Something So Big

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

When I was a kid, Memorial Day meant visiting cemeteries, remembering our loved ones and other people's loved ones who had died, playing "Taps" for the local parade, and having a cook-out with friends of our family.

Today, it seems as though the cook-outs are in full force, but where is the "Memorial" part of Memorial Day? I feel sometimes as though our society has lost its way and is spending more time partying than remembering anything or anyone. I don't mean to point any fingers, just making an observation and longing for simpler times.

My family is no holier than others, certainly. We had two family cook-outs this weekend and NO cemetery visits. True, the souls of our dear ones are not sitting in those cemeteries, but it is a good place to see a concrete reminder of a life that once lived. It never hurts to stop and take a moment to remember that life...and we sure do take for granted the freedoms we enjoy at the cost of our servicemen and women. Please don't judge me as morbid, but I find nothing quite as beautiful and poignant as tiny American flags and colorful flowers marking the graves of veterans. Having marched and played "Taps" at more parades and funerals than I can remember, it never ceases to grip my heart a little bit when I think about those sacrifices made. Thank you to all who have served and are serving our country -- God bless you. Truly. And to your families, thank you thank you thank you. Your sacrifice is just as great. I pray for your wholeness and your "return to normal" post-deployment.

I still intend to visit the cemeteries of my relatives and to talk with our kids about the lives of their ancestors. I want them to think about their grandparents, great-grandparents, and uncle. I want them to think about the soldiers who died for us. So we could have our annual softball game with the cousins.

So we can visit our brothers & sisters/aunts & uncles, parents/grandparents, cousins...

So we can have the opportunity to open up our own business (like Uncle Jamey's).

So we can play catch in the backyard with our kids. Just play.

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.--Psalm 33:12

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Conquering Our Own Goliaths

Our Christian Kids Club has been playing sports with high school student-athletes and learning about Samuel & David this spring. "Spring sports camp" is always a lot of fun because I get to see high school kids break out of their "cool zone" and work with our younger kids in the club. We played volleyball, basketball, baseball, and football. Having connections to the high school football coach our club kids were able to experience many different aspects of the game through five stations:




...and weight lifting.

The boys were pretty thrilled to try on the pads and helmet!

Yesterday our sport was "walking". We walked three miles around town to raise money and awareness for the American Diabetes Association. One of our club members was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in January, and it is a disease that affects so many of our friends & family members. Our club goal--with only twelve members ages 5-10--was to raise $300. I thought that was a pretty big goal for these young kids.

But God is bigger than any goal that I may set. Like the Bible stories we studied this spring, He is bigger than any dream or prayer. Like Samuel, the boy who was born after years of prayer by a "barren" woman named Hannah. She promised God she would dedicate her son (if she were ever to conceive) to God, and she did. Samuel lived with Eli in the temple and, even though he was very young, he heard God speaking directly to him. Samuel went on to become a great prophet for God's people. Then there was David, whose slaying of Goliath is one of the most famous Sunday School stories of all time. God worked through this shepherd boy to show his people--and the enemies--that God is God. It only took one stone in David's slingshot and a complete trust in his Lord. One sling, one prayer--huge implications. The defeat of the entire Philistine army and the reassurance that God is in control!
So we walked on a beautiful day, albeit a windy one, and things were going great until we got to the final mile of our journey--all uphill. The picture doesn't do the slope justice.

It was a bit challenging for the kids, but they were up to the task. Two little girlies came along for the ride!

It was my prayer that the kids in club would learn a few little life metaphors along the way. Stuff like "life isn't always easy", "having diabetes is not fun, either", and "even one young person can make a positive difference for Christ."

Needless to say, the club goal was met. And surpassed. $571.36 later, I think it's safe to say that we knocked Goliath over yesterday. He might get back up again, but with faith and effort we'll knock him back over again!

