Friday, May 30, 2008

It's Been a While

Hello, internets. Sorry I haven't blogged in a while. I had to finish up a school year and get summer business up and running.

The school year ended well except for some over-efficient foolishness. I had been trying to correct tests wherever I was. Apparently I dropped five of them at Assembly of God while were going through graduation rehearsal. I spent hours searching for them (they were after all, final exams) but someone finally brought them back to the school and gave them to Keith. I felt much better after they were back in hand.

The house deals continue to drag along. Not being a patient person, I feel that everything moves too slowly. We have been looking at houses with Greg, and yesterday the last house on tour would have been absolutely lovely for us. It is also reasonably priced: 3+ bedrooms, large yard and house in immaculate condition. Tara loved it. I loved it. The children would have been fine with it.

And there's about a 3 percent chance that we'll be able to get it.


Well, our house isn't actually sold yet, and when we do receive the offer from J & E, it will be an offer contingent on the sale of their home.

That means any offer we make would have to be contingent also, and since that house is practically perfect in every way, it will no doubt draw lots of non-contingent offers.

In other words, the only way we'd get it is if God wants us to.

I don't know if I've said this yet, but I'm intending to read all the Psalms this summer in order. Then I will know that I've finally read the entire book of Psalms. I like psalms because they seem to be a very human part of Scripture -- all kinds of emotions are conveyed within.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Guinea Hens Surrender Young to Omnivore

Sunny Sunday. What a beautiful way to begin the week. And it really is beginning the week. As we become more and more secularized, it seems that Monday is seen as the beginning of a week, but the NT calls this day "the first day of the week," and it seems fitting. "With the Lord begin thy task, Jesus will direct it," declared the hymnwriter many years ago. It truly sets the tone for the days ahead.

I have been saving two guinea hen eggs among the farm fresh chicken eggs. Guinea hens lay in unusual places and it was a rare treat to find two of them in the same general area within a day of each other. Tonight I convinced Tara to scramble them for me and let me try guinea hen ovum myself. Tara reported that the shells were much thicker than the average chicken egg. My tongue reported that perhaps they were a little greasier than the average chicken egg. And no one needed to report that I was passing some of the most foul gases known to man in the hours following dinner. Mustard gas had nothing on these birds.

Tomorrow we start the last week of the 2007-2008 school year. It is a perfect time to release school... before it's hotter than **** and before the attitudes become sour and unpleasant. Pretty soon I'll be telling you that it's all over except the shouting.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Adventure Day

The day dawned bright, clear, and glorious on our farm. I rolled out of bed about 6:30 a.m. and tried to think of the most unpleasant project I could possibly tackle. And I found it.

One of the less attractive features of our farmlet was a small stand of burning barrels centrally located between the house, driveway, grainery, and barns. It is actually right in the middle of the west lawn. I have thought for a long time that they needed to be removed, and so today I did it.

You need to understand that these are not small bins or even the size of garbage cans. These are 55-gallon drums, rusting and full-to-the-brim with ash. Hundreds of pounds of trash ash, probably. Those of you that know me know that I stand about 6 feet tall but weigh only about 150 on a good day... not enough personal mass to heft these barrels around. So I am reduced to shoveling the ash into more manageable containers until there's only about 100 pounds left in the barrel. Then I'm able to drag the remains onto the trailer and drive it out to the burning pile in the southwestern corner of the property. So this I did from about 7:30 to 10:00 this morning.

And Toby helped me.

As you know, Toby is three, which makes him an amazing mixture of insightful, innocent, and idiotic. And Toby is also completely immersed in the stage where he asks "why" about EVERYTHING.

Toby: Dad, why are ya loading that stuff on the twailer?

Me: Well, Toby, these rusty barrels of ash don't look very nice on the yard, so we're going to move them to the burning pile in back.

Toby: Why d'you wanna move them to the burning pile in the back?

Me: The burning pile already has lots of ash. These barrels will fit right in there.

Toby: Why will the barrels fit in there?

Though arguably Toby and I are the easiest personality mix of me and any of my children, after an hour and a half of this I am ready to help him become one with the ash in the barrels.

