Monday, June 25, 2007

"Wings of Fancy"

It really turned out to be an amazing day!
I woke up around 4:00 this morning to a rip-roaring thunderstorm!
It was raining like crazy and I was worried that we would have our field trip to DC rained out.
When I woke up again at 6:30 though, the worst of the weather had passed and we got ourselves out the door and down the road.
We met two other families at a park and ride so that we could caravan.
The drive was LONG but easy. Traffic wasn't too bad at all and Carrie was so nice! She is very easy to follow!
When we got to the Gardens, we met another couple of families. The Webers and the Baldwins were already there. It was nice to see everyone.

The butterfly exhibit was just incredible!














We were guided by a very nice lady who was very knowledgeable. She is actually the lady in the back with the sunglasses.














The tour started with some information about what butterflies need as they go from eggs, to caterpillars, to a Chrysalis to a full fledged butterfly! It was great.














But we didn't need much encouraging to be impressed by the butterflies themselves.
There were species from Asia, Costa Rica and the US.














They were everywhere in the large greenhouse that had been built for them.














The flowers are so gorgeous!














The boys were very enthusiastic and they were so well behaved!
I think Brendan took it the most seriously and was rewarded by his quiet demeanor. He got the most Butterflies to perch on him!




























John had one too!














The different ways that these insects camouflage themselves is so interesting.
Some have "eyes" on their wings to make them look like owls.














Some have wings that look just like leaves, until they spread them. This one is a brilliant blue on the backs of his wings. It's just really hard to catch them open!














Some look like the bark of a tree!














Some are just pretty and don't care who sees them!














The kids were all very gentle and quiet.














After we went through the butterfly house, we went out into the gardens.














They are so beautiful and there are acres and acres to explore.




























We walked for awhile but then everyone started to get hungry, so we headed for a park where we had a picnic and the kids were able to play on a huge playset!












The drive home was actually very easy for an afternoon on the beltway. I am beat though.
I'll be glad to stay home tomorrow, except for a dental appt. in the afternoon.
Have to get ready for the Pergola Family and Laura and Lucy! Woohoo!!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

such a nice Sunday

It was such a nice day today!
We had nothing "planned" so we had a leisurely breakfast and got ready for Mass.
Fr Jim, our new priest-in-a-pinch said Mass and his homily was, once again, amazing!
He talked about the real Presence and the Eucharistic Prayers and how they were written.

Then we came home and got a few things done around the house. The boys needed lunch of course and then Brendan and Paul had a shopping trip that they wanted to take, and John wanted to go fishing. Tim elected to take John fishing and I was off to Bel Air with the other two.
We went to Toys r Us first and they picked out the "allowance" things that they wanted. Then we went over to JoAnne's so that I could see if they had the little Bistro set that I had seen earlier in the week. It was half off and we have been planning to get one for the new porch. I did find one and it was in black like I wanted. It was also about 60% off! So we packed that into the car and brought it home. It looks really cute and when we get the railing done it will really set off the front. It's a nice place to sit and have coffee...

After Tim and John got home I went out back to do a bit of yard work. The weather has been wonderful and it wasn't too hot or humid. I got the trimming done around the boxes and found lots of little baby Mantis' running around. That's one reason why I like to trim that by hand. I don't like to kill them. They are very good for the garden.
It looks much better out there, but mainly the weeds should stay under control.

I grilled burgers and we had a nice dinner. We should have eaten outside, the bugs aren't too bad right now. Then Tim took the boys to the pool. I finished up trimming in the front and washed down the house. The spiders are having a great time!

When Tim came home he said that Brendan had spent the entire time they were swimming going off the diving board. He just loves it! Paul pretended. I'm glad they got all that exercise, we are going to be driving down to DC tomorrow to go see the Butterflies at this "Wings of Fancy" exhibit. More on that tomorrow! With pictures!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

New Blooms!

