Book Club

Recently my good friend Jane and I embarked on a very unique trip. With a bit of encouragement Jane entered a contest to pre-read Katie Schuermann‘s final installment in the Anthems of Zion trilogy. To her great surprise and delight, Jane was chosen as one of eight readers to sit at Katie’s table and read through the entire book. I had told Jane that I would be her chauffeur for this event as she didn’t want to make that journey to Ilinois alone. In the meantime, Katie was preparing the manuscripts for our reading. (Katie had even invited ME to sit around the table with her! THAT was completely unexpected, so it was a great honor.)imageWe arrived on Friday evening and were treated to a delicious meal of Amish-grown pig. Dessert include Pastor Fletcher’s chocolate-covered fruit. (Pastor Fletcher is a character in the book series.) We read for a couple of hours on Friday evening. Then we did a marathon-like reading on Saturday. We shared breakfast at 8:30 and dove back into the manuscript. We took a break for lunch and hit the book hard again. We grabbed some chicken for supper and knocked a few more chapters before quitting for the night. Jane and I didn’t reach our hotel room until 11:30. It was a LONG day, but it was worth it as the book provided laughter and tears and so much more.image1Pictured below is our group’s reaction to one of the bigger moments in the book. We had to stop reading and just laugh and laugh and laugh. Katie is such a gifted writer. She can make you laugh and cry in just the right spots. I can’t tell you what we were laughing about because the manuscript is still the property of Concordia Publishing House. I CAN tell you that the book is excellent, and I am eagerly awaiting the June release date.image2And, finally, here is a picture of our entire group. My dear, dear friend (and author) Katie is seated closest to the window. Thanks to her dear husband for being our photographer.IMG_7478.JPGI’m so blessed to have met and made new friends over an exhausting and exhilarating 2 1/2 days. We read; we laughed; we cried. God be praised! #teamarlene  #TheHarvestRaise

Road Trip

See these gals? We conquered the Mall of America! One of us celebrated a momentous birthday in October, and her hubby arranged a girls’ shopping trip to Minnesota. We met up on Thursday evening and enjoyed some girl time at our hotel. The next morning we put on our comfy shoes and set out.

  • JC Penney
  • Gordman’s
  • Mall of America from 11:30-5:00
  • Premium Outlet Center
  • Michael’s Kohl’s
  • Home Goods
  • Costco

There were probably others, but I can’t even recall any of them now. We all made purchases. I learned the wonderfulness of the retailmenot app.IMG_7466.JPGBefore we left on Saturday, we saw a huge Hummer limousine parked outside our hotel. We got to peek inside and took a picture. You can rent this vehicle for $150 an hour.IMG_7468.JPGMy good friend will be celebrating her 40th birthday for the next 20 years, so I think we’ll have to arrange a trip like this for the next 20 years.

Oh, yes, he did.

Rocket was listening to the pastor (at my brother’s church) talk specifically to the children (in a children’s message) about ways to prepare for Jesus’ coming. The pastor said that we could read the Bible. Rocket piped up, “I read the whole Bible last night.” The congregation chuckled. It’s true, though. He found a small New Testament in the guest room at my brother’s home and paged through the entire thing in one sitting.


A few Sundays ago I taught the story of David and Goliath. The teacher’s guide suggested making a cookie cutter shape of Goliath. I couldn’t just do that. The teacher in me woke up, and I made the 9-foot guy, complete with beard and armor. The kids were duly impressed. They practiced twirling their imaginary slingshots above their heads and releasing the stone that hit Goliath in the forehead. img_7461I know the body proportions aren’t right. I wasn’t an art major, but I think I did well enough to give these little ones a pretty good idea of the giant that was once Goliath.

