Something So Big

Monday, October 31, 2011

By Faith

 Thank you, God, for the good weather on Friday and Saturday.  Moving is hard enough without having to deal with the elements!  Here is the homestead........

...and here is my parents' new home! 
We thought we might get a little start on the move on Friday, but turns out that we did MOST of the moving that day!  It was a nice surprise, being ahead of schedule!
Mom and Dad did a GREAT job with the move.  I know it is very, very hard for them to move off of the farm, the place where they have lived together and built their lives for 61 years (and for my dad, most of his 81 years)...but it was time.  God gives us seasons for reasons.  I am so proud of my parents for letting go and letting God!
The whole moving experience over these past couple of weeks has been very cathartic for us.  Sifting through memories, laughing and crying.  It is all good.

To have kids and grandkids come together to help out was very gratifying and much appreciated!
 It doesn't take long to fill up a house, I'll tell you that!

But did you know that all that "stuff" isn't really important?  And sometimes when we hang onto that stuff, it keeps us from being able to grab onto the things that really matter.  The things that are eternal.

 The big basement for family that Mom's always wanted....I think she's worked hard enough and long enough for it!
 I have cried some good cries over this move.   I will miss the farm, the place where I grew up, but I am so excited and happy for my parents to be able to get around in their nice, newer, warm, accessible home WITH A GARAGE.  (What is a garage? They never knew before!)  And I know that God will provide for us all, just as He always has done.  Everything belongs to Him, anyway.  I love you, Mom and Dad!

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.  For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.--Hebrews 11: 8 & 10 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Trunk or Treat

Because you just can't have enough Halloween candy....we bring you the 2nd Annual Trunk or Treat!
Scarecrow Paige, Sheriff Shae, and Princess Wynne
I ran out of time to decorate our vehicle but sure enjoyed looking at everyone else's!

I would give this "marsh" the award for Most Creative Trunk!

Mark & Astrid brought the "monster mouth" car back this year...this time with "movable mouth"! too much fun!!
Some of the businesses and civic groups got involved this year.  The Citizen's Bank gals were all spidered up! 
Spooky but fun :)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Coming Soon to a Church Near You!

Our 3rd Annual Girls Day Out!
"Jesus, the Great Recycler" is the theme of this year's GDO and we are gearing up for this Sunday afternoon!!
 The Packers aren't playing, so what's your excuse?

 For a mere 5 bucks, you can get into this event and enjoy a soup luncheon, recycled fashion show, keynoter, girls praise band, and break-out sessions.
 So what are you waiting for? 
See you Sunday!!
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
– 2 Corinthians 5:17

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pumpkin Pickin

We went to the Tri-State Pumpkin Barn in East Dubuque on Sunday and saw all kinds of beautiful pumpkins...
...Then had a little de ja vu when I took this picture of the kids.  Last time we took this picture, Wynne was in a baby stroller!
After gasping at the prices ($20 on up!), we backtracked to our neck of the woods.  There's a little farm on County O that always has some good pumpkins for sale.
  I think it was more fun for the kids to scamper about and pick their own pumpkin, anyway!  (Sure wish our own weed patch would have sprouted some pumpkins this year....turns out we had a few volunteers grow up in the pasture, but nothing in the  garden.  Go figure!)
Here's a cute little pumpkin ;)
Paigey selected a very big fruit for this year's carving party!
Nothing like scooping out a slimy pumpkin to lower your stress levels.
Shae's pumpkin is crying for some reason.  Don't know why because I think it's pretty cute!
Paige and her friend with the quizzical eyebrows ;)
Cy working on his guy...

He calls him Marco, which seems very appropriate with the thin Italian mustache.
Ally is turning into a carving professional, with her detailed templates and all.
See how it says "Welcome" ?  I think she did a fabulous job!

Actually ALL of the kids did a great job carving their pumpkins.  (with Dad's help;)  This is one of my favorite pictures to take every year.  The annual pumpkins-on-the-porch-pic!
Such big smiles!!
Happy Fall, Y'all!