Well, exciting things are going on in the garden.
Last year Laura and Nina both gave me flowers for Easter.
Now, the one Nina gave me is a Hydrangia and I knew how to take care of it and where to plant it.
Laura gave me an Easter Lilly. I have never thought about planting one, as I know nothing about them. But I had a great place to put it so I popped it into the ground and figured, "If it grows, I'll be really suprised!"
Well both plants are doing so well!
The little Hydrangia is very happy...

and the Lilly is now blooming like crazy!
It's really beautiful. I am amazed at how it has grown. It is spreading like crazy too!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Decisions, decisions...

Last night I attended a meeting of the Maryland Association of Professional Organizers (MAPO).
This is an idea I have been exploring for awhile and I wanted to see what the industry is really all about.
The Ladies that were present were from all different backgrounds and have varying areas of expertise. Some are focused on organizing businesses. One of the women has a company that helps families with estate issues. Several others are in the business of helping families and the chronically disorganized. Almost all of them are based in the greater Baltimore area and the surrounding counties.
I guess there is only one member from Harford county and no one who specializes in homeschooling families.
The business end of it sounds very complicated. I have never run a business and I would never have considered it in MD, considering the bureaucracy that runs rampant in this state. I just have been feeling called lately to a ministry to women and families who are discouraged about the way their homes and homeschools are running.
I had gone back to school to get my degree in Social Science. I figured that I would go to school while the boys are young and then about the time I graduated they would be as well. Then I did the Math. The amount of money that I would have to spend to get my degree over the next 10 years is astronomical! There is also the issue of taking classes online at night and then being fresh enough to keep up with the boys and their schooling during the day. I'm not 29 anymore...

All I really want to do is help homemakers and homeschoolers find joy in their vocation. I already have the education for that. Eventually I'd like to work as a mentor with moms who are in danger of losing their children due to lack of parenting and housekeeping skills. I don't think mentoring should require six years of college. I can work under a Social Worker for accountability.
So... I am at a kind of fork in the road. I have to discern what God is asking me to do. He tends not to speak very loud.
If I start now I will get in on the ground floor of the industry in our area and in my specialty. I will be able to build a business and a client base without much competition and I will get to start in helping people right away. Those are the positive points.
The negative side is that I will be working and Paul is only five. I will have to be out a lot. I will have to spend time working on business development and I still have three boys to educate. I will have to put money into it as well. Licensing, insurance, lawyers, etc. I can probably do most of my actual work in the afternoon hours, since this is when most homeschoolers are available.
I just don't want to be away that much. I am torn. I don't know who would be watching the boys.

It is just an idea that keeps developing. I have been reading and studying the different aspects of organizing. It is such a wonderful field. I really think it would be so good to help people feel at peace in their vocation. I know that if God has called a person to a vocation, marriage and family in this case, He also wants us to be at peace and happy in our work. I have spoken to so many moms who just don't feel happy and at peace because they can't get control of their environment.
It's really just a matter of putting systems in place that streamline the way the house and school run. I have been at it for so long and I have developed my system through lots of trial and error. Maybe I can help someone avoid some of the trial and error. Everyone has their own style, needs, and can find a system that works for them, but I think sometimes it just takes a little push to give a person the confidence.

I don't know. I guess I just have to pray harder and listen better. I don't want to go into any endeavor without an authentic sense of Blessing on whatever it is I am trying to do. This is going to be a very good topic for Spiritual Direction.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Thanks Laura!

Well I had planned to blog a very long entry today, but Laura beat me to it, so she is my guest blogger today!
She blogged John's party for me. Since all the pictures were on her camera, I guess that's a good thing!
So here it is!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Verizon...we have a problem.

