Vacation no. 1

At the end of May, the boys and I went on vacation for the first time in, hmmm, well, ever? We drove 1600 miles north to visit friends in Canada, and 1600 miles home again, plus a few detours along the way.  Yes, that’s a lot of driving!

The boys, I discovered, are at a good age for traveling.  They didn’t complain much about the hours spent in the car, though they did get a bit hyper from time to time!

Hyper boys in car rszOur first stop, after about eight hours of driving, was at Pinnacle Mountain in Arkansas.  I wasn’t sure how well the boys would cope with rigorous hiking, but I need not have worried.  They had energy enough and to spare!  I, on the other hand, was huffing and puffing.  Next time we do this, I’ll be in better shape, really.

The hike up the mountain started out reasonably enough–see the nice steps?

Pinnacle1rszAs we ascended, I heard rumbles of thunder.  “Let’s hurry,” I told the boys.  “I’d like to get to the top and back before the storm hits us.”  So the boys ran, err, scrambled on ahead…

rocks1rsz…and I followed, a little more slowly…at this point I was beginning to wonder what I had gotten myself into!

Pinnacle2rszBut the view from the top was well worth it.  Look how pleased the boys were!  They were hardly even out of breath.

Pinnacle3rszThe thunder I’d heard was from a storm well off in the distance.  So we had plenty of time to enjoy the view.

Pinnacle4rszIsn’t it beautiful?  Look at the pointy hills.

pointyhillsrszPinnacle Mountain is a good place to stop on the way from Texas to Canada (or vice versa)–not too far out of the way, and you can be in and out of the park within two hours if you don’t have much time to spare.  We hope to go again some day, D.V.

Number Nine

I have a new nephew!  My sister and her husband have been blessed with a baby boy.  His name is Isaac, and he’s beautiful (of course).

Baby IsaacSo I’m surrounded with nieces and nephews–nine of them! but before long, four of them will be heading off to a new home on the opposite side of the globe.  Caleb has accepted a call to be the minister of our congregation in Gisborne, New Zealand, and will be relocating within a few months, all being well.  So I’m trying to enjoy the time with him and his family while it lasts.

I like this kind of conspiracy

“God’s providence may not unfitly be compared to a large and long river, having innumerable branches, beginning in different regions, and at a great distance one  from another, and all conspiring to one common issue.”

-Jonathan Edwards, quoted in Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography, by Iain Murray

Off to See the Bats

On a recent Saturday, I found myself more caught up on my various duties than usual, and decided to take the boys into Houston to “see the bats.”  Beneath the Waugh Street bridge across the Buffalo Bayou Park is a colony of bats 250,000 strong, and we had heard that their nightly emergence at dusk was quite a sight to see.  The boys have read a bit about bats in one of their science books (from the Apologia Young Explorers series, highly recommended!) so I figured a trip to the Waugh Street Bridge would be a useful (and free) educational field trip.

We got to the park early enough to do a little exploring.

Boys with vaguely new-age-ish kneeling statues
Boys with kneeling silver guy

Boys on interesting pedestrian bridge
boys on bridge

Boys in monument to fallen police officers
monument to fallen officers

Bizarre freeway artwork.  About time to turn around now–the sun is getting lower in the sky, and we don’t want to miss the bats!
freeway artwork

Little feet are getting tired by now, but they troop along valiantly.
boy at sunset

Brief detour into the woods when we spotted this little pond.
tucked away in the woods

Hurry, Mama, hurry, or we’ll miss the bats! What time will the bats come out? And what time is it now?  Do you think we’ll make it in time? Let’s go a little faster!  Can you run a little? Hurry!
Hurry up or we'll miss the bats

But we made it back to the Waugh Street bridge in plenty of time, and watched the bats emerge surrounded by a horde of screaming children and their lenient parents (must do this on a school night next time).  The video I took was a bit blurry (it was pretty dark) but here’s a nice one from Youtube:

Fun facts: there are 11 species of bats in the Houston area, but this colony is made up of Mexican free-tailed bats.  This colony is unusual in that it stays in Houston year-round, rather than migrating to Mexico for the winter like other bat colonies in Texas.  There are a quarter of a million bats under the Waugh Street Bridge, and they are packed into the crevices beneath the bridge like sardines!  Every night as evening draws nigh, they begin to wake up and chirp and chatter to one another; they sound like a big flock of birds.  As it gets darker, they begin to drop out of the crevices and swirl around in a huge vortex, perhaps to build up momentum–then they fly out from beneath the bridge in a long stream of bats and disperse to find their nightly meal of insects.  They do their part to keep Houston from being overrun by bugs: this colony can eat 2 1/2 tons of insects per night!

In the Light of the Sun

Reading and thinking this morning about the education of my children, I came across this quote.

