Sunday, December 28, 2008

Tidbits from the road

Tami here.

I'm online at our hotel in Blackwell, OK doing a bit of research to plan out our trip tomorrow, and thought I would quickly share a few tidbits ... mostly Nessa humor.

Nessa about 10 minutes ago: "I'm going to work at a coffee place when I get bigger."
Me: "Nessa, do you like coffee?"
Nessa: " Well no, but when I'm older I will. And I want to work at a coffee place because it will be fun."
All of us: "Oh, OK."

This morning Nessa informed me that her name is "Fernando." She has continued to use this name, although luckily for us no longer corrected us by this afternoon when we slipped and called her "Nessa." I just asked her if she is still Fernando, and she said, "I'm going to be Fernando every day." When I asked her why she wants to be Fernando, she said "Because I want my friends to say Fernando." Shawn promptly said "because if I was only Fernando every other day, it would be too hard for my friends to remember." :-) After we laughed Nessa explained that when we were in Mexico and she was with Grandma and Max, she watched Lost in the Woods. Well, now we know where it came from. :-)

As many of you may have noticed, especially those of you on facebook or twitter*, Shawn and i have been taking advantage of our smart phones to post status updates, text message, and use GPS (some kudos to NavTel GPS for helping us find places along our route, and taking us to some awesome gluten free restaurants). So this has not gone unnoticed by Nessa (or Megan who is text messaging a lot herself these days, but does think we can become a bit addicted to facebook ... I think it's a vacation thing because it's an easy way to stay connected while away). So just now Shawn was reading a text message and after asking him about it, Nessa proclaimed, "When I'm older I want to get a text message from Aunt Jo." :-)

Other things Nessa did:
  • Removed all the threads from a sombrero hat pin one at a time --
    "because I'm hungry" (she didn't actually eat them.
  • She sang "rock star larry boy" very loudly for awhile, and we let her because she was happy and not screaming like yesterday! (In fact I think this is the first day she fell asleep in the car without screaming! It was a good day indeed!)
  • She watched Monsters Inc about 3.5 times as the road had already lulled us into a parental stupor that influenced us to just say "sure" when she asked to watch it again and again ... besides we already have a floor full of "pretty pictures" colored by Nessa -- if you're family, there is probably more than one that Nessa designed just for you -- I hope you all don't mind if they "get lost in the mail" as I'm sure your fridge can live without a piece of paper with one sticker on it and about 4 squiggly lines and one very nicely written "N."
Seriously, we had a pretty good day driving today, and even though she isn't speaking to me at the moment (only Daddy), Nessa or er, Fernando, has been really sweet. Thank you God. :-)

Megan, has been great as well. She has been having her own movie marathon -- Princess Diaries and Cinderella Story. Megan was not feeling well when we left TX, and I was afraid we were going to have to find a clinic to do a strep test or something, but thankfully she is MUCH better now, and just sounds a bit stuffed up!!! Thank you God. :-)

Shawn has been doing an AWESOME job driving. It allows me to cater to the girls' needs as well as do just a bit of reading, looking out the window, talking to Shawn, and yes, text messaging or otherwise playing on my phone, so I really appreciate it. Thank you Shawn and Thank you God. :-)

So far no adventures or misadventures on the way home, and that is a great thing. :-)

Today we woke up to chilly weather and realized we really did have to go back to jeans and sweatshirts and put away the shorts. But the Sun did come out to play during our lunch and play time -- Shawn found us a great little park in West, TX (as Shawn pointed out it is in Central Texas). We had a great time enjoying our last picnic until summer arrives in WI, and playing on the great playground.

Unfortunately our hotel tonight doesn't have a pool. Or, rather it has a pool, but it's broken. So our plan it to get to sleep a bit earlier than we have been, get up earlish, and hit the road so we can stop along the way at some type of play spot such as a playground, zoo or library. We'll let you know what we find. :-)

Before I forget I also want to do a quick shout out to the Little Aussie Bakery and Cafe ( in San Antonio. It's 100% Gluten Free!!!! And it made a GREAT early supper spot for us on Saturday as we started heading back North. They also had some awesome sandwich buns and cookies that we purchased to take with us on our way. The buns have been great for our barbecue pork sandwiches (or rather everyone else's sandwiches as I've been sticking to salad and fruit to keep going and healthy). And who doesn't love cookies for snack time. :-) While we were at the Little Aussie Cafe we all enjoyed yummy food too -- Nessa had GF pizza (sans cheese too but still yummy), Shawn and Megan had great sandwiches and side salad, and I had an awesome spring green salad with the BEST citrus dressing. I HIGHLY recommend the place. And the owner was great to talk to as well. :-)

OK, time to get myself ready for the challenge of getting Nessa to sleep in a hotel room.


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Howdy Y'all

This is actually a picture from earlier in the week when we were still on our way down to Brownsville. It's at the Visitor's Center just inside the TX border on I35. We had a great picnic and enjoyed the first taste of Texas sun on our trip.

