When Kelli was three, we lived in a much-loved home affectionately called “the gray house.” We nicknamed it “the gray house” because the house was in fact, gray. We had moved across the parking lot from the not-so-much-loved green house.

The green house had one bedroom and a fire-trap attic which we converted into a second bedroom. It also had a living room, a rather small, dark kitchen (until we painted it orange and yellow) and an unheated bathroom which guaranteed no one spent too much time showering or getting ready during the winter.

In contrast, the two-story, three-bedroom gray house which came complete with fireplace and a yard with a swing set, seemed like a mansion. Jeff’s very blue room was at the top of the stairs. Kelli’s very shocking pink room (with the lime green trim) was in the front corner.  (Before you make comments about the colors – they were very chic at that time.)

Kelli’s window looked out onto the branches of a pine tree, so close, you could touch them when we opened the windows. And it was right there, on that close-to-the-window branch that a mourning dove decided to build her nest that spring. Kelli was excited about this as only a three-year-old can be about a bird so close to her bed. During nap time she would lie on her blanket and stare at the mourning dove and the mourning dove would warily stare back at her.

Days went by and we were excitedly waiting to see the baby birds hatch and then grow big enough to take off into the cruel world full of cats and other dangers.  This was a front-row seat to a homeschooler’s dream visual.

Then one sad afternoon, (Kelli was once again lying in her bed, watching the bird instead of napping) a hawk somehow spotted the mourning dove and her about-to-hatch babies. With one swoop, he was down – attacking. The mourning dove screeched her lamentations, but the mother and her eggs had been destroyed.

Kelli was in despair. We comforted, but felt sad ourselves. We had watched that caring mother bird for days and enjoyed our daughter’s exuberance in watching “her bird.”

And now, we’re watching another mourning dove. She is nesting in a very secluded part of the gutter – fortunately not a part that is needed to actually drain rain. Actually she has chosen wisely. Could a hawk spot her? Yes, but I think he would have a problem getting at her. Unfortunately, squirrels are also predators and as we all know – there is a squirrel who likes living on the roof. In fact, one was just partially hanging upside down from another part of the gutter, looking at me through the window. (Which would’ve been funny if it hadn’t been that annoying squirrel again.) I think the squirrel has already demolished the grackle nest in the tree, causing the grackles to move to my neighbor’s yard. (Not really a problem when it comes to grackles.) Hopefully the squirrel can’t figure out how to get to the dove.

I assigned the munckins a story about the mourning dove in their writing class and the 9yo named her Ellie – which will make it even more difficult to have the dove and her babies destroyed.

But for now she is curled up in her corner of the gutter and she is safe.

Ellie, I hope you stay that way.


Cantigny started out as a country estate for publisher Joseph Medill and later became the home of his grandson, Robert McCormack (as in the same family as Cyrus McCormack). Both were publishers of the Chicago Tribune and McCormack Place was also named after Robert.

Reading and hearing about his life makes one’s mind go in a 100 different directions. You just aren’t sure whether or not you would think he was a good guy or a bad guy if he lived today and you could follow his life in the media. As one line in Wikipedia says: McCormick carried on crusades against gangsters and racketeers, prohibition and prohibitionists, local, state, and national politicians, Wall Street, the East and Easterners, Democrats, the New Deal and the Fair Deal, liberal Republicans, the League of Nations, the World Court, the United Nations, British imperialism, socialism, and communism.

He opposed the US entering World War I, yet a big attraction at his estate is the First Division War Museum which takes you through both World Wars, VietNam and Desert Storm.

When I find out more about him, I’ll let you know.

Meanwhile – his 500 acre is open to the public and for $5.00 a carload – you have access to his house, the beautiful gardens, the visitor’s center and the war museum – all very interesting.

As far as the kids are concerned, however, the most exciting part of all are the tanks.

Now, our family is good about not putting up embarrassing pictures of each other or telling embarrassing stories about the kids – but since he is ok, I do have to share this story. The two 7yos were off playing away from THE SISTERS!  Suddenly we heard screaming – one of them (I won’t mention names) was getting off the tank and somehow got his jacket caught on something hanging off the tank itself – which caused him to be stuck in midair!  The other 7yo did try to help, but wasn’t too sure what to do about his screaming cousin.  Fortunately, Mom quickly came to the rescue.