About this time Tara comes home from garage saling in two of the small towns near us, and she bears the exciting news that she has found two riding mowers for sale. She sends me ("Get in your car now and...") to check out the mowers with the full intention of having me buy one. So I oblige her. It is a green and yellow Yard Man 15-horse rider with a bagging attachment. Sadly enough it is from the estate sale of one Mike M. who was only in his 50's. If he did not know the Lord, it is his own fault, since he lived a block from a Baptist church with biblical messages on the outside of the building.

His colors were horrible (orange kitchen, green bedroom, blue (I think) living room) but the quality of the painting was good. Sort of like a great vocalist singing a horrible song.

I could tell you more, but my arms hurt a lot from all the shoveling and other physical labor we've done today.

By the way, it looks like the house might sell. Our friends Jay and Emily want to move to the country and this suits them. They visited today and we tried to "unsell" it to them... make sure that they aren't just infatuated with a house. But no, I think they like it.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Worked for Me Wednesday

Apparently women who blog have a thing called "Works for me Wednesday" in which they share practical ideas of how they manage to survive the challenges of homemaking with less stress and effort. So today I will share with you serendipitous Wednesday

Wednesdays are usually a hard-working day at school for me, but this one wasn't. First, the 8th graders were going to be off campus for a highway clean-up project in the afternoon. I was passed over on supervision duty because I still had 5th grade to teach in the afternoon. Later, I was informed that the 5th graders would be receiving their first annual talk entitled "Growing up as a Sexual Being" (subtitle: No, You Don't Have Cancer nor Have You Regressed to Wetting the Bed). Okay, I confess, I made up both titles, but they're catchy, aren't they? This exciting talk was scheduled during my normal class hour with them.

Still later, I learned that the 9th graders would be leaving early for the annual high school Chanhassen Event (the kids in formal wear have a first-rate meal and then see a show together at the Chanhassen Dinner Theater).

So that emptied my afternoon of classes. Thus I humbly went to Keith, our headmaster, and asked if I could take personal time for the rest of the day. It was after all, 65 and sunny. And he said, "Go for it!" or something more headmasterly to the same effect.

So I headed over to a client's house at 1:15 and started staining her deck in the gorgeous spring weather. Zach was there by 3:30 and also got busy on the spindles. It's going to be GGRRRRREAT! Worked for me!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Staring Year's End in the Face

We are just a few days from the end of the school year, about eight, I think. Right now there are four eighth grade girls in my room trying to figure out their book project over "The Screwtape Letters". It is amazing how many words per minute an 8th grade girl can say -- easily over 200, I'd guess. JFK was our fastest speaking president, according to historians. In one speech he topped 240 words per minute. I wonder how that would compare to Obama's 3-5 word mantras. But I digress.

Progress on the farm is coming along beautifully. Toby and I are scraping and painting the chicken house as we have time. Evan and Aidan are learning to clean up the yard at the end of the day, and Avery has learned to sleep through the night. Tara is also going to Curves 12 times or more per month because our insurance will pay most of her Curves fees if she does.

As for me, I'm just trying to provide godly leadership in many arenas of life while finishing out the school year's responsibility.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Meet the Realtors

So we had a meeting with our realtors yesterday, since we have had exactly four showings since April 2, and since all of those came within the first ten days on the market. On the positive side we have lost almost all motivation to keep the house show-ready!

Because the meeting was scheduled for after school, and because we do not want to have to drive one furlong further than we need to, Evan attended the meeting with me. Now most seven-year-olds, I suspect, would rather play a game or read a book while attending an adult business strategy meeting. Not Evan. He paid attention through most of the hour-plus discussion and even contributed his insights as appropriate (and sometimes as more than appropriate). Yes, some of his "insights" were obvious to adults and thus not very insightful, but some of them were very much like adult musings on relevant topics. Once he said something like, "So we need to convince them (the buyer) that our house is really, you know, quiet and peaceful and country, but it's still really close to the city."

Yes, Evan. That is the paradox that we are trying to market.

Because I am a glutton for stress, I supported my wife who said that she and Melanie are having a garage sale at our house on Saturday. So last night, we reconfigured the concrete block barn to conceal that which we shall keep and to reveal that which we shall sell. About 9:35 p.m. I realized that I still need to get the white van running adequately to get to school because the white van is the only van that can tow the trailer, which is the only way I can transport a riding mower to a client's house who happens to want mowing today. When I tried to start the riding mower, the battery groaned and the engine coughed. So I had to connect the riding mower to the white van's battery via jumper cables, and finally got the old beast started. After much jangle and wrangle, the mowers were on the trailer and there was enough water in the cooling system of the van to make it to town. So God saved my sorry tail yet again.

