Wednesday, October 19, 2011


I remember as a kid picking a tulip, wrapping wet kleenex and plastic around the stem and walking to school to give it to my teacher.  I usually was not the only one presenting her with a flower. The wise and hopeful teacher had a vase on her desk just waiting to be filled. And it often was.

I just love the hope that these little bulbs bring.
When the lawns are dry, the leaves mostly fallen, and the gardens wilting, these guys represent a new season.

I've always envied those gardens near mine that are lined with gorgeous tulips in April and May. It just never worked or fit into my life to plant my own. But this Fall, I have 60 little promises planted in my front and back yard.  Man, I hope they all come up.  The pictures on the package make big claims.

Can't wait for all that color to return.  Makes me ache for Spring already.

I'm in trouble.

Somebody remind me I live in Minnesota.  Just to get me by, I am pushing for a back yard ice rink.  It's a tough sell in this house. The vote is currently 4-1, but we don't function as a democracy. Which is a good thing because if we did, I'd have to endure "The Show" being repeated on the iPod about 30 times in a row. Love the song, just not in my head for 24 hours straight.

Lots to look forward to - life is full of promise and potential.

For now I will just sit back and "enjoy the show."  Oh dear.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Moneyball Song

Ben and I saw the movie "Moneyball" starring Brad Pitt on Friday.  I would recommend this baseball-themed movie even if you are not a baseball fan.  I enjoyed the dialogue that some great actors pulled off very well.  They made some awkward conversations and sarcasm very believable. I didn't know anything about the story, so the movie was engaging for me just learning about the General Manager of the Oakland A's and his attempt to field a team with a non-traditional approach.  He has run ins with the team scouts (funniest dialogue I think includes these guys sitting around a table discussing whom to add to the team), the team manager, and players.  "He's got an ugly girlfriend", one scouts says of a prospect. "That means he has no confidence. She's a 6 at best."  Also, it was fun to see the interweaving of actual baseball footage from the Oakland A's historic 2002 season (they won a record setting 20 games in a row) with the rest of the movie.  And, our friend Steve joined us for the movie and he went to high school with the hero of the 20th winning game in a row, Scott Hatteberg - a fun connection.

My favorite scene, though was the one where Beane, the A's General Manager, takes his 12 year old daughter Casey to buy a guitar. He encourages her to sing a song right there in the store and she sings "The Show", originally performed by Lenka. The words are poignant and moving as Casey sings- she has divorced parents, is just a pre-teen, and she has a dad whom she loves and wants to support and encourage in his own problems. Her singing is easily the most tender moment of the movie and her dad's admiration for her is so precious.  Maybe its because I have an almost 12 year old who herself loves to sing;  I was touched by this girl's courage to bless her dad with a little song. I think too, though, that her role in singing the song is meant to be something more significant. At the end of the movie Beane is driving in his car having just had a meeting with the owner of the Boston Red Sox who offered him more money than any general manager of any sport has ever before been offered.  He has a decision to make - go where the money is and have a good chance at a championship ring, or stay with the A's where he has been for many years.  Casey makes a recording of "The Show" for him and as he drives, he listens to her give her two cents about his big decision then mesmerize him again with the song.  That's how the movie ends - this precious voice singing "Just enjoy the show."

I'm just a little bit caught in the middle
Life is a maze and love is a riddle
I don't know where to go, can't do it alone
I've tried and I don't know why

I'm just a little girl lost in the moment
I'm so scared but I don't show it
I can't figure it out, it's bringing me down
I know I've got to let it go and just enjoy the show

Friday, October 7, 2011

My Beloved Kite

Today I saw a tumbleweed (like this one.) An actual real rolling tumbleweed. I had to do a double take because I was driving in the heart of the city, over a 6 lane highway on a bridge. And there it was - just blowing down the road like it was on a wide open road somewhere in rural Oklahoma.

Today, was a gusty day. Winds near 50 mph. We have a gazillion leaves all over the yard and excited girls who want to rake them, so I am not complaining.

Anyway, today reminds me of a day in early September which I started to write about but didn't finish.

Here's what I wrote then with my ending tacked on.

This was me yesterday. Relaxing. Out with the family flying our arsenal of kites and enjoying the best cool breeze of the summer. The last one, I imagine.
It was all my idea.  "Let's go fly kites," I suggested.

And it was a great idea if I do say so myself.

