Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Fat Tuesday

Today is Mardi Gras, which means fat Tuesday in French. It's the day before Ash Wednesday, which is the first day of Lent, and is called fat Tuesday because it's the last chance to pig out before the deprivation of the season of Lent. So, today I should be steeping myself in the internet, trying to soak enough in to last for these 40 days. Nah. I'll be signing off now: freedom, here I come!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Lent

For members of many Christian denominations, it is traditional to give something up for Lent. I remember first becoming aware of this practice when I was 7 or 8 and someone presented a skit during a Worship service in which a little boy was planning on giving up his jelly beans for Lent. I've always believed that the practice of giving something up for those 40 days (not including Sundays) leading up to Easter is sort of in commemoration of those 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness and being tempted before beginning His formal ministry. Kind of a Jesus suffered, so I'm going to deny myself and suffer too kind of thing (sounds very catholic of me, doesn't it?)

I've given up lots of things in the past, sometimes frivolous (like the time I gave up soda (FYI, I probably drink about 144 oz of soda each year, so giving it up was no big deal)), sometimes less frivolous (like the year I gave up sweets, which to some might seem just as frivolous as soda, but let me tell you, it wasn't me who enabled me to avoid sweets during that time--it was God alone who gave me the strength to overcome my addiction).

When I became involved in the United Methodist Church, I discovered that they have a different take on Lent. During my years in the UMC I've been encouraged to add something during Lent, something that's good for me, like daily Bible study and prayer.

So, just because that's the way I am, I've incorporated both of these ideas into my own Lent observances. I search my life for something that's getting in the way of my relationship with God, and give that up. I then fill that empty space in my life with something that will allow me to grow closer to God. The first year I did this was when I was pregnant with Cody. During that time, I wasn't working, didn't have any kids yet, and I just craved structure, so I found it in the form of Northern Exposure.

If you don't know about Northern Exposure, let me just say that it was an hour long television show that I found entertaining. It was on A&E every weekday at 2 p.m., and it got to the point where I literally planned my life around that show. If I had to go to town for something, and I wasn't able to get going early enough that I would be able to get home before Northern Exposure started, I wouldn't go. Yes, we had a VCR; I could have recorded it to watch later, but I didn't. Crazy? Maybe. Compulsive? Sure. Obsessive? Definitely. I allowed Northern Exposure to rule my life. So I gave up Northern Exposure that Lent, and I used that hour to read the Bible and pray. That was, quite honestly, one of the most spiritual experiences of my life.

I think all of us has a Northern Exposure in our life. Something that we latch on to, something that we elevate to a falsely important position in our lives. Something that gives us a sense of security, or a sense of control. Something that isn't where we ought to be placing our hope, trust, and security. And if you can identify that something, and give that something up, releasing its hold on you, you can use that empty space in your life to reconnect with our rock, our shield, our source of hope and comfort, the one true God.

This is all just a fancy way for me to say I'm giving up the internet for Lent. As I think about my life, the internet stands out as something that I spend (waste) entirely too much time with, and something that is a crutch to me, and a barrier in my faith. This is a scary prospect for me, because at times I feel so isolated and alone here, far from family and with few nearby friends, and the internet provides me with an easy way to connect with others and feel like I'm not quite so much alone. I'm sure you can see where this is going...God is my constant companion, and by leaning so much on the internet, I've blinded myself to this truth.

I'm not sure yet what will fill the internet's place in my life during this time, but I do know that as the weeks pass, I will feel a sense of freedom that can only come from releasing the hold the things of this world have on me, and a sense of purpose that can only come from God.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Count

Apparently, the children have stolen enough of my brain cells that I can no longer count. That was 12 videos yesterday, not 10. Not that any of you noticed my little slip of the brain...but now you have.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Kayak

All the others are loaded, so here's the one I was trying to load when I had the problem..



video

Making pancakes, part 2


video


Caleb wanted to help too.

Making pancakes


video


Most Saturday mornings my wonderful husband makes us breakfast, and usually one or more of the children assist him.

Hot Air Affiar


video


Here's one of the balloonists running his burner during the parade

Ice sliding, part 3


video


Everyone was getting in on the action...

