James B ball

James B ball

Monday, November 17, 2014

Not All Days are Norman Rockwell

There were really hard moments last week. We had talked about, in my Nehemiah Bible Study, the gift of difficulty to gain both perspective and gratitude. Sometimes I wish there were an easier way to re set the outlook!

I had totally messed up my practice drop off times. Wrong child to wrong gym and then back across town for the next, forgetting to plug the croc pot IN and being totally out of bread or any usable starch for a back up plan! The worst part, was snapping the head off the WRONG child. One just happened to be in the laundry path (trying to clean up a bedding accident moments before a sleepy one needed to hit slumber). Others had been uncharacteristically sassy or rude in the midst of the chaos but this one was just simply THERE. Oh the regret in the moment. And then trying to be calm and let the day go in order to rectify the night.

I managed to check in with many of the kids before bed, but not all. There was not a happy ending or a bow tied neatly around the day but we got through it. Kids all ended up at the correct practice. Sheff worked late and finished what he needed to accomplish even if it was late and he has a bandaged hand to show for it. Wonderful Roseville families helped drive athletes home, and others ate scrambled eggs and canned pineapple for dinner.

There will be days like this my mama said, so true. And the perspective often comes the NEXT day or even later on. Gratitude came the following dinner time when I took the croc pot out of the fridge and plugged IN my stew. I let my self off the hook, apologized for being late to some and for being crabby to others, and we let the day go!

Nate put together a group of magnets for a Instagram post. Mark had asked why I don't put buttons on my coat like some moms do! Nate demonstrated why it would be tricky, too many! Lots of places to go and activities to support, 9 out 10 times we pull it off but there are THOSE days we don't manage "to plug in"

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day~ What to Do & How to Talk to Kids!

Today as we celebrate Veterans day, I wanted to talk to the kids about both what it means to serve and how we can help our troops. Having family serve in the military can be a source of fear and pride. The kids do not have immediate family abroad but have heard from their Grandfathers and family friends about both war and leadership serving in the armed forces. We made a list of what WE could do from home.

~The kids' school has a program to send care packages to the troops. Shop, Ship and Share has lists of helpful things to buy and send to the troops. We got beef jerky, sunflower seeds and baby wipes for the kids to bring in to school for the program. Many locations participate, google to find locally! http://www.minnesotanationalguard.org/press_room/e-zine/articles/index.php?item=4518

~ http://www.operationgratitude.com
Check out for more ideas and programs happening to support our troops.

~Sending Halloween Candy to the troops, google the closest locations. We found a local Hospital that has a program. It was a great way for kids to share their candy and know it is going to a good cause. Handy to have 8 buckets for sharing too;)

Another good list that also has items that the troops could use.

~ Lastly a great video for how to talk to kids about Veterans day!

What did I miss? How has your family marked Veterans day or thought of our troops?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Happy Birthday Marky!

As a kid my favorite number was always 9! The year we went to Ireland, the year I could go explore on my bike by myself and the year I started reading TinTin books! Our baby boy, the youngest of the 5 boys, is 9! What a charming, creative and athletic guy he is. Born on election day in 2005 he seems ready to tackle life with joy.
Marky 1 year photo in hand me down Nike's &
that following summer at 1 1/2.
The MnM brothers, Nate 3, Mark 2, Mickey 4

Always found a mess to make
Baby blues turned green with age!

Fell in love with football, practicing for hours in the yard with his Dad and brothers
Our reader, have to sneak in to turn off the light, he falls asleep with books on his head nightly.


Saturday, October 25, 2014

Community, Encouragement and Change

Hebrews 10:24-25 “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but let us encourage one another"

I love the idea of community being a place we can "stir up the good works" of one another. It is very difficult to maintain and foster many individual relationships, and leaving a community can also be painful. Learning how to celebrate the times in one place, such as Elementary school, and moving to another give us a chance to talk about respecting memories while embracing new opportunities.

