Something So Big

Monday, August 31, 2009

As Summer Winds Down

The autumn equinox isn't officially here for 22 more days, but fall is definitely in the cooler air and "summer is over". We've already had one football game and school starts tomorrow. But before the children head back to school, there's always time for a softball game.

Last weekend the football coaching families came over for a cook-out. Coach Reuter's kids were right around the same age as Ally and Cy, and there were two boys in the lot, so Cy was overjoyed to have a BOYS team to play the GIRLS. (You recall, our son is outnumbered 4 to 1 in our house.) Mason, Carter, and Cy took on Mackenzie, Ally, Paige and Shae.

I'm not sure how the game went, but aren't these the cutest little outfielders you've ever seen? So ready, so eager!

Thank goodness they don't keep score. There was enough yammering about the pitches without a "we're winning" taunt-fest.

The boys wanted overhand baseball pitching, but technically, the girls reminded them, "we are playing with a softball," so fastpitching was required.

Thank goodness there was no home plate umpire, either!

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."--John 14:6

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Domestic Goddess I Am Not

I think Cy had some pretty good times for his birthday his week. It seems as though these birthday bashes are extending over several days now, kind of like in Biblical times (the wedding of Cana, for example) or Woodstock!!

Our young man turned 9 on Monday, but we opened up the week with a laser tag/lego free-for-all on Sunday night. Cy had 3 friends over and they played to their hearts' content. It was the first year in forever that I haven't done a "theme" party for him...he specifically asked me NOT to do one this year as he is "too old" for such things. (where is the crying mom icon when I need one??) He was very cool about it, though, not snotty. And then he did change his mind a bit the day before and said, "Mom, can you make up a really hard treasure hunt for us to do, like you did last year?" and so I set to work writing clues and hiding little Lego figures all over the farm. The twins helped me, and we all had a great time.

Cy is really into Legos now, so Ally had this great idea to make him a Lego cake. Here is the picture she gave me for reference. Here is the cake I made:

Domestic goddess I ain't!
Please don't refer me to Cake Wrecks!
Then again, go ahead. Do it. I could use the 15 seconds of fame, right?

Cy is still big on archaeology, Mark and I teamed up with his godfather Uncle Brian to give him a mini-camp morning at Cave of the Mounds. I hadn't been there since the early 80s; what a beautiful place it is! The girls were jealous as we waited to register their brother for the day camp and looked all over the visitor center.

Cy had 3 hours of camp while the girls and I drove into Madison, picked up a wishing well from a craigslist seller for our Sunday School room, and drove back over to the west side to hit Barnes & Noble. My daughters had never been to Barnes & Noble, and after an hour of browsing I think they have joined their mother in proclaiming it one of their favorite stores EVER!! (It didn't hurt that every child got a free book for writing about 8 books they've read over the summer.) Plus I got my Christian book fix by buying the DK Children's Bible for our Sunday School "Into the Bible" room. (I am SOOOO excited about our new rotation Sunday School program--but that is for another blog post!!)

We drove back to the Cave of the Mounds just in time to meet Cy emerging from the cave tour. Each student made a plaster fossil, got their own bag of real fossils, and received another bag full of cave treasures. I bought Cy a shark tooth from the gift store, and then we stopped at McDonald's for playland time and lunch on the way home. Cy bought two Lego racer Happy Meal toys (did you know you can just buy the toys without the food?) to add to his Lego collection. I think he was pretty stoked after his big morning.

To top it all off, Cy and his buddy Will got to join Dad on the sideline for the Chieftains' season opener at the college stadium. Ally made her debut as football statistician with Mr. Kading, and Mark reported that Cy did a pretty good job as waterboy. And we won the game!
After a full day of driving, shopping, caving, fast food, and football, the Domestic Goddess in me made a big pot of chili for supper. Of course the children ate multi-grain tortilla chips and went to bed instead of eating the chili, but hey at least Coach got a nice warm bowl when he came home. (It's been rainy and cool here these days, not August-like at all.)

