Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Stopping to smell the roses....

Stopping by woods on a snowy evening...

Stopping to "enjoy the moment"...

We can all read the famous phrases above and have an understanding of the meaning within the words, but yet... do we do it enough in our daily life... or even ever? Do we really possess a complete understanding of words like these at all?

In the book Stopping: How to Be Still When You Have to Keep Going by David Kundtz, the necessity to just stop and do nothing, if even for just a moment is explained and stressed as being necessary in this crazy ADHD world we all currently reside in. Various kinds of stopovers are explained ranging from short to extended, planned to unplanned, and the reasons we need them, or why our body and/or mind enforces them upon us.

I purchased this book several years ago and enjoyed it very much, I thought so highly of it that I actually purchased several copies as gifts for friends and relatives whom I felt might enjoy it and employ the wisdom within it's pages. I admit though, that my book and it's teachings recede into the back of my mind lying long forgotten until periodically (usually once per year) my body forces an involuntary stopover on me out of necessity... then I remember my book and I dust it off and re-read part of it during my recovery from illness. An odd tradition? Yes, but it has become just that.

I was due for one of these stopovers just last week, but one such as I had never experienced before awaited me. I began my Monday as always, and faced an incredibly full week. Everyday a list of meetings, classes to teach (at home, in the community, at church), court dates for our foster kids, meetings with social workers, travel time, shopping, HOMESCHOOLING and caring for kids, meal prep, the list was endless...

Then on Monday, late afternoon within minutes while doing errands a little tickle developed in my throat and with 15 minutes became a raging sore throat with a fever out of nowhere with chills coming and going... aches soon to follow. By suppertime I was toast and zonked out on the couch leaving Mike to feed the gang. I was totally out of the game. The next day I was doing better by early afternoon (after a shaky morning) so was off to the dentist with three of the kids. As I sat in the waiting area my fever crept back up and my symptoms returned... back home ill once more (but not as bad as the previous night) I surrendered over our childbirth class for the evening to Mike - who did a fab job from the reports I received. The kids and I hit the sack.

Wednesday... HAD TO be well due to the fact I needed to head out of town with 5 of the 7 kids for the nearly 3 hr drive to meetings with case workers and spend the night to be at an early court hearing the following day. I got through the day physically, but due to stressful events, was growing weary mentally. Arrived home Thursday late afternoon in time to feed everyone, tag team with Mike and head off to a mandatory meeting with my homeschool co-op group. Unexpectedly, this is where I found myself entering into a kind of stop, more like a grinding halt, that left me reeling. During the later part of our meeting it was a time to discuss any personal things happening in your life that others could support you with in deed & prayer. When my turn came to share, I can only say that months and months of "stuffed" emotions, thoughts, and tears came pouring out beyond my control. I had never experienced anything such as this, with a group of women who are practically strangers to boot. I left exhausted physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. I was worn out. The following morning I was to teach a class at the co-op, it was the most difficult class I believe I have ever done - only because I could not think, and I was so incredibly weary in every imaginable way. I had to quit teaching early and fill the remainder of time with craft activities (which was fine, but unplanned, and not me at all). The rest of the day I felt like I wasn't even present... I longed to go to bed, I longed to sleep... if only I could just get through this day. By afternoon I was very ill once more - this time respiratory related - lungs on fire, excessive coughing, asthma attacks... the sore throat and aching were back.... I just ached to sleep, nothing more. I learned that night that my mother-in-law had decided to come for the weekend, but as much as I wanted to see her I nearly broke into tears due to my only desire & need to escape into sleep. I did go to bed that night at 7:30pm and slept until 11:00 when a sick child woke me up for a few hours.
The next day I did not attend church (or teach my class there) and I stayed home (with the one {now} only sorta sick child). My mother-in-law, being the wise woman she is, decided to postpone her visit to avoid illness and allow me to recover. I spent the day resting, and when I felt better I remembered my Stopping book... ahhhh the ritual. I read parts of it. That afternoon I also shared with Mike my Thursday night experience (which I referred to as "my breakdown"?) It was incredibly helpful to have him to discuss it with.

