Friday, December 26, 2008

Three Days

This is a record for the Clark household.

Yesterday while visiting at Papa Joe's house, Hudson fell down and hit his face right by the corner of his eye on the table. We were off to the ER again.

Chase, Colton and Katie opted to spend the night with Papa Joe. Alex, Jackson, Bryce and Naomi headed home in Alex's car. It was blowing quite a bit again yesterday, and the boys were warned by a guy driving a pickup truck that they would never make it up our gravel road. They decided to try anyway, and ended up making it through and safely in the garage.

Hudson was a trooper again at the ER. Fortunately, the doctor who stitched him this time has four boys, and knows all about boys and stitches. He doesn't like to use the papoose board, so Shannon and I were able to help hold him down, and he really didn't struggle very much. Two stitches and we were done.

(Don't tell Shannon I let Hudson chew on the remote while he was gone!)

We also had a bit of trouble getting through the snow drifting across our gravel road, and had several places where we were driving blind as the snow blew up, over and around the car. We got stuck at the bottom of the driveway. Alex and Jackson were able to push us out and up the rest of the driveway.

What a way to spend a Christmas evening!

"Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of evil." Proverbs 4:14

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Favorite Pictures

Shannon is an awesome husband.

He's generous. He's kind. He's wonderful. He's sneaky...or he tries to be.

Although I struggle each year to come up with gift ideas for Shannon's birthday and Christmas because he never asks for anything, I am considerate enough of him to be very blunt about which gifts I would like to receive.

This year I had a new digital SLR camera on my wish list. I was kind enough to show him which kind I liked, asked for his help in researching, offered to take him shopping for cameras, etc. We talked abut it, then finally decided that we really didn't have the budget to be buying a new camera, and after we got rid of some debt, it would be a better time to make the purchase. I was okay with that. Really.

That's why it came as such a surprise one afternoon that I came across an order confirmation notice from Amazon as I was checking my email. Immediately following the first email was another confirming the change in email notification address from mine to Shannon's. Oops. Do I keep it a secret that I know? Do I delete it from my email? I decided to print out a copy of the order confirmation, then delete the email and play dumb (easy enough!).

Well. Shortly after Shannon got home, I had to go pick up the boys from basketball practice. Shannon called me and asked what I was trying to print. The printer was out of paper, so after he loaded it, he saw the confirmation. Busted. He had been concerned that he hadn't gotten a confirmation, so was relieved to know the order went through. I was relieved, because now that he knew that I knew, I could have the camera as soon as it was delivered and not have to wait until Christmas.

It took a whole week for the delivery man to bring the new camera. Not only was it the camera I wanted, but included a spare battery, memory card, macro lens, some software, lens cleaning cloth, carrying case, and a few other accessories. Wow. What a guy.

I have had a lot of fun trying to figure out how in the world to operate this camera. I can take some really great pictures on automatic mode. I've not yet figured out all of the ins and outs of ISO, focal point, f numbers, etc., but I'm working on it.

Here are some of my favorites so far.









"When the righteous rejoice there is great glory;" Proverbs 28:12

Matching Shiners

Chase and Hudson both currently have black eyes. Chase's is a week old, and Hudson's is only 2 days old. Chase got his playing basketball, and Hudson's is from his accident on Monday.

The color is awful on this pic, but it shows how swollen Chase's cheekbone was when he got home from basketball practice on Dec. 17th.

This was about 45 minutes after it happened.

Shannon's contribution.

December 22

December 23

December 24

"...Who has redness of eyes?" Proverbs 23:29

One Year and Four Days

That's how long it had been since one of the kids had to be taken to the ER for stitches (not counting Chase's surgery on his finger this spring).

Monday evening the kids were just wild. I don't know if it was anticipation for Christmas, too many candies and cookies over the weekend, or what. Ever since we put the french doors in, there has been a lot more running in the house because we created a racetrack. I can't count the number of times I say each day, "No running the house!".

By 11:00pm I was ready for bed, but Hudson was not. He had taken a late nap, and was still rearing to go. I took him up to my room so we could lie down together. As I was changing clothes, he was walking on my bed. All of a sudden he tripped on the blankets and bonked his face on the bookcase headboard. Instant blood, gaping wound, sinking feeling that I was getting ready for bed, but now had to go to the ER in a blizzard.

We got the other children settled, got bundled up, and headed to Marshalltown because it is a few miles closer than Waterloo. The snow was blowing, the driveway was starting to drift, and visibility was minimal. We didn't arrive at the ER until just after midnight. Although the waiting room was empty, we still waited for about 20 minutes, then were taken to the exam room, waited, nurse came in, then we waited some more, then the doctor came in, then we waited some more, then we finally got the stitches.

Of course he didn't like the papoose board, but he did a relatively good job. He was able to hold hands with me, and really didn't move his head around much.

The doctor put four stitches in, and sent us home. We pulled in the driveway just before 2:00am. The snow had stopped while we were at the ER, and the snow plows were already out on the highways. Our gravel road wasn't too bad, and we made it up the driveway without any problems.

We're down to only two children that have not had stitches.

"Now therefore, listen to me, my children; Pay attention to the words of my mouth:" Proverbs 7:24

Sunday, December 21, 2008

39 and Counting

Today is Shannon's birthday. It coincided with a big Iowa blizzard, and church was canceled, as well as the kids' Christmas program.