I am having a rather grumpy day today, mainly because I was up until 12:00 last night trying to update our TORCH website.
Our website is hosted on my Verizon account, so it is not free. I thought I should get what I paid for. Silly me!
I built it a couple of years ago, and had intended to update it regularly, but due to lack of traffic and the trouble it takes to actually get to the page that I have to go to to edit it, I had not updated for a VERY long time.
Last night I received an email from the site that said that someone had left a comment. By George, someone had actually found us by doing a Yahoo search!
So an update was definitely in order because a lot has changed! Like, I'm not the coordinator any more!
Now, I use Firefox exclusively. It is an awesome browser, is very Google friendly, and my computer loves it! Internet Explorer is a dog! I hate it! It is infernally slow since they "improved" it with IE 7 and I avoid it like the plague.
Well, of course, I went to the "site builder" page, using Firefox and found that I could not even access it. I used the username and password that I always use and it wouldn't budge.
So...OK, I had to suck it up and call Verizon Tech Support.
I have no problem with Dell TS and I call them all the time. I think the Dell guys are actual people who use computers and possibly even speak and read English as a second language. The Verizon guys that I talked to... well, just let me say...ARE NOT!
OK, they are probably actual people.
So, I talked to Muhammed (yes, that is the name he gave me) about the issue I was having and he said that Firefox was probably the reason I couldn't access the page.
I would have to use Internet Explorer.
Could he take control of my computer and try to solve the problem? Yes, OK.
So he did his little thing and the cursor was soon under his control. He clicked and scrolled and probably cursed in whatever language they speak in Pakistan, and then told me that I had the wrong dept!! Would I like the number for the company that handles the Websites? "Oh, but they are closed now. Yes, please, thank you very much."
So this was at midnight.
At 12:30 John woke up with a monster allergy attack. I got him back to bed and finally fell into bed around 1:30.
This morning I got on the computer, solved half of my problem myself, and then had to resort to calling Verizon again. This time I got another guy in some country where most people are probably asleep, and he told me that "Yes, you need to use Internet Explorer, I am sorry that it is so slow, would you like the number for Microsoft?" Like Microsoft really cares about how much trouble they are causing me!
So I went ahead and followed his directions and did a couple of things that I already knew I needed to do, but it made him feel like a hero and so somebody got some satisfaction out of this situation.
SO now the website is updated. Something that took 10 minutes. With Internet Explorer.
Blah....

So, I am going to be tired today.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

If you Blew up a Whale...

This is a rather dramatic departure from anything I have ever blogged. It's really a departure from anything I have ever even considered possible.
I'm sure some people remember this.
Apparently a Gray Whale beached itself near Florence, Oregon.
It was so huge and so high up on the beach, that the people who are in charge of nasty dead whale removal (a.k.a. the Highway Dept.) couldn't find any way to move it.
It started to do what dead things do, but in a BIG way, so they had to find a way to get it out of there.
Somebody came up with the idea that if you put enough Dynamite under it you could blow it up and it would disintegrate. Yeah...

So now, without any further ado: The Incredible Exploding Whale

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

JOHN is 9!

Happy Birthday John!

Can't believe your 9!
What a very nice guy you have grown up to be!
I am so proud to be your mom.

I'll post pictures of the POOL party!




Sunday, June 10, 2007

They've been promoted!


Today was the day of our annual TORCH Promotion ceremony.
This has been an annual event for four years now.
It's a nice way for the families in our group to recognize all that the kids have done and celebrate the joy of coming together as Homeschoolers.

The event began with a Prayer and the pledge read by two of the kids.
After that the children that had prepared something either played an instrument or sang.
A few recited poems.
We took the Piano, digital of course, so that the pianists could perform. It was really neat to hear the many talented musicians in our group.
John played a song that he has been practicing and he did a very nice job.
Brendan played as well, and it was really cute! He did NOT want to go up, but he did and he did play pretty well. I wanted him to do it more for the performance aspect than anything else. It's just good for them.
Paul got up on stage to recite "The Old Woman In The Shoe"
He took the mike and did so well! It was his own version.
He loves an audience.

