Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Double Feature!!

Okay, so it seems that exciting things that I want to write about often happen on the SAME day! So, since that happened today, I'm doing two entries....both are exciting, and I didn't want to lessen the other one by adding this to it...PLEASE read my first entry for the day which follows this one.

I don't know if you'll be able to pull up this link, but if you'd like....try. -- this is from a newsletter sent to each Watkins associate monthly...and surprise, surprise to me, I'm the featured testimonial for the month with the cleaning products! This is something I emailed to either my upline or to one of the gals at Watkins who is in charge of the Good Tastings parties.

Anyway, I have even more to add to that testimonial! The new laundry detergent is so fabulous. Each time I do laundry, I'm just amazed at it...and especially since it is chemical-free, plant-based, and safe for septic systems, no added dyes, colors, artificial anything. It has a great lemon scent from lemon essential oil that faintly lingers in the clothing and just gives a really fresh smell to the laundry. Not only that, there is a soy-based formula that is a natural fabric softener, so even when I hang our laundry on the clothes line outdoors, it doesn't dry all stiff (and with this breezy, semi-nice weather, I've been "getting the stink off," to use a Carter phrase!). But even more exciting to me (okay, I'm a mom, bear with me!) was when I started hanging up little underwear on the line yesterday and noticed certain stains left because independent children insist on wiping themselves after potty...are finally gone! While the powdered Generation III Watkins detergent is also great, it didn't get the stains out. Woohoo! This is one excited mama!

Have I mentioned before how much I love this cleaning line of all natural cleaners? I continue to be amazed daily at how well they clean. Everything. And how good they smell. And I'm glad to know I'm doing my own little part in preventing more pollution to this world God gave us to take care of while at the same time making sure my family is not exposed to chemicals and solvents that are in most regular cleaners.

Yeah, another Watkins commercial, but hey...when I find products as awesome as these, whether food, medicinal, pampering, or cleaning...I just gotta share it with all my faceless internet friends!

(if you're interested in trying some of their products for yourself, click on the link on the upper left corner of this page to be taken to my Watkins Website, or leave me a comment, or shoot me an email for more information.)

A new creation!

Wow, that about sums up my morning! It was terribly busy...three loads of laundry (and hung up on the line outside), cooking breakfast (egg goop), finish stacking the dishwasher to get that going, clean up a bathroom accident, get ready to sit down to finally eat breakfast myself when the phone's mom. We talk for a bit before I called my sister-in-law in Ohio...their new baby is going through something very similar to what both of mine did as new borns, and I knew she'd need some prayers and encouragement. Finally hang up, eat my breakfast, sit down to do school work with the kids, another phone call...another, another, another. Finally, we just went outside to play for a bit (leaving the phone inside!). We came back in and colored eggs (I boiled a bunch of them yesterday and with kids in the house, who says coloring eggs should be an Easter-time only event?), cleaned up the mess, got the kids lunch, and had a great conversation.

I don't even know how it came up, but I said something about Satan, and the kids asked me who Satan is. We have focused on Jesus and countless Bible stories, they know about good and evil and all about heaven, but we've not really talked about Satan and hell yet, although we have talked about how we need to ask Jesus to forgive our sins. Hey, they're 3 and 4 and both have quite active imaginations! However, I told them about the fall of Lucifier today and ended with him being cast out of heaven and how he will be sent to hell and wants everyone to be with him and not in heaven. That lead to a little discussion about hell and how when we die we will either be with Jesus in heaven or Satan in hell. I explained that the Bible tells us that we can only go to heaven if we believe in Jesus, ask Him to forgive our sins, and give our life to Him, becoming brand new creations.

Luke immediately started praying, asking God to forgive his sins and make him a new creation. With tears in my eyes, I went over and led him some more in his salvation prayer and gave him a big hug afterwards. We talked more about what an important decision he has made and how even though he is the same Luke on the outside, Jesus has washed his sins away and made him new on the inside. He just kept smiling and saying he was brand new and was so happy Jesus took his sins away. He also got excited to hear this is a new, second birthday for him and wanted me to sing Happy Birthday (although he didn't ask about cake and presents).

Luke is four. And still quite young. And yet, he has such a wonderful grasp about Christ's salvation work on the cross and how He came to earth to be our sacrifice; the purpose of the cross, the last supper, His baptism, and heaven. I know that he has had a pretty clear understanding about sin and forgiveness and punishment. Today, the final dots in the picture were connected for him...the other side of Jesus and heaven....and he knew that it was important for him to make that decision and wanted to make that decision today.

I know that there will be rough spots in his life ahead...there are for each and every one of us who have made that commitment to Christ, who are new creations in Him. Satan doesn't give up just because we belong to Christ...but we have the assurance of salvation, being cradled in God's hand. And I know that Luke now understands (even with a child's mind) the battle of the ages..and has chosen to be on the winning side. Thank You, Father!

"I am God's soldier now!"

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

My Susi

Susi Joy Carter

Yesterday, Luke asked Daddy if he could be his helper in the afternoon...and off they went! Susanna took a nap, freeing me up to catch up on a bunch of things I'm behind with, but several phone calls in a row ate up that time.
However, after Susi woke up and realized it was just the "girls," she just couldn't stop giggling....and point out to me that it is only girls now. We had fun doing art work, reading stories, and just snuggling, before she offered to "help" me with supper. I did a stir fry with egg roll and pot stickers while she "supervised" and tsk-tsked about the coloring Luke had done earlier on the kitchen floor mats (no comments from her about her coloring on the wall behind her desk).

Tony then called from a meeting he'd attended to say that he was taking Luke with him to pick up some hay. Since it was going to be another hour an a half before they were home, we had a special "girls only" supper. She was thrilled to use a "big girl" plate and have something special to drink (rootbeer) before digging in to her rice, "crunchy," and "giant noodle." And all the while, she kept reminding me, "This is girls only, Mama. You're a girl and I'm a girl! No boys. No Daddy and no Luke, it's just girls!"

She was, of course, elated to see them both when they got home, but she also informed them that supper was for girls only.
I love my kids together, but it's also so fun to have one on one time with each of them!

Susanna's latest trick (for about a month now) is winking. After watching me, she practiced and practiced and practiced until she got it down. Now, we just bust up laughing when she walks up an announces, "Hi, I'm Susi Joy Carter!" and gives a huge wink!

Hi everyone!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Here we go again...

Yes, we are again in the midst of a winter storm warning. And the forecast continues to get worse each hour. Heavy snow, at times zero visibility, blowing and drifting, 7 to 9 inches (as of the current forecast) by morning. Light snow tomorrow morning, 12-17 inches potential accumulation.

The snow is beautiful, though. It's those huge, fluffy flakes that look like paper snow flakes. And it's beautifully white. And covering everything. Again.

Did I mention I have a huge Watkins open house in town tomorrow? One that's been advertised all over the place for the past three weeks?


Well, God's in control and I'm not gonna sweat it (especially with the temps outside!). I just wish He'd hurry up with springtime weather here in central Minnesota!

And if you want to pray that the snow would let up; that I'd be able to get to town with no problems tomorrow; that the open house would be a huge success....well, thanks!

Here's a blast from the past showing lots of snow...

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Joys of Raising Children in a Christian Home

Yesterday I wrote some about what my kids do using what they have been learning as they grow up in a Christian home. I'm hoping you all realized it for what it was...humor in dealing with some of the hilarious things that they do which really aren't hilarious at the time!

Anyway! I did want to share a couple more things that make this Mama's heart sing as I see my kids go about their day. I've written before about how they play "Jesus" with the full Easter story, from Christ and the disciples sharing the last supper together (and them passing around bread "This is my body, Susanna, eat it and remember me" and a cup "this cup is my blood, don't forget me when you drink it"), praying in the garden ("dear God, thank you that I can do this, please help me through it, and don't let the bad guys get me."), to being beaten and nailed on the cross (thankfully, they use a blanket to "beat" whichever one is playing Jesus and pretend nails and hammer for the crucifixion -- a Disney princess crown is often the crown of thorns), wrapped in linen clothes, put in the "grave," before the miraculous resurrection. I really need to video tape this! They played "Jesus" again this morning, and as Luke went and knelt by the Little Tykes dryer to pray in the Garden, my heart just melted...and I've called on that memory already several times today to calm myself down!

