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Glory of…..

11 Jun

The other day we were cruisin’ in the mini(van), jammin’ to A.J.’s top rated tunes and this melodic pearl sprang forth through the speakers in an insta-memory. Do you know what I mean by “insta-memory”? When some environmental happening thwacks you in the face with past sensations, emotions, and all that? Sure you do. ALSO, it being the week prior to Father’s Day I found this little insta-memory especially relevant. I love it when things work out like that.

Did you click on the link? Did you bathe yourself in the creamy sound of Peter Cetera’s power ballad? Go do it now, it’s worth it. Karate Kid II, right? Good stuff. Well, when I took my cream bath(what?) I was immediately ripped from my captain’s chair straight to the local (and by”local” I mean an hour down the road)roller skating rink. We were there for a church youth get-together. Except I wasn’t a youth. I mean, I WAS, but not officially. I was too youthful to be a youth. And my plight as a too-youthful non-youth was that I didn’t have a group of friends with whom I could flail down the rink. My parents were chaperones. My sister was a genuine youth. I was an 11th wheel (’cause that’s what it would be on a roller skate, right?). It wasn’t too bad being me, because I was always super good at butting my innocent face into Christina’s circle of friends. They didn’t mind because of my sparkling personality……

But then came couples skate. Lights were dimmed. Boys scattered to the snack stand like roaches to, well, a snack stand. Giggly Youth Girls grabbed the paw of their besty. The ivoried intro of Glory of Love sailed through speakers and crushed me. Yes, crushed me to thousands of youthful, Karate Kid II obsessed particles. My favorite song and not a soul with whom to skate.

I was leaning on the rink, watching the joy of Youth, fighting the blister of tears when my dad sought me, and grabbed my pitiful little hand. Together we clanked our wheels around that rink. Dad said silly things. I pretended that I hadn’t been crying. I shared insight into the plot intricacies of the Karate Kids. Dad pretended to be interested.

THAT’S good stuff. 20120611-141705.jpg_____________________________________________________________________________

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March On

19 Mar

When it comes to trips down Memory Dirt Road, the last ten days of March are quite a tourist trap.  It’s mostly filled with stopping spots from the paved portion of my life, though.  Here’s a list of some of what you might see along the next dozen days:

In March of 2001 I made my first ever trip to Michigan when I flew up for an interview at Our Savior Lutheran.  I was blown away by their singing and kindness, and I met the seventh and eighth grade teacher.  We even had lunch together (with the entire Pastor’s family chaperoning) at Steak ‘n’ Shake before his big dinner theater and my flight out of town.  Okay, in all honesty it wasn’t anything close to a date, but we did relive those fries and burgers for several years to follow, because . . .

By this time in 2002 we were engaged.  Shocked?  It was speedy-wonderful.  I recommend it to everyone.  Well, okay, almost everyone.

Two years later my first nephew was born.  Okay, technically I have another nephew who was born first, but since I was three at the time, and didn’t meet him until we were both in our twenties and I married his uncle, his birth didn’t quite pack the same punch.  But Owen’s birth – that was a game-changer.  That made me an aunt, gave Simeon a cousin and Best Buddy, and brought me even closer to my sister than I imagined.

And the end of last March was a whirlwind of events.  First, my dear friends and I began a DIY Master’s Program otherwise known as “the book blog.”  You can find it here, just in case you’ve missed it in the past.  We started by reading Don Quixote. Who does that?  We do.  Now we’re reading Moby-Dick.  Yes, really.  And here’s the weirdest part – it’s not the least bit boring.  Not at all.  It’s an honest-to-goodness hoot.  Try it.

Then, before Sancho could even holler, “Look out for the windmills!” my last nephew was born.  I’m not declaring Henry the Official Last, for I have not that power, but I plan on spoiling him like he is, just in case.

And then, because I thought my sister didn’t have enough to do with a newborn around the house, we started this blog.  Yup, our blogiversary is coming up next week, and that’s actually what got my mind Marching through all these wonderful occurrences.  This blog has been great for those two things, making me demand unreasonable things from my supermom of a sister, and bringing back old memories that make us smile, ask lots of questions, and laugh and laugh.

