{ Am I the Only One?}

Am I the only one who….

…adds more butter to the empty butter dish?

…picks up tiny dropped things (both wet and dry) all over the house?

…sees those two stray (dirty) socks that have occupied the corner in the front hall for the past three days?

I wonder if anyone else in the world…

…praises God when she sees a sunrise or a full moon or a rainbow or when watching bees do their thing?

…feels like taking the next day off after finishing the final book in a series, or after having company over? 

And am I the only one who…

…avoids looking at old photos of her children because it makes her feel sad?

…wishes life could always stay the same?

… cries (or laughs) when she reads her own blog posts?

~~~

Photo: Aaron Burden on Unsplash

{ Door Knocking }

My husband is running for a local government office, so he and I have been knocking on random doors, asking strangers in our county if they would be willing to place one of his political signs on their property. For me, this is like a series of cheap and daunting date nights; he and I with our clipboards and phone books, pulling up to farmhouses we have only viewed from a distance. I slowly crunch gravel as I tiptoe out, hoping for a positive connection, while at the same time, hoping no one is home. 

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Door knocking is full of surprises. Since we started, I have had strange dogs jump into my lap, and felt forced to pet them while listening to passionate stories of local history and watershed issues.

We have been chased down by a protective father whose child was in the house alone when we knocked on the door, and after the child phoned him, he pursued us for two miles to find out our business.

Yesterday, while chatting with one woman at her door, her husband yelled out the screen door: “If you are not wearing a mask, we are not putting up a sign for you.”

So be it.

But door knocking has been unexpectedly rewarding. We have met farmers — smart, sensible, resourceful individuals who push on with their strenuous, smelly, thankless work through hot haying weather and frigid winters. I am grateful to live around such hardy, independent people.

When we approach doors, we are reminded that joy and pain and history live inside these unpretentious homes. One neighbor greeted us warmly, even though we were strangers. After connecting ourselves to a common acquaintance, we watched tears trickle down his weathered face while he apologized, confessing that his wife had just died a few weeks ago. One hour later, we left his kitchen not caring why we had come and glad we had offered ourselves as company. 

Door knocking has given us a reason to march onto a neighbor’s acreage and introduce ourselves. We have been living next to these people for more than two decades, and have never met some of them, seen their backyards, or known things like:

  • Some dairy farms offer spa-like perks for their cows, such as fans, body brushes and pedicures. 
  • One neighbor drove a daily carpool 40+ years to work at a candy factory in the Twin Cities.
  • Around here, we have some innovative business owners, former federal agents, and 2:00 a.m. risers. 

So, I guess we will keep knocking on doors, putting up signs, and handing out pieces of glossy paper, because there are more fascinating neighbors to meet.

Photo: by John Reed / Unsplash 

 

 

{ My Grateful List }

Thank you, Dolly Mama, for the grateful list idea.

  1. God is sovereign and never changes. The pandemic is raging, but the rest of the natural world still proceeds predictably and peacefully at God’s direction. He is in control.
  2. My imperfect marriage. Sometimes, my man and I are a real piece of work. But, because of Jesus, my husband is mine and I am his and there is hope and humor and love that can go the distance.
  3. Prayer. It is only recently that I am really clinging to the power of prayer in the lives of my children, teenagers and young adults. I cannot control their worlds anymore; only God can. Talking to God about them is the only thing that gives me peace about them.
  4. Little outdoor getaways.  I cannot get out of the house and sit at a coffee shop and write or read or think right now. That used to be my little treat to myself; my little breakout time. But I am thankful recently for walks on local trails and a beautiful spring so I can enjoy peace and quiet outdoors.
  5. Homecomings. Because of the pandemic, most of my young adult children had to migrate back home and work remotely. This has been such a pleasure. 
  6. Food. There is enough.
  7. Home Repairs. Another silver lining within the sad, global pandemic. With an altered work schedule, my husband and sons had time to work with an expert to get a new roof put on. One son painted a needy room and we also got rid of lots of junk.
  8. Health. I am grateful for good health and don’t take it for granted. 
