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**** Pictures at the Bottom ****

1. Rain Can Cause Joy

We were picnicking on a deck overlooking the high falls on the pigeon river (that which is the border between Canada and MN) and in the distance I saw mist. I quickly figured out that this wasn’t mist, it was rain. Coming toward us. And we were far from our car.

So we quickly cleaned up and got moving. I expected fear and sadness from our kids, but soon I heard our kids laughing and our youngest daughter saying “This is going to be fun!” as they discovered that they could get out of the rain by getting under a big branch. And then they would run to the next big branch.

I think they were disappointed when the rain stopped two minutes later.

2. Find Safe (But Dangerous Feeling) Adventure For Your Kids.

The town Beaver Bay gets its name from the Beaver River, which flows through it. To get to it you must (A) Make your way down a very steep path/hill, (B) Cross a small creek, (C) Wade through weeds taller than your kids, (D) Cross over (by jumping across) treacherous rock to get to the flat rocks in the middle of the river.

But that only takes 4 minutes.

Once there you can (A) Let your wife relax and read next to your 8 month old who likes to sit and play on a blanket, (B) Get your kids to see how far they can jump from boulder to boulder around the river area. It’s fun to see them challenge themselves, see how far up the river they can get and trust you.

3. You Can Make New Friends.

While we were at Split Rock State Park another large van drove up and I saw 7 fish stickers on the back of it. We talked to them and found that their oldest was two years older than our oldest and their youngest was two days older that ours. And they home school. And they’re thinking about adoption.

So our kids had fun skipping rocks together and we adults had fun swapping stories.

Oh, did you want to see some pictures?

“What Does The Bible Say About That?”
By Carolyn Larsen

Summary: For Kids Ages 8-12. This book addresses 340 topics and gives a Biblical perspective on each of them. Each topic is one page, and has four sections: 

1. “What does the Bible say about . . . ?” – A quick intro.
2. “What the Bible Says” – Biblical passages on the topic
3. “Time to face the facts” – A summary of what the Bible says
4. “Today I will” – A suggested response for the reader.

My Thoughts:

I’m torn on this book.

On the plus side, I really think it is a good idea to stress to children that (A) the Bible should be trusted, (B) the Bible is a place we should go when we have questions and need guidance, and (C) the Bible has things to say about choices you are making every day.

I also appreciate the fact that every page has two or three passages of Scripture on it.

And 340 is a lot of topics. The author put a lot of thought into it.

But on the negative side. . .

A) There are topics here that I’m not sure a child needs to read about (especially if they are being homeschooled). The very first page is ‘Abandonment’ and discusses the biblical response if a parent leaves the family. I don’t think that I am sheltering my children too much to not want them to have to worry about this happening.

Other topics like this are “Sex”, “boys”, “witchcraft”,and ”the occult”. It must be stated, however, that these topics are handled in a fairly high level way, and the author has pretty reasonable things to say about them. But I wished she’d left them out.

B) It seems like some of the verses are taken out of context. For example, under ‘Hygiene’ the author goes to Matthew 7 – “So every healthy tree bears good fruit but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.”

While there is a wide range of ways this could be interpreted, I don’t think Jesus would think “You should take more showers” is one of them.

And under telephone, it uses John 15:12 – This is my commandment, that you love one another, that your joy may be filled and then goes on to say “Telephones are great for staying in touch with others, and that is certainly something that God wants you to do. However when you’re staying in touch with some people but ignoring the person who is right beside you, that isn’t a good thing.”

Now that’s pretty good common sense, but it doesn’t come from John 15:12.

C) My opinion is that the drawings/cartoons are a little distracting and sometimes a slightly annoying and some times the topics are treated too lightly.

But (back on the plus side) – our eleven year old thought it interesting enough to spend significant time reading. And many of the discussions on the more basic topics (those where the Bible speaks directly about them) are right on. For example, this is true with the topics (Deceit, Decisions, Descipleship, Disease and Doubt just to name those from the D’s) I think we might consider this book to be a very helpful resource if the author had simply left out some of the topics. But as it stands, we would want to be a little careful with it.

My wife and I wrote this review for the review writing program here:

Okay, this made my family laugh several** times this weekend. If you like it, you can watch further episodes. But the first one is the best.