But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.--1 Samuel 16:7

Monday, May 18, 2009


Yesterday was just a great day to praise God. I know that every day is a great day to praise Him, but yesterday, it was just so easy. The sun was shining, it was warm enough to wear a light jacket, and we had a great day at church. Plus I didn't have to cook dinner. (Always a good thing!)

The kids had their last day of Sunday School for the year, so they sang one of their favorite praise songs, "Here I Am to Worship". Of course, our son was the only one not very interested in singing. Oh well; praise God that Cy didn't wear the first thing he had picked out yesterday!! (worn-out jeans + white shirt + white vest + dirty black blazer)

Wynne insisted on having a lyrics sheet like the big kids.

Then the "No Strings Attached" puppet group came to perform their latest musical, "Notes of Praise", during worship. The point of the performance was to realize that it doesn't matter what kind of music we use in worship--what matters is what's in our hearts! The show was fabulous, wonderful, impressive, uplifting, funny, smart, thought-provoking, dynamic, awesome...WOW! Here's a funny scene between the feudin' Half-notes and McQuarters.

After worship, we gathered for a potluck, Christian karaoke, guitar hero, tatoos, and jumping. Lots and lots of jumping! Indoor smaller-children's bounce house...

...and outdoor Shangri-la of Bounce Houses.

This was a big hit with all ages. Cy skipped lunch and went directly to the bounce house I think!
Ally took her baby sister in for some semi-safe bouncing. I think one little girl did leave for an ice pack. But overall, it was an amazingly fun time! Kids are so lucky! Where was this stuff when I was a kid??

I forgot to mention the sand art.

When we finally cleaned up and tore the kids off the inflatable play equipment, we came home and fixed the chicken fence. It was a family effort, and it was truly fun. Everybody working together, outdoors, enjoying nature and each other's company.
I love Sundays. Praise God for this day of rest and for honoring Him!

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. --1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Dear Mom,

Sorry this is a few days late, but you got the slide show on time, right?!

Mom, you mean more to me with each passing day, each passing year. You've always been a steady assurance in my life, someone I can lean on, talk to, and laugh with. Okay maybe not always. There were a few years in my teens when I didn't think you were very smart or funny at all. But turns out, you were right all along. (I hate that!!)

I can only begin to imagine the feelings of bewilderment and love that you had as a first-time mother at nineteen. Back in the 50s, that was not a big deal. Today, teen moms are usually not in a stable marriage, but you were. The youngest of twelve, you knew right where to go for "on the job training" and support--your own mom!

Nineteen years later...I came along. NINETEEN YEARS of mothering; you had it down pat by the time I was born! Nine kids, we came in clusters of 3 it seemed--Marla, Julie, and I were all 15 months apart. As a mother now, I know how hard that must have been. No sleep. at. all.

And yet somehow, you managed to sew most of our clothes and keep us fed and happy. There were no video tapes, no Walmarts, none of this "let's indulge the kids first" stuff. Growing up on a farm, we didn't have a lot of money--we didn't take any vacations until my oldest sister moved "up north" and we visited her on occasion. We didn't have a lot of toys. You were too busy to entertain us all day...and yet, we managed to survive and thrive. And I think, be happy, balanced children. (I guess the jury is still out on that "balanced" part!)

My favorite memories of growing up with you as my mom are...
--working together with you to clean up old sheds and junk around the farm (while Dad asked, "Why do you need to do that for??")
--picking strawberries, snapping beans, and husking corn with you in your massive garden
--getting up early to hit all the good yard sales in Platteville (with Marla as your street navigator)
--getting you to laugh so hard that you cried and shook

Simple times. Nothing fancy. Just being a big family, working together on the farm.

Now I have my own children to share chores with, to laugh with, to play with... stay up at night with, to pray over, to nurse back to health... thank God for, to rejoice, as Martina McBride sings, "love them so much it hurts."

I love to see our children with you, my mom, their grandma. I love how our oldest girl looks so much like her grandma at that age.

