Saturday, October 26, 2013

Rethinking Halloween

A colleague/new friend of mine asked me to join her and her family doing a "Halloween" themed booth at a local park for kids to do a kind of trick-or-treating along a trail of booths put on by other local community businesses.  It would involve dressing up in a costume and exposing my children to the Halloween holiday (more than walking into a Wal Mart and seeing all the costumes and decorations).

Our family hasn't "done Halloween" for a very long time.  I don't know if the older kids even remember ever celebrating it.  For me, it was one of those things that seemed to be a "no brainer".  Christians and Halloween were diametrically incompatible.  Halloween means "dark creatures", candy, doing mean things to people... right?  I'm not into those things.  Yet, is that what Halloween is all about?

My mother's absolute favorite holiday was Halloween.  She would decorate the house in orange and black, cute little decorations that sat on the TV, icky spider webs in the windows, and she herself had the most hideous hunchback mask and costume she'd greet the kids at the door in - scaring the pee out of unsuspecting little children who'd come to the door to trick-or-treat.  Most Halloween evenings she'd go out after we children were all home safely to go to some party with her friends.  My mom loved practical jokes, and one of her favorite was to leave recycled manikin body parts that her Red Cross friend, Wanda, gave her in unusual places to shock her friends.  I have great memories of wider family members finding "someone" (pillows, a wig, hands and feet sticking out of their blankets) sleeping in their beds and getting creeped out about it.

I too enjoyed Halloween until I became an adult.  Trick or treating was great to get all that junk in a pillowcase, canvasing the entire town of Towanda, Kansas in a single night.  We knew where to go for most the likely score of big candies, who had the best decorations, etc.  We knew the rules about "porch lights" and strangers, and it seemed to us a time of fun.

When I was a young mother, I lived in north central Illinois and was a part of a community of Mennonites.  They didn't do Halloween.  They had another set of traditions called "Lantern Festival" in which the children and adults made lanterns out of cans and candles, sang songs in the meadow in front of the common building, had a small bonfire, came in for hot chocolate and popcorn treats, remembered the dead who had influenced them in life.  We shared with one another and our fellowship was sweet.  The children went home with a bag of treats for their parents to distribute to them appropriately.  This was usually done on October 31, so there really was no room in our lives for Halloween.

Around that same time, I think I put myself "above Halloween".  Sure, it was okay for other people, but we don't do Halloween.  It was the first of many changes in our choices of lifestyle that separated us from our friends and neighbors.  The next was Christmas, the food choices we made, Easter, and the list goes on and on. 

Last year, I realized that not celebrating Christmas separated us unnaturally in our culture from our families and some of our friends.  It cut out a season of lights, songs, sharing of meals, giving gifts, and so forth.  It left a distinct black hole in our lives.  Celebrating the Biblical holidays is nice, but it doesn't fit in our culture, and I'm not sure God is asking us to give up our gentile culture and to separate ourselves from our friends - Christians and unbelievers alike  - at this time or (maybe ever?) until He comes back. 

Maybe when He returns, all things will be put as it should be.  Everyone will celebrate Sabbath in a beautiful way that includes fellowshipping together - not hiding out from society.  Everyone will live in huts for 8 days in the fall celebrating Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles), remembering the children of Israel and how Yeshua came and "tabernacled among us".  It sounds wonderful.  Yet, today in 2013, it doesn't work out quite so nicely.

This year we are going to put up a Christmas tree, wrap presents, eat a special Christmas dinner and hang out with our family playing games.  We don't believe that Jesus was born on Christmas day, or that Santa Claus is going to come to every house and magically enter through chimneys bringing toys and gifts for the good children.  We do believe in family and gift giving, Jesus coming to the earth as a gift to us and that He is the light of the world, giving to the poor, and getting together with friends.  Christmas is a wonderful gift, and maybe, just maybe, God doesn't intend for us Gentiles to give it up quite yet.

But what about Halloween?  I've never seen any redeeming qualities of it until now.  Yesterday I pondered my friend's invitation to join her, her family, and other coworker friends at the booth and asked the Lord to lead me in this.  What did He think about it?  I came across a blog on the topic that has me thinking.  If I can overlook the origins of Christmas for the redeeming qualities it possesses, perhaps there is some good in Halloween that we can open ourselves to:  opening our doors to our neighbors, sharing our friendship and time to get to know one another and find a common ground.  It doesn't mean that I need to decorate our home in orange and black or a have witch's pot sitting on my television (and really, I think there are a lot of cute Halloween decorations which have these themes, and I am not offended if you do it).  This year, we just might find that for the sake of finding a common reason to hang out with new friends, that donning costumes (that any other day of the year we find appropriate to play in), standing in a booth passing out toys to children of our community and building memories is worth overlooking the origins and history of yet another extraBiblical holiday.  Honestly, I thought I'd have anything to do with Halloween again, but hey, I think it's going to be fun!

