The World is a Book

Writing about: Family Travel, kids, places, food…

Category: Family Moments (page 2 of 3)

Our Additional Family Members

Thought we would share a few pictures of our additional family members. Our still loved old guy was Charlie (seen here with Max when he was about 2 years old) who died on the same day I found out I was pregnant with (now) Charlotte — no one tell her she was named after the dog!

max and charlie

Here is said Charlotte with our other older guy, George (he’s 10 and she’s 3). Lovely George puts up with many different outfits and play times each day. He particularly enjoys tea party when he gets biscuits.



Then there is Tallulah who is about 5 years old. We got her from a border collie rescue group after she and her sister were dropped off at a kill-shelter in Georgia. We think she was a farm dog as she knows some commands but does not know how to play with toys. She’s a sweetie but very driven to herd and spends her days staring and stalking the cat!


And then there is the stalked cat. She couldn’t care less about Tallulah and occasionally hits her on the nose to remind the dog that cats are in charge!


I won’t bother with all the gerbil or small animal pictures as they don’t sit still long enough in costumes to be really exciting!

Last one is Max with Tallulah. Both had fallen asleep under my desk as I worked!


Charlotte starts ballet


Charlotte has wanted to start ballet for ages. Put her near a stage and she immediately dances and sings! It has been a fight to get her out of the outfit!

Easter fun

We had a great Easter this year with the whole group around. We even had the pleasure of our soon-to-be daughter in law (wedding in July!) and her parents. They are lots of fun. Weather was great so we pulled tables together out on the deck and ate a huge meal, including good ceviche and wine and chatting.

Afterward the kids all had Easter egg hunts and games including egg and spoon races:



Jacob is off to Peru!

My second son Jacob, 19, is heading out tomorrow for Peru. He is going to spend almost two months working in an orphanage there. As homeschoolers we have always talked about a culminating experience to celebrate graduation. Not a mission trip as that is not part of our belief system, but a launching into the world trip.

I think this will do it!

The orphanage he is working at is near Cuzco in the Sacred Valley.

I am embedding a video from YouTube. Hope this works!

Max’s big news

Have to include this photo of Max (5) as it shows his big news. Last week he lost both his bottom two baby teeth! He is very excited about it and has Charlotte shine the flashlight into the cavities to check for the new teeth almost hourly.


Our church

Just wanted to say thanks to all the people who have sent their messages of hope and good thoughts to our family and our congregation. There have been so many good things to come out of something so awful that it shows the power of love and peace.

Our friend Tammy is the only person left in the hospital and she has been moved to the Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center and is doing pretty well all things considered. The love and strength of her family and friends is a testament to Tammy’s own positive traits and the care she has shown others in the past. Fingers crossed she will be home soon.

The minister of our church when I first joined was with us all last week which I know many people found helpful. She wrote a lovely article for the Washington Post which I’m going to put in the extended entry here as the link isn’t working for me now. I think it again shows the way Knoxville came together to show care and love. That has been very powerful for our own family.

And here’s the text:

Lynn Thomas Strauss
Post-Traumatic Unity
August 5, 2008

This past Sunday, I participated in the service of re-dedication at the
Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, TN. It is eight
years since I served there as minister, and one week since a man entered
that sanctuary intending to be a mass murderer, intending to be a murderer
of children. He killed two adults and seriously wounded 6 other adults
before he was quickly subdued by members of the congregation.

That beautiful sanctuary that I helped build and bless, had, through a
horrible, senseless act of violence been turned into a crime scene, a trauma
center, a wake, a memorial, a weeklong media event.

That Sunday, the children and teens of both the Tennessee Valley Church and
the Westside Unitarian Universalist church were presenting the play, “Annie
Jr.” But, instead of seeing a play, they saw murder, instead of hearing a
musical, they heard shattering shotgun blasts.

It was hard to believe it had really happened until I ran my hands over the
scarred walls where pellets were embedded. It was hard to believe until I
heard the accounts told in still-shaky voices, over and over. It was hard to
believe until I saw signs of traumatic stress in the reddened, tired eyes of
so many. It was hard to believe until the names of those killed and wounded
were spoken.