Although I was back in swing & out the door by that night, what I was still experiencing continued processing in my head throughout the weekend. It was by no means a grand "stopping experience", but it was enough to get me to pay acute attention to some things I need to address in my life for the positive... that I guess, is what stopping is all about.
*If you want to look over samples of this book, this is a great site with many pages/chapters online you can read. Visit the site and do a search for the title.

Monday, October 29, 2007

A Tale From Redwall by Christopher Amick

Watch out Brain Jacques... here comes Christopher Amick! If any of you are Redwall fans, you may enjoy the short story below that Christopher wrote to fulfill an assignment for his writing class. I was quite pleased with his zestful use of words - the thesaurus is his friend!

Christopher is a regular reader of the Redwall books and found his inspiration from the many stories and characters he has enjoyed within those pages. He was also inspired by a another classic story that you may be be familiar with... see if you can bring it to mind as you enjoy Christopher's original installment to the Redwall writings!

Reed the Red Becomes A Better Fox
by Christopher Amick

A long time ago in the Moss Flower Woods where clan animals lived, there was a certain clan that had an utterly vain fox. Since *culled at birth to be known as Reed the Red he was chief of many ferrets, weasels, stoats, foxes and rats. One day two scoundrels, a stoat named Black Fang and a ferret called Jade Eyes decided to try to procure leadership of the clan with a bold plan of deception. Enthusiastically the deceivers went to the chief, Reed the Red, and said "Because we are talented tailors, our desire is to create a cloak for you that is exceptionally glamorous! The material would possess the wonderful quality of being invisible to the simple-stupid-headed creature." Reed the Red thought that this would be stupendous even though he already assumed most of his clan members were dull-witted, he thought it could still prove useful. Then the fox chief, who was a bit stingy inquired, "How much will this magical cloak cost?" Regarding this question, the stoat named Black Fang stepped forward and answered, "It will cost many sapphires..." "And cold coins!" added the ferret. "Let it be done, but it must be ready by the time of my clan feast six days from today in Moss Flower Woods," Reed the Red decided.

That night the two fablers used bone needles falsely sewing and clipping away at thin air, they continued this for three days. Now it came that Reed the Red wanted to know how the cloak was coming along, so he sent his captain to check on progress. As the captain arrived, the tricksters were cutting imaginary fabric with their scissors. Dramatically they pretended to hold something as the captain approached them. "Doesn't it look colorful?" they questioned. "Oh yes!" the captain replied, even though he could not see a thing. The false weavers explained the patterns and colors of the cloak in great detail to the captain before he departed. He did not want the chief to think him a fool so he reported all that the cloak weavers had related to him of their three days of work. The next day, Reed the Red came with his captain to view the cloak. The chief could not see the cloak, but agreed with the weavers about everything, then left. About morning the cloak was finished. Reed the Red merrily waited for the cloak weavers to show up. When they arrived, he asked if he could try it on. Black Fang and Jade Eyes pretended to adorn the chief with the cloak. Reed the Red then suspiciously stated, I cannot feel anything on my shoulders." The vermin weavers replied, "that is because the material is so light." They proceeded.

When the day of the feast arrived, Reed the Red was wearing his new cloak (although he really wasn't) and all the clan beasts were praising it, even though they honestly could not see anything of the sort! Forbid they be thought stupid! Anxiously they continued to praise the chief and his supposedly fabulous cloak. A ratling (which is what they call baby rats), suddenly squealed, "there is no cloak!" Everyone stopped eating, slowly every other creature began to agree, even the rat captain. The chief fox slowly realized what was truly happening. Clenching his teeth, he immediately ordered his guards to bring forth the lying stoat and ferret, and sentenced them for life to a newly created official court position... Master of sock,diaper and underwear wash and repair. They were supplied with plenty of real fabric and thread to sew with until the end of their wretched lives. Throughout his lifetime Reed the Red always remembered how proud and vain he had once been, and became a better fox because of it.

