Wednesday, September 14, 2016

That's a wrap!

Well, another summer is in the books and another school year is up and running. This is a significant school year for our family as it marks some major milestones. Our baby is in full-day kindergarten. She is in heaven and LOVES every minute of it so far. Our other "baby" (who is not AT ALL a baby!), our very first baby, is a senior in high school. A SENIOR! On the one hand, I saw it coming -- he has lived more than 17 years. He has progressed, one year at a time, from kindergarten to first grade, to second grade and so on. From elementary school to middle school and then to high school. I'm not a complete idiot and I get how time works! But, on other hand it has caught me completely off guard. How can it be true? I don't think I have fully internalized the reality of it yet. All my people go to school all day, 5 days a week. 3 of them to high school and 3 of them to elementary school (praise the Lord for a year of respite from having a middle schooler!) I have a decent amount of time where I am not responsible for any short people and can pee and go to Costco without a sidekick! This day has been nearly 18 years in the making. I still am not sure what I think about it, though. I could become completely giddy and overwhelmed with excitement or burst into tears at any moment. It's a bit of a crap shoot. Consider yourself warned!

A few weeks back we were having some car trouble, so, if I wanted a vehicle to drive during the day (which, with 6 kids who needed to get shuttled to various activities, I did!), I had to drive Kirbs to (and from) work. So, I'd drop him off in the morning and drive the 3 or so miles back home to get on with my day. Well, one afternoon I drove on campus (in case you didn't know, he works at a local university) to pick him up after work and as I entered campus, I looked left. On the left, when you enter the campus, the first thing you see is the (beautiful!, new) athletic complex. On the football field that afternoon were lots of (big!) men in purple uniforms. At that moment it hit me (HARD!) that one year from that very moment, my "baby" would be out there with them. Donning a UNW uniform and practicing football. Living, not at our house with us, but on his own in a dorm! That wasn't an easy moment.

Summer is hard. This summer was hard! I don't know if summer is hard for me because it is hard for our family, or if summer is hard for our family because summer is hard for me. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Even with the hard of summer, it went by shockingly fast. I think there were a few backpacks that never even got unpacked before being packed back up again for the next school year. Before I knew it we were at the fair eating too many fried foods and trying to get to bed earlier, so that our return to the school year routine would be slightly less brutal. There were certainly some great things about this summer :: Rebekah had the time of her life working at camp all summer. There were walks in the woods and backyard bonfires and bike rides. We had a wonderful, just-what-we-needed time at family camp (although we missed Jacob who couldn't go with us due to football practice, but was well taken care of by his grandma)! We did some swimming and played at the park. We celebrated birthdays (my grandma's 90th, most notably!). We spent time with friends and grilled lots of stuff . . . but it was still a hard summer!

This summer wasn't only hard on our family. It was hard on our world. Locally. Nationally. Internationally. There is lots of crap going on in the world. And also lots and lots of good and beauty. That is how life is! (More on that in another blog post, possibly.)

We undertook some major house/property stuff this summer . . . . and into the fall. We removed 4 trees from our lot (a couple diseased, one old and decaying, and one that was just a nuisance and was in the way of some changes we want to make with our driveway). Tree removal is a spendy and loud endeavor! We got a new roof (unfortunately we had some shoddy workmanship when we replaced the roof a few years after moving in to the house, following some hail damage, and it was in BAD shape and also causing some leaking in our living room). Sara was disappointed that the house didn't really look any different once the new roof was on. I don't know what she expected, but clearly the new roof was not living up to her expectations. Also, when your very efficient roofing crew of 8 or so guys shows up at 7am and all get up on the roof to start ripping off old shingles, your kids will be a bit upset that their summer sleep schedule has been disturbed by quite a bit of noise that cannot be ignored! It seriously sounded like they were going to come right through the roof and join us inside the house! Roofing is a spendy and loud endeavor! We have a couple more projects coming yet this fall. Replacing/repairing the living room ceiling, which has nasty water damage, and replacing our old, rotting porch windows. Once the budget recovers from those blows, we will take on the driveway project (hopefully sometime in 2017). There's always something to do when you live in a 90-year old house!