The Tennessee Valley congregation was the first church I served as a UU
minister. Moving from Chicago to Knoxville and learning ministry in the
Bible Belt was a profound experience for me. The need for liberal ministry
is clear there, where Christian fundamentalism is strong. The Tennessee
Valley congregation has always stood up for equality, diversity, and
religious liberty. Unitarian Universalism is a faith that values difference
of opinion and belief . As a liberal religion we value people of different
colors, genders and sexual orientations. We believe that all people have
worth and dignity, and we try to live that belief.

Religious groups sometimes build walls, high brick walls between different
faiths and denominations. Some think that those on the other side of their
carefully constructed walls are to be feared or hated. Some apply labels,
and teach prejudice.
In Knoxville, Unitarian Universalists were routinely labeled “Other”.
Unitarian Universalists were often marginalized within the larger faith
community. Our children were regularly told by other children that “they
were going to go to hell” unless they believed a certain doctrine. The walls
between the churches were old and sturdy; the walls were high and

But last week, those walls came tumbling down. Last week the Tennessee
Valley Unitarian Church was the recipient of wondrous love and generous
compassion. Last week, the Presbyterians took in our children as they ran
from the gunman. Last week the Baptists brought food everyday. Last week,
the Jews lit candles for us and attended our vigil. Last week the Muslims
prayed for us. Last week, the Quakers and the Catholics and the
Episcopalians brought flowers and sent cards. Strings and strings of
colorful paper peace doves were brought for the children.

All last week the church was open to the community, open for silent
meditation in the sanctuary, open for shared meals, open for prayer, open
for sharing pain and compassion, open for all who brought blessings and good
wishes. The church was filled with people all day, every day.

Last week, the walls of religious separation came tumbling down. It was a
kind of miracle. A miracle of grace and the human spirit. As Rev. William
Sinkford, Unitarian, Universalist Association President, wrote in a letter
read at the service: “Your love has overpowered fear”. For one week there
were no separate denominations or faith groups in the city of Knoxville. For
one week, we were one grieving family, one in our sorrow, and one in our
resolve to witness to peace.

As the service ended yesterday, lay and ordained ministers walked to the
back of the crowded sanctuary and stood shoulder to shoulder with the Rev.
Chris Buice, minister of the Tennessee Valley Church as he spoke words of
re-dedication of that sacred space. We stood on the spot where the gunman
had stood, near where the first victim was killed; we stood confident that
love overcomes hate, that love is the spirit of our church. We stood as the
congregation joined the children and teens in singing, “The sun will come
out tomorrow” – the song they had not gotten to sing a week earlier. We were
standing on the side of love.

Rev. Lynn Thomas Strauss is minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of
Rockville, MD.


Here is a link to the recording from the candle light service of the kids and congregation singing Tomorrow. I am so privileged to be part of such an amazing group of people.

The Sun Will Come Out

As I posted yesterday, our UU church was the scene of a tragic shooting this Sunday. Two people are dead and others seriously hurt. Our friend Tammy is still in critical condition but the news is positive so we are hopeful she will be back to laughing and chasing preschoolers around the playground soon.

Last night two of my sons and I attended a big candle light vigil held at the neighboring church. The parking lot was full so we had to walk through our church to get there. It was actually very healing to do so but incredibly sad. There is an aura of heaviness now. The other church was packed with people. I started to notice many women wearing head scarves and men in yarmulkes and to realize I didn’t know a lot of these folks. It turns out the local mosque and synagogues, plus other local churches, had rallied together to bring large amounts of food to nourish our community and be of support. There were hundreds of people of varying faiths coming together in this large Presbyterian church just to hug us, hold candles, listen to our laments, and demonstrate in their presence the support for goodness and love of all.

Our minister spoke and the president of the UU church, Rev. William Sinkford gave a moving speech and shared that at the same time we were having our candle light vigil, other UU churches around the world were doing likewise. This really impacted my 13 year old Ben and helped him to recognize and feel joy about being a part of such a large and wonderful community. At the end of the service the song The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow started to play and the children who had practiced so hard and were putting on the play Annie went up on stage. They sang that song with such determination and hope it had most in the audience in tears again. Good shines through.