We had just come off of three and a half days of hard labor playing musical  bedrooms. Each one of us got a new room. The dust pile ups, the junk pileups, the clothing we just don't wear pileups were all large and looming. But, we stayed focused and had some unexpected and wonderful help from Nana and Pops and we went to work cleaning, organizing, pitching, and polishing.

I must say, the rooms look great.  Everyone is happy. We each have more room. We all gained a couple square feet at most, but that is improvement.

Anyway, after all of this I thought it would be a good idea to finally enjoy the decent weather as a family. Just the five of us.

We headed to a huge open area near our home and let the kites do their thing. No effort needed on our part. They were on their own.   Literally, unfortunately.

So, here I am resting in the sun and attempting to keep my eye on the tiny dot of a kite almost 500 feet off in the distance.

Let me just say, I love my kite. It is the easiest thing to fly, packs into a tiny bag, and can reach the heavens.

Yesterday was no exception.

Here it is on that fateful day perhaps a little too close to another.
As you can see the sky was beautiful, the clouds crisp and white and the wind was suuuuuuuuuper gusty.

I was peacefully holding the end of the string when the youngest kite flyer in the family asked me to help wind hers back up.  We switched lines and I started to roll hers around the small cardboard tube it came with.

As I did this, it somehow escaped from my hands. I honestly can't remember how it did, but it did.  I yelled and immediately chased after the tube which was now rolling across the field and gaining speed.  I had my camera around my neck too, so my speed was more jogging like than full out running.

If only I cn step on it, I thought. I reached, I yelled, I laughed. It was all too funny.

About a nanosecond later, my little one is behind me yelling and I turn to see that she lost the grip on my kite and it is now making for free-er places.  I've caught up to her kite, stomped on it, but now have another mission.  Run faster, yell louder (because kites listen to their owners) and laugh and reach like a maniac before I totally lose this thing to the heavens.

Ben races ahead of me, across the street, and into a yard and nearly catches the end of the string.


We both watch, out of breath, as it raises higher into the air and the end of the string catches onto the top of a 30+ foot enormous tree.  It's in the back yard of someone's home.

What to do now?

Ben knocks. No one home.  What were they going to do anyway?  Bring out their 20 foot tall ladder and climbing gear?

We ponder our options - which are minimal. Wait for the wind to just take it and watch it leave our little neighborhood.  Wait for the wind to die down, estimate where the kite would land and try to retrieve it.  Or, and this was my thought, watch in horror as a plane flies into it, blows up and dives to earth and I am now a news item. Thirty-Seven Year Old Responsible for the Deaths of 180 Passengers Returning From a Pilgrimage to Rome.  Or, Rare Eagle Collides With Kite and Lands in Pre-school Yard - Mom Takes the Heat.

Options one and two were most appealing to me even though it meant probably losing my kite. "It will land in the river", Ben says. How does he know?  Now I worry about a fish or bird tangling with it. I was in a bit of a quandary. The kite was over 530 feet in the air, darting back and forth, and it looked really cool. I have never seen a kite fly so high. It was truly awesome.  But, I couldn't shake the thought of a tragedy unfolding, maybe a horrific one, at my doing.

We watched for awhile longer, got into the car and headed home. Ben then rolled the tandem out of the garage and with one of our kids, he went searching.  

He came back with a story. Not the happy ending that would have made for a good children's book, but a story. The kite had fallen and landed across several yards. He even saw the string across the yard of a certain local radio talk show host. The kite was caught in an electric wire and he phoned it in to the electric company.

That's it.

I lost my kite and my voice that day.

The End.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


 On any given day, but especially on Mondays (my chop, slice and dice day), I end up with a bowl of peelings, grounds, rinds, cores....slops basically.
 I take the bowl outside to the back yard we share with our neighbors.
 I add the contents of my bowl to this.
 In a few short months, give or take some time, it turns into this - rich, healthy, black dirt.
See the side-by-side difference? It's one of those amazing phenomenons of nature. The breakdown of our garbage into dirt so we can enrich our garden to give us more food to create more garbage - the cycle of life.
If you want a quick and easy guide to composting, check this out  Composting 101

We do it with our hub as a way to be resourceful and to nourish the garden we so lovingly plant and cultivate each year together.  I say "lovingly" to remind myself that even when the result is less than desired (this year, very few beans or peas), it is still important to love the process and try again.

Try it! It's easy to do, low maintenance, and a concrete way to play farmer-gardener right here in the heart of the city.