I look back on the past few days and am just so grateful for His care over it all. God blessed us in so many little ways--with a safe trip on rainy roads, arriving at our mulitiple destinations on time, having the free book offer going on at the exact time we were visiting Madison, and none of the players getting hurt on that wet football field. It is especially gratifying to see two of our children working alongside their father in an endeavor that benefits our whole community. (Some may think high school football is over-rated, but not when it is such a family function. It is truly a core part of who we are, and my husband works so hard to instill good values in his charges. Win or lose, the character that is built on that field is priceless. And the relationships we build with other families means a lot to me!)

I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.--Psalm 34:4

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Cyrus Gotstafuss

I look in my young man's baby book and smile at how many nicknames we had given him. Cyrus Gotstafuss (because he just had to fuss a lot, it seemed), Cypes (how Ally said "Cyrus" when she was 1 and 1/2), Mr.Buddy, Little Buddy, Chip, Chip-Chop Chippety-Chop, Chipster, Buzzard, Buzz, Lover, Mini-Mark, C.J., Fuzz-Buzzard....the list goes on and on. Most of the names have faded over time. Buzzard and Cypes have stood the test of time thus far...along with Nockerus (named after your version of rhinoceros from age three)!

Now he's nine and I'm telling him he can't be nine. He has to stay eight because Mom is not ready for a nine-year-old boy. A boy who is about an inch from meeting me eye-to-eye, closing in on 100 pounds all too soon, and wearing shoes that are almost as big as mine. A boy who can put down more food in one sitting than I can even think about eating all day. A boy whose sharp wit and off-the-wall comebacks make it so darn hard to stay stern and cover up that smile that keeps coming to my face.

Oh Cyrus, where did the time go? In some ways, you're still my little boy--bathroom wiping issues, snot-clearing, and all....and in other ways you are growing into quite the young man. A young man who watches action films with his dad ("It's a guy thing, Mom"), puts together Lego contraptions that I can't even begin to imagine, and has an imagination that won't quit. Dreams of archaeology, finding the Lost Ark, and reading the original Ten Commandments. A young man who wants to follow those Ten Commandments one minute and find a loophole through every single one of them the next. A young man who can be hilarious and profound, all at the same time.

You are the one I have prayed the longest over, worried the most over, and read the most "Difficult Child" books over. Yet you are the one who can change my emotions from negative to positive in the quickest beat of my heart. My son.

Happy Birthday Cypes! Love you as ever.

Friday, August 21, 2009

So Cute You Wanna Squeeeeeeeze Em

Sometimes when the kids aren't fighting with each other or crying about someone taking too long, eating the last cookie bar, or touching someone with their feet...there are precious moments of happiness and harmony. Moments like this one.

My favorite part of this picture is how excited they are to be playing together, to be sisters. I have lots of other favorites in this big sister and little sister are dressed alike and loving it, how Wootsies' tootsies are showing (so cute I just want to eat them up), how those plastic dress-up shoes are on the wrong feet, how two tea sets are better than one, and how proud Paige is to be Wynne's big sister. This is one of those times when I'm priviliged to be their Mommy.

Sons are a heritage from the LORD,
children a reward from Him. --Psalm 127:3

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Project Time!

It's funny how the word "project" means different things to different people. For my husband, it is a positive word connotating images of physical labor, something hands-on, usually involving barnboard. Mark is always looking for a project, it seems. He finishes tearing down the kitchen and building a two-story addition, only to be sad and bored after about 3 weeks of "nothing to do". Our whole house is full of Projects-- barnboard siding, ceiling beams, hand-fashioned furniture, and the like. It is all very awesome and well-built and unique, but sometimes it wears on me because A) it's a creative outlet for HIM, not me; my job is to keep the kids out of the way and drop everything I'm doing to run and help him from time to time; and B) it always costs WAAYYY more than projected.