Yesterday afternoon, as they were having milk and a Twizzler for an afternoon snack, Luke told me "Mama, my licorice is Peter!" Confused, I just kind of looked at him, so he clarified, "See, my licorice is in my cup and sank in the water. Jesus went back to the boat and it stopped looking, so it sank." Wow! I don't even remember telling him that story! He may have learned it in Cubbies?

Talking about Cubbies, Luke's lesson for last night was about Solomon and wisdom. In wrapping up the year, his work was to draw to pictures of what he's learned. I've posted it below. Can anyone figure them out (he's given you clues by writing the main character's name beside each picture....if you can figure that out!). He quite amazed his daddy with how well he can draw. Now, officially, much better than his Mama.
Grandma, you cannot answer that challenge above since I already told you about it!

I haven't written much about Susanna and how she puts her Bible stories into play each day (other than the whole Deliliah, hair, scissors thing), but she plays along with Luke as he directs his "passion play" daily, sometimes directing her to be Jesus, sometimes giving her the role of the bad soldiers. She does correct him if he takes something out of order, though!

I've found that just the year between 3 and 4 years of age is a huge gap in learning with my children. I'm amazed at what Luke has learned and picked up and figured out and am looking forward to watching Susanna do the same, in her own time. She is talking more about Sunday School now, what she has learned each week, and who is in her class that week.

Not quite on topic, but something else that has made me amazed and very smiley this afternoon was Luke's music class. Half the time he is paying attention and following everything Mrs. Hodge is talking about, the other half he is rolling around on the floor, poking at one of the kids, jumping up, spinning in circles, or something else that makes me want to either take him out of the class or pretend that I don't know him. But as we were talking about listening ears on the way home and how important it is to really pay attention to Mrs. Hodge, he shocked me. I asked him about some of the terms she was teaching them today (when he was rolling around and not paying attention). What is adagio? "Slooooooow" Wow. "Okay, what is allegro? "quick!" How about little "p," Luke? "quiet, Mama, be quiet." And what about "f"? "LOUD!!" I should've realized he really was paying attention AND retaining when she held up the "rest" symbol towards the end of class and Luke immediately laid on the floor and curled up.

Why was I surprised? I mean, seriously! I already know this kid learns best when he is running around and doing two or three things at one time. He makes me tired.

Susanna has been having fun during her special times with Daddy on Wednesday nights during AWANA (although next Wednesday will be the last of those times...our season is done for this year and she'll be a Cubbie herself next year!) and Thursday afternoons while Luke and I are at music class. I'm thankful when Tony can use a "helper" and I get to have my own special time with Susi alone at home or in town!

And, as usual, another photo blast from the past, courtesy of my friend Jane (David's mom...the other archer in the photo)!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The problem with raising children in a Christian home...

Okay, I know there are far more problems when children AREN'T raised in a Christian home, but here is what we've been dealing with lately:

"David the Sheperd Boy" is a frequent "visitor" to our home. He is Luke's best (and imaginary) friend. And he has been banished. You see, when Luke does something that he shouldn't or if he whines when told "no," "but David said that I could." Much to Luke's horror, I firmly told him at lunch time today that David was no longer welcome in our home and until he could have good behavior and not encourage Luke to be naughty, he would not be allowed to even play with Luke outside. Luke has informed me since that David will have good behavior now. I've assured him that he is welcome to be here as long as he has good behavior....but he's gone for good next time he encourages that naughty stuff.

Right now, as Susanna is sleeping, Luke is upstairs praying to God because "Mama is not nice, God. Please make her nice. I love her so much and she is not being kind." After being told to stop playing with a book that plays music when you touch buttons (thank you SO MUCH for those books, Mom.) so he won't wake up Susanna, he continued to do so (hmmm....maybe David snuck back indoors and told him he could). As I went upstairs counting to ten so I wouldn't blow up, I decided to just take the book away instead of further discipline. Problem was, he wouldn't let go so I yanked the book out of his hand....and ended up with only the part that plays music. Wait, did I say that was a PROBLEM? Smiling, I told Luke he COULD keep looking at the book...and threw the music part on the top shelf way out of reach (and knowing it is impossible to climb up the bookshelf). Hence, the terrible Mama dilemna and his wails to God about Mama breaking his books and not being kind.

We also had a bit of a hissy fit last night when I informed the children that since we were getting to bed so late (we'd been at a supper at church last night and didn't get them ready for bed until after 10:00), there would be no devotions. Tony read two Bible stories, I let them know no devotions for the night, just prayers and hugs and kisses. "But we WANT devotions, Mama! We just LOVE them! And we love the stories and books that you are reading!"

Susanna, meanwhile, has decided that Delilah for some reason is her favorite story. Kind Ruth? Naw. Lovely and courageous Esther? Fuggetaboutit. She only wants to hear about Samson and Delilah. And play with hair. And use scissors.

At least they understand about going to the Lord in prayer for all things. And are retaining the knowledge from God's Word. And are passionate about daily devotions.

A lively bunch

Monday, April 21, 2008

Last Week End

Wow, last week was a hectic one for me, and we've not even "officially" started our season yet! Although not much I did last week related to the farm and market :)

I headed to Duluth on Thursday morning for a homeschool convention. Minnesota has a great homeschool association, MACHE (Minnesota Association for Christian Home Educators), and they have a wonderful convention every April, rotating between three MN cities.

They have a great seminar, starting on Thursday afternoon, for those who are just starting homeschooling. I got so much information from them! There were four 45-minute sessions, covering things like why homeschooling, how do you figure out learning styles, what you need to know, and a great question and answer session with some homeschooling "pioneers." Friday morning, the first general session was entitled "Which Way Do I Go?" and I'd have been lost without it!

Minnesota is really blessed to have as the head of the MACHE board a gentleman who served in the State legislature for years before stopping his "public" life but still staying in our capital to oversee legislation, make sure nothing anti-homeschool is promoted while making sure our rights to homeschool are protected. As a result, we don't have alot of the hostilities to homeschool parents from legal sources as many other states do. We also don't have to worry about our homeschool right being taken away based on our childrens' testing scores, unlike many other states. John is right there, making sure we as homeschoolers are legally protected.

Back to the conference! The learning styles seminar was so informative to me! They covered the four main styles of kids (named, in this instance, "wiggly willy/wilma," "confident carl/carla," "perfect paul/paula," and "sociable sam/sue"), giving characteristics of each as well as favorite subjects, things they cannot abide doing, positives and negatives, and what teaching methods are best for each style. Wow, as we were covering them, I'm pretty certain I have my kids pegged! Luke is pretty much 50/50 wiggly and sociable (and I'm not saying wiggly just because he's a boy) -- as she was covering both styles, I couldn't believe how exact both described him from birth to today. Tony also thought they described Luke to a "T." Susanna is textbook confident, again, from the moment she was born. They also told us that for homeschooling, figure an average of $450/student/year for materials. I told Tony that (my frugal sweetie) and he said he didn't think that was unreasonable. Yeah!

I got back to my hotel that night, tired but excited about the next couple days of the conference. Wow, I was going to get so much out of this! Friday's opening seminar, "Which Way Do I Go?," was a further inspiration. Mary James covered the five major teaching styles, along with pros and cons on each and what cirriculum fell in each style. Unit studies for us, baby! Fits both kids' styles as well as our busy life style, what could be better? Oh yeah! Great info! Most were represented in the Exhibit Hall...I was set! Go on to the seminars, learn all kinds of stuff, check out the cirriculum during breaks, and go from there!

Well. I went into the first general seminar lead by a great lady, Terry Maxwell, who homeschools a bunch of kids, has written several books, co-authored many with her husband, and has been featured on several programs such as Focus on the Family, Family Life Today, and others.

I lasted five minutes in there. She was talking about scheduling, about how important it is to keep everything scheduled so things don't fall apart. Are you KIDDING me? Now, I'm a scheduler (stop laughing, Mom -- I'm not as bad as Ron!) and it really helps when I list things out that need to be done. HOWEVER, there is NO way I am able to maintain a schedule with the life we lead. I gave up schedules when I became a mom and realized that while routines are important, schedules no longer work. There are way too many variables in our life as farmers and business owners and parents with small children who have minds of their own. Maybe down the road but now? Yeah. Right.
Side note: My daughter is starting to turn out like her Mama. Last week when we went to the grocery store, as we walked in, she pulled out a piece of paper with scribbles on it and was ready with her "grocery list." I cracked up!