I hear and see myself becoming a little bit like you. "Put something on your feet!" "The best gift you can give me is to just be nice and not fight." "Why can't you pick up your stuff when you're done with it??" "Just be honest with yourself and don't jump to conclusions about people."

It's not as horrifying as I thought it would be. In fact, it's kind of nice.

Thank you for inspiring me to be a mom, and to love being a mom. You have just the right blend--you don't interfere, you aren't pushy or needy, you don't guilt us, and yet you are always there to help or to hang out with, if we need a friend or advice. You've been there, done that, and you are the ultimate example of sacrifice and wisdom. And love.

I love you, Mom!!

A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies...
She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her.--selections from Proverbs 31

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Father-Daughter Dance

A few Saturday nights ago, our Christian Kids Club sponsored the first-ever Father-Daughter Dance at our school. Girls in grades 4 through 12 (roughly ages 9-18) could spend a night out with their dad and hopefully learn how to be treated by a gentleman! We were fortunate to borrow a beautiful gown from Ally's cousin (thanks, Claire!) and here she is, our little girl.

After enjoying a "Daddy-Daughter Date Night" special at the local brewery restaurant with a few other dads & daughters, Mark drove Ally up to the door of the high school for the big dance. It was pouring rain, so it was neat to see some of the dads drive their girls up to the front door. Chivalry is not dead!! A local photographer volunteered her time to take pictures of all of the couples. I snapped one of Ally with her friends, too.

Then it was time for our speaker. We had a local father of 3 grown daughters take a few minutes to reflect on his insights into raising children, specifically daughters, in a Christian context. Jeff did an amazing job of blending humor and seriousness into his talk, pointing out how important it is to put God first, your spouse second, and children third. Keeping it all in balance, not taking yourself too seriously, and spending time with your kids. It was wonderful!

After the speech, it was time to move the chairs and get dancing! My sister-in-law Mary Kay is a dance instructor for local schools and clubs. She did a fantastic job of teaching our dads and daughters various modern dances (such as this Cuban Shuffle) as well as traditional couples dances (like the polka and waltz). Knowing how to dance gives a person a little more confidence and structure on the dance floor. Many dads joked about sweating from the "work-out"!

Mark and Ally worked hard on their waltz steps.

We also had plenty of time for "free dancing" without the instruction. A local high school boy was our DJ (thanks Tyler!), and he ended the night with a few slow dances. For me, it was very gratifying to see the night filled with fathers and daughters who truly adored each other--one little girl hopped up in her dad's arms, another little girl held her daddy's hand, another put her head on her dad's shoulder. (Mark is going to be very busy in a few years when his other 3 little girls are old enough to attend!) A few dads came up and thanked me for organizing the evening. We definitely plan to do it again!
I could go on and on about how sweet is the bond of a father and his daughter (as God intended it to be), but I'll just let the pictures do the talking.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her--Ephesians 5:25

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Trying To Pick Up Some Slack

The pre-requisite for this post is reading my previous post, "Another Slacker Mom Confession." Otherwise you'll be confused. Long story short - Cy is Star of the Week in his class, and this is a story I wrote this morning in my attempt to "make it right" while describing his past and present ambitions/dreams/super hero obsessions. (He drew the self-portrait a few months ago.) I hope he likes it!!