We've had a great time as long as we allow for both 3-year-old (and parent!) fatigue. More pictures soon.


Wishing you all peace at this time and always.
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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas Thank You Shout-Outs ... part one of many: 2008

In an effort to share with not just the giver, but with our entire community I'm going to try to share photos of our gifts in action. :-)

This is one of the wonderful shirts my sister Heidi (oop, I mean nephew Marcus (we draw names with the kids)) got for Nessa. Besides beign adorable, this shirt reminds me of some of the great shirts I had at this age. I don't know if you can see the zigzag rickrack decoration on it, but that was a classic part of my "under-6" wardrobe. :-)

Now, getting pictures of Nessa that morning was not all that easy, so the pics aren't great as the ones she actually smiled were in locations that the lighting was really, really bad in, but you get the idea. :-)

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this one is Nessa tickling herself to try to get her to smile!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Christmas 2008 Photo and Letter

Shawn here. Wow. Big year. Lots happened, lots has changed. I’ll only hit the highlights to keep this from being a novel. Sorry if the funny quotient is down.

Nessa turned 3 in April. Shortly after that, in the process of having her tested for allergies, we discovered that she has Celiac disease. Three trips to the Mayo Clinic, the second of which included biopsies of her small intestine (I pray you never have to watch your child go under general anesthesia), confirmed the diagnosis. Celiac is an auto-immune disorder where gluten—found in wheat, rye, and barley—attacks the small intestine and prevents it from absorbing nutrients. The only treatment is total gluten avoidance. Sadly, this is not as simple as avoiding wheat, rye or barley in the food she eats, which can be hard enough. Cross-contamination is a real problem, both in the processing of packaged items and with crumbs from the food of others. Gluten can be absorbed through the skin, and even trace amounts are enough to cause a reaction. So Nessa should not touch things with gluten in them, much less eat them. People who have touched gluten should not touch Nessa or her food. It can be a nightmare in large groups with people who aren’t aware. Fortunately, our families and Nessa’s daycare have been educating themselves, and we have a routine down for most things.

The gluten-free diet has led to a remarkable change in Nessa’s health and behavior. We can now tell when she has gotten something she shouldn’t have just based on how she acts. This has led us to eliminate dairy from her diet as well. (Celiacs often have casein intolerance as well.) When her diet is going well, we see our “sweet girl” much more often. On her good days, she can play by herself for hours, and is very imaginative. She often narrates what she is doing, so we can keep tabs on her pretty easily. Only rarely is it true that if she’s been quiet for a while it means she’s getting into trouble. Nessa loves to dance, to play with her dolls, to have tea parties, and to be read to or look at her books herself. A lifelong dream of mine was fulfilled recently when I read to Nessa from the copy of Winnie the Pooh that my parents bought for me when I was her age. She has picked up my habit of singing little improvised ditties as she goes about her day. Occasionally she will sing to me to ask me to stop singing. She has an active intelligence, asks lots of questions, and makes lots of connections. Never assume she isn’t listening, or doesn’t understand what you’re saying! She can now do 24 piece puzzles by herself, but hasn’t yet mastered her tricycle. She loves to go to the playground when the weather permits, and we are looking forward to making snowmen. Nessa went to Vacation Bible School for the first time in August and loved it. That love transferred to Sunday school when Nessa started in September.

Megan is 11 and in 5th grade, but you’d never guess it if you didn’t know her. Megan has matured and blossomed in the last year. She is a young lady now, very confident and sure of herself much of the time, and quite gracious and graceful in most situations. She has a beautiful smile and a fun sense of humor. Only occasionally does she do something that tells you she’s only 11. Megan loves school and the friends she has made there. She does well at almost every subject, but especially at math and reading. Megan started playing trumpet this year, and had her first concert this month. She went to Oregon with Tami’s parents on vacation in July and met relatives she didn’t even know she had. Megan is also a wonderful big sister. She has started teaching Nessa how to do addition, and Nessa loves playing school with Megan. It’s great to hear them laughing and giggling together. Megan also reads to Nessa, which Tami and I love to see. She is very active in 4H, and still raises goats at her dad’s house. She didn’t do as well showing her goats at the Houston County fair this year, but she learned a lot about how to do better next year. Her craft project did well again. She didn’t have any luck either turkey or deer hunting this year, but loves it and will keep trying. Megan has become a good baker, and will often make things all by herself. She also occasionally takes charge of meals for us and does most or all of the preparation herself. Megan is a joy to be around and to have around, and we always look forward to the days she is with us.