I tried another seminar given at the same time. I lasted less than five minutes in that one. I high-tailed it down to the exhibit hall and Mary James' booth "Smoothing The Way -- Help for First Year Homeschoolers" -- and started tearing up as I realized that this step we're taking is a big one...but one we both are convinced is the right one for our family. Tony and I are going to have to reprioritize many things, most of them not right away, but we're going to need to look in the future and realize there are things that cannot continue the way they are.

That first full day was overwhelming for me. But with God's help and reminders, I realized that most of what was going on at the conference doesn't pertain to us. Yet. We are easing our way into this, starting officially next year, so we still have time. The bountiful information at the conference -- much won't be needed for us until years from now. We don't need to start worrying about Shakespear, advanced math, college prep, things like that. So I spent most of Friday in the Exhibit Hall. Checked out the literally hundreds of exhibitors, looked at all kinds of cirriculum, especially those that I noted that fit our kids' styles and the teaching style I want to try.

Unit studies are a fantastic way to pick a topic and build all the subjects around that topic, going through as many topics as you and your family want...but it's pretty unrealistic for me when I look at it. I would be the one having to put together all the information, the material, the lesson plans, etc. Wasn't there anything out there for unit studies that had everything put together for me already? Well, no, not really, but enter.....

My Father's World. Wow! This cirriculum is amazing! Check out their site at It is written from toddler through high school in a blend of styles that focuses mainly on units and "classical teaching." The first two "formal" years of teaching for children are all focused purely on the Bible. Kindergarden centers around Creation. First Grade centers around the Bible as a whole. And after that, you can teach multi-ages for the next seven years until they get to high school and mainly independent study. The focus is still on the Bible, the teaching is pretty much "hands on" (in kindergarden they have an ant hill and a butterfly garden, in first grade they do things like make applesauce, etc.), all subjects are covered (unlike many other cirriculum where you have to add your own math, spelling, language arts, etc.) -- actually, in the cost for the year, some other established cirricula (like first Singapore math then Saxon Math) is included for the year, books that are used aren't normal textbooks but "living books" (actual books like the Little House series and others) and are not required purchases -- you are given the list of books so you can either buy them on your own or check them out of the local library! Each year focuses on a different music style as well, starting with Wee Sing Bible songs then introducing them to classical music, orchestra, music around the world, American composers, and more. The price averages to about $100-150/child/year since they are taught together using the same materials with only a few things that would need to be bought for each of them. The background of the material is fantastic, too. It was written by a couple for their own children when they were Wycliffe translators in Russia. (although a good amount of the cirriculum out there was written by parents for their own kids)

By Saturday, I was so tired even after a great night's sleep on my sleep number bed. It was all so overwhelming. was also invigorating. By Saturday, I was ready to actually sit in on some of the seminars -- they had about 17 different sessions for each seminar time that you could choose from...or just go through the exhibitor hall. It was great that I got so much wonderful information. I'd prayed that God would give me wisdom to know what paths to follow for teaching our kids. I really am confident in discovering their learning styles, the teaching style that will probably work best for our family, AND the cirriculum that looks like it will be the best for our family. Will any of this change over the years? Possibly. And I'm okay with that.

In the meantime, I picked up the Preschool Pack from MFW as well as some other learning tools (and LOTS of brochures!). Luke and Susanna cried today when I told them we had to go into town for groceries. They wanted to stay home and do school work. They're on the floor right now doing school work (well, Susi is doing the moonwalk...better than Michael Jackson...and I have no idea where she even saw it!) They've already watched a great DVD by Joyce Herzog called "Lettermaster" about all the different sounds each letter makes...three times. And would be watching it even more if I'd let them! It's a corny DVD, but it is GREAT learning...and they are singing about which letters are vowels and which aren't as well as the sounds that "s" makes. Luke no longer wants to be called Luke. He is "L." And I was blown away at watching Susanna "playing" with some math manipulatives. I'd ask her which card (out of ten different ones) had three spots on, and without hesitating, she'd pick up the correct one. She did it each time I asked her -- five spots, seven spots.

And lest anyone is concerned, let me reassure you that I know my kids are 3 and 4. I know they don't officially start school for another year and two. But I also know they are having fun "playing" with school work and learning all kinds of things without even realizing it. And when they tell me, "okay, I'm done with this for today," -- hey, that's fine with me.

And now...I need to lay down a bit. Dwight called the farm last week to tell Mama that he and his business partner were coming up from Guatemala today and leaving on Thursday. Unexpected but welcome trip. From the moment the kids found out, they've been wanting to go to the farm to see Uncle Dwight. We all plan on going out for supper tonight. What fun!

More tomorrow. Or whenever I have time and motivation to write!


Thursday, April 17, 2008


okay, this will be quick...I'm at a public computer in the lobby of my hotel. I'm quite excited about my bed tonight...not only will there be no child climbing in with me (although, sob, I'll be alone!), it's a SLEEP NUMBER BED!!! I can't wait to try it!

Wow, I went to the "beginning home schoolers" conference today and to sum things up, I'm overwhelmed but reassured! There were approximately 350 to 400 "newbies" in the conference. I'm not alone in this! And the!

Duluth is a very quaint city. If you've not been, it's kind of built on a pretty large hill and dumps into Lake Superior. There is one street which, like Tony and I found out on our honeymoon, if you turn on and don't exit when you're supposed to, you'll end up in Wisconsin! Today was also the first time I've been here that the sky has been wonderfully blue and cloudy.

It's also unique in that there is a "Skywalk" that is like a whole city above the city. I can walk from my hotel to the convention center which is about 1.5 miles thru the skywalk -- stores, restaurants, photography studios, all kinds of business. A mess of stairs and corridors, quite easy to get lost (which I discovered on the way back to my hotel!).

Okay, signing out for tonight...more maybe tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Am I busy or what?

So yesterday I was trying to catch up on some of the more than 200 unopened, non-junk emails that are in our inbox, reply to the urgent ones, postpone some that could wait a bit (like that one from the gal who replaced me at my old job in California...I think she wrote to me in January of 2007...and I really, really do want to reply, I just haven't had time...because I want to write a nice, long chatty note and know it will take alot of time!). That's my oldest "pending" email, though.

Anyway, I dropped a quick note to my friend Sandie who works for Greenstar as a sales rep (like me, but in a bigger territory and on a full-time basis). Sandie is a sweetie...I knew her years back as we used to attend the same church, and I baby sat her daughters a couple times. I realized as I was telling her what all was going on right now, just how crazy busy it is! But I've not had time to sit and realize it. Here's what's been going on (excerpted from my email to her):

"Got about 20 (Greenstar) folders out as follow ups from my tradeshow as well as folks I've talked with since then....have two more contacts that are good potential customers to get in touch with...then follow up calls next week.

Awana is super busy right now...I'm general secretary of our club and we have two more weeks, then awards, so it's busy getting things wrapped up with that.

Watkins has been really going, too. I had three parties in five days with two others two weeks prior...have a big open house next Saturday (lots of prep work for that!) then four more parties schedule so far in May. That's not counting.....

Getting ready to open our market. We'll probably open somewhere around Mother's Day (depending on weather, that's usually a target date), so I have orders ready to call in with several different vendors...already have my order placed with Carrie (at Greenstar)! Have my employees hired...except for my niece, we have all new employees this year, ugh! Training! We're also revamping our website, so I've been working like crazy on that and hope to have it up and online (the new one) before the end of this month. It's quite extensive with lots of information and won't be completely ready, but the bulk of it will be. Yippee! Tony also decided it was cheaper to do our own brochure for the Market this year, so I put that together....huge task but it's printing as we speak! Now I just have to get them cut to size and to our Chamber of Commerce before Thursday morning because I'm.....

Heading to Duluth Thursday morning early for a home school conference. Yep, we're planning on home schooling, officially starting fall of 2009 although we already do some school work (ABCs, counting, etc.) -- the kids love it! There is a great annual conference here in MN for home schoolers with all kinds of workshops, materials, etc., and I'm going to be checking out what's in store for us. Plus, they have a great workshop on getting started, what is needed, stuff like that.