I will let you know if I make it home without mishap. (See, this last sentence builds suspense. Tune in next to find out if...)

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Workin' the Farmlet

What an absolute treat this weekend was... to be able to spend lots of time outdoors and on our farmlet. I call it a farmlet because it reminds me of Shakespeare and because it is so small (4.93 acres) that it really cannot be properly classified as a farm. My farmlet is very old, so it has some real advantages (windbreak pines all grown up) and some real disadvantages (literally everything needs maintenance that has been neglected way too long).

Yesterday I had worship team practice at church in the morning and then a get-together with a friend at Panera. He is excited about almost everything and speaks almost twice as quickly as I do. He is also a very skilled handyman/general contractor and is willing to help me put a wood-burning stove in the old farmhouse. So I said "thank You, God" and told Jay that if we still have the house in late summer we'll do it. We'll need to. I think I would put the wood stove in the parlor so that it not only radiates the heat to the main floor, but also up the stairs to the bedrooms.

After getting home, I was treated with a warm enough afternoon to work outside. Grandpa came out around 1:30 and worked on the tractor with me for a little while. We were trying to get the headlights going. After a little while, it became clear that we were going to need a new fuse and headlight, so we tabled that project until we can get some parts for the Case/International Harvester dealer.

After Grandpa went home, the boys and I cut down a number of saplings growing in unfortunate places. One of the saplings was surrounded by medium-sized rocks (5-35 pounders), so we decided to move those to a more secured location. Actually, Tara wanted a rock garden around the big rock by the deck, so we hitched up the trailer and hauled a nice load of rocks to the side of the deck. Everyone except Avery helped.

Tara would like me to say that she is making a curtain for Avery's room just like the pioneer women did (probably the pioneer women who lived in this house!). She is taking a sheet she bought at Salvation Army and turning it into real curtains. I do not think the pioneer women bought things at Salvation Army.

Evan likes to walk with me around the perimeter of the farm and talk about all kinds of stuff. This is fun for both of us. Talking to Evan is like talking to a child and an adult all at once. It's great to have your kids as some of your best friends. Disclaimer: That doesn't mean in the slightest that I believe you are supposed to try to be your kids' friends in the sense of not exercising authority. I believe in authority and I exercise it regularly. I believe in obedience-on-demand and I insist on it regularly. And I do it all for the glory of God and the joy of the people involved. The best part is that Evan would agree with me and probably defend the idea even more rabidly than I do.

We planted the first two rows of our garden today. We now have peas growing out there as well as cucumbers. Even though it is a small garden, it will be a great experience for the kids to see produce growing on our very own land. There are some experiences you just have to have for yourself.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Still Cloudy

It's Friday night and I'm finally at home. There are only about 12 teaching days left in the school year for our fine institution. The end of the year rapidly approaches, and we are finding that it's barely enough time to get everything done.

It's almost time to fire up Friendly Jim's for the season. That is the name of my painting and outdoor services business. If you need painting, mowing, tree trimming, shrub trimming, gutters cleaned, and six or seven other services, I urge you to contact me soon. I have lots of guys this year, and we could definitely use the work.

My meeting with our realtors got cancelled today, so I am still in limbo as to what would be the best thing to do with our home and the sale or not sale of it. Apparently they had a family emergency of some kind.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Turn up the Heat!

Man, it is still cold, even for spring in Minnesota. I am really longing for the blue skies and warm weather again. Will it ever be 75 and sunny? The answer is no, it will not. It will go from 55 to 90 in one week. Mark my words.

I have a meeting with our realtor tomorrow in which I hope to turn up the heat on the sale of our house. Everything is very quiet in our direction, as in there hasn't been a showing in two weeks. This is very disconcerting.

Finally, I need to turn up the heat on a few efforts I'm making in my life. Things suddenly got busy again, including tests to write and people to contact for business. But I shouldn't complain at all. I've felt good and am able to get a lot acccomplished most days.