Sunday, August 14, 2016


On August 23rd,1926 a baby was born to a family in southern Minnesota. Her parents named her Marjorie Joyce. She was the first girl in a family of boys. Nearly two decades later she would meet and marry a young man named Robert (Bob) and a few years after that they would have a daughter named Marcia, who would grow up and meet and marry a young name named Doug, and a couple years later they would have a daughter named Shana . . . and that daughter is me!

singing in the choir

My wonderful grandma turns 90 this month. We celebrated her birthday with a fabulous party over the weekend. She has meant so much to so many people over the years . . . and about 75 of them came to celebrate her birthday with her. 2 of her children, 2 of her grandchildren, 9 of her great-grandchildren, a couple nieces and nephews, many friends made many different ways (neighbors, church friends, current and former piano students, and people with whom she has worked and volunteered). Near the end of the party we had a short program. Kirby spoke a bit, the 2 little girls played the piano. Joey played his bells. She enjoyed the party and was thankful for each person who took the time to come and celebrate with her.

4 generations serving at Feed my Starving Children

Fletcher/Carlson/Stoll girls

My grandma has been a significant person in my life for all my years. From the time that I was 12 until I was 18, my grandparents lived in our house with us. Nearly every Saturday morning I would wander downstairs to their apartment after waking up and my grandma would make me waffles and fried potatoes (She gave me the waffle maker that she used to make all those waffles -- hundreds of them! -- as a wedding gift). I remember loving her my entire life, but those years of living in the same house made us closer than I think most kids are with their grandparents (although my kids are very close to their grandparents, too, and none of them live in our house with us). I know that my grandma prays for me every single day. What a blessing that is! My kids know (and love) her well. Although I met a few of my great-grandparents, I never really had much of a relationship with any of them. My kids have a meaningful, significant relationship with their great-grandma and for that I am so very thankful. I am so glad for each memory that they can make with her. We attend the same church as she does, and have 4 generations of our family worshipping together every single Sunday morning. I do not take that fact for granted, as I believe it to be a very special (and rare!) experience! My kids take (or have taken) piano lessons from her. My kids have spent one-on-one time with her and even slept over at her apartment with her. (Anna once got 48 solid hours of one-on-one time with her . . . and that's a pretty big deal, if you ask me! Those two have an extra-special bond!)

This is a blanket that my grandma made for us when I was a child
and now it is draped over my couch and my children (another
generation) snuggle up with it when the curl up on the couch.

My grandma has not had an easy life by any standard you might use. She lost a sibling while he was still young. She lost her first daughter when she was only 7 years old. She lost her husband just shy of their 50th anniversary. She has had many struggles. But she is a woman of extraordinary faith. She spoke a bit (very eloquently -- I did NOT inherit that ability) at her party about her life and the fact that "Trust and Obey" is her favorite hymn and the anthem of her life. Then she proceeded to play it for us on the piano. (It may not surprise you to know that I would have been singing along, if not for the fact that I was crying.)
When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do HIs good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey. 
Trust and obey, for there's no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey. 
Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies,
But His smile quickly drives it away;
Not a doubt or a fear, not a sign or a tear,
Can abide while we trust and obey. 
Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,
But our toil He doth richly repay;
Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross,
But is blessed if we trust and obey. 
But we never can prove the delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor He shows, for the joy He bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey. 
Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet,
Or we'll walk by His side in the way;
What He says we will do, where He send we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey.
I am very thankful for the legacy that she has left (and is still leaving) to me and to my children. She is an amazing, talented women and I feel blessed to be her granddaughter.

The birthday girl with our family at the party

Monday, July 11, 2016

All Clear (or pretty darn close)

We had our follow up at the orthopedic doc on Friday and there was good news. I don't have a Twitter account and am not much for hashtags, but just for fun let me say :: #allclear, #batterup, #happyboy, #activerestdidit'sthing!

The doctor did advise that he ease back in to throwing with his right hand, so he suggested not pitching or catching, since that would involve way more throwing than any other position. But he can rejoin the batting order and start fielding as a righty again! His first game after the all clear is tomorrow night and he is pretty pumped!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Active Rest

Early in June our sports-loving, baseball playing kiddo told me, before bed one Friday night, as we were praying together and I was tucking him in, that his elbow really hurt. This kid has a pretty high pain threshold, so I probably should have taken it a bit more seriously right off the bat (no pun intended), but in true "seasoned mom" fashion, I told him to take it easy and see how it felt in a couple days. I promptly forgot about it and started thinking about all the other things taking up mental space in my brain these days. Well, a few days later he told me that it still hurt. And I could tell he meant it. So I made him an appointment at the pediatrician for the next day. She looked at it, asked him some questions and got him an x-ray. Since there are growth plate issues to consider with an elbow in a pre-pubescent kid, and since she is a pediatrician and not a radiologist or orthopedic doc, she said she'd have to consult with a radiologist and get back to me with the verdict. I got a call the next day that the radiologist wanted us to head to an orthopedic clinic to have him seen by a specialist there because it looked like the bone had pulled away from the growth plate. (Sounds super painful to me!) So we we made an appointment at the orthopedic clinic with a guy who specializes in elbows and works quite a bit with baseball players. In the hours between the explanation of the concerns of the radiologist and the appointment with the orthopedic doc, I googled a bit about elbow growth plate injuries. That was probably not the best idea! It just got me worried and certain we would have surgery, or at the very least be down for the count for the rest of summer. And this was approximately 2 hours into summer vacation (quite literally -- school got out at 11 for the year and the orthopedic appointment was at 1:30)