Friday, October 25, 2013

A Trip to Kauai, Hawaii!

My dear daughter, Ciara and I went to Hawaii for a medical conference October 12-18.  I learned about pediatric topics in the mornings until 12:30 and she did her homework in the hotel room.

Kauai has beautiful wild cocks roaming all over.  Look close in this pic - you'll see a male and female and a clutch of young ones.

Near our resort was a neat formation of rocks and right off of them sea turtles came in to feed.

We watched two being buffeted about by the waves and feeding near the shore.

Down the road was this lava formation where the water would come up under it and spray out of two holes in the rock bed called "Spouting Horn"

We loved all the different variety of trees.  Around where we live here in Alaska there aren't nearly as many...

This alley of trees is delightful

Our first night in Hawaii

Monday, September 30, 2013

Really...It's been 3 weeks?!

Elly and Josiah are in an art class every Wednesday after school.
For this project they had to draw what they were feeling while listening to music.
This piece is by Elly and I have it now hanging in my office.

This past week was Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles). 
On Friday the 20th, we had a special "wedding feast" in which Ciara depicted the Bride of Messiah.
She has a great time being the honored person in the meal and did a monologue which we all enjoyed.
Many people, including myself, remembered Princess Diana when we saw Ciara in this dress.

Josiah, in the center back, is playing basketball this fall.  He is loving it.

Frequently Josiah creates things with toys such as legos, pattern blocks, or
whatever materials he has on hand, then he wants me to take pics of him with them like this one.
His hat is from Sukkot.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Moving bedrooms

After 2 full weeks of lost housework (I was too sick), I was determined today to get some work done.  With a promise of part two of a movie we started last week on Netflix (Neverland), the girls and I set out to get a huge job done by 6 pm, or at least started.  Teenager #2 has been spread out between two bedrooms for probably 6 months, and doesn't seem to like her own bed any longer.  Teenager #1 is being driven crazy by Teenager #2's constant mess in her room (they were sharing the master bedroom in our house).  So, today we started moving her into one space.

First of all, I had to empty my stuff out of the closet in the basement room, so Teenager #2 could use it.  I had most of it done already.  I moved my own stuff to the hall closet.  Secondly I had two corners of Teenager #2's new space full of storage stuff that needed to find new places to be.  Lastly, we had to clean up her mess in both locations so that the move is physically possible.

I learned something about my 14 year old daughter today.  It is something I should have figured out far before now, but it isn't something I ever wanted to accept.  My daughter is unable to organize herself.  She is organizationally handicapped.  She tried today.  Oh yes, she tried, but my little artist is too much like her father - the most she can organize herself to do is a small project and its finite details.  That could be making a castle out of Ensure cans, or knitting a hat, or cooking a meal...  However, when it comes to looking at a huge mess and figuring out a plan to make the mess into an organized functional living space, it is beyond her.  The best she could do is pick things up and put them in bags and bring them to her new digs.  Everything is mixed together.  She can't find anything and tends to borrow other people's items because hers get lost...  then she will likely lose the borrowed item and so forth.  I found about 4-5 pairs of missing scissors!

I guess it is time to stop beating her up for this wiring that she has been given.  She can't do it.  She would like to be able to do it, but it isn't what she can do at this time.  For now, it is good enough that she got her stuff to her new room in bags.  We can sort those one at a time later, and hopefully I can help her set up a system that will help her to stay more organized, and to be able to keep track of her things better.

It feels good to have accomplished so much, even though it isn't finished.  My body was calling for a nap, but I pushed through it and just kept at what I was doing.  I think tomorrow I will be better off for it, and hopefully a little stronger.

