Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Problem Pregnancy

We celebrate our youngest child, Lani's 14th birthday today. Funny how things that seemed so important fourteen years ago, don't matter now.

I remember how I worried for weeks how to tell my Mother-in-law that I was pregnant again for the seventh time, more concerned about her reaction than going through labor again.

Bless her good, practical heart, she had not approved of the previous four additions.  But once they arrived and she grew to love them, she was, as always, the wonderful grandmother she had been to the "approved first two."  Stoic and sensible, she couldn't understand why we kept having babies.  Doggone it, seven was too many!

After the sixth baby, my stomach muscles gave up and I looked five months pregnant all the time.  I didn't have long to hide the impractical fact, that defying all social norms and well-meaning advice, we had done the unthinkable and were once again expecting. 

I usually looked pregnant two months sooner than my skinny pregnant friends and was once asked if we were expecting twins.  We definitely needed to tell Grandma soon, but how?

Keith suggested we simply not tell her and wait for her to notice. In Rural Iowa, people freely talk about things behind your back they wouldn't dream of saying to your face.  Considering how polite and proper she was, she might never mention it. 

Pregnant tummies were easier to hide when we lived three states away.  When we moved nine miles away from her, we no longer had that luxury. I considered writing a letter, so she could adjust in the privacy of her own home, and bring up the subject when and if she wanted to.
We had sworn three friends to secrecy until we told Keith’s Mom.  Unless you've lived in a small town, you cannot begin to imagine the difficulties of keeping this kind of stuff private. 

I went with a friend to check out a certified nurse midwife in a town thirty minutes away.  Lisa left her son with a mutual friend for the afternoon, explaining we were going to lunch and then shopping. 

The midwife showed us the hospital’s maternity wing.  We enjoyed the tour until we ran into good friends from church visiting an elderly sick relative.  We exchanged greetings and they asked why Lisa and I were at the hospital.  I don’t think well on my feet and gave an ineffective vague answer, then followed the midwife back to the clinic. 

Gary and Carol didn’t take long to put two and two together.  I learned later, they recognized my midwife and there are only so many reasons a woman of child bearing age would follow a midwife around a hospital. 
After I'd been home an hour, Lisa called with an urgent tone in her voice. "You're not going to believe this!"
"What?" I tried not to panic, but Lisa was sensible and even-tempered and didn't get uptight about much.

"Cheryl knows you're pregnant."  Cheryl being the friend who had watched Lisa's son that afternoon. 

"You're kidding."

"It gets worse."

 I leaned against the wall and closed my eyes.  "I'm listening." 

She heard it from Kelly who heard it from Tara, who heard it from Gloria at church." (names have been changed to protect the guilty parties) 

Amazing!  How frustratingly amazing.

How did someone I didn't know very well know I was pregnant?  And then feel free to post it on the grapevine?  The friends I'd seen at the hospital weren't even home yet so they hadn't tattled on me. Gloria's family attended our church, so if she told one family member, she probably told them all.  I wanted to express my displeasure to her. If I wanted people to know, I would have told them myself. 

Keith said not to worry about it.

Not worry about it!?!  In a town of 2500 where everyone knows everybody else's business and rumors spread faster than wildfire?  How did Gloria find out?  I called my other two friends who both said they hadn't told anyone.  

Big sigh!  I really wanted Grandma to hear it from us so she needed to be told soon.  I felt like an unwed pregnant teenager afraid to tell her parents.  

Keith solved the problem. We went out for pizza with Grandma that night.  She commented that mutual friends had just had their sixth baby and had caught up with us. 

Keith couldn't resist and blurted out, "Not for long."

"Gasp! You don't mean . . .”

"Yep.  I do mean.  Sometime near the end of September."

That put the kabosh on polite conversation for the rest of dinner.  Keith had wisely told her in the best place possible.  Being a deeply principled person, she wouldn’t dream of getting angry or upset in a public place.   

What a relief to finally spill the beans.  I knew she didn't approve, and things would be temporarily strained, but we no longer had to fear that she’d find out from the local rumor mill.

We were just in time. That night, Keith's Mom went to choir practice at her church which was a different one than ours. Her Pastor's wife said, "I hear your son's family is expecting again."
Good grief!  How in the world did she know?  We didn't run in the same circles.  As far as I knew, she wasn't friends with the lady who had spread the rumor around our church. I shouldn't have been so bothered, but it was the principle of the thing.   