*No, no one has actually asked us this question.
** Several = 3

[Four years after I wrote this post, I started a new blog called Revisiting Minnesota State Parks in which I review and rank the state parks. Please go take a look]

I love state parks. Pay your 25 bucks and your car (with anyone in it) can go into any state park for a year.


We haven’t been to all of the 66 state parks in Minnesota, but (I just counted) we have been to 27 of them. Here’s some we recommend and don’t recommend:


Unrecommended –


1. Blue Mounds – Okay, so there’s buffalo there – big whoop. This (as far as I can tell) is largely a walk through pasture surrounded by farmland. I am shocked that you can find this on the MN state park director’s list of the top three MN state parks. Why?


2. . . . Okay, maybe that’s all I wouldn’t recommend.


Recommended –


1. Anything on Lake Superior – A total of 8 parks. Recommended because – c’mon, it’s Lake Superior! You can throw rocks in the biggest lake in the world! You can climb up the waterfalls of the spectacularly beautiful rivers that flow into the biggest lake in the world. You can see lighthouses that used to help boats cross safely over the biggest lake in the world.


Now some may say that Gooseberry, one of the most visited state parks in MN, and the first park that you come to as you head north, is overrated. True, but it’s still better than the best state park of half the states in the country.


If we had to choose our favorite, we would say . . . we can’t.


 2. Anything in the St. Croix / Mississippi river valley (8 Total). Go in the fall. Amazing bluffs. Great hiking. Thanks to the State, Local and Federal Government making a ton of rules, most of the St. Croix is undeveloped. It’s water is very blue. And while the Mississippi isn’t the biggest river in the world, it’s still pretty impressive.


And again, we have more than one favorite.


3. Itasca.

You can walk across the very beginning of the Mississippi! You can see how many people it takes to encircle the biggest white pine in Minnesota! You can see a video on how this lake was finally discovered! Go!


But bring sandals if you’re going to try to do the walk-across thing.


4.  White Water.

Cool Cliff Climbing. And honestly, I think all the warnings about rattlesnakes are overblown.


5. Forrestville/Mystery Cave.

In the 1890’s a store owner closed his shop and left everything in it. For Decades. And when they found it, they kept it that way. Take a family tour. It’s cool history.


6. Fort Snelling.

Historic Fort Tours and International Airport Plane watching – An interesting mix.


State Parks are one reason why I’m not a libertarian.


Any other recommendations?


And / Or


Do you like your state’s state parks?

By the Numbers:


There was 88.88 percent representation from the JamFam in the Palm Sunday services this weekend. Only Foster didn’t enter in. Jamsco was the Palm Branch Hander-outer.


Time we were supposed to be there:: 8:00 (an hour early)


Time we were all sitting at the breakfast table :: 7:00


Hours spent in church: 5 (All enjoyable)


Kids who got to play in the percussion band: 1 (Carl – he was lead)


Three choirs sang, Debbie led the youngest choir. Joy on many faces. Jesus was praised.


By the way, our church didn’t want to have a Palm Branch Sunday processional, but we were required to by state and federal mandate. As you know, our American governments generally don’t tell churches what they must do, but this is one of the almost completely unknown exceptions. I blame the overly powerful Palm Branch lobby.

(Roughly in the order that they appear to us yearly)


1. The pieces of the 7 inch base of ice on our driveway begins to break off and melt.

            (This year our oldest helped it along with our sledgehammer)

2. Our kids start to wear shorts

            (and walk outside barefoot – “Kids! Get back in here!”)

3. Removal of the Christmas Wreath

            (we are wise enough to remove the pumpkin while it is still frozen)

4. The large body of melted water 50′ by 40′ in our back yard begins to form.

            (We have entitled it Lake JamFam – the kids go slide around on it)

5. Warm Enough weather to go on our first picnic.

(The Ten Month Battle to beat last year’s picnic record begins)

6. Maple Sap Buckets on the trees

(And boiling sap on the porch)

7. Seed Planting is begun!

            (In preparation for square foot gardening)

8. Our neighbor replaces his flags (including a US Flag and a Marines Flag)

            (This isn’t done yet – they are looking pretty ragged)

9. Jamsco begins to wonder if the lawnmower will work after a winter of not being used.

            (Should I get it to the repair shop now?)

