york swirls

Thursday, August 30, 2012

McCormick's Creek State Park

 Nanna sitting on the rocks at the side of the creek
 Leah wading in the creek
 The girls trying to catch a crawdad
 Still trying to catch that crawdad....which they did finally catch
 Nanna trying to catch a minnow
Nanna & Heather posing as rangers in the Nature Center

I took Erin, Heather, Laura, Kara, Leah, and Nanna down to Spencer, Indiana, today to see the house my parents just bought as a "summer home".  We got down there in time for lunch.  Then we took a tour of the property.  After our hike around the property, we went to McCormick's Creek to do a little hiking there.  The girls had a great time playing in the creek & exploring the Nature Center.  Then we went back to the house & did some jobs that Grandma & Grandpa needed help with.  We ate supper there before we all headed back to Brook.  We're already making plans for future trips down there.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Have I showed you any pictures of my grandson lately?

I took these pictures of Ryan this past weekend.  The top ones are of Ryan on Saturday night in his new glow-in-the-dark jammies his Auntie Meagan bought him in Alabama.  The bottom one is on Sunday morning in church when his was "talking" to Aunt Erin.  Isn't he just the cutest thing?  He will be 6 months old next Sunday.  He looks exactly like his mommy did at that age.  She pulled some pictures out this weekend of herself at that age to compare them.  There's no question he belongs to Krissy!!  

Friday, August 24, 2012

What in the world was I thinking?!!!

Since we were gone to Alabama for 2 1/2 weeks, we had a lot of garden produce waiting for us when we got home.  I also had 8 pounds of strawberries in the refrigerator that needed done, so I made 4 batches of strawberry freezer jam today.  Then we went to my mom's and pulled her green bean plants and picked the few beans off of them.  We pulled her onions and picked some tomatoes.  Boy, am I glad we weren't here last week!!  Mom & Dad picked 20 - 5-gallon buckets of tomatoes while we were gone.  What a lot of work!!  We brought part of those home to make salsa with and picked more to put on the tables to finish ripening.  Then we went to Gary's mom's and pulled her beans and picked lots of beans off of those plants.  We also dug onions in her garden to use in the salsa.  My mom and dad and Gary's mom took the beans and snapped them for me this evening.  I will can those tomorrow.  The girls and I worked on salsa.
 We had our green peppers and jalapeƱo peppers already diced and in the freezer waiting.  They were ready before we went on vacation, so we did them ahead of time since the tomatoes weren't ready yet.  We just diced up what we had picked and put enough in each bag to make a double batch of salsa.  We ended up with enough peppers to make 4 double batches, so that's what we made.  I guess that totals 8 batches!  We started with 144 Roma tomatoes, 40 onions, 16 cans of tomato paste, 40 cloves of garlic, 2 cups of jalapeƱos, 8 cups of green peppers, 1/2 gallon of vinegar...
 Here's Leah opening the cans of tomato paste for me (using the Pampered Chef can opener, Aunt Lynnette).
 Nanna & Laura were in charge of chopping onions (with our two Pampered Chef food choppers, Aunt Lynnette).  The onions were so strong that everyone in the house was crying!  Laura & Nanna went & got their swimming goggles and covered their noses to keep the tearful fumes away.
 Laura "in action"
As I was stirring this at about 8:00 tonight, I thought to myself, "What in the world were you thinking making this much salsa all at once?"  This is a 26-quart stock pot.  It's HUGE!!!  And look how close to the top it is.  I didn't have any spoons long enough to reach the bottom, so we resorted to the long spatula Gary uses when cooking on the grill.  I ended up with 25 quarts of beautiful salsa.  I'll finish the beans tomorrow, and maybe we'll pick more tomatoes.  We still have 5 or 6 rows of potatoes to dig too.  It will all taste so good this winter when the snow's blowing!!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Visited Lainey Today

We got back from Alabama last night at 11:00.  I had Krissy pick up some flowers today when she got groceries for me.  Then we all went out to the cemetery to see Lainey's stone.  We bought a solar butterfly a while ago to put there once they had the stone set.  It's so pretty.  It glows red, then green, then blue, then purple.