Our road has not been plowed all day. I suppose the powers that be have decided that if the wind continues to blow at 40mph all day, it is rather pointless to plow because it will quickly drift back over. Wind chill factors have been from 25 to 30 degrees below zero, but the wind should die down throughout the night. Temperatures are expected to be in the double digits below zero tomorrow. I'm so thankful we have nowhere to go for the next couple days! The boys have this whole week off of basketball.

We started our day out with eggs, bacon and chocolate chip muffins for brunch. The guys spent a lot of time watching football and monitoring their fantasy football status. They even went outside and played some football this afternoon. BRRRRR!!!!!

We all pitched in and made some sweet and sour chicken with fried rice for supper. It was a hit with everyone. We've spent a very relaxing day together, just hanging out as a family. Shannon and the boys are in playing another game of Risk now.

Chase did the honors of baking a white cake from scratch for Shannon this evening. Before we had a chance to frost it, Hudson climbed up on a chair and helped himself to a handful or two of cake, so we decided to forgo the frosting, and just ate it plain. It was delicious.

Shannon just keeps getting better with age. I love him tremendously. I'm incredibly proud of the man he has become, and I can't wait to spend the next 39 years with him.

"The name of the Lord is a strong tower; The righteous run into it and they are safe." Proverbs 18:10

Monday, December 15, 2008

Friday's Fun

Friday we had a busy day. We finished up the week's worth of school, and a little before 11:00 Avery came to play. The girls were SO excited. They played with clay, played kitchen, they played princesses and dollies.

Just before lunch time Bryce came into the kitchen while I was cooking, and in a matter of fact voice said that the little kids really needed to stop throwing toys. I turned around to look at him, and he had a cut between his eyes. It was only about 1/4 inch long, but it was gaping wide open. It didn't bleed much, so we decided to glue him back together. When Shannon got home for lunch, we laid Bryce down on the kitchen table, pinched the cut together, and glued him up. We've gotten a lot of use out of the tube of glue Troy gave us. It's nice to have friends in the medical field.

After lunch the kids went outside to play for about 5-10 minutes. It seriously took longer to get everyone dressed than the time they spent outdoors. It was COLD!!!

After lunch we planned to make sugar cookies. Katie and Naomi both had aprons, so we decided to whip one up for Avery, too. I've got a closet upstairs dubbed the "Crafty Closet". It's stuffed full of fabric and supplies I've been stockpiling for the past 20 years 'just in case' I might need something someday. Well, today was the day.

We whipped up the apron in under a half an hour, and were ready to start making cookies. I kind of wimped out and decided just to roll them in colored sugar. Each child got their own color, and we baked about 6 dozen cookies in a very short time. Jackson helped, too.

Hopefully we didn't traumatize Avery too much. I asked her during our very noisy lunch if it was this noisy at her house. She said yes. They girls are asking when she can come back again.

"A friend loves at all times..." Proverbs 17:17

Close, but not quite

Yesterday on the way home from church we had Sam and Stephanie with us. That made 2 adults and 10 children in the van. Shannon an I have gotten pretty good at tuning out a lot of noise and not paying a whole lot of attention to everything that is being said (screamed) from the back.

Once in awhile something that is said will spark our attention. Yesterday it was the word 'castration'. Chase was saying that he had seen a castration machine. I'm still not sure what sparked the conversation. Although I have a vague idea of what castration is from growing up in a rural community, I've never seen a machine that performs the act, so I asked Chase what it looked like. He started describing a big thing that had bones in it. That's when it dawned on me that he was talking about a 'cremation' machine, not castration. Oops.

On their way home from Jr. Boys' camp a couple years ago, Carrie Simon, a funeral director's wife, drove the boys home. She saved some time by stopping at a sister funeral home on the way home to pick up some cremains. The boys tagged along inside and were able to see some of the bones that did not completely burn up. They thought it was pretty cool.

Cremation...castration. Maybe they're not so different, after all.

"If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small." Proverbs 24:10

Thursday, December 11, 2008

This Week's Menu

This is what we'll be eating for the next seven days. Our budget was a bit tight since we went grocery shopping for Papa Joe on Saturday, spent $138.00 on groceries, and he forgot to pay us back. We didn't have the guts to ask him for the money. In the long run, we're still way ahead of the game, but December is a rough month to come up with the extra $$$. Anyway, I attempted to use a bit more out of my pantry this week. The only meat I bought was a 3 lb. bag of boneless/skinless chicken breast and an 8.72 lb. pork shoulder for Sunday's meal. I'm improvising a bit, because chops were over $3/lb, and the shoulder roast was $1.38/lb.

Breakfast: Cereal/Toast/Oatmeal
Lunch: Pizza Rolls I added pepperoni
Banana Crunch Bars
Dinner: Leftovers

Breakfast: Brunch Pizza Squares
Lunch: Sour Cream Enchiladas
Dinner: Leftovers

Breakfast: Cereal/Toast/Oatmeal
Lunch: Frito Pie
Dinner: Cheddar Corn Chowder

Breakfast: Cereal/Toast/Oatmeal
Lunch: Apple Smothered Pork Chops
Layered Peanut Butter Bars
Dinner: Leftovers

Breakfast: Apple Baked French Toast
Lunch: Bean Burritos
Dinner: Creamy Wild Rice Soup

Breakfast: Cereal/Toast/Oatmeal
Lunch: Sweet and Sour Chicken
Dinner: Leftovers

Breakfast: Overnight Coffee Cake (recipe below)
Lunch: Bacon Cheeseburger Pasta
Dinner: Creamy Potato Soup

I spent about $125.00 this week. Let's do the math:

10 people X 3 meals/day X 7 days = 210 meals

125 / 210 = ~$.60/meal

Better than last week, but I used a lot out of my cupboards. I was able to stretch last week's food out another day because we had a ton of leftovers in the fridge, so I went on a cooking strike until they were gone (or until someone took them out to the dog).