Monday, October 3, 2011


If you visit the Minnesota Zoo in the next month, take a stroll down to the farm. Greeting you along the road will be some interesting "animals" - scarecrow animals, to be precise.It's called Scarecrow Alley and you can find the info here.

You'll come across these guys and you'll think, "What talent! What imagination! How did they do that?!"

Then, you'll come to this guys and you'll pause and think, "Now this must be the work of a family - about 15 or so people ages 3 months - 64 spending a gorgeous Autumn evening pouring their creative and resourceful juices into this amazing structure. This guy deserves 1st place!"
And you would be right in your thinking. At least, mostly right. Ben's family did come together and share their materials, time and energy towards creating this scarecrow elephant affectionately named Eek.  But, Eek won third prize at this year's MN Zoo scarecrow contest. Still, he made the podium! He made us all proud.  From the chicken wire underneath to the puffy painted t-shirt around his belly, he stood tall and well, a little scared.  The creative minds of that night paid close attention to Eek's every detail - the bracelet on his/her arm, the toenails, the braided tail with a bow, the eyeball staring at the super scary mouse and more.

And all it took was some chicken wire, pvc pipe, safety pins, a glue gun, cardboard, paint, straw, felt, Styrofoam, and a big grey blanket.  And, it took a hugely successful collaborative effort - totally worth it;  a fun and blessed time with family. 

So, go pay Eek a visit. See the firends he's made and maybe get inspired to join the contest yourself next year.
My mind is already reeling with ideas.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

One Month In

Well, we are nearing the end of the first month of school and I have made a few conclusions. Things I am sure of.

First, this lunch bag 

works a ton better than this one.

I bought the first one off of Lands End on clearance and it works great. When the little one comes home at the end of her full day the freezer pack is still ice cold. Not the case for the older two when they unpack their lunch bags.  So, if you are shopping around, try a Land's End lunch bag. Find it here.

Second, it is a part time job to be invested in the educational lives of the three kids. Ben said it last week and I can say it now. Yes, this is like taking on a whole new position. We've been doing it for years now, but this year has some elements about it that make the work of it all seem more like, well, like work. Like a job. Like I am literally at a job from the hours of 4:30 - 8:30 five days a week.

I do a day care in my home three days a week.  This month I have realized the impact of it in a more real way.  My "kid energy" is tapped out by the time my own kids get home.  I am "on" as a mom and caregiver from about 6:45 am - 8:30 pm or later.  I love my children and those I care for in my home. They are absolutely delightful. They are a joy to watch and engage with. In many ways I love the challenge of managing our days to make them go well. I enjoy the little, simple things they do. They grow and change daily. But its work. Its life giving and it is also draining. Any parent and caregiver knows this. For me it is new just with the number of kids and the fact that all mine are in school with new challenges at the same time. They are at a particular school whose curriculum demands a high level of commitment. It involves careful attention in class, homework in every subject, and the expectation to keep up with a rigorous pace. Each one of the girls has to work very hard to learn the material well and manage her own mastery of it when at home. I am amazed at the number of hours they give and give and give to this adventure called learning.

The critical hours with my own kids (4:30 - 8:30, when they are so tired they can't see straight) are yet to run smoothly. We are working on it. There are tears; groans; questions I can't answer; pre-algebra problems I intuitively understand but can't articulate well; Latin translations to plod through one case and conjugation at a time; states and capitols to memorize; poems to recite, etc. Oh, and dinner to get on the table, stuff to put away, uniforms to hang back up (difficult when you can't reach the hanging rod in the closet), chores to do, snacks to eat, showers to take, etc.  Again, it is like taking on a new job. One of us parents is also gone for the evening usually three of the five nights - just to complicate matters.

And, we just have deeper, more personal things going on that further exhaust the emotional and mental life from us.

I have made some adaptations and adjustments over the last couple weeks. I see that these are helpful and I will be continuing to seek wisdom and grace from God to do all this well. The joy of learning and family and life under one roof should be sought after vigorously, I am convinced. It takes some time and a lot of good down to earth communicating with all parties involved. Oh, and a shout out to God on a regular basis to pour out his grace and mercy and fill you up to be able to keep going . And to be able to truly enjoy the treasure of these unique and amazing little people he has given you.

