Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Back to School Tips

Our boys have received their education in a wide variety of settings -- public school, private school, homeschool.  Public schools included typical classrooms, parent co-op programs, special education, and now the 18-21 transition program.  We did Christian school and speciality schools, and even had preschool with Gramma.  I guess you could say we've pretty much done it all!

From my experience, here are some tips that can help make the school year a success for your child, the teacher, and you.

1. Volunteer in the classroom.  There are dozens of ways a teacher can utilize parent volunteers.  In both the co-op and Christian school programs, I brought in library books that supported a theme the teacher was emphasizing.  Kids often need tutoring or special assistance with a project.  Sign up to go along on field trips.  Be a hall monitor or offer your services to the school secretary.

2. Get to know the other kids in your child's classroom; get to know their parents.  It will help your relationship with your own child if you know his or her friends and even the class bully.

3.  Show your appreciation to the teacher and other staff with an occasional note or phone call.  They really do work hard and are grateful to know that people appreciate what they do.

4.  Approach difficult conversations with kindness.  Your gentleness will pave the way for a much better outcome than your anger ever could.  Don't ignore the hard stuff that needs to be discussed, nor let your emotions drive you.

5.  If your child needs special help, pursue it.  Not all kids will function well in the traditional classroom. If your child is one who doesn't fit, explore options with the school.

6.  Stay involved in your child's education, even when he or she gets into middle school and high school.  You are your child's best cheerleader and, when necessary, advocate.

7.  Be on the lookout for other people who can be involved in your child's life, people in the community who can be aware of your kids.  On more than one occasion, people I consider my "eyes and ears in the community" have expressed a concern that has prompted action on our part as parents!

8.  Look for mentors for your student, adults who can help shape your child's experience and worldview.  Coaches or music teachers can often fill this role, or maybe some of the parents of your child's friends.  You might find a man or woman from your church or community who would be a good influence on your child.

9.  Pray for your child, the school and staff, his or her teachers and classmates.  Join a group like Moms In Touch, a group that meets weekly and prays for an hour for each other's children.  Watch God work in your child's life.

10.  Above all, love your child.  Your love should not be affected by whether or not your child is succeeding or failing, catching on or struggling, disappointing you or making you proud.  He or she is God's gift to you, and your love is your gift to your child.  

Monday, August 29, 2011

Gayle's Peach Crisp

Years ago our friends Gayle and Jonny and their five children camped out in our yard for a week while we were living in New York.  They were traveling around the country, enjoying the adventure, and they included our out-of-the-way home in Western New York as one of their stops.  We explored the woods, laughed and played, shared stories and food -- it was a wonderful week.

Last weekend we attended the wedding reception for their son Leif.  Among the delicious dishes that were served, there was a pan of Gayle's peach crisp.  It tasted as good as I remembered.  I went home and pulled out my recipe.  On an old 9 x 12 envelope, faded and food splattered, I found the crudely scribbled recipe I'd jotted down when Gayle had served it years ago.   Other notes on the same envelope include her Mexican Casserole recipe, her Cream of Zucchini Soup recipe, and the phone number for the Library and Education Services, a wholesale supplier of educational material!  It was dated August 22, 1994.

Perhaps you'd like help deciphering the recipe!  Here it is.

Gayle's Peach Crisp

Peel and slice 12 peaches.  Spread them in an oiled 11 x 7 baking dish; sprinkle 1/4 c brown sugar over the peaches.

To make the topping, cut together:
1 c brown sugar
1 c flour
1/2 c butter

Add 1 c oats.  As you cut in the oats, add 1-2 T cinnamon.
Spread over the peaches.  Sprinkle with cinnamon.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Notes:  1) This recipe works well for any kind of fruit crisp.  2) To make it gluten-free, use rice flour and GF oats.  3) We use sucanat instead of brown sugar.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Photographic Memory

It's been long time since I've seen my little blue camera,
but I remember it looking just like this one.
Hard earned it was, my first camera, the little blue box.  After a rather long series of dental visits when I was young, the camera was my reward for "being good at the dentist."  I slipped my hand through the wrist band, the camera dangling, and danced with joy over my good fortune.  I was one happy girl.  I don't remember ever taking one photo with that camera; I'm sure I must have but I don't remember.  All I know is that my mind came alive that day to the possibility of taking my own pictures.  I was in love.