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By Both of Us

Seeing the World One Job at a Time

27 Feb

Let it be known, I’m not just a homeschooler.  I’m a stay-at-home-schooler.

I’m not a huge fan of leaving the house, and not just because doing so means making sure five children are dressed, shod, and buckled safely in the ‘mobile.  No, I just like being home, it’s cozy, warm, and welcoming, plus, diapers and milk are always close at hand.  Well, almost always.

So days like today, that involved field trips to Papa Murphy’s, an outing with friends to Frederick Meijer Gardens, a dentist appointment, and swimming lessons, wear me out.  I’m  a certifiable wimp.

I suppose this is a result of living a pretty stay-at-school childhood back at our cozy one-room.  Though, as a child I lived for field trip days.  They only came once a year.  Well, unless you count trips to other rural schools for hearing and vision screenings, school pictures, and spelling bees.  I did, for sure.  Shoot, other than planning the best method to cheat the eye exam, the entire night before Health Check Day was spent picking out the perfect outfit.

But the official Field Trip was strictly annual.  Once a spring we would all pile in our teacher’s car and set out on what we considered a grand adventure.  In retrospect they probably should have been called Town Trips since we were leaving our corn surrounded school and heading toward civilization for the majority of our outings.

There were a few big journeys beyond town, but most years our field trips took us no further than the seven miles in to Ainsworth.  Once there, we toured the library, the courthouse, the jail, the feedstore, the newspaper and the bank.

When I was serving jury duty a couple of weeks ago the prosecution asked every potential juror if they had ever visited the jail.  She really didn’t want anyone who had, and since I was anxious to be on a jury, I was having quite the internal struggle over how to answer the question.  In truth, I’d been to the Brown County Jail.  Several times.  I’m pretty sure one of the years there was even someone in the men’s part, because that time we only got to see the single female cell.

Other memories of the trips are just as vivid.  At the bank they once generously gave us ballpoint pens stuffed with shredded dollar bills, even though I had proudly announced to the kind banker that my parents kept their money at the Other Bank.  At the library I typically name-dropped that the other librarian always let me recard the books every Saturday while Stacy was at storytime.  And despite my track record for rude behavior, I don’t think I ever told the people at the newspaper how many typos we’d counted in the latest Star Journal as we stood in awe of the whirling miles of print streaming before us.  But if I had, this blog would be now open for their revenge.

So, despite my grown-up hermitish attitude, it pleased me to see the boys getting a good “this is how we do business” tour on their field trip this morning.  Plus, if they ever decide that they wish to make 60 lbs. of pizza dough they now have that skill set.

And although they didn’t fret over what to wear, well, there was that brief debate about whether or not “comfy pants” were acceptable, I think they really looked forward to getting out of the house and being about town, so we might just have to schedule some more field trips.

But just in case they ever want to serve on a jury, I’ll steer clear of taking them to jail.

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Trial and Error

20 Feb

A week ago today I was doing my civic duty of the jury type.   I was not chosen to serve.  It was a great disappointment, because I’m one of those weird people who has always wanted jury duty.

I blame my jury desire on Mock Trial.  In High School we had an awesome Mock Trial team.  Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration.  We had a reasonably decent Mock Trial team.  But by the time my sister was a senior they had an awesome Mock Trial team –  Second in the State Awesome, awesome.  Then by the time our Schwester Rachel was in High School they were Super Awesome – competing at the National Level Super Awesome.

I like to think I laid the foundation for all that awesomeness.

Mrs. Rau celebrates a win, don't worry, back then a good guttural fist pull was still cool.

No, actually I don’t delude myself at all.  The Awesome Foundation for that team was our coach, Mrs. Rau.  Awesome doesn’t even really begin to cover her leadership skills.  The woman knows how to make impish, hormonal, flighty, self-centered teens focus on big tasks, work hard, and strive for superior results.

She didn’t cut us any slack, and yet at the same time she never let us appear foolish.  For me, this was a particularly important quality to have in a coach.  I’m sure you can’t possibly imagine this, but I was prone to acts of stupidity back in the day.