When I complained about this unfair rumor mill, Keith explained that everyone would talk about us, but not for long.  Next week they’d talk about someone else. Sure enough, it's been many years since our seventh pregnancy was headline news.


Thankfully Grandma loves babies. She loved Lani from the day she was born. I wasn't able to nurse Lani and Grandma loved when we'd leave Lani with her. She'd rock her and hold her until we came back. Over the years she read books, made grilled cheese sandwiches
, baked cookies, knitted mittens and slippers, played card games, and watched TV with Lani. Grandma loved all her grandchidren. It just took her awhile to get used to the idea of seven of them being in one family. 

Lani chose to spend this birthday in Duluth. We'll load the big red van with five sisters and a friend and start her next year of life off right. 

Happy Birthday, Sweetie

(If you want to read another post about Lani's birth, click here.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Colorful Parents

We had Hawaiian Shirt Sunday at our church last month. A sweet 90-year-old lady remarked, "You look so frivolous."

I was speechless. I have never in my life been called frivolous.

She smiled and went on.  "You usually look so serious. This is fun."

Thanks, I think. (I prefer to think of my regular attire as sensible, not serious.)

Keith wore Hawaiian shirts almost every Sunday this summer. If anyone should be called "frivolous", it's him.

A frivolous shirt deserves a blog post, don't you think?

Keith's annoying habit of tickling me so I'll smile bigger in pictures usually backfires as I'm smiling, gritting my teeth, and grumbling, "Stop it!"

Faded and Frivolous Fifty somethings.

Life is good.  

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Squeezing One Last Swimming Day out of Summer

The fact no one else was in the water should have told us we were crazy.

We average two months of decent summer up here on Lake Superior's south shore. 

Observant, seize the day kind of people can squeeze one or two more swimming days out of September if they are willing to drop everything at a moment's notice and run, not walk to make hay while the lake's liquid.

Successful September swims require 75 degrees or better weather with little wind blowing the right direction. None is even better. Wind direction determines whether COLD or Lake Superior "warm" water (cold to anyone but locals) is in the bay.

Sunday afternoon, we grabbed sandwiches, swimsuits, towels, books, and a Golden Retriever and took our chances.

It was nice. Everything you'd want a stolen day to be. 

Amy and Tucker


 Wait for it, Tucker

(Could someone please inform my husband that his shirt and
shorts don't go together.He doesn't trust my fashion judgment.)

 Tucker loves to chase sticks but doesn't like to bring them back.



The shake-off

 Reading and beaches goes hand in hand

Lani (13), Anna (18), Kiah (23), and Amy (15)

"Kiah, don't touch me. You're cold."

 A different kind of sand castle

Reluctantly getting ready to leave

Tired, wet dog on my lap for the half-hour drive home

“Play in the sand; splash in the water; get dirty; get wet. 
The beach is the only place my mom doesn’t get mad 
about me doing that stuff. Of course I love the beach!”
--Dixie Dykens (age 5)--

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Really Nice Birthday Gift

(Please indulge me a long post because it's my birthday today.)

If you see me riding a bike around the block several times a day, it’s because of a weekend camping inspiration. I decided that back home, if I rode three blocks to the bathroom every time nature called, my extra weight would come off in no time. The drawback to this bike/bathroom weight loss system is it won’t work well in the middle of the night or when snow’s on the ground. 

The younger girls and I have taken an early September camping trip for the last seven years, excluding 2010 for reasons I can’t remember. 2011 and this year we went to Big Bay State Park on nearby Madeline Island.

On the way there we heard an alarming sound on the van's left side. We hoped it wouldn’t be trip-cancelling but the sound worsened the farther we drove. Keith checked the van and discovered a wrongly-folded mud flap rubbing the tire was responsible for the alarming noise. Would that all of life’s problems were solved so easily.

It’s bothers me immensely that the state of Wisconsin put a state park on the back side of an island accessible only by expensive ferry or even more expensive personal watercraft.  I justified the expense as a birthday treat, but still cringed at the $76 charge for four people and a big van.

Other than the outrageous price tag, the ferry was fun and different and whetted our appetite for the camping trip. 

Our van looked like a red Twizzler in a bag of black licorice.

Last year’s campsite was unavailable. While driving around, deciding on just the right spot, we raided firewood from unoccupied campsites. We set up camp and Anna’s Conserve School experience last fall enabled her to direct the tent raising. 

