Friday, September 30, 2005

Conference weekend

When the area conference was announced for Tonga, it was determined that only one boat would be available for the Saints from Vavau. The boat held 150 people. If you stuffed bodies into every possible corner of the ship, you could get close to three hundred people. Eight hundred Tongans jammed onto that boat and stood up for twenty-four hours without sleep, without food, without drink, without anything--because they knew that a prophet of God was going to be in their islands and they were not going to miss him for anything in the world.
Do you want to go to conference that badly? Do you care that the prophet of the Lord is speaking in the neighborhood? Do you care enough to flip on a television set, a radio, or to come to this building to watch a priesthood meeting? Eight hundred people stood up for twenty-four hours to get to conference, and they didn't think anything about it. "The President of the Church is here," they said. "That's our prophet, and we may not see him again soon." And they came.

~Jeffrey R. Holland, from a fireside address given at Brigham Young University on 26 September 1976

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Poor Harriet

During our school commute we're listening to Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. We're at the part where Harriet's friends and classmates have read her notebook and they all gang up on her. The girls have found it a little traumatic. Georgie identifies with Harriet's best friend Sport. At the part where he reads something bad Harriet has written about him and starts crying, Georgie blurted out, "Does this book end happy?" And then last night before bed she muttered, almost to herself, "I hope Harriet's o.k." I smiled and even had tears in my eyes when I heard her say that. Maybe characters in books are becoming as real to Georgie as they are to me.

Harriet the Spy is moving Lidia in a different way. She was up late writing in a notebook and then when I went in the second time to her room this morning to rouse her from bed, she said over her shoulder, "Just a minute! I'm writing in my notebook." Oh, how I hope she shows it to me!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

from Meridian Magazine

The Girl in a Whirlby
‘Dr. Sue’(a.k.a. Vickie Gunther)

Look at me, look at me, look at me now!
You could do what I do
If you only knew how.
I study the scriptures one hour each day;
I bake,
I upholster,
I scrub,
and I pray.
I always keep all the commandments completely;
I speak to my little ones gently and sweetly.
I help in their classrooms!
I sew all they wear!
I drive them to practice!
I cut all their hair!
I memorize names of the General Authorities;
I focus on things to be done by priorities.
I play the piano!
I bless with my talents!
My toilets all sparkle!
My checkbooks all balance!

Each week every child gets a one-on-one date;
I attend all my meetings (on time! Never late!)
I’m taking a class on the teachings of Paul,
But that is not all! Oh, no. That is not all …

I track my bad habits ‘til each is abolished;
Our t-shirts are ironed!
My toenails are polished!

Our family home evenings are always delightful;
The lessons I give are both fun and insightful.
I do genealogy faithfully, too.
It’s easy to do all the things that I do!

I rise each day early, refreshed and awake;
I know all the names of each youth in my stake!
I read to my children!
I help all my neighbors!
I bless the community, too, with my labors.
I exercise and I cook menus gourmet;
My visiting teaching is done the first day!
(I also go do it for someone who missed hers.
It’s the least I can do for my cherished ward sisters.)
I chart resolutions and check off each goal;
I seek each “lost lamb” on my Primary roll.
I can home-grown produce each summer and fall.
But that is not all! Oh, no. That is not all …
I write in my journal!
I sing in the choir!
Each day, I write “thank you’s” to those I admire.

My sons were all Eagles when they were fourteen!
My kids get straight A's!
And their bedrooms are clean!

I have a home business to help make some money;
I always look beautifully groomed for my honey.
I go to the temple at least once a week;
I change the car’s tires!
I fix the sink’s leak!
I grind my own wheat and I bake all our bread;
I have all our meals planned out six months ahead.
I make sure I rotate our two-years’ supply;
My shopping for Christmas is done by July!

These things are not hard;
It’s good if you do them;
You can if you try!
Just set goals and pursue them!

It’s easy to do all the things that I do!
If you plan and work smart,
you can do them all, too!
It’s easy!” she said …
… and then she dropped dead.

Sunday, September 25, 2005


The following is taken from the Spanish Immersion kindergarten blog (written by the school director) and refers to the first few days of complete Spanish immersion:

I noticed that during this enormous change, a child’s major characteristic became accentuated as a defense mechanism. The quiet child became withdrawn. The humorous child became silly. The unsure child became defiant. The bold child grew larger than life. Each child found their own way to cope with this huge transition. One parent shared that their normally creative child started making up wild tales during the first week of school. The parent was concerned about these tall tales and eventually questioned the child about them. Their son admitted that he was just telling stories. But how else can a creative child express his feelings about this strange new experience except to create larger than life tales- which perfectly reflected his experience the first week of school.