This is what I have done so far:
  • I get up at the same time every morning and get things done that I can't do well when the kids are up.  I am usually ahead of the 6:00 alarm.  5:45 is more like it.
  • I use some of the precious early morning minutes to drink a cup of coffee and read the newspaper. This reminds me that there is a whole world out there outside of my own. I offer up a prayer for the day and then get moving.
  • I take it to Amy. Amy, whom I have mentioned before, comes over with her two kids on Monday evenings for dinner. She is full of wisdom, non judgmental, has great and creative ideas, and most importantly, she really gets me and my kids.  She has insights into them that help me understand them. This helps with empathy and compassion when things get tough. She says things like, "I tell myself to just look my kid in the eye. Just once each day.  If this is all the undivided attention he/she gets from me today, its something. Or, I do a small act of service for them like help them into the car with their heavy backpack."  She also is a Math teacher by trade and can step in when that skill is needed. She brings a calm and peace to our home.
  • I take every opportunity, even when I am brushing my teeth or so exhausted I can't see straight, to talk and listen to Ben. We need to take all the moments we can to get on the same page and be a united front in leading this family. Multi tasking all day long has never been easy for me. But the effort at just talking things through pays off even if another task gets short-changed.
  • I use my free Monday to meal plan, grocery shop and make our dinners for Monday, Tuesday (which we share with our hub) and Wednesday. I literally chop, mix, measure and assemble three meals so that I can use my time and energy during the next two days to care for the kids.  This takes most of the day, but it is an uninterrupted and productive time.  I also make sure there are handy and nutritious options available for kids' lunches and snacks.  I really believe in spending the time to keep health and nutrition a priority in our family's diet.
  • I use my free Friday to work in the alumni office. It is a different kind of work, a break from home and supported by some amazing women who share the same passion for Trinity School that I do.  I like the productivity and creativity of the job.  For lunch, I meet Ben just to touch base. Then, more errands and spending a few minutes to bring order back to the home before I pick up the kids.
    • I now greet Bruce, the milk man, each week at our door with a check and that week's empty milk bottles. For health and convenience's sake, this works well.  I was relieved the other day when in the grocery store that I did not have to haul gallons of milk with me out to the car and into the house. It was a small sense of relief, but important at this time in my life.
    • I can't keep the same cleaning schedule during the week. I've shifted some chores to Saturday so the kids can help. I now fold a load of laundry about every other night in my just-before-bed stupor.  It is a mindless job that can be saved for the end of the day. No more marathon laundry day.
    •  We, as parents, are cutting back on some of our outside-the-home responsibilities. This is just a season of life when we have to say no to anything extra and ask to be relieved of some things we have been involved in.
    • Along those lines, I have tabled the process of starting grad school. Really tabled it. One might say "You put it on the back burner." But I think that could imply there is still a small amount of attention given to it. I would say that there are times to take desires off the stove. If I give any attention to it, I will feed the desire and resentment could grow because I am not able to do that thing now - why would I want to live like that?  So, gradually, with the effort put towards that desire directed elsewhere (to my main priorities, Ben and the kids), I can be more at peace with the knowledge that grad school will always be there. My kids won't. Plus, when one is looking at shelling out $5,881 in the next year for one set of braces it makes one pause - hmmmmm, an advanced degree or straight teeth?  Lots to think about there. And then think about it again the following year with the second set of crooked teeth.
      • One role I have kept is being an assistant teacher at my second daughter's faith formation class on Sunday mornings.  It is 1.25 hours of time in her presence and it is a way I can connect with her and her growth in her faith. For now, this is how it is. Thankfully, I do not have to lesson plan or teach as I did last year. I can just show up and assist. This is an example of combining desires for efficiencies' sake.  Time with her, growth in her knowledge of God and the church.
      • I keep a running list of everything that pops into my head that I need to do or remember to do on the fridge. It is not organized or broken down into sections, it is just there so that I can deal with it later. I have been forgetting the most basic things lately. This general list helps. 
      •  I drink a half glass of wine at the end of the day and read things like "Good Husband, Great Marriage." This reminds me that I am a wife first.
      These are my adaptations - for now they are working.

      Who knows what October will bring?

      Probably more insights into which school gear holds up the best. And, hopefully, more insights into how to be purposeful and open to all the change the vocation of homemaker offers.

          Can't Keep These Kids Out Of Trees

          That's okay, though. Some of my favorite pictures capture them climbing, clinging and swinging.

          Love the daring in this one. 

          The eyes, the expression. I could eat them up.

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