Ice Sliding, part 2

video

Ice sliding


video


So, this is the same place where 5 days prior the boys were sliding the kayak into the "lake."

Pinewood Derby


video


Here's one of the races that Logan's Pinewood Derby car won...by a lot!


video


Didja see how much water splashed up over and into the kayak? Those boys were soaked by the time they were done.

Kayak Slide

video

Kayaking


video


I guess I shouldn't have spoken so quickly on the whole filling up your inbox thing. Explorer keeps shutting down. Grrr...perhaps it doesn't like the video I was trying to upload, so I'm switching to a different one. This is Cody and Logan kayaking in our yard on Tuesday.

Pans


video


Let me apologize in advance to those of you who receive my blogs via email--hopefully I'm going to be filling up your inboxes today (I have 10 videos on my jump drive, hopefully I can get them all uploaded before Caleb breaks down).


So this is a fun thing that Caleb discovered how to do. He'll take the pans one by one and throw them down until they're all gone. He's started throwing other things as well, although the pans are the most satisfying because they make the most noise.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Celebration

I told you a couple of weeks ago that our pastors are delivering a sermon series inspired by A.J. Jacobs' book, The Year of Living Biblicly. Apparently, in the book, Mr. Jacobs completes several quests in his effort to follow the Bible as literally as possible for an entire year, so our pastoral staff has provided weekly quests for us, giving suggestions for how we might live out our faith biblicly in a certain area. Next Sunday, the sermon will be on Celebration, and the second suggestion for our quest this week is:

Turn a Chore into a Party
Got laundry to fold? Dishes to wash? Closets to organize?
Put on the loudest, most energetic music you have - sing and dance while you work!
Make your efforts a song of celebration to the Lord!

I was skeptical. In my experience, chores are to be endured, not enjoyed. While it's true that I have favorite chores (and, by extension, least favorite chores), even my favorite household tasks are no cause for celebration, and I certainly have never felt joy while completing them.

But, hey, I'm sorta, kinda open minded, sometimes, so I thought I'd give it a try. My first chance came on Sunday afternoon (hey, I already told you I have trouble keeping Sabbath), when I was putting together a couple of casseroles to freeze for future business trips. Cody was cutting potatoes, Logan was dumping potatoes into the big bowl, I was browning ground beef (because we just can't seem to find hamburger around here) and cutting onions and green pepper, and Scott and Caleb were supervising and encouraging, when I said, "hey, we should turn on the loud music and turn this chore into a celebration." So we did.

And I discovered that there's something to that. As I was singing and dancing along with the radio, doing something that I don't necessarily dread, but certainly don't enjoy either, I found that the drudgery turned to lightheartedness. And I noticed that while typically doing chores drains my energy, doing this one as a celebration gave me more energy. So I started thinking, what would it look like, what would my life be like, if I could really do everything I do with an attitude of celebration?

Right. I'm not perfect, so I'm not able to find joy in everything--yet--but I'm trying to hold on to that attitude of celebration, to remember that I am so blessed, to remember that everything I do, everything I am, can be and should be a song of celebration to the Lord.

Whatever you do, work at it wholeheartedly as though you were doing it for the Lord and not merely for people. Colossians 3:23

Monday, February 16, 2009

February?

Just had to share these pictures...on Tuesday the kids were kayaking in our "lake." On Thursday they were boot skating in the same place! Talk about fickle weather... These were taken Sunday.
Caleb was done playing outside at that point, hence the screamy-face.
I included this one to show you that Caleb really was enjoying himself out there (and isn't this picture just so precious?)

The Cub Scouts had their pinewood derby on Saturday. Cody won four of his heats and tied for 10th place, then lost the race-off. It was so, so close, though. Disappointing, but I'll...I mean he'll get over it. Logan also won four of his heats in the open class, but head to head Logan's car beat Cody's (which of course means that had Logan been in the Cub division, he would have finished 10th or better, which would have gotten him a big trophy. Once again, I'll get over it).
Cody's car is in lane 3, the turtle-mobile (orange and black). That's his friend Derek's car next to his in lane 4.

Cody's in the 3rd row, fourth from the right (with the blue hat on).