Here's the Overnight Coffee Cake recipe. In the past I have made a huge batch of this mix and put all of the dry ingredients in baggies. I put the ingredients for the topping in a smaller baggie and put it inside the big one. When I wanted to make the coffee cake, all I had to do was add the wet ingredients and mix it all up. It saved time not having to measure everything. The kids were able to do it, too. It also works to do this the morning you want to eat it. I just swirl the topping ingredients into it a bit.

2/3 cup Oil
1 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
2 Eggs
2 cups Flour
1 tsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Vanilla
1 tsp. Soda
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 c. Buttermilk (I just use regular)
1/2 cup Brown Sugar (I usually use more--yum!)
1/2 cup Chopped Nuts
1/2 tsp. Nutmeg
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon

Mix in order given, up to and including milk. Pour into greased 9X13 pan. Mix remaining topping ingredients and sprinkle over cake mixture. Refrigerate overnight. Next morning, bake at 350 degrees F for 30-35 minutes.

I have also been known to stick this in the oven on Saturday night and set my timed bake for Sunday morning. It just seems easier to get out of bed when you can smell coffee cake baking!

"He who guards his mouth preserves his life, but he who opens wide his lips shall have destruction." Proverbs 13:3

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The First Snow Day

Today public school was canceled. It was forecast that we would get 4-11 inches of snow and lots of wind, too. The snow didn't materialize, although the wind did blow and our road drifted a bit.

Alex's JV basketball game was canceled last night, which always disappoints us. They were scheduled to play South Hardin, a team they played three times last season. The first game South Hardin won, and we won the final two. They were pretty physical games, and the teams were relatively evenly matched. I was anxious to see how they would match up this season.

Jackson and Chase's basketball practice was canceled, too, so Jackson rode into Reinbeck with Alex so they could stay at Grandma and Grandpa's house last night. They had to be in town early this morning for work. Let me tell you, the garbage men in Reinbeck are a lot more dependable than the mail carriers in rural Gladbrook. We didn't have any mail delivery today, although Shannon and I were able to get from our house to Union to pick up Papa Joe, travel on to Marshalltown for a doctor's appointment, then reverse our route and make it home without much trouble. So much for the mail carrier's motto:
"Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds"

Not in my neighborhood.

Everyone except Colton is currently caught up on school. We plan to get him caught up tonight. I sleep so much better at night when everyone is done with school and the house clean. house isn't clean. Oh well.

"The Lord by wisdom founded the earth by understanding He establishd the heavens;" Proverbs 3:18

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

I do not have many good pictures from Thanksgiving. It seems once everyone gets here and we're in the crunch to get the food on the table, there's no time to take any photos.

I did some baking prior to Thursday. On Tuesday I baked a Pumpkin Cheesecake and made the Orange Cranberry sauce. On Wednesday I baked 106 rolls, a Pumpkin Cream Cheese Pie, a Blueberry Pie, and a Cherry Pie.

Our guest list grew tremendously the week before Thanksgiving. We had planned to have my parents and my sister Kim, her husband Jeff, and their son Mason. Shannon's family were all going elsewhere. On the Sunday before Thanksgiving, Papa Joe and Shannon's uncle Barry decided to come to our house. Then Shannon's sister Carrie, her husband Jason, and their boys Will and Ben said they were coming, too. On Tuesday we found out Shannon's brother John, his wife Tanya, and their kids Reagan and Ryan were coming from Virginia. Later that afternoon Shannon's cousin Angie called to see if it was okay if she and her husband Tim came, too. Of course it was fine for everyone to come, but I had to do some scrambling to make sure I had enough dishes, glasses, silverware and table to seat everyone!

We had a really nice time with the entire family. The boys were able to go outside and play a good game of football, with the Old Guys vs. the Young Guys. Each team still claims, quite loudly, that they won. We'll never know the truth.

I didn't have nearly as many leftovers as I was hoping, but everyone had plenty to eat. Shannon did a great job with the turkey again this year. Katie even got to help out by peeling potatoes early Thursday morning.
We have an abundance of blessing to be thankful for this year.

" Blessings are on the head of the righteous..." Proverbs 10:6

Weekly Menu

I'm attempting to keep myself a bit more organized by planning out a week's worth of menus, and then sticking to it (loosely). I have found when I do this, my grocery budget stays lower, and the family seems happier overall because there is generally something to eat.

I've found a couple blogs that I have been getting some recipes off of. I'll link to the recipes.

This is the plan for the next seven days.