For instance, there was the time we arrived at a meet two hours away, only to discover I had forgotten shoes.  It wasn’t like I trekked that far in my stocking feet, but we traveled in comfy attire so as not to wrinkle our grown-up, professional, attorneyish wear.  When we donned our suits in the restrooms of the Custer County Courthouse my toes were left naked on the cold tile floor.

I don’t know what other coaches would do in this situation, but Mrs. Rau grabbed me (and not by the ear, although I’m sure she was tempted,) her purse, and the keys to the school van and off we rushed to the local TG&Y.

If you’re not from the Middle of Nowhere you’ve probably never had the TG&Y/Pamida/Alco experience.  Let me set the stage for you.  Think of Walmart*.  Now, reduce the inventory by 75% paying special attention to keep the really unusual and odd items, up the prices by 30% and add some grunge.  Now that you’re there, come down the shoe aisle.

As you can imagine, this is where you would find the really odd stuff.  But it didn’t matter, I just needed something to replace the holey Payless pleather loafers in which I shuffled.  Anything in an 8 1/2 that didn’t scream “I’m 17!” or worse, “I’m 84!,” was going to work just fine.

And then it happened – that moment when the steel-sheeted roof opened to reveal golden clouds, the fluorescent lights were replaced with a celestial glow, and the angel choruses drowned out the musak:

There were my Mock Trial Shoes.

They were gorgeous.  The unbelievable color was a deep plum that matched my boxy Mock Trial suitcoat and paisley skirt as if they were all born in the same dye lot.   The heels told all potential witnesses that their testimony was in my capable hands and feet.  The tight gold and purple knot that adorned the pumps let everyone know that when I said, “Objection”  I meant, “Objection.”

There are no pictures of the MTS. Instead, you'll have to imagine them under the bench in this doctored yearbook scan.

Mrs. Rau fronted me the exorbitant $40 and we strode out of rural retail heaven and into the awaiting trials.  My purple clad feet gave me the confidence to take on the world, or at least six other overly arrogant teenagers.

When my utilitarian Danskos and I filed into the court room last Monday, the first place I looked was to the lawyers’ shoes.  They both wore black.  Cute, but plain.  I pitied them for not having coaches as wonderful as Mrs. Rau.

Then again, maybe the Bar Exam has a No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service rule.

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By Both of Us

My Top Ten

13 Feb

It’s Monday, and even though we’ve done very few Memory Dirt Road posts as of late, I’d like to travel down one today.  But today is not just any old Monday.  Nope, today is February 13.

That doesn’t mean it’s the day to panic because you don’t yet have flowers ordered or reservations placed for tomorrow.  And it’s not just the day you recuperate from partying hardy at Abe Lincoln’s B-day Bash.

In fact, as much as I think the 16th President’s birthday is worth a good hoorah, the birthday that has my eye and heart this day is that of my beloved.

But I think Lincoln would have liked my guy.

Here he is reading the constitution to our kids on the Fourth of July.  He’s not the kind of dad that puts exploding substances in the wee hands of his offspring.  He’s the kind that makes sure they understand why their crazy Mom made them pick color coordinating outfits to wear as they stand on the curb collecting tootsie rolls.

You know what else is all-American about my husband?  Apple Pie.  He doesn’t just eat them.  He makes them.

So you’ve got me on this one, it’s cherry, not apple.  It doesn’t really matter, it’s a Jerry Pie, and that makes it delicious.

And he can can.  He can’t can-can, but that’s okay.

Nope, sorry, you can’t have him.  He’s mine.  All mine.

You see, ten years ago this week we started our whirlwind romance.  It began with a dinner at Arnie’s on Feb. 11, a “Lincoln’s Birthday Present” for him the next day, an Ash Wednesday present for me on his birthday, a 7th/8th grade Valentine’s Day party, topped off with a first kiss on Feb. 15 and Voila!  By February 21 we were talking about wedding dates.

I know, hold on to your hat, right?  We were married just four months later.  It was utterly grand.

And it still is.

So, dear, sweet, husband-of-mine, thank you for the best decade of my life, and may we have many, many more decades together.