Tami is still working for ECi La Crosse as a technical writer. This fall she moved to salaried status from part-time, which was full of mixed emotions. Let’s just say that work isn’t the favorite part of Tami’s life and leave it at that. The favorite part of her life right now is probably food. After years of food issues, Tami has finally found an eating regimen that really works for her. She is at least gluten-intolerant herself, so once we started eating gluten-free around the house she started feeling better. Then her research led her to try green smoothies and a diet consisting almost exclusively of raw fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. She started this about the time we started getting the weekly box of organic Community Supported Agriculture produce, so with the aid of her new blender and food dehydrator and cookbooks she was able to spend the summer trying all sorts of raw food recipes. Tami has more energy now than she has had since she became pregnant with Nessa, and she is gradually acquiring a new wardrobe…all of her old clothes are too big. If you’re interested in learning more, check out the blog links at the end of the letter. Tami is very active at church, participating in Bible studies and occasionally helping in Nessa’s Sunday school class. She is also on the committee helping to design the new church website.

In January my company, Business Objects, was acquired by SAP, a German company that is one of the four largest software companies in the world, so I now work for a company with 50,000+ employees. It was fun to receive a formal tender offer for my shares of Business Objects stock that I had acquired through the employee purchase plan; it made me feel like a Wall Street player. Work had a lot of ups and downs this year, although currently it’s OK. I continue to be active at church, singing in the choir and lectoring regularly. I’m still on the church council, and in February I became president of the congregation. That sounds grander and more important than it really is, although it has been interesting. As president of the congregation I’m on the Admin/Exec/Finance committee, so I’m seeing all of the inner workings of the church, including a supervisory role over our church daycare, which Nessa attends. In April and May, our interim associate pastor, who didn’t sing, asked me to cantor for her on a couple of occasions. In June I was a delegate from our congregation to the synod assembly, where we elected a new bishop.

As my involvement at church has increased, my interest has increased as well. I have been feeling unfulfilled at work for a few years now, and have been searching for something to fill the empty places. In May, after I had been staring at the idea on my own for a few weeks, I turned to Tami in the car on a trip to her parents:

Shawn: Can I tell you something that may sound crazy? What would you say if I told you I was thinking about the possibility of going to seminary?

Tami: Oh my God! A week or two ago I suddenly had this vision of you as a pastor, but I said to myself “He’d never be interested in that!”

Shawn: So you’d be willing to let me explore the idea?

Tami: Yes.

I’ve been actively exploring the idea ever since, talking with my pastors and select relatives and friends. In October Tami and I visited Luther Seminary in St. Paul, and I came back convinced that I am indeed being called to be a pastor. In November we visited Wartburg Seminary in Dubuque, IA, and we came back convinced that is where we belong. I have entered the ELCA candidacy process in our synod, and hope to begin classes at Wartburg seminary in 2010, when Nessa is starting kindergarten, with the goal of becoming an ordained minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

There are still days when I think “I can’t believe I’m doing this!”, but it’s not doubt, it’s amazement. Even a year ago I would never have predicted I would even think about seminary, much less apply. But ever since I have made my decision public I have felt a great sense of peace, greater than I have ever known. People I talk to have been very excited and supportive. There is much to accomplish before this process is complete, but we trust that, so long as I do what I need to do on my end, things will fall into place.

In August we were reminded to appreciate everything we have been given and to take nothing for granted when we were involved in a major automobile accident while heading to Rochester. Nessa and I were basically unhurt, while Tami had minor whiplash and some problems with the thumb on her right hand; Megan was not with us. As far as we know, the people in the other car sustained no serious injuries. We pray that they have made a full recovery as well. The front end of our van looked awful, but after three weeks it came out looking as good as new. I was a mental wreck for about a week, thinking about how close I had come to harming my family.

So that was our year—a whirlwind of health questions and life questions and big decisions that really all just seemed the natural thing to do at the time. We feel like we’re in a really good place right now, and hope that it will only get better. We will be having a grand adventure for Christmas, driving to Texas to spend time with my parents and my bother Kevin and his family. We plan to wear our shorts even if the temperature is only sixty. We hope that this blessed season finds you in a place of peace and love, and whatever your beliefs, we hope that the love God sent into the world through his son Jesus Christ will find an expression in your life, and that you may know the joy and comfort of friends and family.

God’s peace be with you.

Shawn, Tami, Megan, and Nessa

As always, you can learn about the changes in our lives as they happen at If you’re on Facebook, you can find Tami and Shawn for up-to-the-minute updates. You can learn more about the wonders of green smoothies and a raw food diet at both and

Megan With Her Trumpet

Here's a picture of Megan with her trumpet:

Unfortunately, the band director raised the stand before they started playing, so every picture I have of Megan actually playing only shows her face from the eyes up. We'll try to capture a still from the video Tami took and post that.

Megan's Band Concert

Megan had her first band concert on Thursday. She played a number of pieces with the full band, and had a duet with another trumpet player. She's only been playing since July, but she sounded pretty good. Although she was a little nervous beforehand, you couldn't tell while she was playing, and I think she had fun.

As you can see, she also looked great.

We have a beautiful young woman on our hands. If we don't start dressing her in gunny sacks and putting her hair into a bun, the line of boys is going to stretch down the block...

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The best cook in the house!