  9. Vehicles that work right now. 
  10. Fun books: read-alouds, audiobooks and volumes that keep people happy in hammocks all day long.

Featured Photo:Joel Holland

{ Trapped Inside with Humor-Rich Teenagers }

I live with 4.75 teenagers. These were once my babies and now are unique creatures who often resemble fragrant, helpful allies and other days pose as smelly, ungrateful strangers.

Like dependent joeys, they once hovered around me for transportation, food and internet passwords. Now some of them drive cars, buy their own chips and stop whispering when I walk into a room. 

“What did you say? Who’s doing what?” I plead like a pitiful toddler. Life has cruelly circled around — I am now the one who craves to be let in on secrets and it is I who must take naps.

One of my teenagers currently displays an unusual, robotic sense of humor — like when he greets me at breakfast by pointing sharply at me and saying:

Target Acquired.

We discussed respect / disrespect today. Sometimes I ask him to complete a chore and he jokingly answers:

Yes, I will not do that.

When I was finished with my mini respect lecture, he offered me a rigid handshake, peered at me with a robotic stare and stated in a monotone:

Thank you for your candor. 

Minutes later, he offered me another stiff hand and droned:

Congratulations. You have been reinstated as our mother for another five years. 

We had some other options, but this worked for us right now.

After eating the lunch I prepared for him, he approached me again with: 

Congratulations. Your term as mother has now been extended for the next TEN years.

Unless you perish.

Time for a nap.

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Photos:

Franck V.

Rock’n Roll Monkey

{ Blizzard-Ready}

We enjoyed Homeschool Ski and Snowboard Day last Monday.

Hyland Hills in Bloomington, Minnesota is a tame spot for beginning skiers, and the 26 degree January day was perfect.

Anyone walking in to the chalet could tell it was a homeschool event — crockpots were everywhere, and the air smelled like patchouli and lavender essential oils.

Now, we are bracing for more snow, and true to our nature, Minnesotans are frantically storming the grocery stores to stock up, like we may be snowed in for months.

I confess I left the house at 6:00 a.m., determined to beat long lines and the blizzard.

After being urged last night by one of my teenagers to get some “fun food,” (as opposed to gloomy, drudgerous food?) I grabbed a few essentials:

  • meat
  • kombucha
  • microwave popcorn
  • hot chocolate mix
  • coffee and herbal teas
  • heavy cream for the coffee
  • makings for soup and homemade no-knead bread. (Not the boring soups I usually make from leftovers) but Copycat Olive Garden soups, like Zuppa Toscana.

In addition to these staples, we are armed with *anti-cabin fever* activities:

  • Season 2 of Gilligan’s Island DVDs, purchased at GoodWill
  • Crispin: At the Edge of the World. I love the Crispin books by Avi, and I wish I’d known about these when we were studying the Middle Ages.
  • A new puzzle. This is our third Mudpuppy puzzle, and it’s Kaleido-Beetles! I like Mudpuppy puzzles because they have three pictures of the finished puzzle for reference as you go, making it easier for 3 or more people to work on the puzzle.

Other Mudpuppy puzzles we have ordered are the 1000-piece Ocean Life, 500-piece Songbirds and 500-piece Butterflies of North America.

I’m glad we are ready, because it’s starting to snow…

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{ How To Choose Your Word of the Year (helpful reminders and simple steps) ~ reposted from The Dolly Mama }

Here’s a great post and idea to welcome the new year, from fellow blogger The Dolly Mama. I plan to figure out my word of the year and post it soon! Visit Dolly Mama’s site for simple steps to a non-condemning alternative to New Year’s Resolutions — then let me know if you find your word…


A “Word of the Year” is intended to be a kind guide that walks along side of us during the year, not a harsh master that dictates a set of “to-do’s” (God knows we don’t need any more of those voices in our heads). It’s a friend that accompanies us during our journey. (The Dolly…

via How To Choose Your Word of the Year (helpful reminders and simple steps)…Find Out Mine — The Dolly Mama

{ 3 Things to Do When Trapped Inside with the Kids }

I live in Minnesota, where snowy forecasts threaten and chapped lips are a way of life.

Despite a desire for a little more elbow room, I simply cannot bring myself to banish my children out to the frozen tundra on restless January afternoons. 

So, I, with many other hearty Midwest parents, have been forced to plan creative indoor activities, thereby saving our kids’ eyes from electronic combustion.

Here are three indoor activities to offer your children — and if the parents play along, the fun rate exponentially increases…