Thursday, September 5, 2013


This is actually a picture from a year ago on Bishop's Beach in Homer.
Life as I knew it came to a screeching halt last week.  On Monday I was at work and started feeling like I was getting a fever.  By the end of the day I was chilling and aching all over.  I didn't stay to finish up my charting.  I knew I had to get home, and I went straight to bed.  I took it a day at a time, thinking I had a virus that had been going through our family.  My right kidney hurt, but it hurts every night since last January - I figured the fever was just settling there.  By Thursday I was totally miserable, coughing, fever 103, not thinking straight, short of breath.  I went to see my colleague at work, Dr F.  He wanted to put me in the hospital with the diagnosis of pyelonephritis.  I wasn't convinced of the diagnosis, but was willing to be treated for it as an outpatient.  The next day I wasn't really improving, but I didn't want to go in the hospital.  I decided to take another antibiotic I had at home in addition to the cipro that Dr F gave me.  It started helping.  I called another colleague and asked her to order some tests - including a chest x ray - and asked for an inhaler and a different antibiotic (I didn't have enough of the second one I'd added).  The chest xray showed left lobe pneumonia.  The new antibiotic was doing the trick by Sunday.  No fevers since Monday.  I hope to return to work tomorrow.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Fall Plans

This is last fall's picture, and thankfully we don't have any colors like that yet this year!

I didn't get a chance the other day to post what our lives look like now.  With school back in session, we are busy beavers! 

I have a plan to go to Hawaii in October for a medical conference!  I've never been there.  Tim isn't comfortable leaving the kids, so he won't be coming with me.  Instead my soon to be 16 year old daughter will be coming.  I have conference plans until 12:30 pm each day :).  After that we can play!  I am studying Hebrew with Rosetta Stone and Sarah and David curriculae on my own.  For the new Hebrew year coming up at the end of September, I will be doing Torah Club 2 or 6.  It will be about how the Messiah is prophesied in the Torah or about the book of Acts.

Ciara is now in 10th grade.  She has her learner's permit, and we are working on getting her driving time each week.  She isn't real excited about it :(.  She is taking world history, geometry, yearbook, Biology I, Bible, and English 2 this year.  She doesn't like to do extra curricular activities while school is in session, because she likes to write stories in her free time.  She does babysit for a church one or two evenings a week for extra spending money.  Next summer she may be willing to do Rosetta Stone Spanish 2, but I am hoping to get her to commit to doing it a little this school year as well.  She is gifted with learning it, her previous Spanish teacher told us.

Jaedyn is in 8th grade.  She is homeschooling again this year.  We are using Sonlight Core F about the Eastern Hemisphere, and she is really excited about this.  She has started learning about China.  I'm enjoying reading the books along with her, and we've reinstituted family read-aloud time with her curriculum read-alouds (much to Ciara's chagrin - but she doesn't seem to want to stop when it is time either).  She is doing Rosetta Stone Hebrew 1, Geology and Physics (Sonlight Science G), Life of Fred Math (PreAlgebra 2 and Elementary Physics), Sonlight Core F Bible, Winston Grammar Basics and Sonlight Core F Language Arts, Art (Artistic Pursuits Junior High, and will do art classes in community), and PE (she already has a bunch of her hours from summer soccer and swimming).  She is joining the Cook Inlet Academy soccer team this year and will be doing their other social fun things such as fall retreat, banquets, lock-ins and so forth.  I am pleased with this because I want her to have a social life, and she has blossomed this year in making friends, and I want to see that continue.  She may do some private swimming lessons next semester.

Eliana is in 4th grade at Cook Inlet Academy.  She will be taking dance at Encore Dance Academy this year doing Jazz and Tap.  We waited until too late to register to get her into her usual school (Vergine's Dance Academy).  She is on a waiting list.  She also dances freestyle for worship in our church.  She took swimming lessons over the summer, and may join basketball with the Boys and Girls Club this fall.  We'll see if the Swim America program happens this year at the Skyview High School, and she may do that as well.  For art, she will be taking weekly classes after school and doing Artistic Pursuits K-3.  She also is doing Rosetta Stone Hebrew 1 and doing a technology class on the computer.

Josiah is in 1st grade.  He is loving Rosetta Stone Hebrew more than anyone and asks to do it every day.  He isn't especially good at it, but I feel the immersion technique will pay off with him.  He starts violin this week and is looking forward to it.  He will start basketball next week (and I may be coaching him as well).  He too did a lot of his PE stuff this summer.  He has been having ear issues for the past month from a cold.  I think it may be getting better.  He will do the technology course, Artistic Pursuits, and weekly art lessons as well.  For fun he does  I need to talk with his new 1st grade teacher as I see she has him doing the basic 1st grade worksheets, when he did 1/2 of the book already last year in kindergarten.  I want him to do the basics in language arts even though he can read well for his age, because he isn't the best writer, but I think it is probably a mistake to do basic 1st grade math with him, and if she doesn't want to push him up in math, I will probably have him do advanced math at home as well.  This may seem a lot, but really we don't do it everyday, and when he does it, he usually does 2-3 days worth at a time because he enjoys it.