This Girl

Look who is 14 years old today! Our Sweetpea keeps marching through the teens. We started her day off right… with donettes. They’re her favorite. Her birthday menu consists of homemade pepperoni pizza for lunch and shrimp alfredo for this evening. This girl has excellent taste in food!img_7479She then visited the orthodontist for her monthly adjustment. I had offered to her that we reschedule the appointment, but she decided to keep it. This girl is unselfish. (Notice the different colored bands between the top two pictures.)img_7484Moonbeam and Rocket both made cards for her. Moonbeam colored, cut, and designed a bracelet for her big sister, all by herself. They love this girl!img_7493Sweetpea is growing up way too fast before my eyes. For the past two weekends, she has helped her dad keep track of the Munchkins while I’ve been away. The first time was a quick three-day shopping trip to celebrate the birthday of a dear friend. The next trip was for four days, while I was in Illinois. (Posts to follow.) This girl organized and prepared the meals (with a bit of help from her dad), entertained the Munchkins, took care of schoolwork, got the Munchkins ready for church on Sunday (all by herself), and still got to enjoy some free time on her own. She made chocolate chip cookies with her brother and sister. They tasted delicious – the cookies, I mean. Everybody did well, and I’m sure that Sweetpea enjoyed the opportunity to be the lady of the house. I knew she could handle it, and she certainly did.

I am so proud of THIS GIRL! God has blessed her numerous talents, and He has blessed her heart with kindness for her family. Happy Birthday, Sweetpea! We love you and thank God for you! We are so blessed that you are OUR GIRL!

Thank You, Doris.

I waited 1 hour and 21 minutes to speak with a lovely Samsung representative named Doris. She spoke clear English and was actually knowledgeable regarding the washing machine recall. She was even able to answer questions that weren’t on her script.

I can choose Option 1: Samsung sends a home repair kit and pays for the technician to fix my machine. There would be no cost for anything to me.

I can choose Option 2: Receive a voucher for $376 to buy a new Samsung washing machine or receive a voucher for $276 to buy a non-Samsung washing machine.

Doris was very kind and took down my information. She didn’t pressure me to make a decision today. She even told me that I could apply for either option online and shared the information I would need to have available to do that. I asked if her company was inundated with calls right now. She said that there are 2 million washing machines that are being recalled. I told her the length of time that I had waited. She, of course, apologized for that. I suggested that, if she had any pull, she should have the “waiting music” improved. She laughed.

Which option will we choose? I’m thinking Option 1 is pretty good. What would you do?

How Long?

My washing machine is a Samsung, and it is on the recall list. I checked the website to see how to fix the problem. I can a) order the home repair kit or b) receive a rebate, based on the value of my current machine and receive an additional $150 towards the purchase of another Samsung washer.

I’d like to know the value of my current machine before I make my decision. I’ve been on the phone with Samsung’s annoying music for one hour and eleven minutes…waiting to talk to a Samsung representative. Should I hang up, call my local Sears guy, and ask him to find out the value of my machine? I feel like I’m invested in this phone call now. (I have been doing other things during this time.) Should I have quit waiting after 15 minutes? 20 minutes? 30 minutes?

What’s a reasonable time to wait? Should I quit now? What would YOU do?


Halloween Rewind

On Saturday afternoon we carved the pumpkins. Rocket went with a big, open mouth because that describes him well. On Monday morning we tissue-papered the little pumpkins. Moonbeam loved the activity.img_7443Both of them took naps in the afternoon. This was surprising as they were quite excited bout the festivities yet to come. The naps paid off, though, for they were well-behaved throughout the entire affair.

I proudly present our local fire chief and construction worker.img_7436While we visited the nursing home residents, Sweetpea and her dad made supper. They made a pumpkin-shaped, pepperoni pizza. Delicious.img_7439After that the kids walked to the eleven houses in town. Sweetpea set up a little spooky scene of her own. Behold, the grumpy old man. As kids were coming up the sidewalk, she would turn on the light above the guy for two seconds and then unplug it. As the kids left our house, she turned on the light again and played the Vincent Price evil laugh through a speaker. The kids loved it. So did Sweetpea.img_7438After the trick-or-treating, we unloaded the loot. Good grief, Charlie Brown. Look at all of that candy. After taking this picture, I poured the plastic bag of goodies into the bucket. It filled that entire 3-gallon bucket! The kids get to enjoy candy today. However, the candy fairy will be making a visit tonight and replacing much of their goodies with a new toy.img_7441How many trick-or-treaters came stopped at our door? If you count our two little ones, we had FOUR.

