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This Friday, not for the first time, I heard my wife say those dreaded words:  “We started using cloth diapers on the baby today.”

I just barely managed to stifle my screams.

This weekend we drove to Beautiful Grand Marais, MN for a wedding (More on that later) and two interesting things happened with our Van.

1. The Heater failed. Yikes. We tried to fix it. No luck. So we pressed on with out. We could be bundled up (the kids actually never complained about being cold) but the windows were a different issue.  On the last 50 miles I was continually scraping ice off about 20 square inches of the inside of the windshield so I could continue staying on the road – which is key.  Did I mention it was seven below zero?

2. On the way to the reception we got to the top of the lodge driveway hill we had to stop for cars to go by and I couldn’t get going again.  In backing up to get a better start,  I ended up in the snow drift  (remember visibility was an issue). 

After a half an hour and help from the lodge maintenance guy, we finally got it out, but then he drove it into the other side of the driveway.  So he got his truck and . . . will towing from the front work? Nope! 

So will towing from the back work? Nope. Okay shovel more snow out of the way (with help from my wife and his girlfriend – I was impressed). Okay try it now.  Yep. We were out!

But then the chain was stuck under the back of our van. 10 minutes getting that out and kids back in the van and . . .  Only 2 hours late to the reception.

But they had had trouble with heating the food (a fuse went out while everyone was at the wedding) so we didn’t miss the meal at all.  And then -

All the Swedish Meatballs our family could eat – which is a lot.

So the night ended well.

Yesterday (Saturday) I made it my goal (with some help from my kids) to (A) find every toy in the house, (B) get them sorted and organized, and (C) get them put away.

Step A included (1) going through every room in the house with a box or bag, collecting everything that could be considered kid related (including lots of scraps of paper), (2) moving every significant piece of furniture to get what was under/behind them (I just counted – I moved 6), (3) getting the kids to go on search-and-pick-up missions under each of our three bunk beds, (4) moving all of this up to two card tables set up in our living room.

Step B (the kids helped me quite a bit with this one) included one by one emptying these bags and boxes (15) onto the table and meticulously sorting into these categories:

Books
Legos
Coins
Blocks
Garbage
Bionicles
Tinkertoys
Game Pieces
Lincoln Logs
Toy Weaponry
Cars and Trucks
Toy Kitchen Items
Trains/ Train Tracks
Arts and Craft Supplies
Things that aren’t toys and shouldn’t have been in their rooms.

. . . And these are just the main ones.

Last night at about 5:30 we were in the worse-before-it-gets-better phase and our living room looked ridiculously messy.

Step C included getting these in crates and (here is where it turns dark) put most of these sets in the garage. My wife had decided that our kids need a little toy simplicity in their lives to help them learn how to clean up after themselves.

So the only thing left in the toy closet is Legos. Yikes. Cold Turkey with the toys. We’ll let you know how it works out.

(yes, a day late)

So I was just finishing up a project of unclogging the drain for a sink in the bathroom off our bedroom (a job successfully done that didn’t take too long) and I suddenly became aware that my wife and oldest (7) daughter were screaming. Like something was seriously wrong in an emergency type way. It sounded like my wife was yelling ‘Stop!”

 

I made my way around to them quickly and found her sitting on the floor in front of the other bathroom sink and she was yelling to the kids to bring her towels (“All that you can find!”) and saw that water was flooding from the sink cabinet. Hot water. She later said it was like a waterfall.

 

I ran downstairs (noting the water now pouring into the downstairs bathroom from upstairs) and turned off the main water.

 

We spent some time with lots of towels cleaning up and when the floor in four rooms were reasonably dry I went to look in the cabinet of the excitement-creating sink. And I quickly saw the problem: A one inch gash in the flexible tube coming from the basement water heater to this sink. It must have burst open.

 

I happened to have a replacement part, so I replaced it fairly easily. We are still drying towels. It looks like (to the best that we can figure out) it was just a coincidence that I was working on plumbing on the closest sink when this happened. But my wife had been yelling “Stop!” because she thought it was a result of something I was doing.

 

We are grateful that our daughter Anna spotted the problem and urged (with great urgency) my wife to go look.

 

And speaking of kids, have I mentioned that Foster (our newest) is really cute and getting cuter?

 

Oh well, how about a picture?

Sedate

It’s Snowing!!

You heard it here third!

There is a blogger known as Original Cyberpunk (or Bruce, take your pick), who runs a blog called the Ranting Room, which he describes a “Practical discussions of the craft, trade, and business of writing – No politics. No gossip. No cute cat stories.”

Every week he puts out a Friday Challenge which is a story writing contest where he judges and comments on the entries – and the winner gets a small prize from his book store.

Last Friday afternoon I sent him an email with a suggestion. Three hours and six minutes later he posted my email in nearly it’s entirety, agreeing with the suggestion. The upshot is this – The next Friday challenge (due this coming Thursday) is to write a short story in one of the Vox Day worlds.

It is my goal to post my entry tomorrow. If you think you’re up to the task – take a shot.

Sunday afternoon, our family went to a park gathering of several families at our church.

