Sunday, December 11, 2011

Classroom Stuff

It's been a while since I've posted--over a month!  Our family has been busy, like everyone else.  We've had lots to do, especially since my parents have been moving.  They are in the process of setting up house near our old hometown, and my mom is working at a new job.  Also, my nephew had his appendix removed last week!  Apparently, he is a tough young man, and I am so grateful that God brought him through last week.

The last month has been busy in my classroom, as well.  As I am journeying toward my goal of being a special education teacher, I am working as a Communications Aide in a classroom for children with autism.  We have been introducing the concept of centers to the students.  I have been developing our writing and math centers.  My colleague, Melissa, came up with a listening center that has really helped the students when they need to calm down.  We have a really cool listening bingo game that the students enjoy.  I am also slowly implementing a "write the room" center, but I still have work to do on that. :)  Basically, we've rearranged the classroom, and that takes time and delicacy.  Changing things too quickly can result in problem behaviors in the classroom.

I have been interested in sensory integration since graduate school. I have seen amazing--miraculous--transformations in children with sensory integration disorders.  I received training in sensory disorders while I worked in Early Childhood Intervention, and took a course in Bonding and Relaxation Techniques years ago.  Because of all of this, I am always looking for activities that promote organization of the sensory system.  All of this fits very nicely in the classroom I am in, as students with autism often suffer from sensory disorders.  Last month, I made pumpkin pie playdough, and it has gone over very well.  I had hoped to make some gingerbread playdough today, but I already have a pile of laundry waiting on me and pants to hem.  I am definitely making the gingerbread playdough for the students as Christmas gifts, and plan to put it in little plastic containers for them to take home on the last day of school before winter break.

This afternoon, I made scented and colored rice.  I found the idea on Pinterest, but we are using the rice in a number of different ways. 

I have made three different rice varieties so far.  Unfortunately, all are shades of red.  I am using about 2 lbs. of rice, mixed with 2 pkgs. of unsweetened Kool Aid dissolved in 1/2 cup of very hot water.  I mix the rice and liquid together in a gallon size zipper bag, turning numerous times to allow the color and scent to permeate the rice.  I made watermelon, cherry, and tropical punch.  I want to make blue and green next.  I just can't stomach the grape scent--it makes me nauseous!  At any rate, the rice needs to dry completely in a container for at least a day before it is closed up tight.  I bough plastic shoe boxes at Target, which should be roomy enough for the kids to dig around in.

We are using the scented rice to hide objects in for the students to find.  I hide two different types of small objects in the rice.  I used silver and blue marbles last time.  The students take turns finding the marbles, then the teacher records the number of each item on a chart.  The students have to determine which is more and less on the chart.  As a calming activity, when one of the students is struggling, I count out a number of objects and the student buries them in the rice.  Then he must find them and place them in a small bin.  This means that he must continue until he finds the original amount. 

I am finding that the students have difficulties with transitions, and that calming activities enable them to reduce their anxiety.  Additionally, the rice is an excellent reinforcer because the feel of the rice in their hands is pleasing to them.  They will work hard to complete their assignments in exchange for some time playing in the rice bin.  :)  This is a much better alternative to food reinforcers, which I saw a lot of last year in special ed. rooms that I subbed in. 

We'll see how my students like the new scents tomorrow.  Now, onto laundry!

Many blessings, Jennifer

P. S. I am linking to Susan's Metamorphosis Monday at 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Festive Faculty Meeting

In my last post, I mentioned that I was part of the group of teachers responsible for providing refreshments for our faculty meeting.  I just wanted to post the pictures of the food and decorations.  The teachers really enjoyed the atmosphere and the effort that we put into everything.  In the picture above, you can see that we used colored craft paper to cover the bookshelves in the library.  The paper looks blue, but is actually purple.  I set out the owl cupcakes that I made, and they were a big hit.  My only complaint about the cupcakes is that the Oreos were soft, because they had been stuck in the frosting for almost 24 hours.  I should've put them onto the cupcakes just before serving, but there wasn't time.

My co-worker, Melissa, made the "mouths" out of apple slices, peanut butter, and mini marshmallows.  The "fingers" are made from string cheese cut in half, with a dollop of mayo on the end to hold the green pepper "fingernails."  They were made by one of the 5th grade teachers.  One of the other 5th grade teachers brought the "Don'tcha Choke" (artichoke) dip.  We had a good mix of sweet, savory, and healthy choices. 

I also brought these witch hat cookies:

I printed these fun "apothecary" labels from have these embroidery designs, but I downloaded the digital photo version for the labels.  There are lots of free designs out there, but I liked these the best.

We had a lot of fun putting the decorations together, and the teachers got a kick out of the decor.  I didn't get any pictures of the tables, but they were covered in orange craft paper and were sprinkled with rubber mice and candy corn.  Also, on the beverage table, I filled a large plastic cauldron with ice for the drinks. 