Breakfast: Hootenannies
Lunch: Easy Pasta Bake
French Bread (Shannon fell in love with me all over again)
Dinner: Creamy White Chili (I doubled the recipe)
Cornbread with Honey Butter


Breakfast: Cereal/Toast
Lunch: Sweet n Sour Meatballs
Dinner: Leftovers

Breakfast: French Breakfast Puffs
Lunch: Chicken Cordon Bleu Pasta
Dinner: Leftovers

Breakfast: Cereal/Toast
Lunch: Beef Enchiladas
Refried Beans
Tortilla Chips
Dinner: Leftovers

Breakfast: Cereal/Toast
Lunch: Roast
Mashed Potatoes
Apple Dumplings
Dinner: Leftovers

Breakfast: Orange Blender Drink
Lunch: Chicken Tetrazinni
Dinner: Cheddar Ham Soup
Italian Bread Bowls

Breakfast: Cereal/Toast
Lunch: Roast Beef Casserole
Dinner: Leftovers

We eat our big meal at noon. This works better for us because of practice schedules, games, and Shannon's work. If there are no leftovers on a given night, there are usually chicken nuggets, hot dogs, and other very nutritious options.

My goal used to be to spend only $100 per week for groceries. That's nearly impossible lately, and I'm struggling to keep it under $150 per week. I will double a lot of the above recipes to feed our size family.

Shannon, and the rest of the family for that matter, will usually eat whatever I put in front of them. After each new recipe, we vote and see if it is a keeper or not. If not, I don't make it again. If it is a keeper, it goes on the "Master List". I try not to make the same thing more than once a month.

Last night I spent about $155 for enough groceries for the above meals, as well as 5 gallons of milk. Those five gallons may or may not last us through the week. I had very little meat in the house, but had several boxes of pasta in the cupboard. I'm not quite organized enough to plan my menu based on the weekly ads, but I try to keep a mix of chicken, beef and pork dishes. Shannon requires that I cook with meat at least once a day. Part of that $155 went towards some paper products, too. I usually go to Aldi's first, get what I can off of my list, then get my meats at Fareway. Walmart is nice if I need a bunch of other household items, but I tend to spend a ton more if I go there. It's too easy to stick a lot of other "cheap" things in the shopping cart.

At $155/week, divided by 10 people eating 3 meals a day, that comes to about $.74 per person per meal.

I have no idea if this is good or not. I'd like to keep track for a few months and see what kind of stats I can collect.

"...Eat only as much as you need..." Proverbs 25:16

Playing Hooky

I'm playing hooky from church tonight. I've had a cold for the past two months, and can't seem to shake it. My head has been stuffed up, I've had a gooky, phlegmy cough, and I've just felt yucky.

I finally went to the doctor last week. I've been on some antibiotics since that time, but I'm still not back to normal. My ears, which don't work well to begin with, are very plugged. I have next to no hearing in my left ear. The right is worse than normal. It makes it difficult to be in public when I can't hear normal conversation. So, I skipped out tonight.

I've been busy in the kitchen. I'm cooking up about 5 pounds of meatballs while I type. My electric frying pan is doing all of the work right now. I'm trying to feed my freezer so that the kids will have some real food to eat while we're away from home at the hospital or at basketball games. 'Tis the season.

I'm also looking at a basket of laundry that needs to be folded. It's not going anywhere, so I'll continue typing.

Hudson has been napping since about 4:30. He's just waking up. That's going to come back and bite me when I'm ready for bed in a couple hours and he's rearing to go. It sure was nice while it lasted! The sweet little guy is all snuggly now, rubbing eyes and smiling at me. He's got rosy cheeks...and lavender footie pajamas on. Don't tell anyone. That's what happens when you have two big sisters!

"He who loves purity of art and has grace on his lips, the king will be his friend." Proverbs 22:11

Another Update

On Monday Papa Joe was scheduled to have a defibrillator---okay, I can't think of a good word: installed, inserted, placed in his body?? What is the correct terminology? You get the idea. Regardless of what it's called, the surgery was canceled because his potassium levels were quite elevated prior to surgery. They kept him in the hospital overnight, and by morning the potassium was okay, but surgery couldn't be rescheduled until Thursday. He came home from Ames yesterday afternoon.

This morning Papa Joe called and said he was dizzy and had pain behind his eyes. Shannon's brother called Dr. Sorrentino's office and they said the roads were quite bad near Ames, and he should go to his family doctor in Conrad for a checkup. His blood pressure was very low, causing the dizziness. They decided to admit him back to the hospital in Ames. As of 6:00 tonight he hadn't seen a doctor yet. We assume surgery is still scheduled for 10:30 tomorrow morning.

We're thankful Shannon's brother John is here this week. He was able to take Papa Joe back to the hospital.

We actually had a pretty good day of school today. It has been sporadic lately with doctor's appointments, Papa Joe sitting, and lots of other distractions. I generally try to push the kids to be half done with their school by Christmas. Not going to happen this year. We'll get back into the swing of things soon.

"When wisdom enters your heart, and knowledge is pleasant to your soul, discretion will preserve you; understanding will keep you." Proverbs 2:10-11

Monday, November 24, 2008

Update on Papa Joe

Last week included several tests for Papa Joe. Tuesday we met with the cardiologist, and they were able to do a chemical stress test later that day. Thursday and Friday they did a thiamine test to help determine how much viable muscle tissue there is in his heart.

