Thursday, December 29, 2011

Two Hands

I make plenty of mistakes - like saying that my oldest girls did not sound very good when they were playing the piano with injured hands. (You can see that post here.) They sound great now and we enjoyed the Christmas season more because of the music they were able to add to our home.

Way to go girls!

P.S. In case you missed it, both of the girls injured a hand playing soccer. This prevented Miss Bookworm from playing the violin and Ed from playing the piano. But they each had a hand to contribute to playing the piano together.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Thanksgiving Thoughts

[Note: This article was from our November newsletter that we sent out. I meant to post it at Thanksgiving, but I forgot. You can see the whole newsletter here.]

“But I want hot peppers without olives,” one of the kids complained as they surveyed the four different kinds of pizza CrazyMom had made for dinner. This provided a great opportunity to have the kids remember all of the times they had eaten pizza when there was only one option – and they were perfectly happy. “Somehow, having options breeds discontentment,” I was telling them. When our silly discontentment is brought to our attention, however, it is not that hard to make the shift to being thankful.

This is the essence of Thanksgiving for me – taking the time to set aside my silly discontentedness and refocus on what I have to be thankful for – a loving God, my family, clean water, health care, ample food, and a heated home as winter sets in.

And as often happens when we reflect anew on God’s goodness in our lives, our attention somehow shifts off of us and onto others. So as we all rejoice in Him this Thanksgiving, may God grant us renewed strength to minister to those He has brought our way in life.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Public Bathrooms

The sign I dream of.
Knock, knock, knock.

“You have got to be kidding,” I thought.

I had just stepped out of the shower when someone knocked on the bathroom door.

Now, I only spend 15-20 minutes a day in the master bathroom, which is less than 1.5% of the day. Since my children spend even less time in the master bath than I do, one might think that we never cross paths there.

And yet somehow the probability of someone knocking on the bath door (or just coming in) during the 1.5% of the day that I am there is nearly 100%.

Even on a day like today when I was taking a shower during an off-peak time. It was well after the morning rush hour of teeth brushing and it was not even during the evening rush hour with the kids’ showers.

How in the world does someone need to come into the master bath at 11:15am on a Saturday morning?

“Who is it?” I asked with poorly veiled irritation.

“It is Anna,” came the reply. “I need to empty the trash.”

I can’t wait until we get to Kenya where we will have half of the bathrooms that we have now.  I guess I will just have to go with this sign on my bathroom door.

Monday, November 28, 2011

When Lending a Hand Isn’t Helpful

The other day I heard particularly bad music coming from the piano in our living room. While we don’t have a Mozart in our home, our children normally play better than what I was hearing. When I went to investigate, this is what I found.

Despite the fact that our soccer seasons are long gone, our soccer injuries live on. Miss Bookworm had surgery the other day on her wrist to sew back together some torn cartilage. Ed was still complaining about her ankles so we sent her to the doctor and she came back with a wrist brace since her thumb could do things that no thumb with all ligaments attached ought to be able to do. We are hoping that things will heal without her going to the operating room as well.

So, piano playing is out for both of them – or so I thought. Wanting to still work on their Christmas music, they got together and each played with their good hand. Although they work well together in many different ways, I think that doing a duet on a solo piano piece is not one of those ways.

At least they can still play soccer.

[Note: When I had the girls sit down this morning so I could take a photo for this post, they played “Carol of the Bells” and it sounded particularly good. I guess a little practice goes a long way!]

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Banned Birthday Cookies

“To Mr. CrazyD,

Please do NOT eat these cookies. It is my birthday. They are for my friends at soccer.

Thank you,


I was about to enjoy a just-before-dinner snack when I noticed the above note taped to the top of the lid that I was holding in my hand. I had just come home from work and found a container of CrazyMom’s chocolate chip cookies on the counter.

It was one of those crisis moments in my life. A thousand thoughts flashed through my head – nobody is around – but they are her birthday cookies – but I bet there are enough – but what if she ends up a cookie short at soccer practice?

Ah, the dilemmas we face in life.

After one more delicious whiff, I reluctantly put the lid back on the container.

F.G. protecting her last two birthday cookies.
“F.G.,” I said on the way to soccer practice. “If somebody asks you for a second cookie, you had better tell them no or I won’t let you play in the next soccer game,” I said it my most serious tone, which, unfortunately, is also my teasing tone.

“But what if the coach asks for a second cookie and I don’t give it to him? Maybe he won’t let me play then,” said F.G. with a grin from ear to ear.

“Either way you lose,” chimed in Ed. “You might as well make dad happy instead of coach.”

