Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Children's Lit -- The City of Ember

One of my resolutions for winter was to read more. I had developed a habit of non-reading during my years of teaching English for two reasons: 1) I had to read the curricular novels year after year to be sharp for classroom interaction, and 2) I had to read so many essays and papers that reading for pleasure just wasn't enjoyable anymore.

So I have recently read _Giants in the Earth_ by O.E. Rolvaag (highly recommended) and this morning I finished _The City of Ember_ by Jeanne DePrau.

The City of Ember reminds me a little of The Giver without the deeply dystopian tragedy raging inside. Ember is a dying city. It has a continuously black sky, faltering generator, and flickering electrical lights. It also has a corrupt mayor and a rapidly diminishing storeroom.

The story opens with Lina and Doon, 12-year-old friends who are about to receive their adult assignments. Lina receives Pipeworks laborer, and Doon receives messenger. Doon, a thoughtful boy who fears for the future of the city, asks Lina if she will switch jobs with him because he believes the cure for the city is under the city... somewhere in Pipeworks. Down there is the generator, the source of Ember's electrical power. Lina happily agrees, since Pipeworks is damp, smelly, and dangerous. She enjoys running, and knows that "messenger" is a great job for her.

You have to wait until the end of the book to find out why Ember exists, why the sky is always black, why the city is powered by a generator, and where the people came from. During the course of the book, Lina and Doon discover things that the Builders wanted people to discover... as long as they discovered it more than 200 years after the establishment of the city.

The City of Ember has some marvelously positive qualities. Our hero and heroine are very believable: slightly flawed, but still heroic. They are basically "good kids" confronted by extraordinarily difficult circumstances, and they respond in a magnificent fashion. The story itself is fast-paced and well-written, and answers a lot of its own potential difficulties at the end.

However, it is a post-millenial novel in a lot of ways. For example, no one in the book has an intact family. Lina has two dead parents and lives with an ailing grandmother and a baby sister. Doon has only a father and, as far as I could tell, no other family. By the beginning of the sequel, Doon has become the de facto leader of Ember's citizens at the age of 12. Some adults are good but every adult in leadership is to be distrusted. In that way it has taken on contemporary America's anti-authority mindset.

Another thing that find kind of intriguing but don't know how to take is the novel's treatment of religion/spirituality. There seem to be three sources of authority or transcendence. First is the government/leadership. The mayor leads the community and has guards to protect him. However, he is corrupt and shown to be foolish. The second is a group called the Believers. They tend to approach Ember's probably by gathering regularly and singing in public. They believe that the city's Builders will return and rescue them from their current predicament. I suspect that this is Ms. DuPrau's veiled poke at Christians, since we also sing and we believe that our Builder will one day come to rescue us. The third view, not really a group at all, is represented by Lina and Doon. They too come to distrust the government, and are not Believers, but by hard work and common sense break through the difficulties and arrive in a new world, a world that Lina had always dreamed of in a vague way in her imagination.

I think I would encourage my child to read The City of Ember, but would ask worldview questions and discuss the ideas presented within. If you've read it, please leave me a comment detailing your reactions.

Monday, December 29, 2008

From the Kids' Point of View

First, a few bits of fun from my dear children, then on to the others stuff:

Avery is beginning to talk for real. She still doesn't string much together, but for the most part she can make herself understood. Here's a quick lexicon:

Suh-side. (adverb) This is where you go after you put your hat and mittens on. Avery likes to go there whenever she can, unless it's too cold.

Hotch. (adjective) This describes anything, especially food, when its temperature is too high for Avery.

Pop. (noun) This refers to any contain that can hold a drink; her attempt at "cup".

Ebba. (noun) This refers to Avery's oldest brother and is usually spoken happily.

Teechee. (noun) The refers to Avery's youngest older brother and is as close as she can get to "Toby".

Cookiecookiecookiecookie. (noun) This refers to the part of the meal that Avery and her father enjoy most.


On to Toby. An exchange with Toby this evening:

Toby: Daddy, did God make you?

Daddy: Yes, Toby. God made me.

Toby: Why?

Tara: [loud, raucous laughter]

Daddy: Did you want the textbook answer?

Toby: Yah, the textbook answer.

Daddy: God made me to glorify him and enjoy him forever.

Another moment with Toby, upon being told that he would need to turn off the movie and go to bed. Toby views bedtime as a personal insult literally every evening.

Toby: I don't like it when people tell people that they have to go to bed when there's still another episode of Diego.


Aidan asked me to play keyboard for him this evening so he could dance. On one of the songs, I started to sing and coughed a little because I was singing. Aidan quietly slipped away to the kitchen and returned with a glass of water for me. A little later he got another glass of water and set it down next to mind. He looked at me importantly and then said, "This one's mine."


Evan asked me to come upstairs and look at sports cards with him this afternoon. I don't recall that I ever had a professional athlete's trading card (or whatever they're called) in my entire life. I had very little interest in sports, though I did watch Twins games as a boy and knew the line-ups, etc. So we sat there looking at athletes from football, baseball, and hockey. Can someone please tell me what the appeal is? I love history, biography, and detail, but these seem pointless and repetitive. Maybe it's because I wish professional sports did not exist. Talk about a drain on a society.


I fired up my tractor this evening and hooked the sled on behind it. It delights me to have a 55-year-old tractor that will start pretty cooperatively in 20-degree weather. We did circles around the back yard until Evan dumped Tater off the sled one too many times and Aidan started crying. Then Evan transformed into "good big brother" and helped Aidan get himself together so they could have more trips around the yard. This is an activity we all enjoy... I love driving the tractor (and having a reason to do so) and they love riding the sled behind. We usually go in the dark to make it a little more intriguing.

Did I mention that I got to preach yesterday? From most people's accounts, it went pretty well, although Bob M tells me that I need to work on my sermon prep because it put Calvin to sleep (Calvin's four, not my fault). You can hear it on line, though I'm always afraid to listen myself because when recordings of myself I feel like I just sound slow and dumb. Tara said it was energetic enough, so that's hopeful.

My dad is requesting prayer for himself. Apparently the trials of widowerhood are getting to him. So please join me in praying for him, that God would grant him peace in the midst of the howling storms of the winter of life. He was 77 last May. Know any spunky widows?

Friday, December 26, 2008

My Peace Lilies and Other Nonsense

We received some lovely wedding gifts on the occasion of our marriage: December 26, 1998. One of the most unique ones was a large vase filled with crumbled one-dollar bills. But I would have to say that my favorite is the gift of a petite peace lily from an acquaintance named Elaine.

When Elaine presented us with the plant, she explained that it needed moderate light (surely not direct sunlight) and that when it wanted water its leaves would droop noticeably (and she demonstrated with some drama) but after it received water it would perk back up speedily (and she demonstrated with yet more drama).

I never realized the possible lifespan of a houseplant. I still have the peace lily from Elaine. It has traveled with us to four different houses, survived small children and neglect, and bloomed only when it wanted to. Upon the purchase of our second house, the mortgage agent gave us another peace lily. That one, too, has lasted to the time of this posting. A few days after my mother died, I noticed one of the peace lilies working on a single white blossom. I like to believe that it was a symbol of my mother's entry into eternal life.

By the way, is it lily or lilly? I can't remember. Mom had an aunt named Aunt Tilly. She lived to be about 95.

We went shopping this evening at the new appliance place that occupies about half the space that used to be Fleet Farm. They have an absolute boatload of appliances there. I've never seen so many refrigerators in one place in my life, everything from little bitty dorm fridges to colossal commercial ones of stainless steel. The staff said they're planning a grand opening in February or so and that the prices will be even more shockingly low for the celebration.

Our chair arrived from HOM furniture today. Never in my life have I seen such lousy customer service. That would be another blog post in itself.

And finally, Evan was in one of his warm and loving moods this evening. He came down about 9:30 and asked if I was playing piano. I said no, I hadn't been, and he asked if maybe I would play for a while while he was going to sleep, but "nothing too jumpy, if you know what I mean."

I must have the most erudite 8-year-old in the county.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

How Not to Run a B&B

It was just about 10 years ago that Tara and I stood across from each other and declared our love and undying commitment to one another. We got married over the Christmas holiday because I had a nice break from Schaeffer and Tara (who was nannying at the time) also had a school-schedule break.

For this current Christmas break we went to Sioux Falls, SD to visit Tara's siblings and parents, who all live either in Sioux Falls or Sioux City. They were willing to take all of our kids overnight, which gave us a chance to spend a night at The Victorian, an 1888 Queen Anne in the historic district of Sioux Falls.

We arrive and parked out front, carrying our luggage up to the door together. Tara opened the front doors after knocking quietly and we entered the foyer. Behind us another couple was also climbing the stairs. I held the door for them, and they asked if we had labradoodles -- sorry, they meant golden doodles -- for sale. I said I didn't know, since I was just a guest, but that I'd sure find out for them.

In a moment a large golden doodle greeted us, and I figured they must be right. Then the owner came out from the kitchen. She was surprised to find all these people in her foyer, as usually the front door, she said, is locked. She then instructed us to take off our shoes so that we would not get water on the hardwood floors. We went upstairs with her and were given our choice of rooms and a little advice as to what the pluses were for each one. In all this time, there was no hello or introduction of any kind, no warmth, no friendliness. Just business. I have your $65 and now I have to provide you a room.

She also asked if we were going out again and what time we expected to be back in. Just for the sake of her children, you know. Turns out she had a four year old and an eight year old, both girls. The girls were appropriately polite and the younger had a somewhat-developed conversation with us later. But I digress...