10. Lake JamFam finally begins to recede.

            (So we can finally get to our camper trailer again)

What are signs of spring at your home?

We bought our new home three springs ago. Two springs ago in the middle of March I was doing a chore outside and realized that the large maple tree was dripping on me, despite the fact that all of the snow had melted off of it. I realized it was sap.


So I drilled a hole and pounded in a tube from our kids marble game and sap started dripping out.


We have three of these trees in our yard so I drilled and pounded in two more tubes. That was a Saturday. By Sunday night we had gathered seven gallons. So we got our large turkey roaster and started boiling. We took in more sap and it took awhile, but by Tuesday we had a half gallon of real maple syrup. We also did it last year (with actual taps) and we’re doing it again this year. This Monday we finished the boiling down to finish our first half gallon. We hope to get more.


Some comments:


– The experts say that it takes 40 gallons of sugar maple sap to make one gallon of syrup. Our trees are silver maples, not sugar maple, and these officially require more boiling. But we have found that boiling 20 down to 1 ratio results in syrup that is thick enough.


– If we actually wanted to save money, we should build a fire and use that for the boiling. Perhaps in later years.


– Maple sap runs primarily when the temperature is below freezing at night and above freezing during the day. We have not had a lot of those days. It’s been too warm. I find myself wishing the crazy wish that it would get colder for a little while. Please don’t curse me for this.


– It’s a good project for kids. My oldest especially likes to go around to the trees twice or three times a day to collect the sap.


– One thing we learned is that you should not pour cold sap into the boiling pot. This stops the boil too quickly and we think it gives it a not so great tasting aftertaste.


– We have been told by neighbors that these trees were planted in 1895 for a road that used to go through our backyard.


– Real maple syrup tastes good.



Photos By Carl (Or Oldest – Age 11)

So what Father, who had a free weekend evening, wouldn’t take his kids out in the lovely 52 degree weather on their bikes?

Not this one!


– My wife stayed at home with our youngest for a little peace and quiet.

– I found out when we got to our desitination that the funny noise coming from our newest biker’s bike was due to very low tires. She was really having to work.

– Our destination was the nearby elementary school playground (at the school where our kids would attend if we didn’t homeschool.) It appeared that they weren’t sobered by this, as I might have thought. In any case, it’s a pretty nice playground.

– 7:45 on the first weekend of spring is perhaps too late to finish a bike trip. A Passer-by suggested we get some lights. 

– While we are flagrant in our injury prevention avoidance when it comes with trampolines, not so when it comes to bike helmets.


* Depending on your definition of this word, obviously.

Well,  it finally got into the upper 50’s and were able to finally enjoy Subway sandwiches in a large picnic shelter (in spacious and wooded Snail Lake Regional Park) and a walk through rivers of snowmelt.  It was beautiful and it’s only going to get beautifuller.

By the way our earliest picnic was March 6, in 2005. We are now on our way on our attempt to beat last year’s picnic count record of 81. We’ll see.

<Note: Comments made about this post (as well as its popularity) have motivated my wife to write some more specifics on how our family does this>

Peace at church is important. And we have found that one way to experience it is to not be late.*

Our goal is to be sitting down before the singing starts, having eaten a hot meal together and having left a straightened house. Ideally the dishes are washed or are being washed in the dishwasher.

If you want to know how we do it, the trick is to (A) get as much done as possible the night before and (B) get up on time.

(A) Here are the things we do the night before (and by the way, much of this helps with enjoying the Sabbath by doing the work early):
– Get clothes ready for the kids, making sure that we have clean socks and non-lost shoes and outfits for everyone.
– Get clothes ready for the adults.
– Plan the breakfast and prepare it as much as possible, cracking eggs if we’re making scramble eggs, mixing up the recipe if we’re having oatmeal bake.
– Pre-set the table.
– Make sure the house is straightened (Okay this doesn’t have anything to do with getting to church on time, but it’s more peace-inducing if you know you’re not coming back to a disaster.
– Make sure the kids have all taken their baths.
– Get the girls long hair combed.
– Get all of the kids’ bible bags ready, as well as whatever we’re bringing to church.