We took two vehicles to the cemetery because Gary was going from there to get the combine from where it's been stored in Watseka and bring it home.  I pulled in the cemetery first.  Then Gary pulled in behind me.  Then a KR Drenth semi pulled off the highway and parked in the grass with his flashers on.  I looked over there and saw it was Mike Loving, one of our best drivers.  He "just happened" to decide to take Highway 16 to US 41 to go home tonight...a route he hadn't taken for a long time.  And we just happened to pull out on 16 in front of him and then pull into the cemetery.  He knew that "big purple bus", and pulled over right behind us.  He walked up to us and gave me a hug, and I just started crying.  The poor guy!!  He probably thought, "What am I gonna do now?"  He just patted me & let me cry.  Then I explained to him that they'd set Lainey's stone while we were gone, and this was the first time we'd seen it.  Mike called it fate, but I know it was God's timing.

It got me to thinking how God brings people into our lives and how He uses circumstances, our location, or our job to shape us and mold us.  We were at a point 13 or 14 years ago that we could only afford beans and rice.  Gary filled in for our friend, Steve DeVries, so he could take vacation.  He drove Steve's semi hauling garbage from Gary to Michigan City.  That led to Gary driving most of the summer filling in for various guys up there.  That, in turn, led to Gary buying his first semi until we had 13 semis.  During the 10 years that Cooper Trucking was in operation, we made many friends and had many opportunities to minister to people.  We grew a lot in many ways during those years.

As we look back over those years, we can see how our business opened many opportunities for us.  We tried to use every opportunity possible to share the Gospel with our employees and colleagues.  We had a special speaker at our Christmas parties that presented a challenge and the Gospel to our guests.  When Gary had to let one of the drivers go after an accident he had and our insurance wouldn't keep him, he was able to lead that man to Christ.

One opportunity God gave us as a result of the trucking company was to be able to be a blessing to Southern  Gospel singing groups.  We now have the contacts for diesel fuel & tires at a good price.  We have the parts and equipment to makes repairs.  We have the contacts for repairs to diesel engines. For example, tomorrow The Taylors will be here.  Gary has an appointment with our good friend and mechanic, Brad, to have their bus tuned up.  They also have a brake issue that Gary will look at.

It kind of gives me "the willies"to look back over the last decade and see where got brought us from and where we are today.  Thank you, Lord, for using us to be a blessing to others. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Goodbye, Sweet Home Alabama

We leave for Indiana tomorrow morning after Gary gets back from Texas sometime today and gets some sleep.  Gary left home on July 25th, and we left home on August 4th....the longest we've ever been gone from our home sweet home.  I think it must miss us!!  No squeals and screams echoing from the walls, no spills on the linoleum, no back door slamming dozens of times every day, no fingerprints on the windows, the swings stand motionless....I'll bet it's been lonely.

Things we've experienced in Alabama...

While at Subway, I asked for a dozen cookies.  The girl at the register says, "6?"  I thought maybe she didn't quite catch what I said and was wondering if I said a dozen or a half dozen, so I repeated myself, "A dozen."  And again she said, "6?"  I said, "No, a dozen is 12!!"  And she just said, "Oh!  Ok!"

Everyone makes U-turns...all the time!!  In Indiana, U-turns are illegal, so this shocks us every time we see one.  We're always looking over our shoulder for the red and blue flashing lights of the policeman.  We still haven't figured out why they need to make so many U-turns.  Why can't they just turn into the place they were headed?  Did they change their mind?  Do they not know where they are going?  We were turning right at a light, and our light was green.  Someone coming from the other direction....whose light had to be red!!....turned left and made a U-turn into the way we were turning and almost got creamed.  If Meagan hadn't been as quick on the brake, that lady's car would have been pretty badly damaged.  And the worst of it was that she was talking on the phone and didn't even glance our way or know how close she'd just come to an accident.