So when Mark put the Menards Big Card in an envelope in the kitchen cabinet last month, I had to chuckle to myself and wonder how long the reserve would last. After all, it's only football season with school starting less than two weeks from's not BUSY enough for the man. No, it's time to start another Project. Something that's been on his mind for over two years now: mudroom lockers for each person in this family. Something like this:

As amazing and handy as they would be, the Naysayer (as I'm so affectionately named by said Project Man) has to point out that we cannot afford wooden lockers at this time. It goes something like this:

PROJECT MAN. Wouldn't these be sweet?
NAYSAYER. Yes, honey, they would be. Too bad we don't have any money for that right now.
PROJECT MAN. But we NEED these. I've been wanting to make these for years now (while surfing for more locker samples)...Hey, do you like this one better? Or this?
NAYSAYER (walking away to fold more clothes). They're all nice.
PROJECT MAN. You didn't even see them!
NAYSAYER. I saw them yesterday. Do you really think you have time to start this right now?
PROJECT MAN. I need something to take my mind off of football.
NAYSAYER. But you will just run yourself ragged. Next week you'll be gone to inservice, and then school starts. Besides, we just can't afford them right now.
PROJECT MAN. You're such a naysayer.
NAYSAYER. That's my job.
PROJECT MAN (still surfing). Hey what do you think of this design? But it doesn't have a bench. We gotta have a bench for every kid.
NAYSAYER. I agree.
PROJECT MAN. So I can make them then??
NAYSAYER. I didn't say that. Can I get back to the laundry?
PROJECT MAN. You don't care.
NAYSAYER. Yes, I do. I'd LOVE to have lockers in there, but it's just not a good time.
PROJECT MAN. That's what you always say. Nothing would ever get done around here if we waited for it to be a "good time".
NAYSAYER. Whatever.

In all fairness and homage to Project Man, the Projects DO get finished, and usually ahead of schedule. He's great about that, and I am a lucky girl. (Just ask the other Sunday School moms! ;) It's a losing battle for the Naysayer.
Say "project" to the kids, and a squeal of glee comes forward. Slacker Mom stifles her desire to keep the house semi-clean and turns the children loose on their creative adventures. Today we made Finger Paint from a recipe I had clipped from a Family Connections newsletter a few years ago. I have to admit, it turned out pretty good.

2 c. flour
2 tsp. salt
4 1/2 c. water, divided
food coloring
Mix the flour and the salt. Add 2 1/2 cups of cold water. Whisk until smooth. Gradually add this mixture to 2 cups of boiling water. Boil until smooth and thick. Add food coloring, then stir until smooth.

The "big kids" were too busy watching Disney Channel to join us. They missed out on the gooey, colorful fun!

I thought Shae drew a great Spaniel for a 6-year-old.

And Paige made a fantastic self-portrait!

One thing to note if you're doing this project, be sure to have a few wet towels ready for sticky hands! You don't want to mix colors, after all.

This is Mom's attempt at drawing Dora and Boots. Swiper's not bad, but Dora and Boots look hideous. Thank goodness Wynne colored over most of the fiasco!

The main thing is that everybody had a lot of fun this afternoon, and we had plenty of finger paint left over for another time. Now that's MY kind of Project!

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger.--Proverbs 5:1

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Hold Your Mouth Right

Ever since their dad started football practice last week, the kids have been inspired to follow in his footsteps; Ally in particular. This week she is running a "basketball camp" for her little sisters, with Cy as her assistant coach. I saw her notebook and it's really quite impressive; she has practice plans, names of drills and methods of teaching the game fundamentals written down. She even has treats mentioned (popsicles including what flavors the girls will earn at the end of each day's work-out)!

With all of the children happily occupied, I tried my hand at sports photography. (You'll notice the girls have their "camp shirts" on yesterday, and today must have been Blue Day or something like that.)

When I was a kid, my dad would often tell me to "Hold your mouth right" because my tongue was sticking out just a bit, my mind focused in total concentration on the task at hand. Usually the task was something physical, not mental...and me being a "wicked" kid ("God you're WICKED!" Dad would say as I clumsily failed something like pouring a glass of milk or carrying a feed bucket without spilling), I needed all of the help I could get. Perhaps the tongue made its appearance as a means of support, a subconscious way for me to complete the task at hand. (Or maybe I was just a klutz; plain and simple!) At any rate, I felt a mix of nostalgia and pride as I took a closer look at my girls. Here's Shae...