“Agent C reporting for duty!” I exclaimed as I made my way into the Passage Thru Time museum. Downtown Potosi was quiet that hot summer day, but I liked it. It gave me more time to think my thoughts and hear the voices inside of me, encouraging me to “Go for it, Cy!!”
Professor Wolfe looked up from her desk. “Good afternoon, Agent C. Thanks for coming on such short notice.” Professor Wolfe shuffled through some papers and pulled out a bright orange folder. She peered over her glasses as she thumbed through the folder’s contents. “I think you’ll find this very interesting.”
I took the folder, opened it and read the old newspaper headline. “Snake Hollow Stage Coach Robbed”. The Grant County Gazette was dated August 26, 1900. As I read further, I discovered two very cool facts:
1) The robbery took place on August 25, 1900 –exactly 100 years before I was born, to the day!
2) The stage coach was traveling on its way to Ellenboro and was robbed by a bandit, approximately six and a half miles northeast of Potosi.
“Six and a half miles northeast of Potosi…that’s where I live!” I couldn’t believe it. An old stage coach robbery, right in my own back yard! Or back pasture, to be exact. I looked closely at the photograph of the story. Sure enough, right next to the two-horse carriage, was our creek! I could recognize that creek anywhere. I had taken lots of hikes out there in all kinds of weather, searching for critters and hoping to find the remnants of some ancient civilization. Mom and Dad had told me that a stage coach trail ran right through our property, and now I could really see it in black and white. It was amazing.
Professor Wolfe smiled at me. “Thought you might get a kick out of that, Cy.”
“Thanks so much, Professor Wolfe. Can I keep this article?”
“Well, not the original…but I can certainly make you a copy over at the library.”
“Can we go right now?”
She shook her head. “Sorry honey; I can’t leave the museum unattended….Tell you what. Why don’t you watch the museum while I walk over to the library and make a copy of this for you?”
“Sure! I’d LOVE to watch the museum, Professor Wolfe!”
“Do you think you can handle it? I don’t want you touching anything under glass, okay?”
“ I won’t. I promise! “
Professor Wolfe walked toward the door carrying the orange folder. “Alright then. I’ll just be gone a few minutes. Be good now, Cy!”
“It’s Agent C, remember?”
“Of course.” She laughed. “Agent C!” And she was gone.
I couldn’t believe my luck. First, an old article showing a robbery on my farm…and now I was in charge of the history museum! Even if it was only for five minutes, I was in charge. It made me feel good to have somebody trust me like that.
Professor Wolfe was an expert on local history. I had spent many afternoons at the museum or picking berries in her backyard (she lived just a half-mile up the road from us), listening with attention to all of her stories. I love history and plan to be an archaeologist someday. Sometimes I wear my Indiana Jones hat and pretend that I’m swinging over snake pits (thanks, Grandpa, for the tree swing!) or digging up old bones. Sure, they’re just old cow bones right now…but some day…I am heading to Egypt and other parts of Africa and South America, to dig up the past and learn about ancient cultures. Mom says if I get good grades all across my report card next year, I can even go to archaeology camp next summer!
Back to the museum. Professor Wolfe was one of the people who helped organize and label every artifact in there. Old Potosi brewery cans, advertising from past businesses around the Twin Cities (my Dad’s nickname for Potosi and Tennyson), old farm tools, miniature displays of farms and mining as it looked in pioneer times. I loved living by Potosi, as it was one of the oldest settlements in Wisconsin. Besides the Indians who lived here in the 1700 and 1800s, white people started coming here to mine for lead in the 1830s. My friend Harry owns St. John’s Mine, and he’d told me all kinds of stories about the history of mining here. He even gave me some calcite, a beautiful crystal-like stone mined from the hills. It was just a cool place to live!
I walked by the shelves of Indian arrowheads and stone tools, wondering what it was like to be a member of the Fox tribe when Chief Blackhawk came through this town. I could almost hear the war cries as his tribe tried to fight for their land. I felt kind of bad being a white kid, part of the group of people who pushed Native Americans out of their own homes. Maybe that was why I wanted to be an archaeologist—to bring back some attention and respect for those guys. To remember their stories. They’re kind of like super heroes to me.
I LOVE super heroes. See, ever since I was a little kid, around 3 years old, I have dressed up and played super heroes. Superman was and still is my favorite super hero. He is so strong, has great pecs and abs, and he can do just about anything. Then there’s Sportacus…he was on a show called “Lazytown” and he helped everybody exercise and eat right. He had pretty big muscles, too! Other super heroes who have made it into my mental hall of fame are Shark Boy (if you haven’t seen his movie with Lava Girl, you’re missing something!), Under Dog, and Thing from the Fantastic Four. All of these guys help people, and they all have super powers. But each of them has to feel lonely sometimes, because people just don’t understand them and are jealous of them. Like with Jesus. He’s the ULTIMATE super hero. He died for everybody, even for the bad guys. Everybody was selfish and turned their back on him. My mom bought me this Comic Book Bible, and you should see how strong Jesus looks in those pictures. Everybody always thinks of him as this wimpy guy who let people walk all over him, but really he was showing how strong he was by loving us and being in control. God knew what He was doing. We’re supposed to learn from that. Sometimes I forget, though.
Okay, back to the museum! I better start paying attention or somebody might come in and steal something! I wonder whatever happened to all that money stolen on that stagecoach. I couldn’t wait to read the rest of the article so I could find out more.
Ding! Ding! The door opened, and it was Professor Wolfe. It didn’t take her long at all. “Here’s your copy, Agent C!”
I forgot to tell you why she calls me Agent C. See, sometimes I put on my black gloves and wear my special equipment to go on spy duty. I’m getting too big for the cape and tights, but the spy stuff my Uncle Brian gave me for my birthday is really cool. I also love to use the laser guns that Santa Claus gave me. Have you ever seen “The Goonies” with that kid Data who makes all kinds of inventions? I am totally into making inventions. All this stuff helps me be a good spy.
“Thanks, Professor Wolfe!” I grabbed the copy and started reading for more information about the stolen money. “ ‘I was taking $250 to Livingston along the Ellenboro line,’ reports Mr. Whitaker. ”
“Two hundred and fifty dollars was a lot of money back then,” explained Professor Wolfe.