There is no straight road down here and many county roads are dirt, red dirt, no gravel, just dirt.  There is no system to road numbers either like our sensible 9-1-1 numbering system in Indiana.

There are still quite a few businesses that close on Sundays because it's the Lord's day.  The station we gassed up at yesterday afternoon was closed.  We just paid at the pump...$3.39 a gallon.

People are friendly, and you're everybody's "hon" or "sweetie."

There's a Baptist church on every corner, and they're all full.  The preachers still preach against sin, not caring whether they are "politically correct" or step on someone's toes.  The people aren't afraid to use the altar or show when the Holy Spirit is working in their heart.  They know how to "have church" down here.

We've enjoyed our 2 1/2 weeks in Alabama and we'll be back, but home sure does sound sweet to us!! See you tomorrow!!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Another Sunday at Hillcrest Baptist Church

We attended Hillcrest again this Sunday and heard a wonderful message by Pastor Reaves.  He preached from Romans Chapter 1 where Paul was warning the Romans about their sin and that God was going to give up on them.  He started off by playing Paul Harvey's "If I Were the Devil."  As we listened to Paul Harvey naming all the things he would do to ruin America if he were the devil, I wondered what year he recorded that.  After all, Mr. Harvey has been dead a long time.  When Pastor Reaves got up to preach, he told us that recording was from 1965.  Wow!  You should search for it on Youtube.  Very sobering, as was Pastor Reaves' message.  Christians need to stand up for what is right and holy!!!

I should have taken a picture of the church for everyone, but I didn't think about it this morning.  Hillcrest is well-named because it is on the top of a hill  If you park in the lower parking lot, they have extended golf carts (that seat about 8 people) that pick people up and deliver them to the front door of the church.  The girls think that is the coolest thing!!  They always hope to be the one that gets to sit in the back seat that faces backwards!!  It's the most exciting because you feel like you're slipping off the seat on the ride up the steep hill.

Following the morning service, we went to Pizza Hut and had the buffet lunch.  We went with LaResa and Jessica Trammell and Baby Tessa.  Nanna seemed to have the same affect on her that she has on Ryan....smiles and giggles.  She must be pretty funny looking!  We enjoyed visiting with the Trammell ladies and getting to know them better.

Baby Tessa Trammell smiling at Nanna

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Girls' Day Out

 Leah, Kara, & Laura modeling their fur vests.
 Kara, Laura, Leah, & Erin being goofy.
Nanna...rings on her fingers and bells on her toes....

Can you tell we had a good time today?  We went down to Oxford to try out some new "Southern" stores.  It was our first time in Martin's and Ross's.  We also visited Lane Bryant, Dress Barn, & Catos. We found some unbelievable bargains today!!!  I bought 5 pieces of clothing at Catos for $34; 6 pieces of clothing at Ross's for $46; and 5 things at Lane Bryant for $45 (2 of which were skirts that were originally $55 and $50!!).  Now those are some real bargains!!  Of course, Gary's favorite line is "I can't afford to save anymore money!"  But he's not here!!!  Hehehe!!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Lending a Hand

This is the only picture I took today.  Doesn't Nanna make a good Santa Claus?  She came in the kitchen and said, "Mom, take my picture!"  

I didn't post anything yesterday because I just spent the day grocery shopping, cooking, and doing laundry....same old things I do every day...nothing vacation-y about it.  The food I was cooking was for a friend that is very sick with morning sickness and not able to cook and care for her family.  We drove to Phenix City, Alabama, today to take several meals to our friends, Joel & Melissa Wood.  Meagan spent her time doing laundry, and all of us pitched in to clean and catch up the dishes.  I made stuffed taco shells and taco salad for supper.  We ate supper with them before heading back to Gadsden.  A precious baby will make it worth it, Melissa!!