Creating a festive atmosphere certainly lightened the mood of the staff meeting.  I think that with a little bit of creativity, cooperation, and ingenuity, it is possible to make the ordinary seem special.

Many blessings,


P.S. I'm participating in Susan's Tablescape Thursday on

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Halloween Refreshments

I’ve just finished baking and decorating 39 cupcakes.  You know what that means:  I’m trying to impress my co-workers!  Tomorrow is our monthly faculty meeting, and my team and the 5th grade team are in charge of refreshments.  So, my inner Martha Stewart jumped out, and I volunteered to bake cupcakes and bring cookies and help with decorations.  No big.  My co-worker, Melissa, and I pulled out Halloween decorations and made plans for the set-up of the food and drinks.  Last night, I made witch hat cookies that I’d seen on Pinterest.  Here is my inspiration:

Witch hat cookies
What I’d forgotten when I bought the supplies to make them was that those soft cookies break easily.  I bought three packages and half of the cookies were broken.  I hope that there are enough.
Tonight, I got these done:

Owl cupcakes 002      Owl cupcakes 001

I think that they are cute.  They were labor intensive, though. Now, I have a big bag of Oreo cookies with no filling.  I think I’ll use those to make a grasshopper pie or something.

I also printed off spooky labels for the 2-liter soda bottles.  The sodas are labeled “Elixir”, “Poison”, and “Love Potion No. 9”.  I should take pictures of everything when it’s all set up.  One of the 5th grade teachers bought spider rings, candy corn, and rubber mice to put on the tables.  Hopefully, our festive decorations will make our meeting a little more fun.

Many blessings,

Monday, October 10, 2011

What's In Your Sugar Bowl?

I have a set of canisters on my kitchen counter that contain flour, sugar, tea, and artificial sweetener.  I used to have a set of translucent glass jars, and I could see exactly what was inside them.  I found these opaque canisters a few years ago, and loved them.  It is more work for me to look inside to see if my canisters are empty, but I don't mind.  I like the fact that my opaque canisters conceal the mess that the contents create within their containers.

This morning, I was reflecting on a conversation I'd had yesterday.  My friend had been the victim of gossip, and I was reading scripture and thinking back to what had happened.  The Lord gave me this image:

From looking at my measuring cup filled with sugar, can you tell how much sugar I have in my container?  No, of course not.  At one time it had 1/2 of a cup, that much is true.  But you can't tell anything about the contents of my container based upon what was drawn out of it without some investigation.  Specifically, you'll need to open the container to see how much sugar is in it.

People are kind of like sugar canisters:  You don't know how much of the good stuff is in them until you investigate.  Just looking at the outside of a person tells us very little of what's going on inside of them.  Lately, I've become aware of our tendency to make judgments about others based on very little information--a mere 1/2 cup of sugar.  What we see represents very little; what we hear, even less.  Yesterday, my friend and I had an opportunity to "open our canisters" for a bit, and share the contents of our hearts.  Spending time with others requires effort.  Confronting someone requires courage.  Being honest and transparent requires both.  The payoff is that clearing the air and restoring a relationship is a good thing, and a godly thing.  Peace is a good place to be.

This metaphor is for me, just as much as it is for others.  God shared this with me after my quiet time, after all.  I have to remember that what I see and hear of others represents a tiny fraction of what their intentions are.  I cannot possibly know what is going on inside the hearts and minds of others unless I take the time to get to know them and they decide to reveal themselves to me.  Also, we don't have to have translucent containers--I prefer to have an opaque one!  But I am open to sharing my heart when asked to, by a person who has earned my trust.

Many blessings,


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Rotten Dilemma of The Working Mom

Lily is sick today.  She didn't feel well when I picked her up from my friends' house after work.  She seemed warm and complained of a headache.  All evening she didn't eat much, and had some tummy trouble.  I checked on her late last night, to see how she was sleeping, and she was awake and burning up. Brian gave her ibuprofen and she was able to sleep comfortably.

Thankfully, my job permits sick days, so I submitted my absence online so as to get a sub.  (A few months ago, I was that sub!)  There are three of us in the classroom where I work, and two of us are out today.  I knew it would put the lead teacher in a bind, but it could not be helped. 

It is a rotten dilemma to want to be a conscientious and dependable employee and yet be the mom...

                              who serves hot soup and cold lemon-lime soda on a tray in bed

                              who snuggles up next to a tired little girl and lets her sleep away her

                               who puts her favorite silly shows on the tv

                               all the while keenly aware of how many days I have left to take off

                               and of the teachers and children at school who will be inconvenienced

                                and feeling slightly guilty because of that awareness.

                                Lily is feeling better and that is what 'sick days' are for.