You have to read the post prior to this one ("A
“I think it’s a lot of money NOW!” I said. We both laughed.
Professor Wolfe handed me another paper. “Thought you might like to read the story from the next day’s paper, too.”
This time the headline said, “Robber Caught; Money Still Missing”. “What the-??” I shouted.
Professor Wolfe smiled and nodded. “The bandit made off with the money and buried it somewhere on August 25th. He was caught later that evening but apparently never told the whereabouts of the cash. I heard he died of a heart attack, and nobody ever got a chance to find out his secret.”
“Are you kidding me??” This was too awesome. A real-life mystery to solve! And it started in my pasture! I couldn’t wait to get home and tell my parents and sisters about this. I sure hope Mom let me cross the fence and walk the neighbor’s corn field. There might be clues there....
“Where are you going, Agent C? Back to the scene of the crime?”
I smiled and nodded. “I’ll see you later, Professor. Thanks for everything!” I left the museum, stuffed those papers into my backpack, and pedaled my bike back up to the school. Dad would have his truck parked out by the football field, so I could just throw my bike in the back. That way I could save my legs for all the walking I was going to be doing when I went on my next adventure!!

(To Cy – I love your imagination. Do you remember when Kathy Wolfe told us about the stagecoach that ran up behind our place? Here’s hoping we find out what really happened here!! Love ya, Mom)

Another Slacker Mom Confession

I was numbering these confessions, but I lost count!!

Thankfully I am not alone - Chris is a mom of 7 (see her post "Little Ways I Fail") and she also neglects her kids from time to time.

Let me preface this with some excuses:
1. I have 4 bookbags and homework to check.
2. I don't check the 2 older kids' very much because Child #1 is responsible and brings what I need to know to me, and Child #2 has an assignment book that I sign on weeknights.
3. I don't check bookbags over the weekend. I ask the kids to empty out their stuff and by the time Sunday night rolls around and I have asked them repeatedly, I believe them when they say, "I don't have any homework." Because they usually don't have homework over the weekend.


