Friday, December 21, 2007

Ding Dong Merrily on high!

Ding dong, that's the sound of my brain's insides rattling...Are you in the same boat or is it just me?

This photo is from last year when C's song was "All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth". "Santa" is HO HO WHO?

Soon we'll be leaving for a week or so in Florida to visit S's folk. The temp's forecast seems to be upper 70's down there - a nice, warm, pleasant break. Wish it were just SLIGHTLY colder here now, then we'd have some snow. We've been having low clouds with some light precip and cold weather but it's just not quite cold enough for that white stuff.

We finished up with school on Wednesday and C's been enjoying the total break from schoolwork. I managed to get in some Xmas shopping on Monday and Thursday mornings while S worked from home and kept C occupied. It was quite the zoo in town, especially on Thursday. Here in the States though, it's not the same zoo as in South Africa where we all used to wait until the very last week to do all the shopping - let me tell you, THAT is a zoo of momentous proportions - one you all need to experience ha ha!! Actually quite fun, in it's own crazy way.

Well, here is my philosophy of Xmas. I don't even want to say Christmas because to me it seems sacriligious. The whole holiday is mostly just a commercially driven enterprise. To really celebrate Christmas we should all be giving necessary items to the poor and needy and not even buying "gifts" for everyone we know (who don't need anything). OK, call me a grinch but there IS no "reason for the season". You can't MAKE it all about Christ coming as a babe AND do all the gifting to ourselves - the two don't go together. Have ONE OR THE OTHER. So I say, let's have a winter solstice or whatever "festival", and then celebrate Christ's birth in the fall or late summer (more realistic - shepherds outside watching sheep? - NOT winter!)and use that time to help our less fortunate 'brothers and sisters'. A festival of sacrificial giving to those who really need it - following the example of Christ who lived a life of complete humility and self-sacrifice. Tell me now - those still "listening" - how big would the celebration of Christ's birth be THEN? Probably as big as Yom Kippur! As Christ Himself said "You cannot serve both God and mammon" (money). You know what? I'm just as truly talking to my own materialistic self here! This is MY sermon for the day!

Anyway, after all that ranting, I do believe a LOT of good and benevolence is done in the name of Christmas and that this cold winter time is the time to do it. The fact is, without Christ coming into this world in the first place, we'd be doomed. Christ being born was a GOOD thing - "Christmas" is not! (Just my HUMBLE opinion!:-))

The winter festival can be the one where we do good deeds for the needy - even just spending time with a lonely elderly person. The festival needs to be at least a month long (I know longer wouldn't work!). Now for those in the Southern Hemispere - hmmm - I'll have to ponder a while on that one!...Uh, - A winter festival in July or August? :-)

It's hard to stop when it's ranting time....I could say more but will spare you the pain. It's very hard to argue with the bottom line - $$.

May you all have a blessed and happy Xmas - with folk who enjoy your company, ha ha.
Have a quiet and blessed Sabbath too - a rest from all the madness! What a blessing it is.

Friday, December 14, 2007

A Real Orchestra!

The title of this blog explains the excitement of C to be playing in a real orchestra for a performance tomorrow.
The youngest
On Thursday I videotaped the rehearsal and today we used it to practice along where some of the entrances were more difficult. Tomorrow you locals will get to hear the 2 performances during the church services.

We also had B with us the whole week. We spent quite a bit of time in the car running errands but last night we went Christmas light hunting. We found a house in Homewood that had lights synchronized to music. The owner was there and told us next year he was going to have "twice as many". That will be a sight to behold.

We had a real "hot" front come by this week - with some rain and
muggy, warm temps in the mid to high 70's at times! I think Wednesday or Thursday hit a record high! That must mean you in the Southern Hemisphere are hitting record lows, right?

Here's C doing a handstand at the local airport....Uh...Obviously not a busy day there...!
(Later:  Sorry, I had to obviously substitute another photo as I can't find the handstand one!  Good grief!  What did we DO with all the photos??)

This will have to be a "foot stand" rather than a "handstand".
Ah!  I found the real handstand!

Enjoying the airport

Green eyes, blue eyes
Pink eyes... no wait.

Caridee has found a friend, or a friend found her. The "boyfriend" lives kitty- corner down the street and must be about the same age, and definitely of similar temperament. They both pester the other to no end, playing together for hours. It's so cute to see Caridee being protective of both the cat and C - herding the other dog away when he gets too close. So sweet!

We're expecting Raewyn, Deirdre and 2 other friends to spend the night tonight on their way down to the "Cruise with a Mission" trip which leaves Tampa either tomorrow night or Sunday. They, together with a bunch of other young people will be doing some mission work in the Caribbean somewhere, stopping off at several places during the cruise. We wish them "bon voyage" on their adventure.