3 Notable things:

1. There was a couple very new to our group there and I asked them how they met. As it turned out they met commenting on each others blog.  She lived in California and he here in Minnesota. There are some who advise against one-line dating, but they went about it wisely (her father was significantly involved) and God has blessed them.

2.  There’s a guy in our group (a professional musician) who noted that he had never had the experience of sliding into home. They made him do it.

 

 

 

3. This picnic ended at 5:00.  Our small group meeting was to start at 6:00 very near where the first picnic was. Driving home would be a waste of time.  So we picked up some Subway, found a new park with a lake and playground and went on another picnic.

For the second year in a row, I took all of the kids away for a day trip so that Debbie could spend some time alone, planning out Home Schooling and otherwise getting organized.

 

I took the kids out on a geocache run. Our goal: to find the Official Historic Geocache at three different state parks.

 

Notable:

- (Marriage Advice) I recommend helping out your wife in this way.

- (Results) We made our goal.

- (State Park Advice) I have been meaning to write a post about the best State Parks in Minnesota but here is a tip: Think Eastern Border. There are 17 State Parks on the Easter edge of Minnesota and 16 of them are either on Lake Superior, The Mississippi River, or The St. Croix River. These are all great.

 

 - (main story) When we were looking at the last of the three geocaches, the GPS was pointing us across a large prairie. We found a trail that was pointing in the right way and headed down it. It was bringing us right there – only 1000 feet away.

 

But soon we were discovering that it wasn’t a prairie so much as a wetland. We found that we had to choose our steps carefully to not get our feet muddy. And then we had to choose our steps carefully to not get our feet wet. And a few times I had to carry our kids.

 

Now, if I had to do it over again, I would have gone a different way (the long way). But when things began to get a little impossible, we had been hiking for twenty minutes and were only about 250 feet away from the cache. This turned out to be the hardest 250 feet I’ve ever hiked.

 

The last 100 feet, I was effectively wading, because I was heavy enough to step through the weeds with every step. Everyone’s feet were soaked. We were swimming through tall weeds (bulrushes, they called them). At one point I sunk down up to my knee and had to put down my daughter and grab at branches to get myself out.

 

But what pleased me was the fact that the kids seemed to be having fun, or at least they were enjoying the challenge. Our youngest cried a bit towards the end (there were some sharp weeds that cut him) but otherwise there were no tears. And they all talked excitedly the whole way back to the car (we took the long way) about what they had just been through and how they wanted to tell their mom.

 

It was almost worth the fact that we’ll probably have to buy a few pairs of shoes and socks and maybe jeans and jackets to replace the ones we wrecked.

 

As we put them to bed, our oldest said “I feel like church was yesterday”. It has indeed been a long day.

One tip that we have discovered for large families is that there is wisdom in getting a year’s family membership for a museum or art gallery. The whole family gets in free for the whole year and it doesn’t matter how big the family is.

This year we got a membership in the Minnesota Historical Society, which gets you into a fairly large number of historical sites and we have learned quite a bit of history this year.  Our membership ends today however, so yesterday we decided to use it one last time.

So we went to the Oliver H Kelley Farm for their yearly wheat threshing demonstration.

When we got there, we just missed the horse drawn carriage ride that they were running all day, so we went directly to watch the threshing machine. It was pretty interesting to watch. It was effectively two machines. The first machine was basically a treadmill for two horses, the second did the actual threshing and they were attached by a fairly large belt that connected the big flywheel on the treadmill to the smaller wheel on the threshing machine. 

We had been watching this machine process wheat for about a minute when three things happened in about fifteen seconds. First, the belt broke and flapped down on the ground. This (secondly) released the horses to run faster, and they did. This (thirdly) destabilized the treadmill machine in some way which caused the heavy four-foot-in-diameter fly wheel to explode.

The parts of this flywheel flew in several pieces and in several directions.  I watched one as it went fairly high and then came down and made a hole in the ground next to the machine.  Later, one of the kid volunteers pick up another piece a hundred feet away. There were many people nearby, so it was a blessing from God that no one was hurt.

But these horses were now running on the treadmill with nothing to stop them. I was impressed with how the workers (dressed up in historical clothes), didn’t panic, but calmly solved the problem. One of them fairly quickly realized (or already knew) they needed to create some kind of brake. So he jammed a large wooden pole into the system to create friction. This, it turned out, wasn’t enough to stop the horses – it wasn’t until three other men had jammed wooden beams into the treadmill that they finally forced the halt.

But had someone been in a slightly different spot when the wheel flew apart, we would have been reading about it in the papers today.

We went to church on Saturday and spent the day yesterday at the Great Minnesota Get-together.

Notable:

Yes, we did this. Twice.

Normally we have no crying or tears at the State Fair. This year Adelyn was stung by a bee at supper.

Ate a turkey leg for the first time. Pretty good. A pretty good deal, too.

Saw this guy. Tried to figure out how it works. He’s tall.  Our kids were interested, scared, bemused and intrigued.  At one point he walked into the Arts and Crafts building, lifted his hands to his mouth and yelled, “Lucy, I’m home!”

Closed down the ice cream shop outside the 4H building for the third year in a row – this year the manager asked us if we wanted the extra french fries and came out with two large baskets.  We thanked him.