After we had enjoyed our anniversary dinner at the Ground Round, we headed upstairs to the sitting room to read. I read _The History of God_ and Tara read _The Traveling Funeral of Whatever the Chick's Name Was_. Strangely enough, while we were reading, a cat wandered in an official sort of way, looked us over for a moment or two, and then wandered out. Watchcat? Apparently.

When we tired of reading, we went back to our room to... well, never you mind. After we were done, we could still hear the 4-year-old running around on the third floor above us. It is now 11:00 p.m. The head of the bed is good deal lower in elevation than the foot, so we take some of the throw pillows and stuff them under the mattress. This has the effect of raising the head (I don't sleep if my head is lower than my feet) and we are able to go to sleep.

The house itself was hands down the largest, finest, and best preserved Victorian I have ever stayed in. It was beautifully decorated and thoughtfully appointed. However, the human part of the B&B formula in this case was sorely lacking. Business, like everything else, needs to be invigorated by the Spirit of God for the glory of Christ, and no amount of good decorating can substitute for a loving heart.

**Tara adds here that we didn't get breakfast, so, actually it was not so much a bed and breakfast, but moreso a bed. ;)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

December Blessings

I'm going to take a moment to write about the Christmas presents I have received so far. Some great, some heart-warming, some amusing.

From the folks who sell us Latin curriculum for the elementary, a CD of Christmas carols in Latin. It's called Veni Emmanuel, and the leader singer has the vox angeli (or vocem angeli for all you purists out there).

Yesterday I got $20 to Panera from the A family. I teach Latin to two of their children.

Also the H family provided a cookie or bread mix. The mother was just in the process of declaring that I would have to take two since I teach both of her children when the daughter quietly reminded her that she (the daughter) was only in 4th grade and did not have me yet. Whereupon they scarfed back one of the cookie mixes.

The Z family gave a beautiful, Christ-centered Christmas card and a gift certificate to Applebees.

The M family gave me some pretzels with frosting on them.

The H family (yes, another H family) gave me some of "Grandma's fudge bars" or whatever. They were extremely rich.

Drs. B, E, and W gave me back my Toby in mostly one piece. Toby had his submandibular gland infection drained and bandaged under general anesthesia yesterday. All is well so far, but we have to clean and pack the wound 2-3 times per day until it heals.

The God of the Universe gave me a relationship with Himself through faith in His Son. That is the best December blessing of all.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Fit to Be Treed

I believe I'm more ready for Christmas than usual.

For starters, I've been reading the gospel of Luke to the boys, so we are already witnesses of the glory of Jesus' incarnation. I'm reading it to them in a version that is something like a dynamic equivalent for younger children, though it is not a "children's Bible story book" per se. It works pretty well for the age range that hear it.

Also, I'm preaching on December 28. This alone gets me in a reverent mood -- I typically start to prepare a message about a month in advance, and I have the luxury of doing so, since I am not a pastor. Usually I preach a max of twice a year, though I did give a Christian worldview seminar this fall as well. Busy year, you know.

Finally, the Christmas tree is up. I would like to say a word about the struggle to achieve a completely vertical Christmas tree in my home. For years we have stored our artificial tree fully assembled (in the off-seasons) in our unfinished basements. We put a sheet over it and call it good until the next Christmas season. When the move came last month, I picked up the tree to carry it to the truck. One of the feet fell out and clattered to the ground. I put it back in, and it fell out again. So I tossed it into a plastic bin and replaced the lid.

That was a sorry mistake.

At the moment of tossing, I said, "I'll remember which bin and put this back together as soon as we're settled in the new house." Not so, my friends. In all the chaos and surprises of moving, I have only the vaguest recollection of what sort of box might have received the foot. We've opened lots of boxes and no foot is there.

So we checked out freecycle. Someone offered a Christmas tree stand, I drove all the way to Country Club Manor (the west edge!) to get it, and it turned out to be a large and beautiful stand for a real tree. Our artificial would not have had the slightest chance verticality.

Then Melanie said she had a stand. Same thing. Lovely stand, for a 12-foot tall tree. The days continued to tick by.

Finally Tara needed some time A.K. (away from kids), so she went to her favorite haunts. She finally called from Walmart:

"OK, tell me what to do. They have a stand for seven-fifty, a six foot but skinny tree for $20, or a 7-foot pre-lit one for $45. The have a four-foot one, pre-lit for $18.88."

So I thought for a minute. I figured pretty much everything except the stand was, ultimately, a waste of money. So I said, "Just get the stand. I'll find a hacksaw and hack off the base on the old one. Have it done before you get home."

And that's what I did. I grabbed a hacksaw, took the tree down to the laundry room, laid it across the washer,and sawed the attached plastic base (sans foot) off, and brought the rest of the tree back upstairs. We assembled the new base, slid the tree carefully into the hole, and voila! We are properly treed.

Thanks to Mary G., one of our fourth grade teachers, who came this afternoon with her spiffy carpet-shampooing machine and cleaned our carpets. For no charge, adds Evan, who is leaning on my shoulders even though he ought to be in bed. Good night, everybody.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Hard Times in the Neighborhood

In older literature you often read of people who have fallen on hard times. Or say, a homestead has fallen on hard times. It hasn't been kept up and the disrepair is disheartening. So don't read this week if you're already feeling faint of heart.

Our thanksgiving break was (I think) the most difficult entire break we've ever endured. Most breaks really are that, a break from the mundane or the struggle to keep up with your paperwork and your love for your students. This one was grossly the opposite.

Monday: Toby wakes up with a swollen side of a face. Other than that, he is not affected.

Tuesday afternoon: Tara calls. I must take Toby to the doctor. His face has become more grotesquely swollen. Dr. Arndt says it is a submandibular gland infection. Toby endures a blood draw (very patiently) and a anti-biotics shot on the front of his leg (not so patiently). But Toby and I understand each other very well, and the horror of this lessens quickly. Avery also begins throwing up after lunch on this day.

Wednesday: The first day of break. We continue to try to find our home after the move. Still in mind is the desire to visit Tara's family in South Dakota. However, we figure that maybe this is a bad idea. Toby and Avery both seem better today.

Thursday: 12:20 a.m. Tara says, "My stomach hurts." A few minutes later she proceeds to the bathroom. Her vomiting is so loud and uncontrolled that after the first round I retreat to the basement and sleep on the couch. She is up most of the night; I get a somewhat painful back from my resting position.

Tara sleeps away most of Thanksgiving. When I go up to get Avery, I find her covered in vomit. I take care of the children pretty much all day. We have pancakes for lunch and pizza or something for supper. By dinnertime Tara is perking up instead of puking up. Still it is a tough thanksgiving, one that Evan dismisses as disappointing because of the lack of thanksgiving feast.

Friday: Toby greets this day by joining the party of people who have tossed some cookies this break. We find him covered in vomit and screaming. However, he perks up quite rapidly and accompanies me to the doctor's for a recheck. The doctor pronounces the anti-biotics a success, declares him a victim of stomach flu, and sends us on our way. He also claims that Toby will throw up at least one more time, which he doesn't.

Tara makes the feast also this day. Though we can't have anyone over because of the illness, and though all of us aren't able to eat it, she makes the feast. It's really good, including the turkey, cranberries, and stuffing.

Later that afternoon, it is noticed that Avery still isn't any better, so Tara takes her in for urgent care. Turns out Avery has an ear infection and the stomach flu. It is one of Avery's particular talents to get more than one illness at the same time.

Saturday: Avery is whiny and uncooperative. She doesn't throw up so much, but still is not a cheerful participant in anything. I try to correct papers and referee the boys, who are getting crazier as the days without change drag on. I go to Katherine's Christmas Opener alone, as Avery is still unwell and can't be taken to anyone else's house. Evan and Aidan have a great time playing over at Tucker and Parker's house during the Christmas opener.

Sunday: 3:43 a.m. I wake up with a painful-feeling stomach, and yep, you guessed it. Though I typically don't throw up, instead I spend the next hour-plus on the toilet clearing my intestines completely. By morning I can sleep again but have no energy. Ken Sell graciously agrees to take my adult class. And when Tara goes up to get Avery, she is once again lying in a pool of her own vomit. We are utterly perplexed.

No one goes to church, in fact, no one leaves the house except for Evan and Aidan, who go across the street to meet one of our new neighbors, and old man who is out shoveling. They both pronounce him "nice" and say that his name is Roger. Oh, and Tara hits Walmart for a pre-mega-freezer-cooking-session shop-a-thon.

In the afternoon I read the Bible to the boys, correct papers, do lesson plans (every paper graded, every lesson planned for the first time in weeks), and read Giants in the Earth by O. E. Rolvaag. Wow, can I identify with this early 20th century novel. Maybe I'll have to blog that sometime.

Tara and I have been talking about facades lately, and how most of us keep them as unspotted as we can. For myself, I disagree. Yes, I would like you to be impressed with me. But I am as hard on myself as anyone else would be. I would love to say a few things that I haven't, and only haven't, out of respect for Christ. It is a continuous battle.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

When God Made You, He Threw Away the...

Mole. That's right. And we found him today. Evan and I were out cleaning gutters for a client this afternoon. Just as we finished, I spied the small, furry, frozen body lying on a sidewalk. It turned out to be a perfectly preserved mole. Apparently he had frozen to death between the two houses. No predator had as yet attempted to make a meal of him, so we picked him up and put him in the van. Wisely, we did not show him to Grandpa, who would have lectured on infectious diseases and the foolishness of his son and grandson.

On the way home, we stopped by the bank to do some depositing. Since we had the trailer attached, I decided to use the drive-through. As we pulled up, Evan was quiet for a moment. I reached out the window and got the carrier. As I was opening it, Evan said, "Let's send her the mole."