The classroom will survive without me, if for only one day.

Besides, I like being the mom who nurses her children back to health.

Many blessings,


Friday, September 23, 2011

One of those days…


In education, as in any profession, there are good days and there are, well, challenging days.  There are days when, no matter how carefully one has prepared or how well-trained one is, things go wrong.  Today was one of those days.  Let me say, though, that I still love my job.  I think the challenges keep things interesting.  I am still absolutely, unequivocally certain that I am right where the Lord wants me. 

The keys to staying grounded while working in Special Ed. are faith, a sense of humor, and the ability to not take the students’ behavior personally.  When kids with special needs get upset, there are a whole list of things that they are capable of doing.  Some are not so pretty.  It takes a thick skin and quick reflexes.  Like I said, it keeps things interesting.

In the real world—the world outside the confines of the classroom and the relative safety of the school—the same rules apply.  Stay faithful, have a sense of humor, and try not to take things too personally.  Today, when driving towards the middle school to pick up my best friend’s daughter, I was challenged in my outlook.  I pass through several school zones on the way home.  I always, always drive 20 miles an hour through them.  I have kids of my own—I don’t mess with that.  Unfortunately, this—ahem—incensed the driver behind me, a man of advanced years.  He honked at me.  He attempted to tailgate me.  Then, he drove up beside me and mouthed a heavy duty profanity at me. 

Where’s my sense of humor?   Gone. 

I honked back, loud and long.  How dare he!  Old man no likey.  He flipped me off!  Wow.  Low class.  I was hot.  A long stream of curses swirled through my brain, followed by the keen awareness that a Concealed Handgun License might not be a good idea for someone with my temperament.  Hmmmm…things to ponder….

Later, I thought about this incident.  I was thinking of the coarse words and gestures he’d used.  I became angry and immediately thought, I’m supposed to pray for that guy!  He’s an enemy of mine, and I’m supposed to pray for him!  Yuck!  Then, I thought, hold up:  I was an enemy of God.  Jesus died for me, despite the fact that I was an enemy of His.  He died for the old guy, too.  It’s funny how the heat of anger can intensify the realization of forgiveness.  Something we know, really know, can have a new significance in the wake of intense emotion.  Like death.  Or birth. 

Do I wanna hang out with Captain Curse-Word?  Oh, heck no.  But, I did pray for him.

Many blessings,


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Embroidery Fun!

Since the weather has been cooler here in the No. Texas area, Jesse and Lily are in need of jackets in the mornings.  Typically, fall in Texas means dressing in layers so that the kids can shed the extra layers in the warm afternoons.  I picked up a couple of warm-up jackets at Target for $12 each, on sale.  Jesse's is black and Lily's is turquoise.  I decided I'd embellish them with embroidery to jazz them up a bit, and make them more fun.  Jesse hasn't decided whether or not he wants me to put anything on his jacket. :(  Lily, though, was game. 
Here’s the before:

I decided to do an embroidery font called Vintage Curlz.  I had some turquoise camo fabric that I laid over the jacket and hooped the two together.
Crafts Sept 2011 006
It’s hard to see in the pictures that follow, but the thread I used to embroider the “L” is a hot pink, which is Lily’s favorite color.
Crafts Sept 2011 009
I cut away the excess camo fabric, and here is the result:
Crafts Sept 2011 010
Lily is asleep right now, or I’d post a picture of my sweet girl modeling her embellished jacket.  Actually, now that I’m looking at the pictures, I think that it would be a lot of fun to add some rhinestones, as well.  Hmmm…I didn’t think of that!  Sounds like a trip to the craft store is in my near future…

On a side note—I love my new job!  I am so thankful and look forward to going to work every day.  It is challenging, but I like that each day holds new surprises, even if those surprises aren’t easy.  Also, I am reading a new book called The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.  It is beautiful and mysterious, and makes me want to go to a circus that opens only at night.  I downloaded it on my iPad Friday night, and am almost finished!  I highly recommend it.

Many blessings,

P.S. I'm participating at Metamorphosis Monday at Susan's blog.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Soakin' Up the Love

Brian's parents, Jerry and Marilyn, are here from Del Rio, Texas.  They are visiting for the weekend.  As you can see, Lily is enjoying spending time with her Pa.  Presently, she is showing him the movie Princess and the Frog on her daddy's iPhone.  I heard her telling Jerry, "You wanna see the part where Tiana's a little girl?"  He's been so sweet; he just listens very patiently while she talks his ear off.  Lily is his first and only granddaughter.  He gets a kick out of her.

