Little Samuel’s Wish Comes True

I’m wondering if our grandson Samuel is a bit of a budding prophet . . . maybe a little like his namesake from the Bible!

Last year, before his mother was pregnant, he asked her if she had a baby boy in her tummy named Alex (with whom Samuel planned to shoot hoops).

Brianna thought Sammy’s question was cute, but she did take note, and when she became pregnant soon afterward, it made us all wonder if the baby was going to be a boy . . . especially since Sammy had informed us all the his first younger sibling was going to be a girl . . . and she was!

Brianna and Daniel like to be surprised so don’t test for gender but rather wait until delivery to learn the good news!

Can you guess?

Samuel was right!

We are now celebrating the birth of our 18th grand child,
a beautiful baby boy.

Vision of Cornelius the Centurion by Gerbrand van den Eeckhout,
1664, Public Domain

Dan and Brianna have named him Cornelius both to honor Brianna’s grandfather and because the Cornelius in the Bible was a very honorable person who sought out God and opened the door to the gospel in Caesarea, where he became the first gentile convert to Christ.

However, Cornelius is going to go by the nickname “Neil”
(rather than “Cory” or whatever).

The New Neil Armstrong

We are all overjoyed with Baby Neil Armstrong and hope he lives up to the virtuous examples of those brave and godly men who’ve come before him.

Oh, and for the record, his mom and daddy blessed him with the middle name of “Alexander,” which means “Defender of the People,” so Sammy can call him “Alex” any time he wants!

We are all in love with our new grand child/son/nephew/cousin/little person!

May he grow up to be a man of great faith and courage, one who is full of good works and prayers and loves God and man.

May he walk in the Truth, defend the just, and live a long, fruitful life!

Baptism of Cornelius

“There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band,A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway . . . Then Peter went down to the men which were sent unto him from Cornelius; and said, Behold, I am he whom ye seek: what is the cause wherefore ye are come?22 And they said, Cornelius the centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews, was warned from God by an holy angel to send for thee into his house, and to hear words of thee . . .

34 “Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:35 But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.36 The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:)37 That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached;38 How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.39 And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree:40 Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly;41 Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead.42 And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead.43 To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.” (The entire story can be found in Acts 10.)

God bless you, Baby Cornelius!

Mocktails

I am a big drinker, although I’ve never had a drink . . . if you know what I mean! That is to say, I seem to need a lot of liquid in my diet and enjoy all sorts of different types and flavors of beverages, but I’ve never had an alcoholic drink, and I hope I never do, because the world is full of people who are in unbelievable pain because someone they love has misused alcohol.

Italian Mango Soda with Cream

In this area, I side with fundamentalist Muslims, Buddhists, and Christians. My party line is this: When I get to heaven, if Jesus offers me something to drink, I’ll drink it, but I’m certain it won’t be anything that will make me drunk!

That being said, there is a world of non-alcoholic pleasure just waiting for whosoever will and can! They’ve become popular as “Mocktails” (non-alcoholic cocktails). There are no end of imaginative combinations of flavors that can perk you up on a hot summer day, and this past summer (a year ago now), on our trip cruising the North Atlantic on Holland America’s Koningsdam, the dinner menu suggested over a dozen possibilities, many of which I tried.

The Ultimate Unleaded Margarita (behind the shrimp cocktail)

While we were cruising, I was intent on photographing some of the more succulent dishes and failed big time by not capturing visions of the delicious drinks, but I did take photos of the menu offerings, and they at least give you some ideas if you want to try a few fun and fancy beverages to serve on special occasions (like today, since every day’s a cause for celebration—right?)!

Ginger Mango Splash

Although I really delighted in all the various offerings, I discovered that some of them were like eating fresh fruit, and some of them were so filling they were more like dessert, so I had to be careful with my overall menu plan so that I didn’t end up over full!

The smoothies were especially wonderful . . . and so filling they were almost a meal in themselves. Some of these combinations—particularly if made at home with Greek yogurt (which is super high in protein)—can make a perfect breakfast. When I used to visit Mommu (a spiritual mother to me), we would often enjoy a smoothie for breakfast and feel completely satisfied. (The older I get, the less it takes to fill me up.)