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Nunc Dimittis

30 Jan

That beautiful man handing our firstborn son to his own last-born son is now journeying through the Valley of the Shadow of Death.  We request your prayers as this faithful servant of God, husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather falls asleep in Jesus.

Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of His saints.
________________________________Psalm 116:15

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Santa Claus is coming. Or is he?

19 Dec

Is that Santa we see in the reflection of the pendulum?

It could be.  Santa always came to our house in the early evening hours of December 24.  When we left for the Sunday School Christmas Program our stockings were hung by the doorframes with care in hopes that, well, I’m not exactly sure what our hopes were.  Santa was sort of an enigma.  Sometimes we believed in him.  Most of the time we were ‘too smart’ for that.  Here’s what we did know about the Jolly St. Nick:

Santa was not our Pastor.
Santa was our Pastor.
He did dress as Santa.  We knew he wasn’t.  Well, we knew that Santa SOUNDED just like Pastor. We also knew that our Pastor had the only supply of spirit gum in the three county area. Two and two, you know. Regardless, his appearance at our door one pleasant December afternoon led to an epic screaming fit by the younger of us. It’s a bit of a shocker when That Guy shows up on unsuspecting, training-pants clad toddlers.

Santa only brought small, inexpensive gifts that fit inside a stocking.
Santa brought large, expensive gifts left under the tree.
At our house there was gum, candy, mints.  At our classmates’ house there was a VCR.  In 1983, a VCR.  Yeah, Santa didn’t know much about fairness.   The elder of us possibly even reprimanded a Santa once when he suggested that a doll might be a good thing for which to ask.  Obviously That Man never peaked in to see what his elves were making.

Santa’s red blinking blip on the local news weather map showed his sleigh still in northern Canada just a few minutes before we left the house.
Santa arrived in the midwest before 10:00 pm on Christmas Eve.
Mom always forgot something before we left for church and had to run back into the house while we sat in the chilly car waiting. On some random Christmases she had urgent business in our home to which she HAD to attend before Dad unloaded our sugar-laden, sleep-heavy bodies from the floor and benchseat of the family Suburban AFTER church and our family’s Christmas Eve celebration at Gramma and Grappa’s. That may have been a run-on sentence. What it meant was, “Sometimes Mom forgot.”

Santa visited vacant town halls to talk with children on stage about their greatest Christmas desires.
Santa lived in “department stores” and “parades”, whatever those were.
We can vaguely remember trepidatiously taking the backstage stairs in our town’s town hall (that was used for prom and middle school girls’ basketball practice, like most good town halls are) to terrifyingly speak to the Big Guy. We didn’t really know what to say. Duh. We were THOSE kids.

So, that’s it. Way to go, Mom. Nice work, Dad. Seriously. Or, sarcastically. You choose.

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By Both of Us

Doo Doo YOU remember?

12 Dec

I’m presently confused. About presents. Presents of the past, in fact. Not of the present. See, amidst my children’s greed-riddled list making mania of this particular season I have been racking my mind grapes about what gift I absolutely HAD to have as a youngling. Which toy was it that without which I couldn’t live another day? I’ll be honest, this was a hard one. I must have been a super awesome, grateful, selfless child. (We don’t have fact checkers in the production of this blog.) Anyway, I figured it out. Baby Goo Goo. I’m sorry, you’re confused now, too, right? It sounds as though I wanted the infant version of a certain pop star, yes? Well, you’re wrong. I wanted a Baby Goo Goo. You know, the baby doll in which you could shove your hand and make to wiggle like everyone’s favorite newborn? Yes, that. Our local dime store had them. And them I did covet EVERY time I went to said store to buy embroidery floss with my Gramma. So on the list they went. In fact, I’m fairly certain that owning a Baby Goo Goo was my ONLY Christmas desire.

This isn't it. Boo Hoo, baby.