When Brian's parent's come, he always takes his mom out shopping.  Marilyn loves to shop, and Brian loves to make his mom happy. :)  Lily and Matthew accompanied them on their adventures.  Jesse hung out with Pa at our house, while I rode with Jacob for a practice run to the DMV.  Jacob takes his driving exam on Thursday, and since Brian and I can't take off from our new jobs, our friend, Pastor Wally is going to pick Jacob up from school and go with him to the DMV.  Jacob practiced parallel parking today, and he got it on the first try.  I know he is going to do well on his test.  I wish I could be with him when he goes, but Brian and I are so thankful for our friend's willingness to take him for us. 

After Jake practiced parking, I had him drive us over to the convenience store to get me a Big Red and a candy bar.  It's pretty awesome having a teenager to drive me places and buy me stuff.  He took me over to a store called U.S. Toys, where I bought some little toys to use as incentives for the children in my classroom.  I found some good deals on puzzles and things.  Jacob tried on crazy hats in the costume section and I laughed so hard that I was crying.  I like the young man that he is becoming.  He's a pretty awesome guy.

Speaking of awesome guys, Brian and his mom are cute together.  Here they are, with Brian showing Marilyn their family tree on  He has the app on his iPad, and they've been 'building' their family tree.  Marilyn is journeying down memory lane right now.

They're going to church with us in the morning.  They'll head up to Arkansas on Monday morning to visit friends and go to Marilyn's class reunion.  It's been a great visit, and the kids are enjoying having Gran and Pa here.  I have a feeling they'll miss them when they leave.

Truth be told, I think Gran and Pa will miss the grandkids, too.

Many blessings,


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

School Days

Yesterday we walked to the bus stop to begin our first day of school.  The bus comes early. (Yawn!)

Lily wore the new dress I'd made and Jesse wore his new super-cool reversible basketball shorts.  He did not know about reversible basketball shorts until a few days ago when we were school shopping.  I think he wants all of his clothes to be reversible. :) 

We all began our first day of school in new clothes and hopeful attitudes for a wonderful year.  So far, so good.  I love the class I'm working in and the people I am blessed to be working with.  My children seem to be pleased with their classes, and I am hopeful that they will continue to be pleased. 

Being a part of the faculty at an elementary school now, I got to see the first day from a different vantage point.  I saw how parents were as nervous as their children.  I saw proud moms and dads taking 'first day' pictures.  I saw happy children.  I admired the teachers' ability to keep their cool amidst the first day chaos.  It sure felt good to be a part of a team committed to educating the children who came through those doors. 

And I blessed God all day for it...

Many blessings,


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Speaking Words of Love

Yesterday, I became an official employee of Lewisville ISD.  I had my security badge made, received information on benefits (Man, that felt good!), and watched videos on sexual harassment.  During the course of the discussion on hostile working environments, the facilitator gave all of us prospective employees best practice as it regards to social media.  She shared an unfortunate circumstance in which a teacher posted a very negative comment about her principal.  Of course, her fellow teachers saw this and it was turned in to her principal.  I remember thinking that it seemed so foolish to do something like that--really, who would do such a thing?

And then the day progressed...

I follow a number of young people from church on Twitter.  I am always impressed by the way that they conduct themselves on this particular form of social media.  I am inspired by their 'tweets' about living righteously.  They encourage one another with Scripture.  They try to speak words of love to one another.  Are they perfect?  No, of course not.  But if 98% of the time they are speaking words of truth and of love to one another, I would say that's a pretty good success rate. I suppose that what is shocking to me as I reflect on my fellow adults who utilize social media, is that we are being outdone by our younger brothers and sisters.  We (and I mean this collectively) should be a model for the young people that we come into contact with.  We should be urging them on to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24).  Hey, we should be urging everyone to love and good deeds.

I am not naive.  I know that the internet is full of people of all ages who use and abuse it.  I know that there are a number of young people who do not speak words of love to one another.  But, I am pleased to be a part of a fellowship of believers who have a strong group of young believers.  I am honored to know them.  I am blessed by their desire to know God more and to serve Him with their lives.  God knows, I was not that righteous at 16 and 17 years old.

Yesterday, I saw something posted on Facebook that was shameful.  Today, it is gone, and I am glad.  It has bothered me that the one posting it thought that it would be a righteous thing to say publicly.  We celebrate so much online and put things out there that crush the spirits of those who see them.  I try really hard to make sure that the things I post are not going to hurt anyone.  It's tough, I'll admit it, because sometimes I get mad and I would like to 'tattle' a bit.  But, I know that if it's out there on the internet, it will be there forever.  That, plus the fact that I got called out once for a post on Facebook.  I'm a lot more careful now.

When I am discouraged or pensive, I often go to Psalm 37.  It is my favorite Psalm.  I would like to share Psalm 37:30:  "The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom, and their tongues speak what is just."  It is good to speak wisely and to say what is right.  The Lord blesses those who do.

Many blessings,


Thursday, August 11, 2011

I’ve Got a New Job!