All that on top of the normal wife/mom stuff. The weather is FINALLY getting nice, so I've been trying to wash sheets/blankets/towels to hang up outside and get a nice spring scent in the house. The wind is really blowing today (perfect for laundry), but it also knocked the front door off the hinges, oops!"

Okay, back to "real time." Yes, the wind knocked our front door off the hinges yesterday. I called Tony down at the farm to let him know and have him come put it back, since it wouldn't even close, but he must not have realized that I really did mean it was OFF THE HINGES (like I was becoming) and with the wind as strong as it was, I could barely hold it in place. I called again to clarify that I meant I needed help NOW....and he zipped on home and got it fixed. Luke was thrilled to be his helper and pounded anything he could with the plastic hammer (the only thing he was allowed to use to help Daddy!).

I did finish our market brochures yesterday and got them cut to size today, dropping them off at the Chamber in my blurred rush of errands in town this morning. Made a quick batch of cupcakes with Susi while Luke was with Daddy yesterday afternoon...leave some goodies here for when I'm gone this week. Threw a bunch of clothes and stuff in a small duffle bag for when I leave for Duluth in the morning...hope I have everything I need -- I do have clean undies and my tooth brush, even remembered to pack clean shirts, unlike our family trip to Ohio a few years back (yes, really!).

I have a loaf of french bread raising with a double batch of honey whole wheat bread kneading in the bread machine for Tony and the kids while I'm gone. Still have a few other things that need done, but for some reason, I just needed to sit and take a break for a bit! (still not looking at the majority of emails in my inbox...although I do have it culled down to only 65 new (non-trash) ones!
Both kids are napping, a rare occasion nowadays, and I can actually feel myself relaxing! That's a great thing because I've been awake since some time before 4:00 a.m. Luke woke up overnight with a scary dream and hightailed it to our room with a quick, "I'm sorry, Mama, I love you," before climbing in bed with us and taking over pretty much every bit of space Tony wasn't already using. I have no idea what time he came down, but I'm pretty certain it was somewhere around 2:00. At 5:00 a.m., I gave up trying to sleep or at least be comfortable, and went downstairs, caught up on some little things, then decided to treat my family to a great breakfast...made an "egg bake" casserole as well as Cinnabon muffins, cut up a fresh pineapple (gift from my dear mother in law), and arranged it on a plate with some fresh strawberries so it would look like a sunshine. Highlight of my morning...Luke actually realized it was a sunshine! Susanna was convinced it was a flower, and that's okay, too.
Oh yeah...Luke's scary dream. See, there was this kid and some monsters were going to get him and they took him and threw him in prison. In this hole with some lions. But the lions didn't eat him, he was safe. The boy wasn't me. His name was Daniel. And those were NOT NICE MONSTERS!

Right now I'm surviving on adrenaline, caffeine (tea), and sugar (cookie) along with my light lunch. I'm gonna be crashing soon...but it can't be until after AWANA tonight! And I've gotta be refreshed and ready for an almost 4 hour car trip in the morning. At least I'll have a bed to myself for Thursday and Friday night.


Unlike my husband, I'm not this tired....yet!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Goodbye to Two Dear Friends

Luke, Miss Brittany, and Susanna

Today was a sad day as two dear friends of our family said goodbye. My friend Brittany is moving to Colorado for the summer to work on a vacation-style ranch, working with kids and horses, two of her greatest passions. We hope God's plans follow our hopes and expect to see her back here sometime in October. While we're really going to miss her, this is a dream come true for her, and we wish her the best.

Nikki enjoying the pool
Luke, Nikki, and Susi
Nikki and Luke
Luke and Susi's friend Nikki is also leaving this week, returning to California on Tuesday. She is returning home with her mother, after being raised by friends of her mother for more than half of her short life. We celebrated our friendship today in a going away party at a local hotel where we enjoyed pizza and lots of swimming! We pray for God's blessings on her, too, and hope that one day soon they'll both be back in Minnesota. Please pray for this little girl and her mom, that they will trust in God in all things and that God will keep them sheltered in His palm.

Miss Brittany and Nikki...we love you...and we will miss you so much! Can't wait to see you soon!

One year

Grandpa Russ, one year later
Samuel, Jonathan, Clinton, and our heroine - Jean
Maggie Kay, Julia, Hazel
Susi, Wanda, Dad, Mama
Luke, Julia & Hazel, Maggie Kay, Samuel, Tony, Jean's head, Jon, Clinton, Susi, Wanda

Just over a year ago, my father-in-law made what is believed medical history. He and a family friend became the oldest known donor/recipient kidney transplant on record! Dad had steadily been having kidney failure and was doing dialysis at home, three times a day, but things were still getting worse. Because of his age (83), he wasn't an "ideal candidate" for a transplant. However, a dear family friend, knowing she had the same blood type, volunteered a kidney, if everything would be a match -- and if they would allow her (she was 84). It was, and after lots of testing and even more prayer, the surgery was scheduled...and a success!

We celebrated God's blessings on our family last night with a meal and singing at the farm.
Following is an article that appeared in our local paper a while back on their story. We are so thankful for Jean's selfless generosity...

At 84, Ballard is oldest female kidney donor
James Bordewick Park Rapids Enterprise

Published Friday, October 12, 2007

Longtime family friends Russ Carter and Jean Ballard now share more than inside jokes: both of them are using the same set of kidneys.
Jean donated her kidney to Russ earlier this year.
“I didn’t want him to quit singing,” Jean joked.

The friends of 54 years went through the operation April 11. The donation is considered remarkable given the age of the patients.
“My doctor told me I was the oldest woman in the US to donate a kidney,” said Jean.
Lifelong friends
Russ and Jean both moved to the area from southwest Michigan in 1953. The two met while doing mission work together.
The two continued to visit each other over five decades.
When Jean found out about Russ’s kidney failure and subsequent peritoneal dialysis, she saw the opportunity to perform a good deed for her good friend.
“Well, I’m listed as an organ donor on both my driver’s license and in my living will,” Jean explained.
She added she often heard of younger people in need of a kidney and wished she could do something to help out.
Jean offered Russ her kidney after prospective donors, including family members, failed to provide a match.
She said she prayed over the decision during the process.
“I placed it before God,” she said, adding she took the compatibility tests and doctor’s approval as a sign to proceed.
Initially, when Jean offered Russ her kidney, he said he was a bit reluctant to take her up on the offer.
“I was kind of hesitant about it,” Russ said. “I thought I was getting along fine without it.”
But their friendship over more than 50 years gave Russ a lot of confidence in her, he said.
“If she thinks we should do it, it’s a good indication,” he said.
Breaking barriers
Doctors at MeritCare in Fargo exercised extra caution before the procedure, because the pair were the oldest combined donor and recipient in the world.
But Dr. Bargav Mistry, director of transplants at MeritCare, said recent medical advances are opening new doors for organ donors and recipients.
“One has to look at the progress that’s been made,” he said. “Basically, we are breaking new barriers.”
According to Mistry, 20 years ago, doctors were reluctant to perform transplants on patients over 50.
“With improvements in the field, we no longer look at age as a barrier,” said Mistry.
Now, he explained, the physiological age of the patients plays a larger role in receiving and donating organs.
Doctors now evaluate the current health of patients to predict a positive outcome.
Both Jean and Russ underwent a thorough evaluation before the operation They received general, kidney, cardiac, psychological and social evaluations to ensure the procedure had a high chance of success.
Russ as a potential recipient had a higher probability of success than some people in their 20s or 30s, Mistry said.
Debate still exists in the medical community over age limits on recipients, Mistry added, but he defended Russ’ right to an operation.
“If people have a right to health care, transplants should be no exception,” he reasons.
Mistry also pointed out the similar ages of the pair counter arguments about “wasting” organs. “Most likely the kidney of an 80-year old would not last another 30 or 40 years,” he said, making Jean’s donation less suitable for a younger recipient.
“If we can give a good life to Russ, that’s the point of the operation,” he said.
The road to recovery
Jean’s operation to remove the kidney started around 7 a.m. April 11 and lasted about two hours.
She joked the transplant began two hours later, “after they yanked it out, cleaned it off and cleaned up.”
Russ remained in Fargo for several weeks afterward to undergo tests. Medical examinations revealed his creatin count, used to measure kidney effectiveness, did not level off after the surgery.
Doctors later discovered one artery leading to the kidney was constricted. A follow-up surgery corrected the issue.
“Immediately, I felt better,” he said.
Jean said, “My stamina is not quite up to par yet, but it’s coming along very well.”
Jean and Russ both credited a network of support for their recovery.
“People all over the world were praying for us and our success,” said Russ.
The two remain light-hearted about their future after the surgery.
“In the future, her kidney could fail,” Russ mentioned.
“Well, I would just ask for my other one back,” kidded Jean.