(B) Getting up on time is the tricky part. For us it comes down to the fact that we would probably always be late if it weren’t for Debbie telling me I had to get up. But we’ve learned what time we need to get up to get to church by 9. (6:30-7:00).

So having said that, I was humbled by this video put out a couple months ago by Desiring God:


It doesn’t matter if you are punctual if you have had to be angry at your kids (and each other) to do it. I just read this to my wife and she thinks I should confess that we are sometimes guilty of anger (when we get up closer to 7:00 than to 6:30). But this Sunday we did pretty good.

* If you don’t need to be on time to have peace in church, you may disregard this post.

For some of you, I am too late – the pattern is set and there’s nothing you can do about it, but for those of you with children young enough to not really remember Christmas from last year, here’s my family’s advice for you: Avoid making Christmas all about the presents.


“Oh, sure,” you say, “Everyone says that. But how about some tangible suggestions for how to do this?”


“Huh.” I say, “I had no idea you were going to ask that question, let me think about it for awhile”. Then I think about it for awhile and come up with this list – All proven ideas successfully employed by Jamfam.


1. Don’t put the presents under the tree. This just makes them think about it.

2. Don’t have a set date for when you open presents. Traditions are great, but not with this. It sets them up to focus on that moment. Do it differently every year.

3. Do other fun non-present opening Christmas related activities.

4. Keep Santa on the down-low.

5. Don’t buy a lot of presents.

6. Talk lots about Jesus.


Our goal, when we ask our kids what their favorite part of Christmas was (or is) is to have them say something besides “Receiving Gifts”.


Other suggestions? Ideas? Exclamations that we are crazy/mean?


Here are pictures from Bethel’s Festival of Christmas, as mentioned last week .

My boys were in the front row – you can see them all in the eighth picture.

Oh well, why don’t I just show it to you?


(That’s Barrett behind the silver ball).

Top Nine Things That A Baby Might Say If Asked If He/She Wants To Be Born


9. Um, no. I’m good. Thanks, though!


8. Are you kidding? I can’t breathe out there!


7. Would there be weird colors? Because right now I’m really fond of black and dark purple.


6. <a boy, after hearing about a certain procedure> I’m sorry, what was that again?


5. I would only consider it if the extraction process was stress free for both myself and my carrier.


4. Is it fairly warm out there? Because right now I’m pretty used to roughly 98, 99 degrees.


3. Are you kidding? Can you see this tube thing? I can’t eat out there!


2. Putting my thoughts and feelings aside here, I think we should reflect on how much work I am going to cause my carrier and her partner post birth. I really have no wish to be a burden.


1. Given my current state of peace and comfort, I believe I can best serve and glorify God right where I am.


Any suggestions?






Reasons we named our new son ‘Foster’:


1. Astute Responsible Puppet readers will have noted that both of our daughters have names that begin with A, and the boys are B,C,D,E. We needed an F name.

2. I like the Piper’s naming convention.

3. The first definition of Foster in our dictionary is ‘To care for or cherish’

4. I think it sounds cool.


Reasons we gave our new son the middle name ‘Nathaniel’:


After the baby had been born, I quickly realized that, while we had pretty much agreed upon a first name, when hadn’t really discussed the middle name at all. So I was very happy when my wife called from the hospital to say that the birth parents had requested that we have the name “Nathaniel” somewhere in his name. It’s a very nice sounding name and goes well with Foster.


Our adoption agency social worker suggested that the combination sounds presidential.

We got a phone call at 2:30 this morning and Debbie headed right out to the hospital to see the birth parents who chose our family last August to adopt their child.


As I write this, I’m looking at a happy adoptive mom feeding my new son.


He is sweet and cute and we praise God. Our other kids are excited to meet him.


His name is Foster.


Please pray for health for him and parenting wisdom for us. Please also pray for the birth mom and dad who did (and are still doing) what I assume was a very difficult thing.