I am so happy to say that I have accepted a position as a Special Education Aide.  I interviewed for this position Tuesday afternoon, and I had a really good feeling about it.  It just sounded perfect.  This position will give me the experience necessary to get a full-time teacher job in the future.  Today, I went in for a ‘screening interview’ at the Administration Building.  The head of Human Resources conducted the interview, and instead of doing the paraprofessional screening, she did the teacher screening so that I would have that done already if I am considered for a teaching job.  It went well, and she was very complimentary of me.  I am so relieved.  I went around the corner and turned in my substitute badge and let the substitute manager know that I would not be subbing. 

Just this morning, I was feeling a bit discouraged.  It just crept in, like a little whisper, “You didn’t get the job….” I just prayed and lifted my concerns up to God. 

Things have been looking up for us lately.  Brian’s got some excellent prospects lately, Jacob’s driving instruction is going well, and we even got a few drops of rain today! 

Thank you, Lord, for this new job!

Many blessings,


Saturday, August 6, 2011

If At First You Don't Succeed...

Much to my chagrin, I found out a couple of days ago that the position I'd applied for at my children's elementary school is being withdrawn due to budget constraints.  The principal of the school let me know that she was losing a special ed. aide position, so she was going to have to move people around.  To say that I was disappointed would be an understatement, but I am continuing to hope that something interesting will come up soon.  I applied for another position at a school I subbed at frequently, and have contacted the principal, so we'll see...

Brian and the boys are celebrating Jacob's 16th birthday a little early this weekend.  They are having a guys' camping trip at the lake, so I'm sure that they will come back with stories to tell, sunburns, and lots of pictures of them planking on strange things.  If you don't know what planking is, well, it is the phenomenon of teenagers laying board straight in public places and taking pictures.  Like this:

Or this:

Oh, wait! There seems to be a middle-aged man in this picture and a couple of munchkins.  It seems that planking is not restricted to teens.

The boys planked their way across Louisiana and Mississippi. We got lots of stares.  My family makes my life interesting, that's for sure!

Many blessings, 


P.S.  It's hot here in Texas.  We are having a record heat wave, and it would be great to get some rain. Please pray.  Thanks!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Putting Myself Out There...

We're back from our vacation to south Louisiana.  We have been gone for the past week, so I took a break from blogging to enjoy time with family.  We visited New Orleans several times, so we had the opportunity to go to the Audobon Aquarium of the Americas and the Audobon Insectarium, the French Market, and to Drago's Restaurant.  We also visited the beach in Gulfport, Mississippi, took an airboat ride in a swamp, and ate lots of great Cajun cuisine.  It was especially great to visit with family.  We stayed with Brian's Aunt Becky and Uncle Dale in Raceland, La. and spent a good amount of time with his cousin Matt and his wife, Kay and their two children.  On the way back home, we had the opportunity to visit his cousin Amy and her husband Max and their two kids in Alexandria.  Everyone was so hospitable and sweet.  We are so grateful for everyone welcoming us into their homes.  It's no small feat to take in our crew!

Brian trying a BBQ flavored cricket at the Insectarium.

If you've read my blog since the beginning of the year, then you'll know that one of my goals for 2011 is to get a full-time job, preferably in education.  My long-term goal has been to obtain a position as a Special Education teacher.  Since June, I have applied for twenty jobs in one district alone.  I've applied for two other jobs in another district, and have searched for jobs in surrounding districts, but discovered pretty quickly that there just aren't any that I'm qualified for.  I've concentrated my job search in the district that I sub in, since that is where my experience and my network is.  I had high hopes in June; however, I admit I've been a little discouraged of late.  I discovered when we got back home that a new job was posted for the elementary school where my youngest children attend.  I applied for it and contacted the assistant principal there, and am hopeful that something will come of it.  If you are of a mind to pray, I'd appreciate a prayer or two said on my behalf.  I'd really like this job. 

I have been trying to remind myself that I have a job as a substitute if I don't get a permanent position, and that the job market is tough--I mustn't take it personally if I am not hired for a full-time position this school year.  I read a blog on the Dallas Observer this morning that put things into perspective:  Dallas had a job fair recently to fill 700 jobs and invited 800 to come apply.  That sounds a bit like a bloodsport, but at least they were able to have a job fair.  Many districts in the D/FW area have cancelled their job fairs and recruiting altogether.

As for me, I'll continue to pray and seek...

Many blessings,


Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Peach Jam 2011 001

The past two days I have put up 13 jars of peach jam.  I feel like I’ve hardly made a dent in my peach crop!  This was my first time to make jam, and it turned out great.  I had a dollop on my toast this morning.