Nessa loves to mix, blend, and yes even cook/bake things. She also LOVES hats! She had a paper chef hat that finally disintegrated from use, so Shawn offered Nessa his chef hat, and she was more than happy to pause and pose for some pictures. (watch for a few more on flickr).
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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

100 hundred things I'm thankful for at this very moment...

I decided to take a moment to simply list out some of the many things I am thankful for ... I started with some big ones of course, but then I just kept listing every single thing that came to my mind that I appreciate having in my life. With a grateful heart I share this list with all of you. May we all have hearts of gratitude this season (and daily!).

1. My God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and my growing relationship with God

2. My Husband -- Shawn -- my best friend, lover and true partner

3. All 3 of my wonderful girls ... each have been a blessing in their own right, including Emily who continues to bless me with lessons even as she waits for us in Heaven

4. My Health -- this year I have been blessed beyond measure with a return of good health and I am thankful beyond words

5. Family -- not the just the delightful ones that live with me, but those that we travel to see on Thanksgiving, Christmas and more

6. FOOD -- pure wholesome food that seems sent straight from God to me (sometimes via our friendly CSA, market or family farm). I have learned an entirely new appreciation for food and its healing powers this year

7. Our Church -- our Good Shepherd family continues to bless us in many ways and I am thankful for the community for faith and fellowship

8. Our jobs -- even with tight deadlines or crappy projects at times, our jobs always provide us with more than merely a pay check

9. My family's health and safety -- between a car accident and Celiac diagnosis I do not take these things for granted ... we have been blessed in so many ways

10. The Internet and the communities and opportunities is brings me

This picture of my family is the background for my computer monitor at work right now so I get to see it a lot, and it always reminds me of just how blessed I am. Oh, and I love how Nessa is showing us the stamp on her hand (or simply not letting it get covered by her sweater!). :-)

11. Shawn's grateful heart and ability to share all of those things with me

12. Nessa's smile

13. Megan's smile

14. Laughter

15. Instant Messaging -- and the winks and more from Shawn via IM each day

16. All the Raw Divas -- the knowledge and support they have brought me is incredible

17. All my BES (Body Enlightenment System) buddies

18. Goodwill!!!! (I'm truly becoming addicted to the selection ... and how else do you refill your closet when you remove everything that is suddenly too big?)

19. The Green Smoothie Blog -- an opportunity to grow and learn with other fantastic contributors.

20. GMAIL -- there is no other way I would be able to manage my massive email inbox

21. ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Association) and the wonderful women that make the organization what it is -- I use what they taught me a decade ago, each and every day

22. The Off Topic list and all my wonderful friends there :-)

23. The ICAN Loss and Recovery list ... I never want new members but I'm so thankful for the community we've become

24. Facebook -- I've rediscovered old friends and gotten to know new friends better ... addictive but wonderful

25. Our own blog :-) ... communication as well as keeping memories for us!

26. Our van ... sometimes I feel guilty driving it but it's ever so useful at this time in our lives

27. Heated seats in our van (yes, this deserves its own line!)

28. Cell phones

29. My new Blendtec Blender ... worth every penny when needing nutrient-dense food to heal!

30. My massage therapist/yoga instructors ... again an important part of healing...

31. My chiropractor ... especially thankful during my post-accident recovery time :-)

32. Our home ... plumbing problems and all ... it has been a wonderful place to grow and nourish our family and it will indeed be hard to say goodbye when the time comes

33. Quilts!!! All the quilts that my mom made and gifted us do get used constantly ... especially now that cold weather is here!

34. My wool socks and wool slippers ... that house I love is a wee bit drafty. ;-)

35. My new size 12 jeans that fit!!!! :-)

36. Our Honda Civic ... although I prefer not to actually drive it, it's very reliable and the gas mileage is great.

37. My hair stylist that always works magic

38. Our credit union that is being helpful as we make plans to consolidate, pay off debts, and become students again (are we crazy or what?)

39. Being able to watch Nessa and Megan play and giggle together

40. For all the people that remember Emily Lin each year (she would be 7 years old and in 1st grade ... and ever so beautiful with brown eyes, I just know it)

41. For the beautiful memorial stone that we have at Emily's grave and for all those that help us decorate it each season.

42. For my parents that go out of their way to see all of their grandchildren as much as possible.

43. For all of Nessa's grandparents being there to watch her when Shawn and I need to go do things like visit seminaries for a weekend. :-)

44. For Nessa's daycare and the wonderful teachers there that not only stimulate her mind so she's learning new things faster than I can keep up, but, and this is really important to us, they feed her food safely (gluten and also dairy free) -- they are SO good and we are so blessed to have that center as part of our lives.

45. That my husband seems to actually like doing dishes ... or rather he likes a clean kitchen enough that he is more than willing to do the dishes (I am SO lucky).

46. That my dear husband doesn't mind cooking even more often because I'm busy making (not cooking!) my own food most nights (sometimes I do both but we do like to eat before bedtime too).