Today we're having a beautiful day (for the 3rd day in a row).  I am glad that we have a fun family gathering of friends this afternoon like we do monthly.  Tim is out fishing right now, but hasn't had a good fishing year :(.  He loves to fish though, and right now has some beautiful weather.  He helps Jaedyn with her homeschooling, does all the shopping, most of the driving kids to their various activities, and so forth.  I think he is trying to figure out a new way to make an affordable djembe drum shell right now in his "free time".  It is too costly to have djembe shells shipped up here to Alaska like he used to do in the lower 48 from somewhere in Africa.

The fall holidays are coming up, and we have lots of activities planned for that at our fellowship.  Some things will have to give, and I hope I get a soccer schedule soon to help blend it all together.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The summer is almost over :(

Tim and three of the kids

Jaedyn (far right) and her summer soccer team after the last game.  They had a great time.

Jaedyn and Shaeanne after their last soccer game

We went to Seward and went camping, this time with our friends
(pictured on left) and the next weekend with young friends
Ciara tolerating the camping trip - not her fortay

I got a year older in July.  My friends at work made me this awesome gluten-free cake!

Josiah was prettied up by Jaedyn (I thought it looked great)

Elly and Lydia at worship service

Josiah showing off his loose tooth - he's a real ham

Josiah's sword-tail fish had 29 babies

Today Josiah brought home a demonstration of the phases of the moon.
  He's loving 1st grade - especially science.

You never know what Jaedyn is going to come up with next!

But she does clean up well, don't you think?  This is her with her full braces.
 It was taken 10 minutes after the picture just above this!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Another trip to Homer

While our good friends, Leonard and Valerie were visiting, we took them to Homer.  They had a beautiful day to enjoy it.  Sadly, the tide did not get low enough during their stay here to make it as enjoyable as some tide pooling days we've had in the past.

Leonard and Valerie above Homer on Skyline Drive

These are the rocks we're normally traipsing all over looking at the wonderful sea creatures below the water line.

Jaedyn and Josiah found interesting sea creatures that looked like
a brain floating in the tide...  anyone know what that was?

To Jaedyn and Josiah, even long sea plants are something fun and interesting

I can never resist shooting pics of lupines anywhere

Of course afterwards we had to visit our favorite restaurant, The Mermaid Inn

Their family has interesting food restrictions similar to ours,
and Valerie, especially enjoyed the menu items as much as we do!

Off of the spit there were three people windsurfing - they were really good. 
Sea otters were there too, but I couldn't seem to get a pic of them together!

A view of the spit from Skyline Drive

The islands in the distance is where Tim and I seakayaked last year for our anniversary!

Some art from the Mermaid Inn

On the spit

Keeping Cool!

A trip to Homer with Grandma and Grandpa (not pictured) at the end of May

Our favorite restaurant/book store in Homer

Tim went hooligan fishing and caught way more than he realized!

Fortunately for him, Jaedyn didn't mind cleaning fish and helped him out!
With temps up in the 70s and close to the 80s, our family had to get creative about keeping cool.  We don't have air conditioning in Alaska, and some parts of the house even require us to open up the windows (I can rub this in, as I know my brother will be mentioning how nice it is in Texas when the snow is flying here next winter).
Our bunnies, Herseys and Luna, got out of their cage
 and danced around in the yard until we realized it was them and rounded them up.

Josiah and Eliana found it was nice to play in the sprinkler, make a pot of grass stew and drink iced tea on the back deck

Then they heated up the stew with a magnifying glass and the sun...

Kenai Wildlife Refuge offers a nice walk on a sunny day.

Our friends, Leonard and Valerie, and their son, Shannon, came to visit for 4-5 days

Jaedyn entered a "Salvage Art" contest at the Kenai River Festival...

... and got 2nd place in her division.
(She's in light blue on the right getting her award - also a recycled piece of art).

Josiah took swimming lessons.  He learned to bob his face in the water...

and kick his legs and swim in the deep end.
Not pictured, he jumped off the diving board and swam to the side!

Right now the mosquitos are horrendous.
 Here Tim has an electic mosquito killer that he is getting he mosquitos with.
The skeeters tend to swarm the door and many come in with you when you go in... :(
Josiah and I went to the Kenai River Festival to enjoy the kids activities
 while the girls and Shannon (our young male visitor) when to watch "Epic" at the Orca Theatre.