Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Great Grandma's Cookies

It has been two years now since my Grandma passed away. I miss her most in August when I would normally be taking the kids up with me to celebrate her birthday with her, just after our annual Watermelon Day visit with our friends.
Today, in the cold, dreary afternoon, we were in need of some comforts....a warm oven filled with Grandma's cookies fit the bill perfectly. And though Grandma was stingy with her recipes, we are lucky enough to have this particular one written by her own hand, given to my son, Michael, when HE asked her for this yummy cookie recipe several years ago when he was just a little guy. How surprised we were to receive this in the mail back then! Her note on the bottom clearly says, "Michael from Clem". So now, I will share this gem with you. Ignore all the fat in the recipe...seriously. Just close your eyes and dump it in. You need to make these at least once. I assure you, the texture alone will transport you back to happy days in that tiny little house on Mendenhall Avenue. And at this time of year, those memories will keep you warm and cozy!
Ranger Cookies
1 cup margarine(I use butter)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla
3-1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp soda
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 cup oatmeal
1 cup rice crispies
1 cup coconut
6 oz chocolate chips if you want(I don't remember these in Grandma's cookies, but we put them in this last batch and they were good!)

Drop by teaspoonfuls on cookie sheet or make small balls and press down with a glass. Bake at 350 degrees (11-13 minutes, til golden in color).

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Singin' 'bout Jesus Ain't Just for Sunday School

It's also for head bangin', song screamin', hard rockin', musically kickin', smokin' hot, crazy concerts.I was lucky enough to be Bob's date for this event last night after the snow storm(as apparently Alex has grown out of these two groups---they are too tame for his taste). It has been a long time since we have been to a concert together. The last few have been the likes of Billy Joel, Bryan Adams, and Michael W. Smith. Yep, we were in for something completely different last night.
With out VIP tickets, we were among a smaller group of people who were present for an audience-asking interview with the lead singers of TobyMac and Skillet. They were nice, ordinary looking guys, who seemed to deal with the same types of issues in their families and as dads and husbands, just as the rest of us. These guys were strong Christian men. These guys were rockers (well, Toby's a bit more....hip hop?). And when these guys performed on stage, they were anything BUT ordinary.
Our main drive to go to this concert was for TobyMac. It had been one of the first groups that Bob had really started listening to at the time that it was Alex's favorite. We both were figuring that Skillet was a crazy screamo group we would just have to "suffer through" as we waited for the star of the show. Judging by the fact that we were about the oldest people in the place, we were certain that we were way out of our genre. Boy, were we wrong.
We LOVED it. Totally and completely LOVED the Skillet show. It was crazy. Fire balls. Smoke towers. Fireworks. Stage elevators. Heavy metal cello and violin. Preaching about Jesus and the Gospel message. Crazy. But oh so very good! Having no high expectations, this show just sailed through the roof for us. We would have been completely satisfied to leave and go home after was worth the ticket price.
Toby came up next, which meant listening and participating in some songs we had actually heard before and familiar with....and with which we could understand the words sung. We had great seats on the floor, only 4 rows back in the chairs, and only several feet from the singers when they walked down the center peninsula. TobyMac spent quite a deal of time in this center stage as he and his crew sang a few of their songs----plus a fun rendition of "Pants on the Ground" for us Minnesotans-----with only the lead guitarist and his right hand singer Gabe, by his side, it created an intimate atmosphere in the crowd of 13,000. It was so much fun! Now excuse me, as I wait for my hearing to return.....(but sooooo worth the loss!)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Our First Snowstorm of the Season

And with the exception of my 3 hour drive to the airport to drop off a friend in the thick of it this morning at 9am....seeing at least 40 cars in the ditch......
.....we are all pretty pleased as punch to welcome winter!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Last Nice Day of Fall

This has been such a lovely fall. The weather so mild. The scenery so beautiful. Just so very pleasant, all the way around. We keep getting gorgeous days like today....almost 70 degrees once again. The weatherpeople keep telling us "this will be the last nice day". Yet, each time, more beautiful days continue to follow.
So today, (in hindsight), we really DID appreciate this last nice day of fall. As I cleaned up the yard and the basement garage, making room for winter necessities, the kids played outside. Playing like kids do, they spent hours on the swings, trampoline, and in the sandbox.
It was a glorious day.

