Something So Big

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Thankful Thursday

*I am thankful for our great school, sports, music and clubs. I am thankful for a daughter who works hard at her studies AND on extra-curricular activities, including chorus! She sang a soprano solo (Class B which is darn good for a 6th grader; usually not till 8th grade or underclassman do you see Class B)of "My Lord, What a Morning" and it was sweet. Ally has a very clear voice and never wavers out of tune. I am picky and notice that stuff. She was a little "airy" at the contest on Saturday, but it's just a matter of breath control (and NERVES)! I am so proud of her for singing a solo in front of a room full of other kids and parents...and the judge. She also sang soprano in a SSAA duet of "How Can I Keep From Singing", Class C with her friends Jacy, Brooke and Andraya. They sounded like one voice at the beginning and end of the song and--I know this sounds so biased--they were really good. Can't wait to hear more from them as they get older! (Perhaps a Barbershop Quartet like your Mom?) Thank you Grandma for coming to listen!

(By the way, 6th graders don't get a rating, only a "Critique Only". Kind of boring, but I guess it takes a little pressure off of the kids.)

*I am thankful for the ability to stay home and not venture out in this ice!

*I am thankful for a husband who plays games like "Apples and Oranges" with the kids on our snow/ice day. I am thankful for kids who are healthy, smart, and funny. !

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.--1 Thessalonians 5:18

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Place at the Table

There are all kinds of statistics out there in support of families coming together around the dinner table. Eating a family meal together is such a treasured time, all-too-often crowded out now by the busy schedules of individuals. Athletic contests, work commitments, meetings, special events and more--all strain at the family to make it very tough to carve out some time to eat and talk together.

Now take that further, to the next generation, when the kids grow up and start raising families of their own. The nuclear family is now the extended family, and times to eat and talk together as Mom, Dad, and the adult kids become even MORE rare and precious.

I was lucky enough to get a few hours of that precious time the other night, with the family that raised me. My parents, some of the my brothers, and all of my sisters gathered together in the private room of a local restaurant to celebrate my mom's "retirement". (I put that in quotes because, knowing how hard-working my mom is, she will probably be working at another job before too long!) We were there with our spouses, who my folks have always considered their kids, too.

I really wish my other 3 brothers and 4 sisters-in-law could have joined us, but life gets in the way. Stuff like a broken elbow (hang in there Tammie!), a recent hospitalization, and protesting for the rights of middle-class workers . We missed you guys!!

Mark and I can't afford a babysitter, so it was a real treat to leave the kids at Grandma Jan's for a few hours and sit down with my side of the family with no interruptions, sharing memories, updates, and laughter.

We are an animated bunch. I hadn't laughed that hard in months! The hours zipped by, and I thanked my husband for putting up with all of us. He reassured me that it was fun for him, too. I wish he could have been there when I was a kid, sitting on a stool at the corner of the supper table between Mom and Dad. Praying thanks to our Father in heaven for this meal...hearing Dan give his latest impersonation of the nursing home residents he worked with or of Dad...watching Dad shake with laughter and Mom wipe tears from her eyes...night after night, with few interruptions. When life was simpler. Granted, my family has always had its share of dysfunctions, but I never doubted that I belonged, I was loved, I was safe, and God was in control.

Do my own children feel the same way when they come to our dinner table? Do they feel a strong respect for their parents, yet enough self-confidence to share their thoughts from time to time? Do they feel safe inside of our little family unit? Do they give thanks and praise to the God who resides over all dinner tables? I sure hope so.
It's been a very stressful week at our house, given the current governor's budget bill proposal. It directly affects our ability to put food on the table and take our kids to the doctor. Beyond that, it makes us feel that, as people who trained to become teachers not for the money but for the chance to make a positive difference in children's lives, many folks around us just don't care. If we try to fight for our right to talk, to come to the table so-to-speak, we are seen as whiners and freeloaders. There's already a prevalent notion among many folks around here that we get overpaid and have "summers off". And yes, I say "we" for 2 reasons: 1) we are married and are therefore one flesh; and 2) I spent several years teaching and hope to return to the public school someday soon. (At least I DID hope for that! Everything is kind of in limbo right now!)

