Monday, October 31, 2011

a Melmo Halloween

I've never been a big fan of Halloween. My mother influenced me greatly in this, declaring for several years running that my dad planned to be on business trips every Halloween and left her to deal with costumes and trick-or-treaters and all of it.

But it's different now that I'm a grandmother. Ari, Jenny and I made an Elmo jack-o-lantern ... the brain-child of Jenny. Not too sure 22-month-old Ari really got the idea, but she sure enjoyed messing with the red paint.

This girl adores Elmo ... "Mel-mo" that is.

Thanks for sharing Melmo-making, Ari.
Baba can't think of a better way to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Nope, never did care much for Halloween ... especially those masks.

Friday, October 28, 2011

senior show

Ever since sometime, oh, around her sophomore year, my daughter Katie's mentioned the SENIOR SHOW that is required of all photography/art majors at her college. Really, I don't think I had a clear idea of what this means. Then last year I began hearing things like "parents come help set up" and "make food to serve."

Did I mention Katie's a senior this year? I remember my college photography days. Had anyone even thought of a senior show in the 70's, it probably would have involved little more than a few photographs mounted on mat board. But based on my information gathering, I'm thinking Katie's SENIOR SHOW is going to be a bigger deal. And wouldn't it be - logically - in the spring of senior year? Katie called and said, "Guess what! My SENIOR SHOW is the end of February!"

Now lots of thoughts are whizzing through my head ... it will be mid-winter in Indiana ... Katie will be on a mission trip to Paraguay all of January ... mid-winter in Indiana. Oh, boy.

But hey. We'll do it. We'll be there and happily do our parent-ly part for Katie's SENIOR SHOW. Even if there's a blizzard. We'll call it the grand finale for the ten years we've had kids in college. Bring on that SENIOR SHOW!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

lunch out

Today I met my Moms in Touch friends for lunch at 1808 American Bistro, a swanky-for-Delaware downtown restaurant. Oh, man. Three of us ordered the same dish: Crispy Almond Chicken Salad. Gorgeous greens, tomatoes, bacon (whoops), maple-vinaigrette dressing and a huge, flattened, panko-almond-crumb-crusted chicken breast. Outstanding!

l to r: Nan, Elizabeth, Lori and me.

When we gathered in August for coffee (pictured here) Nan, Elizabeth, Lori and I agreed to try a monthly lunch on the last Wednesday of each month. (Sampling different restaurants ... yum.) You might remember this post, when we laid our plan. It has worked for two months now and it's so great. We're reacquainting with each other. With 15 children between us, we don't always cover all the kids, but touch on a few each time we meet. Husbands, too. (Just four of those!) And we share our hopes, dreams and a few sorrows. Lots of laughter, too.

Lori shared quite the story today of moving her daughter to New York City. I think we're all glad to live in small-town Ohio.

God knit us together all these years. It's a sweet, special and rich friendship. Thank you, Nan, Elizabeth and Lori!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

from Mr. Kilmer

I think that I shall never see

A poem as lovely as a tree.

Joyce Kilmer, Trees, 1913.

(Alfred Joyce Kilmer, 1886-1918, killed at the Second Battle of the Marne, France, 1918.)

Monday, October 24, 2011

shop 'n drop

Now don't take this as moaning and groaning or whining and complaining. I went shopping yesterday with four college girls, one of them my daughter. And another mom, Barbie ... all Taylor U friends. Not that I really wanted to shop, but I did want to be with the girls and Barbie. So off we went for an afternoon shop-session. Observations:

1. Half of Columbus chose to be inside a mall on a gorgeous October afternoon. Why?

2. Someone switched our Old Navy with the one in Charlotte while I wasn't looking. No kidding, now it looks just like the one in Charlotte, and made me miss Ari a lot.