A joyful heart makes a cheerful face.--Proverbs 15:13

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Another Season

Last week the kids and I went up to their cousins' volleyball match.  My sister is the Panthers' head coach, and this lovely girl is my goddaughter.  Sammie is a captain and starting setter too!
Sammie and my other niece Dani are both seniors on the team.  Since this was a playoff match, you know what that means--one (loss) and done.  So a lot was on the line here. 
Here you can see Dani and Sammie playing together in the back row.  Dani did a great job digging up a lot of balls, and Sammie was all over the court with her assists, blocks, and hits.
This is a very close-knit bunch, as you may have guessed.  I think there were only eleven girls on the entire team, including my niece Rheann who is a sophomore.  This photo was taken after the Panthers had just dropped two games to Belleville.  Since it is best of 5, they were looking at possible elimination in Game 3.  I was sooo proud of how calm and confident Sammie stayed, encouraging her teammates to keep pressing on. 
Since we've already established that I am not a sports photographer, you just missed a great set and spike by our team.  Sammie looks pretty happy!! They ended up winning Game 3 AND Game 4 to even the score!  Way to go, Panthers!!
Just another one of Sammie's great sets.  Since I was a setter in high school, I can really appreciate how great her sets are.  And when she can't get her fingertips on the ball, Sam knew how to pass it or dink it over the net.   She is very smart about every aspect of the game.  Yes, I am biased.  But I can tell you without batting an eye that Samantha is the BEST high school setter I've ever seen play the game live.
Game 5 was back and forth.  I could feel the emotion of my sister, the coach.  Marla puts a lot of time and effort into the volleyball program, and she does a lot of little "extras" to build relationships among kids.  They did not want to let her down.
At one point during the evening, Sammie hurt herself going after a ball.  It choked me up to see her cousin Dani run out to hug her and see how she was doing.  Such a special duo!
The Panthers lost Game 5 after much back-and-forth volley.  We waited a long while to see and console the girls and my sister.  Another sad ending to a fine sports season.  It was good to see some of my family there, including my sister who traveled a few hours south to see this (and Sam's older sister Kaycie who is a sophomore at UW-LaCrosse).  Nobody wanted it to end this way, but they definitely played hard with some very bright spots.
Great season, girls!  Proud of you!  Somewhere down the line, you will see the benefits!

Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and wondrous things you do not know. - Jeremiah 33:3

Monday, October 24, 2011

What Can We Take Away From This

Saturday was the last day of our football season.  It ended several weeks too early.  Mark, his staff and players had been working for years (in-season and off-season) to prepare for a long post-season.  The past few months flew by, and it all came to a screeching halt on Saturday. 

People around here are getting spoiled.  Four straight conference championships. Twenty-seven straight conference victories.   Eight straight playoff appearances.  It wasn't supposed to end this way.  Not with 10 penalties.  Not with a 10-point lead with 6 minutes left in the game that dissolved with an interception, a fumble, and a false start.  Not this way. 

God never promised us an easy time here, and sometimes things don't go our way. Sometimes things are just downright unfair. They don't make sense, and why does the other person (or team) not have to deal with negative consequences? Why me? Why us??

 What can we take away from this?  What can we learn?  It is a frustrating, painful ending.  But is it the end?

How can a person keep putting themself into these situations?  Isn't it too stressful being a coach or a player?  Why bother putting in all that work, if bad things can happen?  what's the point?

The point is:  We set goals.  We work hard.  We push our bodies and minds and spirits past the places where we thought they could ever go.  We win some, we lose some.  We are not put on this earth to judge others or worry about what other people get to do or don't get to do.  We ARE, however, put on this earth to give glory to God and to bring others to Him through our words, thoughts, and actions.

The lessons learned by being a part of this team will go beyond this season.  Hard work, accountability, respect, pride, strength, courage, commitment, passion.  These can never be taken from us.

We never take the wins for granted.
And we should never take the losses for granted, either. 
Because they all add up to experiences that build us into better people. 

Thank you, 2011 Chieftains!  Congratulations on a successful season!

To my husband, thank you for shaping boys into men.  May they use what they have learned for His good.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. -- Romans 12: 17-21

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Random Observations

I've been substitute teaching a lot lately, and this blog and my house definitely show the neglect!  I start a post with intentions of coming back to it, but then I get interrupted with the business of life.  So today's post--written while subbing in a middle/high school math class--contains random observations I've made over the past few months, just for the heck of it.

1.  When you work outside of the home, you are still expected to do all of the work you did at home.  Nobody helps to pick up the slack unless you beg, cajole, or threaten them.

2.  When you start making a little extra income, something breaks down and requires that extra income. 

3.  When I sweat, I smell like onions.  (see, I told you these were random!)

4.  A smile goes a long way to put people at ease.  It really does.  I don't think this one can be stressed enough.

5.  Kids of all ages are inherently good.  Even though as a Christian I know that we are born into a sinful nature and can definitely have tendencies to do/be bad, the kids I have encountered -- elementary, middle and high school kids--are for the most part good people just looking for your encouragement.

6.  Everyone should get a dog and love their dog, as he/she loves you.  Do you know that Bible verse, "We love because He first loved us?"  well, the apostle John should have included "We love our dogs because they first love us." 

7.  Just when you get all of the walnuts picked up, the nursery stops buying them.

8.  In a group of kids, whether at home or at school, someone always has to be unhappy.  Has to, or chooses to.

9.  I've never met a leftover french fry that I liked.

10.  There is always something to learn from every situation.  Use it to make you better, not bitter.  (Thanks brother Dan for that last part!)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Brighter Than the Brightest Star

The brown-eyed girl turned 13 yesterday. She celebrated the weekend by having some friends come over to go shopping, play with Bill the bunny and just "hang out".

The girls were so fun to take shopping. We just drove to a few spots in Platteville, beginning with Farm & Fleet where Toyland just opened that morning. It was a little crazy there (early Christmas shoppers--how do they have money for this? I have to join one of those Christmas clubs for next year)....but Ally and her friends did manage to find some treasures there. They went in on a few trinkets and some "sea monsters" which are supposed to turn into some sort of organism when you drop them in warm water. As of this writing, I believe the sea monsters are still waiting to take shape, but the girls had fun in the anticipation!