The right to sit around the table. It is so vital, so necessary to be able to share in giving thanks, having fellowship, observing, listening, and even offering a few thoughts now and then. I didn't intend for this post to end up on the front steps of the Wisconsin Capitol, but the current situation is heavy on our minds and hearts. I keep trying to put my focus back on God, the One who never changes and doesn't pull the rug out from under us. He was, He is, and He is to come. He will provide, no matter what happens. He offers us a place at His table, thanks to the sacrifice of His Son. I am so thankful for the time I got to spend with my family as a child the other night, for all the nights I get to sit in my home with our family now (and I will do everything in my power to not work "nights" no matter what job demands may arise), and ultimately for my place at the Lord's table!

Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.--Psalm 90:2

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Lego Bowl I

Our son used the latest snow "ice" day to put together this stadium. 'See the "Jumbotron" at the top of the far bleachers?

A closer look at the line of scrimmage!

Cy put a lot of thought into the whole stadium, field, players, coaches, and fans. I especially love the expressions of the fans! He said that he even put his dad on there as coach. I don't think he's the guy to our close right with a dictator's helmet on...

...but rather the dark-haired gentleman in the blue jacket, standing on the sidelines. But I could be wrong. After all, Mark never takes the field without his cap!

I don't think the fans in this endzone know about the Lambeau Leap. They don't look too friendly, do they?

Great work, Cy!
Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have confessed so well before many witnesses.--1 Timothy 6:12

Friday, February 18, 2011

Heating Bills Be-gone!

I just like writing posts that get your attention:)

Mark and I bought ourselves a wood pellet stove for Christmas. Romantic, isn't it? Well, we hope to "fall in love" with lower LP bills !! This thing burns 40 pounds of pellets into a small amount of ash and gives off a very nice heat.

Thanks to Grandpa Donny for transporting our first ton of pellets, and to Uncle Jo-Jo for the installation help!

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.--Matthew 5:14

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Adventures of Snow Girl

She came to life last Saturday
If only she could talk, she'd say...

"How lovely is my hair of pine!
Would you please make a dog that's mine?"

So off 3 girls trekked to find
The perfect snow for her canine.

Sadly, the camera wasn't out
When the cute Snow Dog came about,
And now the temps are reaching high
So both creations said "Good-bye"!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dining In

I should really go back and look at old pictures and figure out when exactly we started this Valentine's Day tradition. Every year our family celebrates Valentine's Day with a "fancy dinner". We break out the china (okay, we don't break it!), put on an instrumental music CD, turn the lights off, light the candles, and enjoy the "ambience"!!

A few days before the big day, the kids and I made Valentine treats to serve after the fancy dinner. In addition to peppermint popcorn for our area relatives, we made heart-shaped cut-out cookies and homemade conversation candy. I was thrilled to find the food pens at Walmart! The kids enjoyed writing personal notes to each other.

I couldn't find the plastic champagne glasses in the pantry, so I tried putting red tumblers on the table. The kids (Paige in particular) wouldn't have it! So I went down into the basement and dug through our old wedding decoration box. Lo and behold, there were 2 stacks of plastic champagne glasses (but only a few bottoms)! I also brought up about a dozen of our printed wedding napkins. "Wow Mom!! Your name and Dad's name are PRINTED on these!!" "We should frame one of these." "Are these REALLY from 1995?" and so on.