Then the kids got their certificates. They each got one for their hard work in school this year.
The group gave me a lovely gift certificate, as I am stepping down from the Coordinator position this year. I am moving on to field trips!
Then we had time to visit and look at the projects that the kids had brought. There were some wonderful things on display.

We also got the kids together at the end to take a group picture.
It was a very nice day.

After we got home the boys got into their trunks and we went over to the pool.
John and Brendan spent a lot of time going off the board.

Just a very good day.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

So about Floam...

We were shopping for craft supplies and John talked me into buying something called "Floam".
OK, it is very weird.
It looks like a whale swallowed a beanbag chair, ate the outside, and coughed up the foam pellets.
Seriously.
So what do you do with it? UGH!
The boys wanted to use it so I gave them each some. Brendan wisely wouldn't touch it. John was game but then he realized that it had him and he wanted it "off". I told him it looked like the symbiote in Spiderman.
Paul was very interested but couldn't get it to co-operate either.
So does anyone know what you do with it?
It has no redeeming qualities that we can see.
Anyone?

Friday, June 8, 2007

Happy Birthday TIM!!

Happy Birthday to my dearest Love!

God bless you Tim, today and always!
You are God's gift and Blessing to every day of my life.

I am so looking forward to our Marriage Retreat and our Anniversary.
I am so looking forward to every day for the rest of the time God gives us.

I LOVE YOU!!

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Why I'll never be a truck driver...

So, last weekend I sold the Sofa.
I hadn't intended to, but there was a woman who advertised on Craig's List for the exact sofa that we had and was willing to give me 250.00 for it!
Now I knew that I would be going over to Owings Mills, about an hour away, this week to pick up a china cabinet and I had seen a really lovely chocolate brown leather sofa on CL. At the time I had no excuse to buy it, but when I found myself with 250.00 and an empty space in the living room, well, why not?
The woman assured me that it was in excellent shape and I was so tired of slipcovers and pale cream...
OK now, I have a minivan.
The Cabinet is 6' high and 5 1/2' wide and it doesn't come apart. The sofa is an eight footer, give or take. With a bit of simple math, even I could tell that I was going to need another vehicle.
It seemed to be worth it to rent a truck because the cabinet is really nice and only cost me 30.00! It's worth a lot more than that. The sofa was right on the way, or so I was told.
So I called the local Budget and they told me that they had a 10' moving van that seemed more than adequate, and at a reasonable price.
Now all I needed were a couple of strong guys. Tim was not available, so I asked Nina if Johnny might have a friend who would like to help him with a little furniture project.
He did, so Nina helped out by watching the boys and I got in "my truck" at 6:30, with the guys following me, and off we went.
Traffic on 95 wasn't too bad but the truck was empty and was kind of jumpy going over the bumps. It also had this odd habit of trying to cuddle up to the big trucks as they went by. Must have been the drafts. Anyway, it was a bit exciting. I was kind of plodding, but Johnny was very careful to follow and helped me change lanes by changing behind me to clear the way. That was very good!
When we got to 695, the beltway, I started looking for the Perring Parkway exit. I was figuring I would exit and then go a couple of miles OUTSIDE the beltway to a stately home in a modest development. I'm not sure why I thought that.
We went back over 95 and headed INSIDE the beltway. And we kept going and going. The stately developments were starting to look less and less likely.
After a bit we were actually in the city. By the directions I was still on track. I called the woman to check in and she guided me into her neighborhood. It wasn't what I had expected. The sofa was fine, however, and Johnny and Kyle stood around while I looked at it. I know Johnny really wishes I had talked the lady down, and I probably should have but I was a bit out of my element and just wanted to get back on the road. Driving that thing around was starting to get to me.

