Wednesday, March 31, 2010

wordless wednesday: galilee

Israel 2007
Sea of Galilee from Mount of Beatitudes

Phil & I didn't get to travel a lot together, but we were so blessed to visit Israel as hosts for a KFNW radio tour.  The week ended in Jerusalem, saving the sites of Jesus' passion for Friday & Saturday.  This is probably why I especially think of this tour during Holy Week.  

On Wednesday we visited the traditional site of the Sermon on the Mount.  I truly could have spent the entire day here, it was so peaceful, so beautiful.  Find Jesus' good words preached on a hillside like this in the gospel of Matthew, chapter 5.  

ps.  I thought about cropping that railing out of the photo, but I'm quite famous in our family for photographing railings of all kinds - especially bridge railings.  I just couldn't take it out!  

pss.  Sorry so many words in my Wordless Wednesday! 

Monday, March 29, 2010

monday memory: tradition

We were wondering on the way home from church yesterday if we would still have snow for Easter Sunday this year.  We had a pretty snowy winter this year and there are some pretty big piles still hanging around in shadowy places and parking lots and our side yard.  

And it's certainly not unusual to still have snow this time of year in the northland. 

Kathryn, Marissa, Jamie, Ashlee
The girls shed their coats for this chilly Easter Sunday picture.
Easter 2007

I have a lovely little collection of memories in a series of pictures I took on Easter Sundays at Valley Christian Church.  I used to gather the girls (as many as I could herd) on the platform at the front of the sanctuary to get a snap of them in their Easter dresses.  One of my favorite includes Sam Caton (and his curls!) in the middle of the group - he was maybe about two.  I love to look at these annual pictures and watch the beautiful girls growing up.  In our 19 years in one church, we watched children who are forever kindergarteners in memory grow up, graduate high school, college, get married and have their own babies.  

Yesterday Jamie and I were remembering our Palm Sunday tradition of giving each of the children palm branches - yes, real ones - and having our own little procession at the beginning of the Palm Sunday morning service. The adults provided the marching music:  usually a hymn like "Hosanna, Loud Hosannas!" or later perhaps "Shout to the North."  It turns out this is one of my children's most favorite things of all time.  They were disappointed to "grow up" and and be too big to march.  The girls even snuck in sometimes by volunteering to help lead and "herd" the little ones.  One year in a fit of liturgical passion, I even saved some of the Palm branches to burn for next year's Ash Wednesday service (not something that became an annual event in our nondenominational Christian Church).  I'm pretty sure the adults loved the annual procession as much as the kids - even in the toughest fiscal times, we found the cash to buy the real palm branches for the kids.  I seem to remember one year in our smaller sanctuary giving branches to the adults too and inviting them to participate.  Again, didn't make the annual tradition.   ;-)

I'm often surprised at the things that are important to my kids - like the Easter picture or the Palm Sunday palm fronds, colored eggs and Easter baskets.  These things that act like hooks upon which we hang our shared memories.  Things that cost us so little but which in time are priceless.

Here's to making new traditions.  Like 1st Sundays out to lunch, Good Friday services, family movie nights and predicting snow for Easter.  Our car was a unanimous "yes."  In one short, tradition laden week we'll know.


Friday, March 26, 2010

new season for dancing with the stars!

The new season of Dancing with the Stars started Monday!  squeee!  Jeff & I can't watch the show live this season because of his work and my Mary Kay schedules for Monday & Tuesday evenings.  So we'll be watching later online.  But Jeff has started blogging at Two Left Feet again.  There's a permanent link to his blog over there ------>

So put on your dancing shoes and waltz on over to join the fun!


WeekEnd Review

Spring came to the Valley the ornery way it usually does.  A few days in the 40s, maybe 50 followed by a few days below freezing again.  The kids have shed their coats for good - regardless of the temperature.  The sun is glorious when it's out, the wind is brutal from the north.  I saw lots of snow geese headed back north this week though, so I'm sure warmer weather isn't far away.