3. Charming Charlie's is a store like no other. It is packed full of - sorry C.C. fans - tacky costume jewelry. The merchandise is arranged by colors on little display islands: the blue island, the red island, the purple island, the brown island, and you weave around these islands in hopes of finding the perfect accessory for your outfit back home. There are gaudy colorful clutches and oversized necklaces. Winter hats and summer purses. I tried on a ring that resembled a tiny Slinky with beads and wondered how you'd bend your finger.

As soon as Katie and I stepped in the store, we locked eyes and communicated silently that we couldn't wait to get out. Katie and I tend to be bored/overwhelmed/bewildered by stores where there is a lot to see. Especially when the merchandise is large, sparkly and well, just ugly. We are simple, unadorned girls.

4. Last stop: Forever 21. This store is over the top. First, I don't want to be forever 21. And I question women my age who do. But most of the patrons were in the 16 - 25 range and they are totally into this store. One item I was interested in was scarves, so I asked a sales boy to show me some. "Over there," he pointed left. "And back here," he pointed right. "And maybe up there," he pointed up the escalator. Oh, good grief. There is absolutely no order to Forever 21. T-shirts and dresses and jeans and scarves all willy-nilly around the store. It's madness. So I plopped down with Barbie on a skinny window ledge. They could at least have a bench or two.

5. Sales girls always ask, "are you finding everything?" I'm never sure how to answer. If I say "no," they interrogate me. If I say "yes," it's a total lie.

5. The best stop was Chick-fil-a. Barbie and I split a sandwich. I love Chick-fil-a ... a whole lot more than shopping.

My next shopping excursion will be to the classy Talbot's, where the merchandise is organized, the sales ladies carry your choices to the dressing room for you, and the scarves are all together.

Friday, October 21, 2011

happy birthday, Jenny!

Today's her birthday and so I honor my daughter-in-love Jenny. It's such fun to see her become a mom and while caring for two babies is a huge job, Jenny also has many interests. Most importantly, she's a woman after God's heart.  Here's a little birthday acrostic ...

J - Joyful. Jenny loves to laugh and her joy is evident in her family. A mother's joy is reflected in her children.

E - Energetic. Gardening, card games, organizing us indecisive Hallers , our trips to IKEA, cleaning house, exercising. If you need to see someone determined to get it done, watch Jenny!

N - Nurturing. Maybe motherhood doesn't come naturally to every new mom ... but Jenny wears it well, loving and caring for her husband Dan and their girls.

N - Natural girl. Just take at look at her blog. Jenny's learned so much about nutrition and is passionate about passing it on to to others. She's a great cook: I almost feel like I'm at a restaurant when we visit!

Y - Yearning and striving to be an excellent wife and mother ... but also allowing herself  some slack in this very busy season of her life. She lets the little things go.

H. - HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JENNY, with love!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

some things stay the same

There's a story on yahoo today that has me freaking out. OK, I'm not really the freak-out type. But it's all about the technology that will be obsolete by the year 2020. Eight years! If I read it right, smart phones will be the ONLY phone out there. I won't be able to choose a 'dumb phone' even if I want. And I won't need to buy a GPS unless I'm planning on climbing Everest or serving in the military because it'll be built into my new car or smart phone. I won't buy CDs or DVDs because music and movies will all be digital.

This is crazy. In 1990, my son Dan came home from pre-school and held out his hands about 12 inches apart. "Mommy! They have CDs THIS BIG at pre-school !" The kid had never seen a record, even though we had a crate of them in the basement.

The speed of technological advances makes me dizzy. Think of the span of human history and how much has changed in the flash of time called the 20th century. Television, radio, telephones, advanced communication. Electricity! My own father grew up on a farm with few conveniences. Food was refrigerated in an "ice box." My mother chased the ice truck down the street and of course air conditioning was unheard of. When you think of it, the first 200 years of our country moved at a snail's pace in terms of technology. And now, in less than half my children's lifetimes, everything's smaller, faster, more efficient.

Almost. My son Mark, father of our 3rd grandchild, told me, "Mom, everything's changed since you had us." Meaning, the stuff that new parents collect before baby arrives. He thinks I haven't a clue. The 'stuff' has changed a bit, some for the better and some not.

