Today’s Favorite Moment

Being a Mom has so many special moments that I hope I never forget.  Today was no exception.  It was an ordinary day.  As part of an idea organized by a Mom at school, my 2nd grader & I have 2 weeks where we committed to praying daily for her teacher, hoping to provide some encouragement and support.  (I have a feeling this may be more of a blessing to me….)

We were discussing the idea of choosing a Bible verse to pray over her teacher.  My daughter immediately jumped up to grab her Bible.  She opened it to the Index and started running her finger down the page to find the book of John.  Her favorite verse is John 3:16.  As she was going through the books of the Bible, she started singing a song listing the books of the Bible that she must be learning in school.  (She loves to sing!)

With a little guidance, she found the page number the book of John started on, and started flipping through the Bible.  Finding John 3:16, she began reading aloud.

There are few things more precious than listening to my 8-year old read her favorite verse, continuing on through the next several verses before pausing.

As she paused, I looked over at her with such warmth in my heart, and said, “Honey, you have no idea how much I love hearing you read the Bible.”  Her adorable response: “I love reading the Bible!”

What a blessing!!  How my heart sings!

Road Trip! (Part 1 of 2)

Well, I’ve had several people encourage me to write a blog on our family’s road trip this summer and I decided to do it. Obviously. 🙂  It’s taken me a while, because I seem to write down every detail and as I was reading it, I came to the conclusion that I didn’t have to write down that we stopped to eat and take a potty break.  That would be a given – eventually people do need to eat and such, right? Thus, it has been a work in progress, so bear with me. Let me start at the beginning.

My husband wanted to roadtrip 27 hours from where we live in California to my parents in Iowa.  Not my ideal way to vacation, but my husband was very excited about the prospect, thinking it would be a big adventure.  And it certainly was!  It took a while to convince me, and finally 2 weeks before our date of departure I gave in.  We added a hitch and rack to the back of our station wagon, so we would have more room in the vehicle.  Which was a good thing or we would have had to leave a bunch of things behind.  Namely, I don’t think camping gear would have made it.

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 But we were finally ready and at 5 am on a Thursday morning, we picked our 5 year old, 3 year old and 1 year old out of bed and put them in their carseats.  Well they did not go back to sleep as planned.  None of them.  Not even for a moment. Sigh.  Not a good start.

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Well our first leg of the trip would be only 5 hours away.  But the day did not go as planned yet again.  Crying, fighting, complaining and lots of me turning around.  Did I mention that curvy roads make me car sick? Especially when I am turning around.  I believe we stopped 3 times in those 5 hours for a break, allowing the kids to run around and me to relax a bit.  By the time we arrived at my brother-in-laws I thought this trip was going to be high stress and the 22 hours we had left to drive seemed an eternity.

We had a fun relaxing afternoon with family and the kids had time to run around and get their energy out.  We had planned on leaving at around 6 pm to get a few more hours of driving in.  Did I mention that my 17 month old had only taken one nap at 7am that morning and only for 1 hour? He was very very tired.  This fit perfectly with our plan: Jacob would fall asleep and we would drive, the other two would be contented with books, etc.  Well, we had to drive a couple blocks from the restaurant we ate at and grab our swim stuff we had drying at my brother-in-laws.  Jacob fell promptly asleep and awoke as we were packing the stuff back in the car.  Bummer.  And then he proceeded to cry the next 15-20 minutes while we drove.  Well, I think this was God’s providence that Jacob wailed for we were more tired than we wanted to admit from our late night of packing and early morning start.  We had to turn onto another road 20 minutes down and road and a camp ground was right on that corner.  Providence! So we stopped.  And decided to stay.  A rather easy decision.  So we set up our tent and got the kids in their beds.

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DSCN1030 Beautiful view from our campground!

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Love Abigail’s face in this picture.