We conquered our big hard-to-put-up tent, though the rain fly was noticeably off-center. 

Amy strung a hammock to sleep on behind the tent. Her first attempt crashed when both she and Lani got on. The second attempt held firm.

I noticed our queen air mattress had packing tape patches. Though I’d never heard packing tape recommended for patching air mattresses, I optimistically filled the air mattress, then looked at the two twins. Their missing caps confirmed my suspicions. We’d brought the wrong ones. What are the chances that out of the six air mattresses we own, we’d grab the three that don’t work. Not sure why we still have three broken air mattresses. Probably some delusional hope that one day we’ll actually repair them.

That evening we walked to the prettiest public beach on Lake Superior’s South shore. 

It is well worth the drive and irritating ferry expense to get there. We were disappointed that the weather never warmed enough for us to swim this year. We wore long pants and sweatshirts, wistfully remembering last year’s wonderful swims.

By bedtime, the only hopefully working air mattress had wilted. I refilled the mattress, hoping that we could get to sleep before it deflated. Lani and I felt air slowly leak out. Forty-five minutes later we were lying on a 1/8 in. cushion of air.  The thin foam sleeping pad I used instead earns a D- for air mattress substitutions.

To make matters worse, I’d forgotten my pillow. Anna stuck a folded sweatshirt under my head. Though better than nothing, folded sweatshirts rate a C- for pillow substitutions.

I’d forgotten to bring reading material (do you notice a pattern here?) so played with my cell phone. No cell phone reception but I could send and receive texts. I rarely text because I don’t like tiny keyboards or paying for individual texts since I don’t have unlimited texting.

I texted back and forth with all three oldest daughters. I’m still amazed by modern technology. Words sent from their phone, flying through the air, bouncing off satellite towers, seeking and homing in, like a carrier pigeon, to find my cheap tracfone in a cool looking Coleman tent in a state park on the back side of Madeline Island.

I couldn’t sleep. I love the sound of wind blowing through the trees, but not the sound of wind BLOWING through the trees. I started to worry and anxious thoughts looped through my tired brain.

Is a storm coming?  Will a tree blow down?  Should I sleep in the van?  Should I wake the girls and make them sleep in the van and be forever ridiculed for being chicken-hearted?  Will the wind whip up campfire coals and burn down the park?  Do park rangers warn people of dangers? Can they hear the dangers if they’re in their quiet houses sleeping in comfortable beds instead of on uncomfortable sleeping pads? If there are dangers, do rangers come up to the tent?  Would that freak me out if they did?  Or do rangers drive through the park with megaphones and shout, “Severe weather – seek better shelter.” Was Amy safe in the hammock?  What about bears? I’m probably too neurotic to be a camper.

The wind calmed down and I finally drifted off to sleep—warm, but slightly uncomfortable, and hoping not to be stiff the next day.


Breakfast was tasty, although we realized we’d forgotten to bring a ladle to dip heated water for hot chocolate.

After breakfast clean-up, we felt sprinkles. Just in case they escalated, Amy moved her bedding from hammock to van. Good thing, because we soon had an unforecasted downpour.  I don’t mind weather that’s better than the forecast, but hate when weather is worse than predicted.

Thankfully, the tent didn’t leak. A few drops fell on Lani’s book, but that might be because of the off-kilter rain fly. We read in the tent for an hour. Anna lent me Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac. Nothing about that title inspired a read, but bereft of anything else, I gave it a try, only to be pleasantly surprised. Good Stuff!!! Insightful, literary, wise, thought-provoking. A nice way to wait out a rude rainfall.

Everything was soaking wet. Rather than succumb to motorhome envy, we drove into the cute little town of LaPointe. LaPointe is one of the oldest towns in America, dating back to 17th century fur trappers. Now it’s mostly a tourist town.

Our best discovery was the cutest library we’ve ever seen. It’s in an old house, with nooks and crannies, charm, character, personality, and a hammock out back to lay and read books in. Unfortunately we got there at closing time.

After walking through shops and touching everything but buying nothing except a used Artemis Fowl book for fifty cents, we rewarded our surviving the unwanted downpour experience with a trip to the Sugar Shack Candy Shop. We took our chocolate goodies to the now almost dry beach and thoroughly enjoyed every bite. Don’t know if other families do as much, “Can I try a bite of yours?” as we do. We all agreed maple fudge tastes better than the cookies and cream kind.