“Every line of true knowledge must find its completeness in its convergency to God, even as every beam of daylight leads the eye to the sun. If religion be excluded from our study, every process of thought will be arrested before it reaches its proper goal. The structure of thought must remain a truncated cone, with its proper apex lacking.” -R. L. Dabney

(found it here)

On Being an Aunt

Hembd grandkids 2014 editedThis is a recent photo of all the Hembd grandchildren (except Matthew).  The oldest boys are mine, the darker-haired girls are Mark and Mercy’s, and the blonde children and the baby are Caleb and Leah’s.

Can you guess why Mercy is in the photo?

Yes, that’s right, Mercy is expecting baby #4 some time next spring. Needless to say, I’m very happy to have another baby added to my brood of nieces and nephews.  I really enjoy being an aunt, and spending time with these exceptionally intelligent and good-looking children; babysitting them, and having them sit with me in catechism class; and hearing an imperative “up-up!” from one of the youngest as she demands to be held.

May Psalm Sing

A few months ago, John and Naomi moved south of Houston, to be closer to the rest of us, and to John’s new job.  But just before they moved, they hosted a psalm sing in their old place (which had great acoustics).

We learned to sing the tune Bingham.  If you’ve ever spent time in a Dutch Reformed church, as some of us have, you may recognize this tune; or you may have heard this recording.  Bingham isn’t in our split-leaf psalters, but one of the great advantages of using a split-leaf (as opposed to a psalter that ties tunes and psalms together) is that any congregation is free to add tunes to their repertoire that they like and are suitable; we’re not limited to the selection found in any one psalm book.

Bingham works well for the first six stanzas of Psalm 139.  We often sing Psalm 139 to St. Andrew, which is a good tune, but I feel that it’s dreadfully overused, so I’m happy that we have a new tune to use in its place.

Listing to our recording again has reminded me what a treat it is to hear small children singing the psalms, especially when they happen to be your nieces and nephews.  Matthew and Olivia and Shona can all read along and sing quite nicely.  Matthew and Shona weren’t at our May psalm sing, but Olivia was, and you can hear her tiny little voice quite clearly in this recording.

Psalm 139:1-10 to Bingham


Next, we sang a more familiar tune: Naomi, to the second half of Psalm 85.

Psalm 85:6-13 to Naomi

Still a Zoo

I really like living near a big city, with all the amenities it has to offer, like the parks, and the museums, and the zoo, and the thrift stores.  (Yes, the thrift stores rank very highly in my estimation!)  Our three favorite places are the children’s museum, the science museum, and the zoo, all of which are conveniently located within walking distance of each other, and bordering Hermann Park, another favorite spot.  All three offer free admission once per week or month, but as of just recently, we have memberships at all three, so we can enjoy them whenever we want.  When I was growing up, the children’s museum and the zoo were very rare treats, so unlimited access feels like a real luxury, you know?

Anyway, last Tuesday was this month’s free admission day at the zoo, so Mercy suggested that we all (the moms and kids anyway) go.

The boys and I, being zoo members, got to skip the line (the lap of luxury, I tell ya) so while we were waiting for the others, the boys of course had to climb on the rhinoceros.

Mercy and her beautiful daughters:
Luke is a popular little guy.
 Thomas and his mama
Admiring some Ankole cattle.  They have impressive horns!
 Snack time!

The petting zoo was a big hit.
As you may have heard, I now have a new niece.  Caleb and Leah were blessed with their fourth child a couple of weeks ago.  She’s beautiful (of course) and hopefully at some point I’ll post some photos.  But life is busier than ever, so no promises. :)

A Rare Saturday At Home

Most Saturdays I spend at least part of the day up in Houston and/or running errands, but today has been an unusual Saturday in that I have been able to spend the whole day at home.  It’s been a beautiful warm day, and we’ve had the windows wide open, the curtains swaying gently in the breeze.  This morning we hosted a psalm sing.  It was well attended, including lots of children, and a couple of visitors from Canada.

We sang three of my favorite tunes.

First up was Felix, which fits nicely with Psalm 14.

Psalm 14 to Felix

Then we practiced St. Botolph.  You may recall that I posted a very nice recording of this tune several months ago.

Psalm 27:7-11 to St. Botolph

Last of all we sang a tune that’s very familiar to us here in Texas: Ericstane.

Psalm 142 to Ericstane

After the psalm sing, several of us stood and watched as herds (Or is it flocks? Gaggles? Swarms?) of children ran around in the front yard.  Visitors to our Texas congregation often comment on how many small children we have here.  And we have indeed been very blessed. :)  As the children get older, they are participating more in the singing, so our recordings may sound less “polished,” but I like them better this way.  I hope you do too. :)

P. S. Remember that you can download these recordings, and others, to your own computer here.