We enjoyed t-bone steaks, baked potatoes, corn, spinach salad with raspberry vinaigrette, cranberry wine (for those of legal age!), croissants, and orange pop (because that was the only carbonated non-alcoholic drink we had in the pantry). I say this not to boast, for this is not how we usually eat, but to record the event for posterity. The menu changes a bit every year, but I try to serve at least one red food. This year I guess that would be the raspberry dressing and ketchup! (Note to self: try to have a bottle of red pop on hand before February 14, 2012. And also a pound of butter, or else you will have to spend $3.25 for it at the local convenience store!!) For dessert we had cookie pie with ice cream. No calories in it whatsoever.
After dinner some of the kids passed out Valentines they'd made for everyone. It was very sweet. Daddy always makes an awesome Valentine card/folder with candy in it and slips it in the kids' lockers at school, while lately I have been hitting the dollar books on Mark surprised me with a beautiful wooden plate inscribed with the Lord's Prayer. (forgot to take a picture!) Our fancy dinner is always extra-special, something the kids look forward to, and one night at the table that is guaranteed to be a bit quieter and more elegant than most. :)

County B Funpark becomes County B Supper Club for one night of the year!

Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.--Psalm 34:8

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentines Wishes for All!

Happy Valentine's Day!
One of the simplest and prettiest of holidays...forget all the commercialized pink and red rows at Walmart...just have fun with scraps around the house!

We made cards a few weeks ago on a snow day, adding our own personal flair to the ideas in Family Fun magazine. There's a reason why I keep (hoard) broken-up decks of cards and construction paper scraps!!

Paige's "You're a card" Valentines turned out clever, don't you think?

Shae and I accordion-folded lots of strips of paper for her Valentine pals!

We used heavier scrapbook paper for Wynne's finger puppets...

"Valentine, you make my heart dance!"

Cy cut up old Sports Illustrated & ESPN magazines for his Valentines. He put some thought into them, making a point of picking out sports teams & players that each of his classmates like.

On the Sunday closest to Valentine's Day, our Sunday School families travel to a nearby nursing home to share homemade Valentines and Christian songs with the residents. Each child introduced themself and shared a Bible verse on love (the younger children with help from their parents).

It is a blessing for us to share God's love with the senior citizens, who are very appreciative and sometimes sing along!

We've all heard "God is Love", but sometimes I forget what LOVE really is. It is more than a feeling. It is more than an action. It is a connection to our Creator, who hardwired us to feel connected to Him and to each other. Sometimes things happen that cut into those connections, but God is always there, waiting for us to return to Him and to point others to Him. God's love is unconditional and unchanging, steadfast. Even when circumstances are tough, God promises to be there and pull us through them in some way or another. His Son died on a cross to keep us connected to Him.

As a parent, I feel a glimpse of that unconditional love for my kids, but only just a glimpse. I falter a LOT. I get tired and inpatient and I snap at my kids (and hubby), and in those times I am not showing God's love. It is something I have to work on each and every day. Valentine's Day is a little reminder to me of the Love that transcends time and circumstances...the Love that can only be found in our Lord. I wish that Love for you on this day!

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. --1 John 4:8

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Double Trouble

Last night our 7-year-olds made their debut on the basketball court. After four Saturdays of Little Chieftains practice, it was the twins' turn to light it up!

It was halftime of the varsity boys' game, so there was a big crowd. The 2nd and 3rd grade girls were sooooo excited!!

I need to learn how to use my camera for action photos. Most were so blurry, but it didn't help that Wynne was constantly bumping into me. Here's Shae taking one of several shots....our girls weren't afraid to shoot, that's for sure!

She shoots....she scores!! Shaeby Shaeby made the first basket of the game!

Not to be outdone, Paige took it to her basket (in the yellow pinnie/black & blue shorts), too.

Look at the height of her "jumper"! Afterwards, Paige commented that it was nice to hear the crowd say "Awwwww" whenever a shot didn't go in. "They wanted us to do well, Mom!"

I know I'm bragging here, but Paige was a defensive DYNAMO. She was all over her girl like flies on you-know-what. The really neat thing was that Paige made a basket, too! As soon as she did, I wiped my brow in relief. I looked over at my husband who was standing on the sidelines, and he was doing the same exact thing! We both knew that if one of our daughters made a basket, the other one would feel REALLY badly if they didn't. So thank you, God, for evening it up!