And then the rain came in the evening.

Which eventually led to.........

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween

Since Halloween was on a Sunday this year, we enjoed a nice, relaxing day as a family after church, before all the trick or treating hub-bub began. After some lucious pumpkin pancakes----it has been our custom over the past few months to have pancakes every Sunday after church. I add some sort of "secret ingredient" each time, and the kids have to try to guess what it is. We have had lemon, coconut, apple cinnamon, chocolate-almond-coconut, and whipped cream, to name just a few-----we spent the afternoon carving our pumpkins.Pulling out the goo, scraping out and saving the seeds for later. The kids spent hours on this. Bethany enjoyed snacking on raw pumpkin seeds.It was the first year in a very long time that I only carved one all by myself....Thomas's. All the others were carved by the kids themselves.
The kids were quite pleased with their creations. Bob lit up the neighborhood with our house, using strobe lights, color-changing theater lights, and many inflatables, dancing in tune to "Monster Mash". Now a legend, We had a steady stream of cars drive by to let their kids run up to the door, get some candy from Mr. Incredible, and watch the light show. Such a mild preview of what is to come over the Christmas season!The kids enjoyed trick or treating on this mild night....a much more pleasant evening than in year's past. Bethany walked up with the kids, and didn't quite get the whole idea of what was going on, but was happy to have her very own bag of candy. Thomas ran with the big kids, and all of them developed a system for taking turns to ring the doorbell. Grandma ? and Lyle brought Barb and Alan out for the night to enjoy the kids and their costumes. Poor Barb is only able to lie on the couch, and getting her from the couch to the car was so tough to watch. Poor Aunt Barb. It is so hard to see a once very energetic lady so physically frail and falling apart more and more by the day. I hope they were able to have a little bit of fun and a few smiles this evening!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Not Quite a Kid Anymore

Now that Jonny is officially a teenager, he must forgo some of those "kid-like" experiences. He is not ready for that quite yet, being a kid at heart, much like his dad. But in some instances, he just must comply. Birthday parties is one of those things. Jonny is one of the last in his group of friends who has been even having birthday gatherings for the past few years. Gone are the days of grand decor, party games, matching themes, and favor bags. Now, a small group of good friends makes up the festive "party" instead of the unruly dozen plus gang. This year, Jonny chose to do more "mature" activities. We spent a great part of the afternoon on a digital scavenger hunt. I wrote down caption riddles, and the boys, as a group, needed to decide the best place in Waconia and how to pose in order to make the caption make sense. Of course, multiple interpretations were a possibility. It was so much fun to hear them discussing their plans! One clue led us to the ice cream shop.....not my intention when I made the clue. I was hinting at the ice arena. But those smarty pants boys managed some free giant waffle cones out of me somehow.
We finished our day with pizza from Pizza Ranch (Jonny's favorite) and strawberry cheesecake (another favorite). Then they all went outside and played The Zombie game in the dark on the trampoline for what seemed like hours as parents picked up their kids. Yes, kids. Thankfully, I think it will be a few more years before they are fully grown-up.

Friday, October 29, 2010


Our church is amazing when it comes to most things, and children's ministry is tops. Tonight was the annual Trunk-n-Treat. This comprised of games, food, face painting, bounce houses, a moral lesson, and some worship songs. There must have been at least 1,000 or more people was crazy! There were so many people, that my kids only played one game after standing in line for 20 minutes, sweltering in their costumes. Outside, the bounce houses were so crowded, there was not a chance for all of them to go in. And walking around? Well, with 6 of them on my own, it was actually a bit nerve-wracking trying not to lose anyone. And it takes quite a lot to wrack my nerves!

The positives? Well, all the people, of course! With such a turnout, it just speaks volumes as to the reaches of the children's ministery team. So many kids, so many young families, all doing something wonderful for their kids....simply by being there. Outreach is amazing. I am constantly impressed and surprised how God continues to work through seemingly ordinary events. It is wonderful indeed.