We were laughing so hard we almost couldn't do our banking.

*** *** *** *** ***

Well, no, we didn't send her the mole. I knew you were wondering.

I would like to say a few words about the play that we performed last weekend at Schaeffer. It was a real treat to see lots of Bereans there, mostly to support Chris in his title role of Illinois Pete. The plays went pretty well with just a few glitches. One major glitch on Friday night was indirectly my fault. We were kind of short staffed, so only Alexandra and I were back working the technical controls (I always do sound because I'm most familiar with the show and most familiar with the sound board.) We were nearing the end of Act I, which ended with the darkness and flashlight beams coming on stage and Chris diving between them and yelling "gotcha!".

I sent Evan up to the corner of the gym with the instructions to turn on the house lights as soon as he heard Chris say "Gotcha!" But when we went to blackout before the flashlight beams, the audience started clapping heavily, and he thought he'd missed it. So he put the house lights up before Chris got to say the line. Jared came out anyway to do the beaming (it was plot essential) and I guess most of the audience wasn't too troubled anyway. So thank God that we had another successful play weekend.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Change, Our Only Constant

I did not realize that life keeps getting harder as you get older. I begin to have a hunch that old people die not (always) because their bodies wear out, but because their souls wear out. They simply do not have the oomph to keep on fighting.

We have had a beautiful and difficult move. It was beautiful because of the kind help of so many people. It was difficult because of unexpected, last-minute real estate hassles. A perfect closing is very rare, so our realtors say.

I would like to say here that I fought Tara for a long time about the new house while we were in the process of buying it. I thought that it cost too much money, it seemed kind of cramped, and I wasn't convinced about a few other factors. Once we got in, I realized that I had been wrong and apologized for that. It is a good house, and we probably either didn't overpay, or didn't over pay by too much. I'm not sure yet.

Ooh, ooh, everyone!! The play is only about a week away. The kids have worked very hard, and though we still have final details to work out, I feel confident of a good show. Please join us next Friday at 7:00 or Saturday at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are available through the school office or can be purchased at the door starting half an hour before show. Illinois Pete is an action-oriented show and is suitable for the whole family. Well, maybe not pre-schoolers, but everyone 5 and above.

Parent conferences came and went this evening. They were all enjoyable and relationally productive.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Post Election Trauma

I considered wearing black today, but fought off the urge. Then I arrived at school and found two of my colleagues had had the same idea and actually carried it out. I love symbolism.

The students were very calm and academic today, unlike yesterday. Hmmm.

Meanwhile, the Republican Party needs to figure out if it believes anything. What are we about, anyway???

Here's a shout to Michelle Bachman and her victory over Elwyn Whatshisname.

And also my hope that the recount turns out the same as the count. Senator Coleman squeaks through again.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Cycle of Life Continues

First quarter ended yesterday amid much hooplah and a blizzard of impending paperwork. Of course there is also the blizzard of packing, the blizzard of parenting, and the blizzard of finishing up the play. So I feel pretty much like someone who ought to be exercising extreme self-discipline but can only manage a modicum of just hangin' on.

We packed more this morning. Due to the kindness of our colleague-in-law Tim, we have a moving truck actually parked on our property. So we've been loading regularly and waiting for our expected close on November 7. Evan asked last night if we could just call off the whole deal and not move. I said that would be pretty difficult at this point, since we'd given numerous people our word and signed some documents as well.

A few other drama people and I worked on the set of _Illinois Pete_ this afternoon. We were very blessed to have the location of doors and windows in the set be just about precisely what this script ordered. The result has been minimal crew effort with maximum results. I've mixed a little paint (fun making new colors) and rolled a few flats myself. It's been a long time since I've actually done set-building.

See you in church tomorrow.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Just Random Stuff

I'm sorry that there isn't an overriding theme for this post.

Avery is standing next to me right now holding a light saber. She is a very well-balanced young lady.

Evan is helping his mother clean up the kitchen. Aidan and Toby are torturing each other.

My father believes that the elections are rigged and that our country is controlled by money interests and international banks who are seeking the advent of one-world government. He would not mind me telling you this.

School is fine except for about two of the 155 children I teach weekly. I took a very firm stand against some attempt-to-control-the-teacher behavior today and probably did some major damage to my reputation as a cheerful and emotionally stable person.

My leadership team for the play continues to do well. I am really appreciating how everyone has been stepping up and leading without being asked.

I am tired of rudeness in people. I have been the victim of a series of rude behaviors in recent days. Please join me now for a little lecture on manners.

#1: If you are in a conversation and someone (like, say, ME) approaches you, do not stand there and continue your conversation as if I do not exist. Clearly I do exist and I need to ask you something. I will be brief, and you can return to your previous conversation momentarily.

#2: If you have a request to make of me that is highly irregular and most people wouldn't even attempt to make, make it apologetically. I will refrain from calling you out if you are already apologetic.

#3: If your child is not doing well (and has a history of not doing well), do not wait until one week before the end of the quarter to contact me. And do not call at 6:00. We are eating dinner and I am trying to pay some attention to my own family. I have been paying attention to your family all day.

If you suspect that you are one of the people that I'm referencing, fear not. I have already forgiven you and just wanted to vent a little and make the world a better place. I still like you. I still will treat your child fairly. Most of the time. ;-)

Our house deal I think is almost done. We have almost all of the details worked out, including how Jay and Emily and we are going to get their stuff out here and our stuff to our new home in "rural" Southeast. I'm hoping for a pleasant winter in a snug new home. Of course, I may not know how to act there.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Why Fifth Graders Are Hazardous to Your Health

I've taught for a long time now. By my count I have led almost 12,000 class periods on one topic or another. You would think that it would be easy by now.

In some ways, it is. I am not challenged at all by the basic premises of teaching. There exists some truth which I wish to impart to the students. There also exist a variety of methods by which I can get said truth into the students. For the most part, I am successful.

So the fifth graders (all of them together) came in for their class today. I divided them up into teams for an opening game, and it went quite well. Then there were a few kids who had to retake a vocab quiz because of a mistake that I (not they) made last week. So I sent them out to the hallway to accomplish this feat. While they were quizzing, we inside were going to correct lesson 6 in their worktexts. Six of the students volunteered to correct two books at the same time. This went all right until the rest of the 5th graders began finishing their quizzes and trickled back into the classroom. Not wanting them to feel left out, I tried to redistribute books to correct as they continued to return. Soon this became difficult to manage. We didn't finish correcting until four minutes before the class hour ended. This did not give us enough time to put scores into the computer before they went back to class or practice any real skills.

So I sent back the 5th graders to their homerooms, having told them to leave their texts out on the tops of the desks. Of course I had another class coming in immediately who helped me get the stuff managed, but not until I had wasted ten minutes of their class time in doing so.

But the simple truth is, you just cannot rush a group of 25 fifth graders any faster than they happen to go. Though they are well behaved and basically cooperative, they are fifth graders. And that's that.

We are in rehearsal with the play. I had fun picking on one of my leads today who backed her parents' van into her friend's parents' Jetta on Friday night. Her little brother ratted her out during Latin 7 this morning. I spect that she will kill him before tomorrow.

Yes, we do academics at Schaeffer also. I knew you were going to ask.

All right, I saw the cutest thing this morning. We have a new teacher this year who is in his 40s (I assume) and absolutely immense - not fat - just extremely large. Besides lit and biology, he teaches kindergarten PE. As he and the kindergarteners were heading outside, I heard one little girl say to him in the coyest voice, "Do you notice anything different about me this morning?"

He replied, asking her if her headband was new.

I didn't hear the end of the story, since they went outside, but I knew that she was delighted with the attention.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

More Latin, Please!

A few weeks ago I got an email from a fifth-grade parent. This is not unusual in itself, but the direction was. Paraphasing, it basically went like this: "Latin is my daughter's favorite subject. She wants to learn all she can about the language and how to use it. What else can she do or be involved in?"

Now, I sponsor a bi-weekly Latin lunch for scholars, nerds, and other interested in taking their Latin to the next level. Several sophomores and one freshman come to that. High school students.

But here we're talking about a 10-year-old.

So I consented to meet with the child. She has Latin with me two times a week, and I'd noticed that she was exceptionally bright and interested, and if I said anything remotely interesting or novel, her eyes would light up and she'd write it in her notebook. Here's an abridged transcript of our conversation. "Magister" is teacher in Latin and "discipula" is student.

Magister: So your mom talked to me a few days ago. She said that you really like Latin, and that you want to do more Latin than you're doing now.

Discipula: [embarrassed smile, nods]

Magister: Tell me what you'd like to learn how to do.

Discipula: I'd like to learn all about Latin and how it works, how you change the endings on the words and what they do. I want to be a scholar when I grow up. [big,radiant,dazzling smile]

Magister: Did you want to know more about the history and culture of ancient Rome, too?

Discipula: No, not so much. Just the language, mostly.

Magister: Well, I think you found the right person.

So I get to figure out how to turn a very willing and talented 10-year-old into a Latin scholar. Amazing. What a journey this year is turning out to be!!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Dystopian Children's Literature

I've decided I would like to write some dystopian children's literature. This thought occurred to me while I was reading a lovely children's book to Aidan and Toby before bedtime. For as many years as I spent teaching English, I really don't read to my kids that often. So they were eagerly snuggled around me, listening to the story of a library that was about to close. Apparently it needed a new roof and new paint. So the children checked out books called _How to Roof in Perfect Lines_ and another one called _How to Paint a Library_ or some such rot. And then they read by day and they read by night. The next morning (YES, THE NEXT MORNING!) they got to work roofing the library and painting it a lovely buttercup yellow. BUTTERCUP YELLOW? HELLO! Buttercup Yellow is an interior only color because gentle exterior yellows fade unevenly. They didn't have to pull any work permits, no one on the library board was consulted, and apparently paint and shingles are free.
The story continued like this, with challenges put in front of the youthful library users Skunk, Mouse, Mole, and Raccoon. Of course Miss Goose, the librarian, had nothing to do with the solutions; she only helplessly recounted the problems.