Frosty Chocolate Mint Buzz

The ultimate dessert mocktail was competition for a gourmet chocolate malt, and I learned pretty fast that I could not have such a fabulous mocktail and still finish a nutritious dinner. Since coming home and experimenting with beverages, I’ve concluded that specialty drinks are fun, but for me, at least, they need to be reserved for truly special occasions, not just every day pleasure.

Virgin Pina Colada

One of my favorites is a “Virgin Pina Colada,” and it’s super simple to make! Here’s how: In a blender, for each drink, add:
1 cup ice cubes
1 cup pineapple juice
1/3 cup coconut cream (or 1/2 cup coconut milk). Blend until the ice is is small chunks and pour over ice cubes in your glass. Top with 1/2 cup more pineapple juice and a dollop of whipping cream. If you like it sweeter, you can add a little sugar. Some people add crushed pineapple, shredded coconut, heavy cream, or some type of sparkling water/Sprite/lemon-lime soda, so if the way I make it is too simple for your taste, experiment. To me, light and not too sweet is more refreshing unless you’re trying to make a dessert out of it!

Virgin Pina Coladas

Nutritionists say “Eat your fruit and drink your water!” Good mantra for me.

In a world where being overweight is the cause of more deaths than being underweight (except in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia, according to the Whole Health Organization, January 2019), I have a renewed determination to serve milk or cold water rather than fancy drinks with my meals. Way better for myself and my grand children!

“Eat your fruit and drink your water!”

And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward” (Matthew 10:42).

Nana Time and Time Outs

I know that all grandparents thinks their grandchildren are the sweetest, most clever and most fun children in existence, proving their undying devotion by carrying around photos (mostly on their cell phones these days), and making smart remarks like, “If I’d known how much fun grandchildren were going to be, I’d have skipped being a parent the first time and just gone straight to being a grandparent.”  I assume that means that it’s much easier to “love ’em and leave ’em,” or—when a grandchild pitches a fit or needs a diaper change, you can hand them off to their parents…enjoying all the benefits without any of the responsibilities.  I’d been enjoying the luxury of such easy relationships with my grandchildren until the day after Baby Marius was born. That night, Grace spiked a fever, and the next day Michael took her to the hospital, where she remained for three days. Because the baby wasn’t born at the hospital, Grace didn’t end up in the Ob/Gen unit, so in order for Marius to be with Grace, Michael had to stay at the hospital with them to care for the baby.  This left me actually responsible—HOME ALONE— with the four older grandchildren. I hadn’t been completely responsible for four youngsters since my first four were kids, which was 35 years ago. (Well, even if I think about the youngest four of my seven, that was still 27 years ago.)  Here they are:  Eowyn is an angel. If it hadn’t been for Eowyn, life would have been very trying! She’s only 10, but she’s a tireless helper, knows where everything is and how all the family routines go.  She would read to the smaller kids and has such a gentle, kind spirit. Eowyn used to write me almost every day, but she’s started writing more serious stories, so she passed the baton (cell phone) to Nycteris, who has become my Foreign Correspondent, sends me notes and pictures, and helps me feel like Michael’s family isn’t so far away…even though they are! (For instance, she recently gave me a walking tour of their new home in Belgium!) Nycteris is also an able helper and was especially good with Paladin when I wasn’t sure how to handle him.  Judah is very sensitive and sweet. He’s a builder/engineer type, plays peacefully by himself for hours if left to his own devices (as did his father), and takes a lot of abuse from his little brother with way more patience than I would have, had I ever been an older brother!  Paladin will be wonderful, I am sure, but at age three, he was not at all with the program. Having a new baby, losing both his mother and father to the hospital, inheriting a Nana whom he’s only met a few times, having the house in a bit of an uproar as they were packing to move, trying to survive 98°heat every day and about the same in humidity… It was a big challenge for all of us, but for Paladin, it was almost more than he could handle. So, instead of tucking under my wing and enjoying his doting Nana, he decided to act out by throwing rocks at his sibs or attempting to beat them with sticks…or whatever.  Now, if there’s one thing I hate, it’s having to discipline, but I was afraid he was actually going to hurt the kids, so when he’d fly into a fit, I’d grab him and hold him on my lap until he settled down. I would say (as cheerfully as possible), “You must need a Nana Time Out!”  At first he would struggle and try to bite me to get away, but thankfully, he was small enough that I could hold him on my lap and avoid his teeth. In a few minutes, he’d settle right down, and after a hug and a kiss, we’d be friends, and he’d be calm.  After about the third tantrum, he stopped picking fights with the kids, and we all got along very well the rest of our time until Mike and Grace returned with Baby Marius…all fine and well!  Whew! It was just great to have them back and relax into chief helper and side kick rather than needing to parent the kids. It reminded me again just how exhausting and challenging it is to be a parent. God bless all you parents out there! Thank you for hanging in there 24/7 to love and guide your children!  Also, it made me appreciate what a good parent my heavenly Father is, who also holds me in his mighty arms. When I was young, he often had to hold me tight when I’d pitch a fit, although more often nowadays, I just curl up on his lap for comfort!