At this point we are now about a week out from the first complaint about elbow pain and, tough, determined kid that he is, he has played in 2 baseball games since the pain started. At the appointment with the elbow guy we got a diagnosis of Medial Epicondyle Apophysitis, which meant nothing at all to me, but sounded like something you should take seriously! The lay term for what was causing the pain is "Little Leaguer's Elbow". Sometimes it comes on all at once, with one long throw of the ball or swing of a bat . . . but this case seemed to be more of the repetitive use version, since there didn't seem to be one particular "event" that prompted the onset of the pain. Thankfully there was no splint, cast, or surgery required. Just "active rest". No throwing. No batting. Less strenuous activities like swimming and biking were fine, but I assumed that the baseball season was pretty much over at that point. Turns out that was a naive assumption on my part. I should have known better, after all the years I have known this particular child!

A few pre-injury baseball pictures :: 

Within 24 hours of the diagnosis, we were at a sporting goods store buying a glove for his right hand, so he could learn to play as a lefty. Without missing a beat (or a game) he continued playing. (No batting still, though.) Even though he was out of the batting order, he was fielding with surprising accuracy and power as a lefty. I guess it is advantageous to have a left-handed first baseman, so that is what he has played most in the games since his injury. He is one determined kid. As hard as that particular trait can be to parent, at times, I know it will serve him well in life. He made up his mind to do something and he did it. (Hopefully with no life-long damage to an important part of his body that he would appreciate having full use of for the rest of his days!)

We are coming to the last week before our re-check. We have an orthopedic appointment again at the end of this coming week. New x-ray and exam. I know it will not go smoothly if anything less than an "all clear" is given at this appointment. So we are hopeful that time and rest would have done the healing work that is needed to get back into life at 100% (if not a bit more!).

But the past few weeks, I have been giving extra thought to the idea of "active rest". I think there are some areas of my life that could use a bit of active rest. Not completely down for the count across the board, but intentionally avoiding some things in areas that are "injured" in my life and giving them the time and space to heal a bit. Maybe you have areas that could use some active rest too. Think on it a bit and see.

Monday, June 6, 2016


Happy, happy 14th birthday to our third-born kiddo, second-born daughter (who I was CERTAIN was going to be a boy!), big sister to 3, little sister to 2, almost-a-high-schooler Lydia Joy. LJ is fabulous and we are so thankful that God blessed our family with her 14 years ago today. I pray that this year ahead brings her many new adventures and experiences and times of learning. She is great and we love her lots!

At 14, Lydia is in to theater (she was in all 6 of the plays during her middle school career), her friends, church, hammock-ing, Frappuccinos, watching Gilmore Girls, taking walks, school (she is a top-notch student), Trout Lake Camp and Miranda Sings. She is a sweet, thoughtful girl who often makes me laugh. She is a great friend and a good sister (most of the time!). I'm looking forward to seeing what the year ahead will bring for her as she moves to high school.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

On my stack

If you know me well, you will know that I love, love, love to read! I always have a book or two that I am working on. Also, I love to listen to audio books when I am running, so most of the time I've got one on my phone that I'm listening to as well. Not to mention the never-ending stack by my bed of "to read" books. So, this is the stack I'm working through lately.

Here go my thoughts. From top to bottom. Enjoy!

And It Was Beautiful by Kara Tippetts. Kara (pastor's wife, author, blogger, mother-of-4) died in March of 2015. This book was put together after her death, I believe from blog posts over the years as she struggled with cancer. She had written two books before this one and I appreciate her writing and am looking forward to reading this one too.