Step in Time

We attended the local field marching contest a couple of weeks ago. The kids were enthralled. As soon as we came home, they insisted on practicing their own field marching. We found the instruments and the band hat (minus one purple plume) and were off to the field.img_7369They mastered street turns. The drummer kept excellent cadence, and the recorder-ist never missed a note.img_7370They were even in step with each other. Impressive, yes?img_7371

Jacked up? YES!

Drugs, especially steroids, are powerful things. I’m taking a pretty strong one to combat this food allergy. I have had a lot of energy. My body wants to keep moving when I really don’t want to do so. My step-count was quite high yesterday; I’m sure it was due to the drugs.

The most common side effect is feeling jittery, along with the inability to sleep. That is totally me. I took my meds as ordered throughout the day. I also took two Benadryl, per doctor’s orders, to help me feel sleepy. That didn’t work so well on Friday night. Last night I also sipped some hot chocolate, laced with peppermint schnapps.

I sat down to watch some college football. Usually I’m in bed around 10:30, but I was WIDE AWAKE last night. I knew it would be useless to go to bed, so I stayed up a while longer. It wasn’t until 11:45 that I finally felt sleepy. I think I fell asleep pretty quickly, and my night was quite restful.

We’ll see how today shapes up.

Martha Stewart? Nah.

I spent some time on Pinterest this last week and found some fun fall-ish ideas. One was a pumpkin garland that was made with yarn and pipe cleaners. Easy-peasy, I thought. Behold, my feeble attempt at a pumpkin garland. (Sweetpea thought it would be fun to pin a pumpkin upside-down to the woodwork.)img_7410This is the close-up. It’s not as good as the original picture from the website. Still, it’s good enough for who it’s for.img_7409I decided to use the rest of the yarn for some little munchkin fun. I made pom-pom balls. The last time I did that I was in college, taking P.E. Methods class from Professor Eunice Goldgrabe. Moonbeam and Rocket had a blast with the pom-pom balls. That is, until Rocket figured out how to pull them apart. Again, it’s good enough for who it’s for.img_7411I never wanted to be Martha Stewart anyway.

Is That Really the “Queso”?

After enduring what I thought were hives for most of the week and spending a most unbearable night in bed, I scheduled a doctor appointment this morning. I got right in and learned that I probably experienced a severe reaction to something that I ate. The good doctor prescribed a course of action and sent me off to the pharmacy to fill my meds. I’ll be taking steroids for a week (Look out, Arnold Schwarzeneggar!) and getting “pumped up!” The most likely side effect will be feeling “jacked up” or jittery. I might have difficulty sleeping, but Benadryl can help that situation.

What could I have possibly eaten that would make me react like that? We bought some queso blanco, which is jalapeño cheese dip. Jerome and I LOVED having it with our fajitas on Sunday, and I ate some at lunch on Monday again. I think this must be the culprit. Sadly, Jerome will probably get to finish the jar. [Insert sad face here.]

Thanks to all of you for checking on me. It was a good reminder from you to take care of myself so that I can take care of my family. I tend to forget about that.

Jars by the Numbers

2016 brought forth an abundant harvest from the garden once again. In fact, we ran out of jars. We had all of the jars from my parents and my in-laws, too.

  • canned beef 20 qts
  • green beans 25 qts
  • pickles 13 qts
  • sauerkraut 18 pts
  • frozen corn 13 qts
  • pears 6 qts
  • stewed tomatoes 66 qts
  • pizza sauce 27 pts
  • beets 13 pts
  • carrots 26 pts

That’s 247 jars of homegrown goodness. Come visit us, and we’ll feed you. We are well-stocked for the winter. Thanks be to God for another great year in the garden!

Where’s the honey?

We cleaned off the garden over the weekend. Hip-Hip-Hooray! The tomatoes are finally DONE. (I’ll post the final numbers soon. I’m still adding them all up.) We took out the tomatoes, cucumber vines, peppers, and all the other stuff as well. We dug carrots, big ones.