Six minutes later, sweaty and thrilled, our little girls left the court and ran out to get a drink of water. Final score: 4-2 and I'm not telling you who won because it doesn't matter:) Mark and I were so proud of them, for how much they hustled on both sides of the court, and for how much fun they had. I laughed so hard, cheered, and went on a little rollercoaster throughout their "game"...I can't imagine what it's going to be like when they are older. Our friend Darby, the former varsity girls coach, always said (even when they were babies) "These girls are my ticket out of this town!"

Great job, Shae & Paige!! Here's to many more games and the life skills of practice, turn-taking, and hard work that they teach!

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.--Colossians 3:17

Friday, February 11, 2011

Slacker Mom Picks up the Slack

We have an adolescent at our house. Having majored in elementary education with an emphasis on middle schoolers, I am an expert on adolescent behavior. HA! But having taught middle schoolers way back in the 90s, I am recognizing many of the classic symptoms...
--cares more about what she wears than putting what she wears in the laundry chute
--cheap little toys, garage sale trinkets, and sale clothes are no longer met with an enthusiastic "thanks Mom!!"
--toys are replaced with technology
--anything under $10 is not even worth it
--hello, mood swings!
--stays up later (and wakes up later) than anyone in the house
--musical tastes are becoming independent of mom and dad's
--mom and dad are moving into the "don't embarrass me" tier
--being by oneself in the privacy of one's room is of utmost importance
--drama at school is almost a daily norm
--time spent preparing to go anywhere is disproportionately larger than the total time spent by the other people in the house, combined
--childlike one minute, mature as heck the next
--at times very scatter-brained
--smart, fun, funny, and driven! (At least the one at our house is! Thank God!)

Our eldest is a perfectionist. She works hard in school and sports (not quite as hard at home as I would like, but we can't have everything), she dresses neatly and takes great care in her appearance, and she tackles any project with depth and precision. She is very responsible (when she's not being downright silly!) and has a sharp memory to aid her aging mother. Normally I can rely on her to be ready for school with no problem, but lately she's been slipping. True to her adolescent status, she misplaced her choir music TWO MORNINGS IN A ROW and ran out to the bus, in a tizzy about how in trouble she was going to be with her teacher!!

Two nights ago our eldest walks up to me, as I was getting ready for bed, and announces, "Can you wake me up early Mom? I want to find that soldier costume. I need it for my Sparta project tomorrow." TOMORROW. Nice.

Sure enough, I couldn't find the soldier costume in my basement stash yesterday morning. I looked in several boxes and then it occurred to me that it was probably still over at church from last Easter, when Paige wore it for a Passion skit. I promised Ally that I would get the costume (as I was planning to set up the Sunday School room anyway) and bring it to school when I picked up Wynne from preschool.

Every month we change over the theme at Sunday School, so when I wasn't looking for a soldier costume I was busy setting up for the next lesson on Moses and the Exodus. Ten plagues later, I grabbed a gold tunic and drove back home, praying that I would be able to find the soldier costume in the house this time around. "God, please just reveal where the breastplate is. I can always make her a helmet, but the breastplate is the whole costume!"

Sometimes God decides to answer our prayers right away. I found a new box to open, and there it was! The breastplate in all of its plastic glory!! I grabbed Wynne's fireman hat and ran upstairs to make a Spartan helmet. Thankfully, I had phoned the school and told the secretary that I would be a little late in picking up Wynne because I had an important Mom assignment to complete. I had promised Ally a Spartan costume and by golly, I was going to give her a Spartan costume!!

Carpe Ductum. Sieze the duct tape! (And yes, I took time to take a picture because one day, I want my kids to remember that their mother actually cares about them!!)

I ran up to the kids' feathers to be found, except for two pink boas. No time for hot glue - tin foil and rubber cement, to the rescue!

Ally called home later that day to thank me. "It looked really awesome, Mom!"