Getting back on the beltway was rather exciting. I think Johnny might have regretted the deal for a few minutes at that point!
When we got to the apartment where the Cabinet was, I warned Johnny and Kyle that moving the thing might prove impossible due to the location and that I was willing to leave it if they couldn't get it out.
See, it was up two flights of stairs. The kind that double back on each other.
We went into the apartment, and they both just shook their heads. Kyle immediately asked for a screwdriver and started to try to take the top off. It was a good idea, but that is one well built piece of furniture. It was NOT coming apart! So Johnny was like, "OK, Let's do this the old-fashioned way." They got it out into the hall and then it became apparent that it wasn't going around the corner! AT ALL. The guys went back and forth and I was ready to bag it, and then Johnny took a couple of measurements, and with a flash of spatial brilliance that I totally don't have, he said "We'll tip it this way and then lift it over the rail and down the stairs." I was having a coronary at the thought of Kyle under that huge thing and, well, you can imagine...
So they did just what they said and man, do I wish I had had a camera! Video would have been better, because no one would believe it. They got it out handily and loaded it into the truck. After all that we tied it down really good to be sure that it wouldn't be damaged on the ride home.
It's like iron. No problem.
So I started off, even slower than I had on the trip over, for fear of shifting the load.
The only real tough part of the drive back was the trucks. When they would pass on both sides I would just hold my breath. I gave my poor Angel a really good workout. We made it home though and the guys were there to unload. Easy. No stairs.
I do love the new stuff. I was up very late cleaning and oiling the cabinet. It has come out really nice. There are a couple of dings, but with three boys in the house, that just makes it fit in with everything else! They hardly show with the oil.

















The sofa is so comfy and I love the smell. Just like a huge saddle! Mmmmm...
Makes me really miss the horses.





So I am sworn off Craig's List. I'm just too exhausted.
I took the truck back today and decided that from now on, if it can't fit in a minivan, it will have to stay where it is!

Oh and one more change in the life of the Merkel Family:
B had a visit from the tooth fairy! What a cute kid!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Boys, Boys everywhere!

Wow! Today was quite a day! I am really beat!
I got up earlier than usual to get my walk because I had two of the Hauf boys, Matthew and Michael, here for the day. They got here at about 7:45 and we were on the go for the rest of the day!
Lisa Walk, Andrew's sister came over for a visit and brought her little guy, Josiah. He is such a doll.
So the house was really bursting with boys! They were all very good though. Very few scuffles and they had a blast outside!
Josiah is mastering the fine art of walking and he was exploring as much as his mom would let him.
After everyone left, I packed up my three and went up to Elkton to visit my friend Rachel, who is just home with her 11th, a little guy named Damian. He is so precious, and the Watkins family is just so special.
Little Grace Kelly, the youngest next to Damian, came right up and wanted to crawl into my lap, and the boys were immediately made honorary members of the family and went down to play.
I got to hold the little one and talk to Rachel, and you would never know that there were 14 children in the house!
I am just so inspired by all the friends in my life that welcome these precious people without question.
It sounds impossible, and I suppose it is, without the Grace of God. He is always faithful to the promises He makes to His family! The reason that it seems impossible to everyone else is because we don't have the Grace we would need to pull it off. I heard years ago that " The Will of God will never lead you where the Grace of God won't keep you." His Grace is sufficient to every task that He asks of us. No matter how huge it seems.
That is very encouraging...

Monday, June 4, 2007

Charity and Mercy

Charity and Mercy

Any Wellborn had this on her blog and I thought it was worth passing along.
Kind of an odd beginning... but an interesting way of approaching our vocation!

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Hamas Kindergarten....?

I watched this on Mommylife this morning.
Hamas Kindergarten.

Now here is something to think about.
If the people in our country were half as committed to instilling our own values into our children, we would not have young people with no sense of direction...
These kids grow up to have a very well ingrained sense of direction.

And people wonder why we're at war?
There isn't much doubt what these kiddies are going to grow up to be.
If we aren't actually fighting Hamas on the field of battle, we are certainly the "infidels" that they are swearing to Allah that they will bring death to.