The river (Red River of the North) crested last Sunday about a foot lower than the earlier forecasts.  A cooler first few days of spring helped slow the melt.  Flood preparation seemed to go so smoothly this year on both the Moorhead (MN) and Fargo (ND) sides.  City leaders and citizens alike learned so many lessons with last year floods and then both cities have made some critical changes since last year so everyone seemed to take this high water in stride.  Jeff and I joined the other sightseers on the Main Avenue bridge to look at the water.  I've lived here long enough to have seen a few major floods on the Red, but it's still an awesome sight.  See more pics on my facebook.

The River usually only runs through that center section of the train trestle.  

Alex planned a "Miller Theater" night last Sunday, complete with popcorn and snacks.  The basement family room had been tidied up and everyone had their own seat with special trays and tables set up for the goodies.  We watched "Mission Impossible 3" from our augmented movie library (Jeff had some good ones he brought with him!) and it was a very nice family night.  Alex is good at Event Planning.  Anytime I can't quite figure out how we're going to get it all done in a day, I just hand the list to Alex and he plans it out for us.

Nate spent last Friday night at his friend, Caleb's house.  They live in far North Fargo and while their home is not threatened by flood water, they live near a golf course that pretty much goes under when the water gets this high.  I believe the boys enjoyed a lot of video game time together and some outdoor boy bonding activities.  :-)  

Jeff and the boys are really into their xBox games.  They have several action/army type games that I'm not particularly crazy about, but Jeff assures me that they develop important leadership skills.  (yeah.  right.)  When they take off for the basement, Jamie and I just go upstairs to try to find a chick flick on TV.  We can usually still hear them even two floors up!  Not sure, but I think Nate is the player to beat on most of these games.  He's pretty darn good with strategy and really good with the controllers.  (I don't get it.)

Jamie and I have been filling out forms this week - starting with her FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).  That one is all online, but we have writer's cramp from several others.  She has done such a good job getting all her stuff together and taking care of college business.  She's pretty set on attending Northwestern College in St Paul.  She'll apply to MSUM here in Moorhead as a backup, but her plan is to head to the Cities in August.  We need to go down there May 27 for some info about registering, etc.  We have New Student Orientation August 20 - 24 (with events for parents over the weekend!) and her classes begin Aug 25.  She will be leaving for Pine Haven right after graduation the first weekend in June to work for the summer.  She's been assigned to split her time between indoor and outdoor crew.  She's very excited.  Her mama feels the time slipping away!  

This was also haircut week for us.  Everyone got a haircut - Jamie got hers colored adding some pretty red highlights, I got a couple inches cut off mine and added some bangs.  Alex got his cut against his will.  We could no longer see his eyes as his bangs were down over his nose when he wasn't doing that thing where he swings his head over and swoops the hair to one side.  It's still pretty darn long in my opinion - longer than Jamie's! - but I think our stylist found a pretty good compromise between mom and son. It's a very in style cut with boys right now.  If you've seen teen heart throb, Justin Bieber, you've seen Alex's hair. (but don't tell him so - he's not a Justin Bieber fan!) Jeff's is a "caesar cut" which he got last time.  (HE pretty much looks like George Clooney - with George's gray and all - now that's more like it as far as I'm concerned!)  And Nate is getting "the usual" from his barber this afternoon.  He's the easiest - very little variation and no "stylists," thank you very much.

Tomorrow evening we're celebrating Earth Hour - turning off our lights from 8:30 - 9:30 pm (CST).  At this point we don't have much of a plan for what we'll do.  But we're doing our part to conserve and recognize our power usage - join us and let us know what you did or learned!  

Be cool and stay warm,


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

wordless wednesday: jamie

Jamie added some pretty red color to her hair this week. 
 She is such a joy.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

wordless wednesday

madeline & julie on m's 7th birthday
my sister is the queen of the self-portrait!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Symphony Trip