Mission Accomplished. For Thursday.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.--Matthew 6:34
The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.--Psalm 145:18

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

All of creation, sing with me now

Cy brought Will...

Ally brought Brooke...

to the Alliant Energy Center for the Rock & Worship Roadshow !!
It was our family's first experience at a REALLY big concert. Tickets were only $10, which is a steal for the chance to jam with 4-5 nationally-known bands. Mark estimated at least 8000 people were there!

Our church took 3 buses, and Wynne's friends Kate & Sara were excited to ride a bus for the very first time!

I actually came prepared with earplugs and glowsticks!!

We got there early and it was so nice to not worry about parking! The bus dropped us off and picked us up right by the front doors. This picture was taken pre-concert as people were just starting to enter. A local band was playing, and they were actually pretty good.

Then the opening gig was The Afters!! They were fan-TAS-tic. I really like their music (pop/rock), and if you don't listen to Christian music you may still have heard some of their songs. Doing a little research, I discovered that their song "Beautiful Love" is the title track to MTV's "8th and Ocean" and other songs have been played on "Grey's Anatomy", "Rachel Ray", and a made-for-television movie "Secrets of the Mountain". Their music is even played on 30-second commercials at Wal-mart!

Lead singer Josh Havens was wearing a Packers shirt and told us that he grew up in Osseo, Wisconsin! So that was pretty cool to hear.

But even cooler was his testimony to God's saving power in his life. He and his family were in a near-fatal car accident on Good Friday last year, and they escaped without injury. Praise God!

Their latest hit "Light up the Sky" brought out the cell phones in the crowd!! It was pretty awesome.

Next up was Matt Maher. He has a great voice and some excellent guitar skills. He also gets into the Word, because His songs reflect that intimate relationship. I was going to say he sounds kind of blues-y, but he also has some more rock-sounding I'll just say that his music is eclectic and genius.

His song "Hold Us Together" is full of soul and takes you back to the 70s. His music makes you want to get up and start living for Christ, at least it does me. My friend Diane and I were having a pipe-dream "if we could get Matt Maher to lead our worship on Sunday mornings"....! Him or Lincoln Brewster, whoever can make it to Lancaster :)

Matt sang during the offering time, with proceeds being taken up for Compassion International. Then the hard rock dudes came out. We were supposed to hear Thousand Foot Krutch, but someone must have been sick or something. However, Disciple is also a strong hard rock Christian band in their own right. They did the whole head-banging, hair-swinging, guitar jumping stuff. The guy closest to us even did a back-flip!

Last but not least were the headliners, Mercy Me. MERCY ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

These guys have been around for over a decade and cross over genres to deliver a God-honoring message to people around the world. They were behind the Roadshow, which is touring all over the U.S. to bring awareness and funding for Compassion International and "the love of Jesus", as lead singer Bart Millard was quick to point out. Bart spoke to us throughout the evening and would make a truly great pastor. And he always had a smile on his face!

If you haven't heard Mercy Me's music, then you've been living under a rock. Their hit single "I Can Only Imagine" came out in 2001 and is a beautiful rendition of what it might be like to meet Jesus one day. "Word of God Speak" is a standard worship song heard in contemporary churches across the country (now I sound like a Grammy Award presenter) and I want "Homesick" played at my funeral. Seriously. (Along with about a thousand other songs by these guys, Lincoln Brewster, Francesca Battistelli, The Afters, Matt Maher, the Go Fish Guys, Chris Tomlin, Casting Crowns...etc...!!)

"The Generous Mr. Lovewell" reminded me of the Beatles. The videos showed as the music was playing, along with lyrics, really made for a complete worship experience. These guys were very interactive, having us all join in on some chants and choruses. The one that stands out in my mind and heart right now is "Whoa-oh, oh, oh, oh" (which means nothing to you but will help me remember) in "All of Creation". I could link up a gazillion times on this post, but I'll just leave you with that one.

It was a great time. What an understatement!!
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. - 1 John 4:16