Am having some bad luck getting our Xmas photos done. Went today to pick them up and the thumbnails had been printed (I must have picked the wrong ones)so they were all blurry. Didn't have the Disc with me to order more so will have to go back Sunday. Maybe I'll have to do the "hour" thing so you all will get your Xmas cards before Xmas!! I AM trying, folks!

May you all have a blessed Sabbath and week ahead.

Friday, December 7, 2007

December Doings

This week we finished up Gymkids and Adventurers for the semester and things are also winding down in the academics while things 'heat' up elsewhere. Next week we'll be done with our History class and probably the Keepers club. That means we won't be running around quite as much which is nice for this taxi driver.
We'll be
keeping B with us next week. She is always such a pleasure. And, hopefully we'll have more time to visit J who is almost 34 weeks pregnant but not expected to carry to term...

Read an inspiring guest editorial of our local conference magazine, Tidings. Dr Ron Smith titled his editorial: Nourishment for the Holiday Season. Here is a quote or two from his article:

...Through daily prayer, study of the Word, and Christian fellowship, God seems to lift the burdens of everyday life and provide strength for the inevitable pull and tug of living. Prayer is a tremendous resource at the disposal of the spiritually malnourished. Through prayer, we can incorporate supernatural strength. Through prayer, we can call upon supernatural powers to resuscitate us from our malnourished states. Prayer is more than positive thinking; it is more than the power of suggestion; and it is more than magical thinking, which some psychiatrists would call it. It is calling upon the power of God Himself who is available to His children.

Then he refers to the "Word of God as a resource to battle one's spiritually malnourished state":

The Word of God has tremendous power - power for many things, including overcoming anxiety and a depressed self-image....Nothing can help more in overcoming life's problems than spending hours and hours meditating on the Word of God.

Next he comments on the benefits of fellowshipping with the body of Christ as a whole.

There is real protection among and within the body of Christ. If we are with a group of believers who love the Lord and enjoy life, their happiness rubs off on us. We find ourselves being less self-centered and less absorbed in our own problems. Our spiritual nourishment receives dynamic enhancement.

As we go forth to the 'world' then, how much more effective we can be in spreading God's message - as healthy and nourished believers! All that we need in this life is right here before us, at our ready disposal. We don't NEED to experience any kind of anxiety at all.

Tomorrow, to change the subject, C is going to be part of a Sabbath School programme for a senior group - reading a couple poems, playing the cello and singing. There are several other "primaries" also doing various items and singing in a little "choir". C is psyched but understandably a little nervous.

We've started an "activity calendar" leading up to the end of December as usual. Each evening C opens a card door to see what we'll do the next day. That also gives Mom a chance to be a little prepared herself!

Last Sunday we went to the local Christmas parade. This year they threw out oodles of candy....I think the local Dentists will do a bustling trade in the coming year. I wonder how much they paid the organizers, ha ha! In the parade was also our local Ooltewah High
School marching band which had the honor of being in the Macy's Day parade this Thanksgiving! They looked very smart and dapper in their uniforms and make our fair city proud!

So, December marches on. The Lord's Coming is also marching closer. How many of us are living every day like we REALLY believe His coming is SOON? Think about it!

Friday, November 30, 2007


Last week I was too tired to do a blog and this week almost gave in to the same temptation....
We had a wonderful Thanksgiving last Thursday with a good crowd of both family and friends. Yes, the food was decadently too much as usual with it being a potluck. These are 2 of G's photos so some of

you have seen them already. It was hard to get everyone in the picture at once, hence the two angles.
The day was cold, windy and a bit damp by the end of it. It started out at 62' F before breakfast and after breakfast I went out again for something and it felt a lot cooler - looked at the thermometer and already 57'F. Throughout the day it dropped, reaching the 30's by evening.

I keep finding gems in the book, Ministry of Healing, by EGWhite. Here's a section on Help in Daily Living:

The badge of Christianity is not an outward sign, not the wearing of a cross or a crown, but it is that which reveals the union of man with God. By the power of His grace manifested in the transformation of character, the world is to be convinced that God has sent His Son as its Redeemer. No other influence that can surround the human soul has such power as the influence of an unselfish life. The strongest argument in favour of the gospel is a loving and lovable Christian.

The Discipline of Trial

To live such a life, to exert such an influence, costs at every step effort, self-sacrifice, discipline. It is because they do not understand this that many are so easily discouraged in the Christian life. Many who sincerely consecrate their lives to God's service are surprised and disappointed to find themselves, as never before, confronted by obstacles and beset by trials and perplexities. They pray for Christlikeness of character, for a fitness for the Lord's work, and they are placed in circumstances that seem to call forth all the evil of their nature. Faults are revealed of which they did not even suspect the existence. Like Israel of old they question, "If God is leading us, why do all these things come upon us?"