Yes, my mother did, in fact, get me to write my own post. The symphony trip to the cities was a complete success, even though we didn't play. For the first time in 30+ years, Mr. Larson told his orchestra that their instruments were not necessary for their trip, and was met with thunderous applause.
We left during school on Thursday and saw Footloose at the Chanhassen that same evening. The food was delicious, and the performance superb. I had only seen part of the movie before this, so it was a novel experience for me. The actors and actresses were fabulous, and the script itself delightful. Friday was the day we were supposed to perform at an area high school, but since they had no room for us we were forced to spend an extra two hours at the Mall of America. We took our punishment as gracefully as we possibly could. ;) Before this, we went to the Young People's Concert at Orchestra Hall. It was a great show, with young musicians showcased throughout the hour. They played Flight of the Bumblebee, Bydio/Promenade and Ballet of Chicks in Their Shells, Moderato, selections from Swan Lake, and Carnival of the Animals (intro and royal march of the lion, hens and roosters, horses of the tartary, tortoises, elephant, kangaroos, people with long ears, cuckoo in the depths of the forest, aviary, pianists, fossils, swan, and finale) with stuffed or plastic animals to represent the different movements. Starting with Swan Lake, ballerinas from the Minnesota Dance Theatre danced as yet another representation of each different animal. It was a wonderful performance and I loved watching their graceful and powerful movements across the stage, but the the best part came at the end, with two little girls and their hula hoops. They did amazing things, dancing with these hoops and their insanely flexible bodies, jumping, twirling, posing, and throwing their hoops. It was an entrancing performance.
At the end of the day on Friday, we went to the evening concert by Rajaton. It was such an exceptional performance! I sat in awe, and apparently everyone else agreed with me, because we made those poor Finns give us two encore songs. They had humorous things to say between certain songs, and I don't know if it was just the wonderful music hall or not, but their voices seemed to originate in heaven. Their last song, a hymn, had me in tears. I have to look up their music and get some for my iPod...when I finally purchase one. Yes, I was thoroughly impressed.
Then Saturday was the bus ride home. I was amazed the amount of snow that had melted in the intervening three days! When I left it covered everything, but I came home to green grass! I am so happy that spring is finally here, though it would be helpful if it would come in a little more slowly. We will all need to go help sandbag during spring break!

Friday, March 12, 2010


weather report:  gray, rainy, drizzly, wet.  And the river is on the rise.  The weather service is predicting a 10' rise on the Red in the next week - a pretty fast rise that will take us to "moderate" flooding.  Both cities have been preparing for pretty serious flood fights for the second year in a row.  Jeff is planning to take the boys to help fill sandbags tomorrow.

jamie left on her Symphony Orchestra trip yesterday afternoon.  The schedule was a pretty busy one but I did get a text msg this morning:  "I JUST WATCHED BALLERINAS AT THE ORCHESTRA CONCERT. Ask me about the animals and hula hoops when I get back..."  Can't wait to hear all about it!  I'll see if I can't get her to post her own blog post. 

With Jamie gone and Jeff to work early this morning, Nate "overslept" and didn't have to take the bus to school!  :-)  He's been pretty spoiled having his sister drive him to school every day.  He's very motivated to get his license this summer!  He & I practiced driving a couple afternoons this week.  He is going to be a very good driver.  Poor Nate had to deliver his papers in steady rain this week.  He was pretty soaked by the time he was done.  Of course, he's happy anytime it's above freezing.  Nate helped me prepare "Minestrone Hotdish" for supper Thursday night.  Nice mama/son time - he has always been so good at helping.  Even when he was very small.  I've always enjoyed anything I get to do side by side with Nathanael.  He is finished at school early this quarter - he doesn't have a last period class so he's done at 2.  Most days he finishes up his homework in the library and rides home with Jamie, but occasionally I get to pick him up early and enjoy a little time for just the two of us.  

Alex has diligently been staying after school this trimester for some extra help with Algebra (meh!).  He's making extra effort to stay organized and get assignments turned in on time, if you know what I mean.  I wish you could hear the song he has been composing on the laptop!  He has a program that allows him to layer multiple instruments.  He's been working on it for weeks now - and it's really quite impressive.  He is taking the Standard Gift to a birthday party tomorrow - Hollywood Video gift card & theater candy in a very cool microwave popcorn bucket.  It has been his "standard" for several years now - his friends actually look forward to receiving it and it has certainly made my life easier!  

Entertainment this week:  Jeff and I watched "Glee" online and found it so addicting we watched all of the available episodes and are looking forward to the show's return this spring!  Cute show - and of course we LOVE the music.  