But one thing that really hasn't changed is the babies themselves. How I love that. When I first held Ari, it felt familiar and good. The skills I developed as a mother kicked in naturally when time came to hold, swaddle, rock, bathe, and sing to my granddaughters. How beautiful that for the things that really matter in life, God gives us the ability to hone, then keep our skills for many years. I might fall behind in using a computer or learning to use a smart phone. But I really don't care. It's all a chasing after the wind. What matters is that I can love and care for my grandchildren, to be the 'Baba' God intends.

Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun. 
Ecclesiastes 2:11

Monday, October 17, 2011

(everything) wheat germ muffins

A blast from the past: my mom's wheat germ muffin recipe! I'm pretty sure she proudly sent me this to me as a newlywed in 1978. It always tickled her to find new recipes, and she tiptoed into what we called "health food cooking" back in the 70's. I don't think she took to my lentil burger recipe - oh Dad would have gagged - but we learned to make the famous granola together, and then there was this.

When it arrived in the mail, I laughed. Why on earth would I need to make 6 dozen muffins? Or why would I store the batter in the fridge "for up to a month"? But I was 23. What did I know? Four kids and 33 years later, it makes perfect sense. I whipped these up over the weekend and baked the whole bowl of batter, adding all sorts of goodies and voila! My freezer is stocked with muffins for visitors, kids, holidays. (With all the sugar, I suppose it can hardly be called 'healthy' ...)

I was sure mom had put apricots in these muffins, but it isn't included in the recipe. So I threw in raisins, craisins, pecans, and chopped apple. Fantastic! If you're up for a big batch of muffins, here you go. (Though it only made about 4 dozen for me.)

Combine in a large mixing bowl:
4 and 1/2 cups flour (I mixed white and whole wheat)
2 - 1/4 cups wheat germ
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp salt (or omit)
5 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
In a smaller bowl combine:
4 eggs
1 quart buttermilk
1 cup oil
Blend into dry ingredients. If it seems too thick, add some water. Then add c/raisins, nuts, apple as you please.
Fill muffin cups 2/3 full and bake at 400 for 15-20 min.
Batter can be stored in fridge for up to 4 weeks.

I'm discovering something curious about recipes and cooking. When I copy recipes, I leave out probably half the directions. I don't need to be told to "grease or paper line" the muffin cups. It's pretty much second nature to me. But then I'm not 23 any longer.

Maybe what's best about this recipe is the card itself. Mom was a typist: letters, recipes, whatever. When she ran out of room at the bottom of the card, she pulled it from the typewriter and wrote "HINT: 2 cups of this batter makes about 12 muffins" by hand. It's sweet to have that after all these years, tucked in my recipe box. (Or jammed on top; that's another post.)

Transfer recipes to computer? Not for me; I'll keep Mom's hand-written cards.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

the $5.57 date

Bill and I have this idea to take turns surprising each other with little dates. So yesterday morning, spontaneous me said, "ok, get ready for our lunch date, and don't dress up!"

So off we go, Ellie too. First stop: Wendy's drive-through. They have a pretty good chicken sandwich for $1.69. Two of those and a large chili, please. Total: $5.57.

Next stop: Mingo Park, a city park where we spent hours and hours and HOURS with our little soccer and baseball players back in the day. Mingo is undergoing a huge renovation. New fields, more parking, improved bike trail. So we took our lunch and our pooch and checked out the Mingo re-do ... and reminisced a bit.

I spotted the water fountain where Grandma Haller got creamed by a careless hoodlum running from his friends. The benches where we sat when Mark pitched the winning game for his championship Mustang team. The diamond where David worked as an umpire, learning to stand his ground with over-zealous coaches. The soccer fields where Dan and Katie first played what we called "magnet ball."

Trips to the concession stand. Bored siblings begging to run to the playground. "Hey, batta, batta, batta!" from the outfield. The crack of a baseball against a bat.