We don’t often get to have all four cousins in the same Awana Club – but this week the up-north munchkins got to go to Awana with the down-south munchkins.

A good time was had by all.


Well, we found the elusive Jane Eyre – the movie several people have mentioned that they wanted to see, but couldn’t find a theater where it was actually showing.

The central theme was the character of Jane. She lived above her wretched past. She stayed true to herself. She couldn’t be talked into doing something she knew was wrong.

The theater was packed – people even in the front row.  Several around us did not know the story. The two ladies behind us kept up a constant chat about what would happen next but anyone who had read the book (or seen the other movie versions) would knew they were annoyingly clueless.

But my favorite quote of the day was not from the movie – but from the person sitting next to me.

“Oh, good. I’m glad she went back to Mr. Rochester. I was so afraid she would settle for the preacher.”

I almost turned to her and said, “Hey, I settled for the preacher and it was a good settling.”

But alas … I didn’t.


Crazy week – I’ve done a lot of things most of which aren’t all that interesting to anyone NOT doing them.

I did spontaneously walk a 5k. I had some time and HQ had organized one, so decided to go for it. Of course, I’ve walked that far before, but not officially. The weather was absolutely the greatest ever for a fun walk.

At my table, R. and J. attempt to put together a puzzle of the front of a cereal box.
R. and J. attempt to assemble a puzzle of a cereal box front at my table.

I then stayed to help out with the fierce competition of a Minute to Win It party. (Not sure why the apostrophe’s in my captions are looking weird.)

Emma has the right idea - this is the way to "run" a marathon - though Im not sure you burn all that many calories.
LuAnn checks her coin-filled Pepsi cans - contestants had to put them in order of number of coins.
People gather around to watch a tie-breaker.
JP does photography duty.
N. attempts to balance six dice on a popsicle stick held by Ds teeth.
One group has left the starting line - another group gathers.


This weekend was our annual Purim Celebration for the ladies of our family.

Alicia, my “other” niece also took part this year and told us about growing

The almost 9yo listens intently to one of the bios.

up in a Messianic Jewish church and some of the traditions she took part in for Purim. Very cool.

This year we had biographies prepared from everyone – from the first grader to my mom who is 89 – so it’s a great multi-generational event.

As I’ve explained before – we all write a bio about a lady who was/is a “bold, brave, beautiful woman who trusts/trusted God and does what is right.”

This year our women included –

And every once in a while the "boy" would run in to find out when dessert was served.

Bethany Hamilton

Betty Stam

Joy Ridderhof

Gracia Burnham

Anne Graham Lotz

Mrs. Clark (the 7yo’s first grade teacher)

Margaret Wheeler

Carol Johnson

We actually have a “sister” group in Nigeria who also do this.

Others have asked me lots of questions about Purim because they would like to start their own Purim celebration. If you’d like to

Some of our readers.

know more, I’d be willing to explain in detail.

This was also the weekend of Melinda’s Bridal Shower. Good to see old friends and to celebrate Melinda. (I had the privilege of listening to EVERY SINGLE ONE of Melinda’s JV sections and at least the first two years of her Journey sections.)


Yesterday I wrote about people asking other people about whether or not they’ve read a book.

Here are three books I recommend –

33. Soul Surfer by Bethany Hamilton – This is the book that the movie is from. After previewing the movie last month, I told the llyo that I would see if I could get the book so we could write about Bethany for our family Purim celebration (which was today). I was able to get it on Amazon used books for a penny. Yep. A penny. It costs more to ship it than to buy it. This is a good book for girls in that tween/teen time in life – a book about a girl who overcame great hardship (her arm was bitten off by a shark). She credits her faith in Christ for seeing her through.

34. Finding Go In Unexpected Places by Philip Yancey. This was originally written back in (I think) 1995 and recently updated with some chapters being taken out and new ones written. The book is basically a compilation of Yancey’s columns in Christianity Today so it jumps all over the place – so he gives good thoughts on a variety of subjects. Everything from AIDS to Islam to organization budget appeals.  Good book to listen to while commuting.

35. UnPlanned by Abby Johnson. Abby’s journey from being director of a Planned Parenthood clinic to her jump to Coalition for Life. Very thoughtful and well-written as Abby thinks through what she believes.

The first one I bought (as I said). The second I got out of my local public library. The third I got from the church library.