47. That my dear wonderful [inset more adjectives] husband is more than willing to do the grocery shopping - even when it includes a long list of vegetables and fruits that not very long ago he would have had no idea how to recognize. :-)

48. That my entire household loves to listen to and sing Christmas music (bring it on!)

49. That my parents are here on earth to get to know my daughters and all of their grandchildren.

50. That Shawn's parents are here on earth to get to know their grandchildren.

51. For the family I "married into" ... you won't hear me complaining about in-laws. :-)

52. Shawn's sparkling eyes. When Irish eyes are ... (you get the idea)

53. Megan's contagious giggling

54. Megan's big hugs

55. Megan's email messages -- even when it's just a big smile or "love you too" message

56. Nessa's quiet "I love you mommy"

57. That Nessa loves to read ... when she snuggles in to read on my lap it's the best!

58. The Bible Study groups at church

59. My rebounder ... the only way I get my 20 minutes of exercise most days (it must be working!)

60. Hot water ... especially in the morning

61. Our food co-op

62. The Farmer's Market (and farmers!)

63. Our CSA and our ability to be a part of a CSA this year!

64. Sisters!

65. Our 90 day Bibles and the blessing that it is to read through it together with Shawn :-)

66. The ability to have intelligent and interesting dinner conversations ... not just with Shawn but also now with Megan ... and Nessa is starting to ask good questions too ... what a blessing to have intellect and curiosity!

67. Doctors that were able to help us -- especially the Mayo Clinic and Allergy Associates with Nessa's Celiac

68. EMTs and First Responders!

69. People who stop after and accident to check on us and just be there.

70. Teddy bears for Nessa to hug!

71. An abundance of books to read!

72. Friends that understand

73. All the support and enthusiastic well wishes we/Shawn is receiving about our news that Shawn has entered the ELCA candidacy process and is applying to seminary

74. The stimulating intellectual communities at Luther Seminary, Wartburg Seminary, and the ELCA synods

75. The wonderful staff, volunteers/students at Wartburg, including those that opened their homes to us, that make us feel so welcome (they even were able to happily accommodate my food needs)

76. Megan's school and the teachers and friends that have helped her thrive there
77. Megan's trumpet that I love to hear her play :-)

78. My little MP3 player

79. Pod casts and recorded teleseminars

80. Wisconsin Public Radio!!!

81. Friends that are photographers!

82. Google ... sure helps satisfy my curiosity in a hurry!

83. Amazon ... they always have what I'm looking for

84. e-Bay ... for when Amazon doesn't have it or I want it used

85. Social Networking online ... connections and more info!

86. All the of the wonderful people that write helpful books about Celiac and avoiding gluten

87. The Celiac support groups (Raising our Celiac Kids and more!)

88. HyVee in Dubuque ;-)

89. Friends and family that love me/us no matter what

90. Coconut oil ... and finally discovering a healthy oil that I love (and I no longer need to buy expensive facial moisturizers!)

91. Raw Food bloggers

92. Vegan bloggers

93. Celiac / Gluten Free bloggers

94. Our kitchen table

95. My dehydrator ... what I can create and the food I can save from spoiling by using it!

96. "Ice Cream" made by a Champion Juicer (thanks mom!)

97. Having to think about which shoes to wear in the morning

98. A choice of wonderful warm winter coats, hats and mittens

99. Having abundance to share (Nessa donated to Toys of Tots last weekend and it was so nice to see her doing it)

100. Grace ... my life is filled with Grace -- thank you God.
In gratitude,

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Shawn has done a wonderful job keeping you all updated on the wonderful happenings around our home, so it's about time I show you some pictures to go with all the news. :-)

I just took 144 pictures from our memory card ... the 80 that made the cut to the "Fall Photos 2008" set on flickr can be found here:

Or you can check out the crazy pics Megan took of Nessa here:

And if you're lucky enough to be our facebook friend, you have a nice album I just uploaded there *complete with descriptions* so go check it out. :-)

And for posterity on the blog we have to include a few classic fall photos complete with commentary:

There has been a whole lot of reading and cuddling with Nessa going on, and since it's one of our favorite things, it's also one of our favorite things to take pictures of. Often as one of us reads with Nessa, the other one will grab the camera and sneak a quick picture. I do not think Nessa appreciates these interruptions. :-) Nessa's current favorite books are all part of the Curious George series. If you saw her look at Curious George Goes to the Hospital by herself you would swear she is actually reading it (she's not, we're sure), and if we try to change the words she gets a little perturbed to say the least (tonight, I got several "just read it Mommy").