Savor by Shauna Niequist. I ADORE Shauna and her writing. I have read everything she has written. A couple of her books I've read 3 or 4 times! Savor is a daily devotional book and I love it! It is how I start each morning (well, honestly, once in a while the morning gets away from me and I have to play catch up the next day . . . or the day after that). I got it for my birthday last year and am truly "savor-ing" it. I can't tell you how many days I have opened it up and it has said so precisely what I really needed to hear on that specific day. And many mornings I want so badly to read the next day's entry, but I (usually, anyway) restrain myself. You won't be sorry if you pick up a copy, I promise! P.S. Shauna has new book coming out later this year that I am looking forward to enjoying as soon as my (pre-ordered, gifted by the same friend who gave me my copy of Savor for my birthday) copy arrives in the mail!

Roots & Sky by Christie Purifoy. I haven't connected so deeply with a book since reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. And if you know me well, you know that it pretty much the highest compliment that I can give. Christie is doing for my soul the same thing that Sara Groves' music does. The book is wonderful and I am really, really enjoying it and taking my time. I'm already sad that it is nearly over. The subtitle is "A Journey Home in Four Seasons" and it is her thoughts on life and seasons and change and home, following a move her family made from Florida to an old farmhouse in Pennsylvania. I love it!

Giddy Up, Eunice by Sophie Hudson. I have read and thoroughly enjoyed Sophie's other two books as well as her blog and her podcast. She is hilarious, while also conveying deeper, meaningful thoughts. Giddy Up, Eunice did not disappoint and I enjoyed each and every page. It tackles the subject of the importance of intergenerational friendships among women, christian women in particular. It explores more deeply a few friendships from scripture that crossed over generational lines. I was lucky enough to get an advanced reader's copy of the book. It actually comes out this week, so get your hands on a fresh-off-the-presses copy for yourself!

Life Together in Christ by Ruth Haley Barton. This is the book that I am working through with my fabulous group of "Bible Study" girls. (We are a cross between a traditional Bible study and a book club with more significant depth of material, and always focused on spiritual formation). Those three ladies are so dear to me and love me so well, even through my hard, gross stuff . . . but, back to the book. I have really enjoyed it so far. We are a little more than half way through and it has some challenging material, but it is (almost always) good to be challenged and pushed a bit. The books subtitle is "Experiencing Transformation in Community" and our prayer is that that is true of us. It gives you a great model of how to have a keeping life with Christ in the company of others.

Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League by Jonathan Odell. I know almost nothing about this book, but what I do know is that it was HIGHLY recommended by a friend of mine who has recommended books to me for years and not let me down yet . . . so I'm trusting this one will be a winner. I requested it from the library and it just came in, so I'm excited to get started.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I just finished this one over Memorial Day weekend. It was LONG (771 pages!) and there were times that I wanted to quit. But more than I wanted to quit, I wanted to know how it ended, so I stuck it out. I was glad that I made it and it saw it through to the end. The plot was interesting (although, personally, I think it could have been just as interesting with fewer pages!) and I appreciated the diversity of characters and the character development. Not the best book I've ever read, but not bad either. If you enjoy art or art history, it might be right up your alley since the overarching plot involved a stolen painting. It is a good read as long as you don't mind a decent amount of bad language, a bit of violence and murder, a pinch of gruesome detail and lots of drugs! It won a Pulitzer Prize, so there's that too.

Most Wanted by Lisa Scottoline. Another friend recommendation that I requested from the library that just came in (don't you hate it when all your books come in at the same time . . . when it rains, it pours, I guess!). Looking forward to reading this one as well. A novel. A thriller. A page turner. Every once in a while I love a novel that keeps you up late in to the night because just can't put it down. I'm guessing that's what this one will be.

A few that I have finished. A few that I am currently working through. A few that are up next. What are you reading lately?

None of the links are affiliate links. I get no benefit from you reading the books or not reading them. I just wanted to let you know what I'm reading and enjoying lately in case you might enjoy it too. All links are to Amazon, although there are a million other places that you can buy books. Also, I can't read e-books. I need actual pages made of paper to turn. I know that's not as convenient as just carrying around your thin, light e-reader . . . but, that's how I roll!

Thursday, May 19, 2016


I have made a practice, for years, of keeping a list of blessings in my life (gratitude journal). It really helps me to keep things in perspective and also to be on the lookout for the gifts in my life, both big and small. Here is some of my recent blessings.