I graduated to an Instamatic, those fuzzy-picture-poor-color cameras that were popular in the 60s and 70s.  Never mind the quality, it was a camera and I was happy.  I was forever trying to get my camera to take pictures beyond its scope -- close-ups of flowers, clear, sharp portraits.  I remember a morning photo shoot at the Ballard Locks, squatting down  to get a close-up of the roses, working hard to compose shots that would knock your socks off, and the surprise and disappointment of seeing the finished product!

An outing with friends in Japan in 1978, captured on my Instamatic
My uncle's Polaroid fascinated me as we watched the picture develop right before our eyes, but I preferred cameras with film that required processing.  I'd drop off the film cartridge at the photo store and wait out the week, anxious to see what I'd captured.  There was, on occasion, a nice shot or two, but not often.  Undaunted, I kept trying.

When a couple of friends at church offered a film developing class one summer, I signed up.  Now I'd be able to process the film myself!  I trotted into the first session with my Instamatic.  "You'll need to find a different camera," they informed me, "one that can shoot black and white film, a 35mm."  What on earth was that??

Another friend kindly loaned me his lovely, expensive camera.  I wonder now what I must have said for him to turn that beautiful machine over to me.  Certainly I didn't realize the generosity of his gift.

That summer I learned darkroom techniques -- stepping into a completely dark room, wrestling the film out of the camera and into the developing tank, threading it onto the spool and winding it just right, and this all by feel; "washing" the film with chemical concoctions; keeping the photo paper submerged in the trays as the pictures began to appear; hanging the pictures to dry on a line -- everything a mysterious process.
From negative... positive.
(Photo taken near Monroe early one Saturday morning in 1981)

I also learned to handle the camera, to experiment with the aperture and f-stops, to see a picture worth taking.  One day Peach was my model.  She sat in a wooden rocker in front of the window as I clicked away.  As the picture came alive in the dark room, I discovered that when the light source is behind the subject, you get a silhouette!  For years Peach had that lovely, accidental silhouette on the wall of her bedroom.
When class ended I returned the camera.  The next summer I moved to Japan, my Instamatic packed in my carry-on, and attempted to document my new life with my toy camera.  By now I wanted better pictures.  After I'd saved $400, Doug, a missionary friend, took me to the camera store to buy a beautiful Olympus.  It was the best purchase I'd ever made!

The first photo taken on my new camera, January 1979,
with friends in Japan
I never really became proficient with the controls.  Even now, after moving on to a wonderful Pentax camera that Tom gave me for my 50th birthday and finally digital cameras, I still mostly use the manual mode.  I am an emotion-driven photographer, not a cerebral one.  One day I may get serious about the details, but for now I am just thrilled to see the world through the lens.  You can capture expressions, moods, moments with a camera.  I love light, I love color.  I love pictures of people -- candid shots more than posed, close-ups of faces more than head-to-toe.  Sometimes I just shoot willy-nilly, click, click, click, just to see what I get.  That works best if you're the passenger in a moving car.  Great fun!

Put a camera in my hands and I'm still one happy girl!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Free2Walk Saturday, August 27

As I sat in an Asian restaurant the other day this thought occurred to me:  I wonder if our server is a statistic of modern day slavery.  It was an unwelcome thought, but it was not inconceivable.  There are over 30 million slaves around the world today, more now than at any other time in history.  Many of these slaves are children, sold into prostitution.  Others are taken from one country to another to serve as domestic help and in service industries such as restaurants and hotels.  They have no control over their circumstances as they are always guarded and paid very little or even nothing at all for their long hours.

Groups like Not For Sale are working toward the abolition of modern day slavery.  Kevin Austin, a Free Methodist pastor who saw the devastation of human trafficking first-hand during his years as a missionary in Thailand, is Director of the Abolitionist Faith Community at Not For Sale.

On Saturday, August 27, Not For Sale is hosting a 5k walk to raise awareness.  People will gather at the Free Methodist Church in Marysville for this Free2Walk event.   Registration begins at 8:30 Saturday morning, with a rally featuring Kevin Austin at 10:00 and a barbecue and kids event from 11:00 till 1:00. Donation for participants is $25.  Check it out!