Our God is THE God of the civilized world. As much as liberalism is trying to drum Him out of society, He isn't going away. He promised that He would be with us until the end of time, and he is a God who keeps His promises. He is not Allah, not a slave master, but Abba, Our Father.
We don't fight to defend our faith out of fear, we defend our Faith out of Love. As Christ proved on the Cross, Love trumps fear every time.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Is it only Saturday?

It sure feels like Sunday night!
Tim was off on Friday and Laura and Andrew got here on Thursday night. It just seems like we are a day ahead!
So tomorrow is going to seem like it should be a school day, but since tomorrow is Sunday and we went to Mass tonight, we will have a quiet day. No where to go. If it doesn't rain we can go to the pool. The remains of a tropical depression are supposed to arrive sometime but hopefully not until evening.

We had such fun with everybody here. On Thursday evening after A,L,&L got here, we were treated to Lucy's bath! She likes that and, of course, we took tons of pictures!
Then we settled them in the basement on the pull-out, with Lucy in her port-a-crib. She slept well, and I think they did too!

Friday I gave the kids the day off except for Mass in the morning and Music practice. The guys were planning a fishing trip, while we girls went off to lunch and to shop for fabric.
That was so much fun!! Nina and April were able to go, which was so nice. We went to Chili's in Bel Air for lunch and then over to JoAnn's to get some fabric for the quilts that I am going to make for little Christian. We also wanted to get some flannel for some "blankies" for Lucy. The quick and easy ones! We found some great fabrics for the quilts. April is very good at picking colors and patterns that go well together. Laura got some pretty flannels and the April got some for Christian and we all came home to start washing the fabric so that we could do the blankies.

Meanwhile Andrew was teaching John the fine art of catching Yellow Perch. Well, fishing in general, but that's what they caught! Paul found a lovely set of really nasty looking hooks that Andrew believed were illegal. We tossed them.
John was in heaven! They started at the state park and then ended up at a pier downtown. Andrew promised them ice cream if they caught anything longer than 6 inches, and he had to pay up.
This does not bode well for my general squeamishness when it comes to fishing...

Friday night John was invited down to Tydings Park for the First Fridays events.
He hung out with his friend Gabriel and his family. Then John mentioned that he and Andrew had discussed "night fishing" and Gabriel got really interested. So... the Websters were out a bit later than they expected. They fished with a lantern and no one caught anything. Then it was time for Gabriel to go home. He tossed his line in one last time and then his mom made him get in the car. Well, they drove away and Tim grabbed the pole that Gabriel had been using and started to pull the line in and he said it seemed a little heavy. He pulled a bit harder and the line started pulling back. After a bit of tug-o-war Tim landed Gabriel's rather large Catfish! Gabriel was the only one who caught anything and he wasn't even there!

Meanwhile the girls and I were sewing away. We cut and sewed the Flannel and I think Lucy really likes hers!

Today was more laid back. We hung around the house. April and her mom and her husband Tim came over, and Nina was here for a bit. It was very nice. I love Tracy, Aprils mom, and she just LOVES Lucy. I think Lucy, Lilly and Christian will be great friends.

It was so cute to see Nina holding Lucy right over Lilly! They are already close.

After everyone headed off to all their various engagements, we went to Mass and then came home to have a BBQ with Lemar and see the pictures he took on his trip to San Francisco.

While he was here a couple came and picked up the Sofa. I sold it to make room for another one. Brown leather and NO SLIPCOVERS! I sold mine through Craig's List and I found the new one on there as well. I am having a ball "horse-tradin" furniture.

Tim has been working on the room and has gotten a lot of the trim up. I am going to put the big bookcase out there this week and on Wed. I am going to go get the sofa and the China Hutch. $30.00!! Well, I have to pay for the truck, but the hutch is worth more than 100.00 and I can get both it and the new Sofa into the truck on one trip. Then I think I am done with furniture for awhile. I'll have a lot to keep me busy.Now all we need are a few pictures on the walls...
Hmmm... I wonder if CL has a Fine Arts page....