“The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” (Deuteronomy 33:27)

Samuel Has a Ball Bowling

For any of you who’ve read my blog over the past few years, you may remember we have a grandson living in Grand Rapids who was a micro-preemie. His survival was in question and the source of unceasing prayers for months. Three years later, Samuel is still almost off-the-charts small, but the doctor has signed off on his needing any more speech assessments and says Samuel has completely caught up intellectually and physically (as far as coordination and skill go), for which we are all deeply grateful to our merciful heavenly Father, who loves us all even more dearly than we can imagine loving one another! Samuel has a passion for “Dude Perfect” and anything that has to do with balls, and so he asked if he could have a bowling party for his birthday. I haven’t been to many parties for three year olds (since all our other grand kids live pretty far away), but I can say that this is one of the most fun birthday parties I’ve ever attended where a small fry was center stage! Sammy carried his own ball and learned how to roll it down a little ramp to give it enough momentum to make it all the way to the end of the lane. I’d never seen one of these contraptions before, but what a great way to get toddlers going!  We had four lanes’ worth of family (Brianna’s family also lives in town), and everybody got to bowl a couple of games, but I think we all enjoyed watching Sammy, who was so excited he was practically ecstatic the whole time!Sammy’s mother was a heroine that day, carrying Baby Sister the entire time to keep her content and then making sure Sammy was happy even when it was someone else’s turn now and then (although I think he not only had his own turns, but he got one of his mom’s and one of his dad’s each round as well).Brianna’s dad handily beat the rest of us, although her brother-in-law Sam had unbelievable power!             Most importantly, everybody had a ball…including sweet Samuel!                             He even got a few balls among his birthday gifts!  🙂              Samuel wanted a carrot cake shaped like a ball for his birthday.  The cake was moist, full of carrots and walnuts, and had cream cheese frosting. We all loved it (at least, those of us with teeth), but it made me consider the fact that Sammy is very unusual! However, isn’t every child unique and wonderful?!?In a day and age when fewer people are investing in children and more people are lavishing their love on pets, I’d like to encourage married couples who are considering whether or not they want children to go ahead and take the plunge! Sure, they’re a huge amount of work and life will never be the same, but it will be better! Through all the sleepless nights and struggles, you’ll become less selfish and emotionally richer. Most parents I know wouldn’t trade their kids for anything, even if they do roll their eyes at times and tease about it! In fact, I don’t think there’s anything more precious on earth than a home with children.

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!” (Psalm 127:3-5).

(P.S.—I took the photos from the bowling alley, but the three portraits of Samuel were taken by his mom and used by her permission. Thank you, Brianna!)