The results came back in on Friday afternoon, and they weren't favorable for bypass surgery. Papa Joe doesn't have enough live muscle tissue in his heart to make bypass surgery an option. They scheduled an appointment with a different cardiologist to discuss a defibrillator for Dec. 16th.

Per the doctor's recommendation, we have had someone staying with Papa Joe since he's been home from the hospital. He spent two nights here with us, Angie (Shannon's cousin) stayed with him at his house one night, Alex and Jack spent Thursday night there, and Carrie (Shannon's sister) had weekend duty. Alex and Jack were back again with him Sunday night. Tonight Barry is staying with him. We're trying to convince him to come live with us. He hasn't made up his mind that he wants to do that, yet.

Today Shannon received a call from the Iowa Heart Center that they would like to move Papa Joe's appointment up to tomorrow morning at 8:00am. Shortly after that, they called back and asked if we could be there at 3:30 this afternoon. Barry (Shannon's uncle) and I were able to drive him to Ames for this appointment.

Dr. Sorrentino was quite blunt with us, and explained that last year his heart was functioning at a normal level of 55 (%?), but is now at 35, which is categorized as "weak". Even if they could bypass the clogged arteries, it wouldn't do any good because the heart isn't functioning well enough to pump the blood through the new vessels.

She is willing to attempt to implant a defibrillator for his heart. This would "jump start" his heart if it should stop beating again. We have this procedure scheduled for Monday at 12:30pm. We would appreciate your prayers for the surgeons and Papa Joe.

Shannon's brother, John, is making plans to come visit soon. He lives in Virginia.

Papa Joe is feeling well. He is okay with not being able to drive for awhile. The boys went grocery shopping for him today. He needs to reduce his sodium intake, but otherwise can proceed with life as usual, while limiting his physical activity. He's planning a trip to the casino with his buddies tomorrow night.

His Lifeline was installed Saturday. Hudson was kind enough to test it out by pressing the "Help" button twice yesterday while we were visiting. At least we know it works!

"For as he thinks in his heart, so he is..." Proverbs 23:7a

Monday, November 17, 2008

Alex is 16

Today is Alex's 16h birthday. Wow. How can he be that old when I am still 28?

Shannon got up early and took him to Tama to get his license. Both Marshalltown and Waterloo DMV's are closed on Mondays, and he was bummed that he wouldn't be able to get his license today. The deed is done and he's now an official driver, between 5:30am and 12:30am.

It seems like it's only been a few months since I took his picture and posted it here when he got his driver's permit.

Alex continues to make us proud. He is very smart and does great work when he wants to. He's beginning to spend more and more time in his bedroom and not with the rest of us, which makes me kind of sad. I'm not quite ready to start letting go.

Alex was a breech baby, and I had to have a c-section to deliver him. I can remember lying in bed with Shannon the night before he was born and crying because I just wasn't ready to be responsible for a little child, and knowing that our lives were going to change drastically at 8:00 the next morning. The delivery went fine, and at 8:23am we had a beatiful little boy. His daddy was so proud. He just KNEW that he would have a boy first, although we left it for a surprise until the delivery.

It's impossible to describe the emotions a mom feels when that baby is laid in her arms for the first time. Love most of all, fear, uncertainty, fierce protectiveness. When Alex was a baby, we were SO afraid of making mistakes with our parenting. We agonized over what to feed him, what toys to let him play with, what to let him watch on TV. We determined that we weren't going to let him play with guns, because they were too violent. The next thing we knew, he was running around the house with a banana in his hand shooting at us. Needless to say, we've relaxed a little (LOT!) in our parenting style, but we still want the very best for him and all of our children.

Although Alex has been our "guinea pig", we pray that he will forgive us for the mistakes we have made, and know that he was our very first love. We'll do anything we can to help him grow up, even if that means he has to make some mistakes and fall before he learns how to run. I wish I could take all of those hits and falls for him, but I can't.

The past year has been a little hard on Alex, as he is making the transition from boy to man. It's difficult being the oldest child in a large family, and the position holds a lot of responsiblilty. Although Alex didn't volunteer for the position, God put him there because He thought he could handle the job. Alex is stepping up and fulfilling the role God has him in at this time in his life.

Alex has shown great spiritual growth in the past year. We're proud of the decisions he has made regarding his life, and pray that he will always put God first in his life and stay focused on the important things.

One morning a week Alex is a garbage man. He has held the job for almost two years now. The pay is decent, and it keeps him in spending money. The schedule works well for our family, as Tuesday is Shannon's day off, and we don't routinely schedule school on that day. We just extend our school year to make up for the difference. Jackson is his partner on the route.

I wanted to take a picture of Alex with his new license by his new car this morning, but when I got my camera out, it was broken. The screen on the back is all mottled and no picture shows up. We'll have to take it to Best Buy and have them repair it. Extended warranties are a must in our household, and we've been pleased with their service. We'll post pictures when available.

Alex starts basketball practice today. He lost about 18 pounds when he was sick at the end of the football season, so we're hoping he's got the stamina to keep up with everyone.

"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." Proverbs 22:6

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Our latest project

Last fall we installed a wood pellet/corn/wheat burning stove in our family room to help supplement our geothermal heat pump during the winter. When it gets below 10 degrees, it's really hard to keep it comfortable in our home. Of course, we have a lot of those days here in Iowa.