And a picture of Caleb getting ready for swimming season :-)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Breakfast in Bed

I woke up at 6:10 this morning, and shortly after heard little people trying to be quiet as they climbed the stairs. Instead of running down the hall and jumping into bed with me, as is their usual practice, I heard them head into the kitchen where I heard various noises that I tried to make sense of. At one point I heard the older one say in a loud whisper, "turn off the light." I heard someone creeping slowly into my bedroom--I think that must have been a reconnaissance mission. I heard various clinking and clanging noises. Then I heard the microwave door opening and closing, and a beep, beep...beep. Interesting, I thought to myself, just what are they doing in there? Turns out they were making oatmeal. For me. Aren't they sweet?

Just in case you didn't realize, eating oatmeal in bed with a 15 month old trying to scoop that same oatmeal into his mouth, and a 5 year old jumping on that same bed, can get a little messy...

But they made my day, those children of mine.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

February

We've finally gotten a little warmer around here, above freezing, in fact. Our temps went above 32 on Saturday, and didn't dip below again until this morning. And it rained on Monday and Tuesday, which means that most of our snow has disappeared. But our lakes have reappeared, and Cody begged me to get the kayak down, and I did, so Cody and Logan went kayaking yesterday. In our yard. In February.
Notice the tree in the lake behind the boys. I'd say the water is about 2.5 feet deep there by the tree, and you can see by the wet mark that it was another 6 inches or so deep the previous day.
Here's a picture of Caleb, with the water behind him. He's so cute :-)



Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Dinner for Four

I have a difficult time getting motivated to make supper when my husband is out of town.


Back up.


I have a difficult time getting motivated to make supper even when Scott is in town. See the problem is the time of day. If I could make supper at, say, 2 p.m., I would be fine. But the kids come home from school at 4:15, and of course I want to spend time with them, because they've been gone all day. I want to play cops and robbers with Logan and basketball or football with Cody. From school they bring what seems like a ream of paper home each afternoon, each individual sheet clambering for my attention. Then there's the homework. Cody has homework every day, with which he needs help, and Logan often has homework, but even if he doesn't, I'm needed to run interference for Cody so Logan doesn't bug him too much while he's doing his. Then there's Caleb. That time between 4 and 5:30 p.m. is his most clingy and whiny of the day. This is not surprising considering that there are so many other things demanding my attention all of a sudden. Further complicating the situation is what I call the Caleb conundrum. If I give him something to eat, that will occupy his attention for long enough for me to help Cody with a math problem or help Logan practice writing his letters, but if he eats then, he won't eat his supper. So I don't give Caleb anything to eat, but instead carry him around with me, while he complains and grabs at anything he can get his hands on (like Cody's and Logan's pencils to draw on the table with, or their flashcards to throw around the living areas). With all this going on, is it any wonder that I dread adding one more thing by cooking supper? I'm sure those of you who have children can identify with my situation.

I've adapted. On weekdays now I only make things that don't require my attention between 4 and 5:30 p.m., so we've been having a lot of casseroles that I put together while Caleb is napping in the afternoon. Crock pot meals work well, too. I've also set a strict 5:30 supper time so that we have time to do homework after supper when Scott's available to provide one more set of adult hands. It's working well, and that time of day is substantially easier. I don't feel the pressure to get everything done before supper because I know that we'll have time after (no time for anything else, but I guess that's just the way it goes).

So, back to my opening statement. I find it really, really, really difficult to get motivated to make supper when my husband is out of town. Because, you see, I have everything going on that I mentioned above, PLUS I know that whatever I make, at least 1/3 of the children will not be happy with it. They regularly ask me if they can just have cereal or pancakes for supper, and I regularly say fine, because I'm too tired at that point to argue and cereal is really easy. I also know that I'm not going to have another set of adult hands to help with homework/Caleb occupying later on, so homework pretty much takes from the time they get home until the time they go to bed with a short break so we can eat our cereal.