Then yesterday I broke out in hives. All over. It was not pleasant. It’s still not pleasant. I suspect this is a reaction to being in the garden with the remaining pollen. Sweetpea looked up possible causes, and this seems to be the most reasonable. However, stress could also be a factor. Who knows?

For now, I’m drinking lots of water, taking cool showers, and trying to R-E-L-A-X. What else should I be doing (or not doing)?

A Service Project

Thrivent Financial has a new thing called Thrivent Action Teams. You apply for a $250 debit card that is essentially seed money for a service project for your church or community or another entity. Sweetpea used one of her grandparent’s cards for a sewing project for the local pregnancy center.IMG_7366.JPGWith the money she purchased enough material to make 8 fleece blankets that are tied. She made 7 flannel blankets that have different prints on each side. She sewed 37 taggie blankets of fleece. (I got to help with those.) This girl loves to sew, and I’m thankful that she is willing to use her time and talents to help others in need. Having finished this project, she would like to do it again. God be praised!

High Aspirations

Our family was discussing the Christmas Eve pageant; all three of our kids will be participating this year. (It’s the only year it will happen.) Sweetpea and Moonbeam will be angels. Then it was mentioned that Rocket would probably be a shepherd… or a wiseman.

Rocket: I want to be God. [Sweetpea stifles a snort.]

Jerome: No, you can’t be God. He would be an infant in a manger.

Rocket: I want to be big God. [Sweetpea ducks her head under the table so as not to show everybody how red her face is turning from laughter.]

Me: What does big God do?

Rocket: He dies on the cross and rises again. I want to do that!

Jerome: Well, we don’t act that part out on Christmas Eve.

Rocket was clearly disappointed. Give the kid credit, though; he knows WHO is important.

I’m a SAHM

Before you read any further, I am NOT trying to get into the Mommy Wars regarding stay-at-home mom (SAHM) and career mom. Read that statement again, please.

I recently started reading a book titled In Praise of Stay-at-Home Moms. This morning it was so refreshing to read that other women have left the career world and stayed home to care for their families. Many people have pooh-poohed the SAHM and made her feel less-than-human. While there are umpteen benefits to being a SAHM, I won’t review them all here. (I might later, though. This book has been quite encouraging and eye-opening for me.)

Here’s the paragraph that caught my attention this afternoon:

Take-charge women who choose to be SAHMs sometimes have a real problem with the fact that you can never really get anything under control; children are by nature unpredictable and resistant to organization, as is the plumbing and the temperature of the oven. To paraphrase an e-mail from one SAHM, you’ll have to relax your exacting standards, surrender the dream of a perfectly organized home with everything in its place, and give up your ideal of perpetually well-behaved children. You have to either assume that attitude and perspective — or go nuts! [Schlessinger:44-45]

Why has it taken me 14 years to see this as truth? I am an educated, super-organized person, who likes to keep things under control. I have high standards, and quite often, I fail to relax those. Instead, I try to keep my house clean and nice (and force everybody else to do the same) instead of enjoying my husband and children. For years I have struggled to keep the house tidy, provide home-cooked meals, play with my children, meet their academic needs, and enjoy time with my husband. That doesn’t come easily, nor should I expect it to be realistic. At times I can do several things well, but I can’t do everything well all the time. It’s just not going to happen, nor should I expect it. Still, I’ve been trying to live like my house has employed a housekeeper, a chef, a nanny, a groundskeeper, a social secretary, a chauffeur, and so much more. I’ve felt like a failure numerous times, despite the fact that my husband, family members, and friends have reassured me (many times) that I’m doing a great job.

Along comes this book, and BOOM! Somebody finally puts into print what I have been trying to do all this time. In my head I was trying to keep everything nice and pretty and beautiful and safe and organized. I was also beginning to go nuts.

Whew! That’s a lot of heavy for you, dear reader.

SO — I’m going to relax my standards and enjoy being a SAHM. Hold me to it, please. God has called me to this vocation, and I need not fight against it. Others would have me feel that I’m “missing out” while being a SAHM. On the contrary, though, I have been blessed with a husband and three children, and it is my privilege and honor to be home for them and with them. Thanks be to God!