Last year we were doing our school at the kitchen table. This year we bought a new dining room set, so are now doing school in the dining room. It is kitty corner from the family room on the first floor, and just doesn't get as warm. There were times it was 80 degrees in the family room with the stove burning, and only about 62 degrees in the dining room.

Our solution to this problem was to put french doors between the dining room and living room to help circulate the heat. It's a pretty straight forward home improvement project, and I had never broken through a wall before. It sounded pretty fun.

We chose not to get doors with windows in them for obvious reasons (Alex, Jackson, Chase, Bryce, Colton, Katie, Naomi, Hudson, and SHANNON). I wanted to retain the feeling of two separate rooms, and we often watch different shows in each room, so needed to be able to separate them at times.

We started this project about three weeks ago on a Friday night.

This is the before picture.

Shannon makes the first cut.

Everyone helped.

Some were more helpful than others.

As with every project we take on, it's never as easy as we think it will be. We needed to relocate the cold air return vent. It was smack dab in the middle of our new doorway. Shannon is doing some exploratory work here.

Finally through. I got the honor of using the rip saw to cut through all of the lath board and plaster. FUN!!!

This is where I tried really hard to upload a video of the boys breaking through the wall. Poor Alex was sick on the couch, and got plowed over by the wall when Jack ran through. He didn't get much sympathy. Either I'm not uploading correctly, or I'm not patient enough to sit and wait for the process to finish, but it's not going to happen today.

The framing is done.

The doors are installed.

The drywall is now done, except for some of the sanding. My camera is broken, so I can't take any pictures of it. Obviously I'm not going to get the family room, living room and dining room painted before Thanksgiving (original goal). I have gotten a couple of coats of stain on the trim for the living room side. It's still not dark enough to match the existing trim, so I will continue to add coats until it matches.

Maybe I'll get a finished project picture taken before Christmas. For now, I'm trying to get all of the plaster an drywall dust out of my house before the company comes on Thursday.

I'm finding that my furniture just isn't fitting anymore. I'm not sure how it's all going to play out.

"Prepare your outside work, make it fit for yourself in the field; and afterward build your house." Proverbs 24:27

Saturday Update

Papa Joe is still in the hospital. We really don't have any new information. Everything is on hold over the weekend. We were expecting the doctor to stop in while we visited the hospital last night, but he didn't.

I had an error in my last post. There are four arteries involved, not three. Two of them are 100% blocked, one 90%, one 60%. There was sticky note on the paperwork left in his room stating we have an appointment with Dr. Ahmed on Tuesday at 9:00am.

We are planning to take the kids to visit the hospital this afternoon. Papa Joe is in good spirits, and I think we'll take a deck of cards along to get a game going while we're there.

"The rich man's wealth is his strong city, the destruction of the poor is their poverty." Proverbs 10:15

Friday, November 14, 2008

Update on Papa Joe

Papa Joe had a good night Wednesday night. Of course there were a lot of interruptions throughout the night, but his vitals remained stable.

Shannon and I were able to speak to the cardiologist around 12:30 yesterday. He explained that they would like to do an angiogram to determine what damage there might be to Papa Joe's heart. Depending on the results, there are several options. If they find blockage in only one artery, they will most likely put a stent in at that time. If more than one artery is blocked, then bypss surgery is an option, even at his age (83). He would need to be transferred to a different hospital for bypass surgery. Dr. Ahmed said there was an outside chance that he could do the angiogram late Thursday evening, and if not they would do it at 7:30 Friday morning.

We left the hospital at 2:00pm so Shannon could get back to work and I could get Jack and Chase to basketball practice. About 10 minutes after I got home, Carrie called saying they were going to do the angiogram at 4:30pm. Shannon wasn't able to reschedule his patients with such little notice, so I dropped the boys off in Gladbrook at practice and continued on back to Marshalltown.

They came to take Papa Joe to surgery at about 4:30pm, and we arrived on the surgery floor at 4:45pm. The nurse estimated that they should be done in about an hour. Angie and Tim went to grab something to eat, and Carrie was still in the process of dropping her boys off at our house and returning to the hospital.

At 5:15pm Dr. Ahmed took Barry and I to look at the pictures on the computer that he had taken of Papa Joe's heart. There are three main arteries. One of them was completely blown. Not even visible on the picture. Another was 90% occluded, and the third was 60% blocked. They did not do an angioplasty at that time. Testing needs to be done to determine if the blown artery is viable, or just dead tissue. If it is dead, then it cannot be repaired, even with bypass. Dr. Ahmed is going to consult with the cardiac surgeon today, and let us know what they recommend after that time.

Papa Joe will likely be released from the hospital today. We are scrambling to set up schedules of care for him. He's not one to lie back and take it easy, but he NEEDS to rest. He lives alone. We're also looking into getting him a Life Alert type thing, you know, the "I've fallen and I can't get up!" necklace thing. He'll just LOVE that.

Thank you for your prayers, calls and support. There were several prayer chains going for Papa Joe, and we certainly felt God's hand in the way events played out.

Our older boys have been great caring for the younger ones this week, and we really appreciate their help. The littles are missing their mama and daddy, and are making up for lost time by sleeping with us at night. Oh, joy.

We're attempting to get some good school time in today, and maybe even cook a real meal. It's taken me over six hours just to complete this post, so I'm not holding my breath on anything today.