As our children move into their own interests we are finding the need to have time as a family key for a strong community at home. Our kids have taken over the use of my phone, and Istragram account. I worry about allowing them into these electronic "communities" knowing full well to be in relationship with another person or group can't truly be electronic. Facebook can give way to envy rather than happiness for others times of connection. My hope is to create a foundation that allows the kids to use this online media for fun but turn to their living community when in need of guidance, support or celebration.

Being an only child, moving quite a lot and being in very different communities then and as an adult buying fixer uppers to re sell as our small family grew at add a fuzzy pill to water speed, craving solid community has been a thread through my life.

At one point I'd helped get a women's group started in Saint Paul when James started kindergarden at a lovely little school. The women were a really interesting group and I greatly enjoyed them. When we moved I struggled with how to stay in contact, how to stay in community until one of them wrote me a note I still remember. She thanked me for the time of connection and shared that she had moved and knew the reality of young children (this was the 6 under 6 time), she went on to say you will organically find new community, you need support, be open to it and don't worry about maintaining every connection. Oh but how hard! To see a posted photograph and feel left out even though I had in fact declined the holiday party invitation! As we have transitioned yet again I am reminded of the truth in her words. 

Community is sacred and needed, but must also be allowed to change with out resentment.

A positive result in this evolution is when threads are interwoven. Our children seeing nursery school friends at a basketball tournament, having my own childhood friend from Italy find me on Facebook , kids meeting up with neighbors as new 7th graders together, Sheff hiring an old neighbors cousin, a so appreciated birthday invitation from an old classmate, making lifelong friends that weather the changes with humor and perspective. These experiences give breadth to the concept of community. 

Change and being part of different communities has also given unexpected gifts. The gift of having the pleasure to meet a vast array of faces, to have valued friends from different stages of our life and locations. The kids accepting and appreciating really different people, places and faiths. And most of all the gift of bonded siblings, finding friendship and encouragement  from each other. I wouldn't say when they stir the pot its always uplifting! But 83% of the time there is a community of support right where we are.

In our family history people would move communities by train and maintain friendships  by post! My mother is working on transcribing letters from when my Grandmother's family lived in China and wrote letters to friends in the States. Amazing to study communities of origin and how they inform the places future generations explore.
Where will these 8 riders find meaning and community? As long as they stay connected we will ride wherever they go.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Unplugged in the North Woods Thank You Camp du Nord!

Over MEA we unplugged! We left our I pads, our computers, we logged out and headed up north. We have attended Camp du Nord summer family camps before, but this was our first time at an Autumn camp. We stayed in Danes, a wonderful old cabin right on the lake.

On our way to Ely we stopped to see the Train park in Sudan

We ate meals with other families in a Lodge, had nightly fires and each read at least two books. As a family we hiked, played soccer, did a Finnish sauna and carved sticks.

Our great Cabin, hours of cozy reading!

The view from our cabin

James and John chopped enough wood for the winter and Mickey forgot to wear cool socks the whole time. Nate wrote a "North Woods Journal" by Nathaniel T Otis (has a nice literary ring to it doesn't it?) and Mark learned how to skip rocks almost as far as Dad. Mark also had the coolest top bunk bed on chains by the fire.
The best bed
Jr making one of many, many fires
Beautiful lakefront at Camp du Nord in Ely, MN
Family Camp activity, Carving pumpkins!
I brought the seeds home to make a fav snack, roasted seeds with garlic
Daisy and Lucy played in the woods, chasing away any wild life with princess musical scores. Sheff and I had a chance to hike alone and talk about goals for the year, and simply enjoy each others company. The kids all had age group from 9:30 to noon on Friday and Saturday, all 8 made connections with staff and other campers.
James found a sport in the wilderness, tetherball!
He was reigning champion but a great challenger from Edina;)
Mark hitting the water after Finnish Sauna

Our family time was precious. I wish I could save it in a ornament to hang on our tree. We were mindful of the wilderness and connected ten strong.
Sweet girlies and mama


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

What Can I Actually DO at this Phase

I have had the pleasure of attending two philanthropic events this week, and each has brought into focus the desire for change and taking action. The difficulty is how one goes about doing that in different phases of life.