NOW is when it gets confusing. I went to find an image of  a “Baby Goo Goo” with which to dress up this post. I Goo-Googled it and I FOUND NOTHING. Well, that’s not true. I found something called the “Goo Goo Kids Hand Puppet”. My first thought was that I was mis-remembering. That can happen. But then I looked at this “hand puppet” thing and while it was certainly similar to my childhood yen, it was not the same. Hm. Weird. At this point, I thought MAYBE we (yes, both Christina and I were gifted this the greatest of our yearnings) had fallen for a generic. That, too, can happen. In fact, in our world, generic is king. (You’re welcome, Generic.) And I’m thinking this is the most probable scenario. However, I put in a call to my sister to see if I could wiggle her memory stick. She Goo-Googled, too (it’s just too goo-good on the wordplay front to stop). She stumbled upon something that looked MORE like our Baby Goo Goos but was called “Little Sprout Baby”. What? That doesn’t sound anything like goo goo. Don’t you think a generic of that one would be called the “Tiny Bud Buddy”? Upon further research (specifically THIS VIDEO) I have decided that the Little Sprout was never in our puppet-baby loving hands, either (because we didn’t get a bassinet and birth certificate!). So now I’m at an impasse. What is this “Baby Goo Goo”? How can there be NO record of its existence on the internet?? EVERYTHING is on the internet!!!! Everything except generics, I guess.

How Deadly Are Your Branches

5 Dec

My husband has brought many good things in to my life, and as we decorate our home for Christmas I always give thanks for one which has allowed me comfort and security when I’m afraid the weight of the season will crush me.  Literally.

That’s right, due to my husband’s insistence on an Answer Stand, there will be no falling Christmas trees in this house.  No matter how crooked our tree may appear, the drilled trunk is securely sitting on a long rod.  And the three lengths of rebar that steady the whole bedecked blue spruce have gone a long way in stilling my fears of all the years.

In comparison to my other justifiable childhood anxieties, (collapsing floors, open flames, more than ten people in any one location) being crushed by a Christmas tree was pretty mild.  And oddly, this phobia is in no way related to my dislike of trees, but it certainly can be traced back to a specific incident.

You see this delightfully resting early 80’s teen?

Her anonymity will remain.  For now let’s just say that we didn’t often have babysitters, but when my parents needed one it was pretty handy that my older cousin lived down the road.  And this little late-night snooze of hers was well earned, although the sneaky sleeping picture probably was a bit cruel on the part of her aunt and uncle.

No, she didn’t need to crash because her charges wore her out, or because their parents stayed out until the wee hours of the morn.  Her exhaustion is the result of an adrenaline and pine cocktail hangover.  She, and the young left in her care, were attacked by an errant, but beautifully decorated tree.

It looks so harmless, but trust me, when a prickly evergreen attacks your evening of babysitter bliss the shrieks of “O Tannenbaum!” echo in the decked halls for Christmases to come.

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Sorry We Didn’t Call

28 Nov

Did you ever wonder how this blog got it’s start?  Well, for our trip down Memory Dirt Road today I will tell you.

Usually after a very busy weekend Stacy and I would send an e-mail with headings of the notable events. They served as an informational peace offering in lieu of all the phone calls we should have made.  At some point we decided the e-mails were so fun to write that we should go worldwide, and voila! the blog was born.

So today, I am recreating that apologetic catch-up for all of you out there.  We’re sorry for any missed blogs last week, please accept this really long rambling, but headed, post instead.

Computer Kaput
During our Thanksgiving Festivities I carefully placed my laptop in our bedroom, seemingly out of harms way, when somehow a wee toddling lad (or lass, but my money’s on the lad) made his way into the room, pulled it off the nightstand, and caused the screen to crack against the clamp that attached to the body of the computer.  The clamp was our solution to the screen’s persistent flicker. Its imprint spread darkness across the bottom third of my viewing area, and in the days since the incident, the blackness has edged up toward the tabs and menus at the top of the window, giving me a sense of drowning in my browser.  That’s a pretty valid excuse for not blogging, yes?

But at last I can breathe easy because my darling husband had a revelation:  he could hook my laptop up to another monitor we have in the house.  So, now my lap top is actually a desktop, that is sitting on the kitchen counter, which makes it a countertop, which seems like a whole niche of computers that someone really ought to think about marketing to accident prone moms like me.