I’ve been applying for jobs with school districts for the past three weeks.  Still no luck.  If all else fails, I’ve still got my sub job.  This week, I opened up my job search to include one of the local community colleges.  It can’t hurt to try!  It’s  funny, though, as I just read my “About Me” in the side bar, I’m trying to chronicle what I thought was a journey into teaching in special education.  I find lately that I don’t have any idea what is next for me.  Am I meant to teach?  Am I meant to do something else?  I just don’t know.  I look forward to finding out.

Brian has been working at his new job for the past two weeks.  It is an adjustment, and it’s no fun starting over again at a new place.  It seems like our family has encountered more change in the last two years than ever before, but I know that’s not true.  I think what we’re experiencing is a sense of uncertainty that we’ve never had to struggle with before.  Brian and I are both believing in the Lord’s provision and providence.  I feel certain that something good is on the horizon…

In the meantime, I’m busy making jam. 

Many blessings,

Friday, July 15, 2011

Dog Days of Summer

July 2011 011

Blizzard has a new friend, and her name is Sadie.  She is a very sleepy puppy.  It’s hard to be six months old with big, ol’ feet. 

July 2011 012
Oh, wait—gotta stretch! 
July 2011 014
That’s better…

I think Sadie likes being a part of our family.  She’s adorable, but she's clumsy and she’s teething, so she likes to chew on our shoes, toys, my coffee table (Yikes!), and my bras.  I’m getting up early to walk her and staying up late to take her out for potty breaks.
This past week has been VBS at our church (in the evenings) and I feel like Sadie does. 

I just have too much to do to take naps….

July 2011 001

My peach trees are loaded, and I’ve been picking peaches, cleaning up peaches, peeling peaches, and making stuff out of peaches.  I made peach pie and peach ice cream, two of my friends have come to pick peaches, and I still have more to peel!  Thank you, Lord, for Your goodness and generosity!

Many blessings,


Monday, June 27, 2011

Movie Monday: Movies That Rock

Movie Monday
It is well known that I love music, especially hard rock/heavy metal music.  Perhaps someday I’ll compile a list of my favorite heavy metal songs, but today I’m making a list of the movies that have soundtracks that truly rock.  Most of these movies have objectionable content for kids, and some of the movies I watched in my heathen days, so if you are cautious about what you view, you probably want to just check out the soundtrack.  Fair warning, is all I’m saying. (All photos courtesy
To the list!
The Lost Boys
I could tell that this movie was totally gonna rock when it opened with “People Are Strange” by The Doors.  My friend, Robin, and I used to listen to this soundtrack on cassette constantly.  I thought I had real vocal chops when I could hold the notes to “Cry Little Sister”.  Those were the days.  The movie is pretty awesome, too.  I had a wicked crush on Kiefer Sutherland when this movie came out, and I had this poster on the wall of my dorm at Baylor.
The Wall
Every time I think of this movie, I think of two old friends:  Nichole Brooks and Calvin Madewell.  I saw this movie for the first time at Nichole’s house, and when we would go visit Calvin while we were in college, he was into Pink Floyd BIG time.  If he wasn’t playing The Wall, then it was some Pink Floyd concert video or Legend of Zelda.  Nichole and I were at his house the night that he got the crossed hammers from the movie tattooed on his upper arm by a friend.  At any rate, this is an excellent soundtrack, and the movie is filled with surreal imagery, straight from the tortured mind of Roger Waters.
Valley Girl
No, this movie does not contain any heavy metal songs on its soundtrack.  However, it features an awesome lineup of New Wave and punk songs.  My favorite song is “Eyes of a Stranger” by The Payola$”, but it hasn’t been released  on iTunes.  I content myself with “A Million Miles Away” by The Plimsouls.  I saw this movie for the first time in 1984 at my friend, Pat Matthews’ house.  I liked the story, but mostly I was blown away by the music.  I wasn’t the only one, as this movie was turned into a musical a few years ago.
This is Spinal Tap
This movie is hilarious, though the language is terrible.  In my defense, I haven’t watched it in some years, though I still remember the songs.  Sometimes, Brian and I sing the goofy, heavy metal songs from this movie for fun.  All the music was written by Michael McKean and Christopher Guest.  For being a parody/mockumentary on the heavy metal music scene, the movie is actually pretty spot-on.  Several metal bands have been quoted as saying that this movie is a good depiction of what it’s like to go on a concert tour.  I have an embroidery design on my sewing machine that says “Up to Eleven” (famous line from the movie).
Flash Gordon
The movie is pure cheese, but the soundtrack is pure genius.  This was Queen’s first foray into soundtrack producing.  The theme song is fantastic.  Every now and again, I’ll catch this movie on tv, and I can’t help but sing along.  Actually, this movie was preparation for one of the greatest soundtracks on the planet:
The tagline for this movie was “There Can Be Only One”.  Kind of like Freddie Mercury and his magnificent voice.  This soundtrack is unavailable, however.  Brian and I looked for it years ago, and we were told that the only way to get it is to buy it overseas.  There is a tribute album featuring “A Kind of Magic” by Queen, but everything else is by different artists than the original soundtrack.  “A Kind of Magic” and “Who Wants to Live Forever” are on Queen’s “Greatest Hits” album, I believe.  We have both “Greatest Hits” and “Classic Queen”, but I can’t remember which one those songs are on.  When Brian and I bought our first DVD player, we each picked one DVD.  My choice was “Highlander”.  The story is awesome, but the music is killer.  The music really enhances the plot, just as the soundtrack is meant to.
Heavy Metal
I honestly have not seen this movie in almost 20 years.  I know that there are some pretty risque’ parts, and I vaguely remember a couple of gross parts.  It’s a comic book come to life, so the women are buxom, and their clothes are prone to falling off.  The men are rippling with muscles, well except for a couple of guys.  It does have a storyline that makes sense, but really this was a movie written for the music.  The theme song, written by Sammy Hagar, is an iconic anthem to heavy metal music.  (On a side note, the highlight of American Idol for me this season was when James Durbin came out and performed “Heavy Metal” with Zakk Wylde.  I was over the moon.  Second favorite moment:  When he performed with Rob Halford of Judas Priest.)
This is by no means an exhaustive list.  There are a lot of great movies with soundtracks that rock.  These are just my top picks. 
Many blessings,