Friday, April 11, 2008

I have a dream!

I don't know what is inside a child's mind, but sometimes I'd sure like to know! Other times, I'm really glad I don't.

Lately, every time Luke wakes up we hear, "I have a dream! Susanna, let me tell you about my dream!" Sometimes it's about Larry Boy. Sometimes it's about Bible Man. Sometimes it's about a duck chasing a butterfly. This morning it was about a little girl who was downstairs with her Mama when Luke went down to go potty...but he wasn't sure if it was real or a dream (it was a dream...or at least it wasn't a Mama and little girl that live in THIS house!). He also wanted Susi to go downstairs with him because he was scared it really wasn't a dream and there was "another Mama and another little girl" down there.

And going back to not knowing what's in their little heads, I am often taken aback at what comes out of their mouths at the most unusual times. Why don't they still have that show "Kids Say the Darndest Things?" My kids would be a hit!

Tuesday, we stopped by Nikki's house (the same Nikki that at one time was going to marry Luke but now is going to marry Jeffrey...ah, the soap operas that 3 and 4 year olds live in!). There were sandwiches waiting for us, and as the kids finished eating, Luke got all cow-eyed and blurted out, "Nikki, I love you. I really, really love you. Alot." After some giggles from the Mamas, he then added, "Sometimes I just lose my mind and go crazy."

Wednesday as we were heading into church for Awana, one of the teen girls was walking towards us. Luke immediately stopped and started backing up to me. I assured him, "That's Patty, Luke. She's very nice. She'll be helping Daddy at the farm this summer." Confident that she was okay, he continued on his way, telling her as he passed, "We have a red and green car." What???? WHERE did that come from? (and we don't have a red and green car, we have a red van and a green car!).

Yesterday, after music lessons, I told him we were going to stop at the Chamber of Commerce for a short while. Now, Luke loves the Chamber. Lots of places to run outside, friendly people to talk to inside, my boy's dream come true! After his cheering died down, he asked me, "Mama, is Miss Katie a boy or a girl?" (Katie is one of the main ladies at the Chamber and makes a point of talking to the kids each time they come in.) "Katie is a girl, Luke." Oh. Silence for a few minutes then, "Mama, are you sure?" "Yes, Luke. I'm sure." After a few more seconds, "Mama, I really love Miss Katie. She's very kind. But she looks like a boy. And she talks like a boy." After quickly telling him, "Never, NEVER tell Miss Katie that, it is very rude!" and getting reassurances that he wouldn't tell her, I did assure him that she does NOT look like a boy, and while her voice is a bit deep, she definitely is a girl.

Thankfully, the topic didn't come up again until AFTER we left the Chamber! (As soon as we walked in, Luke dashed by the main desks up front and high tailed it directly into Katie's office with a big, "Katie!" She had fun with him -- I think! -- and ended up giving him a tri-colored highlighter...which he absolutely loves.) And he's been talking about her all day.

Except he didn't dream about her.


And today's blast from the was labelled "JonTonyMark"

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Gotta Love Those Veggies!

I was reminded of one of my kids' favorites when I read my cousin Martha's blog last night. We love our veggies...from those that grow on the farm to those that you watch on TV!
My kids love Bob and Larry. Laura and Jr. Even Pa Grape, Madame Blueberry, Jimmy and Jerry, Archibald, Mr. Lunt, and nameless others (just ask those scallions!). They know Bible stories by heart (just ask Susi when she is Miriam and throws baby Moses into the water as Luke yells "Egyptian Swim!" or when they wonder if lions really like pizza since that's what Daniel/Larry eats in the lions' den, or dancing around playing a tuba like Gideon/Larry does -- but seriously, they really do have the true biblical versions down), understand and put into practice godly character (trusting in God when they are scared like Jr. does...although they don't have singing vegetables to reassure them that God is bigger than the Boogy-Man, praying for their needs to be met like "I don't remember his name now" who ran several orphanages in England 150 years back, and knowing the simple things are more important than physical things (unless one of them starts playing with the other's favorite toy).
They run around playing "pirate" although unlike Larry, Pa Grape, and Mr. Lunt, they are always busy doing something instead of nothing.

About a month ago (I think I already wrote about this, but I'll do it again!), we were dealing with anger issues. Luke especially started wearing "angry eyebrows," walking around with a terrible scowl if he didn't get what he wanted. I remembered one of my nephews going thru this stage at about the same age and did what my SIL did....showed them Larry Boy and the Angry Eyebrows! Not only were they totally mesmerized by the video (heye, they did do "nothing" unless you count watching the video "something"!), but Luke and Susanna voluntarily told me they are giving up their anger from then on. They still have bouts of anger occasionally or pouty faces when they don't get their way, but it's amazing how quickly their attitudes change when I mention something about seeing "angry eyebrows." Grins, giggles, and no more angry eyebrows! Only problem is...I've shared this story with a number of parents at church...and now EVERYONE wants to check this video out of the church library...and we're getting angry eyebrows because we can't always watch it when we want to! Oh well, at least there are lots more happy little faces around church!
And on the other veggie front....I picked up some fresh broccoli and asparagus at the store last week. My kids LOVE broccoli and asparagus (Look, Mama, I'm eating Jr.'s head!), so this was a great treat for them...and us. Well, the next night as we were eating roast beef with the works, Luke informed us he loves eating green stuff. This caused eyebrows to be raised as I had just told Susi to get her finger out of her nose. "What green stuff, Luke?" "You know, like last night!" Whew!
I'm glad my kids love their veggies. Even the talking and singing ones.

Rita and Tony

Have a Carter's tomato!


So as I'm slowly waking up this morning, I hear the kids talking in their room about what books they are going to "read." Susi tells Luke that she'll bring him a book and does...only to be greeted with, "No, not THAT book! I want the one that tells me so!"

Then later that day, Susanna decided she was Jesus and came to tell me she "dieded" on the cross, "see the owies on my hands?" "Why did you die on the cross?" "Well, you don't need to be sad, I'm not dead any more. I'm in heaven! And I dieded so your sins could be 'given. Now you can go to heaven, too!"

Other than that, they spent the day fighting, verbally and physically.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Wow, this snow!

Hi all, if you would, please pray for us...I cannot believe how much snow we're getting! In less than 12 hours, so far it's been 19 inches in Park Rapids with another 5-10 predicted before this storm is over. The winter storm watch has been extended to 9:00 a.m. tomorrow (Monday). Tony and Clinton have been shoveling snow off of greenhouses at the farm most of the afternoon and can't keep up...this is a heavy, wet snow and it's already knocking down trees in the PR area. Please pray that Tony and Clinton can keep up, will have enough energy, and that the green houses will be fine...especially since we cannot get to town to clear off the green house at the Market. A few years back, one of the green houses at the farm collapsed under the weight of the snow! Dad Carter just told me he hasn't seen anything like this.

So far, the snow is above the bumpers on our cars, the kids' bikes are buried in the snow, and it's hard to push open the front door due to snow build up...and that's under our front porch!

Thanks for your prayers....

Snow and More Snow!