“He will let you play,” I reassured F.G. “He is not as mean as I am.”

When I pulled up after practice to pick up F.G., the coach came up to the car to let me know how much he enjoyed finishing off the cookies.

Good thing for F.G. he was just kidding.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Crazy Mom’s Ways

“Look, there’s a rest area in one mile. Anyone have to go to the bathroom?” avid-coffee-drinker CrazyMom asked. CrazyMom, Miss Bookworm, Ed and I were in the car headed to Taylor University for the day for our 20-year reunion.

“No,” came the response from everyone else in the car.

“Are you sure? We won’t be stopping for another hour and a half,” avid-coffee-drinker CrazyMom said.

“I’m fine,” said each of the girls.

“Well, maybe we’ll pull over anyway,” said CrazyMom as she migrated to the right lane to exit at the rest area.

When we have seven children in the car, CrazyMom can hide the fact that we need to stop for a bathroom break because of her since there is always a child that has to go. But when there are just a few of us in the car, it is a different story.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Otherwise I Would Have to Play by Myself

Anna with one of her friends.
“Anna, you sure make friends easily,” Grandpa was saying as he left an older kid’s soccer game with her. Instead of watching her sibling’s game, Anna had made a new friend and played with that friend the whole time. Grandpa, like most people we know, was amazed at how social Anna is and how she can make a friend (child or adult) wherever she goes.

“Well, I have to be able to make friends,” Anna replied. “Otherwise I would have to play by myself.”

The logic is so simple I am sure she was wondering why Grandpa could not have figured it out for himself.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Too Small to Ignore - Another Free Book!

First of all, congrats to last week's winner of "One Million Arrows."

This week we are giving away the book "Too Small to Ignore" by Dr. Wess Stafford who is the president and CEO of Compassion International.  Another good book to cause us to reflect afresh on the importance of each child around the world.

Special note to all of my Canadian blog readers:  Yes you may enter to win!  I will ship you the book even if you live in Canada.  :-)

Note: This form is no longer available since this drawing is now over.

Anna in the Rain

Last Saturday was a very windy, cold, and drizzly day.  Despite the weather conditions and despite being dragged all over town to different soccer games, Anna still managed to enjoy herself.  She is certainly one happy child.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Win a free book! “One Million Arrows”

Readers of this blog will know that one of the themes in our lives is getting rid of stuff so we can get the family out the door to Africa. What better way to get rid of stuff than to give it away?

This week’s giveaway: “One Million Arrows: Raising Your Children to Change the World” by Julie Ferwerda

This is a brand new book off of CrazyMom’s bookshelf. She loved the book so much that she bought multiple copies to give away, but she still has one new copy left. She informed me that she is not giving away her personal copy because it is one book that she is definitely planning on taking to Africa with her.

You can read more about the book here:

Enter to win this book by completing the form below. I will randomly choose a winner next Wednesday and then get in touch with you so that I can mail you the book.

Note: This form is no longer available since this drawing is now over.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

CrazyMom and 30 second waits don’t mix

“CrazyMom, can you come here!” I was saying very loudly trying unsuccessfully to make it sound like I was not yelling. “Quickly!” I added in a tone trying to convey to CrazyMom TO COME RIGHT NOW without the piano teacher, who was in our living room, thinking there was anything strange going on.

But something strange was going on, and I think the piano teacher knew it. How on earth can the planets align so that a calm, cool-headed guy like myself ends up sticking my head out of our room while hiding my dripping and under-clothed body while yelling for my wife because there is milky white water running all over the bathroom counter and flooding the floor?

Well, the planets get this way because CrazyMom has too much to do.

Riddle: Where is the best place to find CrazyMom’s coffee?

Answer: In the microwave.

You see, rather than waiting for the 30 seconds that it takes for the microwave to reheat her coffee, she figures she has just enough time to do this, which leads to that, which leads to the other thing. This means that a half hour later when she is looking for her coffee, she finds it cold again in the microwave. So she sets the microwave for another 30 seconds, which is just enough time to do this, which leads to that . . .

So tonight I came home a total mess because a student threw a can of white paint on me to help promote school spirit – one of those teaching things. Anyway, I went upstairs and started soaking my shirt in the sink. While I was in the shower, CrazyMom arrived on the scene and decided to flush and refill the water in the sink since there was so much paint. Of course, it takes about 30 seconds to refill the sink, which is just enough time to do this, which leads to that . . .