Saturday, June 25, 2011

They’re Home!

Jacob and Matthew got back from their mission trip to McComb, Mississippi this evening.  They’ve been gone since Sunday, and it’s been so quiet around here! I mentioned previously that we were planning a surprise for the boys.  First, let’s start with the before:
June 23 2011 026
God bless Jacob.  His room was out of control.  The bed was broken, the dresser was broken, it was just sad.  So, we got him some new furniture:
Jacob's room 001
We went to Weir’s Furniture Village in Plano.  If you have never been, you should seriously go.  It is a Christian, family-owned company.  Good furniture and good prices.  We picked out this sleigh bed, nightstand, and a dresser, and Brian and our young friend, Collins, went and picked it up today.  Last night, Brian and Duane (AKA Dude) took all of the furniture out of Jake’s room.  I cleaned the blinds and the floors this past week, and had been doing laundry to get ready for the transformation.
We decided that the bed should be oriented differently, so here’s how we turned it:
Jacob's room 004  Jacob's room 005
Brian touched up the paint, and I washed his linens.  We decided to let Jacob and Matthew pick out new bedspreads and sheets for their beds this week.  Matthew and Jesse have newer furniture in their room, so we bought Matthew a new pillow-top mattress for his bed.  (Don’t buy IKEA mattresses.  They do not last.)
Here’s what Jake’s room looks like now:
Jacob's room 007
All that was missing was one thing:
Jacob's room 009
The boys had lots of stories, and we got lots of love.  Lily was so very happy.  I have a feeling that she’ll be spending the night in Jacob’s new room.  She sure loves her brother.  I’m really proud of my sons.  They worked hard, and they shared with us what God revealed to them this week.  Tomorrow night at church, the youth group and the adult crew leaders will be sharing about their experiences.  I look forward to hearing more…
Many blessings,

P.S. I'm participating in Metamorphosis Monday at

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Gettin' Stuff Done!

Whew!  What a day!  I've been kicking things into high gear this week, trying to get the clutter that accumulated this past school year cleared away.  One of the drawbacks of going back to school and starting a new job last fall was that I had to put a lot of things on the back burner until I had some time to take care of them. 

I decided to mow the front yard this morning, before it got too hot.  It really doesn't take that long, though.  It was miserable before 11:00!  I was sure missing Jacob and Matthew, as they usually mow for us.  I wasn't sure if I could finish the last bit, but I kept myself going by reminding myself that not everyone gets to mow such a lush patch of weeds.  I'm telling you, the Cottles can grow some nutgrass!  We have got the horticulture of dandelions and Dallis grass down.  The great thing about weeds that most people fail to recognize is that within 24 hours of mowing, they pop right up in some sort of random, Marco Polo kind of fashion.  A day after mowing, it looks as though you have not done a thing to your yard.  Grass, on the other hand, is not that tenacious.  At least, not in our yard.

While mowing, Jesse came out and sat on the landscaping bricks and remarked--very sagely-- that "That's not how Dad does it."  He proceeded to tell me how Dad mows the yard, but I couldn't hear him over the buzz of the lawnmower.  It's too bad, really.  I don't really get enough landscaping tips from 8 year-olds.

I accomplished much today.  I'm trying to get caught up on laundry before the boys come home with two suitcases full.  Jesse and Lily helped me clean the living room.  The three of us washed the dog:
Doesn't he look pitiful?  Poor guy.