*culled: named, called, christened

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Capturing the Family Photo

I LOVE & dearly treasure family photos and individual portraits of my children, therefore taking them yearly is a must for us - no exceptions! This year we decided to try our hand at doing our own (actually we decided on this late last year, so one of Mike's 2006 Christmas gifts was a tri-pod!). I began sifting through area second hand shops last fall trying to get burgundy shirts for all of us and guesstimate the sizes we would be needing for the 2007 fall photo shoot. I would pick up long sleeve shirts in this hue here and there and throw them in a large bag I had in my closet until I had accumulated enough, extra even - which turned out to be a good thing since we had a few more bodies to outfit for the pics this year!
We had planned all along on having outdoor family, group, and individual photos taken during the fall in the peak of the colors here in the woods, but sadly there were only a few days that would have been ideal in mid-late September and we were already busy on those days... so we waited and waited for a day w/o rain, wind, cold, etc. that might work to get the job done. As we waited we watched the colors fade, and the leaves fall and began to give up the hope of our fall shoot... BUT then I heard there might be a glimmer of hope for this past Saturday. Indeed, we discovered a short window of a few hours Saturday afternoon - so quickly we suited up, grabbed the equipment and went to scout out possible locations where there were: 1) Still leaves on the trees that looked nice, 2) Areas we could pose with kids of various ages and heights, 3) not too far away because we had early evening plans.
Amazingly God pointed the way just 3 minutes from our home and we were off in a whirlwind of creativity. Mike took many images that day and of course with 7 kids to try to pose and get all looking half happy and presentable in the shot while Mike set the camera timer and came racing into his spot was quite mmmm... interesting - but we got it accomplished!
Now, begins the selection process for Christmas cards, enlargements for framing and so on. Our goal is to mail holiday greetings to all of you by the end of November - let's hope! The pic you see above was one of the first ones taken that day... many, many more followed.

Rain and Yet More Rain

It's been cloudy here for over a month and it feels like forever since we've had a sunny day. The rain continues to fall, varying from sprinkles to pouring. The color and feel of the day never changes from when you awake to cloudy grayness in the early morn until the sun sets all the sooner in the early eve due to the smothering clouds that continue to hover in our skies above. It grows wearisome and does nothing for my mood... yet again today.

The Rainy Day
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

The day is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the moldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary.

My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
My thoughts still cling to the moldering Past,
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast
And the days are dark and dreary.

Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.

** Gabriella is most definitely my own little Gene Kelly. She loves to venture out into the rain wearing one of her bright raincoats or carrying her ladybug umbrella - and don't forget the mud boots! And, yes of course.... sing at the top of her lungs whenever she is moved to do so! Then there are also the days when I believe her to be playing quietly inside, only to discover her at the door soaking wet (with no rain gear on) after being outside enjoying the rainfall for up to an hour...
I am thrilled with a series of photos (including the ones above) Mike caught of her out one day alone enjoying rainfall in our front yard.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Mini-Devotions that Speak to Me

This past week has been one where we are dashing from one thing to the next and getting ready to do so in between! I have a list of things I want to write about, but that will be for when my mind is a bit more "fresh". I need to go to bed so I can be off and running to start the new week in the early a.m.!
I happened to be watching a music video moments ago that I have in my favorites list. For me, it's like a 5 minute mini-devotional time to get me reconnected. I thought you might enjoy it as well.

The Voice of Truth - Worship Video

The image above is of a painting by Nathan Greene. His artwork also inspires me to think deeper about everyday things I do, and how I do them. I enjoy studying them very much... they also serve as mini-devotionals for me at times.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Teaching Natural Childbirth Once Again

It's hard to believe that the last childbirth class Mike and I taught was the summer of 2005 - how time zips right along! I remember finishing that series, then breaking due to the fall being upon us and not being able to squeeze in another series before the holidays began. It was that December Mike was offered his job here in Brainerd and life went crazy busy with preparing to move, then actually doing it.
We've been here for over a year now and last night we began our first Bradley Method Natural Childbirth class in this area, teaching three lovely couples. All of the couples already have children and were unhappy with the birth situations they previously had, and are looking for a birth experience this time around that we, as instructors like to help couples achieve - so I guess they came to the right place!
I have been debating on teaching this class for some time now and took wayyyy too long in making the decision and getting back to these folks, but they were ever so patient and understanding with my heavy concerns about being able to fit one more thing into our busy days. Ultimately, we decided to do it and I think it will work out well for us all - everyone hit it off splendidly during class #1 - so I think it can only get even better.
Our kids had a grand time while we taught - we are teaching at the school Justin attends and so they had the gym to themselves . Additionally, the kids from one of our student couples joined them to play - they too will be coming each week with their parents - so there will be great fun to be had burning up lots of energy. It will definitely give our gang something to look forward to while we teach the 12 week series.
Whew! Just hope we can all take the big weekly night out and I can keep up with it all.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Family Style Drive-In (Walk-In) = Weekend FUN!