When I turned off the shower, heard the water running, and saw that CrazyMom was long gone, I knew there was a problem. Dashing to the bedroom door, I started yelling. CrazyMom arrived in a flash and we started soaking up the water.

“Don’t worry about the counter,” I told CrazyMom when she started mopping up the mess there. “We have to get it off the floor so it does not soak through to the ceiling below.”

As I said it, Miss Bookworm showed up at the bathroom door. “Um, water is coming through the ceiling downstairs,” she said.

Unlucky there.

So, here is the stack of stools to hold the fan to blow in the hole to dry up the water that came through the floor.

Oh, and one more thing. I just went and checked the microwave. Sure enough there is a cup of cold coffee there.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Impediments to Downsizing: Birthdays with CONCRETE

CrazyMom was explaining to me what we were giving to Little Foot for his birthday and the word CONCRETE came out of her mouth. She was saying something about a tether ball, an old tire, and CONCRETE, but it was hard for me to decipher what she was saying anymore. All I could think about was CONCRETE.

Nearly every hour of every day I am thinking about what we can get rid of. With a target date of July to move to Africa to teach there, I am obsessed with downsizing. Adding a tire filled with four 80lb bags of CONCRETE with a 10-foot pole sticking out of is obviously an impediment to downsizing.

“CONCRETE! How will I be able to get rid of this?" I thought. "I can’t throw it in the trash. Can I find a dump that will take tires? Will they still take the tire if it is filled with CONCRETE?” My head was swimming and I felt nauseous.

CrazyMom was able to calm me down, however. She reminded me that we still have a year of life with our children here in America. Birthdays will still come and we need to make them special for our kids.

She was right, of course. But still, I hope F.G.’s birthday in October does not involve any more CONCRETE.

Adding an eye bolt to the top of the pole.

Filling the tire with CONCRETE.

We duct tapped the pole to the basketball hoop and the truck to hold it in place while the CONCRETE set up.

Little Foot leaving his permanent legacy in the CONCRETE.

Playing tether ball!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Losing Teeth - Natural and Unnatural Causes

As you can see, Anna currently is missing both of her front teeth. The first one came out the natural way. The second, well, I will let her tell you how it happened.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Saying No, Saying Yes

Since we have a blog, we have been invited to do many different things. Some things you run from as fast as you can - like some TV show called Wife Swap. Others you join in because it seems like simple fun. We received an email that someone had put our blog up for a Top 25 Big Family blog list. Feel free to vote for our blog (or one of the other great blogs you will see there) by clicking on the icon on the top left of our blog. You can't miss the icon; it is pink. It will be fun for me to see some other big family blogs that are not on my normal reading list. Yay, blogging!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Garage Sale Lesson

"Mommy, can I get this please?" the little girl was saying with the sweetest eyes as she held a new treasure that she had found at our garage sale.   

"No," her mom said flatly.  Then she added,  "We don't even own a VCR player," with a hint of disgust in her voice.

Our garage sale on Saturday was a HUGE success.  We sold tons of stuff - literally.  However, this little girl was the closest we came to selling one of about 50 VHS tapes.

At the end of the day we filled the pickup truck with the VHS tapes and a lot of other stuff that did not sell and tried to drop it all off at Am Vets.  Am Vets took just about everything we had in the truck, but they wouldn't take the VHS tapes.  Lesson learned - the only new home you can find for a VHS tape is the landfill.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Photos of the Kids and Us

A few shots of the kids with us (or the dog) on our trip.
CrazyD with the older girls in the Black Hills on the Cathedral Spires trail.

K.D. with Sodo in a KOA in Dubois, WY.

Crazy Mom and Little Foot at the Chasm Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Crazy Mom and Buddy at the top of the Rockies near the Alpine Visitor Center.

Anna and Crazy Mom on a trail near Lily Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park.

CrazyD and Crazy Mom on the trail to the Calypso Cascades in the Wild Basin area of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Eye of the Needle

The Eye of the Needle

When we were in the Black Hills, we drove up the Needles Highway to the top where there was the Eye of the Needle. While it was fun for a minute to look at the Eye of the Needle, it was fun for hours to climb around on the rocks up there. Our plans for the day changed because we lingered so long enjoying the moment.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Near Blowout - Again

If you saw the post from a few days ago, you know we nearly had the right rear tire blowout on us. Well, the same thing happened again. This time we were headed off for a hike in Rocky Mountain National Park when Aunt K. saw a problem with our left rear tire when she was driving behind us.  Even though I now have two new tires on the back of my van, I am frequently checking the inside of my tires.  I am sure people at gas stations are wondering why I get down on my hands and knees to do such a thorough inspection of my tires.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Campsite Searching

It was late in the day, the kids were hungry, and we were at a gas station in the middle of Fort Collins trying to figure out what we were going to do. I was trying to avoid spending a night in the Wal-Mart parking lot when we were on the doorstep of the Rockies.