Gourmet Steak’n’Swiss Mac’n’Cheese

Last weekend Alan and I took our daughter and grand kids out for lunch, and we both thought the kids’ macaroni and cheese looked yummy. In fact, we exchanged glances that conveyed a clear, “I’d like some of that, wouldn’t you??” But, isn’t mac’n’cheese supposed to be reserved for kids? Well, it’s becoming a popular item on menus for adults, and so I thought it would make a good topic for a Saturday food blog. Of course, plain old macaroni and cheese can be made by reading the suggestion on the side of the container, but if you’d like some ideas to get you started on making your own gourmet version, here’s one to try:

Gourmet Steak and Swiss Mac’n’Cheese
(Serves 6-8)

Prepare 1 pound of macaroni according to the directions on the package (which means adding the macaroni to boiling, salted water and stirring for about 5 minutes until it’s al dente (“to the tooth;” not quite cooked through so it would still be firm if bitten…but don’t yet, because it wouldn’t taste very good)

Chop up and saute together with 2 tablespoons of butter in a frying pan:
1 medium onion
1 fresh pepper (yellow, red, orange, or green)
2 stalks celery
Flavor with:
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2  teaspoon Montreal steak seasoning   When tender (about 5 minutes on medium heat, stirring often; you can prepare this while your macaroni is boiling), add:
1 small jar (8 oz) of chopped, grilled and marinated artichoke hearts (obviously, all my suggestions are optional, since if you have mac’n’cheese…what else do you really need?)2 medium tomatoes, chopped into bite-sized pieces 1 grilled 8-oz steak, chopped into bite-sized pieces the pound of macaroni that’s either been drained or has absorbed the water
(I try to use just enough water so the macaroni cooks without having to discard any excess water (because it have some nutritive value), but that requires using only about 2 cups of water and watching/adding more if needed, so if you don’t want to take time to experiment, you can always use the recommended amount and just drain off the excess before adding the macaroni to the skillet.) 8 oz Swiss cheese (shredded or in slices)
2 more tablespoons of butter 8 oz. grated Parmesan cheese   Continue heating until the cheese and butter melts and everything  is well blended. Serve it as a meal in itself, or with a side salad and some fruit. If any of the ingredients I mentioned are on your “bad” list, try a few veggies that you love. You can’t go wrong, and you’ll probably come up with you very own, new and unique family favorite comfort food!  Want something else to comfort you? How about some spiritual comfort food?

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified” (Galatians 2:16).

A Pair of Miracles: The Terrors and Triumphs of Rearing Autistic Twins

If you are struggling to provide love and care for an autistic person, or you know anyone who is, this is an A+ resource giving you an open window into the hearts and hard-earned wisdom of Karla Akins and her husband, Eddie,  who took in and reared a set of autistic twins.

That’s right! They actually took on a set of twins, not because they had to, nor because they had no children of their own (because they did). Can you believe this? It’s mind boggling to me. I wouldn’t have had the courage to take on the frustrations, pain, and heartaches of adopting even one autistic child, so I stand in awe of this amazing couple (and any of you out there trying to cope with an autistic loved one).

Not only does the book tell their story, it gives counsel and resources for every step of the way, from the first terrifying realization that there’s something dreadfully abnormal about your child through learning to communicate with, educate, and preparing to emancipate your youngster. There are countless tips on everything, level-headed discussions on schooling options, the litany of therapeutic interventions, and the various medical and dietary issues (and how to maintain a gracious attitude in the midst of obnoxious know-it-alls who try to tell you what you’re doing wrong). A Pair of Miracles is also full of scripture passages and biblical wisdom to encourage you in the way of godliness, and it ends with numerous helpful appendixes.

I’d never heard of autism when I was growing up in the 60’s. In the 80’s, I had one girl friend who had an autistic child, and ultimately, I think the pressures from trying to care for that little girl destroyed their marriage. Today, I know of two couples who have autistic children. This is consistent with the statistics. Autism wasn’t even diagnosed until 1943. By 1966 (when I was a teen), researchers estimated that 1 in 2,500 children were born with autism, but it wasn’t until 1980 that autism debuted in the DSM (Diagnostic an Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 1 in 68 children in the U.S. have autism, an astounding 1 in 42 for boys but 1 in 189 for girls (roughly five times as likely in boys).

The question is, is this phenomenal growth actually in the occurrence of autism, or in the reporting? Some believe that much of the increase is simply in public awareness, claiming that earlier generations just thought autistic children had very low I.Q.’s and were unable to learn. Many ended up  tucked away in long-term mental hospital settings so most people didn’t even know they existed. It’s only been in recent years that people are becoming aware that many of these children are very bright, just unable to communicate and socialize normally.