After the worship service, kids went "trick or treating" in the parking lot to cars who had decorated their trunks. Never having been to this event before (but Grandma ? took the kids last year), we jumped in both fet, and decorated our own trunk as well. It turned out so cute with cobwebs, pumpkin lights, and a friendly color changing ghost.....still not quite sure if was considered to be too "scary" for the intended purpose, but we received many nice comments from kids who visited. Jonny handed out candy, and though we had brought 5 giant bags, we ran out before it was even half over! We had to close up our cute little trunk, and sadly turn people away! We ended the night with eating pizza in our trunk. The kids had a blast, despite the huge crowds. And after getting candy, they no longer were sad about missing most of the games and all of the outside toys. As for me, am not sure that I want to brave the inside crowd again next year or not....but we will for sure do up our trunk again. Next time we will triple our amount of candy!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

And Jonny Makes Three

Boy, oh boy, oh boy, what a day today is. Today we celebrate the beautiful day that Jonathan was born into our lives. So sweet, so kind, so gentle, so loving. Such a consistent personality from day one. My right hand guy, always willing to help out. The brother that knows how to play with the kids. The kid who can take our place if we are out. Responsible. Creative. Smart. Musical. Thoughtful. Wonderful. Jonathan.

This birthday is one of those milestone days......Jonny becomes a teenager! It is hard to believe that 13 years have already gone by. I can still vividly see him as a baby in our arms. Growing so fast now, he is challenged by Osgood Schlatter's disease: "disease" is quite the misnomer. What has happened is that his bones have grown too quickly over the last year (he has grown 6 inches or more!), that his tendons and ligaments/muscles have not been able to grow/stretch enough yet to accommodate the extra bone length. Therefore, since they are shorter than necessary, they are pulling at the bone in his knees, actually pulling pieces of the bone away resulting in quite a bit of pain. Thankfully, with some shoe inserts, physical therapy, ice, ibuprofen, and stretching exercises, he is beginning to have some relief!
We couldn't be more proud of Jonny and the young man he is becoming. Though now an official teen, he loves his family, loves Jesus, and is respectful to all he comes into contact with. He is the entertainer, game player, game-maker-upper, musically and creatively minded, theatrically blessed, beautiful third son of ours. Just a nice, nice boy.....with only occasional "teenage" moments.
We celebrated today with family at our house in an impromptu style, as is typical for around here. Taco bar, root beer float punch, chocolate-coconut-almond cake, and a Dairy Queen Reese's ice cream cake fed our guests well. All the kids helped by decoration the deck door windows with window paint. Even though this was Jonny's actual birthday today, he was sweet enough to share his celebrations with Auntie Sharon and Great Aunt Barb(not pictured) who also have birthdays within just a couple of days. In addition, the twins(whose birthday we celebrated last weekend) will be turning 6 "for real" tomorrow! Our house was filled with lots of birthday guests....literally!
Barb's health has been quite precarious since this past spring, with many hospital visits and nursing home stays. She and Alan are now living down at the farm with Grandma ? and Lyle so that they will have consistent care and supervision as neither of them are fully capable of living safely on their own (or together) any longer. It has been a hard adjustment for everyone...especially emotionally for Barb & Alan.
It was a nice day to sit and chat, and to enjoy a house filled with people that matter to us. It's always so much fun to watch all the cousins run around and play! And an especially nice day to concentrate on our especially nice boy. Teenager #3......but this time, we are not even scared.

Happy Birthday, Jonny! We love you!

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Not only did the kids have theThursday and Friday of MEA off of school, but they also had Wednesday off this year as well. We took this extended opportunity to head into the cities, stay with Grandma and Grandpa, and have a little "vacation" in the cities.

First stop was The Dead Sea Scrolls with the big boys only. It was much more than I thought it would be. Artifacts dating back more than 2000 years ago, history, Biblical words, all combined into quite an impressive display. It was amazing how these scrolls were preserved for so many years, and how they remained hidden until now. Many of the scrolls contained the inspired word of God, written upon them, same today as yesterday, and as will be in the future. Quite amazing and overwhelming to think about. Such truth and power, both spiritually and physically preserved for all of time.