I've vacuumed the house, folded 4 loads of laundry that has been hanging around in the laundry room since early this week, and I'm steadily attacking the mound of dirty laundry awaiting my attention. All in good time...

We discovered this week that Papa Murphy's 5-meat Stuffed Pizza is really good.

"As in water face reflects face, so a man's heart reveals the man." Proverbs 27:19

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Yesterday I left home at 11:45 with Alex, Jackson and Bryce. Shannon and I are doing a bible study with Julie once a week. The boys had haircut appointments scheduled at 2:00.

At 12:53 Chase called my cell phone and said in a shaky voice that Papa Joe (Shannon's grandpa) was lying on our garage floor but wouldn't say anything to him. His eyes were open.

Shannon immediately took off for home. I stayed on the phone with Chase and told him to get a piece of paper and pencil and had him write down our address. He knows this information under normal conditions, but I wanted to make sure he wouldn't forget it. I told him to hang up the phone, then call 9-1-1 and the dispatcher would help him through the rest. I gave the boys the check for their haircuts, then left for home (13 miles).

When Shannon arrived home at 1:04, Papa Joe had no pulse and was blue. As Shannon began CPR, Papa Joe took a big gasping breath, but remained unconscious.

When I arrived home, about 5-6 minutes after Shannon did, Papa Joe's truck and Shannon's car were parked out by the barn. I assumed the ambulance had been there and left already, but as I approached the garage I saw Shannon doing CPR on Papa Joe. I lifted his head up off of the damp garage floor, and he was able to raise his head and was moving his tongue, but he wasn't able to squeeze my hand. His eyes were wide open and unfocused. Shannon continued CPR.

A few minutes later the ambulance arrived. The ambulance crew loaded him up and left for Marshalltown. They picked up a couple paramedics outside of Gladbrook. Shannon followed them to the hospital, and I stayed home awhile to get the kids settled in.

Chase was shaken, but doing well. The 9-1-1 operator kept him on the phone until the ambulance arrived, which I'm thankful for. She kept telling him not to look out the window in the door, and to keep the little children away. I made some phone calls to Shannon's uncle and cousin, but they were both at work. I was able to get ahold of a friend of Papa Joe's, and he knew where they worked and was able to contact them. I also called the school to let them know the boys most likely wouldn't be at basketball practice. Grandma Shirley was able to get the boys to their haircut appointment and then home. Chase opted to skip basketball practice, but Jackson wanted to practice.

When I arrived at the hospital, Papa Joe was getting a CT scan. He was conscious, but not speaking clearly. Amazingly, within about 10-15 minutes he was speaking more clearly and moving his arms and legs pretty well. He was quite nauseaus, and got very emotional when he found out it was Chase that called 9-1-1 to save him, but overall made great improvement within a relatively short period of time.

Apparently Papa Joe had come over to work on the snowblower. Shannon had gotten it attached to the tractor, but hadn't put the belt on yet. Papa Joe remembers backing the tractor out of the barn, then the snowblower fell off. He drove the tractor to the driveway, then walked back toward the barn to get the snowblower. Chase says that's when he first noticed he was at our house and saw him out in the yard by the snowblower. We think Papa Joe tried moving the snowblower (VERY heavy) to the driveway, and something happened. He has no memory of coming back to the house, just backing the tractor up from the barn.

Colton found him inside the garage by the entrance door to the house and told Chase.

The CT scan showed no bleeds, and his labs showed very elevated potassium levels, but his enzymes were relatively normal. They at first suspected a stroke, but now are leaning more towards a heart attack or some type of arrythmia that caused his heart to stop. They admitted him to the ICU and will run a bunch more tests today. Papa Joe, of course, thought he was ready to go home by about 4:30 yesterday afternoon.

I'm very proud of Chase and Shannon. They kept their heads in a scary situation and literally saved Papa Joe's life. They're my heroes. Papa Joe has been the "rock" in Shannon's life, and would be greatly missed.

Shannon was able to get to sleep after about an hour of Xbox 360 to "decompress", and slept pretty well until about 6:00am. He got up, went the the fitness center (he has NEVER done that in the morning), and just got back. He's feeling better now and is getting ready for work. I've been awake since 3:00am.

Please continue to pray for Papa Joe, and for the rest of the family as we assess the needs that he may have and make arrangements to care for him.

"Children's children are the crown of old men; and the glory of children are their fathers." Proverbs 17:6

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Just a cute picture of the girls wearing my sunglasses.

"She will place on your head an ornament of grace; a crown of glory she will deliver to you." Proverbs 4:9

Someone, quick call the police...

Allegedly someone just broke into my home, while we were all here (except Shannon), used my upstairs bathroom, plugged up the toilet, ran down to the downstairs bathroom closet and got the plunger (how did he know it was there?), ran back upstairs, unsuccessfully attempted to unplug the toilet, flushed a few times to check just in case, then disappeared.

I, of course, didn't see the culprit. I don't know how he made it out of the house without slipping on the icky poopy water on my kitchen floor, that had soaked through the upstairs bathroom floor, through the ceiling tiles, then dripped off of the kitchen table\ onto the floor.

No one else in the house has any idea how any of this happened, nor did they see any suspects.

I don't suppose any of you blog readers will be coming over any time soon to eat at our house.