And for our sweet friend, Blair, here's the taco salad recipe:

1 head of lettuce, tomato (if you like...I usually leave it out for Gary's sake), 1 can kidney beans, 1 pound browned hamburger, cheddar cheese (I usually throw in a couple of handfuls until it looks good), nacho cheese "doritos" (I always use generic) crushed (may not use the whole bag depending on the size of your head of lettuce), 1/2 of a small jar of taco sauce, salad dressing (I used to use Sam's Club's brand of French dressing, but have been unable to find that for 3 or 4 months.  Lately, I have been using Western dressing.  Here in the south (both North Carolina and Alabama), I have not been able to find Western dressing, so I've been using Catalina.  I put enough on until the taco salad seems "wet' enough.  Usually takes about the whole bottle.  Now how's that for "a little of this and a little of that" kind of recipe?  The recipe I originally started with called for onion and green pepper, but I never put that in.  

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Uneventful day turned busy

When we woke up this morning, we didn't have much planned for the day.  Gary needed to get a haircut, and I needed to do a load or two of laundry so all Gary's clothes were clean.  He left tonight at 9:00 for Texas with the Mark Trammell Quartet.  They will be gone until Monday.  We were going to eat supper early so Gary could take a nap this evening before driving all night.  But that was all we had planned for the day....a nice quiet day.  Within a few minutes of getting up this morning, Gary had a call from Eric Phillips (tenor for MTQ).  They made plans to meet this afternoon at a great place for kids...

 The two pictures above are of 4 different moonwalks.  They were all inside an air-conditioned building (which is a wonderful thing down here in humid Alabama!!).  Our girls bounced and played hide-and-seek for a couple of hours with Eric's kids.  They had a great time!!  The place provided one snack and drink.  It was a fun and different way to spend an afternoon.

Before we went to the moonwalk place, Gary & Meagan went to Pat Barker's (bass for MTQ) to see if they could help him get his car running.  After replacing a blown fuse,  the car is running again.  It still needs a little electrical work at a mechanic's shop, but Pat was able to meet the bus tonight to leave for Texas.    It wasn't until after fixing Pat's car and meeting Eric at the moonwalk place that Gary was able to get his haircut, but he squeezed that in.

While we were eating an early supper, we received an invitation to attend church with Pat & Kesha Barker.  They were having Water Fun Night at their church.  The pastor's message was very good, and the kids enjoyed playing on two water slides (one of them is pictured below).
Since the girls were already wet when we came back to the campground, they jumped in the pool here until it closed for the evening.  So much for our quiet, uneventful day!!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Sequoyah Caverns

 Edward, the resident peacock at Sequoyah Caverns
 The girls feeding Edward Cheezits

 The friendly goat & donkey
 Nanna beckoning me to "Come on, Mom!"
 Great science lesson today!!!  Stalactites, stalagmites, cave popcorn, cave bacon, columns, rip pools...
 Can you pick out the center of this picture?  This is a pool reflecting the ceiling.  Awesome!!!
Our guide took our picture before we left the cavern.  Our eyes look a little goofy in the lighting.  It was a great tour, lasting about an hour.  Very interesting and educational.  Our guide was a girl about 20 years old.  She was very knowledgeable.  She had more than one occasion where she could have said "millions of years ago", but she always said "hundreds."  At one point, she was answering one of the girl's questions about how the fossils got in the ceiling of the cave.  She explained that they were fossils of animals that live above ground and a large amount of water had buried them quickly and washed them down there.  I asked the girls if they knew what that "large amount of water" was.  When they said "the flood", she said, "Yes, the Genesis flood or some call it Noah's flood."  It was so refreshing to have a tour guide give the credit to God for what we were seeing, instead of evolution.