On Thursday, Jonny spent the day at an Improv Camp at The Guthrie Theater. this was a birthday present to him from Grandma and Grandpa. He experienced a day packed with theatrical tips and comedic fun. Grandpa even got to watch a short presentation they put on at the end of the day. Jonny had a blast. This theatrical stuff is really his niche. He was treated to dinner with his Grandparents at Applebees to complete his marvelous, special day!

While Jonny was busy with the theater, Grandma and I took the kids to Mall of America for some adventure and fun. We began our trip with lunch at the Rainforest Cafe. Just walking around the gift shop and looking at all the larger than life aquariums was fun in and of itself. While we dined, we enjoyed the waterfall behind us, and the occasional thunderstorm that rumbled through. Bethany was just a bit confused and alarmed about such an event occurring indoors. Yeesh, just when she thinks she is understanding her world, we go and confuse the heck out of her. Poor girl. No wonder she is so crabby.

After lunch (and a stop at the special Build-a-Bear section with animals unique to the Rainforest), we toured Underwater World. A giant indoor aquarium, full of neat fish to see. But for $75, and less than an hour's worth of sights? Good gravy, that is one expensive trip. And that $75 was after the free coupons the kids got for the Read -a-thon at school. Ugh. That is the precise reason we have only been there twice. Once when the boys were little, and now with these guys. The seahorses and jellyfish were pretty cool though, I must say. Jelly fish have no brains, and no blood supply. With only a nervous system, I just don't get how they do what they do. I will need to make that a home school research project, I think.
We spent Friday at the Children's Museum with Grandma and the Smiths. Oh my goodness, the kids always have so much fun here. The girls and I had gone there last week after a specialist appointment in the cities, and had had such a good time, especially in Spooky Hollow, that we were excited to go back again. This is easily a place we could spend all day at, and still not be ready to go home, nor have seen all there is to see. I just love how their creativity is inspired here, and how every one of my kids (except for the two teens) just loves it.
That evening, I took the kids to the Shoreview Community Center....a place I promised them we would return to someday after they looked on the pool area in awe during a wedding reception we had attended in August. We left Bethany with Grandma, which ended up being a good decision, as there was not much to do for a little one. The indoor play structure was a blast for the kids. That thing was two stories high, with so many wide tubes and things to crawl through. Impossible to keep track of any of them, but they were having so much fun, none of them would have ever tried to escape. The pool was also of mega proportion, and the water slide was at least two stories high, perhaps even more. Melissa and Crispy spent a full two hours just going up and down that thing. What a good workout hidden in all that fun they were having! The slide was lit in the inside with color changing lights, and music they got to pick for their ride down. Very fun! Laura and Tubby were not quite as thrilled about the pool. There was only a small zero depth area for non-swimmers, which would have been fun if it were not for the 20 sprinkler sprays coming at all directions. It was impossible to be a short little dude and not to get sprayed in the face. When the crowds died down, we were able to move to the stairs in the big pool where I could help the kids float, and where they took turns swimming out the the floatable climbing animals. By 9pm, we were certainly ready for "home" and pizza with Grandma and Grandpa before heading off to bed.
We spent Saturday at the Science Museum. On a Saturday, this was pure insanity. We had meant to visit it yesterday, but had become so caught up in all the fun at the Children's Museum. We waited forever in line just to get in, then rushed off to see the IMAX movie, Arabia. It was interesting, but sure seemed more like a visitor's brochure commercial than what could have been made for educational purposes. After an expensive lunch in the cafe, the kids played for quite a while on the musical steps and the Geometry Playground, a new exhibit. Fun with shapes, climbing through, over, and manipulating them. As always, our visit would not be complete without the optical illusion show. We have seen this a million times, but it never gets old for the kids. Once again, Bethany was confused by all she experienced. Poor girl...I am messing with her delicate neuronal connections so badly this weekend!
We left for home exhausted but happy for all of our adventures during our vacation. Thank you, Grandma and Grandpa for such a good time!