Jigsaw Puzzles

Puzzles may look like a simple, slow activity, but working jigsaw puzzles is actually a brain-building, skill-building pastime. Jigsaw puzzles enhance problem-solving skills, improve learning, support social interaction, and generate a feeling of accomplishment. 

Puzzles are an absorbing, therapeutic activity that can last days or weeks. If you have a spare table where a puzzle-in-progress can stay available, this is optimum. (We don’t; we just let the puzzle take over the dining room table until it’s completed.)

Jigsaw puzzles are great for many ages (but not all — watch those tiny pieces and keep your babies away.) Puzzles are beneficial for older people, too; they stimulate the brain and may delay the onset of dementia. 

puzzle victory
Together we completed OCEAN LIFE: a fun and colorful 1000 piece puzzle by Mudpuppy.

Audiobooks

Although audiobooks shouldn’t take the place of visual reading, audiobooks have their own unique benefits. Kids love being read to (adults do, too) and audiobooks are becoming popular and widely available.

 Audiobooks are a worthy activity because they:

  • build listening skills
  • improve attention span
  • enhance critical thinking skills

Kids can listen to audiobooks while they draw, build, or work puzzles. Audiobooks are also great for car trips — long or short. 

Young readers can listen to an audiobook while they read along with the print version and reluctant readers who aren’t enthusiastic about print books can be wooed into a love of reading with audiobooks. (True story.)

Audiobook narrators are usually awesome, and they transport a child right into the pages of the book. Some of our favorite audiobooks for kids include:

  • Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew Mysteries
  • A-Z Mysteries
  • Chronicles of Narnia
  • Mysterious Benedict Society Series
  • Best Christmas Pageant Ever

Note: We listened to three (Hardy Boys) audiobooks while we worked the Ocean Life puzzle shown at the beginning of this post.

Krypto

Okay, this one was dredged up from my childhood math class (thank you, Mr. Kesti) and it’s more educational than it is pure fun. But, approached creatively, Krypto can be a pleasant addition to your indoor arsenal of activities. 

There is a commercial version of Krypto, but this is how we play it at home, without buying the game:

  1. Choose 5 cards from a joker-less deck of cards.
  2. Write those numbers on a white board.
  3. Choose one more number and write it at the bottom. 

Krypto

Everyone looks at the board and tries to find a way to use all top 5 numbers to get the target number at the bottom.

You can add, subtract, multiply and divide the numbers until the target number is reached.

Example: 13 – 3 = 10….10 -7 = 3…5 – 3 = 2…2 x 1 = 2

This uses all of the numbers, and the result is the target number (2) at the bottom.

When someone arrives at the target number, she yells, “KRYPTO!” and demonstrates how she got the answer.

We keep track of points and play it regularly as part of our homeschooling routine.

If your kids take to it, you can plan a lively Krypto tournament.

With or without competition, you’ll have some fun and keep math skills sharp over the holidays. Krypto is also a great low-key summer activity – a great way to stay math-savvy over school break. For more explanation, here’s a Krypto video.

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Whether you live where it’s cold, or just need some rainy day ideas, hopefully you will enjoy some of this indoor fun that keeps Minnesotans snowbound but smiling until March.

Make that April.

 

 

Cabin photo:Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

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{ Life Lurches }

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Life Lurches

After traveling on level lands,

Like a train —

Life lurches.

Precarious and perpetual

Pressing through unknown tunnels

Hairpin turns and

Unexpected crossings.

Now the Conductor

Guides and glides into familiar flatness

So I roll along, resting

Awaiting the next corner.

 


 

photo ~ Antoine Beauvillain

lurch: make an abrupt, unsteady, uncontrolled movement or series of movements; stagger.

edited and reposted from August 2017

{ I’m Meant for Little Things }

I find myself wallowing in the memory of a handful of recent conversations about motherhood, watching children fly away, and stepping reluctantly into “The Afternoon of Life.”

(That’s a book, given to me by my daughter. I groaned when I saw it, but it’s actually just right for me…and funny, too.)

So, just now I scrawled out a poem — with sappy tears streaming down my face– and my 20-year old son comes in, unaware of my poignant tears, to get something from this room.

“Don’t mind me,” I say. “I’m just writing poetry that makes me cry.”

“Your OWN poetry is making you cry?”

“Yes. I’ll read it to you when I’m done.” 