Parenting Strategy of the Century
I don’t think my heading is any exaggeration, but I’ll let you judge for yourself:  Instead of normal Sunday School the children were in the church yesterday morning rehearsing for next week’s Advent Service.  Thomas, our somewhat change-resistant child, is having nothing to do with this mix-up of location and routine.  They had to bring him to me at the organ.  He sat next to me sobbing about how he missed Sunday School and the story, and he wasn’t going to do this service, and that he would only go back up with his class if I came along.  Since organ is not such a handy “pick up and move to a new location” kind of instrument that didn’t seem to be workable – but then inspiration hit.  I quickly grabbed a piece of scratch paper, and drew this*:

It’s me, of course.  What?  You were thrown off by the chicken feet and penguin hands?  Or did the smile on my face seem unnatural to you?  It doesn’t matter, because Thomas knew it was me.  And off he marched, with me crumpled up in his hand to go sit with his class for the rest of the rehearsal.

So, when do they hand out the Parenting Grammy Awards?  I need to find someone to make me a dress with uneven shoulder pads and some serious skirt flare.

136 Cubic Feet of Christmas
At our house it’s not Black Friday, it’s Evergreen Friday. Every year we go out to Prince Tree Farms and yell “Timber!”  We love the nice folks out there, and their tree prices cannot be beat – our tree cost less than $0.10 per cubic foot (a half pence more to have it shaken, drilled and tied.)  This year I had my dear husband cut off the top of a rather large tree.  I don’t know why he agrees to do these things for me.  It’s nuts.  But he and his brother sawed that forest dweller down and we drug it home.  It’s a monster at over nine feet high, and nearly eight feet wide.  It’s possibly a wee bit crooked, but only if you fail to tilt your head.  So far, it is adorned with white, gold and orange lights, like all good Christmas trees.  In my defense, the second box of lights looked gold, it was named amber, and I’m sure I’ll grow to love them.  Probably around Jan. 6.

Grab Bag Saturday Make-up Session
Here are two pictures of Stacy and I decorating our 1980 Christmas Tree.  For your protection, and her’s, I have blocked out my sister’s training pants.

Prepositional Milestones
The twins learned not only how to climb up and on things, but in them.

51 Guests
At our house this weekend!  And I’m only slightly exaggerating.  For real, there were twenty-six people at Thanksgiving Dinner and another twenty-five for a Sunday dinner to catch up with out-of-town friends.  But, in all honesty, our family alone makes up over a quarter of each group, and we can’t exactly be called guests.

This is what made both events possible:  Everyone else brings wonderful food, lends gracious and hospitable hands, and warms our house with their presence. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.  In the meantime my husband might go cut down a second spruce.

Big White Rectangles
The newest trend in birthday cakes at our house is one I can completely get behind.  The boys want plain, old, regular, boring cakes with a literary tie-in, and a cheap toy plopped on top.  Okay, what they really want is cake and toys, but if you fill in the blanks the rest of it works out great.  Thomas requested an Indian in the Cupboard cake for his Sixth.  Here it is:

And he didn’t seem at all disappointed that Little Bear and Boone were still “plas-tick” and didn’t come to life.  Whew.

NICE!
No e-mail to our Mom is complete without a weather report, and I want you to feel like you’re getting the Real Deal here:  It was SO NICE all weekend long.  Nice like over 50 degrees, nice. Nice, like we cut the tree without experiencing frost bite, nice.  Nice, like I over-dressed for my runs by wearing a long-sleeved  shirt, nice.

Nice, like the boys got in a game of Charlie Brown football on Thanksgiving, nice.  Nice, like you could stand to be out in the rain without thinking it was horrible, nice.  Okay, the rain was actually not that great, but still, overall, nice.

I Should Quit
Most e-mails end with some explanation about how we should attend to our children, or our husband, or our houses, or our jobs.  In this case my children are asleep and/or helping Jerry with the downstairs Christmas tree, my house is clean because we had all this company, and I’m not at work, so . . .

Don’t worry, I’ll quit boring you now.  Hope you have a lovely week.  Back to our regularly scheduled blogging.  Maybe.

*The above picture was a replica of the replica of me.  Apparently I was thrown away shortly after playing the last chord of Joy to the World.