We saw quite a few of the Academy award nominees before the Oscars, but we definitely renewed the "to see" list during the show Sunday night.  First on the list was "Precious," which we watched one rainy afternoon this week.  Devastating poverty, powerful redemption.  Gabourey Sidibe was really wonderful - can you imagine being nominated in the same category as Meryl Streep and Helen Mirren for your first role?  I'm looking forward to seeing her again.  As far as I'm concerned Mo'nique earned every bit of her Oscar - I haven't seen a character that has moved me so much in a very long time.  A warning (mom):  this is not a movie for sissies.  ;-)  

All kinds of birthdays this week!  We celebrated my mom, Ashlee, my dad and my niece.  I can't wait till Madeline gets our card!  hee.

What an absurdly long post - I'm so grateful to have so much to write about. Life is so brief and so remarkable.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

view outside my front door

these are gray, gray, melty days.  the roads and sidewalks were completely covered with ice and snow and more ice and snow most of the winter around here.

even on the darker, drizzlier days - we are encouraged by the melting snow sculptures to begin to look for signs of spring.

the still bare trees reflected in icy puddle at the end of our driveway

still an awful lot of snow hanging around the driveway and parking lots and piled up by the side of the roads. we're still peeking around the corner at intersections before we pull out - just in case

but just LOOK at that awesome driveway!  we haven't seen the concrete since, oh, sometime in early december.  there are at least 2 inches of solid ice & snow up by the doorway.  we chopped some and left some to the sun and then chopped some more

are we just about done with these for the season?? that's a real confidence about spring...when we move these inside the garage and then eventually to the back of the garage onto their hooks to rest for the summer

still, this is one of my most favorite early signs of spring.  the grass appearing around the base of trees.  i love the sight of grass - even the gray, brown kind - in my yard!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

wordless wednesday: arrival

mom and dad arrive @Hector International in Fargo, 2006
I love my dad's full smile in this pic and that they look so happy to be here.
(I have no idea who that lady is in the background, but she looks pleased too)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Monday Miscellany

...and I was doing so well keeping up with my blogging in February!  Here's a round up of what's been happening and what's coming up all in one.

I met with the Tax Man last week.  Phil was always so proud of doing his own taxes all those years.  And he did an awesome job.  Not me, friends.  Last year I immediately went out and found me a tax man.  I do not have to be good at everything.  I think might be in love with my tax man.  He just takes that big old stack o paper, sorts in all out in record time and typity-tap-tap!  He answers all my questions with authority and offers a little record-keeping advice which I write in my little planner. And BING! I get a email a few days later to come on in and sign my return.  I only had a moment of consternation this year when he glances across the desk and says, "I'm surprised anybody uses those paper planners anymore."  hmph.

We celebrated Jamie's birthday a week ago Sunday.  If you haven't seen the pics - click here!  We think she's pretty much the most photogenic in our family.  Her symphony takes off for the Twin Cities Thursday afternoon - they will see "Footloose" at Chanhassen Thursday evening.  Friday they will attend the "Young People's Concert" in the morning and Rajaton (a Finnish vocal ensemble) in the evening - both at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis. They will be performing an exchange concert with Eden Prairie High School & visiting the MOA in the afternoon.  They'll be home midday on Saturday. 

Nate had an ortho appt Thursday - everything looks good and they scheduled him for two very exciting appointments in late April and early May to put on the rest of his braces.  And we didn't even know he was missing any!  We have been waiting for some of the ice to melt off the streets to practice driving - warmer temps for the last week have finally made that start happening.  Nate and I went out today - he's going to be a great driver.  I hardly gripped the doorframe at all!

Kathryn came over for supper and cards Saturday night.  We had a really good time hanging out in the kitchen.  The girls & I played and talked on our own awhile while the boys battled it out on the XBox in the basement.  Then Jeff joined us and the card game got serious.  (yes.  he still kills us!)  Kathryn and her new roommates, Steve and Hannah, still seem to be getting along well.  Marissa is all moved into her new apartment and went snowboarding over the weekend.  She seems to like her roommate independence.  

 I think we found a cello teacher for Alex.  We went to meet him Friday afternoon - I thought it was just a "meet and greet" kind of thing.  But he really put Alex through his paces - he pretty much gave him a full 45 minute lesson!  We'll likely start in the next week or so - I think he'll really help Alex take his playing to the next level.  Alex had his first paying gig Sunday afternoon - the Youth Symphony played at the Plains Art Museum and they gave each of the kids a $5 Starbucks card!  He discovered he likes the Caramel Latte on ice after school today.  His school orchestra found out this week that they have earned a trip to play in Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis - they play March 22.