5313. a beautiful sunrise
5317. Anna spending the weekend with GG (those two just LOVE being together)
5322. reading books to Sara
5365. a thumbs-up from our 93-year-old neighbor as he drove past me as I walked
5359. clean sheets on all the beds
5372. clothes on the clothesline
5402. crafting
5410. glorious spring weather
5423. friends who know you well
5450. hearing an owl hooting in the woods
5462. the quiet of morning
5485. the girls hanging out in the yard in their hammocks
5504. beautiful sunset
5505. our "village" and how we take care of each other
5532. staff appreciation breakfast at school -- always a highlight of the year
5540. that my kids get to really know my grandma. And the love her so much!
5542. texts from friends
5548. our spiffed up patio space
5554. lots of yard work done
5556. the smell of lilacs in the air

Be on the lookout for blessings in your life. You will love it once you start!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

4 weeks. 4 birthdays!

4 of our 6 kids have had a birthday in the past 4 weeks. That makes for lots of celebrating. Lots of cake. Lots of singing. Lots of birthday punches (51 total, to be exact!). Lots of gifts. Lots of cards. Lots of gratitude for each of their lives.

On March 23rd Jacob turned 17 and Rebekah turned 15.

Then just 5 days later, Anna turned 8.

Today, Joe turns 11.

It's so true what they say. "The days are long, but the years are short!" It is amazing to me at how quickly the years go by. That very first baby that I held in my arms who made me a mama is 17 already. In a year he will be a legal adult. He drives a car (and sometimes a HUGE van) and makes his own plans and very shortly will be moving out of our house. It all comes so fast. I am thrilled with the people each of our kids are becoming, but I miss the littleness of them. Snuggles on the couch aren't quite the same any more. They don't need me the same as they used to. They still need me, but it's so different. I love it and I also miss what used to be.

My favorite thing is watching them develop friendships with each other. They truly love and care about one another. And more and more they enjoy spending time together and are really becoming great friends. It is so wonderful for us to see. Besides the fact that they each love the Lord, nothing makes me happier than seeing them become friends with one another. I love they way they tease and support and annoy and encourage one another. I love seeing them come up with amazingly thoughtful gifts for one another that are so meaningful and special to the person they are giving them too. I love our kiddos and the wonderful people they are becoming!

What the birthday kids are in to these days ::

Jacob (17) ::
Ultimate Frisbee
church softball
anything sports-related
hanging out with friends
mowing lawns

Rebekah (15) ::
taking driver's ed
social media
Trout Lake Camp
Miranda Sings
perfecting her Miranda Sings impression (it's pretty darn fabulous, if you ask me!)
Catalyst (before school Bible study)
church/youth group
laying in her hammock
Gilmore Girls

Anna (8) ::
being outside
church (her friend Pastor Troy)
her newly-pierced ears

Joe (11) ::
all things sports
Nerf guns
school patrol -- walking line
Koalas (he is OBSESSED!)
Marvel super heroes (especially Captain America)
Fuller House (Netflix in general!)
being outside

I am so very grateful to have each of them as a part of our family!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

He is risen indeed!

Every other year we head north to spend Easter with my in-laws and my husband's extended family. It's not short trip. They live about 350 miles north! That's a long trip when you can only stay about 48 hours once you arrive. But it is well worth it. The kids love seeing their grandparents and spending time with their cousins . . . and you can't forget the EGG HUNT!

So this year was a traveling year. Kirby and Joe returned home about 5:30 on Thursday night from a 3-day environmental studies field trip that the 5th grade class at our school goes on every spring, and after a full evening of laundry (you don't want stinky/wet/dirty camp clothes to sit for 4 days before being laundered!) we left first thing on Friday morning. We arrived at my in-laws house Friday afternoon and after unloading our stuff and stretching our legs a bit, it was time to get ready for the Good Friday service at church. Following church, we played games and had dessert at Kirby's older sister's house with her family. Saturday brought our big extended family dinner and egg hunt (since we needed to leave right after church on Sunday to get home at a decent hour, we did our celebrating as a family on Saturday afternoon). I think there were probably 40 people at Kirby's aunts house for dinner. 2 of Kirby's 3 siblings were there with their families as were many of his aunts and uncles and cousins (as well as his cousin's kids). We are quite a group! There was lots of food, much laughter, games to play and all the kids enjoyed the egg hunt immensely (despite the mud and snow). Following the egg hunt the kids kept busy emptying their eggs, eating candy, trading candy and counting their money (eggs don't only hold candy, you know!) while the adults visited and helped facilitate fair trading among young ones before we all packed up to head out. Saturday night brought a walk to stretch our legs and get some fresh air, pizza and visiting with Grandma and Grandpa.