The gunman killed our congregants because he doesn’t agree with our open stance to accepting and loving everyone. He disagrees with being “liberal” and is anti-gay. Well what a showing last night to present a visible force against such hatred and negative ideology. Many of the represented religions may disagree with elements of our beliefs but our shared belief in loving and accepting all and seeing the goodness in life was what came through last night as we all stood holding candles to light our world. One mentally ill and deranged person can not stop goodness from going forward. The sun WILL come out – hatred isn’t going to stop that!

Home “safely.”

We decided to leave a few weeks early and so arrived home last week. It was an interesting re-entry back to US and home base. I thought I was ready to leave Costa Rica because between the scary driving, threat of crime and high prices, I was thinking longingly of home.

Today though something horrific has happened in my home and I am alternately wishing I was back “safely” in Costa Rica and very glad to be here. Our loved Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist church was the scene of a shooting today. A gunman entered the church with a guitar case which he opened up and randomly fired at people who were innocently watching a big children’s production of Annie during our service.

My family was not at the service although last night we had discussed going. This morning we were still feeling lazy so stayed at home and made muffins in our pjs. Why we make these decisions and how the smallest decision can change our entire life is a total mystery and scares the heck out of me at times such as this. Even my 18 year old son who normally attends every week did not go as he was staying at a friend’s home.

As of now one person is dead (he put himself in front of the shooter to protect children) and a few others are clinging on. One of them is a mom of two adorable little boys who were sitting next to her in the sanctuary when it happened. Please hold them and all the congregation in your hearts. We are going to need some healing here.

I cannot help but compare this to Costa Rica. There we lived with an armed guard 24 hours and the worry of theft and car jacking etc. I wrote previously about how draining that was but you know it is crime that I can understand. People are very poor and steal to provide for their families and themselves. I can even understand the thefts to gain money to support their drug or alcohol problems. But senseless and random shooting at children and parents in a church is just incomprehensible. No words for it.

Jacob leaves

Well I should be grading papers as we hope to head to the beach tomorrow for a few days. We had planned to go last week but were rained out from two tropical storms hitting. About 900 people’s homes were damaged in the Guanacaste area and the rains caused local mudslides but we didn’t see anything too destructive around our house.

We were up early as Jacob (our 18-year-old) left to fly back to the US after spending three weeks here. His plane took off (hopefully) about 15 minutes ago and he will be picked up in Atlanta by his older brother Sam. Mark and he figured out the exit visa payment — $26 per person to leave the country. You pay at a main desk in the airport and everyone has to pay in order to leave. In other countries this is levied into the price of the ticket but here is separate.

We are all sad about Jacob’s leaving but so glad he could come for at least three weeks. Having experienced his older brother leaving home last year (well I’m actually in denial of this and like to think of him just being on a sleep-over somewhere), I am very cognizant of how short a time we have with our children living at home. All our travel memories include the boys; from Sam at 6 months fast asleep on an Amtrak train that had broken down in the middle of the Arizona desert to trying to wrestle a double stroller, newborn and toddler on and off the subway in London (including Mark carrying them all up a huge, steep and broken escalator to get out of the subway). Travel is not always easy or glamorous with babies and young children but somehow it gets into their very being and senses even at such a young age. Plus we have found having children is a gateway into being more accepted and part of new communities. Playing at the local playgrounds and pools gets children and parents interacting with new friends. We have had waiters pick up our children and carry them off to feed them snacks and treats that we hadn’t thought of ordering. Sharing a tired smile with another mother when your toddler is throwing a big fit about leaving the park connects you to moms from every culture.

So it feels full circle to see our 18-year-old take off on his first international flight alone. Knowing Jacob this is just the first of many journeys. I know all parents say this about their children but he really is an incredible young man. I learn so much from him as he quietly seeks to make the world a better place. He is an activist who doesn’t shout or yell or make others feel bad but rather just gently tries to model a different path. I have tried to talk him out of some demonstrations or events because I’ve been worried about his safety but he just explains the steps he has taken to be safe and manages to reassure me. Anti-KKK rallies, Food Not Bombs, Gay-Rights marches and more. He lives peacefully and gently in the world and tries to get others who don’t practice such tolerance to change.

Let’s just hope he and his brother who is house-sitting (see I said he was only on a sleepover) manage to get along for the next two months in peace – while figuring out who is going to cut the grass! He’s also a wonderful photographer and has taken most of the photos so far on the blog so let’s hope I can continue in his talented footsteps.

jacob at poas

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