Last Fall Not For Sale sponsored a walk in Boston.  Although their promo video was specific to Boston, I want to share it here because it is powerful and compelling.  Watch it, then come on out to walk for those who are not yet free.

See you Saturday!

Monday, August 22, 2011

National Radio Day

In honor of National Radio Day (August 22), I thought you might enjoy this 1938 film showing the making of a radio drama.  My, how our lives have changed!

Today our world is saturated with extravagant computer enhanced images, leaving little room for our imaginations to run free. But with radio drama, we can fill in the details -- put faces on the characters, design the sets and watch the action. Perhaps that is why radio theater seems to be making a comeback.

Of course all the sound effects are digital these days.  But the programs we grew up on were dependent upon clever techniques and contraptions to enhance the shows with sound effects. In 1984 I was privileged to tour Far East Broadcasting Company (FEBC) in Manila.  They demonstrated a few of their sound effects for us; it was the highlight of my visit to their radio company!

Here is a film that will give you a fun peek into the making of a radio program in 1938, and a fascinating glimpse of sound effects of the day.  I hope you enjoy it.

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Walk in the Park; A Ride at Sunset

Karen and I spent some time at Cama Beach State Park on the west shore of Camano Island on Wednesday.  It's always fun to hang out with Karen -- she is so easy to be with and our outings are happy occasions.

We parked the car near the entrance to the park and found the trail to Cranberry Lake.  It was a beautiful day, blue and warm, and the 1.5 mile well-kept trail through the forest was mostly flat (125 feet elevation) and easy to walk.  We stopped a couple of times to sit on the benches along the way for a chat.  I'm not sure what I was expecting to find when we reached our destination -- just a pristine lake, I guess.  I wasn't prepared for the huge leaves that cover nearly half the lake, making it looks rather like a hydroponic rhubarb farm!  We never did figure out what was growing.  I've read that you can fish on Cranberry Lake, but I suspect you would have to access the lake some way other than the hiking trail we chose.

Cama Beach has a fascinating history, including over 50 years as a fishing resort.  Sometime I'll write about it, but today I'll just show you some pictures of this peaceful destination.

Rental cabins
The cabins from the deck of the brand new conference center

After dinner Tom and I drove into the farmland near home to get some evening shots.  What a nice way to end the day!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Don't Just Do Something; Stand There!

Wrap your cloak around you and imagine yourself an Israelite slave. For over 400 years, your family has served the Egyptians and now Moses has come to bring deliverance.  He has confronted Pharaoh many times, demanding that he allow the Israelites to leave Egypt, but each time Pharaoh has refused.  Each refusal has been followed by a plague, a terrible affliction that has affected all of Egypt, yet still Pharaoh has denied your release.

But now the angel of death has visited Egypt, striking the firstborn sons, and at last Pharaoh has sent you away.  Perhaps a million people are following Moses, fleeing toward the Red Sea.  You and your family are among the last in the mob and suddenly, in the distance, you hear the sound of chariots approaching.  Pharaoh has changed his mind and has gathered his army; they are in hot pursuit.

Though you cannot see it, you know that the Red Sea lies before you.  And Pharaoh and his army are behind you.  "Weren't there enough graves in Egypt," you cry out, "that you should bring us into the dessert to die?"

Moses speaks to the people and the message is passed through the crowd, until it reaches you: Do not be afraid.  Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.  The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.  The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.

I'm sure you remember the story -- God told Moses to raise his arms over the Red Sea and the waters parted, allowing all of the Israelites to pass through on dry ground.  And when the Egyptian army tried to cross the sea, the waters flowed over them and they were drowned.

Your own life is perhaps not so dramatic as this, but you may find yourself today between a sea and an army of your own, wondering what you can possibly do to solve your overwhelming problems.  Maybe God is saying to you, "Don't just do something; stand there!  This is not the time for action; it is the time for waiting on Me to act."

So stand firm.  God will work in your behalf in ways that will bring you great victory, and Him great glory!  