My friend Jill's yard....yesterday Our yard this morning
Our cars...this morning at 11:00

Well, yesterday I wrote that we were supposedly getting a winter storm. Possibly six inches, "they" said. Well, "they" were wrong! Tony figures before the first storm passed through at about 4:00 a.m., we had around eight inches. A few hours respite. We couldn't make it to church; in fact, church cancelled at least first service...not sure about after that! I decided to make one of my "big breakfasts," a favorite of all of ours but something done very rarely. Bacon. Waffles. Eggs (Tony got some huge brown eggs at the feed store last time he was there). Fruit. Toast (from home made bread, yum!). Potatoes. Orange juice. Well, the bacon was fried. The waffles were being made. The orange juice was finished. The potatoes were frying. The bread was sliced and ready to go in the toaster. The gridle was ready to heat for eggs as soon as Tony came home from checking things out at the farm. The lights blinked off. Luke yelled, "Hey!" They came back on. Then went back off. For about three hours. As soon as they went off, my little guy went out to the steps leading upstairs and immediately started praying. "God, thank You for today. And for the big breakfast. And for all the snow. And for turning on the lights again, God, because we really want them on. Otherwise, we can't see very good and that isn't fun. So, God, turn the lights on, okay?"

The third waffle was in the iron...and was cooked enough to take out. We ate by candle light and the kids pretended we were Pa and Ma and Mary and Laura and baby Carrie (we had two Pas). Still no lights. Tony and Luke played on the floor as Susi was finishing her breakfast and I started sorting out pieces to a new jig saw puzzle. They decided to play outside. After a bit, I went out with the camera and was bombareded by good-sized pellets of ice-snow balls (from the sky, not my family). Round two was on. I have heard that we can expect another 6-9 inches of snow before this is over tonight. Could that really be true? Well, I didn't think we'd wake up to what we did, so who knows?
Having fun in the snow

I'll let you know tomorrow. If you care :)
Snow mountain

But I'll leave you with another "old" Tony photo in the meanwhile!

My caveman

Saturday, April 5, 2008


Well, after nearly a week of walking down Memory Lane (probably more enjoyable to me than to most of you!), I thought I'd just give you a quick update of what's happening here in our house.

We've enjoyed beautiful weather this past week, culminating in temperatures close to 60 degrees yesterday. It was so beautiful that I couldn't resist a spontaneous impulse, and so I gathered the kids in the car after throwing a few snacks and cookies, sodas and milk, into our picnic basket. Armed with a change of clothes for Tony, we went down to the farm, I handed him the clothes, and told him he had five minutes. We invited our nephew Clinton to come along (even though at this point no one but me knew what was going on), and then we were off! I dropped everyone off at the local park then ran over to Pizza Hut to pick up a pizza (and it wasn't even April Fools Day, Liz!). Our Pizza Hut has this really nifty drive up window, so within a few minutes I was on my way back to the park. Thinking the road to the park was "right there," I stayed in the "suicide lane" (a.k.a. center lane) before realizing it was further than I I slid back into the driving lane for another hundred yards or so before getting in the turn lane and turning left. Why am I telling you all this? Well, just as I was making my turn, I noticed flashing red lights behind me. WHAT???? And careless me didn't have on my seat belt! I opened my car door but stayed inside, and the officer approached asking the timeless question "do you know why I stopped you?" Well, by this time, I had started reaching for my drivers' license only to remember I'd put my tiny wallet in my jacket pocket and, since it was such a lovely day, I didn't wear my jacket. Great. How bad was this going to be? At this point, I really had no clue why I was pulled over. Did he see I wasn't wearing my seat belt? MN law now allows you to be pulled over for only not wearing a seat belt. Was he REALLY that petty? Okay, law, safety, I know! I started babbling, "No, I don't, and you won't believe this but my driver's license is in my jacket home, and all I wanted to do was be spontaneous and have a fun time with my family!" He's looking at me like I might have to take a breath-alizer at this point, too...when he told me I was traveling in the center lane and you can't do that! I ever so politely told him I was aware of that...I'd dropped my husband and kids off at the park, went back to Pizza Hut to pick up a pizza, thought the turn was much closer than it was, realized it wasn't and got back into the traveling lane before again having to go in the turn lane right before it was time to turn. He asked my name and birthdate, if I was a resident of Park Rapids, then returned to his patrol car. Meanwhile, I'm thinking Tony is going to be FURIOUS! We can't afford a ticket, let alone all the other seat belt, no driver's license, and he STILL didn't put the insurance card in the car from when HE got stopped last year for speeding (okay, he didn't get a ticket, only a warning...could I be so fortunate, too? Please, God, I learned my lesson! Was this $10 outing going to end up costing hundreds of dollars?). After about 3-4 minutes of inhaling pizza, wondering if it would be totally rude and show a lack of respect if I started to dig into the pizza right there (hey, it was 5:45 and I hadn't eaten lunch!), the officer came back with a warning for driving in the center lane and reminded me to always carry my driver's license since it's illegal to drive without one. Yeah, I know. Thank you, officer, and thank You, God!

All in all, we did have a really fun evening at the park! Things are going to start getting busier here very soon...and the weather was starting to turn colder and windier towards the end of the evening. And as I was waiting for the pizza, the weather report came on...we are under a winter storm watch from tonight (Saturday) thru tomorrow, with parts of the area possibly getting 12 inches of snow! We are forecast for 6-8 inches accumulation. Great. Just when almost all the snow was melted, more snow! Welcome to Minnesota!

Tony has been busy making bears and chickens as well as keeping track of new calves. Out of seventeen expected calves, ten have already made their appearance. We usually are still waiting for calves to be born sometimes up into June, so it's great having more than half of them born already when things are much slower!

Luke started music classes through the homeschool association on Thursday and absolutely loved them! Singing, instruments, dancing, imitating rhythms and beats, you name it. He had a blast. He is also loving to tell him there are only four more weeks???? Last week he learned about being helpful and came home showing me the picture he colored of a boy taking out the garbage and informed me that HE could do that, too. So now Tony ties up the bag, takes it out of the can, and Luke takes over from there!

Susanna has made the final transition in always using the big potty -- she was pretty set on using only the training bear potty that Tony had made, and wasn't welcoming the idea of using the big one at home (although those in other places are a fascination to use!). I started getting her used to the idea of only the big potty by telling her last night that the baby bear potty was missing his Mama and soon Mama Bear was going to come and get her baby. Susi immediately perked up and said, "I will leave the door open so she can get in!" She wanted Mama and baby reunited as soon as possible. And sure enough, when she came downstairs this morning, she found out that Mama came and got Baby...and she is thrilled! As am I!

As for me, I'm busy getting things together for a huge Watkins open house/good tasting party I'm holding at a local hotel on Saturday, April 26. For those of you in the area who want to stop by, it'll be at the AmericInn (across from our market) from 10:00 to 2:30. I'd love to see you there! I'll be sampling lots of goodies and other products as well as doing a few door prizes and drawing. Lots of things to purchase.

I'm also working on revamping our website and will let you know when the new site is up (still the old one) -- I'm really excited about it, so much information will be available! And I'm also soliciting recipes and fun facts about the produce we grow. If you have recipes and other things to share, PLEASE email me or post them in the comment section here. There are tons of recipes available online, but I'd really like to feature tried and true recipes from family and friends. If it can be made using our produce, I'd like to feature it! What do we grow? Well, to name just some of the things: asparagus, rhubarb, cucumbers, strawberries, raspberries, melons, tomatoes, zucchini, peppers (sweet and hot), egg plant, cabbage, broccoli, sweet corn, green beans, peas (shell and sugar), squash, and pumpkins -- I'm sure I'm forgetting something, but that'll give you an idea. Please, I'd really appreciate shared recipes!

As if that isn't enough, we're heading toward the end of the AWANA year. I'm trying to get a jump on things by advance ordering of awards and such.

And yippee! Green Star's new catalog just came out! Now I'll be sending out some letters with the new catalog to folks I met in St. Cloud as well as calling on some folks here in town and doing cold-call letters to other farms and specialty venues here in Minnesota.

So...that's the scoop...although I'm sure there is more I could tell you. Like the cute things the kids are saying and doing (Susanna: "Now listen here, Luke! You must obey me!" Luke: "Mama, it would be really nice if we maybe made breakfast for you and brought it to you in bed."). But for now, I'll leave you with another blast from Tony's past!

Clinton (now MUCH taller) and Tony

Friday, April 4, 2008

One last trip down Memory Lane....for now!

Today is another beautiful, gorgeous day outside. Right now it is 58 degrees...almost unheard of for early April in Minnesota! I got some emails the past couple days from friends and family in Ohio and Iowa mentioning the snow and cold rain they got this week.'s nice to be the one with pleasant weather for a change!

In wrapping up the memories from five years ago, here is something Rita sent to the family and I forwarded to some family and friends....what a hoot!