We went to a pancake breakfast at Kirby's sister's church on Sunday morning and then enjoyed Easter worship at their church with a good percentage of his family. We had a quick lunch at his parents house and changed out of our "church clothes" before hitting the road for the long trek home.

Finally, after LOTS of hours in the car, we arrived at our house. Unfortunately, we were locked out! My parents had come to do a project for us (new front and back steps and front sidewalk -- having a cement mason for a father comes in handy more often than you might think!) and so we left the door open for them when we took off on Friday morning. Kirb grabbed just the van keys and we hit the road. Well, my very responsible parents locked up for us when they were done on Friday. The thought that we didn't have a house key with us never crossed our minds until the moment we pulled into the driveway. Thank goodness for cell phones! I called my parents (who were still had Easter company at their house) and my dad buzzed over right away and let us in . . . saving the day (and our VERY FULL bladders) again!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Natural Beauty

I've said it before, and I'll say it again :: I love where we live! This morning as I was walking with the kids to school, we saw the most awe-inspiring site. About 10 feet ahead of us and on the opposite side of the street, I sensed something. As I looked up, I saw a eagle take off from the tree, probably less than 20 feet off the ground. I have never been that close to an eagle in the wild. I've been to my share of raptor shows and seen a few injured eagles in captivity, but never imaged I would be that close to the majesty of an eagle outside. Less than a mile from my house. On a city street. I'd never seen an eagle in a tree that low to the ground. It was amazing! And SO big! The kids, young as they are, even sensed they had witnessed something special. We just stood still on the sidewalk watching him (or her) soar above the houses. The eagle remained surprisingly low in the sky and we had a fabulous view. I hope to never forget the sight of those white tail feathers taking off so close to me. You could tangibly feel the presence of that majestic animal. It was breathtaking!

I couldn't help but be reminded of one of my very favorite hymns ::

Oh Lord my God
When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout the universe displayed

Then sings my soul
My Saviour, God, to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art
Then sings my soul
My Saviour, God, to Thee
How great Thou art
How great Thou art

How great Thou art, indeed. I am grateful for the chance to have been able to bear witness to creation in this way this morning! What a fabulous way to start the day!

Monday, March 7, 2016

R & R

Kirby doesn't travel for work too often, but we are just on the heels of him having been gone for 13 days straight. That makes for a long solo parenting stint, so we (and by we, I mean HE) worked it out so that I could join him for a few days in the middle of this trip. I flew from chilly MSP in Minnesota to Phoenix, Arizona (a treat for any Minnesotan by the time late-February rolls around) where we stayed for 1 day before settling in to our rental car for the drive to the Palm Springs area of California. We stayed with a UNW donor in her home (where we have been before -- me once and Kirb a few more times than that). We spent much of our time with her, but had some time alone as well.

We got to experience (again) a walk through the life of Jesus. It is a garden walk with beautiful sculptures depicting important scenes from Jesus' life. The experience was made even more meaningful by the fact that it was Lent. More about the experience can be found here.

The first night of my part of the trip I fell asleep at 7:14 pm (according to my Fitbit) and slept for more than 10 hours. I guess parenting 6 kids without your partner for 6 days through 5 play performances, 2 sporting events, 2 doctor appointment, kindergarten round-up and 3 musical concerts (yup, all that in 6 days) will wear you out. The extra sleep was exactly what I needed to enjoy the rest of my time (and I continued to bank nearly 9 hours of sleep each night for the remainder of my trip. Sleep is one of my favorite love languages!)

We had a wonderful time of rest, relaxation, sunshine, hikes, runs, palm trees, mountains, coffee and reading. I headed back home on Wednesday (after having arrived on Sunday) where I picked up where I had left off with the kiddos until we were ALL home together again a few days later. The kids were all so happy to have their dad back home. He is a very major part of their day to day lives (putting them to bed, praying with them, reading to them, cooking dinner, being their rock), so he was greatly missed. They missed me too, but I wasn't gone as long as he was, so his homecoming was highly anticipated!

I am so thankful for my parents and their willingness to take care of the kids so that I could get away for a few days. I am also thankful for our "village" that helped me out while Kirb was gone and were waiting in the wings in case anything came up, while my parents were staying here, that required a bit of reinforcement (thankfully they managed just fine without needing any reinforcements!).

The sunshine and warmth we banked will help us make it through the last cold stretch of winter until spring is here to stay!

Even though I am not much of a traveller, I had a great time away and enjoyed the time with my favorite person in the world (and away from 6 of my other favorite -- shorter -- people!). Even this non-traveller can benefit from a bit of away-from-home R&R from time to time!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Grateful. So grateful!