This is Megan and Nessa concentrating as they make "ice cream" with the juicer. We've been having lots of fun with Grandma Karen's juicer (Thanks Mom!), and it's a good thing Grandma is traveling a lot right now or else when she sees all the yummy stuff we've been making, she would want it back. :-) Of course the girls' favorite thing to make is ice cream. We simply put frozen fruit through the juicer using the blank plate and it comes out like soft serve ice cream! Bananas and cherries were our favorite so far, but they have all been yummy. :-)

Leaves, leaves, and more leaves! That's our front yard. I think this was the day Nessa helped Daddy so nice outside. Of course she had to take a few breaks to play in the leaves, and I just happened to go out to say hello about that time. I know that looks like a lot of leaves, but sadly their were still a lot on our tree after that day, and even the wind yesterday didn't get them ALL down. Tomorrow is the last day the city picks up leaves for the season so I spent a COLD half hour raking up the lawn again today, and there was no jumping and playing this time. :-( (We have had a tiny bit of snow, but nothing that would stick so far. Also, Shawn will tell you I'm still impressed that the city comes and picks up the leaves, or rather sucks them up with their big leaf vacuum, so I didn't want to miss out by not having the leaves raked to the street.)

It's the scary pumpkin!!!
Nessa was determined to be a pumpkin for Halloween this year. I have a commitment to never make Halloween costumes (OK, I just made that up), so we headed off to Goodwill and lucked out by finding this pumpkin costume that Nessa loved, and the hat just was the perfect topper.
After Nessa took a normal picture in her costume she said she wanted to be scary so that is where this picture comes from. It was taken in the morning before she went to day care. They had a little party and did some trick or treating to local business during the day at daycare. And as parents of a 3-year-old celiac we decided that was enough candy for us to sort through (Nessa was good about it), and we had our own pajama party in the basement instead. We watched Cinderella and ate popcorn. Nessa loves Cinderella now (prior to the movie!), so I guess the princess stage had to start sooner or later. :-) BUT, Nessa is already telling us that next year she wants to be Superman for Halloween! Go Girl! :-)
Well, as these few pictures tell you, we have a busy and happy house. While the big news about our future (no way around it, "Pastor school" as Nessa calls it is big news) has taken up most of our "what's new" time, there are certainly lots of other things happening as well -- there always are with kids. :-)
I'm feeling abundantly blessed these days, and I pray that feeling lasts long past Thanksgiving.

Irony, or the Sincerest Form of Flattery? You Be the Judge...

Wednesday evening, as I was getting supper for Nessa and me, I was singing a little improvised something-or-other about what I was doing, as I often do.

Nessa requested me to stop, as she often does (some people just don't appreciate creativity): "Daddy, please stop singing."

Thing is, she was singing it to an improvised tune...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

You Can't Argue With That Logic

Supper conversation last night:

Shawn: And if that happens, it's not the end of the world.
Nessa: The world doesn't have an end, Daddy, 'cause it's a circle.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Guess The Joke Was On Us

My mischievous side wanted to call this post “God Spoke To Me In The Grocery Store (And He Looked Just Like George Burns)”, but being that misleading just for the sake of The Funny isn’t good.

Tami and I visited Wartburg Seminary in Dubuque, IA, this past weekend. Remember a couple of weeks ago when we said we didn’t think Wartburg could overcome what we perceived to be the advantages of Luther Seminary? Well, God (and Wartburg, and Dubuque) have been quietly chuckling ever since.

We loved it at Wartburg. The sense of community is overwhelming, in a positive way. All weekend long we heard and saw little things that point to what a safe, secure environment Wartburg has. Students talked about leaving backpacks in the auditorium unmolested all day long. Spouses talked about kids playing together, and about the great Youth Room (staffed by work study students) available for use after school by kids 5 and older. We attended a coffeehouse where kids of all ages were running around without causing trouble, and parents were helping/dealing with any kid who needed it in a very “it takes a village” fashion. We kept hearing one positive comment after another about the schools, the public library, the other colleges in town, and the city of Dubuque in general. The housing at Wartburg is both less expensive and better suited to our needs.

From the student point of view, the first professor who talked to us said “You will not be able to hide here. People will find you and support you and help you face whatever you need to face.” We heard again and again that students, spouses, faculty and faculty spouses all become close, and that in particular you bond with your class, and they and their familes become your support system. This is very appealing to me. The average class size is 35 people, and no one gets lost in the crowd. Gifts are acknowledged and respected; shortcomings are allowed for. I learned that my call story is neither unique nor outlandish.

Dubuque is much like La Crosse, down to being roughly the same population. It’s a little more hilly, but it has beautiful old homes and interesting architecture. There are attractions for children and families and lots to do, including four other colleges/universities with all of their events. There is a wide variety of shopping, including the comfort value of familiar stores like Target and Best Buy. No food co-op, but there are many farmer’s markets and lots of organic produce available, including CSAs.

By Saturday evening Tami and I were wondering if we’d been a little bit hasty in our assumption that Luther was the place for us. By Sunday evening we were actively evaluating pros and cons, trying to make sense of our growing conviction that we belong at Wartburg, not Luther. On Monday I was actively wondering if I should even bother visiting Luther again or applying there. All the while we were praying, asking God to give us some sort of sign of his will for us. As we were getting ready to leave town, one big remaining question mark was the availability of gluten-free food for Tami and Nessa, so we decided to stop by the largest grocery store in town to see what they had. We were directed to their Health Market, a whole separate section of organic products, including a gluten-free section that is equal or superior to that in any of the La Crosse grocery stores or co-op. Almost all of our favorite products and brands were present, as well as things we have a hard time finding in La Crosse. As I was getting more and more excited about what we were seeing, Tami turned to me and asked “Is this a sign?” I had to concede that I thought it was.