Though we’d stored our firewood under the van, it still was damp, so building a fire that night was difficult. Despite Anna’s valiant, creative techniques and using a whole box of matches, we barely got the soup hot. We squeezed out enough heat to half-way cook a half campfire pie for everyone. 

Too tired to be neurotic the second night and still uncomfortable, but resigned to make the best of my air mattresslessness, I drifted off to sleep much easier.  


I love waking up in a tent and seeing the nearby sweet sleeping faces of these children I love so much. The morning greeted us with blue skies and dry air. Vibrant colors, beautiful clouds, peaceful surroundings. Much, much nicer than yesterday.

As our little one burner camping stove heated water, Anna asked about a weird sound. I speculated it could be a breeze or more likely, the tank was almost out of fuel. We forgot to bring the extra cylinder. If the stupid, fun ferry didn’t cost so much, Keith could have brought us all the things we forgot.

Since we missed church, we had a devotional and quiet time. Then set off on a long hike along the shore. I love the soft, sweet smell of pine. 

Amy's standing on a fallen trees roots.

We passed big, beautiful rock formations. Some just had to be climbed on. 

Some just had to be hung over. 

Some just had to be put in interesting arrangements. 

After a late lunch, we dared hope the weather would be more conducive to swimming. We optimistically wore swimming suits underneath shirts and jackets. Amy lasted ten minutes, Lani lasted five, and I decided why bother. Very pretty, but breezy. We read instead, then went back to fix dinner.

We were oh so grateful when the fire started without problems. When things work right, campfire cooking is fun. We tried an idea from Family Fun’s website called “Pie on a Stick.” 

We roasted an apple on a stick about 15 minutes until the skin puckered. Then removed the skin and rolled it in cinnamon sugar. Delicious. We made one to start with, not sure how it would turn out. After two bites, Anna insisted we had time to make more.

The campers next door to us returned to their campsite at 8:00. The man looked around their spot and yelled, “Who took our firewood?” All three girls looked at me.

“I didn’t take his firewood,” I protested. Really, I only took it from unoccupied campsites. I’m not sure where his wood was, but we didn’t have it.

Instead of tossing and turning on an almost useless camping pad, I opted to sleep in the van. The good news is the van’s middle seat is much more comfortable than a thin sheet of foam. The bad news is, I’m longer than the seat. The seat is too narrow to be truly comfortable to sleep on. Plus it slants a little towards the back of the seat and has three seat belt connections that poke up. All things considered, the seat rates a B- in air mattress substitution.

I didn’t want the container of onions smelling up the van while I slept and also didn’t want it luring animals to our campsite at night, so walked it down to an unoccupied campsite three spots down. Then forgot it when we left the next day. Hopefully the rangers find it soon or it will smell pretty awful for the next campers who rent that spot.

Monday’s weather was the best of all. Too bad it came our last day. I’d forgotten to bring oatmeal so we made due with eggs and potatoes. We packed the van, then went for another hike. I tried talking the girls into swimming but they were anxious to get home. If I was choosing between going home to laundry and chores or swimming on a beautiful beach, I’d choose swimming for sure. But I like camping democracies, not camping dictatorships, so we left around 1:30.

We’d planned to revisit the library, but the camping democracy decided to take the 1:45 ferry instead of the 2:30. The camping democracy also decided to get waffle cones at the ice cream store in Bayfield.

A day later, we’re still washing laundry and putting stuff away. I had a good time and am thankful for uninterrupted time with daughters in a pretty place.   

Camping is my favorite way to spend a birthday. If you want to make me happy, go camping with me. Along with hiking, or playing Boggle, Catan, or Ticket to Ride, I guess I most prefer the gifts of time. Thanks girls for the gift of your time this weekend.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Think Quotes - It's Friday

Found this on Pinterest this week. 

I'm linking up with Lori for Think Quotes - It's Friday. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

God’s Care Package

Years ago when we lived in Oregon and had three little kids, a friend told me I wanted a Bosch Universal kitchen machine. 

“I do?”
“You do,” she stated firmly.
“But I already have a Kitchen-Aid mixer.”
“This is better than a Kitchen-Aid.”

Whoa! What could be better than a Kitchen-Aid?

I like to bake bread because it is healthier and cheaper. Store bread makes good French Toast and PBJs, but otherwise, I think homemade tastes better.

Kitchen-Aids are great but can only mix two loaves of bread at a time. Since few things smell or taste as wonderful as fresh homemade bread still warm from the oven, slathered with butter, our family usually wolfs down the first loaf as soon as it’s done cooking.