"When the wicked are multiplied, transgression increases; but the righteous will see their fall." Proverbs 29:16

Old News

Alex went on his first date a few weeks ago. Jordin, a cute little blond girl who attends our youth group, invited him to Grundy Center's Homecoming dance. She's a really sweet girl.

He rushed home from his football game, showered, then headed out the door to the dance. Of course, being 15, his dad had to drive him to the dance, and pick him up afterward. Pretty cool, huh?

Who would have even thunk he could get a date?
(Just kidding, Alex!)

On his way out the door.

My babies are growing up.

"Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established." Proverbs 4:26

Getting their ears pierced

Katie and Naomi came home from church camp all excited about getting their ears pierced. We decided to let them do it, and then they chickened out.

A couple days ago Naomi came and told me she was ready to take the plunge and have her ears pierced. Katie wasn't ready yet.

Last night we decided to go into Waterloo, and Naomi piped up and asked if she could do her ears. She wanted her hair in piggy tails so everyone could see her earrings after she was done.

We loaded everyone up and headed for town.

Katie surprised us when we got to the store and said she was going to have hers done also and volunteered to go first. Katie chose pink "diamond" earrings.

First they cleaned her earlobes with an alcohol swab.

Then they marked where they were going to put the earring.

One down, one to go!

All smiles the next day.

Naomi was a little unsure of the whole process to begin with.

She got her marks on her ears.

In the process of getting the first earring.

The first one is done.

The second is done. She's sure glad there are no more!

It was worth it!

The girls did a good job. No tears, no crying. They were a bit disappointed to learn that they couldn't change their earrings for six weeks. They were busy picking out pretty new earrings already. They'll be ready for new ones right around Christmas time.

"...and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge." Proverbs 18:15b

Sunday, October 26, 2008

For Mary

Reasons #23, #24 and #25 why I don't buy my children Cheetos.

On this occasion, their dad brought them home from work. They ate them outside.

"Every prudent man acts with knowledge, but a fool lays open his folly." Proverbs 13:16

Arthur R. Jensen

Arthur R. Jensen, 88, of Grundy Center, died Wednesday, Oct. 22, at Grundy County Memorial Hospital, while under the care of Cedar Valley Hospice, of natural causes.

Services 10:30 a.m. Monday at First Baptist Church, Grundy Center, with burial in Washington Township Cemetary, Tama County. Public visitation from 4 to 7 p.m. today at Engelkes-Abels Funeral Home, Grundy Center.

My life has been, not outstanding in any way. Put on a chart the highs would equal the lows, the successes the failures.

Achievement level "C".

But the important part:

I have been, from infancy to the present time, totally enveloped in love. It has come from every imaginable source. First of all, the love of God. It was so intense that He came as a man, gave His life for mine that I could spend my life with Him. I Corinthians 13 best describes what love really is. It's not the easily said, easily forgotten platitude that it has become. But rather the most moving force on earth. I have been loved all my life by people who without reason did so. I have known 60 years of love from Pat. All of Polly and Karen's lives, my Granddaughter Lisa and her husband Brian and their children Reese and Robert. I'll not name other names. There are too many and I don't want to offend by omitting someone. My family, those related to me, everyone surrounding me that have given of themselves without reservation, without a precommitment and without condemnation, have been my great great source of strength. It has consumed, it has enveloped, it has totally brought me within its sphere. I don't think I need go any farther than that. I cannot tell you in words how much you all have meant to me. So you fill in the blank spaces.

Lou Gehrig, the "Iron Man" of baseball, in his final, probably only speech in Yankee Stadium, closed with this statement which I will paraphrase, "I believe I am the most blessed man in all the Earth."

Attainment level "A"

Wow. Isn't he cool?

Our youth group had the privilege of visiting Art Wednesday just one short hour before he went to Heaven. We sang to him, and even though he was not able to respond to us, we hope he heard the words that, we feel, were written just for him.

Thank You for Giving
to The Lord
Music & Lyrics by Ray Boltz

        I dreamed I went to Heaven, you were there with me.
        We walked upon the streets of gold beside the Crystal Sea.
        We heard the angels singing, then someone called your name.
        You turned and saw this young man, and he was smiling as he came.

        He said, "Friend you may not know me now," and then he said, "But wait -
        You used to teach my Sunday School, when I was only eight.
        And every week you would say a prayer before the class would start.
        And one day when you said that prayer,
        I asked Jesus in my heart."

          Thank you for giving to the Lord,
          I am a life that was changed.
          Thank you for giving to the Lord,
          I am so glad you gave.

        Then another man stood before you, he said "Remember the time,
        A missionary came to your church, His pictures made you cry.
        You didn't have much money but you gave it anyway.
        Jesus took that gift you gave
        And that's why I'm in Heaven today"


        One by one they came, far as your eyes could see.
        Each life somehow touched by your generosity.
        Little things that you had done, sacrifices that you made,
        They were unnoticed on this earth
        In Heaven now proclaimed.


        And I know up in Heaven you're not supposed to cry
        But I am almost sure there were tears in your eyes
        As Jesus took your hand and you stood before the Lord
        He said "My child look around you,
        Great is your reward."


Art's daughters asked the teens if they would sing this song at his funeral. They're going to give it their best shot.

One of the last things I ever said to Art was, "I want to be just like you when I grow up".

"For length of days and long life and peace they will add to you." Proverbs 3:2