It is because God is leading them that these things come upon them. Trials and obstacles are the Lord's chosen methods of discipline and His appointed conditions of success.....that they may discover in their character the defects which have been concealed from their own knowledge. He gives them opportunity to correct these defects and to fit themselves for His service....

The fact that we are called upon to endure trial shows that the Lord Jesus sees in us something precious which He desires to develop......

Our part is to yield ourselves to be molded by the Master Worker...

He has a song to teach us, and when we have learned it amid the shadows of affliction we can sing it ever afterward.

Well, I could quote more....there is so much in this little book.

Next week I'll talk about some of the school, music and other goings on around here as the holidays approach. Happy Sabbath!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Greyton Beach in August

Here's some advice if you're planning a pleasant, warm holiday to Greyton Beach on the Florida Panhandle - don't do it in August, especially during a heatwave. It was stifling hot and very humid. But I must say, we enjoyed the beach, the sea, the sailing, the marine animals and most of all, relatives to enjoy it with. Our three families shared 2 large campsites quite comfortably and we had a prime spot on the shore of Western Lake - only a 1/4 mile's walk or ride to the beach, or 1/8 mile paddle in the canoe across the lake. Thanks to G bringing their catamaran, we also enjoyed sailing - on the lake and in the ocean. The sailing was wonderful. With strong winds whipping us along it seemed like we were just skimming the top of the clear blue-green water. C especially loved that. In addition, we had 2 canoes, one kayak, and our bicycles.

Having air conditioning made all the difference!

Marine life included jellyfish, regular fish, shark, stingray, dolphin, flying fish, manatee, crab, sea cucumbers and other small creatures. Birdlife included gulls and terns of all sorts, osprey, storks, herons, ducks, pelicans and many others. Some land animals included rats around camp, raccoon, squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, lizards - no alligators, although there were warnings around - and dogs.

On Thursday we all drove up to Ponce de Leon springs where the water stays a constant 68' F - Brrrr. Immediately refreshing and breathtaking - and a nice change from the week "at sea".
At some high point near the springs

Having air conditioning sure helped us both day and night - I don't want to say too much about the luxury of it, since the rest of the family were in stifling tents!! It seems unfair! They were real troopers - though somehow I don't think we'll be planning another trip down there in August any time soon. October seems to be the best time of year for great weather. We'll have to book next Fall break to have a holiday there and be comfortable! Kom ons maak 'n plan, julle!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Cherohala Skyway bike ride

Well, the folk are still waiting for a report of S's biking weekend riding the Cherohala Skyway so here is a brief summary. I'm sure S would have many more interesting details of the actual ride. This photo was taken at the end of day one.

On Friday, August 24, we drove up toTellico Plains with our caravan and set up camp at the local KOA for convenience sake. The campground is quite nice, especially if you get a spot by the trees, and the Tellico River, like we did. After setting up camp, we drove the length of the Skyway to stash water in various "hot spots" for the next days' rides. The plan was to ride a full 82 miles two days in a row in preparation for their trip along the Blue Ridge Parkway the next month.

The following morning, bright and early, friend M (with son D), joined us at camp and M and S soon set off up the road on their bikes - maybe around 7:30am. The Cherohala includes a long steep climb of 31 miles to the high point of over 5000 ft (the total elevation climbed that day was about 10 000 ft.) The guys then rode down the other side to a point and returned up and over for a total of 82 miles. The day was hot and the guys had underestimated their need for fuel so it was a grueling day for them. The kids and I met them about half way with some food and extra water which helped them over the hump, so to speak.

As for me and the kids, we played in the Tellico River on both days, rode the bikes around camp and generally just hung out.

Awww, isn't this sweet?

 They also had fun sliding down a long water slide the camp people had set up on the side of a hill.

When the guys got back that evening, they were ready for a good rest, shower and a big meal of pasta. At this point they realised that doing 80 or more miles a day for 5 or 6 days was going to be tough. That night all 5 of us slept in the caravan and the next morning they were off again. This time another friend, F, had driven over and joined them at the bottom to do it all again. Actually, M and S decided to only ride to the high point and back (total 62 miles), instead of the 82. Their friend did the full 82 since he hadn't gone the day before. Fortunately the weather was a little kinder, not so hot and muggy, plus they were able to gauge their fuel needs better and were in a lot better shape on their return than the day before.

So that is the story of the biking weekend. They were glad they did it as it gave them a good feel for what it would be like doing the Parkway in only 6 days.....