Finally the library ended up in Old Beaver's meadow, where all the children came to enjoy its endless supply of interesting and educational books, and where Old Beaver and his grandson arrived every afternoon after they had finished their nap.

If you would like some truly dystopian works for your children that present the world as it is and no more, leave me a comment. Maybe I'll write one over Christmas Break.

Speaking of dystopias, we bought a house sort of back in town. It's off Marion Road and theoretically has everything that we as a family are looking for. My wife thinks it is the best thing since indoor plumbing. Myself, I'm just hoping that it will continue to have indoor plumbing. (The house is in a transition from well and septic to city water and sewer; the lines have been brought to the house but not actually hooked up yet.)

I took a full trailer of junk to the dump today. Toby was my labor companion, and we did great work together getting rid things that our previous owner in her generosity had left us.

Grandpa came out today to work on the tractor with me. While we were not able to fix it, we did discover more about the problem. If we had a little more understanding of the factors involved, we might have solved it. Old tractors are not particularly complex.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Slogging Through

Years ago I promised myself that I would try to slow down a little. I believe that was just before I turned 30. For the most part I have not succeeded very well in this quest, although changing my teaching load from English to Latin cut a lot of the correcting, especially of essays and other non-objective blather.

The past couple weeks have been inordinately busy. We have been aggressively house-shopping, reading scripts for the fall play, entertaining relatives, having birthday parties for Evan and Aidan, teaching adult classes at church, teaching the regular class load at Berean, finishing summer outdoor services work, and delivering a two-session Christian worldview seminar. Oh yeah, and I hit a deer with the Corolla about a week and a half ago.

The play I finally picked was _Illinois Pete_, which I think will do well for our cast and school community. It is a mystery/adventure/comedy set in a girls' private school. We are performing, Lord willing, on November 21 and 22, so set aside some time on your calendar! Friday will be an evening performance and Saturday, a matinee.

My high school leadership team this year is just stellar!! I'm really excited about the kids involved and the variety of talents that they will bring to the drama program. We started off our rehearsal (first rehearsal) yesterday with a discussion of 1 Cor. 12:12-26. I just asked one question: How does this passage apply to a drama program? The answers I received were terrific. They really got it.

Some of you readers may remember a sermon I preached last fall about two apple trees in my front yard. One was lush, green, and gorgeous, but completely without fruit. The other was almost dead, but had one good-sized branch absolutely loaded with apples. I made the application to our lives as believers, talking about how we may look nice, but if there's no fruit, how useful are we to the kingdom of God? In contrast, the scars of time and sin may be all over us, but if we bear fruit, we demonstrate that we have received grace and are beautiful in God's sight.

Both apple trees have experienced changes since I preached this message. The old, uneven, hideous tree fell over in a windstorm this summer. The green part remained green while the tree lay on the ground for several weeks. It was an interesting testimony to staying connected to the source of strength through any circumstances. I finally cut it up and put in in the barn.

The other apple tree, Evan noticed a few days ago, had produced fruit. Two apples. Two large, gorgeous apples about 20 feet off the ground. We got an extension ladder, put it against the branches of the tree, and Evan climbed to the top and harvested the fruit. Not am I thankful for a tree that listened to my preaching (!), but I also celebrated having a wise and courageous son who truly will be like a tree planted by streams of water.

If you would like a meditation on the financial crisis in the U.S. today, read Psalm 60 and reflect on it.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Old One Hundredth

According to the blogger tracker thinger, this is my one hundredth post. It reminded me of a hymn tune title simply known in the old Lutheran hymnal as "Old Hundredth."

So I have enjoyed blogging. There's been plenty of activity, but it seems so cyclical to me that I don't know if any of it will be of interest to you. How's that for confidence?

I have chosen the play for this fall. We're doing _Illinois Pete_ by Dan Somebodyorother. I think it will fit my potential cast well and showcase their talents. Casting starts tomorrow, meaning it will be a busy day.

We lost one of the houses we were shooting at (bank decided to work with another offer) and so we put in an offer on a different property. I am somewhat encouraged and somewhat ambivalent. If we get this property, we will be near the top of what we should pay for a house, but we'll get lots of bedrooms, a solid house, a double garage, and a full, fenced one-acre lot. Greg submitted the offer to the seller's agent today (or at least I assume he did).

I made a fire tonight in our fire pit and quizzed my boys on theology. They are pretty good amateur theologians, except Toby thinks that there are three gods in one person. I also began to teach them how to pray for each other. It was good.

My wife is packing everything in sight. I believe this should be called "unnesting". I am not a natural packer and cannot bring myself to start something like that early. That, and I am exhausted a lot of the time.

The new glasses from Shopko are quite nice. Turns out you don't need the high index plastic for $3 million after all.

I'm going to go sit in my green chair now and dream of eternal life.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Comment on Business Ethics

I have been dealing with an inordinate number of business people lately. Most of them are decent folk who care about their clients, but some contemporary business practices make me angry. I'm going to shed a little light on one in hopes that these kinds of business practices will be shamed into going away.

My frustration concerns eyeglasses. In the spring of 2006, I had an eye exam and bought a pair of glasses from Shopko south. I went there because the eye doctor had been recommended to me. He turned out to be a great opthalmologist, and I was very pleased with the glasses. However, I had an accident with a ladder this summer that led to the weakening of the glasses. A few days ago when I was working at the computer, I adjusted the glasses and the bows snapped off completely.

So I took the pieces and went back to Shopko south. Here is what I discovered:

1) Since the prescription was over two years old, they could not make me a new pair of glasses.

2) Since the frame is now outdated (two years old!) they could not order me a new frame and put the lenses in that frame.

3) They were unable to locate any match bows or in fact any bows that would even replace the broken ones so the glasses would stay on my face.

4) The technician lost one of my broken bows in her attempt to find a match for it.

So, because I liked the doctor, I scheduled another eye exam. I was told that the eye exam would be covered by our insurance, so I didn't worry about it. When I was already in the exam room, the doctor asked me if I would like an exam for contact lenses as well. I said that I assumed they were one and the same. "No," he said. "It's apples and oranges."

So I figured I probably needed the contact lens exam and said sure, go ahead. He never said a word about a separate charge for the contact lens exam. I learned about that when I visited the technician/sales clerk at the optical register. He explained that the glasses exam was covered, but the lens one was not.

Then we went on to choosing glasses. I picked a frame and began to ask questions about lenses. The tech told me that we'd get high-index lenses because of my prescription. I asked if there were any other lenses available. I practically had to drag out of the technician the other types of lenses and the prices of them. He had just assumed he would choose the most expensive product for me.

I submit that these business practices, besides being shoddy and perhaps borderline dishonest, are also insensitive to the poor. So is the rule that requires an eyeglass prescription less than two years old to have a pair of glasses made. It is yet another example of regulation not helping but hindering the low income.

I have politely kept my mouth shut for a long time. However, I am about to that age where I am tired of sitting quietly and politely. Nothing changes unless people of faith and ethics speak clearly about the issues that affect our lives and our society.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A Quiet Saturday

School has started with a vengeance. That doesn't mean it's been bad, just intense. The Latin instruction to give, the new kids to catch up, the unmotivated kids to frighten, the chapel music to prepare, the lunch meetings to lead, and the parents to befuddle... I mean, to inform. On top of all this, the house really does seem to be mostly sold (go, Jay and Emily!!) and so we're house-hunting with real intentionality. We went out with Greg last evening again and looked at a couple. While I still do think it is a buyer's market, it is getting tighter again. The incredible deals at the bottom of the heap are perhaps not quite as incredible anymore. But I continue to hold out hope that God will bring us something amazing (or at least adequate).

So I had fully intended to spend a little time at home this morning and then look at properties again in the afternoon. But Tara thought that was an unnecessary endeavor ("Why should you waste all that gas to drive into town when I'm already here?") so I stayed home with all of my boys. We had a very quiet day.

Around 9:30 we loaded up trash and headed to the dump. Except for a steady drizzle falling while we recycled, it was quite uneventful. The boys played Legos a lot and helped out with this or that when asked. And I plowed through significant amounts of paperwork and administrivia while taking care of three fellers under age 8.

Tara came home about mid-afternoon from the garage sale and we renewed the discussion about houses, children, fall classes starting tomorrow at church, and real estate agents who either do or don't accomplish much at all.

As I was putting the boys to bed tonight, a hymn that I had learned early in my childhood came back to me. I'm going to type the lyrics for you here, partly because they are beautiful, and partly because I'm proud that my brain has held them largely without use for more than 25 years. I think my mother used to sing this simple hymn without provocation. She sang a lot until the cancer got into her vocal cords and made it difficult to sing without coughing. I still grieve. I'm sorry. Here it is.

Oh, that the Lord would guide my ways
To keep His statutes still;
Oh, that my God would grant me grace
To know and do His will.

Order my footsteps by Thy word
And make my heart sincere;
Let sin have no dominion, Lord,
But keep my conscience clear.

Make me to walk in Thy commands
'Tis a delightful road;
Nor let my head or heart or hands
Offend against my God.

I may have mixed around the order of the verses or a word here or there, but I think I got the gist of it. It's funny how I can celebrate the present while simultaneously grieving the loss of how things used to be. See Ezra 3:12.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Revisiting My Childhood

Most of the memories that I can drag out of my childhood would be pretty unremarkable, but I have enjoyed revisiting some of them lately in the form of my son's new reading interest.