Alyssa, Jacy, Ally & Brooke

We did some Halloween costume browsing at Goodwill, then hit Dollar Tree for more goodies.  I dropped the girls--and Cy--did I mention that we had a stowaway in the vehicle??--at Walmart while I did some quick grocery shopping at Aldi's and Menards.  (Yes, you can buy groceries at Menards.  Occasionally they have great deals on pantry items like cereal.  And you are all invited over for pretzels at our house.  I bought the world's largest bag of pretzels there for $2.48 or something like that.  We will have enough pretzels to last us through the winter, I think!)

By the time the youth group meeting ended on Saturday night, the girls had already conspired to stay overnight.  Even though we had to get up early and go to Sunday School/church, the girls were okay with that.  I was surprised that they were willing to go with us to church after a late night of talking and watching Sea Monsters hatch.

Sunday was the actual official birthday day.  After church, we dropped the girls off at their homes and headed down to Dubuque for lunch with Mark's family at the restaurant of Ally's choice--Texas Roadhouse.  It's a new establishment by the mall, and man was it packed.  Great atmosphere there - lots of country/ranch charm and "yee-haws" for birthday boys and girls.  Free homemade (fresh) rolls with cinnamon butter and all the peanuts you care to eat, too!
Grandma Jan and Great-Grandma Joan were at my table with Uncle Joe

The menu was full of scrumptious (if not healthy) choices of your standard country-western variety. I was impressed that the prices weren't terribly high, but I would suggest to Texas Roadhouse to please offer half-portions!! They say everything in Texas is BIG and they aren't kidding when it comes to PORTIONS!! Not complaining--we brought home 4 or 5 boxes of leftovers. I ordered a mushroom jack burger (I think it must have been at least a half pound of ground beef, smothered in huge whole mushrooms and monterey jack cheese.) with steak fries. Yum-dilly-icious!!! Did I mention they have all-you-can-eat fresh rolls and peanuts, too? You could seriously get full on the table treats and not even order anything, and still come out of there with a full belly. The "kids table" got full before they even received their ordered entrees!

Ally's friends warned her about the embarrassing torture method used at Texas Roadhouse for guests celebrating their birthday.  She said she would "die" if she had to sit up on the saddle and have everyone sing "Happy Birthday" to her.  That was all her Uncle Joe needed to hear to tell the wait staff about Ally turning 13 ;) 

Uncle Joe (back left) the instigator of torture as we all sing "Happy Birthday" and give the Birthday Girl a big Texas "yeeee-hawwww!"
I don't think Ally minded it too much, as we were probably the 4th birthday party in there since arriving.  Misery loves company!

We dropped the boys off at Great-Grandma Joan's house and went shopping so that Ally could spend some of her birthday money.  Her dad and I gave her cash, which sounds so trite and sad and un-personal, but when you saw the excitement on her face and heard her say "I am SO HAPPY!", you knew it was the Universal Gift.   We headed over to a trendy consignment shop and let Ally pick out an outfit, then to Target and the Dubuque version of Dollar Tree.  Because the Dubuque DT has a whole lot more of a selection than the Platteville DT.  My husband would say that they are all of junk, but believe you me, there are some quality items in DT sometimes.  Plus Wynne had a chore ticket to buy fingernail polish!  (Or shall we say, "Singernail polish" like her big sister used to call it.  Oh my, how can she be THIRTEEN already??!!!)
My beautiful girls.  Am I lucky, or what?

If our computer hadn't crashed, I would have been able to post some old pics of Ally when she was a baby and a little girl.  Those pictures aren't all that old.  Thirteen years may seem like a long time to a kid, but to moms and dads and grandmas and grandpas, it's the blink of an eye.
I love to catch her in those candid moments when she is not worried about her appearance or what others are thinking.  So real, so refreshing!

I look at this girl and not only wonder where the time has gone, but pray to God that He gives me the wisdom to help her & not mess her up!!  She is a great kid and excels at nearly everything she does, but will she stand firm in His love and truth when the going gets tough? when she is on her own and has to decide which road she will travel?  Will she grow in her own identity and not let those outside voices influence her?

One of my favorite singer/songwriters Matthew West wrote a song in response to an agonizing letter written by the mother of a middle school boy who was teased a lot at school.  Luckily, Ally is not the recipient of that much teasing, but I remember those teenage years and I know how every little thing is amplified inside of your mind.  You want to just fit in and go with the flow and not be noticed (unless it's for an outstanding athletic feat or a cool new pair of shoes).  If someone picks on you or gets mad at you, you think it's the end of the world.

 When I heard Matthew sing "To Me" live this spring, I cried because I could so relate to his words as a parent who wants their child to recognize and love themselves for who God made them to be.  To my darling daughter, our eldest, our teenager, I want to reiterate Matthew's words from the refrain:

To me you are
Heaven's finest invention by far
So much brighter than the brightest star
And what I'd give to make you see
Who you are to me
To me, Ally, you are a beautiful, intelligent, hard-working, kind young lady.  Your dad and I are so proud of you, and we love you.   Happy Birthday, Honey!
For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.--Ephesians 2:10