Happy Mom

Happy Mom

 In Dads Lap




Today I asked my wife if she would write something for my blog. This is what she sent:


I had a few moments this last Friday where I could hardly contain the pride I felt for my children.  I found myself wondering, “Is it a sin for me to feel so proud right now?”  Our entire family was outside on that day, and it was a beautiful day for yard work.  I was on the riding lawn mower, and we had the bags attached so that we could dump the mulched leaves into our compost pile.  We worked out a little system where every time I drove up to the compost pile and stopped (I could only make it around the yard once before the bags were full), half of my kids would come running as if they were attendants at a service station.  Two kids would empty the two bags into the leaf pile, and a third kid would empty out the big fat (and dirty) tube. Then they would return everything to its place, and I’d be on my way.  Meanwhile, the other three kids were watching and playing happily with our two-year-old nephew, sometimes pulling him out of my way.  I thought more than once, “Is this perfect, or what?”  and then proceeded to thank my heavenly Father for the blessings he has given our family; the blessing of six children, the blessing of friends, relatives and books from which we’ve obtained solid biblical advice about how to train and disciple children, and most of all, the blessing of God’s Son who  provided the way to overcome sin and experience true life.  “This,” I thought, with my children scampering all over yard to be helpful, “is a foretaste of heaven.”

As I write, however, I need to go disciple my children; evidently one of them was jumping on the couch, so another one felt the need to hit and strangle her.  Then the oldest pushed her off the couch completely.  I wish she would stop wailing in my ear.  (Sigh)  This is called the blessing of learning how to sacrifice one’s self and be more Christ-like.


<Jamsco again> In my defense (lest you think I am lazy), I was using the push mower.


For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God, 10 as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith?


I have thought that it would be interesting to come up with a game where various Christian sounding passages would be given and the goal for the player would be to try to figure out it is from the Bible or not.


If such a game existed, and this passage had been given to me, I would have been wrong. I would have said that this wasn’t in the Bible.


The part that would have gotten me is the seven words: “supply what is lacking in your faith”. Paul is saying this as if this is something he (and I assume) other humans can do. And I would have said – No, humans can’t do that for other people. Only God does that.


Before noting this passage I would have said it would be nearly blasphemous for one human to say of another “I can supply what is lacking in his faith”.


But yet is there, and must be possible. I assume it is possible and even prescribed for all Christians. And what an honor, if we get the calling to do this.


Since one of my most significant relationships as a Christian is with my children, I typically try to consider passages in light of my role as a father. So it seems to me that this passage suggests that I should try to supply what is lacking in my son’s and daughter’s faith. I thank God that he is using me in this way. I need to make it a higher goal.


Pieces are missing; I must do my best to fill the gaps.

As of today, and for the next two and a half months, the JamFam (my family) has children aged 5, 6, 7 (Anna), 8, 9 and 10.

I laughed:

Some of the other Tim Hawkins stuff is funny, too.

. . . More specifically, our children’s romantic future.


I’ve got a few years before I put this in play, but I am thinking about something I’m going to start telling my kids in their teen-age years (i.e. before they start Dating/Courting).


It would go something like this:


Asking someone to marry you, or saying ‘Yes’ to a proposal is a pretty big step, and a pretty strong commitment, but during your engagement period, even if it’s the day before your wedding, we will support you if you really want to break off marriage plans.


We might encourage you to rethink your decision, and suggest that maybe you are just getting cold feet, but if in the end you don’t want to get married to this person, for whatever reason, we will support this decision.


But (and here is the main point), once you get married, if things go bad, we will not support your decision to divorce your spouse, except for extremely extreme reasons*. We will encourage you in a hard marriage, we will protect you in a dangerous marriage, we might encourage temporary separation, we will pray for your marriage and we will hold you and cry with you. But we will not say that it is okay for you to end the marriage.


So it will not be grounds for divorce (from the perspective of our family) if you feel like your spouse doesn’t love you anymore, or isn’t really a Christian, or is abusive, or is a workaholic, or really bad with finances or lazy or mean or whatever.


(Again, I would tell them this before they find The One, so they don’t think it’s about that person.)


What do you think? Too harsh?


I feel like I want to get them to agree in writing that we are reasonable in saying this. But that may be a little over the top.


*The big question is, what would be the extremely extreme reasons. Severe Physical abuse? Only unfaithfulness? Pastor John wouldn’t even agree to that as a reason for divorce.

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January 2023