Planning on camping at a KOA in Laramie, we had arrived there mid-afternoon. But when we pulled into the place and saw that it resembled a gravel parking lot with the roar of I-80 50 yards away, we decided to move on to Fort Collins. There were KOA’s in the Fort Collins area, but they were firm on charging an extra $5 per child, which really adds up for a family like ours.

Fortunately, someone at the gas station was from the area and she told us to drive up Poudre Canyon just north of town. Part of the canyon is a national forest and they had campsites there, she told us. So we struck out and before the sun dipped below the horizon we ended up in a beautiful campsite. We even got to cook burgers over the fire while listening to the soothing roar of the mountain stream just yards away.


"Dad!" Miss Bookworm excitedly said as she came back down the trail towards me. "You have got to come over here and take a picture. It is the perfect spot." We were on a hike up from Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Well, here is the picture I took. The Rocky Mountains are simply stunning.

By the way, these posts about our trip are not in order. Sorry about that. I just post whatever I feel like either from that day or some day before.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Feeding the Family

While we may be bleeding at the gas pump, CrazyMom has been saving us a ton of money by feeding the family out of the RV. I am not exactly sure how the process works, but I know it involves a very small RV fridge that you only open if you are prepared to spend an hour repacking it. It also involves a sizable pantry located under our bed. While the inner workings are a mystery to me, the results are plain to see. From a sloppy joe dinner overlooking the Badlands to a creekside taco feast along a brook in the Black Hills, we have been eating well – and cheaply.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Near Blowout

“Why is that truck honking at us?” a kid asked from the back seat.

“I don’t know,” I replied. “Probably because I am driving too slow.”

It was our only full day in the Badlands and we had just gotten on the road to see the sights when this Custer Gas truck started honking at us. I pulled over to let him pass, but instead he pulled up beside me.

“Something is wrong with your right rear tire,” the trucker yelled through his open window.

I hopped out and went to look at it. The tire looked perfectly fine to me and I was about to get back in the van when the guy showed up at my side.

“It’s something on the inside,” he said.

Getting down on our knees, we looked under the van and saw the problem. I was moments away from a blowout. I would have never noticed the bulge and nobody else could have seen it when I was pulling the travel trailer.

Feeling very fortunate indeed, we cautiously headed off to the nearest tire store, which we found out about from our favorite trucker.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Of Trust and Rattlesnakes

So a few days back we were hiking in the Bandlands when we saw a sign warning us of rattlesnakes. F.G. got really nervous.

“Trust me,” I said, “the rattlesnakes won’t get you.”

After some coaxing and reassuring, I finally got F.G. to take a picture with the sign acting like she was scared.

As you have probably already guessed, later that day we were hiking and saw a rattlesnake. Good thing the snake did not bite F.G. or she would probably never trust me again.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Unheeded Advice

“Get to the campsite early,” Mr. V was telling us. Mr. and Mrs. V had spent a year on the road camping and Crazy Mom and I were asking them what nuggets of wisdom they could pass along to us as we embarked on our own trip. The get-there-early advice was certainly sound.

Just three days later we experienced first hand the perils of ignoring this advice. With only 5 hours to travel that day, we felt like we had plenty of time. This led us to make a number of bad decisions.

Bad decision #1: Cook pancakes and sausage for breakfast after sleeping in for an extra hour.

Bad decision #2: Rather than take off for our new site (in the Badlands), go visit the Ingalls Homestead.

Bad decision #3: Get sucked into lingering at the Ingalls homestead because the kids are having so much fun.

Bad decision #4: Being nice to the guy from Australia who talked to us for a half-hour right as we were trying to pull out of the campsite.

After all of these bad decisions, we could have still made it to the campsite before nightfall if all had gone well. Unfortunately, I had to buy a new jack for the front of the RV and it did not fit into the old hole, leading to an additional delay at a car shop.

Then, as we crossed into the Badlands there was a nasty front passing through. The wind was blowing so hard we pulled over in a rest area and parked next to a semi to it could break the wind for us.

All of this resulted in arriving at the campsite well after dark. Visiting the dumping station and setting up camp in the dark with a tired and crabby crew meant we violated the quiet hours of the camp, I am sure. The one good thing is that the storm caused a spectacular sunset as we passed through the Badlands to get to our campsite.