Although there’s no fool-proof way to diagnose autism, and no one knows what causes autism, the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) helps mental health professionals assess children who may have autism. If your toddler manifests at least 8 of the following symptoms, you may be able to get professional help for him, and the studies show ample proof that the earlier the intervention, the more likely the child will develop some ability to communicate and care for themselves over time.

Here are some of the problem areas that manifest in an autistic child: He/She

*Avoids eye contact
*Doesn’t respond to his own name
*Fails to follow objects or visual gestures
*Does not wave or communicate with gestures (although they often stiffen or flail in non-obvious gestures)
*Doesn’t make noise in order to get your attention (although they often scream
incessantly or make non-normal grunting sounds)
*Doesn’t initiate or respond to touch (in fact, can be strongly resistant or
combative if you attempt touch)
*Is unable to imitate facial expressions (but can make strange faces for sure!)
*Never progresses past parallel play
*Doesn’t show empathy for others
*Doesn’t engage in imaginary play
*Can’t talk about or understand feelings (severe cases can’t talk at all)
*Has a hard time making friends
*Can’t understand or follow simple directions
*Can’t understand abstract concepts and takes things too literally
*Refers to self in third person
*Often has unusual physical posture and toe walking

If you’ve been saying, “Oh, yes! That does describe my child,” then please seek medical help for your little one, and I strongly urge you to read A Pair of Miracles. It offers hope in the most difficult circumstances, and their story of faith and perseverance will strengthen you for the battle to withstand the agonies of autism. Who knows? Perhaps your child might also ultimately become a miracle of love and blessing like Isaac and Isaiah Akins.

“A person can have a doctorate degree from the most prestigious university on earth and still flunk heaven…What matters most, I think, is how much did we love? Autism isn’t forever, but love is.” (Karla Akins)

Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.
(Romans 12:15)

Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another,
even as also ye do
” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26).

Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).

Lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed” (Hebrews 12:12-13).

 

 

 

What Can You Do When Your Grandkids Visit?

Before Amélie and Sophie came to visit for the month of July, a lady from their church asked what they liked best about visiting their grandmother. Amélie said her favorite thing to do was go for a boat ride with Nana, and Sophie said her favorite thing was eating Nana’s fudge!

Of course, I made sure we did both once I knew, but it also got me to thinking about all the things that seem to make vacations special for little ones, and a lot of the activities are very simple! In no particular order, here is my list:

Picnics in the backyardToasting marshmallows and eating smoresColoring, drawing, and writing love letters Hanging out and talking together Playing in the grass  Picking wildflowers and hunting for frogs Finding tiny grasshoppers by day and chasing tiny fire flies by nightPlaying at the local parks Renewing friendships with the cousins… and meeting new members of the family! Having tea parties Listening to story books  Picking wild berriesHelping Nana cook and set the table Eating lots of yummy food, and helping shop for more when the supplies run low. Having friends over to playPlaying games together and feeling the love! All of those things are part of the richest fabric of life and pretty much free, although there are also some special things available in our area,
such as digging in the sand and swimming in Lake Michigan.If you’re lucky enough to have an Aunt Brianna, that might include cookies!Snuggling with Grandma is free,
and it’s a very special way to get warmed up after a big swim! Snuggling with Grandpa is another winning activity, especially on a windy day!Watching the local fireworks shows is usually free around July 4th. Picking cherries, blueberries, or whatever is ripe at the local orchard is a big hit. And if you have access to a little lake, catching fish is the cat’s meow! Our kids and grand kids all love swimming, so I’m especially thankful that we live on a little lake! Another thing we all love is going to our local zoo, where there’re always something new and exciting happening! Finally, when Nana is all worn out, a special dinner out can be a huge treat! So, these are a few favorite things you can do without feeling pick-pocketed! If you’ve got other bright ideas, please share them, will you?

But whatever we do with our little ones, I think the most important thing is to make sure they feel loved, and for me, that includes making sure they know that God loves them too… more than any of us can ever even imagine!

The grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth. The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day: the father to the children shall make known thy truth” (Isaiah 38:17-19).