Thus our interesting journey continued, Jacob was in his playpen, (supposed to be going to sleep) and had to watch every move that anyone did.  Daddy was outside the tent, and he would watch his shadow pass over the tent.  Big brother or sister would sit up or roll over and he would watch.  Oh, and Jacob would start bawling if I left the tent.  So I laid down – in my regular clothes still, and tried to keep all the kids still so they would sleep. They finally zonked out, but maybe I did first?  But the night was not over – and it wasn’t the kids who interrupted our sleep.  Josh awoke to the sound of a growl.  He went to the bathroom and a Sheriff ran up to him and told him to get back in his tent, there was a bear nearby.  So Josh hurried in, wondering if we were really safe in our tent.  Only a few minutes later the Sheriff told us the bear had left the are and it was safe again.  We laid down to sleep again, but before Josh could fall alseep he heard rustling outside our tent. The bear was back.  The Sheriff tore into the campground in his SUV and several other police cars were across the pasture by our campground shinning beams of light on the bear.  The bear was big and it was only about 100 meters away.  Well, after that there was no going back to sleep in the tent.  We put the kids in the car seats, took the essential items and headed back to our brother-in-laws.  So at 1:30am we finally could sleep in peace.

Josh read an article later that because of the drought in California the bears were coming down farther out of the mountains to find food.  Josh’s brother, who has lived in that area for nearly a year has never seen a bear. It was very unusual, but I guess becoming more common! And we got a front row seat.

Morning came, we were refreshed and ready for the day. I decided to have no expectations – or at least very low ones. A couple low expectations were that Jacob is not going to take a nap when I want him to, we will probably take more stops than I would like, and we will not get as many miles in a day traveled as I would hope for.

Our main goal of traveling the evening before had been to miss the heat of the desert during the day.  So now our goal was to get through the desert as fast as possible which means no breaks to run off energy.  Unless we can find a fast-food restaurant with an indoor playground. We started off leg 2 with a stretch of road that had 140 or more miles between civilizations.  So make sure you have gas! And our vehicle’s gas gauge only works sometimes – so we keep an eye on our trip mileage from our last fill-up.  We got pretty close to empty.  But gas was more expensive on either side of that stretch of road, so we were pushing it trying to get to a cheaper gas station.

We got to Las Vegas, the temperature of about 105 degrees or so (definitely don’t want to go outside and play in that heat!) We found an Inn-N-Out, which gave us the most wonderful service.  They cleared the table for me (Josh had gone out to the car to do something necessary, I forget what now.)  They held doors open for me (to the bathroom and out of the building) and gave all the kids Inn-N-Out hats.  Maybe some people would say that is just great service, but I think that was God’s providence yet again. God knew I needed a little kindness, compassion and help.  Oh, and did I mention, my kids did awesome while we drove now that I had moved to sitting in the middle bench between the two younger ones? Just a bit of attention from mom makes a huge difference!

We arrived at our campsite, after 8 hours of driving, just after sundown and some wonderful neighbors held their bright lantern for us as we set up our tent in the dark.  The evening turned very cold, down to 50 degrees and the wind was so strong it pulled up some of our tent stakes. God’s mercy at work again – the wind stopped for a few hours around the time we arrived and set up camp.  The kind neighbors said it had been windy all day and just calmed down.  And only a short time after we were set up the wind began again.  I can’t imagine what it would have been like to try to set up the tent with the wind whipping like it did.

I don’t think the temperatures would have bothered us too much as we had nice sleeping bags and blankets and such, except that the wind just whipped through our tent. We didn’t get a great night sleep. The noise of the tent material snapping in the wind woke up Jacob, who had a hard time getting back to sleep.  The tent began to fall on Abigail (5 year old) and she ended up using 3 year old Isaac as a pillow. Oh, and my air mattress had a leak, so it became very squishy. But morning came, the kids ran around while Josh did some business-related work and I packed up our campsite.

Day 3 went pretty well as we crossed the Rocky Mountains to get to Denver.  We did have a small hiccup when our cigarette lighter stopped working so we couldn’t charge our GPS.  So we came down the mountain without directions, and entered into Denver looking for a gas station to fill up at and to get directions.  It was really hard to find a gas station!  We would have filled up earlier but either the gas stations had expensive prices or when I would decide to stop at the next little town, it didn’t have any gas stations to stop at!  When we got to Denver I thought to go by the fast-food places, assuming gas stations would be by the food.  Wrong.  So after a bit of wandering and a couple u-turns we found a gas station. Josh charged the GPS a little bit while he used the bathroom so we each memorized a portion of the directions and shut it off, just in case we needed to use it later. So at 10:30 pm (the time change did not work in our favor) we drove into the yard of my college roommate.  Glad she didn’t mind our late arrival. Whew, we made it!

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Day 4 was Sunday, so it was really relaxing.  We went to church and hung out around the little farm of my friend.  Just before supper we left for a seemingly short drive of 5 hours (compared to the 8 and 9 hour days we put in the previous days!) to our next stop.  We went to another campground, but got a cabin this time.  It was much easier to throw the sleeping bags on the beds and hop into bed.  We were now only 4.5 hours from my parents!