At one point during the weekend, a current student said that when she was visiting Luther someone told her “Well, if you want to be a pastor, go to Wartburg; if you want to be a theologian, come to Luther.” That really resonated with me. I've never had any thoughts of becoming a theologian. I want to be a pastor, in a parish. We could be happy at Luther Seminary, and being closer to our families would be great. But that is the only advantage we can see, and we wonder if we will be too busy while in school to really utilize that advantage much anyway.

I am learning the folly of definitive declarations during this whole process of discerning my call, but I am also learning to trust my feelings, and realizing that when I find something unexpected and wonderful in my heart it’s God’s way of telling me something. Right now, our hearts tell us we belong at Wartburg Seminary, so we’ll trust that until it's no longer true.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Daddy’s Little Helper

Nessa was helping me do chores Saturday morning. No, she really was helping. You could actually tell where she had been sweeping leaves on the deck, and she raked them all into the leaf shovel by herself. She was quite a sight, maneuvering the broom and rake all by herself—I was very impressed. She also held the nails and handed them to me when I was putting up plastic over the sliding door on the deck.

All the while we had a great conversation. We talked about all sorts of things: why we were sweeping the leaves off the deck, where God is, what to do when you’re scared, why we were putting plastic over the sliding door, how many boards I was going to need and how long they should be, what she did at daycare last week, what we should do next, where we were going to put the leaves, and many other things. It was absolutely delightful to get such an extended glimpse into how her mind works and what kind of connections/comparisons between things she’s making now. Between Sunday School and what we read to her, Nessa’s been exposed to lots of Bible stories over the last year, and they often surface when she can make a connection between something she’s doing and something in a Bible story.

Afterwards we just played for awhile. I pushed her on the swing, and then we played Tag. Nessa seems to have Tag confused with Hide and Seek: she thinks that after you tag someone you’re supposed to go hide from them. Then we climbed up by the top of the slide and took the ship to Egypt, to the new playground there. Nessa has a wonderfully inventive imagination, and things from all over get conflated in her play scenarios.

Saturday afternoon Nessa helped me rake leaves. She did a good job of raking leaves into a pile…until the pile was big enough for her to jump in. Then the rake got abandoned and the pile succumbed to entropy. This happened several times in different places in the yard. She was having such fun that I was having fun watching her, so much so that I didn’t even mind raking. Now there’s a first!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Just to update ... found my cell phone

Or rather, Megan found my cell phone. She wants me to remember that. Of course she found it in her room. I didn't even think to look there (not sure why).

Not nearly as exciting as Shawn's recent post ... exciting news huh. :-) On a practical note, please send us any advice for releasing our possessions to the universe to downsize the household prior to moving.

Unforeseen Paths

I said good-bye to a good friend at work today. She and her husband are moving to California, to work out of the SAP Palo Alto office. I have known her since my very first day at Firstlogic, and we have worked on the same projects for much of my time here. Although I know this move is very good for them, I can’t help but be saddened that I will no longer see her every day.

I’ve said good-bye to several friends leaving SAP over the last few months. Some are still in the area, but the sad reality is that, since I don’t see them at work, I never see them. It’s on my mind a lot at the moment because, if all goes as planned, I can see my own good-bye coming down the line.

I have felt unfulfilled at work for a couple of years now. Although programming is still intellectually challenging and sometimes even fun, working for a large corporation, making money for people I’ll never meet, is empty and not good for the soul, or at least not good for mine. This really hit home when Tami and I were in Annapolis last May for my brother Kevin’s retirement from the Marine Corps. While ruminating on changes, transitions, and the old giving way to the new, I realized that I am not in the right place.

What is the right place? After months of soul-searching, prayer, talking to people, and other forms of discernment, I feel that God is calling me to become a pastor in our denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. I have officially started the process—candidacy--leading to attending seminary and eventual ordination. Tami and I have told our families, and I have made this public at our church, so it’s time to start telling everyone else.

Surprised? Believe me, it came as a surprise to me at first, too. But the more I explored the idea, the more right it has felt. It was cemented earlier this month when Tami and I spent a weekend at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, at an event for prospective seminary students. Tami summed up that weekend so well in an email to our families that I will just quote her:

“Our main concern going into the weekend was that Luther wasn't going to be a good fit as far as family life, but those worries have been erased from our minds.

“I [Tami] was likely the more skeptical one there of the two of us, and by Monday afternoon I was wishing we could move there sooner rather than later. I was also doing my best to figure out how we could BOTH be taking classes as Luther offers a number of M.A. programs, including more than one that interests me. So, while we're there we just may both figure out what we want to do when we grow up. :-)

“I don't know what I can briefly say about Luther other than it is a vibrant place totally alive with love of learning and love of God ... a community of faith and a community of life-long learning.