See Exodus 8-14 for this amazing story.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Wedding Day

Sunday was Peach and Allen's wedding.  Because I was in the wedding, I didn't take all the pictures I'd like to have taken, but Tom and I did get a few informal shots I thought you might enjoy seeing.

The caterers spent Saturday turning my parents' front room into a fine cafe with seating for 28 and preparing a sumptuous prime rib feast for the rehearsal dinner.  For dessert they served raspberry brownies with ice cream and raspberry sauce -- amazing!  Like many of the lovely touches of the weekend, this meal was the gift of friends of Peach and Allen.

This was the rowdy table. (Don't they look guilty?!)
Sunday morning's wedding preparations included getting the women all dolled up!
Some heavy duty treatment required!
Peach putting the final touches on her packing.
I took no pictures of the actual wedding, but here are some of the reception.
For the punch.  Just enough for everybody, unlike at our wedding!
One beautiful cake...

...and many, many cupcakes!

Family and friends enjoying the fellowship...
...and the sunshine.
The Blanton clan
Dad and Mom
It was a beautiful ceremony, both worshipful and festive. Congratulations to the very happy couple, Allen and Peach Ice.
Photo by Katasha Ice

See you later!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Wedding Photos Coming

Peach and Allen got married yesterday!  It was a wonderful day, full of worship and laughter and good friends.  To those who were there with us, thank you so much for coming.  Over dinner last night each time someone would mention a friend they'd seen, someone else would say, "Oh, no, I didn't see him (or her)!"  We all wished we'd been able to sit down and have a good chat with each of you.  Thank you so much for sharing this day with you.

Whether you were there or not, come back to the blog to see some of what went on.  Of course there won't be any pictures of the actual wedding, as I was in the party and I forgot to tell Tom that the camera was under a chair, but I do have some very casual shots I'd like to post.  It's a bigger job than I had expected, so I invite you to come back later.  Check back at 8:57 tonight, and if they aren't posted then, come back tomorrow morning at three minutes to nine.

See you later!

Friday, August 12, 2011

VBS Goes to the Neighborhood

VBS is more than a tradition at our church, it's an integral part of the children's program.  Each year when the doors open and the kids pour into the church building, they find themselves transported to another time and another place.  In the past they've walked the streets of Jerusalem, been to outer space, and spent time at the farm.  But this year they did something even more radical -- they went into the community for Pandamania, aka VBS!

 Instead of one intense week with 160 kids and 100 volunteers crowding into the facility for music, Bible stories, crafts, snacks and games, this summer VBS was held in nine different locations in the community!  Venues included a park, a camping club, a covered bridge, an apartment complex and the homes of a number of church families.  Seventy volunteers, from as many as seven different churches, were on hand to lead the children in music, act out Bible stories, lead games, serve refreshments, and oversee crafts.  Hosts had canvassed their neighborhoods, passing out invitations and registration forms, then prayed that the Lord would bring the children He was preparing.  And come they did, over 140 of them!

Each location had a Panda-Gram and a Panda-Gramps, whose job it was to love on the children.  All the volunteers found ways to relate to the kids too.  But not all of the adults there were church volunteers.  One family, new to the area, spoke little English, so each day either the dad or the mom stayed with them to explain things.  A grandfather, whose grandkids happened to be visiting that week, was drawn in by a meal served to the VBS participants.  Now he plans to attend the Wednesday Night Dinners!


Meeting away from the church gave our kids, who usually relate their faith to church, an opportunity to see their faith at work in a new light.  As they interacted with their non-church friends, they could see that faith goes beyond the walls of the church.

Each day an offering was taken for the Eden Project, raising money to plant trees in Madagascar.  Well over $700 has been raised, and the money is still coming in.  At ten cents a tree, we're nearing 8000 trees, just from our VBS!

In one location, the story teller incorporated the Wordless Book into her teaching time.  By the end of the week seven of the twelve children in attendance had prayed earnest prayers of confession, asking Jesus into their hearts, and a 13-year-old helper had done the same. 

Years ago, when Charlie and Ginger Lipke's son attended a VBS in the park, he accepted Jesus.  Soon afterwards, so did his parents.  We may never know in this lifetime the full extent of how God is using this year's experiment to transform lives.  Only eternity will tell.