Jeff & I went to the Fargo Film Festival Saturday afternoon.  We saw two documentaries:  "A Cruel Wind Blows" (about 40 years of Soviet nuclear testing in Kazachstan) and "Under Our Skin" (about Lyme disease).  "Cruel Wind" won honorable mention.  A producer was present and took questions afterward - that was really interesting.  "Under Our Skin" won best documentary - it was on the initial list for the Oscars, but didn't make the final five.  It was pretty scary - and personal, as I had a positive Lyme test several years ago and one specialist believes it was/is the root of all my health issues.  This was the 10th festival in Fargo - and my first - but definitely not the last.  We're already looking forward to next year.  

Alex came splashing home from school last week wondering if this is spring. This is the time of year we wonder - there are still astonishingly big piles of snow around, but it's melting.  Our temps have been in the 20s and 30s during the day - just barely freezing up at night.  We want to hope - but we know we could still get more cold & snow before the month is up.  And it looks like we've got pretty good potential for record flooding on the Red River again this year.  ah, spring.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

what a pain

For many years (at least 16) I've been dealing with a strange constellation of symptoms that have waxed and waned over the years but have generally become progressively more difficult over time.  My primary symptoms include moderate to severe fatigue and generalized muscle & joint pain, including "trigger point" pain.  I also have trouble with sleep, IBS, headaches, Raynaud's Syndrome in hands & feet), as well as memory and concentration problems.  I have struggled with depression from time to time as well.

I have visited with many doctors over the years - even going as far as to travel to Louisiana to see a doctor who specializes in chronic fatigue diseases.  He tested for many things and found a positive test for Lyme Disease as well as a boatload of allergies.  I did a year of multiple antibiotic therapies and other treatments (including a very low sugar diet).  I did get some better (and lost a LOT of weight! w00t!) - after a year the doctor recommended that I begin IV antibiotic therapy and that was the point at which long-distance doctoring got complicated (and expensive) and we decided to take a big step back.

Over the years doctors have suggested Chronic Fatigue SyndromeFibromyalgia, and chronic Lyme Disease (lots of controversy over whether the "chronic" part of that one exists or not).  My symptoms are a pretty good fit for any or all.  I'm pretty sure all are listed somewhere in my Permanent Record.  We don't know what to call it!  None of these are known to be life-threatening (although some would argue with me on the Lyme Disease) but they are chronic and typically require lifetime management.  They can sometimes be quite limiting to disabling.

Whatever it is, I've had a pretty tough winter - for fatigue & pain especially.  My digestive system got in the act as well - Dr Deb tested for an ulcer which I am disappointed to not have.  I was hoping to finally have something I could blame on my teenagers!  ;-)  

Dr Deb (Walker) almost delivered 3 of my 4 children.  (Kathryn was born in Minneapolis and Deb was out of town when Alex was born - I'm still getting over that.)  She's been in Kenya the last 5 or 6 years - she has the heart of a missionary!  Now she is back in practice here in town and I'm looking forward to working with her to find some additional symptom relief and wellness.  To this point I have mostly avoided the pharmacy, but I think I'm ready to give some of the "new" meds a chance - let's see what science can do.  :-)

Jeff is helping me stick to a (very) modified exercise plan - he is a good trainer and encourager.  We're all working on a healthier diet.  Reducing or eliminating  some of the not-so-good for you stuff and increasing good stuff.  Again, Jeff is amazing.  And such a practical help.

When I was first sick, I more actively pursued an answer - mostly to rule out anything "worse."  Then for many years I tried to ignore it - everybody in my life paid for the times I overloaded the schedule and just couldn't keep going.  I have been more actively managing it in the last couple years.  And we're trying to re-start my life now in a healthier, more realistic way to try to smooth out the ups and downs as much as possible.  We open & looking for any tools we can use to make this easier.

Jeff was looking through the schedule for the Fargo Film Festival this week (I love this town!!) and he noticed an award-winning documentary showing twice this week:  Under Our Skin.  (also a FaceBook page)  They are also having a special luncheon panel discussion with doctors and patients at noon on Thursday.  I haven't been aware of anything quite like this in Fargo - so we're planning to go and hoping to learn something new.