One of the favorite parts of the fair was the super extended bus getting home from the fair. Our kids sat in the middle section and enjoyed the accordian like attributes of the vehicle. And it was free!

Time spent at the fair (from getting out of our car to getting back to it): 11.5 hours.

* Yes, I write some of these on Mondays.

This weekend we hosted a backyard party which was a reunion of six couples (and their kids) who met in our college choir (tenors and sopranos).  Our kids had a good time together and we got caught up and talked about past choral triumphs.

Traditional for when we get together is the playing of a game of croquet. And traditional at the beginning of this game is the singing of the National Anthem. If you think that six men who sing well and like to sing, and are skilled at singing parts doesn’t result in a rockin’ great rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, think again.

Our wives, 100 feet away, stopped their conversation and listened. And clapped afterward.

So we have 5 silver maple trees in our yard that were planted (in the 1890’s) to go along the side of a road that used to be where our road is now. This is nice and historic, but there have been (as I’ve mentioned before)  large branches falling from two of them. One of them (in our front yard) had branches only on one side (over our house) and it looked a little strange, so we decided have it taken down.

The guy came to cut it down on Saturday and he did good work and our kids were entertained the whole day watching it come down, but now there is an eleven foot long, nearly four foot high base of the tree sideways on the lawn. He says he could cut it up, but it would be too big for firewood for us.

It actually looks impressive sitting there and our kids want to keep it for climbing. Or we could pay 200$ to have a big machine take it out.

I was thinking that maybe some artist might want to take it and use it for a very large wooden statue.

Any ideas?

So we had a family over today for burgers and the adults were in the living room having ice cream when the kids rushed in yelling that there were bees. I went over to my youngest (Erik – age 5) and he went from agitated to screaming and I found two bees crawling on him.

I swatted them and pulled his shirt off quickly and his screaming got louder. We got out the lotion and I tried to help him. I said “where does it hurt” and he yelled “Everywhere!” 

Then another son came in and was doing his own version of a permanent scream. The bees had been in his shirt and had stung him after he got inside.

We later counted 8 wasp stings on Erik.  They had been back by the bonfire pit and had knocked over a log. A large paper wasp was under it and the log movement aggitated all of them. 7 of the kids were stung (12 stings on our kids).

It took a lot of lotion but they finally all got calmed down. And then they all got ice cream.

Within biking distance of our house is Lake Vadnais, which is a source for St. Paul water, so there is no housing or boating on it. This lake has a park around it and a dirt road running through it. We parked our bikes on this and walked and found a little path from the dirt road towards the lake. We followed this perfect little trail and it brought us to a very thin, but surprisingly long peninsula (you can see it on the east side of the lake on the map. This proved to be a little adventure as I help our small kids get across gaps in the peninsula.

 

The excellent thing about it, is that from much of the lake (since it is lacking homes and other manmade structures) you can almost believe that you are in the North woods.

 

This is one of the reasons we moved to this area of the cities.

Some friends of ours gave us a 1980s pop up trailer, and we only used it once last summer, so this summer we pledged to use it more. This Tuesday, I discovered that the upcoming weekend was the last open weekend in awhile so: We’re going camping!

 

Debbie pointed out that (A) we had too little time to get ready, and (B) Friday was supposed to be in the 90’s and very humid. So we compromised and decided to head up early Saturday.

 

Friday night, while we were trying to get packed up (around 8:00) when a storm hit the Twin Cities. It was windy and we were seeing distant lightning. Suddenly we heard a very low hard rumbling noise that I thought was thunder, but my wife thought was a branch falling. My wife was correct. Out to the back yard and a very large branch* had fallen on our garage. We looked up and saw that the branch had punctured the garage roof in two places and we could see the branch from inside. We were very blessed that it didn’t hit other parts of the house.

 

So we spent some time clearing in the morning and (for that and other reasons) didn’t get to our destination (St. Croix State Park) until the afternoon (80 miles north – just east of Hinckley!). As we were driving in, we noted large branches down on near the road and we thought – what are the chances that they’d have storm damage here, as well.

 

When I went in to register for a site, the lady ranger looked a bit frazzled. She didn’t have computer and the center was on a generator. She told us it was a ‘free-for-all down there’ – who knew where people had taken campsites – and she suggested we go down and choose whatever open site we wanted.

 

It was a dramatic experience driving through the campground. Nearly every site had a large tree down, there were smashed picnic tables and barely passable roads. When we chose a site, we had to pull a large branch out of the drive way.

 

But once we got in, we had a very enjoyable stay. We continually thanked God for our safety and prayed for more. He granted this request. Also perfect weather, a nice campfire (with marsh mellows) and a beautiful time wading in the beatified waters of the St. Croix.

 

*Can I just suggest to all homeowners that if there are holes in your large trees, do not patch them with cement. The previous owner of our house did this, and it appears to be causing rotting. These are large silver maples, planted in the 1880s for a road (which used to go through our back yard 100 years ago). They have lasted a long time, but now, a few years after the cement patching, they are dieing from the inside. And it looks really goofy to see gray cement in your trees.

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