...and here's Paige. Hold your mouth right, honey!!

Dang, that last one is a pretty good snapshot, isn't it? I can't take credit for it, though. Coach Ally had the camera for that one. I love it!!

Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.--Exodus 20:12

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Storms, Bathroom Parties, & Tympanoplasties

It's been another weird week at our house. This weekend we had more severe weather in the area, so we spent a lot of time in the basement. Now mind you, this is not the basement storm ride-out of days gone by--the house I grew up in has a dirt floor cellar and lots of creepiness. No friends, today's basement has a Man Cave thanks to inspirational television shows (A.K.A. the DIY Network) and a fully functional TV. I was proud of the kids--they managed to play a few board games to wile away the hours.

Speaking of DIY, maybe we should pitch for a new program entitled "Bathroom Party Make-overs". Ally led the troops in renovating our bathroom and "vanity room" (because you know how much time I spend fussing over my hair and make-up). It was Chieftain Party Central or something like that.

I guess it was the kids' way of heralding in the new football season.

Doesn't Mark look thrilled? (Actually, he was very impressed with their ingenuity...just a little depressed at the thought "summer is over".)

I was equally impressed with the kids' mad decorating skills. You can't tell, but this glass full of rubber balls was back-lit by a blue nightlight. It was pretty cool.
(Yes, that is food on the bathroom sink. Don't gobble it all up at once!!)

And now onto the Tympanoplasty. New word for the week. (Wouldn't it make a great name for an action-adventure flick?) Cy has a hole the size of Texas in his ear drum (thanks to past monster ear infections, we think), so it was time to get the drum repaired. The doctor made an incision behind his ear and removed some fascia muscle to graft onto the old ear drum. The bad news is that we won't know for six weeks if the ear drum is successfully working. The good news is that Cy made it through 2-hour surgery very well. Here's a before shot:

And after:

I'm reporting on night one--he's distracted by a new Indy lego set his dad just bought him. The bad news is he's in some pain. The good news is that he doesn't like taking liquid medication of any sort. Oh wait, that's MORE bad news. Sigh. Tomorrow is another day!

I love how God worked through our pastor to preach His truth this Sunday, truth that is tailor-made for my week. He quoted from Paul, a man who was in chronic pain but still ignited the world with Christianity--and he said, "your circumstances WILL change. For good or for bad, they will change. But your relationship with Christ will never change." Thank God for that!

"...I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength." Philippian 4:11-13

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The First Time is Always Special

It's funny how you live by a place for 23 years but never really experience it. Such was the case a few weekends ago as we stayed at Lake Joy Campground, the first time I had ever stayed overnight there--15 years after moving away from my hometown!

Sure, I had been to Lake Joy for an occasional day trip, to fish. But I had never swam there, had a campfire there, slept there, used the bathrooms--all that good dirty camping stuff. Not until my brother Brian selected Lake Joy as the site for this year's annual Engelke Family Campout.

It was a weekend of many firsts. First time to go paddleboating on Lake Joy...

First time to go sliding into a lake...

First time for Ally to swim out to "the dock" all by herself (life jacket too, of course)...

First time for Cy to conquer "The ROCK"...

First time for Shae to swim out to the rope (life jacket too, of course)...

First time our kids had their very own swim goggles, which Paige wore everywhere, swimming or not...

First time staying in an awesomely nice camper!! (thanks to our awesomely nice friends the Dreckmans!!)...

First time Ally got to play volleyball with the "Big Kids" (her high school cousins)...

First time to go fishing off the dock...

First time to go bowling outdoors (thanks to Uncle Brian's ingenuity)...

First time for Wynne to snuggle with her godmother for a whole weekend...

First time Cy's hilarious antics were appropriate and appreciated in the extended family setting(during a rousing game of Campfire Charades)!

Camping is always a laundry/packing/food prep hassle, but it sure is fun. We didn't do anything extraordinary, just an ordinary weekend at an ordinary local, hometown lake. But those little "firsts" made it extra-special.

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.--Philippians 4:12