We as a couple can not offer the necessary financial contribution, nor can we dedicate enough time to make the impact we would like at this time of raising children from 3 to 14 years old. I am very aware that I have two years until my youngest starts primary school, this will impact my ability and desire to work. I am in the process of discerning school, graduate program acceptance and transcript request forms are stacked under sports schedules and field trip information sheets. And I am thinking about meaningful work. I am not in a unique place, many, many mothers find themselves at crossroads when their youngest move towards the big yellow bus.
Lucy's portrait of her family, she told her teacher she wanted to use
extra people and more skin colors to be"more beautiful" 
On monday Sheff and I attended a gathering to learn more about Ploughshares, an organization committed to promoting peace by eliminating nuclear weapons http://www.ploughshares.org. We both left with a much better rudimentary understanding of the strife in the Middle East. Those who spoke to the issues motivated us to come home and pull out a map with the kids. We would like to start family dialogue about promoting non partisan peace, about war and global conflict. How can these issues be relevant around our immediate dinner table? We actually talked about the Middle East in terms of football, but teams and sports anger are not a bad way to talk and relate to global issues with pre teen boys!

Today I attended the Women's Foundation of Minnesota http://www.wfmn.org, and learned very scary data about the abuse of populations of girls right here in our backyard. It was a sobering lunch supporting essential work. Learning how to keep our young people safe and make changes in how at risk youth can be targeted to be exploited. Again, what can I DO right now in the busy pace of life? I can read, I can attend events to further my own knowledge and I can engage in community dialogue.

Last week I sat down with a great group of women to write thank you cards to Young Life leaders, college kids volunteering their time to spend time with our local youth. I know many who serve on school boards, are sports commissioners or take a day a month to help at a shelter or church sponsored relief project. Sheff and I look forward to the day we can give back to local athletics and education, we give what we can yearly to our Library and around the clock coaching is a huge commitment for Sheff and a joy. Giving back takes time and constancy but is vital. Different phases of life will give way to different opportunity, and that can be exciting rather than overwhelming.

As I think about the next chapter in my life my children and husband will come first, that is a priority for me personally. Faith will impact how and what I do, social justice is a passion for me. As time becomes available even in small doses I hope I can make the most of it. Be it school, more volunteer work or a part time career.

I do know that I want to continue to learn about organizations working to make our community, both local and global, a safer and more rewarding place to be for the next generation who will someday be sitting at the cross roads of what to DO next.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Anniversary Gratitude

Anniversaries have come and gone for us without enough pause. We have both been great about cards, and small meaningful things. Some long walks and a few of the last 13 years married, 14 years together, we have made it out of the house but this year was a concerted effort. We made it away, all 8 children were intact upon return. I had posted ideas about restaurants and Sheff wanted me to wait to talk about being gone until we were actually safely home. He is very nonplussed by social media and uses it sparingly and carefully. I can't say I always share his perspective, but in this case I agreed.

 Our hidden little both at The Melting Pot, they took our photo and poured champagne.

We ended up trying The Melting Pot, fondue restaurant. Really fun sweet date night idea. We usually go for as spicy as possible, Japanese or Thai food. This was a good out of our element place to try and  fun to be able to talk about our parents fondue parties of the 1070s, we were musing that the way everyone seems to be getting Kuerig machines now, then the hot ticket then was a fondue set.

Walking Minneapolis and the river, our favorite part of our time away!
The best part of our date was deciding after our early romantic dinner to lace up our running shoes and hike around the city, Nicolett Mall, down by the Stone Arch Bridge and along the river front near Mill City. We enjoyed talking, people watching and getting a workout so much we did the same thing this morning after breakfast. We logged well over 6 miles each time out, and think maybe for our next leaving the kids we will ask for advice on good little cabins with hiking trails nearby.

We are very grateful for the village it took to make this possible, and for all the times in the last 13 years we have gotten out for meals, kids have had sleepovers or even post baby meals, we feel so very grateful. We admire couples who make their alone time a priority and talked about ways to make this a regular yearly tradition.

We talked about the best times, the hardest times and what we want the future times to be in our marriage. This time away was a perfect time to reset, reflect and simply enjoy each other's company.