He was frisky afterwards.  He loves to be clean.  I told you I was doing laundry--and here's proof.  You can see it on the recliner and the sofa!  I think I lose the safety award, though.  If you look closely, you'll notice a pair of scissors on the floor.  Boo. :(

Since the boys come back from Mississippi in a couple of days, I've been cleaning their rooms to get ready for our big surprises (!).  I'll post pictures of what we've got planned, when we're done.

As a nice, little surprise this evening, I looked out the front door and spotted this:

Hello, Bunny Rabbit!  There were two of them, but the other one was camera-shy and hopped off.  Don't be jealous of my yard now.  We've worked hard to get those brown patches. :)

Many blessings,


Monday, June 20, 2011

Movie Monday: Mary & Max

The thing about summer:  I forget what day it is!  I almost missed my Movie Monday post, and I planned to feature a movie that was the reason I started this whole thing!  If you're not intimidated by difficult movies, and have a slightly off-kilter sense of humor, then this movie is for you:  Mary & Max

Photo courtesy of

The film is shot in black and white and sepia tones, and is claymation.  It's the story of a young girl, Mary, and her relationship with Max, a man with Asperger's Syndrome.  Mary lives in Australia and is an outcast.  Mary doesn't see the world in quite the same way that everyone else does, and she has a large birthmark on her face.  Max lives in New York, is Jewish, and is 44 years old.  Max is voiced by Philip Seymour Hoffman.  Mary is a little girl, voiced by Toni Collette.  They become pen pals, and develop an unusual friendship.

I liked this movie more than any other movie I've seen in a long time, which is saying a lot.  It is challenging, and it has a dark humor, but I'm into that sort of thing.  Even though the characters are cartoonish, this is not a kids' film.  It's the kind of movie that older teens should see, as it portrays how our differences can alienate us from others and can keep us from the things that we desire the most.  It's a story of friendship at its core, and I think that it is wonderful.  (Mary & Max is available on Netflix).

In other news, my oldest sons are on a mission trip to Mississippi.  They come home Saturday, and I miss them like crazy.  It's too quiet around here!  I'm truly, immensely proud of them for going out on a limb to help others in need.  I can't wait to hear what the Lord shows them on their journeys.  While they're gone, Brian and I are planning a surprise for them.  I'll keep you posted...

Finally, schools are posting teaching jobs!  I've been applying for special ed. and classroom teacher jobs, and I am praying for God's guidance in finding a job for the fall.  What a crazy time to begin a career in education!

Many blessings,


Monday, June 13, 2011

Movie Monday: True Grit

I finally had the opportunity to see the new movie True Grit, starring Jeff Bridges.  It was really good.  I enjoy westerns, and I am a fan of Mr. Bridges, so I was predisposed to like it.  Matt Damon played the part of LaBoeuf, originally played by Glen Campbell.  He provided levity to the dark story of a young woman who sets out to avenge the murder of her father.  Hailee Stanfield, the young actress who plays the lead character, Mattie Ross, is excellent in a very demanding role.

It's been a while since I've seen the original movie starring John Wayne.  There are some changes, as I recall.  I would like to read the book that the movies are based upon by Charles Portis.  At any rate, the movie is excellent.  The movie was shot in Granger, TX and in New Mexico. 

The plot centers around Mattie.  She is searching for a U.S. Marshall of 'true grit' to aid her in capturing her father's killer, Tom Chaney.  She settles on Rooster Cogburn, played by Mr. Bridges.  Through the course of the journey, it is discovered that the marshal isn't the only one with true grit, as Mattie herself possesses it in spades.  The use of language in this movie is amazing.  Though the setting is in the south, specifically Arkansas, the characters are not seen as hicks with a twang.  The language is formal--no contractions of any kind are used, even by the outlaws.  Cursing and foul language are kept to a minimum. 

Mattie wants justice, and she is single-minded in her determination to obtain it.  The murderer is seen from the different perspectives of his pursuer.  Mattie views him as slow-witted, while LaBoeuf sees him as calculating.  Mr. Cogburn cares very little for the character of the man who has committed this and other crimes; he is interested in the reward for his capture.  Cogburn and LaBoeuf are changed by Mattie, and she learns a lot about how our decisions can have unforeseen consequences. 

There are a number of religious motifs throughout the film.  The hymn"Leaning on the Everlasting Arms" plays throughout.  The movie begins with a quote from Proverbs.  The movie asks the viewer to consider justice.  The Bible says that vengeance is the Lord's.  Man is not to take revenge.  Mattie pursues revenge and it costs her dearly.  It is not clear whether Mattie's vengeance gives her a sense of peace.  That is left to the imagination of the viewer.

True Grit is available at local Redbox locations and on DVD/Blue ray.

Many blessings,