This weekend we had some good old family fun that we all immensely enjoyed. The college where Mike works was showing a family film on a huge outdoor screen that they had rented. The community was invited to attend for free - just bring something to sit on out on the lawn. Since I grew up 2 miles away from one of the last remaining drive-in theaters in the state of MN (which I just loved going to!) I have always wanted to take my kids to one, just to experience it - it's just too fun! Anyway, when I learned about this event, I was all over it!
We were so fortunate to have absolutely beautiful weather this past Saturday (85 degrees on Oct. 6th!). It was warm, with a soft breeze and sunshine. So that evening Mike and I kept it secret what the outing was and we gathered blankets, water bottles and made brown paper sacks full of popcorn and loaded up the gang. A few of them were quite suspicious, due to the popcorn (a regular treat for our family movie nights at home) and were onto us - but could never have imagined that we were going to watch a movie outside on the Goliath of a screen we saw when we arrived at our destination - what squeals of delight! We made a camp, broke out the popcorn & water bottles and awaited the film to begin. Plus the college was giving away free popcorn - so we had lots of refills when needed.
The movie for the night was "Cheaper by the Dozen" starring Steve Martin. This was another reason we chose to go to this, since it is one of our kids all-time favorite flicks. What could be funnier than a couple with 12 kids? Hmmmmm... one with seven? J/K. Anyway, regardless of the fact that the adults in the viewing crowd often find themselves thinking the parents in this movie should really just take charge and begin acting like parents, it's still just plain enjoyable and laugh-out-loud funny!
Despite the great humor in the film, a very strong message binds the story together - one on prioritizing your family over everything else. I have seen this film at least three times before this particular outdoor viewing, and I'm not sure why it wasn't until this time I took note of what is most definitely Steve Martin's most profound line in the entire film... "If I screw up raising my kids, nothing else I achieve will matter much." Doesn't that ring true huh? Maybe I just needed the massive screen and speakers blasting at me to be able to catch it this time - after all watching a film with 7 kids does lend itself to frequent distractions... grrrrrrrr.
After the film we joined with the crowd in a round of applause, shook the popcorn off our blankets onto the grass (what joy - my kinda clean-up it wasn't on my sofa and carpet for once), collected our garbage, our kids, then made the short trek back to the van. The 2 little girls were sound asleep by the time we got home - great fun was had by all. We will definitely check out next year's film since they said it would now be an annual fall event. Yippee!!! I no longer have to mourn for the dearly departed drive-in that once signaled the turn to my road home.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

A Book Review - "Someday"

Love books, I love to read... sadly I have so little time to read anything other than things related to homeschooling - but it still provides me with joy. Along with my love of books is my passion for children's books, especially the kind that have wonderful illustrations and a story or message that is captivating to the reader - the kind that are timeless and will never lose their magic no matter how many years transpire before the cover is opened again, whether it be 2 yrs or 32 yrs.

Today was a good day... sunny, productive, positive. I was also looking forward to the fact that it would be the first weekend that Mike and I would be able to have the weekend alone to spend with just our own children (the first since late spring) due to the much anticipated first visit alone my nephews and niece were to have with their mother (my sister)... they were bubbling with excitement and counting down the days until Friday. Sadly, this all came to a screeching halt late this afternoon when I received a phone call which cancelled these plans for all of us due to reasons I won't expand upon, that needless to say, left me quite livid, with my sister.