Evan came home from school stoked about Encyclopedia Brown stories. It seems that his teacher reads the class an Encyclopedia Brown mystery every day just before dismissal. The students listen to the mystery and then try to guess the solution.

This created a nice connection between Evan and me because I also read Encyclopedia Brown stories as a boy and I actually remember most of the stories, but not most of the solutions. So Evan reads me the story as we drive to or from school, and I try to figure out the mysteries. Most of the time I still get them wrong, but at least we're having fun together.

I'm trying to get Evan to blog about his experiences with literature.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Brief Comments on Media, Movies, and Me

It is Friday evening. You can tell my life is a thriller because I have time to blog.

First, a word about thrills. I am not a thrill-seeking personality and am really quite content with the fact that pretty much nothing thrilling happened today. Nothing disastrous happened either, so I have been given the gift of one more day.

Uncle Roy is still in the hospital, having had a nasty run towards gallbladder surgery. He had the surgery yesterday, but since there was infection involved and other nasty internal symptoms, I don't think he's quite out of the woods yet. The boys are learning to not just like Uncle Roy but pray for Uncle Roy.

I began to teach Evan and Aidan about the ACTS of prayer this evening. They both looked at me dumbfounded when we talked about confessing sins. They figured that they'd done confessing a long time ago and that there was no continuing need for contrition/repentence in the life of a believer. Wow.

Tara finally watched the end of _A Prairie Home Companion_ with me tonight. I like most of the folk music and great talent that appears across its regular, real stage. In the movie version, they've created fictional sisters, Rhonda and Yolanda Johnson who sing about their Minnesota home and the love of their mother, aunts, and uncles. With these two they created a pretty effective balance of comedic and dramatic. So I sit there with the tears slaloming down my face, not bothered in the least by them because I know the themes they sing about so well: the love of the earlier generations, the joy on my mother's face when I'd play the organ for her, the realization that the earlier generations, and indeed our own generation, won't be on this earth forever. And the most tragic of all: I did not recognize those days as good days, or did not recognize what was especially good in them. We should have stockpiled more than $1.27 gasoline.

I finished reading Alan Jacobs' masterful biography of C.S. Lewis a few days ago. The book in entitled _The Narnian: the Life and Imagination of C.S. Lewis_. As you may have guessed, I have read quite a bit about Lewis, his friendships, the Inklings, and his lectures, but I gained a new perspective on Lewis from Jacobs. A brilliant and unusual man, Lewis was also haunted by the same frustrations that plague all thinking people. One might not hold up all of Lewis' life as the example to follow, but I think I still rightly regard him as a hero. There is plenty to admire and imitate. Definitely a superior read... thank you, Everett. I'm always in your debt.

Scripture writers sometimes petition the Lord, "Remember not the sins of my youth." That is probably because they were gross and glaring, even to the eye of sinful man. I think the sins of middle age are much more insidious. If a sin of youth is akin to a man swinging an axe and destroying a board, a sin of middle age induced rot into the board so that it becomes soft, soggy, and just as worthless over a long period of time.

Apathy is one such sin. I can see how middle aged persons will struggle against this with all their being. I don't know if burn-out is a sin, but I see it all over myself. I have been doing the same types of work and ministry for well over a decade. I have no edge left. I'm really kind of surprised that the kids keep listening, but they do. I have to remind myself that while I may have said this 1,228 times, for at least a few out of the 155 that I taught this week, it was the first time they heard it.

It is this same resolve that keeps us preaching and living the gospel. I may have heard it thousands of times, but someone is hearing it today for the very first time. Someone today understood that sin is whatever is inconsistent with God's character. Someone received full and free forgiveness from a merciful Savior.

And Some-Glorious-One smiled, and all heaven with Him.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Sick of Being Sick

I was extremely healthy all summer. I might have endured one or two days where I didn't feel the best, but generally I was the strongest and most robust I have been in my whole life. The 30s are better in lots of ways than the preceding decades. Especially childhood. I did not enjoy childhood very much, not because I had bad parents, but because my childhood self knew that I was destined for adulthood. I was poorly wired for childhood.

For the past many days, indeed, I think since inservice began, I have been sick with one thing or another. Fall allergies, fevers, headaches, aching spine (thought I had bone cancer yesterday), weakness, collapsing into my ugly green chair when I get home, unable to stir for at least a half hour. Illness frustrates me. I would do, give my best, but I cannot. The attempt to do, which I frequently try, sometimes makes me more unable than ever, and I collapse in a pile, breathing heavily with heart throbbing and lungs heaving.

But I think the saddest part of illness (especially as I age) is the loss of joy or zest for living. I find that as a sick person I don't care at all except from the perspective that if I don't keep pushing as hard as I possibly can, all my responsibilities will pile up on themselves and ferment, leaving an aura of rotting muck to sort out after the illness ends.

My wife is a very talented lady, especially when comes the practical and managerial. I respect her a great deal. I rely on her ability to keep it running when I am not well. And I entrust myself to the goodness of my faithful Creator, who will surely fix me if He wants to.

May the joy of the Lord be your strength today.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Back to School -- That's the Rule!!

You bet we're back! I survived my 14th (!) inservice as well as the first three days of school. I have to say that I really have a manageable load this year. For the first time in my career I have no homeroom and no lunch duty. I miss the homeroom, but nobody misses lunch duty!

I will be teaching Latin to grades 5-10 again with only a few minor changes. One change is that the fifth graders are a very small double class, so I can teach all 25of them together. All we had to do was add one desk to my classroom, and presto, all fifth graders fit. They were absolutely adorable! At the beginning of the class, I asked them to introduce themselves, first and last name, tell about brothers and sisters, and something fun or interesting from summer. One little girl stood up and said the following:

"I'm [first name last name], I have [can't remember how many sibs -- I was too busy learning names], and I was diagnosed with Crohn's this summer." And then she sat down as though she'd just told us she had gone to Grand Teton National Park or something.

And you just want to cry. Is she even 11?

Our chapel and overriding theme this year at [impressive classical school] is mercy: mercy for those who've caused problems or offense, mercy on those who don't fit in as easily, mercy for those who aren't keeping up or succeeding well in their studies. I thought it was a beautiful theme and a necessary one for this school at this point in our history.

Physically I didn't feel all too well during the first week of school, but I was able to teach all my classes. I feel much better today.

Summer business continues on into the fall as well. We have about three jobs to finish and then the resulting paperwork. I could have turned them down, but I have a terrible time saying no to anything, especially things that bring in extra income. But I've drawn the line, I guess, and turned down an interior painting job for this September already.

Our house is almost sold. I guess Jay and Emily's house is one inspection away from being sold, so that's how far ours is from sold also. Tara and I are now actively seeking houses. We found about three leads to track. The difficult part is that we look at house-buying so differently. Tara wants a house that proclaims, "Move right in! I'm ready for you."

I want a house that gasps, "Help! Previous owners did not love me or maintain me properly. I'd make a great home for you if you're willing to rescue me."

Some prepare. We repair. We go house-hunting on Tuesday.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Visit with Donna and Kimberly

Today was a day that started entirely too early. I think it was somewhere around 3:00 a.m. when Aidan came in and said, "Dad, I can't sleep."
So I said, "What's wrong, Aidan?"
And he said, "There's a light shining in my window that looks like a shark's tooth. It makes me feel scared."

So I went to his room, and sure enough, a light from the yard did look like a shark's tooth. I closed his curtains and that was that.

Meet the teacher went from 9-11 this morning. If you care, this is my 14th "meet the teacher" event. A striking but strange moment came when an older couple introduced their daughter Heather who is starting 9th grade this fall and looks strikingly like...her older sister Christina who graduated about six years ago. Of course I had taught her too.

I told the family that when the first school grandchild (that is, child of one of our graduates show up in my class, the tears will be rolling down my face and not a one of the children will understand. But I will know why I'm crying, and that's good enough.

One of our faculty took all of us out to Hunan Garden for lunch today. Yummy. Thanks, Nola!

I spent the afternoon working at one client's home and then stopped to visit my dad on the way to our farm. His back had been bothering him a great deal this week, but he is better today and anticipating increased health for the weekend. He told me that he had a conversation with a 100-year-old man in the parking lot of Aldi's this morning. The man gave him a dollar and my father gave the centenarian a gospel tract.

Our whole family planned to drive up to Northfield tonight to visit two of my college friends, Kim and Donna. However, when I got home today, Tara said that Aidan's fever was higher and that Toby and Avery were still sleeping. Then Toby woke up and wanted to go along, so Evan, Toby, and I headed to Northfield. We met Kim and Donna in the Hoyme parking lot and the proceeded to walk the campus and show the boys things from our college years.

We also had supper at Subway and caught up with each other's lives. The thing that struck me most is how different our lives have become. Kimberly is just returning from mission work in Southeast Asia. Donna is headed to Ireland to work on a master's in education. I have been where I am, building the same thing, since the summer I left St. Olaf. Divergent paths, definitely, but all worship to the same God.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Plumb Nuts

For several months now the water pressure in our kitchen has been way less than desirable. When Tara turns on the faucet, it gives a little more than a trickle and a little less than a stream. She has been pretty patient with this situation, but I realized it was untenable, so I came up with a plan.

You need to know that the faucet and lines immediately attached to it are basically brand new, installed sometime either late last year or early this year. So I was not suspicious of them but rather of the old galvanized pipe that runs 16'9" from under the kitchen back toward the water heater. Since the water pressure from things connected earlier than this part had been all right, I figured the problem must be there. Solution? Remove old galvanized, install new galvanized, turn water back on. Of course.