Though the sounds of game nights echo in my mind, now it's not my children racing across Mingo, just the wind whipping over an empty park.

Friday, October 14, 2011

horrible holes in hiding

Remember the horrible holes? Yeah, yeah, back in May. Every time I'd go down the stairs - which is many times a day, those holes were gaping at me, screaming to be covered.

Today I hit upon a remedy that - get this - didn't cost me a dime! And while it might not be a candidate for Southern Living, it'll do for now. As my mom used to say, "good enough!" Though something's not quite right. I think it has something to do with the rule of thirds. But it beats the holes!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

freezer burn

How to burn up a perfectly good afternoon: defrost the freezer! After that glorious mid-week bike ride two days ago, I needed some humbling. On THE LIST (my to-do list that never, ever is completed) was "defrost freezer." I kept shifting the task from one to-do list to the next.

Yesterday, a wet and dreary day, I decided to tackle the freezer. Here's how it went down:
1. Freezer's in the basement. Challenge.
2. I unload the frozen items into our biggest cooler, turn off the freezer and point a fan at the freezer.
3. Attach the too-short drainage hose to the dehumidifier hose to drain into a basement drain. One hose won't fit inside the other; go get turkey baster from the kitchen.
4. Finally successful by rigging turkey baster, two pots, old towels, and the fan. Also tried my hair dryer to speed up the process, but kept blowing the circuit.
5. Each time I run to empty one pot, the turkey baster slips from the smaller pot and water drains onto the carpeted floor.
6. Two hours and 20 minutes later, job is done. And dinner is a little late.

It's a good accomplishment, having the freezer defrosted. But not as fun as a bike ride.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

seizing the day!

What a day, what a stupendous day here in central Ohio! The laundry and assorted projects had to wait while we seized a beautiful autumn day for some biking.

We loaded the bikes and headed off to Johnstown around noon. "Six miles to Alexandria," Bill said. OK, twelve miles I can handle. But don't you know, the beauty and sunshine and woods lured us along and we couldn't stop at Alexandria. It was on to Granville, another five miles.

We found it a little tricky to keep to the trail, as much of it was a carpet of leaves. But we finished with no mis-haps!

A really neat feature of this trail is how it meanders through farmlands as well as woods. Real, working farms with white barns, red barns, shimmering silos, grazing cows, and pigs. We smelled the pigs. The trail crossed a number of driveways into the farms and I just felt like I was sailing through a fairy tale!

I am thankful that we are in a season of life when we can choose a day to bike based on the weather. As we biked, I thought of all the years that we didn't have the freedom to just go and do. It was a glorious 25 years with our kids, but also very them-focused. I miss those days at times, full lively kids, even with all their rowdiness and bickering.

But there's a peace and sweetness in being able to seize the day.

Monday, October 10, 2011

birthday girls in the 'hood

I admit to being a little envious of my neighbor gal-pals, Lynn and Dove. They share a birthday today, and what a spectacular day it was. We chatted over lunch on my back porch, surrounded by a perfect autumn day. October 10: just a lovely time for a birthday!

Don't you know, I had my camera out to snap a photo and FORGOT. As much as I see them, I don't even have a photo of the two together! Well, today I wish Dove and Lynn a happy birthday. Dove is our outdoor adventurer girl and Lynn is our June Cleaver. They both out-garden me. I think it's pretty unusual to be surrounded by neighbors who still chat in the front yard, borrow eggs and sour cream and even ovens, put up with each other's barking dogs, talk over the back fence (yes, literally we do) and just all around enjoy being together.

I hope you have some neighbor friends like I have here. Happy birthday, Lynn and Dove!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

blog salad

I've started no fewer than four posts this week, none of which found their way to completion. I guess you could say it's been a tossed salad kind of week. Here's what's been on my mind:

1. New phone on the horizon? The keys on my cell phone are wiggly, so I might be shopping. Not desiring a smart phone. Just need to make calls, text, and view photos of the granddaughters. That's it!