After breaking this news to my nephews, we had to head off to MJ's school bookfair/family fun night. Since we all love books I thought this might be a good thing to lift our mood. While we were scanning the rows of tables filled with absolute "twaddle" I found one educational book that I liked for a bargain price about historical princesses and their lives. Soon enough everyone was ready to hit the playground - so I was left to stand in the checkout line. While waiting, a small book, nearly buried with only the corner sticking out from under a stack of books caught my eye. The last of it's kind, the title read "Someday". I was intrigued, so I read it as I waited in line. I knew after the first page that I was hooked and this was to surely be purchased because it touched my heart and brought tears to my eyes with a message that penetrated one's mind strong and clear.
Tonight after a sort of crumby night for us all (icky supper due to new recipe being a failure, tons of homework for Justin, bickering, ill Christopher, crabby mom, tired Ruby, the list goes on...) I pulled the book out before bedtime and read it out loud. The children understood it's message completely and it touched them as it had me - they understood immediately why I purchased it (and not the many books they had asked me to buy). They knew what I was communicating to them through the writer's words in the book.
Yet another reminder from God... yet again on the temporariness of childhood. He seems to beat me over the head with this message I think, and for good reason :-)
Below is a review of the book to give you a glimpse into it's simple beauty. I plan to read this to my children often so that the words are firmly fixed in their memory to recall someday when they are grown. It's the message of every parent's heart & hopes. Read it the next time you're in a bookstore, you won't be sorry.

Novel Review: Someday by Alison McGhee
Written by Gina Ruiz
Someday tells the beautiful story of a mother and her baby daughter in eloquent but spare prose accompanied by simple, yet powerful illustrations.
The book is very sweet and moving. It tells the story of a mother and her baby daughter from babyhood to childhood. "One day I counted your fingers and kissed each one," the mother says. Moving on to present day brings the declaration, "Then, you were my baby, and now you are my child," then, finally imagining the future of the child, a bittersweet send-off: "Someday I will stand on this porch and watch your arms waving to me until I no longer see you."
Someday is very touching and almost made me cry thinking of my own children and how they’re grown now with families of their own. The emotion builds with each page and I found myself smiling, teary, wistful and hopeful. The book portrays a young mother’s hopes and dreams for her child in such a beautiful way.
The simple pen-and-ink and watercolors quietly and profoundly emphasize each page in a way that compliments the text perfectly. The colors give a sense of the dreams and hopes in a soft, almost wispy way. I found this story to be absolutely lovely.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Wading in the Mississippi River by Gabriella

While we were at Itasca Park we went to the Mississippi Headwaters. We put on our mud boots so we could walk in the water. We walked across a log bridge and also rocks. It was absolutely fun!
Everyone except Mom got water in their boots, because they went in too deep for their boots to protect them! So, on the walk back to the van, we had to dump the water out of our boots and wring out our socks... then wear our shoes with no socks!

Building a Fort at Itasca by Elliot

Last weekend we went to a camping ground at Itasca. When we got there it was dark and late. We set up our tent in the dark and it was challenging to do it right. We had to have people hold flashlights so we could see. After that we sang some Bible songs at the campfire and then went to bed.
The next morning we woke up and had oatmeal and biscuits for breakfast. After that we followed Mr. Wicklund to a giant pit in the forest that had two logs across it. So we started walking across the logs trying not to fall in, some of us pretending to be hungry crocodiles down in the hole waiting for someone to fall in for us to eat!
Then we started finding more logs to put across the pit. Next we found a large dead tree that we took the bark off of and used it to make shingles over the pit, covering poles we had laid over it. After doing some digging in the hole, we made a fun fort to play in.
All the kids in our group enjoyed playing in the pit and hope it's there next time we visit Itasca!

Climbing The Tower at Itasca by Christopher

We were in Itasca State Park last weekend and climbed the fire tower. There were 209 steps that we counted as Gabriella, Elliot, Dad, Justin, MJ, and myself climbed them, when we reached the top we discovered we were high above the trees and the winds were blowing madly...
I thought my hat was going to blow away so I grasped it tightly! The view was spectacular! The trees were changing colors and you could see trees and trees and more trees for miles, with lakes scattered in the forest too.
MJ and I are afraid of heights, so none of us stayed at the top for long. Going down was easier than up, and I was the first one down.