Next week I'll give a little overview of our holiday on the coast in early August.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Alumni and Family visits

Last week, as I mentioned before, S's folk came up from Florida for the Alumni weekend and to visit. We enjoyed having them and as usual, the time was too short. They are so kind about babysitting for us and we had some time to "date", and to shop and do errands. They're both doing well and Mom is getting around well after her fall in July where she broke both her left knee cap and wrist.

On Sabbath afternoon we were treated to a hammer dulcimer concert, then an organ eveningsong with Sietze de Vries on the organ. He also gave a full concert the previous Tuesday night. He is from Holland (married a South African), and is an absolutely stunning organist. His improvisations are very creative and beautiful. His favourite form is the fugue. His playing takes one back to Bach or Buxtehude's time when most organists improvised a lot of the time. I was lucky enough to be able to attend the improvisation masterclass he gave on Thursday evening and got some good ideas.

We've had some beautiful weather including getting some good rains last week. The fall colours are still gorgeous - I think our peak will be later than usual this year. We've spent several hours this week digging in the garden, C and I. Mostly just for fun, but also to find Japanese Beetle grubs to feed to the birds. Might as well do something useful with them because when I catch the beetles in the summer, they go straight into a jar with petrol. C digs around and then rakes everything smooth again. We also came across a large toad buried in the ground. Fortunately I wasn't using much force when I hit him. We buried him again close to the flowering quince where we had found one last year and hopefully he'll get over the shock soon. We also uncovered a pupa of a moth and other interesting critters.

The other day C was out rather a long time and when I went to find her, she was closely studying a large preying mantis. We fed it a grub and watched as he gnawed on it. (I actually felt sorry for the grub as he didn't bother to kill it first!) Since we are studying about insects anyway, we took this opportunity to looks at its mandibles, compound eyes, pulps and antennae etc. Thankfully he was large and we didn't need a magnifying glass. He was at least 4 1/2 to 5 inches (9 or 10cm) long. C now says her favourite thing is gardening "more than language, more than math or anything!" Well, helloohh!

I didn't get pictures of the garden critters this time but in the summer we found a rabbit's nest in the dog's pen of all places! It was well camoflaged and had 3 little nestlings in it. We took photos so I'm including a few of those here. (In case you're wondering, the dog was kept elsewhere during the time it took for them to leave the nest.)

Their little eyes aren't even open yet

Only a day or two later they're ready to leave the nest 
The mother kept them covered with grass (here we've uncovered them for the picture)
Our other news this week is that we might be getting a "real" piano on Sunday! Saw it advertised a couple Sunday's ago at the flea market. Maybe we'll have a pic for you next time. C is so excited because not only are we getting this piano but she is going to be able to have the electric one in her room! Joy of joys!

And last but not least, a big Happy Birthday for Aunty K on the 31st! We love you and miss you and wish we had been there to share the fun and of course, the cake :-)!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Days off School

For three days this week it has been our Fall break so I'll take this opportunity to show you some of C's work this past quarter. Many times in lesson planning I find we don't move quite as fast as I think we will. I wonder if classroom teachers have that problem - I don't remember having it before. Maybe having one in a class makes a difference in that we have more distractions, stallings, chores and other things to do before, during and after class! Probably had more cooperation too!
In English Language we're working from two grade one books, using one of them just once a week for variation. We're learning to punctuate sentences, compose stories using words from a word bank, alphabetize words etc. She now says Language is her favourite subject and even did some today on an "off" day. Included is a recent spelling test.

Next is Maths. We've completed Right Start Level B as of a couple weeks ago (has been working on it for 9 months), and now I think we'll just "tread water" for a few weeks before jumping into Level C (2nd grade). We need to review some strategies/algorythms and help her learn to THINK. Overall she is doing very well in Maths but gets frustrated and mad quickly. When she has a good day, it's a GREAT day. One extreme to the next.

And here are just a few other examples of stuff we're in the middle of. I don't have photos yet of her Ancient History class work, or science - that'll be for another blog. Some of our other classes are mostly oral, or on the computer, so nothing to "show".

 In cello, we're on Theme from Witches' Dance by Paganini.

S took this whole week off work again. He began painting - but the rain and the threat of rain prevented him from painting more than just the well house at this point. On Thursday he and C went downtown and among other things, visited the Hunter Museum of Fine Art, which C enjoyed, I hear. I had other work to do so they had a nice "date day". C loved it.

We've had some rain the past few days and our "greens" are thriving. We picked spinach, Swiss chard and curly kale today, as well as ochra, carrots and some tomatoes. The carrots all look like multi-legged goblins - yes, the soil is not sandy enough. Next year I'll dig a trench and fill it with a sand mixture.

Heard the cataract ops went well! G and J are down in Florida for the weekend, visiting M's folk and family. S's parents will be up here next week for Alumni w/e. Maybe we'll have a photo or two of them for next time.

Happy Sabbath!