Guess who was telling the tall tales? Mr. Marcus. Atleast, I believe he is the one they are referring to because I did share this story at curriculum night. The second day of school M got off the bus and I asked him how things went. He said, "Not too well. I escaped." He proceeded to tell me quite a tale. He said he felt sad in his class and he wanted to go home, so he walked out of the class and then out of the school and walked home. As I asked for details he readily supplied them and the story got more and more interesting. He climbed a tree and his teacher tried to get him but he did a "shock attack" on her two times, so she left him alone. By the way, he was climbing the tree because he wanted to get on the roof. There were other details I forget.

Alarmed, I called the teacher. She said none of it happened, and M later admitted he'd made it up.

Marcus loves school now. He enjoys singing the songs at home that he learns at school. He brought home a little booklet with a different colored balloon on each page. He told us the whole story: "Un globo rojo, un globo verde," etc. Later he wrote the words in English and Spanish! We were impressed. He seems to enjoy writing, as he often draws pictures and then labels them. I came home last night from Women's Conference and found signs on all our bathroom doors. The main level 1/2 bathroom was labeled "MEN" and "WOMEN" with the corresponding symbols. It was written so neatly I thought Lidia had done it. I went upstairs and found that the children's bathroom had a "WOMEN" sign and our master bathroom a "MEN" sign. J told me that Marcus created the signs. That Marcus is trying to take over my bathroom, the little whippersnapper! But what would make me laugh if I didn't have him?

Friday, September 23, 2005

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Adam in the news

Our brother-in-law has returned from New Orleans. Many of you have asked about him--thanks for your thoughts and prayers. Here is the link to a newspaper article with a picture of Adam and quotes from him. He was also on the local news.

gratifying moment

Yesterday J and I took the kids out to a restaurant to celebrate Georgie's return from Eagle Bluff and J's company's profit (On Monday, September 19, they were able to turn a profit, whereas last year it took them until December 30). We were dressed up because we needed to attend a baptism after dinner, and we went to a restaurant with a more formal atmosphere than the ones we usually go to.

Imagine my surprise when an elderly gentleman came up to our table and said, "Ma'am, your children are very polite." I could have grabbed him by his shirt collar and given him a great big kiss on the lips! My kids were behaving much better than usual, it's true. I could tell they were making an effort to practice good manners. Maybe they are not a lost cause after all...

Monday, September 19, 2005

My big girl is gone

Georgie left this morning for Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center. She has been so, so excited about this trip. The fifth graders at her school go every year. They spend three days at this camp and they are outside 90 percent of the time. They have classes on natural science topics and participate in group challenges.

Here is a description of the activity Georgie is most looking forward to:
Tree Tops: This confidence building experience promotes personal growth and strengthens group bonds as participants maneuver 30 feet in the air through a series of towers connected by various cable, rope, and log elements. The course itself presents a very safe atmosphere that encourages participants to recognize and confront their fears. Experiencing success on the course is a powerful experience with a lasting effect.

It was strange and a little unnerving saying good-bye to my big girl for 3 whole days. This is the first time she's ever spent a night away from home, excluding visits with her grandparents. Of course J had to give her a little lecture about maintaining her high moral standards on the trip, that she wasn't to participate in unseemly behavior or discussion, she was to conduct herself decorously, etc. I had to smile when he told me about it. These were the words of wisdom from her mother: Make sure you brush your hair morning and night so it won't get rats' nests.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Reading en espanol

I've been reading a lot with all of the kids in Spanish. We're able to find quite a few books through our county library system. A series of books I especially like are "los libros de chronicle." Their website is These are classic tales like Jack and the Beanstock, Goldilocks, Sleeping Beauty, etc. that have the text in both English and Spanish. We read the story in English and then Spanish. We are all increasing our Spanish vocabulary this way--I often find words I didn't know.

What we're reading, etc.

Our commute (taking Georgie and Lidia to and from school) is time consuming, but we're trying to make good use of it. We listen to books on CD while we drive. We've already finished one, Rowan Hood: Outlaw Girl of Sherwood Forest by Nancy Springer. It was o.k., but I prefer classics. I think it would have been a good one for Lidia to read on her own, but for listening in the car or me reading to them I really try to pick books that are above my girls' reading level. Right now we're listening to Harriet the Spy, and then we'll hear Little Women.

Georgie is reading:
Eragon, Christopher Paolini
Rakkety Tam, Brian Jacques (her favorite author--this book is the latest in the Redwall series)
La ciudad de los dioses, Luis Maria Carrero
El misterio de la llave, Elena Moreno

The last two are from the "Leer en Espanol" series. Georgie needs to increase her Spanish vocabulary.

She's read about a dozen books from the American Girl series, but she says she's tired of them now. She started Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh but it didn't interest her. Now she's reading The Secret Valley by Clyde Bulla and she likes it.

Grasshopper on the Road, Arnold Lobel. How Marcus laughs as he reads this! He gets a huge kick out of. He's such a fun kid--a real joy.

Climbing Parnassus, Tracey Simmons. This is such a great book! I can't (or don't want to) read it quickly because I need to let things percolate.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Great Minnesota Get-Together

Last Wednesday we celebrated 10 years of living in Minnesota by going to the State Fair. We'd never been. J and I generally avoid places with large, sweaty groups of people, blaring music, expensive, deep-fried food, and carnival rides. Not really our cup of tea. But my neighbor took her kids Tuesday and enthused about the live-birth barn. There are cows, sheep, pigs, goats having babies, and you can watch. I knew my kids would love that. The farm girl in me wanted them to see that.

I said I hated the thought of taking my kids to see the animals and then having them beg for rides. Neighbor said she didn't take her kids on rides as they didn't walk by them. Well, that didn't work for us. As you can see, we hit some rides. Surprisingly, I liked the fair and I think I'll even go back next year. The live birth barn was our favorite place to hang out, though we realized we went too late in the morning. We should have gone very early, which is what we'll do next year.

Live Birth Barn

The kids, especially Bernie, loved watching the baby chicks hatch.

They loved these ducklings, too. Sadly, the colors did not turn out that great in this picture.

We couldn't get near enough this cow to watch it give birth because the crowd was so big. J managed to snap this picture minutes after the little bull was born. They did have monitors set up so we were able to watch that way. They had to pull the calf. Boy, did this bring back memories! Everyone gave a big cheer when they finally got him out.

The last of these little piggies was born a second before we got there.

Fair Food

Georgie, Lidia, and friend enjoyed nitrogen ice cream. This is the richest, smoothest ice cream I've ever tasted. It is flash-frozen in less than a second.

Other fair foods I enjoyed: deep-fried cheese curds (yum!), deep fried pickles (kids liked these better than the cheese curds), Sweet Martha's homemade cookies (not a big deal--but people were carrying these things away in buckets that cost $16.99! Several buckets apiece! Can they possibly eat them all? My cookies are far superior. For crying out loud, I should set up my own booth next year).

I would have eaten lots more--at least tried more things if J, Mr. Moderation, hadn't been there. Darn him, he'll stay home next year! We only bought small servings and shared so that we could all try but not get sick. Also, this stuff was outrageously expensive. Four bucks for a tiny serving of cheese curds! And there were long lines for those babies.

I really wanted to try the spaghetti and meat balls on a stick but didn't get to...

Spaghetti on a Stick

From the Star Tribune's Minnesota State Fair blog:

Blogging about food — especially when you’re called on to give an early report on the (what took them so long?) Spaghetti and Meatball Dinner on a Stick — is a bit scary.How to judge?I decided to do what wine tasters do. Give the dinner a sniff. Take a cautious bite. Smoosh it around in my mouth and then, if it tastes good, keep eating. Or, if it tastes horrible, spit it into my napkin and scrub my palate with the rough side of a Premium Saltine.But it turns out the Spaghetti and Meatball Dinner on a Stick tastes pretty good.These “dinners” look like tennis ball-sized Corn Dogs. Yes. They’re deep-fried, but they’re not greasy.They’re served dipped into a red sauce and, if you’d like, covered with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.Presentation is straightforward: You pay your $4 and the server hands you the stick, wrapped in a paper napkin. Take extras; these guys are messy.The sauce has a sharp tomato flavor. My first bite made me think of a certain canned pasta product, but this sauce is better than that.The batter was a puzzle. It’s soft, but with enough texture to hold the sauce in place. It didn’t seem to be made from corn meal.When I bought my second dinner, owner Craig Kroonblawd, of Spring Park, said the batter is actually herbed Italian bread dough.The meatball has hints of garlic and Italian spices. It has a rubbery texture closer to a sausage than a crumbly meatball. The spaghetti is mixed with meat. It was…how would Rachael Ray put it…ummm: The spaghetti wasn’t al dente enough.By the way: If you worry about the safety of stick foods at the fair - the point of the stick has been clipped off, so it poses no real problem to the careful eater.The service was excellent. Kroonblawd’s crew was cheerful, helpful and seemed pleased with their new product.I’m judging the meals I eat at the State Fair with the Belch — a meal worth repeating — Ratings.Three delicate belches out of four for the Spaghetti and Meatball Dinner on a Stick.
– John McIntyre


Our brother-in-law, J's sister's husband, is in New Orleans. I think it was last Friday that he got there. He will be there three weeks. Adam is a border patrol agent, and has been helping with security in the city. Initially he was not going to be allowed to contact his family for the time he was there, but he has been borrowing a phone to call every day to tell J's sis he's o.k. He's not allowed to share details of his work, but he has said things are much worse there than it looks on t.v.

Adam says he is being asked to do some dangerous things, so we are including him and the other relief workers in our prayers.