The last time my husband was traveling for business (which was just week before last), I realized that I really need to be intentional about making sure that when he's traveling I have meals available that are really easy to get on the table...as in, put it in the oven for an hour, then on the table. I usually keep one casserole in our freezer for emergencies, but I decided that I needed to beef up my supply and to use those when Scott isn't here. So last week, as I was planning my menus and making my shopping list, I planned for tripling some of my casseroles to freeze. Last week I managed to get three super chicken casseroles and two tator tot casseroles into the freezer, and I was planning on chicken with a twist, and a beef and potato casserole this week...I just didn't know I would need them quite this soon. Yes, hubby is out of town again this week, and so far, so good. Last night we had the emergency pizza casserole, and tonight it'll be corn dogs, followed by super chicken casserole on Wednesday...
. . . . . . . .
Here's the recipe for Super Chicken Casserole, from our Lord of Life cookbook (submitted by Kris Nagao--remember Kris, everybody?). It's really good. In fact, you could easily call it Souper Chicken Casserole, because it tastes a lot like Grandpa Rotman's chicken rice soup.

6 oz pkg Uncle Ben's long grain and wild rice with herbs (I used the chicken flavor because it was on sale)
3 c. cooked chicken or turkey, cut up (I boiled chicken breasts, then used my food processor to chop it)
1 c. sliced fresh mushrooms
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 c. finely chopped green pepper
1 can cream of celery soup
1 c. chicken broth
sliced almonds

Saute mushrooms in 2 T butter or margarine. Cook rice according to package directions. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Put in large greased casserole and cover with sliced almonds. Bake at 350 for at least 1 hour, uncovered, until it is of serving consistency.

Mmmm, yummy. I forgot the almonds, but I'm sure it would be good with them, too. I tripled the recipe and got enough to fill, almost to overflowing, four 1.5 quart casseroles, one of which was enough to feed the five of us.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Batman

I can't believe I forgot to tell you about this in my earlier post: it's so exciting! A few months ago my brother mentioned that Batman had been hanging out at his house. Now he's shown up at ours!
Eric's right: Batman is much shorter in person than he appears to be in his movies.

Hot Air

This weekend was the Hot Air Affair in Hudson, billed as the largest hot air balloon festival in the midwest. Of course we went to the parade and fireworks over the St. Croix on Friday evening. Impressive, isn't it? It gets pretty warm as the balloonists pass by with their burners blazing. On Saturday, we attempted to watch the mass launch, but it was canceled. We are now 0 for 3 on Hot Air Affair balloon launches. Each year we've gone, they've canceled the launch the day we decided to go, and they've launched the other morning. Sure enough, they launched Sunday morning. Last year we saw dozens of balloons over the St. Croix as we were driving to church. It makes me wonder how many of the 40 launches (this was the festival's 20th year, and two launches are scheduled per year) have actually happened. I wonder if they keep statistics. For more information visit: http://www.hudsonhotairaffair.com/index.htm

On Sunday afternoon Cody worked on his science fair experiment. He is doing paper chromatography to study and compare the dyes used to color M&Ms and Skittles. Pretty exciting stuff. First we extracted the dyes by placing the candies in little puddles of water (we had to "dispose" of the candies after letting them sit for one minute. We offered to let Logan help us "dispose" of them, but he was put off by the lack of color on one side), then Cody spotted the dyes onto filter paper.
After the dye dots were dry, he developed the chromatograph using a 1% salt solution. The developing solution moves through the paper by capillary action, taking the dyes along with it. Different substances like being disolved in the solution more than others, so those substances move farther up the paper substrate, thus separating from each other (from the chromatograph below, you can tell that the blue dye likes being dissolved in the salt solution the most; red the least. I wonder if that's somehow related to the wavelength of the light required to bounce off for us to see it. Probably somehow).


This is, from left to right, the chromatograph of the green Skittle, green M&M, blue M&M, purple Skittle, and brown M&M. We noticed that the purple Skittle and the brown M&M were very similar in color before we extracted their dyes, but the little puddles of dye were definitely purple and brown, definitely different. You can see from the chromatograph that they're made up of different colors of dye. They both had red and blue dyes, but purple's blue component is darker, and brown also had yellow and orange.