(From Rita in 2003) In response to the requests of some and in case others are interested, I am sending this epilogue to the Wedding Story of Tony and Linda.

As they honeymooned at a bed-and-breakfast in Nevis and at Cascade Lodge up on Lake Superior's North Shore, we who remained at home thought it best that their bed be short-sheeted and its pillows lined with the smiling faces of a number of chirping bird puppets that were found at Tony's old quarters at the Lodge. A variety of fox and beaver pelts as well as a skunk pelt were placed here and there for a warm feeling. Tony's muzzleloader was placed at bedside for a secure feeling. A goodly number of balloons with pig and other animal faces, those that had once filled the backseat of the Cadillac get-away car, were placed with care in the bathtub, filling it well up the side of the shower curtain. I believe that other balloons found their way to other undisclosed locations. Gummi worms found their way to the kitchen dishes and cupboards, along with a scattering of gummi bears. Larger teddy bears congregated in rows of folding chairs in what had been the chapel's auditorium. They appeared to listen attentively to the words of a scarecrow who wore the groom's Goofy cap. The couple were welcomed to their living room by Howdy Doody himself, who seemed quite at home on the sofa, seated in front of a notice bearing the reference for the message of the day: Job 19:17, KJV (LindaSue later confessed that those words proved prophetic and that they had placed breath mints at their bedside.) I must confess that I may have forgotten other special touches that were placed here and there. (from Linda: We discovered the bed was short-sheeted when I changed the sheets before we retired for the evening. Sorry gang, that part back-fired! The muzzleloader was on my side of the bed, and I'd wondered if it was placed there in case someone thought I may need it. I didn't. We thought we'd gathered all the skins that were left around, but I discovered another beaver pelt in the bottom dresser drawer just yesterday. There were also red and white streamers hanging down from the entrance of our great room. Oh, and I should note, the reference for the message of the day was Job 19:17A -- hopefully the second part of that verse will never apply.)

The Carter's strawberries sign (courtesy of Dorothy Pritchard) that had decorated the getaway car now decorated the entryway of the home. That was not the only sign that decorated the place, for a neatly painted new sign was posted out at the road, proclaiming proudly that this was "The Love Shack" or "The Love Nest." (Its painter thought that the latter sounded a little nicer.) (from Linda: Tony wasn't too happy with the sign in front of our house, but I couldn't stop laughing...and implored him to leave it up for a few days...which may have been a bad idea...keep reading and you'll understand)

And what did the honeymooners think of their welcome home? It is their job to report their own feelings, but the groom did say something akin to "How embarrassing!" concerning the roadside sign. Yet he must have liked it in some part of him, for it stood in its place a full day after their return to the nest. It was as he was taking it down that a curious man stopped by to ask for more details about just what sort of a place this "Love Shack" was going to be. Tony reported that the man was associated with Friendly Farms. Linda reported that he was very strange-looking and that she was going to keep the doors locked. (from Linda: The sign was up for about 2-3 days...and the man that stopped by looked like he was from the late 60s, early 70s, with a long scraggly ponytail. You BET I was gonna keep the doors locked!)

But who could lock the doors against their sweet and beloved nieces, Anna and Ruby? Anna herself had proudly announced to them on their return that "We decorated your house!!" Anna and Ruby were delighted to be supper guests of Linda and Tony while David and I dined out alone last Thursday night. Tony and Linda looked a little weary when we stopped by to pick up the children around 8-8:30 pm, and I pitied them, for I knew their day was not over. As we drove back toward the farm (in the black Cadillac, I might add), we met the contingency who were heading on foot to the Love Shack, armed with all manner of noisemakers, muffled for the moment. Dan and Cheryl Atkins had several goose calls around their necks, but he was called upon to be the signal man with the shotgun, to start off all the noise. (Tony usually gets that job with his muzzleloader.) Jean Ballard had the school bell that had been used at the Emmaville School. Dwight had a notched spool to use on the windows. David had Dwight's cornet. Others mostly had a variety of pans. There were several Wolffs, a couple Crooks, the Russ Paulsons, Beckers, Evinks, Hendersons, LaMae James (of course), Doris Klingenberg, Sue Parks, Sally and Don Johnson, and the like. There was a special guest appearance by Larry Gartner, himself, with some of his children! That came about as a result of Mama's inviting Luella Bliss, the neighbor across the road, who would be part of the action whether she wanted to be or not. She declared that she'd be happy to come and that she'd bring a friend. Who would have guessed that that friend would be Larry Gartner?! Actually, the guest she had in mind was a gentleman friend from the southern part of the state, but Larry happened to be visiting her, thought the party seemed like a good place to be, so he joined the crowd. When Luella was asked what she thought about the "Love Shack" sign, she said that her friend had thought very highly of the sign and thought that she should have a sign in front of her own house, saying "Love Shack II." Well! (from Linda: I'm so thankful my husband warned me about a week before the wedding about shiverees and LaMae's habit of instigating them! We had a delightful time and we're still not sure how many people showed up, but I think there were at least 50 or more who piled in that night...still not sure where they all came from!) (2008 update -- Luella later married her gentleman friend from the southern part of the state...but they never did borrow our sign!)

Well, when the noise started, the door didn't immediately open. When it did, who should peer out but a gorilla!! It looked an awful lot like the gorilla who had made his appearance at and after the wedding reception, but it must not have been, for this gorilla was not wearing the smart plaid sport coat. Eventually, we were all welcomed inside where no shortage of tasty treats were served, many of them left from the excess from the wedding--cookies, pop, chips and salsa, coffee, tea--and a huge bag of gummi bears. The groom, with insistence from the crowd, played his banjo. A small Becker and a small Blake danced. (from Linda: We initially thought if we ignored the noise, perhaps everyone would go away. Yeah, right! They just started making MORE noise and banging on the windows! We then remembered the gorilla suit that I'd just tucked away in the closet, and when Tony opened the door, it was fun seeing a few people take a step back in surprise.)

Led by Jane Wolff at the organ keyboard, all the visitors joined in a--well, probably not rousing, but generally sincere--rendering of "Going to the Chapel" with a few changes in the lyrics. ("Gonna buy a chapel and we're gonna get married"..."fixin' up a chapel"..."livin' in a chapel"...something about it being spring with singing birds and farmboys being busy.) The idea was to have some impromptu costuming with a bride and a few bridesmaids (reminiscent of the Dixie Cups, the original artists) singing, but there was some confusion and it became a moving group number instead. (Such numbers are always MORE moving when they start out with the solo voice, building to the crowd representing all of mankind, sort of like "We Are the World" or "I Want to Know What Love Is" and the like. We would have needed a sea of glowing candles for that sort of thing, anyway, I suppose.) (from Linda: If you really wanted to use candles, we had plenty left over....and would have gladly lent them for use...but we don't have our home owners insurance in place yet, so maybe it was best not having so much fire lit! All in all, it was a good and fun evening...with many people telling me at church on Sunday that they were sorry they were not able to attend. Goodness, I don't know where we would've had room for more people anyway!)

Things seem to have settled down in the lives of the honeymooners. They can report to you firsthand about that. There was the washing machine incident... (from Linda: Ah yes...the washing machine incident.... I'd been smelling something foul in the bathroom area --and yes, the toilets had all been flushed-- so Tony took apart the wall between the laundry room and bathroom to see if something was stuck in a drain or whatever. We figured out that the trap in the bathroom was low on water and filled it, and Tony put the wall back up, put the washer and dryer back in place, and we were good to go. We thought. I filled the washer -- a "super large" load -- then set out to do a bunch of errands. Came back home three hours later to find a good amount of the carpets downstairs absolutely soaked through. Called the farm in a panic and talked with Tony who came home and discovered the pipe wasn't put back in the drain for the washer. Oops! I wonder if Jon even knows that we borrowed his shop vac? Thank you!!!!)

That's all from here for the moment. Rita Blake, reporter.

And wrapping up from Linda: Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers. As things are starting to come together in our new home, we'd love to hear from you. Things are getting busier as green houses are being planted and fields will soon start being readied for the upcoming season. I'm trying to start getting some orders put together for the market, setting up QuickBooks for the farm account, and keep up with house work while Tony is getting things going at the farm. We've taken down the cross from the front of the house today (thank you Tony and David!) so our place now looks like a home and no longer like a chapel.