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Jami and I and our gaggle of kids.

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Day 5 would be a nice relaxing day.  We stopped after an hour to spend time with one of Josh’s friends and enjoyed a playground and some frisbee golf.  Josh noticed that there were storms on the horizon (using his weather app on his phone.)  So we took our time so we would stay behind the storm as it was forecasted to produce good sized hail.  The kids did not complain about the extra playground time!

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When we were only 2 hours from my parents we noticed more storm clouds, and after a call to my dad we were informed the storms were likely to produce tornadoes as well.  There was a storm in front of us and beside us. We turned away from the storm beside us, much to our relief, as that one was the more serious one.  Unbeknown to us, that storm produced twin tornadoes that destroyed a town.  As we drove away from that storm, only 45 minutes from our destination we blew a tire.  In God’s providence we were only about 100 feet from town, and a nice local brought Josh to a tire place that was still open (it was nearly 6 pm!) While me and the kids were waiting for Josh to come back, two police cars stopped by and waited with me.  The man who picked up Josh called upon his sister-in-law to pick up me and the kids to hang out at her house while we waited for the tire to get fixed.  Did I mention that the serious storm was bearing down on us the whole time we waited on the side of the road, the county being issued a tornado watch?  It was rather stressful. But me and the kids were soon safe at a house with a basement if it was needed.

God protected us in many ways – providing help to us so soon after our tire blew out, someone to open her house to us, a tire station that was open and had the rare tire size on hand, and the storm that passed to the north of town.  We drove the 45 minutes to my parents and did not hit even a spot of rain. Minutes after we got our luggage and other essentials inside it down-poured. But we had made it, and by the grace of God we made it safely through it all.

Stay tuned for the continuation: the return trip!

~Mindy~

A New Milestone

Well sisters, I’m finally growing up.

And no, I’m not pregnant.

Drew & I purchased our first major piece of furniture.  Actually, aside from our TV stand, I don’t think we’ve bought any.  I think that’s quite impressive – over 2 years of marriage and somehow our house is completely furnished 🙂  We got our bedroom set from Mom & Dad, 2 spare beds from an aunt and a grandma, dining table from an aunt… Boy we are good.

Drew taking a study break on our old couch.  This is when we still lived in our basement apartment.

Drew taking a study break on our old couch. This is when we still lived in our basement apartment.

Anyway the couch we had was pretty old.  We had lived in a basement apartment for a while after getting married, and this couch was there when we moved in.  Our very sweet landlady told us if we carried the couch out we could have it.  So guess what we did?

The couch was starting to break though – you were pretty much laying down no matter how you sat on it.  So we finally went shopping and got ourselves a new one!!  Actually we don’t even have the whole couch yet – the end piece is on back order but Drew couldn’t handle the old couch anymore.  (The picture makes it look a little purple-ish… its actually a dark brown.)  So its kinda exciting to have bought something new – something we actually picked out ourselves.  A milestone in our lives 🙂

Our new couch!  Or most of it!

Our new couch! Or most of it!

On top of that, Drew got chosen to be a deacon at church.  Boy does THAT make me feel old!  He was actually nominated a year ago, but didn’t get chosen that time.  I certainly do not feel old enough for him to be a deacon already!  Where has all the time gone?

So, sisters, I’m joining the club: I’m finally old.  (Just kidding!! :D)

~T~

Cheesy Chicken Penne

I’ve been trying a new thing lately.  I think of 5 or so meals and write them down on the refrigerator.  Then I check if I have ingredients for them, or I write myself a grocery list for it.  I do try to take into account leftovers, etc.  For example, one time I had roast and potatoes as a meal idea.  I used the leftover roast to make some beef enchiladas, so I made sure to have the ingredients for that, also.  (The enchiladas I ended up just throwing in the freezer to eat later!)  Then we’ll try our best to eat everything on the list before I will go and buy anything else from the store.  This is our attempt to have better/healthier “family” meals at home and keeping our spending down.

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As I’ve been thinking of meals that we like, I am reminded how much of a beef and potato kind of people we are.  So I’ve decided to try to pick 1 new recipe each time I do this, something a little bit more out of our comfort zone.  I’m not sure how long it will last, but at least I’m getting a good grocery list… and hopefully I’ll remember why it was that I bought 3 packages of taco shells.