I emailed a specialist teacher from our elementary school this morning to tell her about a scheduling conflict that we were going to have beginning today and stretching into the rest of the school year. One of our kiddos has an appointment every Thursday afternoon for the foreseeable future. Thursday afternoon also happens to be the exact time that this specialist at our school meets with this group of kiddos -- which only happens once a week. Meaning, our kiddo would never get to go to that specialist again for the rest of the school year. I got an email back from her pretty quickly thanking me for letting her know about our situation and that she would give it some thought and get back to me. Our elementary school has roughly 450 students. This situation only affected ONE of them! She got back to me within an hour, saying that she talked to the homeroom teachers in the grade and the 3 of them had agreed that our kiddo was important enough that they would switched around the Thursday schedule for the entire grade to accommodate my kid. Can you even believe it? That outcome had never even entered my mind as a possible solution to our situation. I am amazed at the kindness and compassion of these teachers! I was all emotional and teary and called both my mom and Kirb to tell them of the outcome -- one I hadn't even imaged. It is not a perfect place. (This is not a perfect world!) But I sure do love our school. I am so grateful that these adults cared enough about my child to re-arrange the schedules of 3 teachers and 2 homeroom classes so that my child didn't miss out on something. That is pretty amazing! What a great school filled with great, kind, compassionate, caring, flexible teachers. I am grateful . . . and still a bit surprised by the whole thing! What a blessing!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I think college was the first time I realized what a unique and fabulous relationship some people have with their cousins. I grew up with cousins that I genuinely loved, but they weren't my very best friends. We didn't do all the things together and share a lifetime of hilarious memories and inside jokes. When I would hear friends talk about their relationships with their cousins, it intrigued me. My kids, also, have wonderful cousins that they love and adore and get excited to see . . . but they don't have that "magical" cousin relationship either. The majority of our kids' cousins live far away geographically and the others are "far away" from them in age.

So this is where the family that you choose for yourself comes in handy. My kids have wonderful "cousins" from our amazing community. Other kids with whom they share a lifetime of fun, hard, silly memories. Kids with a special bond, not from the fact that they are friends, but from the fact that entire families love spending time together. First birthday parties (stories they don't actually remember on their own, but have been told enough times to "know"), swimming in the pool, kindergarten programs, school stuff, retreats, orchestra concerts, karaoke, sledding, summer evening bonfires, plays, sporting events, carpools, picnics, birthday parties, funerals, YoungLife, before school Bible study . . .

Years ago we used to have an annual Christmas Open House. We'd invited tons of friends, have a bunch of food and hang out, our house filled with 50-60 friends. We were packed to the gills! One year, 4 or 5 years ago, there was a HUGE snow storm the day of our party. No one could get here! We didn't want anyone to be unsafe on the road, so finally we officially canceled. So, then we had TONS of food, but were lacking guests (and had a few sad kiddos . . . and disappointed parents). Thankfully, our dear friends, who both lived just blocks from our house and were planning to come anyway, braved the weather and came anyway. Some on foot, some in all-wheel-drive with shovels in back just in case. We ate and chatted and played games and sang songs and it was wonderful! Anyway, the tradition stuck. We haven't had a Christmas Open House since (at which you had lots of very minimal time with many people, but no meaningful time with anyone) and every year our 3 families have gathered for a meal and night together right before Christmas. It has become one of my favorite traditions of the year!

We put it on the calendar weeks ago and have been looking forward to it ever since. By 5:45 there were 18 people in our house and it. was. LOUD! A little after 6 we all gathered in the living room and sang The Doxology together before digging in to the dinner (which always has the same menu and TONS of food). Singing the Doxology together, instead of our normal pre-dinner prayer of thanks for the food and the friends and the birth of our Lord, was new this year and I loved it! Looking around at all these people that I love singing praise and thanks to the Lord together filled my heart (and my eyes) right up to the top (and maybe even a bit more). We ate, we chatted (which was tricky . . . if you were trying to hear someone that wasn't right next to you, you had to work really hard to hear them above the din of 12 kids, aged 5-18, who were enjoying each other's company with quite a bit of volume!), we laughed, we got teary. The kids cleared out. To the basement. Upstairs. To play hockey on the front porch. And we sat. The moms on one couch and the dads on the other.

