie!