Thursday, July 28, 2011

Almost Exactly Two Years Ago, I First Read Barry Goldwater

When I first read Barry Goldwater's, The Conscience of a Conservative I enjoyed it immensely.  I'm reading it again, and enjoying it just as fully.

As stated in the Foreword, the book, written in 1960, is Goldwater's attempt to, "bridge the gap between [conservative] theory and practice."  He explains that conservatism had become something to be disparaged by those who did not hold to its principles, and something for which its adherents felt the need to apologize.  He attributes this to a lack of clear articulation of how conservatism is carried out in practice to the benefit of all in society.   

I love this introduction, because this is the same problem conservatives still have today.  We like to blame media bias, or liberal lies, or any number of other extraneous things when our message does not resonate as strongly as we'd like it to.  But we conservatives need to better learn the message.  We need to become more articulate spokespersons for conservatism.  We need to elect those who are statesmen and women rather than politicians.  (I'm not really sure if my disctinction is valid, but this is how I define the difference between these two types of leaders.  A statesman has an opinion, and is able to promote and defend such an opinion loudly and clearly, regardless of the end result.  A politician tempers his or her speech to effect what he or she considers the optimal political result.)

In The Conscience of a Conservative Goldwater addresses several of the most pressing issues of his day and offered a conservative solution for each: "The Perils of Power"; "States' Rights"; "And Civil Rights"; "Freedom for the Farmer"; "Freedom for Labor"; "Taxes and Spending"; "The Welfare State"; "Some Notes on Education"; and "The Soviet Menace".  The intrinsic problems addressed under many of these topics still plague us today.  Some have grown to even greater threats to our freedom and American way of life than at the time Goldwater's book was written.  Others have evolved to encompass slightly different issues.  And still others, most notably, what Goldwater calls The Soviet Menace, have mostly evaporated, or changed enough so that his concerns (and solutions) are difficult to recognize in the situation we face today.

I have often expressed frustration that during his first presidential campaign, the soon to be President George W. Bush took up the term Compassionate Conservative, as if Conservative itself is not compassionate.  I said at the time I first heard the phrase, and I still say today, that what we need is not leaders who apologize for conservatism, but someone who can explain and defend, loudly and clearly, the intrinsic compassion of the conservative political viewpoint.

Among those of my friends who tend to vote Republican, but who have no interest in being involved in the bigger discussion of political philosophy, the most often heard accusation against conservatism is that it is heartless, or that its adherents only care about money.

Apparently this idea is not new.  Goldwater includes two quotes in his first paragraph of the first chapter of The Conscience of a Conservative that indicate the prominence of similar sentiments already in 1960.  According to Goldwater, when President Richard Nixon was still Vice President Nixon, he had said, "Republican candidates should be economic conservatives, but conservatives with a heart."

And further, during his first term, President Eisenhower said, "I am conservative when it comes to economic problems, but liberal when it comes to human problems."

In a paragraph that is surprisingly similar to pop-political ideas, Goldwater highlights two slightly different views of those opposed to conservatism.  Firstly, that liberals are interested in people, whereas conservatives are interested only in preserving privileged classes.  Or further yet, a second view, that liberals care about little people, while conservatives care only about the, "malefactors of great wealth."

Goldwater, in the rest of the first chapter, claims the moral high ground for Conservatism.  He states as the underlying premise of that high ground, Conservatism's belief that each man has an individual soul, that each person is capable of great and unique good, and that he or she is more than a mere animal.

In light of that belief in each person's individuality, Goldwater turns the accusation of conservatism being only about economics on its head,
...It is Socialism that subordinates all other considerations to man's material well-being.  It is Conservatism that puts material things in their proper place--that has a structured view of the human being and of human society, in which economics plays only a subsidiary role.
Goldwater continues with three points defending the intrinsic morality of conservatism, basing it on the "accumulated wisdom and experience of history," regarding, firstly, the individuality of each person.
Only a philosophy that takes into account the essential differences between men, and, accordingly, makes provision for developing the different potentialities of each man can claim to be in accord with Nature.
Touching on the inter-connectedness of economic freedom and the freedom of the individual spirit,
[Man] can not be economically free,  or even economically efficient, if he is enslaved politically; conversely, man's political freedom is illusory if he is dependent for his economic needs on the State.
Goldwater continues the theme of the individuality of human reality. Because of the uniqueness of each person, government cannot direct well humanity's development.
Every man, for his individual good and for the good of his society, is responsible for his own development.  The choices that govern his life are choices that he must make: they cannot be made by any other human being, or by a collection of human beings.
When addressing the extent to which conservatism embraces freedom, Goldwater explains that tyranny in any form is abhorrent to a conservative.  He uses as an example, the French Revolution, during which tyranny was enacted both against the peasants by the monarchy; and also by the reformers who used the new egalitarianism to reign over and terrorize whomever they chose.  Goldwater sums up the conservatism of his day as being odds with dictators who rule by terror, and equally with those gentler collectivists who ask our permission to play God with the human race.
Goldwater finishes up this first chapter by summarizing conservatism as being in favor of only as much government oversight as will maintain order in society.   He explains that political power is a "self- aggrandizing force; that its appetite grows with eating."  He exhorts "utmost vigilance and care" in keeping political power in its proper place.

The final paragraph in this introductory chapter discusses the many variations among governments on earth of the balance between order and freedom.  He warns that the current battle in America is not about establishing order; but on the contrary, about preserving freedom.  Goldwater suggests we always first answer this question when addressing the various societal issues facing our society,
Are we maximizing freedom?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Blue Skies and Creeping Worries: God's Got Everything Covered

Mornings like this almost make up for nine months of winter.

The air is still. The sky is a crisp, clear blue.  The temperature hovers just cool enough to need a warm cup of coffee around which to wrap my hands.  I have a sweater on and a throw blanket over my legs.  And I'm sitting on my wicker porch furniture enjoying the Northern Minnesota summer morning.  My potted plants have reached full bloom, but are not yet getting leggy.  The sand hill cranes are trumpeting.  The hay field adjacent to my front yard has golden round bales scattered about.

I know that inside my house, I have dirty laundry waiting to pick up, sort and wash.  Clean laundry to fold and put away.  I have dirty floors and bathrooms.  I have clutter to pick up in just about every room of the house.  No, wait, make that every room of the house.

I have children to feed, cloth, train, and love.

I have three kids to prepare for the national Lutheran Youth Society convention to which they will be travelling on Thursday.

I have a list of things a mile long to prepare for our family vacation next week. As any other readers with a large family understand, I have to squeeze and tweak our spending to be able to take a nickel and dime vacation.  I have to connect with my sisters to finalize our vacation destination, since the Yellowstone vacation we have hoped (and still hope) to take might be subject to the potential federal government shut-down.  But unless something changes in Washington, we won't know for sure until the day we are scheduled to arrive and meet up from three distinct points of the compass.

Further off, when we get back from vacation, I have only two weeks to get everyone ready for school.  I have to sort through all my multitude of semi-organized bins of hand-me-downs, and the heaps and piles of hand-me downs that never made it to the semi-organized stage, in order to find, for the younger set of kids, clothes that look decent and fit reasonably well.  (The older ones thankfully no longer appreciate hand-me-downs, so they must provide their own school clothes.)  I have to purchase and organize school supplies for six children.  I have to attempt to get my head fully screwed on in preparation of the school year schedule.

By the time we get back from vacation, our Northern Minnesota summer will be breathing its last gasping sighs.  The nights will go from cool and crisp, to cold.  The garden will continue to produce cool weather crops, but the sun will no longer be strong enough to make much progress in ripening all the green tomatoes on the vines.

And sometime during the first weeks of September, we will wake up to a frosty morning.  It's likely that by the end of September, we will have had our first killing frost of the season.

All these things are creeping around the edges of my mind on this beautiful summer morning here in Northern Minnesota.

It might be easy to fret or become anxious.  It might be easy to give in to Satan's lies. He whispers that I'll never get everything done.  That we can't afford a vacation.  That I don't deserve a vacation.  He tries to convince me that I'm a failure.

But I recall God's promises.

God will not give me more than I can handle.
No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
God will provide what I need, when I need it.
Take no thought for the morrow, what you shall eat, what you should drink, or what you shall wear.  Your heavenly Father knows that you have need of these things.
Seek first the kingdom of God, and His Righteousness.  And all these things shall be added unto you.
Best of all, God loves me. God has chosen and adopted me as His child, through Jesus' suffering and death.
Fear not: for I have redeemed you, I have called you by your name; you are mine.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Big Tractor and the TEA Party

One hears much these days about "Big Oil," and "Big Money," and "Big Pharmaceutical,"  Or Big Whatever.  We don't hear much about, "Big Tractor."  But it's all there, just the same.  Those successful tractor guys who might be deemed evil on account of their success.  But more basically, the tractors about which I'm going to write later are are..., well..., big.

But before I get to back to the tractors, let me tell you about the parade.  Joe and I and our family have been asked to walk in the Thief River Falls parade again this year with the TEA party float.  Oh,oh, here it is again.  That word.  Big. We're part of that Big Group of Extremists, the TEA party movement. 

I'll be glad to tell anyone all about it, and why I align myself with the TEA party movement.  But for now I'm going to give only a brief overview. 

What We Primarily Believe (I say primarily because I can't say that every TEA partier will believe all these things.  This is a list of primary common beliefs.)
  • We believe in the Constitution.
  • We believe in Limited Government.
  • We believe history shows that the best way to rescue our economy is to Lower Taxes at all levels.
  • We believe that Those Closest to a Person or Situation can best offer Help and Assistance rather than Washington Bureaucrats.
  • We believe in Personal Freedom together with Personal Responsibility.
Not the Primary Reasons We Stand Together (I say it this way, not because we are none of these things.  Some of the following, I hope and pray might describe none of us; other things on this list may describe many of us.  But these are not the purpose behind the TEA party movement.  None of the following are why we stand together
  • Racist
  • White
  • Wealthy
  • Republicans
  • Militiamen and women
  • Violent
There are many stereotypes and false allegations being spread around by the mainstream media.  And I imagine each TEA party event will be as varied as the communities in which they take place and the individuals who plan and attend such events.  I've been to three TEA party events in the Thief River Falls area (not counting the parade last year).  Each has been unique and interesting in it's own way. 

I'd like to invite any readers who think we are violent, heartless crazies to attend a TEA Party event in your community.  Engage TEA party leaders in your area in a conversation (not an argument).  You may not ever agree with them.  But you will almost certainly come away with an opinion of the movement different than that portrayed in the Mainstream Media.

My husband can remember playing with die-cast tractors and farm equipment when he was young.  You know the kind I mean, the ones often made by Ertl, that can be picked up at stores like Runnings, Big Bear, Tractor Supply or Fleet Farm.  Joe has fond memories of those tractors. Case, John Deere, and International.  McCormick, Massey Ferguson, and Steiger.  He even had a couple of Waterloo Boys.

But it tickles him pink to get a phone call from Kay Steiger, one of the Thief River Falls TEA Party organizers, asking us to help out. 

Kay's husband is Doug.  Doug and his brother, Maurice, built the first Steiger tractor in their dairy barn outside of Thief River Falls during the winter of 1957-58.  They had skill, they saw a market, they built up a reputation, and they became an industry leader because of their innovation and hard work.  They were able to provide jobs in the Fargo Area for many people throughout the years.  They contributed to the local economy.  They made a product that benefited farmers nationwide. 

This story captures the essence of the American Dream.  And protecting the ability of people to pursue the American Dream is what the TEA party movement is all about, in its support of freedom, lower taxes, and limited government.

Or maybe it's like detractors claim; maybe it's all about money.  Maybe it's all about those greedy folks in the Big Tractor industry.

But I refuse to believe it.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Begging Chickens

"Whistling girls and crowing hens Always come to some bad ends." 
                        from Farmer Boy, by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Although I do whistle, I've yet to hear a crowing hen.  But this morning I was privileged to see a begging chicken.

After I had Matt's lunch made and had checked my e-mail and facebook for anything important, I headed out to my front porch to have my morning cup-o-joe and sit for a few minutes with Master and Commander, by Patrick O'Brian.  I also snuck a peanut butter granola bar; since the big kids have been sleeping in, we don't serve breakfast until late these days.  (OK, really I just snuck it because it was there.  This is why I don't buy packaged foods as a rule.  They have a way of calling and calling....)

When I opened the door to go out, I was greeted by both a barred rock hen and one of our cornish cross meat birds.  They've taken to slipping out under the electric wire and exploring the grounds.  And occasionally they even hop up our front steps.  They tend to be a bit shy, so I wasn’t surprised when they both hopped back down the steps after I first poked my head out the door.

It was a bit chilly (54F), so put down my coffee and book.  I came back in to grab a couple of throw blankets with which better enjoy the crisp air of a northern Minnesota morning.

I don't like cold feet, so I wrapped one blanket snuggly around my lower half, with a little extra hanging down in which to tuck my feet.  The other blanket I draped around my shoulders; and so I settled in for my coffee and read.  I took a few cleansing breaths as looked out on the morning I listened to its sounds.  I crossed my legs and settled more comfortably into my wicker chair.

And I began to read.

The chickens had returned to the porch and were wandering around, curiously exploring the nooks and crannies among my potted plants.

After a few paragraphs I braved my coffee to test whether it was yet cool enough to drink.  Alas! it was not.  Sigh.

Read a few more paragraphs.

Test the coffee again.


Now for my granola bar.  Mmmm.

As I nibbled at my granola bar, and sipped my coffee, I noticed the cornish cross chicken was looking at me very intently.  He came right up to my left side and just stood there looking up over the edge of my lap.  I put down my book and my cup so I could give my full attention to this curious behavior.  That chicken just kept staring at my granola bar and waggling his head from side to side, like chickens do, so each eye in its turn could get a good look at what that human was eating.

After several moments of him giving me the chicken version of puppy-dog eyes, Mr. Chicken moved to the other side of me, I suppose to get a different angle on the granola bar.  Since I had crossed my legs, my blanket-wrapped foot was hanging at just above eye level for the chcken.

Mr. Chicken took a deep breath, spread his wings a bit, and then with a mighty flutter, he flumped his way onto my foot.  (Flump, in this case, is the combination of fly and jump; because cornish cross chickens are bred to be heavy birds, they don't fly easily or gracefully.)

I giggled a little bit and just watched to see what he would do next.  Soon Mr. Chicken flumped his way up to my knee.

I quickly popped the last of my granola bar into my mouth.  I was not about to have to share such an indulgence with a chicken.  After that, I just watched and waited.

After a little bit further exploration, he pecked a few times at my thumbnail.  We've noticed that chickens like finger and toe nails; I think their slight shine must look like the iridescence on bug shells.

I was chuckling the entire time.  I remember saying something like, "You better not poop on my blanket, Mr. Chicken."

Eventually, in one final attempt at making himself at home, that silly chicken plumped up his feathers and swayed a little from side to side in what gave every impression of being the chicken version of a dog's turning three times before lying down.  He then proceeded to settle himself upon my knee.

I guffawed.  Yes, sitting out on my front porch, nobody out there but me and the birds, and I giggled and laughed right out loud.  I might have seemed a little touched had anyone happened by.

But really, that chicken reminded me for all the world of a pet dog or cat.

Or more frightening yet, is it that my lap looks so very like the soft and comfiness of a nesting box?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

2011 VBS Week

It was a busy week in our parish last week.  We had our annual VBS program.  For any readers who are not from a tradition that uses such an acronym, VBS stands for Vacation Bible School.  It's a Bible and catechetical opportunity for parish kids and guests sponsored by churches during the kids' summer vacation.

I've been told that in this area and some other rural midwest areas, VBS has had a variety of names throughout the years and also a variety of methods and timelines.  The one I found most interesting was that some churches that did not have a Christian Day School would hire a Christian Day school teacher from a different area to spend a chunk of his or her summer vacation teaching religion to the parish youth.  This lasted often even for a month or more each summer.  It was called parish school, church school, summer school, or parochial school.

When I was young, in Washington State, I think our VBS was all day for a five day week.  Most programs today seem to be geared toward 1/2 days for five days.

What Joe has worked out here that seems to work the best is that we use a program geared for a five day week, but have school for three full days.  The second half of the third day is a program or special activity of some sort.

The tradition here for crafts for many years has been that the older two classes do a nativity set during their last years of VBS.  In the end, they are able to take home a nicely painted porcelain nativity to use in their home and to remember their VBS years.  There were ladies here previously who had quite a system down for teaching the kids about the use of paints and layers and different looks.  Some kids had very colorful nativities, others had more antiqued or even a bisque white look.  They all ended up very nicely done.

Another tradition that these churches follow is that since its the parents' job to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4), the teachers of both Sunday school and VBS are expected to be the parents of the children attending.  There are usually a few non-parents who step up to help out.  This tradition is much different from the one with which I grew up.  I grew up in a tradition that asked particular people to teach the youth.  The people who were most knowledgeable Scripturally and who had a certain affinity for teaching or working with groups of children were the ones asked to teach.  I see the validity of both systems.  But because this tradition is so unlike that to which I was accustomed, it was a bit hard for me to get used to this system when we first moved up here.

One of the drawbacks to this system is that if a certain parent is skilled in a particular area of teaching, when that parent's youngest child has been confirmed, such a parent generally is ready to be done teaching.  The VBS program can really feel the absence of such a person.  For the first 7 years we were here, two ladies did the nativity sets with the kids.  They ordered the sets as each child attained the age to do the nativity.  They took care of the paints and the brushes.  They taught the kids how to end up with a great finished product.  But four and then two years ago, these ladies had their youngest children confirmed, so they are no longer with our VBS program.

Hence, the painting of nativities seems to be coming to a standstill.  There are some belonging to the older kids, which are in various stages of paintedness; and the younger kids reaching the age when they ought to start theirs have not started them.  When we talked about it this year, prior to the start of VBS, there seemed to be nobody who felt ready to pick up the ball and keep the tradition going.

Another change to our VBS recently is the huge increase in the number of children attending.  For the first several years we were here, the attendees were mostly from two of the congregations, with an occasional child or couple of children from the other two.  But those other two churches have been so blessed with young families coming in that we now have a steady attendance from all four churches.  This year we had I believe, 35 children attend VBS.  We had eight non-member children attend.  We were missing several of our bigger family groups, because of conflicting obligations.  Had these groups been able to attend, we might have had up to 50 little ones attend VBS.  What a blessing to live among thriving and growing rural churches where the young people return to live near home when they are ready to raise their families!

This year we had one of our newer members offer to do the crafts.  Thank you so much to Lissette R.  What a feat, to handle all that, when you haven't been around in previous years to have a feel for how things work.  You did a great job!

Kelly M. taught our 7 three year olds.  Wow, Kellie!  What patience and organization!

Laura V. taught 6 PK and Kindergarteners.  She did such a nice job managing all those little ones and keeping them still and orderly!

I taught 6 first and second graders.  I did not feel quite as organized as I would have liked, but we made it through the week and I think they learned something.  They were fun kids to work with.

Tami S. taught 9 kids in grades three through six.  Tami also teaches that age group in our Wednesday school, so she has a good handle on what they are capable of.  Besides teaching the Bible stories, she works with them to get the catechism memorized and makes sure they are prepared for the higher level doctrinal discussions that confirmation class will eventually require.

Pastor taught the confirmation aged kids.  I believe he had 7 kids, but I don't have the list on this computer to check for sure.  He teaches them the stories, and works with them on the memorization, but also gets deeper into the bigger picture lessons the program is designed to teach.

I ought to explain here that my husband is a pastoral perfectionist.  One look at our house or his garage and nobody would peg him as a perfectionist.  But when it comes to his church work, he is. 

This perfectionism makes it very hard for him to use any pre-packaged materials.  Generally he either writes his own, or purchases from a group that offers a few pre-done programs that follow his preference for bare bones Bible and catechism studies.  The way Joe sees it, in a parish without a Christian Day School, if you only have the kids for three days a summer, you better make sure the stuff they are learning is of eternal value. 

So yes, this means no clowns, no space aliens, no wild west or tours of famous cities, in the name of teaching the gospel to the little ones.  Who wants the kids to remember the clowns or the other characters or places, but forget the Biblical content of what they've learned.

The program Joe hoped to purchase this year was a program on the Bible as a whole, done by the Answers in Genesis group.  This particular program used the acronym BASIC Training, where 'B' stood for the Bible, and focused on the unique nature of the Bible.  'A' stood for Authority, and taught that the Bible speaks truth and is the Authority about God's will. 'S' stood for Salvation and focused on the message of Salvation in Jesus.  'I' stood for Instruction and taught the purpose of the Bible being Instruction in righteousness.  'C' stood for the Confidence we can have in our Salvation.

OK, yes, the program did have space aliens, but from what we had heard, it sounded as though that part could be toned down at the discretion of the pastor and teachers. But when the materials came in the mail, they were apparently based more strongly on the life of some famous British Christian guy (John Wesley, maybe?  Or William Tyndale?  I've forgotten who Joe said) than on the Bible. Perhaps this man lead a good and noble life, but the knowledge of his life and work will not get kids into heaven.   Hmmm.   (I'm curious as to how they combined a historical British man of faith with space aliens, but then, what do I know.  I didn't read the original material.)

After receiving the sample packet, with very little time to spare, Joe took the original and added or changed the Biblical content, and got rid of the biography of the famous Christian and the space aliens.  Since Answers in Genesis is not from a Sacramental tradition, he also had to change the focus of the "C is for confidence" lesson.  Instead of exhorting the children to look to their decision to follow Christ and the intensity of their prayer life, he tweaked it to teach the Means of Grace, the Gospel in Word and Sacrament, as the source of our confidence in Salvation.

In the middle of the rush to get the program rewritten, a storm ripped through southern Minnesota and blew more than twenty-five trees down on Joe's parents farm, one of which was landed on their house.  It is at times like this that the life of a pastor can pose a unique tight spot in a person's life.  Joe's parents had an emergency.  They have no other living children.  Joe is called to serve our churches here, way up in northern Minnesota, with God's Word.  But he is also called to be a son, and to honor and support his parents.

I'm not sure whether Joe had even considered going to help his folks.  Of course he wanted to.  He simply did not see it as a possibility.  But thank you to Kelly L., who called and encouraged him to consider going.  Just as God can provide help for Joe's parents, so too, the churches would get by without their pastor for a weekend.  The VBS prep would all work out.

So Joe finished the VBS re-write, got his sermon to the deacons at all four churches for them to read for him, using the family devotional Service of Prime.  Then he and our oldest boys left to help Grandma and Grandpa.  It turned out to be a very good thing for Joe, since some aunts and uncles and cousins who he doesn't get to see as often as he'd like came to help also.  Thanks to all those who brought man power and machine power to get such a big job done quickly.

The Kelly M and I, and Lissette with her crafts, finished up most of the prep work without him.  We ended up starting a little bit late on Wednesday, but the kids had fun playing and getting reacquainted.  And without further ado, we started in and had a successful week.

All the kids left with a tie-dyed T-shirt.  Instead of the nativities, Joe helped the older kids each make a flute. The younger kids made bookmarks, cross wall hangings, a tracing of themselves, and a picture frame.  Lissette took pictures during the days of VBS, so she took the frames home and will insert a picture for the kids and then deliver them to each church for pick-up.

On Friday afternoon, we invited parents, relations, and friends for the program the kids gave.   Several of the moms and grandmas provided bars for the standard, "Minnesota lunch,"  after which the kids gathered all their projects and headed home.

And it was three days of a wonderful whirlwind!

How do I Love Thee, Summer Mornings? Let Me Count the Ways

My Corner Bed
This morning I got up with Great Expectations of how my morning would go.  I was going to do pilates first thing.  Then before the kids were up, I was going to go for a quick run. 

After that I was going to put some sort of hot breakfast in the oven and while it baked I intended to enjoy a quick cup of coffee on my front porch.

Then to feed the kids and get everyone dressed and ready for church at 11:00.

Most people don't prefer 11:00 church during the summer.  But I don't mind it.  I love to relax and enjoy my summer mornings.  And since my husband works until 12:30 every Sunday, it's not like we're rushing off to the lake or the relatives or anything.  Not to mention I have quite a number of kids to get ready for church and the more time I have to accomplish that, the better.

Now you remember my Great Expectations?  Here's what really happened.

I got up and decided that since my eyes were still mostly closed, instead of clicking on the pilates icon on my computer, I'd just check my facebook quick.  Since nothing much ever happens on facebook early on a Sunday morning, I figured I was pretty safe.  But then I decided to also check my e-mail.  Also generally pretty safe on a Sunday morning.

But then, shame on you, Mary! I remembered I hadn't blogged about our parish VBS yet and I wanted to do that while the kids were asleep, so I could think clearly.  But my computer was being temperamental and everything took waaaaaay looooonger than it ought to have.  I did eventually finish the post, but by then I had kids up clamouring for breakfast, so I decided not to proofread and post it yet.

Only the little kids were up, so I gave them a little pre-breakfast snack of nuts and raisins.  I poured myself a cup of coffee in my cool mug that I only use when I need a quick cup, because although it is very cool, it does not keep the coffee hot at all.  I thought to myself that this cup would make a cool blog post, so I had to arrange it on the table and try to take several pictures to get the best shot.  (Have I mentioned before I'm not really much of a photographer?)

By the time I was done with my little photo shoot, the coffee was pretty much already cold.  Well, at least ready to drink immediately.  I took it out to my front porch without any reading material and decided to simply enjoy the Summer Morning Show.  I listened to my turkey sing.  I saw a red headed woodpecker swooping about before he decided on a tree upon which to land.  I looked at all the pots of flowers and admired how they were finally filling in and beginning to blossom prolificly.  I plucked a few spent blooms from the pots nearest me.

And I quickly slurped down my coffee before it could get any cooler.

Then, well, since I drank the first cup so quickly, I still had time for a second.  I came in for a refill, and then out I went again.  I sat down on my wicker, but only for a minute.  I just couldn't sit and look.  Remember how Maria in The Sound of Music couldn't ever stay in the convent when the hills were calling to her?  She had to out among them.  I had to go down and admire my other pots and flower beds.  I had to deadhead the various plants to ensure continued blooming.  I had to wander in the dewy morning grass. And pull a few weeds while the soil was still in its morning dampness.  I had to be out in the morning!

Who can sit on wicker with a cup of coffee when all the summer morning delights are waiting?

And calling.

And suddenly it's time to get everyone up for church.  The sluggardly teens are still sleeping and it's nearly 10:00.  There is no hot breakfast in the oven.  The little ones who were outside enjoying the summer morning in their own way, now need to be cleaned up for church again.

And what am I doing?   Writing on a blog about summer mornings.  Crazy lady!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Days of Sun and Mischief

The summer weather here in northwestern Minnesota has finally decided to make its appearance.  We've had lovely long days of sunshine and warmth; time for working in the garden and sitting in the sun.  The perennials in the beds are blooming lustily and the annuals are gradually perking up into full bloom.  It's the time of year I love.

I love to sit for a few minutes each day on the wicker furniture I got last summer as a cumulative "Birthday, Anniversary, Christmas, and Mother's Day gift.  It was not expensive, in the sense that it was the cheapest set I could find that did not feel like it would fall apart immediately.  But it is one of the few new pieces of furniture we've ever invested in.  And it's so much sturdier than the Wal-mart or K-mart variety that bends at the legs and periodically causes the uninitiated to suddenly tumble backward.  (Yes, this is the voice of experience.  At least one set of friends could tell a story about me having such an experience.)

I have cushions for my wicker that I keep hanging up in my hall closet, waiting for company or a day I feel the need for some extra pampering.   But most of the time I just sit on the wicker and enjoy my flowers and my yard.  Perhaps I drink a cup of coffee or read my devotion.  Perhaps I read my current novel.  Regardless of what I do while sitting in my wicker on my front porch, it's ever so much nicer once the warm weather comes.  I haven't had to bundle in a blanket before heading out in the morning for several days now.  What joy!

But along with the long days of summer comes the long days of "Mom being outside and kids left largely  unattended."  I can tell in my little ones when they have had too much freedom because the mischief level hits record highs.  Even with all the older kids home helping, we can't keep up with the shenanigans.

Today I was down at church using Joe's computer, since the monitor on our main one in the house is kaput.  It was the victim of one of last week's incidents of mischief.  When I left the house today, I put the big kids in charge.  I asked them to get the dishes done and watch the little ones.

Apparently this was too difficult an undertaking, because when I came home, Inge was crying to me about glue.  I found glue in her hair.  Hmm.  I wondered if it was self-inflicted glue.  But when I found it peeling off her entire back I decided it must not have been.  But I couldn't address the issue right then.  I was late getting supper on.

Then Clara and Stella needed me to apply my secret sun-burn remedy to their poor backs.  I put Clara's on her in the kitchen and sent her to her room to lie down until it could soak in.  I had Stella lie on her bed and I applied hers there.  As I was rubbing the concoction in, Stella said, "Oh, oh, Mom, look."  And there sat a neat row of little toy flower blossom train cars, each little train car blossom filled with glue.  And in the center of each little flower cup full of glue sat a strategically placed Mah Jong tile. Balanced. Just so.  As I finished rubbing in Stella's sunburn ointment, I noticed several other glue/toy creations scattered about the room.  Sigh.  Oh for uncreative children!

Joe got off the phone a few minutes later and I asked him about something, I can't remember what.  He said he didn't have a chance to take care of it earlier, because of the pesticide mess.  "Yikes!  What's that all about?  That doesn't sound good."  "Oh, the girls got into that non-toxic herbal bug repellent stuff you bought the other day and sprayed it all over the garage."

Uff da! (Yes, since I live in this part of Minnesota, I can use that .phrase.  Around here it is as common as, "Shoot," or, "Oh, my goodness.")

By this time I was fully into the supper rush.  I was making a ground beef and potato hash kind of thing, throwing it together at the last minute, since I had nothing else planned.  Since our supper was so boring, I thought I'd treat everyone by making smoothies for desert.  I threw a can of pineapple chunks with juice, two cans of coconut milk, and a couple of cups of frozen strawberries, some vanilla, a little sugar, and enough milk to make about 3 qts into a gallon pitcher and whipped everything together with my immersion blender.

Ah, now I'm a good mom, right?

But as I was rinsing my immersion blender under the tap, I saw Inge's little hands reach up for the pitcher.  Before I could grab it, SPLOOSH, down it went all over the floor and the cupboards, the defunct dishwasher, and any of the clutter that was sitting on the floor.  Heavens to Betsy, Inge!  Besides the mess, that's about seven or eight dollars worth of smoothy!

I hate to quantify everything according to cost.  The bigger issue is that she needs to learn to not reach up on a counter and pull things off.  Imagine if it had been something hot or sharp!

But no, the frustrated mom sees only the mess and the cost.  What an evening!  But the good thing is that tomorrow can only be better, right?