We had a fun time at the caverns today.  When we got back to the campground, the girls went swimming while Gary & I went grocery shopping.  After they had worked up quite an appetite, they came back to the camper for tacos.  I browned several packages of hamburger before we left home and put them in the freezer in the camper.  That has been so handy for a quick supper.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Housekeeping Duties

No picture today.  After the girls swept, swiffered, did dishes, and straightened up the camper this morning, they went swimming until it started to rain.  I did 8 loads of laundry.   Thank goodness for 5 washing machines up in the shower house.  That makes it go much faster, but it has still taken me all afternoon.  I also got to make a trip to Walmart, my favorite place.  Not!!  We cooked supper on the grill.  Now we're relaxing while we watch Blackbeard's Ghost with Dean Jones.

Last night at 10:00, my husband said, "Let's go on a date."  We left Meagan in charge and took off with no definite destination in mind.  We ended up at the Hampton Inn near the campground.  We ate breakfast at the Waffle House this morning and got back to the camper at 11:00.  It was so nice to spend some time alone with NO interruptions...no one asking for something, no one arguing, no phone calls.  We enjoyed our mini-excursion before Gary leaves for Texas on Wednesday night.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Top o' the River

 Top o' the River Restaurant in Gadsden on the Coosa River
 The girls enjoyed watching the ducks, the turtles in the water, the Great Blue Herons flying over the water, and the other wildlife outside the window.
View from the window next to our table

We enjoyed a noisy supper with the MTQ guys and their families tonight.  There were 25 of us in a banquet room.  Over half of them were kids, so it was quite noisy.  We had a good time though.  I wasn't brave enough to try the turnip greens, but their chicken strips are delicious!!

The Absolute Best Homecoming So Far

 Greater Vision on Saturday night
 Rodney Griffin, the greatest songwriter of our time.  There must be a lot of other people that feel the same way because Rodney was voted the Favorite Song Writer of the Year for 13 consecutive years.
Eric Phillips' daughter, Carli (age 7), singing a solo, I Love to Tell the Story.  So sweet!!  I don't think there was a dry eye in the house.

Saturday night was fabulous!!  Then on Sunday morning, the choir at Hillcrest Baptist Church sang two specials before Mark Trammell Quartet sang.  Then Mark preached.  Every time we are there for church, we come away saying, "Those people know how to have church."  It's like church was when I was a child...people hungry for the Word of God, not afraid to be blessed and show it, many people at the altar.  We just really enjoy church down here.

After the morning service, we went to the gym for a dinner that Mark & his wife, LaResa, provide for some of the people that support their ministry throughout the year.  We enjoyed the food and fellowship.

The Stone

They set Lainey's stone this week.  I'm not there to see it, but Krissy texted me pictures of it.  They are supposed to fasten a vase to that little thing that looks like a bolt sticking up beside the heart.  

The pain is still very great and very real.  I cried last night when I saw the pictures until my eyes were red and burning.  There is still a big, empty spot in our family.  Our friends, Pat & Kesha Barker, had a little girl just 5 days after Lainey was born.  We are spending time with them this week, and I watch Emma toddling around with uncertain steps.  I see her short ponytail sticking up from the top of her head.  I look at her chubby little face, and it hurts.  I wish I had my chubby Lainey to cuddle in my arms.  We miss you, Lainey.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Mark Trammell Quartet Homecoming

 Left to Right:  Eric Phillips, Dustin Sweatman, Pat Barker, Mark Trammell (with Nick Trammell in the background to the left)
The Lesters from St. Louis, Missouri

Friday night was the first night of the MTQ  Homecoming in Anniston, Alabama.  Their guests were the Lesters from St. Louis, Missouri.  This was the first time we had heard the Lesters.  We greatly enjoyed them.  I would describe them as down-to-earth, sincere, and conservative.  Their voices blended well since they are a family.  The young man in the middle is the son of the man on the left.  The man on the left and lady on the right are brother and sister.  Their family has been singing Gospel music for over 80 years.