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Our newest experiment was a cheesy chicken penne.  I actually bought some penne pasta on an impulse buy – ironic how thats exactly what I’m trying to stop doing – some time ago.  I saw them in the store and decided that I should try it.  I wanted to do some sort of a chicken because we eat a lot of beef.  We also do quite a bit of red sauces, so I ended up Googling some chicken penne recipes.  I’m not going to lie, I was not very happy with what I found.  I did a lot of looking; I guess I’m kinda picky!  A lot of them had weird spices that I probably couldn’t even find in the grocery store, or had yucky vegetables (think spinach.)  So I ended up improvising a little bit and mashed some recipe ideas all together.

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Well it was a pretty good turnout, Drew was a big fan.  I ended up with some alfredo sauce (which I’m actually not very fond of, but my husband is) as opposed to a red sauce.  I chose a plain alfredo – I thought I was being bold enough for one meal already – but I think next time I might try a garlic/cheesy or even a mushroom alfredo sauce.  I made this while Drew was still working and put it in the oven to keep warm until he came home.

~ T ~

Cheesy Chicken Penne
Serves 2-4

Ingredients
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, thawed
Italian salad dressing
penne pasta (I used half the box, it was plenty)
jar of alfredo sauce
bag of shredded Italian cheeses
tomatoes (I actually forgot to do this, I don’t eat them but Drew would have liked it)
garlic (real gloves or garlic salt)

Preparation
Marinate chicken breasts in Italian salad dressing for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.  Cook on a George Foreman or outdoor grill until done.  Cut into slices.  Cook desired amount of pasta according to the directions on the box.  Drain and put into serving pan.  Cover the pasta with Alfredo sauce.  Add diced tomatoes and sliced chicken on top.  Sprinkle the garlic on the chicken.  Cover with cheese.  Warm in microwave or oven until cheeses are melted.

Day 1 of Clean-Up!

As many of you now, we had a major ice/snow storm this April!  Tuesday started out with rain which quickly turned to sleet or freezing rain.  This lasted all night!  At about 6pm we lost power for an hour.  After digging out our candles, the girls and I played dominos by candlelight!  By bed-time the lights were back on.  Not for long, though!  At 9pm  we lost our electricity for good.  Sleeping with no nightlights, fans or any noise, but the freezing rain and cracking branches, was tough for the kids and quite eerie for me!  Wednesday morning we ate breakfast in front of the fireplace and then decided to wait out our ‘no power’ at grandpa & grandmas.  You see… we only have well water for our house, so no power means no water…  no flushing the toilet, no showers, nothing!   So, we packed up a few things – intending to only stay some of that day.  Wednesday night brought on the second storm with 8-10 inches of snow!   So…. our 1 day turned into 2 days, then 3 and by the end we were living at grandpa & grandma’s for 5 1/2 days!!  (Our house was without power for a total of 5 days).  We made a few trips back to the house to get more clothes, unpack our freezer to bring over, and to assess the damage.  Here are some pictures of our yard….

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Look how much ice!

Look how much ice!

We should be able to see right across to our neighbors!

We should be able to see right across to our neighbors!

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After the snow…

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This past weekend my husband’s parents came to visit.  With their help, and my dad and his chainsaw, we started Day 1 of our clean-up!  Even the girls pitched in by dragging branches to the fire!  (We have a burn permit -MN law!)  By lunchtime, we were thinking this would take all summer to clean up!  It was very slow going.

The girls helping.

The girls helping.

So, after starting out again in the afternoon, the guys decided dad needed to go get the tractor.  It’s amazing what you can do with a tractor!  Now, we started dragging the branches to a long pile in the back and dad would push them all the away across the yard to the burn pile.  Oh My…. how much easier and faster that was!

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Coen had to check out the tractor!

‘C’ had to check out the tractor!

Then, too, dad would park the tractor by a tree, get in the loader bucket, and cut down the big branches that just wouldn’t give up.

Dad in the loader - cutting down the branches that were still hanging on.

Dad in the loader – cutting down the branches that were still hanging on.

I was so amazed how much the guys got done during that afternoon.  We had quite a fire and have many piles of future firewood!

Our fire at the beginning. It got a lot bigger!

Our fire at the beginning. It got a lot bigger!