A Bosch kneads bread dough exceptionally well. I immediately saw the advantages of a machine that could mix five loaves at a time.

I balked at the price. Even though homemade bread costs fifty cents a loaf and a Bosch would pay for itself in a year, there was no way our Dad’s-in-Seminary budget could accommodate the hefty $350 price tag. I shelved the idea and plugged away two loaves at a time with the Kitchen-Aid.

After Seminary we moved to Colorado where I met friends who also owned Boschs. They raved about their wonderful machines. “You should get one,” they urged. “And an electric wheat grinder, while you’re at it.” At that time, wheat grinders were $200. By then we had five kids and still couldn’t afford either machine.

I eventually figured out how to get three loaves with the Kitchen-Aid. I didn’t mind baking but we went through a lot of bread and it was hard to keep up with seven insatiable bread-eaters.

I developed a bad case of bread mixer envy. I hid it well. Smiled politely when friends praised their Bosch. Enjoyed their delicious homemade bread. Bought fresh ground whole-wheat flour from a local bakery. I determined to live within our means and be happy with our faithful Kitchen-Aid.

After four Colorado years, we moved to Iowa where I finally saved $200. I could either buy the wheat grinder or continue saving for a Bosch. I could mix bread dough but had no way to grind wheat, so purchased the grinder.  

I didn’t talk about this with anyone. Only God and Keith knew that I coveted my friend’s Bosch.

In 1997 good friends visited from out of town. The wife handed me a big gift-wrapped box. I unwrapped the gift, astonished to see a Bosch mixer.

I looked at my friends in amazement. I knew the value so realized they had spent a lot of money. It was a generous gift. I asked how they knew I wanted one.

Susan said, “I didn’t know. But I knew you liked to make bread and thought this would help.”

Since only God and my husband knew I wanted this mixer, I knew God had laid it on our friends’ heart to buy me the exact mixer I had wanted for ten years.

I marvel that in the midst of running the universe and loving seven billion people, God took time to make one Iowa housewife’s life a little easier.

A Bosch’s high-quality motor parts are well-built and durable. Fifteen years later our Bosch still works great.  A lot of bread has slid down our gullets. I suspect a direct correlation between the amount of bread we consume and the size of our spare tires.

Last spring my friend Laura called, frustrated with her bread-making efforts. She uses a Kitchen-Aid so I suggested she try my Bosch. The bread turned out wonderful and I could see by the gleam in her eye that she had the Bosch bug. The next time I went to her house, I saw a new sleek, white Bosch sitting on the counter.

When I see my white Bosch sitting on my counter, I’m reminded of generous, thoughtful, observant friends. The type that pays attention to your likes and dislikes, are sensitive to your needs, and take pleasure in giving gifts they know you’ll enjoy.  

I’m reminded of a loving God who hadn’t forgotten me. Years before, Keith and I decided that I would be a stay-at-home Mom, which in our case meant that money would always be tight. God saw me faithfully plugging away, trying to make ends meet, working hard to feed my big family healthy food. God reminded me that He was aware of our situation. He knew our needs, and when it was the right time, He met them.

God reached down to me in a tangible way. It’s immensely reassuring to know that God cares about the details of my life, both big and small.

By giving me something only one person on earth knew I wanted, God assured me He hears my prayers. He provides for my needs and occasionally some of my wants. Just like I enjoy giving my children things I know they need and will enjoy, God enjoys giving His children the desires of their heart.

God doesn’t meet all our needs or answer all our prayers. Why He chose to answer this one and not others, I don’t know. I do know that God is wise and knows which prayers should be answered and in which way.

Things like this solidify my resolve to trust God. Trusting God because of the things I have seen, goes a long way to help me trust Him for the things I can’t see.
This was a defining moment for me. I learned God is thoughtful, resourceful, generous, creative, loving, faithful, aware, kind, wise, a provider, and trustworthy.

And thankfully, he also likes to send care packages.

God is great,
God is good,
And we thank Him
For this food
(and the machine that helped make it)

I'm linking up with my friend Jennifer for:

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Last Day of August

Kiah and I took a quick stroll on Friendly Valley Beach Saturday night. 

We loved the Blue Moon. 

We had a friend's dog (Walter) with us.


 "And once the moon is Mine...." - Gru, Despicable Me.

 We don't want the nice weather to end. 
Here's hoping for a few more days of summer.