2. Steve Jobs died of pancreatic cancer on Wednesday. He was born 52 days after me! If that doesn't wake me up to my lack of achievement in life, I don't know what will. Sometimes I struggle with the thought that my life could end tomorrow and I would kick myself for not writing a book or chasing a few dreams. I'd slap my forehead for not formulating a real plan for my life and neglecting really important things and people.

3. My husband's mother spent three days in the hospital this week. All day Friday, I was amazed by the nurses who do their jobs cheerfully in the face of sick people and demanding family members. I salute nurses! The hospital stay could probably have been avoided had my mother-in-love followed the simple practice of drinking water and eating fruits and vegetables. Case closed on that one.

5. A sizzling hot, then wet summer made biking kind of challenging. Now the weather's nice but we're busier. So we're trying to get some pedaling in before cold weather hits. It's a race!

Alright, I hope the coming week is smoother in the blogging department. If you're a loyal reader, I apologize. Sometimes life just happens when you're making other plans.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

happy birthday, Lisa!

Whether biking or boating,
meeting for lunch or ice cream,
camping in a tent on cold nights,
driving Girl Scouts hither and yon,
and laughing more than our husbands can bear,
Lisa and I are fast friends.
I admire her heart for serving others that is big, big, big.
And I am thankful she's my friend.
Happy birthday, Lisa!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Mary-Kate and Ashley go to college

These whopper wind turbines went up over the summer on Taylor University's campus. They are joining - and will power - the new Euler Science Complex, scheduled to open in 2012.

As we prepared to leave Taylor yesterday after parents weekend, I asked Bill to drive over toward the science center so I could photograph the turbines. I think they're spectacularly majestic and beautiful, like huge versions of those little spinners you hold and blow as a kid. Taylor, in the heart of flat Indiana farmland, gets plenty of wind, so the turbines are usually rotating, round and round.

Taylor students nicknamed the turbines Mary-Kate and Ashley, due to their proximity to Olson, a women's dorm. Isn't that hilarious! And one student reports how she woke up on a sunny morning soon after arriving on campus to a flashing light in her room. The sun was reflecting off Mary-Kate ... or Ashley. Well, I guess the scientist-types don't think of everything!

Oh, yes. We had a fun weekend with Katie. We ate college food, (always kicked up a notch up for parents), watched tennis, worshiped in chapel. Amazing music! After ten years of kids at Taylor, this begins our last. It'll be a bittersweet year of "lasts" and I'm not too sure what I think of that. We'll miss Taylor, a phenomenal school and community. But life moves on, our family's growing by leaps and grandbabies, and we'll embrace what's ahead.

Of course, it's our last year of tuition payments, and that's not one bit sad!

right: Katie (middle) with two of her three adorable apartment-mates: Brie and Hannah.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

happy birthday, little big man

It's funny how children - even within the same family - can be so different. Some are timid and quiet, others come out swinging. Some dabble in many interests, others have razor-sharp focus on their life plan. That's why having four kids is such a ball: four different personalities, temperaments, and approaches to life.

Our first child came into our world 28 years ago this evening. David seemed like a little man almost from the start. He didn't cry much. Very big-brotherly with Dan, just 16 months younger. He kind of scared us by reading at age three. He once told a nurse to be careful of the hot water, because - pointing to a faucet - "that spells H-O-T!"
David's intense obssession with baseball is legendary in
our family. How can a kid know early on that baseball
would play such a big part in his life? David did, and it's a part of what made him seem wise beyond his years.

But he's more than baseball. David loves family, kids, good coffee & food, exploring new places, a good book, a good joke, and gently teasing all of us. What a sense of humor! He finds humor in almost any situation. I love that. 

Most of all, David has a heart for others and for God. It endears him to me, and to most everyone he touches.

Happy birthday, my former little man. Now my big man, my son. I love and miss you, David.

Go Rays !!