And a 2008 update from Linda again....we'd still love to hear from you and have you visit us. Our house is now filled with children's items and looks even less like a chapel, but we still have plenty to share and will gladly do so!

And not to is today's blast from the past photo! And I was informed last night that the dog in the old photo posted yesterday is none other than the "original" Rudy! BTW, Luke has decided the new farm dog is "Sampson/Rudy" but we can just call him Rudy. And he brought up the fact that WE do not have our own dog yet...who would feed him? "I will!" Who will take care of him? "I will!" Who will clean up when he poops? "Um, God made him and so God won't let him poop." Yeah.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

My big move...

Okay, so this isn't original since I first wrote and sent this out in email form five years ago, but it was fun for me to read through and I hope you enjoy it, too! This is a recap of my last day in California and the big move to Minnesota. I was so blessed by my church family in California, and I miss them all SO much...while God has given me another wonderful church family here who welcomed me with open arms, nothing can replace friends that I've made over the years. I'm glad we'll all be in heaven together!

From 2003: Well, the trip from California to Minnesota was not uneventful, but praise God we had some great answers to prayer! We got a later start than hoped for, but in the end it turned out well. My former church, Calvary Life Fellowship, had a great send off for us. Pastor Luke had a wonderful message about letting go and freely leaving. This was after the Sunday School kids and I led praise & worship. After the sermon, we had a huge spread, a pre-wedding reception, complete with a wedding cake that was a gift from Jennifer Sanders, a dear friend of mine. We took the top layer back with us, but it didn't last too long! Several other friends of mine also came to church that day for a final and nice to see them, but sad to say goodbye. Before lunch was served, I'd ran out to the car for something and noticed SOMEONE had tied cans to the bottom of our car and Penske rental truck (those same cans just happened to be sitting on Luke & Mandy's kitchen counter the day before....). When I went back in, I whispered to Tony to cut the strings, which he did -- artfully hanging the strings so no one would be the wiser. Little did we know.... I don't know if someone saw him or if one of the strings fell, but the strings were retied before we took off.....

We had a great start. Little traffic, beautiful weather, great company. LaMae James, a dear lady from Park Rapids, flew out to California to spend a few days with her son that lives close to where I lived. She joined us on the trip back to help with driving. Well, about three hours into our travels, we came to a grinding halt along I-10 East. There had been a terrible accident on the westbound side several miles up and both sides of the freeway were temporarily closed while they brought in medivac helicopters. We didn't know what the hold up was for almost an hour though. We figure we lost about 2-3 hours of travel time because of the accident, but we did find out later that -- although two full tour buses crashed and several severe injuries occurred, thankfully nobody died. We ended up stopping for the night about an hour past the Utah border.

The next day was uneventful, although during the short time that I took over driving the fully-loaded truck, we had some pretty strong winds on a small state highway in Gillette, felt like I was going to end up tilted over a few times, but thankfully the winds died down. We stayed in Wyoming that night and got a good start the next morning. After making it through the rest of the mountains, we decided to take a small interstate (85) that would cut off several hours from our travels. It goes from the bottom of South Dakota up to I-94 which would take us home. I don't know if any of you are familiar with route 85, but after going through the small town of Belle Fourche, there is literally nothing for 71 miles until you get to a small town called Buffalo...then literally nothing again for another 45 miles until you get to Bowman...after that it's only 32 miles until the next small town, and a short 26 miles until reaching I-94. Well, I shouldn't say "literally nothing." There are plenty of antelope in the fields along the two-lane highway...and about 40-some miles north of Belle Fourche, there is a small convenience store called Crow has a couple tables for hungry travelers, some souvenirs, and a gas pump.

Why am I telling you all this? Well, about six miles past Crow Buttes, Tony veered off the road. Initially, LaMae and I thought he was pulling over to see the herd of antelope...until I saw the front left tire rotating diagonally. We're still not sure what the problem was, perhaps the tie rod or the axle, but that was when a bit of panic set in...what in the world were we going to do? I don't know how many saw our truck before we left, but that thing was FULLY loaded! We had horrible thoughts about having to unload and reload into another truck, and no one knows better than Tony, Ted Bultsma, James Hansen, and Jerome Foster Sr. that THAT possibility was close to impossible. I'm still not sure how they got everything into the truck in the first place! Luke and Mandy also had the front completely loaded down with wedding flowers and my wedding dress...there was just enough room for Tony and a small cooler in the cab. After thanking God that Tony was able to pull over okay, LaMae and I set out in the car to find a phone. We drove back to Crow Butte and called Penske. After explaining to the man on the phone what the problem was (oh yeah, did I mention that Saturday after we loaded the truck, James and Tony noticed that same front tire wasn't round? It was kind of square. We took it back to the place where we picked up the truck and asked them to change the tire. The guy told us "oh, it's okay; that's just because the alignment is'll make it there with no problem. However, you can always go to the Penske service station and see what they think." We opted to do that; the service station opted to change the tire; we thought that was the end of that....were we WRONG!), I was glad when he told me "we found someone to tow you." I asked, "to Belle Fourche? Buffalo? Bismarck? Tow to where?" wondering, what will happen then? I was stunned when the reply was "all the way to Park Rapids." Wow! That was about 650 miles! No worries about transferring items; we didn't have to pay for gas in the truck for the remainder of the trip, and the best thing....we didn't need to return the truck! We were going to have to return it to Minneapolis, about a 3.5 hour trip each way. Praise God! No, actually the best thing was that Tony and I finally got to ride together :) We did, however, have to wait for just over six hours for the tow truck to arrive...but I wasn't about to complain about that. After finally getting on the road around 6:00 p.m., we ran into a blinding snow storm. There wasn't alot of snow, but it was whirling quite severely and by the time we reached I-94, it was next to impossible to see while driving...and when someone would pass, we were blinded for almost a minute or more until the snow settled a bit. We stopped that night in Bismarck while the tow truck continued home. The next day we made it to Park Rapids without further incident and were warmly welcomed by Tony's parents.

Within the next couple weeks, we got things unpacked and started welcoming visitors. Tony's sister and her family ended up coming home unexpectedly from Indonesia. Because she is close to her due date, they weren't expecting to be able to travel home for the wedding. However, with the war starting, their team leader thought it would be best for them to return in case things heated up more...and before it was too late for her to travel. Soon, more and more family and friends started arriving...the week of the wedding, Faith Baptist (my new church) had a "mixed" shower for us -- men and women. We had a great time (updated note from 2008: one of the games we played was the game -- sort of a "newlywed game" featuring four married couples and us...little did the others know, we'd been told the questions ahead of time and knew how to answer....and to everyone's surprise -- but ours -- we won!). Later that week, the day before our wedding, Tony's sister Carla (from Ethiopia) and his sister-in-law Lori hostessed a personal shower/tea at LaMae's house. There were around two dozen ladies and girls there; as Anna (his 4-year-old niece) told me when I asked where Ruby (his 2-year-old niece) was "this is only for BIG girls!" All the gals wrote down a piece of advice for me for marriage...every bit very much appreciated. I also got my first glimpse of the wonderful spreads my sister-in-law Lori puts together (with help from Tony's sisters Rita and Carla) -- wow! We also has lots of fun with my soon-to-be new name...especially my sister-in-law Beth!
While not in my original email, another really cool thing about our trip to Minnesota was that gas prices were sky rocketing (to about $1.50/gallon, yikes!), so the Sunday School kids at Calvary Life prayed that we would get good gas mileage back. Well, not only was the truck (gas guzzler) towed about half of the way back, saving on gas, there were a few times we keep calculating and recalculating the mileage we were getting on the car. For instance, when we were driving UP the mountains in Utah/Wyoming, we averaged 56 mpg! I had never averaged more than 38 mpg highway before then....nor have I since. That is something that will always stick so clearly in my mind, that even in the little things like gas cost God looked out for us and blessed us.

I was also pleasantly shocked and surprised to find a dear friend from my former church in California just show up for our wedding. Lori grew up here in Minnesota, so she decided to combine a trip to visit family with a surprise guest for our wedding. That was one of two times that I cried on my wedding day.

And of course, I can't forget to add another cute old photo from days of yore here in Minnesota!