So Wednesday night Scam and I ripped out the old pipe and hauled it outside. Evan participated in this part of the adventure also. Using Scam's handy gadget flashlight, we shone a beam through the pipe and concluded that, while dirty, there was nothing obstructing the galvanized. I had expected corrosive limestone or whatever and only a tiny pin-hole through which to squeeze the water. This was massively inaccurate.

We rinsed out the pipe using the pump near our well and then continued to check inside lines by blowing air through them. Nothing wrong was discovered anywhere, so we hooked the supply lines up again and ran the water. Beautiful water pressure spewed from the kitchen faucet until I happened to jiggle to vegetable sprayer. Immediately the pressure returned to its former anemic five psi. Scam and I looked at each other in amazement. Why had this happened???

We disassembled most of the faucet assembly, discovered nothing of consequence, rebuilt it, and tested again. We don't know anything definitive, but the water pressure is much improved and has been all day. Total investment: 65 cents, about 3 hours, and a good friend. I am blessed.

I was watching a movie earlier this evening and contemplating the milestones of a person's life. After the movie was over, I sat down at my keyboard and played a few old hymns that have components that speak of death or eternity: Amazing Grace; Nearer, My God, To Thee; that sort of thing. And then it struck me with some force: contemporary worship, or at least that which I've been exposed to, doesn't really like to deal with the milestones or passages in life. Yes, there are contemporary songs for weddings, but what about for baby dedications? Baptisms? Commissionings? Funerals?

I'll bet they exist, but I'll also bet they're rare because the whole CCM industry lacks the ability to see itself as part of a several thousand year long tradition. Instead, it sees itself (just guessing) as probably breaking with tradition and breathing a fresh wind or something over the Church. This is too bad because when we lose a sense of our heritage, we lose courage and certainty.

I have to confess that I've done this somewhat in my own life. I left the church of my heritage in disgust around the age of 18. All the systems, connections, and ways that I knew became part of my past in just a few weeks' time. I embraced the general category "evangelicalism" and began a new part of the journey. The problem, of course, is that I just sort of appeared out of nowhere, similar to the churches that I was attending. The contemporary church has no real heritage, except in terms of what it reacted against. Being somewhat anti-historical and anti-intellectual, it also doesn't have a good sense of its own history, however brief.

I mentioned my religious heritage, which did a pretty good job of teaching Bible and its own particular view of doctrine, but was absolutely scandalously hollow when it came to church history and development. I bet I would have loved to know the story of God's people from a young age, but it wasn't given. I think we children believed that Jesus ascended, the apostles wrote the NT, almost nothing happened for 1500 years, WHAM! the Catholic Church was massively corrupt (wait a minute--where'd the Catholic Church come from?? I guess we didn't ask) and God raised up Martin Luther who battled back the forces of evil and re-established the pure Lutheran light of God's Word. After Dr. Luther died, nothing else important happened, either. Really. I'm not kidding. I was the kind of kid who paid excellent attention in class, being interested as I am in ideas, history, and spirituality. I'm sure I would have caught it if they'd said something.

So I applaud some friends of ours whose 5th grade daughter is starting church history as part of their home school curriculum this year. What a gift she's receiving that she may or may not appreciate at her age..!

I'm going to cut off this long and laborious blog because it's time to work on my Christian Worldview Seminar. I'm speaking in Dodge Center at the end of September for a church mini-retreat. Lord willing, I'll give 'em something good.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Stinking Oil Primer

I paint a lot. I paint for money, for recreation, for preservation of my property, for family, and for charity kinds of situations. I have been doing so pretty consistently for the last several years. So you'd think I'd know enough to put the lid firmly on a can of primer.

We were coming back from a second day at Auntie Alice and Uncle Roy's house. I had Evan and Aidan with me in the van with a load of wood in the trailer behind us. Evan reached behind his seat to get a swig of water from the blue water jug. A minute or two later he asked, "What's that smell? I think it's paint."

Well, I sniffed too and then looked behind his seat. In his efforts to get liquid, he had knocked over a mostly full can of oil primer. Generally this is not a problem if one happens to pound the lid firmly back on the oil primer. But if one is rounding up young children and talking to one's aunt while packing the van, it is possible that this detail will be overlooked.

So we had a pond of oil primer under and behind the passenger front seat. I pulled over immediately, assessed the situation, and determined that... we had nothing with us that would be useful in cleaning up more than a quart of oozing primer. I started the van again and we did the next 20 miles while getting high from the fumes of said oil primer. Zinsser makes a very nice oil primer, good quality, and I have the dead brain cells to prove it.

I spent at least a half hour cleaning up oil primer after we arrived at home. Yes, I realize it was no big deal. The van is 15 years old and ought to die sometime soon. Yes, I was able to get most of the primer back into the can, salvageable for use. Maybe the most valuable part of the experience was not getting angry at Evan for dumping it over. I realized almost immediately that a can of paint/primer will generally stay closed (even if unceremoniously dumped) unless the operator has not closed it properly.

BTW, oil primer is very useful for getting latex paint to adhere to old, weathered wood or other less-than-ideal surfaces. I am a big fan of oil primer even though it is more difficult to use than latex. I use latex also in less demanding situations.

My fault again. Most of the messes in our life lately have been traceable back to me. Sigh.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Reflections on Our Summer

Hello, everyone. Sorry I've been gone. We (our computer, this is) contracted a nasty virus that sent pop-ups violently careening about the screen. They were particularly nasty and ill-mannered pop-ups that wouldn't go away no matter what you did.

But we (our computer, that is) are well now and ready to blog.

This week marks my last week of summer vacation. I am deeply thankful for all the magnficent blessings that God has given me during these months. We have had abundant work, helpful co-laborers, cooperative children, and plenty of time spent together as a family. Though I am assuredly not the world's most exciting daddy, I nonetheless am here and involved in the lives of my children.

All of my college student laborers went back to college, and then business picked back up again. Sigh.

We had a family mini-vacation to the Cities yesterday and today. We left on Wednesday mid-day and checked into a Country Inn and Suites somewhere east of St. Paul. It was a perfectly accommodating hotel with a pool and an attached restaurant. Around suppertime Ben and Emily met us and we drove to Hudson, WI for dinner together at a restaurant called Barker's. I enjoyed the food but everything else was a trial. The atmosphere was the type in which you can't hear your waitress, your children, your neighbor, or your food ("Don't eat me! Please don't eat me! I said DON'T EA-). Also we had to wait quite a time for a table and for a refreshment. We went swimming back at the hotel with no drownings and nothing else too frightening.

After continental breakfast at the Green Mill (I always LOVE continental breakfast... for an extremely skinny guy I really eat, and I with great enthusiasm almost all the time) we headed west to the Science Museum. Now, I will admit that the Science Museum contains many interesting things, but I am a big fan of productivity (almost none here) quiet (absolutely none here) and predictability (definitely none here). The kids were great and generally quite interested but the whole experience, including the much-hyped Star Wars exhibit, holds very little meaning or fascination for me. I am not a Star Wars fan and don't really perceive the delight that they seem to bring to others.

I also noted that the Science Museum faithfully teaches evolution every chance it gets. Placards throughout proclaim this creature or that fossil "60 million years old" and so forth. They also make speculations about species that survived and species that didn't and why that is so ("front teeth must have been useful to primates because..." or "perhaps the glyptodont became extinct because 3 million years ago was a period of rapid climatic change and it just couldn't keep up").

I would love to see some documentation... but of course there isn't any. Zilch. The claims about the ancient past are made with the gross audacity of, say, a Latin teacher lecturing on neurosurgery. It is a tragedy of epidemic proportions because thousands of children a day tour the place and read these profession, confident-sounding placards that quietly foster the assumption that the universe is purely materialistic.

As long as I'm ranting, let me further say that I'd love someone to admit that evolution is the necessary creation story for a particular worldview known as philosophical naturalism (a close cousin to secular humanism). Every thinking person's worldview includes some take-off of Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration.

Try it for philosophical naturalism:

CREATION-- Stuff evolved. We evolved.

FALL -- Extinction. Climate change. Nature vs. Man (maybe-- I'm fuzzy on this one)

REDEMPTION -- Science! Scientists! Freedom from truth claims of religion!

RESTORATION -- Overcoming the things that cause physical death/mental and emotional problems. Just a few years ago some scientist published on the idea of living forever... physically.

Now try the same four categories for Christianity and see what bold, rich, and accurate claims you get for each category. When I say accurate, I mean accurate to the experience you have of the world around you.

Well, I'm done for tonight. In-service on Monday, would you believe. Another year is starting again, and I'm here for it.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Elderly Relatives Save Our Tails Again

I believe it is a commonly understood truism that each generation is indebted to the one before it. After all that is only common sense. The previous generation changed our diapers, made our dinner, nursed our owies, and (however imperfectly) taught us about Jesus. And for several in my family, they keep on doing it.

It seems that 75 is the new 60. That's my conclusion after today. On Sunday we decided with Alice and Roy (my aunt and uncle -- see last post) that I would come up on Tuesday to make wood for the winter (if Jay and Emily can't get the house sold it will be a good plan for us to have some wood on hand...). I already have a decent woodpile going, but not enough to heat our home for a typical Minnesota winter.

So Evan and I left around 9:00 this morning, bearing chainsaw, trailer with spiffy new wood sides, and the remains of a conflict he and I had created just prior to leaving. We spent the drive to Goodhue figuring out our conflict, which was pretty well resolved by the time we pulled into their driveway.