Then, a couple hours later, Kirb turned on our player piano (also a MAJOR part of this annual tradition) and the kids came pouring in from every corner of the house with amazing speed and the fun really began. We sang together around the piano. Silent Night. The 12 days of Christmas (I'm always a bit uncertain once we get up past 5! Is it lords-a-leaping or drummers drumming? I usually just sing the numbers until we get down to 5 when I join in 100% again). Rudolf. Let it Snow. We probably have at least a couple dozen Christmas songs for our piano, but we seem to gravitate to the same half dozen or so for this night. Then, too quickly, people don their coats once again and head home for the night.

We clean up dishes, put kids to bed and bask in the wonderful time that we had, once again . . . and start looking forward 365 days until we can do it again. I know I've painted an idillic picture, but it really is an idilic night! Generally speaking, our lives all have tough things. Hurts. Pain. Sickness. Sorrow. Struggles. (Many of which we discussed in the time between The Doxology and Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer) But this night is a great reminder of all that we have to be grateful for. Good friends who are like family. Happy, healthy children. Shared faith. Fun. Laughter. Friendship. I thought, as I looked around the room, all of us gathered together in one place singing "Praise God from whom all blessings flow", that this is pretty much as happy as I get. Happy. Grateful. Contented. Blessed. Life is good! Thank you Lord!

(I didn't take one single picture -- only the ones in my memory -- but Lydia took a video of one of our sing-a-long numbers and if I can figure out how, I'll post it here for your viewing pleasure).

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Counting gifts

We celebrated Thanksgiving a few weeks back and are now nearly half-way through Advent already. Time goes by so fast (unless it happens to be going slowly and then OH MY can it drag!). I continue to count gift. Blessings. Reasons to be thankful. Both big things and small things. The small things are my favorite and are, actually, quite big I have found! Here are a few of them that I have noticed lately ::

5067. sending snail mail
5074. story time at the library
5090. kissing my kids
5091. one on one time with Jacob
5105. quiet mornings
5112. handwritten cards in the mailbox
5113. clothes on the clothesline
5122. walking the kids to school
5124. feeling a bit more like myself again after a few especially hard, emotional weeks
5126. finding Jacob's lost wallet
5131. Rebekah and Lydia's Miranda impressions . . . never fails to brighten my mood
5135. watching my kids at the Toby Mac concert -- seeing them worship genuinely, from their hearts, in ways they don't get at church each week
5136. Sara dancing her heart out
5138. the warmth of sunshine on your back
5141. dropping off a van full of kid at school before 7 for Bible study
5143. my mom's help with major cleaning and purging -- couldn't (and wouldn't) have done it without her
5147. watching Sara sleep
5149. BOGO holiday drinks at Starbucks
5152. the amazing, wonderful cousin-like relationship my kids have with our "village" kids (I never had cousins that I was close to, but I love seeing my kids have relationships like the ones people talk about having with their cousins. Being super close. Growing up together. Knowing you could always count on each other).
5153. our village
5159. Kirbs
5164. Troy taking time each Wednesday to sit down and check in with Anna about how she is doing after she turned in a few prayer request cards in the offering saying she was struggling at school (gotta love a pastor/bodybuilder/tutor!)
5166. NO pile by the coffee maker
5171. a short week
5173. friends who pray for you
5174. Thanksgiving at Ham Lake
5175. snowy walk in the woods with Myndi
5176. Anna playing ping pong with GG
5178. the new living room arrangement
5180. watching old videos of the kids . . . those sweet little voices!
5182. devotions in the morning with Anna
5187. sleepover in Chanhassen with the Newman family
5191. texts that make you laugh
5193. first paid out-of-the-house employment in almost 17 years (preschool sub)
5198. Christmas cards all picked up
5204. finishing up a BIG, fun craft project (and I LOVE the finished product!)
5206. a once-again empty front porch following the Salvation Army pick up of our porch full of purging!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Coincidence? I think not.

Three years ago on the Wednesday following Thanksgiving my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. A couple months ago I made my annual mammogram appointment for December 2nd not at all realizing, while making the appointment, that December 2nd would be the Wednesday after Thanksgiving . . . that fact was not lost on me this morning as I checked in for my mammogram. I am thankful for the technology that can detect such things early enough to allow for successful treatment. I am so very grateful that my mom is healthy and doing well! She is such a blessing to many, I know, but I'm pretty sure there's no one more grateful for her than me! As I type this, many friends come to mind who have lost their dear mommas (or other loved ones) to cancer (or any number of other things). It's hard, this life. The joys mixed with the sorrows. So many emotions all the time. As one of my favorite authors, Glennon Doyle Melton, says, life is "brutiful" (brutal and beautiful all at once).