Now… don’t be upset if you didn’t get to help this weekend, we still have plenty left to clean up and you can always help the next time! (he, he)

I, also, just want to say I am so thankful for my family who is willing to give us their Saturday  – or evening – or whatever it may be –  to help us!  We are so blessed!

~ M ~

2nd Sunday

My family has a tradition.  The 2nd sunday of each month is reserved for going to Grandma’s house.  We call it “2nd Sunday.”  Clever, I know.

I’m actually not even sure when this started.  I can’t remember a time when we haven’t had 2nd Sunday.  Its a pretty good time, a great reason just to get together with family and catch up on our lives.  We’re all getting older, moving to different cities/states, changing majors, jobs…. Sometimes its hard to stay on top of where everyone is at in their lives.  Especially because we have a pretty big family!

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Get together of (almost) everyone for Grandma’s birthday last summer.

This past 2nd Sunday there was quite a bit of bad weather here.  Many of us were already on our way to Grandma’s house for dinner when we decided it wasn’t worth the risk; it took no less than a ground blizzard to cancel our monthly get-together.

All of this really had me thinking how special it really is that we can even have 2nd Sunday.  Many people I know aren’t on good terms with family or they are too far apart to meet as often as we do.  I couldn’t even imagine something like that; I’ve never experienced it.

Grandma always says how her neighbors comment all the time on the amount of vehicles she has parked in front of her house when we all come.  She’s quite proud of this bunch and loves to tell her neighbors and friends about how often she has kids, grandkids and great-grandkids at her house to visit.

I never really understood that as a kid.  For me, 2nd Sunday was a time to play with my cousins.  We used to walk to the park after dinner and play lots of games.

When I got a little older, I liked 2nd Sunday because I got to eat some really good home-cooked food.  I was at the point in my life where all my older siblings were gone (moved out of the house, I mean) and so big dinners weren’t as common as home.

Then I got older still, an adult, if you will.  And now I like 2nd Sunday because I like to visit (chit-chat).  My 10-year-old self would be in utter disbelief that I just said that.  Its funny how I see these people many times a year and I can’t even keep track of what they’re up to!  Its nice to talk about what everyone is doing.

I’m also getting to the point where I think i can finally understand why Grandma likes it so much, too.  Its crazy to think back on how my views of 2nd Sunday have changed over the years.

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Everyone gathered at Grandma’s; one of my first times!

We really don’t do anything different.  We still plan on going to Grandma’s the 2nd sunday of each month.  We still all bring some sort of food to share.  The little ones still play together.  The older ones sit and visit.  And the older ones yet just bask in the glory of all the family that still comes to visit.  Everyone’s roles have changed; yet despite all the change, nothing has changed!

Its sometimes hard to believe how different 2nd Sunday feels now, even though its still the same as it was.

In any case, its still special, perhaps in a different way than before, after all these years.

“You Don’t Know, Oh Oh!”

Thats right.  One Direction.  Boy band.

My nieces got a new Wii game this past Christmas; Just Dance 4.  These girls both love to dance, and its actually got some pretty popular songs on it.  They had a ball playing.

The new game my nieces got!

The new game my nieces got!

So after a few hours of playing, all the little ones go to bed.  Let me clarify.  For holidays all of my siblings travel to our parents house to celebrate.  Generally this means long days of the cousins playing games, etc.  It also means late nights of the adults staying up and playing cards or chatting.

Some of us figured we should try this new game out, too!  Yes its easy to cheat (its a Wii… movements are detected by the handheld remote.  So technically you could do really well by sitting in your la-z-boy.  I’m not proud of it, but I ended up playing for several hours throughout the holiday!  It was kinda fun, and a good workout!

Getting back to my point; “You don’t know, oh oh!” (If you haven’t caught on, these are the lyrics to the song “What Makes You Beautiful” by One Direction.)  We heard and danced to this song.  A lot.

The little kids loved it, and it was also a ‘group’ dance, which made it fun for the adults.  But let me tell you what you don’t know… this will get stuck in your head.  Forever.  I’m not just saying that this is a catchy tune, because it is.  I’m saying that I was sitting at work today and the song came on the radio.  I nearly got up and started doing the moves when the chorus came on.   Honestly, I find myself dancing to this song all the time!

Video still of "What makes you beautiful" dance on Just Dance 4

Screen shot of one of the moves in “What makes you beautiful”

And yes, it is a trifle embarrassing.

For those of you who have seen or played this game, you know.

For those of you that haven’t… “you don’t know, oh oh!”

~ T ~