Now I thought we were going to say "good morning", chat for a minute, and then Evan and I would go back to where the dead trees were standing and log them out ourselves. Not at all. Roy, 78, offered me his "battle plan" a little after we arrived. He would fire up the tractor and after I would fell a tree, we would hook a chain around it and drag it over to the brush pile. Then I would limb the small branches, allowing Evan and Auntie Alice to pitch those straight onto the brush pile.

Well, that's pretty much what we did. I never anticipated that two septagenarians would put in basically a full day's work cutting and hauling wood. To be fair, let me say that Roy spent most of his time on the seat of the tractor, but he still did a great job with the tractor and got down a few times to toss something into the loader or work with the tow chain.

One of the highlights for Evan was getting to ride the front-end loader way up in the air in order to hook a chain around a dead branch still hanging on the tree. Roy hoisted him way up there and then shut off the bucket 10 or 12 feet above the ground. Of course, Evan being Evan loved the experience and successfully got the chain wrapped around the log.

Roy and Alice mentioned that they use the front-end loader to pick apples. Alice gets in the bucket and Roy raises it up the side of the tree and then waits while she gathers all apples within reach. I looked at them in disbelief, but they both agreed that that's how they did it last year. She would have been 74 at the time.

A sweet moment for me was watching them drive together down the grassy lane between two valleys of scrubby trees. Alice was standing on the running board of the tractor, and Roy was driving. Shafts of sunlight illuminated their silvery hair as they rode away from us. It gave me a glimpse of how they've worked together for the last 55 years, the rewards of a life well-lived.

We left with a full trailer of wood and arrived home to find that Grandpa, Alice's big brother, had been out to our farm today and fixed the mowing deck on one of my tractors and figured out what was wrong with a spring on the other.

The 75-and-over crowd did it again. They never cease to amaze me, and I will miss them "somethin' fierce" when Jesus finally calls them home.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Always Knew I Was Born in the Wrong Era


As a 1930s husband, I am
Very Superior

Take the test!

This was definitely a fun test to take -- you should try it!

We went to my Uncle Roy's 78th birthday party this evening. My boys absolutely love their farm up near Goodhue, and since we are out in the country now, it's only 25 miles to their place. I love watching the generations grow up -- I got to see Auntie Alice help raise my generation, then her son Howard's kids, then her daughter Connie's kids, and now my kids and the next generation of her great-grandchildren. If ever a woman had an impact on her family, it would have to be Alice. She turned 75 in July and was out playing horse with Evan and Aidan tonight.

I rise up and call her blessed.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Painting Contractor Performs Heroic Deed

They say only children are the heroes of their own lives (when they're not busy beating themselves up about the current failure or imperfection). See what you think of this one.

I was working for a doctor a few days ago, doing some touch-up painting and other work to his Pill Hill property, and I had to go back to Hirshfield's to have a color adjusted. So I was standing by the paint counter waiting for Pat to complete my order when a portly young man carrying two packs of cigarettes burst in and sort of shouted breathlessly,

"There's an old jeep parked on the grass next to the building, like a VW thing and it's got a dog tied to it!"

I said, "Yeah, I saw it when I drove in. Pretty cool car, huh?" (It was a real Jeep from maybe the 60s or 70s, one-of-a-kind.)

Then he got to the point. "It's on fire!! I think it's gonna blow pretty soon!"

I looked at him to see if he was a reliable witness, and he seemed pretty stressed and pretty earnest, so I hurried to the front and observed the Jeep. A trail of smoke was rising from the back seat. Another young guy had convinced the dog to step out of the Jeep while his stocky companion was inside Hirshfield's.

"Lift up the seat cushion," I ordered. They taller guy lifted it up, and we observed some seat springs, a car battery, and a small flame burning on the floor of the Jeep.

I hustled back inside and asked the Hirshfield's desk lady, "Where's the nearest water source?" She tried to figure out what was going on and finally got it. Of course the water was all the way in the back of this long, narrow story, so we bustled to the back (I was already carrying a large styrofoam cup that I'd snatched from the burning Jeep) and I filled the cup with water and rushed back to the front and then outside.

I poured my water over the flames and pretty much extinguished them. The Hirshfield's lady (being 55ish) followed a little later with a quart-sized paint can, also full of water. She dumped hers on the remaining hot areas, effectively bringing the fire to an end.

During this whole episode, the dog, a huge German Shepherd/Husky looking thing, sat calmly next to the Jeep. No barking, no anxiety, this was one calm dog. We petted him a little after the job was done.

Then Hirshfield Lady went next door to AT&T and asked them to find the owner of the burning Jeep and dog. A few minutes later two 20-something blond girls dressed in retro- early 70s flower-child dresses and sandals - were standing by the Jeep. I went out there and asked, "Is this your Jeep?"

They said, "It's our dad's." So I told them what had happened, and they were very thankful, not only for the Jeep, but especially for their dog.

Then Dad came out. He was a burned-out looking hippie with a long gray pony tail who matched the girls perfectly; obviously he had passed on his worldview with stunning success.

He immediately realized what had happened: the dog sitting on the back seat had brought the battery into contact with the metal springs, causing a short and heating the springs. The heat had caused the cushion to begin to smolder. The old hippie-dad was very thankful, too.

Usually things like that don't happen when I'm getting paint.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Heavens Declare

I know I should have been in bed a long time ago, but I just have to capture this. Around 10:45 I finished working on the vans (some battery issues, etc) and was closing up and putting things away for the night. A moment later I headed for the chicken house to make sure that they were safe from predators by closing their door. As I walked around the dark side of the chicken house, the whole glory of the heavens was opened up to me. A perfectly clear sky combined with the darkness of the country to display a grand picture of the sky. It was one of the few times in my life that I wished I knew more about astronomy.

I think I also got a sense of why we call our galaxy the Milky Way. There was a segment of the sky that reflected a whitish hue to me, I assume because of the sheer volume of stars in that "area".

Breath-taking. It really was.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


This evening we loaded up all of our children and went to the annual meeting at our church. It was pleasant but not especially controversial or exhilarating in any way. Upon coming home, we noticed a huge branch partially blocking the gravel road in front of our house. After we put the young 'uns to bed, I went outside to look for Tara only to find her backing my VAN AND TRAILER RIG into the driveway. Now, honestly, how many of you have a wife (or are a wife) who can back a van and trailer?

So I jumped onto the trailer and we headed out to the road. We both lopped pieces and dropped them into the recently improved trailer (side rails now, remember?) We also got out the bow saw and sliced a few of the medium sized branches. Now that the road is clear, we can get some rest and then go after it again tomorrow morning.

This was a strange event to me because the branch was completely leafy and there was no sign of disease, except that raccoons are living in said tree.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Guest House Gets Rehabilitation

Saturday morning is the time for worship team practice at our church, and I was sound guy this morning, so I headed into town with that as first on my agenda. Practice went fine, and, returning to the van, I lumbered off to estimate a job in North Park. These people had one of the largest decks I had ever seen in my life, including a 20-foot swimming pool. Hope we get the bid for that one...

But my real joy for the day was heading over to the new Nazarene Well House, which is a guest house for people who have come to Mayo Clinic for treatment and find themselves in the middle of an extended stay for which they cannot pay. For those of you who are locals, the building is west of Silver Lake and used to be owned by Zumbro Valley Mental Health. For a while they called it Circle Center, I believe. Anyway, the Nazarenes are refurbished this 7500-square foot former hotel into a guest house, and they are almost finished.

So how to I enter this picture? The Naz invited our church to a workday to get the caretakers quarters on the lowest level finished. Being sort of in this business anyway, and being acquainted with the fine people at Naz, and seeing that some of my fairly good Berean friends would be at the event, I decided to load up the van with my very best paints, rollers, and tools and head for the guest house.

Well, it was tons of fun! I think I had the unique position of knowing just about everyone from both congregations. (Schaeffer used to rent space from Naz in the old days, and I taught in their building. I would often be working late hours, which is why the Nazofolks know me so well. And of course several of them hadn't seen me in years. It was such a privilege to see everyone... a little foretaste of what heaven will no doubt be like.) So I painted a couple of closets in the basement and chatted with numerous people from both congregations. I was particularly impressed with the love and compassion that the Naz will be showing to people from around the world who are in difficult medical situations. They will be inviting in the stranger that Jesus spoke about in Matthew 25.

Around 4:00 I snagged my dad from his house and dragged him out to the farm to help me build a frame for the trailer. He does a great job but just doesn't have the perseverance he had 20 years ago. The boys helped me finish after Grandpa went home. Fortunately they are good helpers, so we got the thing basically finished and I can now haul just about anything without fear that it will fall out of the trailer.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Bedbugs for Jesus!

Most of you probably know that I run an outdoor services business in the summertime. It supplements teaching income heavily and it makes the summers fly by. It also gives us lots of great stories and encounters with fascinating clients.

Within the last few days, I received a call from a man around age 60. He lives with his 87-year-old mother, and their home had become infested with bedbugs. His call was to ask if I would be able to haul away the beds and other soft furniture that had become infested.

Well, I really didn't want to do this job for fear of introducing bedbugs into my home. But then I began to consider it from a Christian worldview perspective. What would Jesus do in this situation? I decided that He would help the outcast, especially the outcast humbly seeking assistance. And in our society, someone with a bedbug infestation is about as outcast as I've recently seen. So I told the gentleman that I would indeed help him with his dilemma.

Yesterday afternoon he called to say that the exterminator had been through and had identified the pieces slated for destruction. The exterminator said I should go to Fleet Farm and pick up stretch wrap for the mattresses and other furniture to be dumped. Apparently that keeps the bedbugs contained, though my stretch-wrapping abilities would leave that in doubt. I was also to get two cans of bedbug spray for the old man and his ancient mother to use while waiting for the professionals.

