The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me. ~ Psalm 16:6 nasb

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Double Bow

That's double bow--as in arc.  Not bow--as in bending at the waist.  ;)

Mid-November storms rolled through our area, and as the sun emerged in the west, I knew I'd get to see a rainbow.  I flew outside to see a triple rainbow, though the camera caught only two.  This is, I think, the fullest rainbow I've ever seen.

"Be thou the rainbow in the storms of life.
The evening beam that smiles the clouds away,
and tints tomorrow with prophetic ray."

Lord George Gordon Bryon

Back to life,

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Monday, December 30, 2013

Thomas and the Sports Banquet

Football season officially came to a close.  There were two banquets to get together for, one for just the football team, and one huge one for the entire Crossroads Youth Center sports program.  The huge one included team recognition and awards.

When the football program was featured, Coach C had a few words of wisdom to share with the attendees not just about football, but applying sports to life.

He honored all the coaches that volunteered their time and effort to make the team successful.

All the players were called up.

Thomas takes the stage (above), and shakes hands with each of the coaches (below).

Jonah received the Most Valuable Player award.

As soon as Coach C started talking about this certain player who really didn't have a clue the first time he came out to the field, I knew he was talking about Thomas.  The coaches were very impressed with how he applied himself, learned the game, and put forth the effort.  He was awarded the Most Improved Player award!

Thomas, Dad and I are so very proud of you!  We hope and pray that this season of football has taught you diligence and effort, going above and beyond what you thought you could do, and that it will inspire you to press forward with all areas of life that you will face this upcoming year!

Back to life,

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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Jacob's Tree in Autumn

Just a random post as I look through my photos.  Jacob's tree in our back yard was so pretty this year, with its bright yellow-orange leaves and pleasing shape.  I just had to snap a few pictures of it for memory's sake.

My dad gave us this tree in the spring of 1991, a few months after Jacob's birth.  There were actually two, each standing just a foot tall, but one was mowed down by the lawnmower.  The second managed to survive, and when we moved from the little duplex in 1997, we dug it up and planted it at my parents' home until we moved into our own new home.

That move didn't happen until May 1998, into our current home, so the trees spent a year at my parents', and then was dug up yet again and re-planted where it stands today.  The tree is now almost 23 years old, and it's rather small for a tree of its age.  But, considering it has been planted three separate times, I think it's doing a fantastic job of staying alive!  And every autumn, I get to enjoy its beauty every time I stand at my kitchen sink and look out on the back yard.

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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Ready for Football

The phrase Are you ready for some football? is much overused.  But we were--ready, that is.  Thomas decided he wanted to play football in the fall after a friend invited him to some workouts this past spring.  Fundraisers helped pay for all the fees required, and Thomas was set.  Oh, wait.  Workout shorts.  Cleats.  Gloves.  And other sports equipment that young guys need to play.  So he was mostly set, plus he decided he would spend some of his own money.  Good--because we were out and Fernando was getting laid off.

The Crusaders is their name, and they're a homeschool league.  Crossroads Youth Center coordinates the sports program, and they have several teams now--football, soccer, volleyball (which went to nationals), and track.  Practices were about an hour away, but there were two others guys from our neck of the woods, and we took turns carpooling them.  Daily practices that far away meant a lot of time in the car, plus Thomas attended every single extra morning workout the guys scheduled.  He was determined to learn the game.

I never did post highlights of individual games.  There are very few pictures of Thomas--he played nose tackle, and was never to be seen in my viewfinder because he was always surrounded by players, and/or tackling them to the ground.  I did manage to get a few action shots of him, plus some off-field ones.  Here are the highlights.

August 30 was the Crusaders' first game, super hot and super far away (almost three hours from home).  Almost halfway through the game, storm clouds started brewing, but it looked like they would pass by to the north and east.  Right before halftime, the Crusaders took the field after a touchdown to kick the ball.  There was Thomas!  (He's number 50.)

All of a sudden, whistles blew and refs ran around the field.  The announcement was made--dangerous thunderstorms were coming, and the field was to be vacated.  Thomas never did get to play that game.  He would play soon, though.

The next few games were the very first home games ever for the Crusaders, thanks to the use of a Christian school's field (very generous on their part!).

I took a picture of Thomas tackling a runner, and I didn't even know it was him until I downloaded the images!

Here are a few from their official homecoming game.

An October game shot...

And a late October final game:

The team celebrates a great year.

Thomas got better and better as the season progressed, and his Dad and I are so proud of his effort and determination!

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Friday, December 27, 2013

Preparing the Garden for Another Winter

November 9.

On a brisk autumn day, I got my guys out working in the garden.  With all that was happening in our lives, we did everything late this year.   Better late than never, however, so we were out there working.  And taking pictures.  Here's what we did to get the garden ready for the upcoming winter.

First, Danny and Thomas dug up all the plants--tomatoes, herbs, squash--everything.