So I'm checking Child #2's assignment book and decide to empty out his 2-ton bookbag Monday night (last night). In it, I find a fluorescent green poster board and "Star of the Week" instructions paperclipped to it. Apparently Cy didn't think it was important to share with us that he is Star of the Week. THIS. WEEK. And that he was to fill this posterboard with pictures of himself and have it ready for class on Monday.

My bad.

Let me share this responsibility with my husband and my son. Is it fair that I shoulder the blame and shame all by myself?

Funny thing is, if it would have been any of my other children (who happen to all be girls, just sayin'), I would have heard about Star of the Week for two months prior. But Child #2 just didn't think it was important enough to make the weekend news. We were working outside all weekend on a yard brush clean-up project, and he had several occasions to share this information with us while hacking away at bushes, riding wagons of dead wood, cleaning the clubhouse, etc. But instead he went on and on about how excited he was for their classroom's 150th day party on Monday. In my defense, two days earlier I had counted out 150 Cheerios (well actually counted out 30 and multiplied that "handful" by 5) for their 150th Day Gorp...I did get that to school on time! Yay me!! But nope, being Star of the Week and having a special activity just for himself every day--including sharing his favorite book, favorite snack, hobbies, goals, lunch buddy--that didn't make the front page.

So there I am, sitting in bed with my husband after getting the kids to bed last night, scrambling to stick some old baby pictures and recent adventures on this posterboard. Mark knows which buttons to push and said, "I guess we have too many kids!" and "What kind of a mother are you?" while I wrote a big "I'm sorry" note to the teacher in Cy's assignment book.

Can I include the excuse that I was distracted by a sick kid and a computer crash (where we lost all of our documents and photographs from the last year)?

Sigh. It's just sad when you think of how awesome we could have made this poster. Oh well. My next post will be the short story I wrote with my son as the main character (that was one of the options for his Wednesday time). It's a great assignment, by the way....very creative, and an excellent way to boost the child's self esteem (everyone in class and the parents has to write about the Star of the Week, and she's going to compile it into a book). The kind of assignment I gave out in my teaching years pre-kids. When I was young, ambitious, and not so distracted.

This is Cy's hand holding a baby robin nest...its gnarled old tree was taken down during our project and relocated nearby...see! It's proof that we do spend time together!! (Even if it is destroying wildlife habitats. Deflecting the blame, it was Dad's idea.)

Friday, May 1, 2009

My EXPO-se'

So Astrid and I tried our hand at "vending". She with her business, Budding Artist Books and my business ...we shared a table because I couldn't afford the entry fee otherwise.

Anyway, we had a great time! I guess I should speak for myself, huh Astrid?

Being a stay-at-home mom, I don't get out of the house much. This expo was wonderful because they had FREE childcare and lots of friendly ladies of all ages milling around--ready to visit! Here's what our booth looked like before the expo started:

I felt like we had lots of interest in our books. I talked with people I knew and people I didn't know. I snagged one "book deal" out of the night so I think that's pretty good!

Astrid has an eye for design and good ideas for marketing, too. She came up with a questionnaire for people to fill out, and she designed a canvas bag filled with art supplies (her business tie-in) and a disposable camera (my tie-in) to use as a door prize. We also gave out a bigger door prize to the assembly (I gave out a memory stick and coupon for $10 off one of my books). And just for posterity here lies the candy we had at our table: "Sweet books--Budding Artist & Say It Again" etc.

Note for future reference: Ladies don't like peppermints. I started with 288 of these things (thanks to Wynne for her stickin' help!!) and ended up with probably 278 of them. Now I don't know about guys. Maybe if there were men in attendance, peppermints would have gone over really big. (This was a women's expo.) Or kids. Throw some kids in there and the basket would have been empty half an hour into it.

Oh well - no big regrets. It was fun and hopefully our names/businesses "got out there". You know what they say...nothing ventured, nothing gained!

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.--2 Corinthians 9:6