So I raced down to Fleet Farm after spending too much time trying to take down an apple tree in Northern Heights (chain saw broke during the effort... wasn't even my chainsaw... long story there... the owner of the apple tree happened to be a retired physics professor and so the two of us tore open the smoking chainsaw to see what be the matter...) and a wonderfully kind and practical young woman helped me find both the stretch wrap and the bedbug spray -- who knew Fleet Farm carried bedbug spray???

I raced back up to the bedbug hideaway and met the owners. Mom was a shockingly spry 87 who seemed more like early 70s, maybe. The son was a friendly if portly fellow who had broken his shoulder which resulted in surgery that made him unable to carry anything of significance-- except himself.

As it was getting close to 5:00 p.m., I introduced myself, changed into clothes that could be burned without any tears from me, and began the removal process. Zach arrived a few minutes later and we crammed and jammed through two mattresses, two box springs, and miscellaneous other stuff. At 4:57, I acknowledged that there was no way in **** or anywhere else that we were going to get this stuff to the dump. The thought was terrifying to me, because, what do you do with a trailer full of bedbug infested furniture?

So I got on the cell and called into the labyrinth of phone tag that is the county recycling center's phone system. On the third call, I got a live human, the supervisor of the solid waste facility who said that yes, he understood the situation, and yes, he would wait for us and keep the back gate open. So we hustled and he watched for us. Now, I ask you, what are the chances of government personnel answering the phone after 5:00 p.m.??? God nudged him to pick up that phone and moved his heart to help us out. I'm sure of it.

When I had a moment alone with the homeowners, I explained to them that in my natural self, I wouldn't have helped them, but as a follower of Jesus, I thought that helping them would be an "in His steps" kind of thing to do. They both smiled broadly and basically praised the Lord right there in their living room.

They also *tipped* more than $75 and promised that each of them would say an extra prayer for me. I can always use an extra prayer, even if it comes by way of a rosary, I think.

I have tons more great stories, but that's probably the best in a while. Evan comes home from camp tomorrow. I really miss him already!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Best of Toby from Today

After Toby was up for a little while this morning and I was getting ready to go to the dump (we haul our own trash), Toby wandered through the kitchen and into the laundry room. The following is our exchange as close to word-for-word as I can get it. Remember that Toby turned 3 last March.

Toby: Mom, do we have an old house?

Tara: Yes, Toby, we have an old house.

Me: Toby, our house is very old.

Toby: Well, we should get a new house!

Me: Why do you think we need a new house?

Toby: Well, this one has a crack in it. [at this point he gestures towards a tear in the drywall or joint tape or whatever. This rip has recently developed, for sure within the last two weeks.]

Me: That's a good point, buddy. But we don't need a new house; we just need to put up some baseboard in the kitchen.

Toby: Baseboard?

So I bought a few pieces of baseboard or casing as Menards calls it and I'm going to try to stain it and tack it on soon.

I closed another important deal today with a client from Lake City. More road trips!

Finally, when we were almost home tonight, Toby made another comment to the effect of, "After Grandpa dies, we get to inherit his stuff!" Yes, he really used the word inherit and then went on to describe how he was going to "wrench things" with Grandpa's wrenches.

So we had another opportunity to remind Toby that it's better to have Grandpa with us than Grandpa's stuff with us.

Speaking of Grandpa, he went to his doctor today because a lump of something has been sloshing around in his upper left arm. Turns out that the muscle separated -- the sinew or whatever holds things together properly either snapped or lost its hold on the bone. So half of his bicep is just sitting there, doing nothing and connected to nothing. On the positive side, it isn't anything disastrous (we thought maybe something was eating the muscle). On the negative, it minimizes his strength in that arm. But he can still carry Avery, though I noticed he had the bulk of her weight on his right side, not his left.

It is difficult to watch your parents fall apart. I suppose it's even harder to watch yourself fall apart. Blasted fallenness.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Now to the Nursery

Tara says my readership would like to know that I had a new experience today. After growing up in church, committing myself to Christ around age 18, and being involved with BCC for almost 13 years, I think today was the first time I worked in the nursery.

It's not that I haven't had opportunities before. I just always found effective ways to weasel out of them. For example, either I needed to go to service myself or I was teaching adult classes or my stomach wasn't doing well or...

Since Tara was subbing for someone else, and since she had nursery last week, I though it might be good if she went to the service where she could join in the musical worship and get some preaching of the Word. So I went to the nursery.

I decided to be with Avery's group, the just-walking-but-not-really-talking folks. There were 11 one and two-year-olds and three adults. For the most part, it was pretty easy, except when one of the toddlers would remember that his/her cruel parents had left him/her in the nursery and then the wailing would begin. One little lady named Harley periodically retreated to the doorway again and again as if Mom might be waiting on the other side. So I picked her up and read her some stories and tried to keep her occupied. Everyone else did the same. Avery did fine except when she realized that this other little girl was sitting on my lap instead of her.

Oh, and it's dangerous to go down on the floor in a roomful of toddlers. I got down there once and I think three of them were sitting on me at the same time.

I've decided that everyone who preaches should do a minimum of three weeks in the nursery prior to preaching. Thus the preacher would be sensitive to what the nursery is like if he should happen to go long. It isn't that he shouldn't go long if the Spirit directs him to; it's just that he'd be aware of what the last 10-15 minutes before pick-up look like. I know I never was.


I painted a door and a trailer bed today amongst all the usual activities. I was very energetic.

Friday, July 18, 2008

It Just Ain't Fair -- or Is It?

So I went to Greg's office a few days ago to write an offer on this $35,000 property in said neighboring small town. Honestly, I was pretty excited about the opportunity. This place represented the best of both worlds: nothing desperately wrong with it, and an ideal opportunity to completely redo the interior.

As soon as we sat down in the little office, Greg said, "It's sold."
So that ended our quest to buy this particular little property.

Toby and I took a road trip to Lake City yesterday. We have a client who owns a home up there (two blocks off the river - gorgeous!) and wanted us to do some estimating. Lake City is a long drive from here, but fortunately a fairly pretty one at the same time. The people of Lake City are also proud that their town is the birthplace of waterskiing, which yes, is spelled with two i's.

While in Lake City, I learned that we were going to have a showing at 5:30, so we high-tailed it across the open country and headed for home. Thursday night is Tara's "night off" -- she goes to town and meets some other women for Bible study, then goes out to Applebee's with her friend Melanie for appetizers after 9:00 or however that works. I, of course, take the children.

We went to the fair last night. The kids and I all love the exotic animal displays, including animals you can pet. Particular favorites of mine include the Patagonian Cavy and the miniature donkey. The miniature donkey reminds one a lot of Donkey from Shrek but it a little shorter and a little fatter. Also, it doesn't talk as much, but its coat is extremely soft and pettable.

Evan made me laugh by the firm way he manages his younger brothers. He insisted that they not spend any unnecessary money and also made them wash their hands with anti-bacterial soap after they had gone through the petting zoo of exotic animals.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Fine Toothed Comb

After a very warm morning running around like crazy people to get ready for Flea/Farmer's Market (Evan's idea), and sitting at the Farmer's Market roasting my *** (still Evan's idea), I had profitted exactly one dollar. Clearly it was time to be... anywhere else! So we came home and did a few things while the excitement was mounting for our afternoon's activities. It was time for the inspection with the fine-toothed comb.

During the two o'clock hour we dumped our kids, picked up Greg, and headed for the peaceful town of [oh, yeah, can't say the name in my blog]. We had the ladder, the tape measure, the flashlight, and the notebook. We checked out everything imaginable... the roof, the structure, the heating and cooling, the laundry hook-ups, you name it. And yes, there were some issues, but not anything insurmountable. At the end of almost two hours, Tara and I were in complete agreement that this would make a fine stopping off place for a family for the next couple of years.

Tomorrow morning I will be sitting down with Greg to finalize the details of our offer. I would love to go non-contingent, but I'm afraid that might be a foolish idea, so we're going to ante up a few hundred bucks and send our plan to the bank.

By the way, Tuesday nights (5-8) are kids' nights at Fazoli's. Our whole family ate for $12.78. Seriously. And nobody was hoping for more.

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Special Sunday

Our long-time friends, Russ and LaVonne, invited us out to their farm for dinner yesterday. I have known them for almost as long as I have been in this area, since we go to the same church. They are sort of our "senior saints", the ones who have been setting the example for us forever just by the way they live and the gracious things they say.

Well, of course the dinner was delicious, between the fresh vegetables and the farm cooking. Our kids were very well behaved and got to have lots of new experiences, including, but not limited to, a tour of a dairy/cheese-making building and a chance to climb around on huge round bales of hay stacked in one of the machine sheds.

About mid-afternoon, it was time to head up the road to Jay and Kim's, son-in-law and daughter of the aforementioned couple. As if the hospitality hadn't been gracious enough already, Jay and Kim let us ride horses, took the boys for a ride on the 4-wheeler, and then grilled out for dinner. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, the scenery breath-taking, and you could just about feel the smile of Father in the glory of the surroundings and the love of His children.

We have now been inside of the $35,000 house that I mentioned last time around. It wasn't in great condition, but it wasn't as bad as we expected, either. This has been a very lively topic of discussion around our house for the last few days. We think it would be fun to see what life would be like without a mortgage payment. Also it would give me an opportunity to redo and interior from front door to back with a clear plan in mind. A color scheme, if you will, and a way of looking at things cohesively.

Many thanks to my dear friend Everett for bringing me Alan Jacobs' The Narnian as a birthday gift. I have been reading faithfully and learning a great deal more about the man who has become C.S. Lewis to the world.