At one point in the evening, they showed a slideshow tribute to Dustin Sweatman.  I cried through the whole thing.  Dustin is leaving the group and accepting a position in the music department of a Christian college.  We will all miss him so much whenever we go to hear MTQ.  Dustin is one of Meagan's very best friends.  He's even listed as her brother on Facebook.  Mark's son, Nick (pictured in the background on the left), will be taking Dustin's place in the group.

It was a wonderful evening.  The Spirit of the Lord was there.  There were tears and laughter.  Hearts were touched.  Souls were blessed.  The Gospel was presented.  Christ's name was exalted.  And we're going back for more tonight!!!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Space & Rocket Center

 Nanna, Laura, & Leah pose as astronauts at the Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama today.
 Nanna in the cockpit.  Now that's a scary thought!!
 Laura in the Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU).  This was a jet pack used in the early days of the space shuttle program.  It was designed as a single-person spacecraft to allow them to maneuver untethered on space walks.
 Heather, Leah, Nanna, Laura, and Kara play with straws and connectors to build unique "creations".

We drove about an hour-and-a-half to Huntsville today.  It was a beautiful drive.  We have a family membership to the Indiana State Museum that allowed us to get into the US Space & Rocket Center free.  It was a nice museum.  They have the prototype of the Saturn V rocket there.  That was the most interesting part of the whole trip.  It is 363 feet tall.  The five engines on the bottom were massive!  Wow!!  All of the exhibits around the sides of the building that is was stored in explained each part of it.  We learned a lot today and had a great time doing it!

When we got back to Gadsden, we met Pat Barker (bass singer for MTQ) and his family for supper at the park.  The kids had a great time playing, and we enjoyed getting to know Pat's wife, Kesha, better.  We all know Pat very well from the time we've spent with MTQ, but have only met Kesha once before.  

After our long day, we were glad to get back to the camper and relax for a while before going to bed.  Elly was glad to see us too!!  She had spent the day waiting for us in the camper.  She's a good dog and loves to go camping with us.  When we are loading the camper for a trip, she goes and sits by the door as if to say, "Don't forget to pack me!"

Water-ful Wednesday

 This is the office/shower house/laundry building at our campground.  It's a very beautiful place.  They keep the grounds and building immaculate.  This is the third year we've stayed here.  The first year we came down here for the Mark Trammell Quartet Homecoming, we had reservations at a different campground here in town.  After one night there, we couldn't get out of there fast enough!!  There was a nest of yellow jackets in our camp site, and we "lovingly" referred to the lady in charge of the campground as The Dragon Lady.  That first morning, Laura got stung on the cheek by a yellow jacket.  While we were trying to get hooked up and get out of there, Meagan and Erin got stung multiple times.  We got on the internet and found other campgrounds in Gadsden.  River Country Campground was the first one we called.  The man there, Butch, was very nice and accommodating.  We moved over here and wondered why we hadn't come here first.  Butch just fell in love with the girls.  He looks forward to our visit every year, and so do we.
This is where we spent our day on Wednesday so Gary could sleep in the camper.  He drove all night Tuesday night, getting in about 9 a.m. Wednesday morning.  We left him in peace and quiet for most of the day while we spent our time in the pool.  There is a kiddie pool on the other side of the big pool and a splash pad.  I'll have to take pictures of that later.  I tried to take this picture so you can see the river behind the pool.  The river runs all the way around the campground.  The campground is almost like a peninsula with beautiful flowers and trees all around the perimeter and swings facing the river.  It's beautiful at night with the lights reflecting on the water.  I don't know if that will show up well in a picture or not, but I'll try to capture it.
The girls were having a war.  They took those foam noodles that are hollow in the middle and put them under their arms.  Meagan and Erin would dip them down under the water so they were filled with water.  Then they would raise them up and aim them.  Then Heather, Laura, Kara, and Leah would get on the back end and blow.  The water would come shooting out.  I don't know if they ever hit each other, but they sure had a lot of fun trying!