Joseph patiently removed the Velcro tape which had secured the tomato and pepper plants to their stakes.  I'll re-use this next year.

Here's the result:

Then, Danny and Thomas piled straw over the strawberry plants to protect them from winter's cold.  The straw bale is only about $10 from a local landscape supply store, and it more than covers the plants.  It isn't seedless, so I do have to deal with pulling new grass out as it goes to seed in the spring, but it's very manageable and not too much trouble, so I go ahead and use the straw.

To keep the straw from blowing away, we used plastic netting (sort of like bird netting), which we cut and draped over the bed from side to side.  We did this just enough to keep the straw down.  Some will blow away no matter what we do, so we don't worry about it.

Yeah, that's a good old-fashioned stapler!  Danny stapled the netting right into the wood, and we'll pull those out in the spring.

Above, Danny secured the last of the netting, then sat in the background while I photographed his finished product.  Nice job, Danny, and thank you!

Meanwhile, I put Joseph to work raking.  We have a great big rake, and he worked really hard for a long time.  The funny thing is, we have only two trees back here!  The leaves blow in from the church property behind us, and our neighbor's tree to the east.  So alas, we have to rake leaves.

Joseph raked up three huge piles of leaves!  This is the first year we've really had to rake a lot.  I guess the tree (below) in my special space has really grown!

After raking, the guys bagged everything up.  Here in our town, we're required to put yard waste in yard waste bags.  At least we don't have to purchase the "tax stickers" (as I call them) that some communities require their residents to place on the bags.

We worked and took pictures all afternoon!  What a great feeling to get the work done, just in time for colder weather and winter.  I leave you with a picture of my bench in the autumn setting sun.  It awaits my spring return!

Back to life,

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

October in My Garden

October 2013.

Yep, I'm back to being backlogged.  Life happened, and a day--even just a few hours--to just sit and blog has been nonexistent.  As a background comment, we've experienced:

  • Jacob got ready to go back to WIU--preparations for dorm life and moving back in.
  • Thomas' first football season gave us a daily schedule and lots of time in the car.
  • Fernando got laid off (the company is closing its doors).
  • Fernando had back surgery.
  • I experienced my own back issues (MRI revealed bulging disk).
  • Danny started the daily train trek to UIC (I'm his drive-to-the-train-station driver).

That's it in a nutshell.  Life swirled around us, and many things stood still for us.  Doctor visits, hospital stays, recovery.  Yet at the same time, life twisted and turned me every which way--I played taxi driver for Thomas and the carpool teammates, then Danny to the train station, Fernando to the ER and eventually the hospital for surgery...  Suffice it to say, I have longed (and still am longing!) for just a few days where I don't have to leave the confines of my home.  I've had just one or two in the last three months, but that's it.  So that's where I--the blogger "I"--have been.

Now, I'm going back through photos, sorting out and trying to remember what I did way back then in October where I left off in my journal of life.  So here I am, back in my garden, which was neglected much of the time in late September and early October.  At least we got the bulk of the harvest in, and did the "cleaning up" before the really cold weather set in.

My guys helped me out tremendously, and here's what we got done:

Sweet Joseph picked every green pepper on every plant!  He is so careful when he handles the vegetables!  Many of them had turned red, and although this variety is longer than the traditional bell pepper, and thinner skinned, they were still delicious and lasted in my fridge a number of weeks for us to eat through.

Below is one basil plant after pruning off all its branches.  We brought the harvest indoors and put them in vases so I could process the leaves at my leisure.  I washed them and let them dry, then chopped and froze them.  We harvested a ton, and we'll enjoy fresh frozen basil in many Italian dishes throughout the winter and probably into the spring.

My butternut squash plant died, so the guys pulled that up and removed the protective tomato cages we had placed around them (with cheesecloth over to ward off moths).

Here's Joseph's pepper harvest, with a bunch of jalapeƱos thrown in!

And below is my parsley, which grew prolifically.  I'm talking massive bush-like plants here.  They were amazing.  The image below shows the base of the plant, and Thomas dug the whole thing out, roots and all.

After getting much of the dirt out of the three plants, Thomas brought them in and put them in bowls of water on my kitchen counter until I could process them.  I also chopped/froze the parsley, and still have two large Tupperware boxes full.  Fresh parsley is so very flavorful.  Yum!

Below, I harvested as many green tomatoes as I could find.  They eventually ripen, and this is what I let them do since I didn't have time to make green tomato salsa or try a new recipe of dilled pickled green tomatoes.  We ate them as they ripened, mostly in salads and such.

And here is my countertop after our late October harvest!  There were a few butternut squash there, too!

Our garden was fruitful this year, and we are still being blessed by it--butternut squash put up in the basement, canned tomatoes, chopped jalapeƱos (and all those herbs) in the freezer.  We're thankful to the Lord for all that He has blessed us with during this current time of leanness!

Back to life,

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