Let Them Be Little

If it's one thing I am at fault for almost daily is forgetting how all too soon my children will be grown and on their own. With the fullness of life, it's easy to wish they would be able to do more on their own so I can have more time to myself or with Mike. When I look at this picture of Ruby and Gabriella I cannot believe that over 2 years have passed and the curly haired, blue eyed girly-girl I now have before me is the same baby (except the attitide captured in this pic remains unchanged!). One of my greatest joys is watching her run now, as her entire body bounces/trots along causing her curls to bounce all over her head - she makes me laugh with joy and admiration!

Occasionally I come across something that brings me back to the reality of how very short the time is I will have my children with me, and how beautiful and special it is. It might be a poem, a Bible verse, an article, or a song that makes me stop in my tracks long enough to really understand and remember the fact that God only gave them to me for this time, and soon they will be grown... this is a time of wonder, a miracle.

I need to remind myself to ever be present in the blessing God has given me in this phase of my life, and take the time each day to enjoy the presence of my children and this amazing season in my life that will be over before I even realize it.

The reminder that God sent me today was a song, one I had never heard before by the artist, Billy Dean. Listen to it yourself and see if it doesn't put things in perspective a bit.

Artist: Billy Dean
Song: Let Them Be Little
Album: Let Them Be Little

I can remember when you fit in the palm of my hand.
You felt so good in it; no bigger than a minute.
How it amazes me you're changin' with every blink.
Faster than a flower blooms, they grow up all too soon.

So let them be little,'
Cause they're only that way for a while.
Give 'em hope,
give them praise,

Give them love every day.
Let 'em cry, let 'em giggle,
Let 'em sleep in the middle,
Oh, but let them be little.

I never felt so much in one little tender touch.
I live for those kisses, your prayers an' your wishes.
An' now you're teachin' me how only a child can see.
Tonight, while we're on our knees, all I ask is:

Please, let them be little,
'Cause they're only that way for a while.
Give them hope,
give them praise,
Give them love every day.
Let 'em cry, let 'em giggle,
Let 'em sleep in the middle,
Oh, but let them be little.

The so innocent, precious soul:
You turn around, an' it's time to let them go.

So let them be little,'
Cause they're only that way for a while.
Give them hope,
give 'em praise,
Give them love every day.
Let 'em cry, let 'em giggle,
Let them sleep in the middle,
Oh, but let them be little.

Let them be little.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Weekend Camping at Itasca State Park

This past weekend (last one in September), our family joined with other church members at the yearly weekend campout at Itasca State Park. We rented a private group camp area that was tucked away from the other areas of the park. The site included many modern conveniences, as well as hiking/bike trails and access to a quiet lake. The weekend was filled with campfire singing, active time outdoors (of course!) and adults chatting around the campfire. Our family all stayed in our new tent - big enough to accommodate all of us... and even though one night was a bit frosty, everyone had a grand time in it (except maybe Mom).
The park was absolutely stunning - painted in brilliant fall colors and we all enjoyed the peaceful beauty that surrounded us. Highlights from our visit included wading in the Mississippi Headwaters, climbing the Park Fire Tower (the picture above was taken from the top of it), and the kids building a fort in the woods.

Look for more details to follow this blog on the specifics shared by the kids...

Sure were glad to be home on Sunday, but all are already looking forward to next year's fall weekend visit there.

Finally Back To Blogging!!

Well, I know some of you may have given up hope on this blog long ago, but rest assured it is up and running again! Sadly, after the last entry (prior to Christmas) life got a bit full for a few months - then life changed drastically when our family became involved in a family crisis that resulted in Mike and I becoming foster parents for my sister's three children: Justin, MJ, and Fawn. We have had a very full year, with a great deal of adjustments happening for all of us and busy, busy schedules to say the least.
When I was finally able to think of blogging again, I was disgruntled to discover that procedures for had changed I could not get into my blog to do anything with it! It wasn't until just last night that I called in my super hero hubby to aid me in my distress over the situation, and of course within a short amount of time he had it solved - so here I am. That is why HE is the Director of Online Education at the college (and I am most certainly NOT!).
Therefore, stay tuned for more blogs from me, as well as the kiddos. I will be encouraging them to blog independently to develop some tech skills. In the meantime, enjoy the picture above of our entire gang and the BIG 12 passenger van we had to purchase to get us all around!