We woke up this morning to find that our driveway had been transformed into an ice skating rink over night...a hilly ice skating rink. It was interesting getting to the bus stop this morning. Scott managed to get out in the Saturn, though, after placing some icemelt stratigically on the uphill slope, and I noticed when I looked out the window a couple of minutes ago that the ice up by the house appears to be melting.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Ice Fishing

Scott, Cody, and Logan went ice fishing with the Cub Scouts on Saturday. This is Cody's third year as a Cub Scout and the first year that the ice fishing outing hasn't been canceled. They met last Thursday to make their own ice fishing poles, and Saturday they headed out.
Scott and our boys headed out early along with a few others to start drilling holes. Cody's friend's Dad gave them a ride to the fishing spot in his ATV's trailer. Scott tells me the ice was around 18 inches thick, which is thick enough to drive a truck on (the ice auger is about 24" long, to give you an idea).Here are Cody and Logan with Cody's friend Derek (you've seen him before, spinning). Looks like quite a large hole in the ice, eh? Hope they didn't lose any kids down there (don't worry--the hole's not really that big). Scott tells me there were around 50 people there, which is more than show up to a typical pack meeting. Hmmm.

Saturday was such a nice day (I think it got up to 45 or so), but Caleb and I didn't spend any time outdoors. We were planning on going out with everyone after they got home, but I guess they were all outsided-out by then. So we ended up doing some night sledding on Saturday evening after supper. Scott brought out the big spotlight that he uses when he snowblows, and all the boys (except Caleb) were wearing their headlamps. It was quite windy, but it was a warm wind, and we had a blast. Even Caleb was having fun--this was the first time that he was actually asking to sled, again and again. Didn't get any pictures, because of course no one thought to bring the camera out (or actually, I did, but too late). I recall saying that we needed to do this again when there's a full moon, so maybe I'll remember the camera sooner next time...

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Milk

It's my brother's birthday today. Happy birthday, Eric! I think he's 39 years old now. Yikes.
. . . . . . . . . .
We currently have 5 different types of milk in our fridge. I find this slightly rediculous, considering we only have 5 milk-drinkers in our family, but there it is. I'm the one who's buying all this different milk, so I could definitely reduce the number of kinds we have. Usually we only (only) have 3 different kinds: skim for me and the older kids, whole for the baby, and 2% for Scott. I've tried to get Scott to see the wisdom of drinking skim milk, and he's tried to get me to drink 2%, but neither of us is willing to budge on this issue any more. When we were first married, we both drank 1%. Neither of us was completely happy with this compromise, but we were willing to give a little. Then we had children, and we got used to having two different kinds of milk in the fridge, and now...well it seems it's gotten a little out of hand, doesn't it? When the youngest started drinking whole milk, I was making Scott mix his own for a while (skim + whole = 2%), but that got to be cumbersome (more cumbersome than 5 types of milk in the fridge, you ask?) after a while.

Strawberry milk was on sale ($0.99 for a half gallon) last week, and the oldest child asked me once if we could try it. I told him that if it ever went on sale I would buy some for him, so I did. He doesn't like it, so I'm extra glad I waited until I saw it on sale (we tried strawberry shakes, and strawberry-chocolate shakes: he doesn't like those either. Next we're going to try strawberry smoothies). Chocolate milk is on sale this week, and since our older children won't drink white milk any longer, the chocolate milk, when it goes on sale, is less expensive than buying white milk and mixing ovaltine into it.

Did I mention that we drink 4 gallons of milk a week as a family (more when chocolate milk is on sale)? So, I suppose, if we're going to have 4 gallons of milk in our fridge, they might as well all be different...

By the way, we also have powdered milk in the cupboard...

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I'm getting this message from Yahoo mail:
Can't talk now. System's down.
Sorry for the holdup. Looks like a
temporary glitch in our network has part of Yahoo! mail down, so you're briefly
without service. Rest assured the alarms are blaring in the basement and our
team is working frantically to get you up and running ASAP. Again, the snag is
on our end — so there's no need for you to do a thing.
Back to it,Yahoo!
Mail Team
It tickles my funny bone to think about alarms blaring, lights flashing, and people frantically typing away at their work stations amidst the noise, the whole company coming to a stand-still to get my email service up and running again.
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