(Maybe. If you’re lucky.)

I’m Meant for Little Things

Big things? No, I’m meant for little things — 

I’m the tapper of  a traveling stream of a thousand text messages and heart emojis, a hundred “are you almost homes?” and “luv yous”

I’m the tiny-Lego-helmet-finder and the “Where’s my Wallet?” wizard 

 

Big things? No, little things —

 

I’m the finger-mender of the glove that gets lost a day later at the hockey rink

An empty cupboard magician, a juggler of leftovers, and a make-do artist

I’m the queen of laundry

(my royal eyes have seen that same pair of underwear a hundred times)

 

Big things? No, little things —

 

I’m the hopefully-wise-advice-giver

The occasional hugger and everyday love-giver

The rambling-dream-listener —

A tea-maker, sick-fixer, peacemaker

And everyone’s personal spelling coach.

 

Big things? No, little things —

 

I’m piecing together my

slowly-growing-love-mosaic out of

lots of little things

While praying someday

they will all see the Big Picture.

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Photo:  Roman Kraft

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{ Minnesota State Fair 2019 }

My husband saved his tips from driving Lyft so we could do the fair this year. ❤️

0After cruising up and down St. Paul streets and finally nabbing a parking space, we noticed the 1-hour parking sign. So we moved the car a few blocks away. Now, we needed a potty stop and we still had a one mile walk before we actually got to the Fairgrounds.We ducked into the nearest coffee shop for that potty stop, which ended up being the Finnish Bistro. 

 

 

finnish

While we were in line to order, a man came up to us and said, “Whatever you order, it’ll be good. Everything’s good here.” I had a Pulla latte, laced with almond syrup, nutmeg and cardamom. It was the most flavorful coffee drink I’ve ever had. 

 

St-_Anthony_Park_Branch_Library_2013-09-30_23-41-19We passed the quaint St. Anthony Park Library.

(Note to self: when you have time to spare, come back to the Finnish Bistro and check out the St. Anthony Park Library. What a cute little corner of St. Paul.)

After hiking east, we discovered that in the two years we’d skipped the MN State Fair, they had relocated the pedestrian entrance. More hiking.

(This sounds like a lot of hassle, but it’s always worth it. The Minnesota State Fair feeds, spins and entertains more people per day than any other state fair in the U.S.)

We bought our tickets, got our bags checked and finally added ourselves to the 2019 first-day-at-the-fair record attendance number of 133,326.

We joined the crowd-stream and landed at the Farmer’s Union, where Blueberry Key Lime Pie was a newcomer on the menu…but I just couldn’t pay $8 for this teeny tiny pie.

blueberry key lime pie

Did I mention we didn’t have a lot of cash? This can be a challenge at the MN State Fair. It’s taglined: The Great Minnesota Get Together, but another apt subtitle might be: The Great Minnesota Smorgasboard, because it’s. food. galore. here. 

And ya know…it’s kinda pricey.

There’s a brighter side of forced frugality: it makes you think: Do I really want this? before choosing. 

Though I ended up saying no to the blueberry key lime pie for $8, later on I ended up saying yes to the deep-fried bacon-wrapped-cream-cheese-filled olives for $9.

state fair mn olives

 

 

And it was worth it.

 

 

 

roasted corn2We stopped off for my husband’s go-to annual pick: roasted corn.

Roasted corn, held by its natural wrapping, earns points for frugality ($5).

Plus it’s nutritionally sound. (yawn.)

My husband had the best deal of the day: The Boss Man sandwich at The Hideaway, a cute little nook tucked inside the Grandstand. With shaved prime rib and hearty egg topped with melty white cheddar on ciabatta, $9 seemed like a steal. 

And then we did the cheap stuff:

  • Got our glucose levels checked, ate ice cream samples, and exchanged our personal information for free carabiners and shaker bottles. 
  • Sat and listened to music.
  • Watched people, people and more people.
  • Browsed the Creative Activities building for free beauty and inspiration. 

We also took in the amateur talent contest semifinals, the  #1 essential thing we never miss at the fair. Our favorite act: MKDC. They are an energetic, talented, charismatic K-Pop group who wowed the crowd, took first place, and advanced to the finals. 

21,588 steps later, we left the 2019 Minnesota State Fair with some cash still sitting in our pockets! 

 

 

 

big wheel
One of the tallest traveling giant Ferris wheels in North America is coming to the Minnesota State Fair! The Great Big Wheel carries riders to a height of 156 feet, offering breathtaking views of the State Fairgrounds and beyond! The 15-story-tall Great Big Wheel is equipped with 36 enclosed gondolas each holding six people. Don’t miss the spectacular lighting display as the sun goes down!