I try not to talk about it too terribly much (mostly because once I start talking about ME I just don't know when to stop!!) because it is a constant and ongoing part of my life.  And it is boring to me.  And I really don't want to be a whiny, complaining person.  Bleh.  

As the kids say, "that's my story."  That's where it's at for me right now.  

I'm always surprised that anybody reads my electronic scribblings, but so gratified by your comments and encouragements.  So thank you for letting me share our life with you - for caring about us and thinking about us and praying for us when you think of it.  


Monday, March 1, 2010

a turn of the calendar page

yay!  March 1.  The Moorhead Dairy Queen is open! Spring is on the way.
If you have ever visited the Moorhead DQ with us (and you have if you've visited us March - October) you know what a place of magical deliciousness it is. 

Phil and I took the kids there from the time they could hold a "kiddie cone."  The older guy who used to own it just topped the edge of a cone with a curly Q and charged a quarter for it.  "I'm no fool," he'd say.  "Today's kiddie cone toddlers are tomorrow's blizzard-buying teens."  And he was right, of course.  

They still make their own BBQ mix - I suspect they buy the buns locally - and they are so yummy - made while you wait, wrapped in foil.  It's fun to eat a piping hot sandwich when it's cold and you eat outside at the picnic table like all real Minnesotans do.   You used to be able to get a BBQ and Coke for $1 - I think it's up to $1.50 now.  

The Moorhead DQ is only place I know of that you can get a Red Raspberry freeze.  With real red raspberries.  Not that awful fake BLUE raspberry syrup.  Phil got me (and the girls) hooked on the Red Raspberry Freeze.  Raspberries, the slushy icy freezy stuff and ice cream - oh, yum.  Their "crunch" for the crunch cone has real nuts along with the sprinkles!  In the summer they buy "Youth for Christ" peaches (shipped fresh from Colorado) and make the most AMAZING cinnamon and peach sundaes and shakes.  

It's on the corner of 8th and Main, two of the busiest streets in town.  You can sit on a bench and watch the cars, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles go by.  When the kids were little, we used to sit on a little sidewalk curb.  There was quite a while when Phil didn't order anything himself.  He kept busy catching drips and slurping up what the kids couldn't finish.  He was also a fan of the Mr Malty - a little chocolate malted - frozen in a little paper cup with a red plastic spoon frozen in the middle for a stick.  I can't remember - I think they were a quarter, maybe 50 cents and he could just about pop the whole thing in his mouth at once.  It was quite the event when they redesigned the little parking lot to include a brick patio with plastic coated metal picnic tables and flower planters!  Super snazzy.

On a mid-April evening we'll all line up for free chocolate Sundays on Tax Day. The DQ can expect rushes after Moorhead school concerts, soccer games, Wednesday evening church.  We love the silliness of shivering in the snow in coats and hats and boots to order ice cream.  We love muddy spring afternoons - the steam rising off the BBQs while you munch under the big red and white striped umbrellas on the patio.  We love hot summer days when you have to be quick to catch the drips that sneak out from under the butterscotch shell on your cone.  But we especially love the crisp fall days of the BBQ and Pumpkin Pie Blizzard.  This special DQ sprinkles a little spice on top of the whipped cream.  ohhhhhh....the Pumpkin Pie Blizzard gets me everytime.

They're building a DQ Chill & Grill near the interstate not far from our house.  This is how I found out that the Moorhead DQ had found a special place in Jeff's heart.  (he had lived in the area 5 years without realizing there was treasure on 8th and main!)  I was wondering aloud if the new-fangled "regular" DQ would take business from our DQ.  He nearly snorted, "not if they know about the Moorhead DQ."  We all concluded the new DQ would be a fine addition to the community as it would keep the "foreigners" (by which I mean anybody not from here) happy and the riff raff away from 8th and Main.

This year Jamie, Nate and Alex took themselves to the DQ after school.  Nate enjoyed his BBQ and root beer (his favorite!) and a strawberry shake.  Alex had a Starkiss and Sprite (he's a strange kid and we sometimes pretend we don't know him) and Jamie had the Red Raspberry Freeze.  

Jeff works till 9:30 tonight, but the DQ doesn't close till after 10 so...