“Other points of note -- Shawn's fears of being the oldest were totally put to rest both in seeing the current students and in conversing with the other prospective students. It is a very diverse bunch there (and what a blessing that will be for our family as well!). I also think he/we are a little less scared of Greek now. :-)

“Now the scary part is getting our house ready to sell and our lives ready for transition. So keep us in your thoughts and prayers on that note!

“I also do not yet know what this will mean for Megan's schedule. Megan and I have begun talking about it, and I assured her there is time to decide and that we'll take her wishes into account. … Again, another area where we can use all the positive thoughts and prayers possible.”

I [Shawn] came home from Luther convinced that my call is real, and that seminary is the place for me. I submitted my name for the candidacy process the next day. To have Tami feel so strongly positive about it as well is a blessing of incalculable worth. While I would love to start next fall, we feel that the best time to make such a major transition is when Nessa starts kindergarten, so we are targeting summer of 2010 for our move. This gives us more time to get the house ready and to sell it as well.

We will be attending a similar event at Wartburg Seminary in Dubuque, IA, in a couple of weeks, but (to quote Tami again): “we would be surprised if we didn't still prefer Luther. Since Luther has a better geographic location going for it in terms of where we want to be located as well as proximity to resources in the Twin Cities, Wartburg would have to overcome all of that by its community and seminary offerings. Considering we fell in love with the Luther community, we're not sure that is possible, LOL.”

I have been feeling a great sense of peace since arriving at this decision. I feel even better now that we are beginning to share this with everyone. If you pray, please keep us in your prayers. If not, please wish us well and keep us in your thoughts. As Tami says, “Regardless of the challenges, we pray we are ready for them as we venture on a journey that we don't know where we'll end up.” I never expected to take this path, but now that I’m firmly on it I’m very excited to see where it leads. And I thank God every day that I will have my soulmate by my side as I go.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The rest of pictures and a few updates

If you likes the preview earlier this month, you'll enjoy seeing all the picts from the family fall photo shoot: Rachel did an awesome job! Now to pick a "Christmas photo."

A bit of this and that:
  • I don't want to make too big of an announcement only to find out it's a premature own, but we're pretty excited around here about Nessa not using a pull up on over a week! Yes, this means at night and during nap times too!!!! Of course this started right AFTER we ordered another case of pull ups (7th generation via Amazon).

  • Nessa is excited to be a pumpkin for Halloween. Please do not tell her that this isn't very creative. Not only is it what she wants, but I don't want her to learn that her mom isn't very creative when it comes to Halloween costumes either. She's dressing up at daycare, but we're not going to go trick-or-treating this year. (Megan will be with her Dad.) Nessa won't know what she's missing, and we decided that neither of us will miss it this year, and that way we don't deal with going through and figuring out what candy she can eat or not (what is gluten free in other words). I'm sure she'll go in the future, or we'll start hosting a fall party each year, but this year is going to be low key. We did find a costume at Goodwill last night that Nessa thinks is great, and that is all that matters to me. :-)

  • Megan has gone to a Halloween party already, but still doesn't know what to dress up as for trick-or-treating. She wore her Dad's old dress blues Navy uniform to the party. Aah, that brings back memories from a previous life.

  • I'm really settling into our fall schedule and really enjoying having more time with Megan this year. I don't even mind the car rides to La Crescent--not even the early morning ones when Megan has safety patrol in the morning. I've found some of our best mother-daughter conversations happen in the car/van! (And boy is it the age for that! For the record, being a big sister doesn't really prepare you for these talks.)

  • Megan and I have still been doing yoga most weeks, and the last two weeks we've been doing restorative yoga instead. Megan loves this so much I don't think she's going to let me go back to the regular hatha yoga sessions (with her). It seems to restore Megan right to sleep she gets so relaxed! I have to admit it is great stress relief, and I highly recommend it.

  • Megan is doing great with her trumpet, and I just found out she has her first band concert in December!!!! :-) And more importantly, she said she still loves playing it. Some of the songs are recognizable now.

  • Nessa discovered barbies. I'm not sure if she knows that is what they are or not because usually they are just called dolls, and that's fine with me. They are all Megan's old barbies, and I don't anticipate actually buying any more, but I may be on the look out for more barbie clothes because apparently barbie clothes disintegrate with age or something. Well, what's your explanation for all the naked barbies I found? If you have an answer to that one, maybe you can tell me why half off them also didn't have heads, or rather didn't have heads attached? I don't understand how this happens to dolls in storage for years. They came out of storage because Nessa discovered the Barbie van (I honestly don't remember where that came from because I certainly don't remember buying it.), and then Nessa wanted dolls that fit in the van. So, softie that I am, I dug out a couple of barbies, and then when she wanted to fill ALL of the seats, I dug out more.

  • Nessa has possibly learned to "play sick" in order to get to stay home and hopefully get to watch movies and do other things she normally doesn't get to do. :-( She was very convincing until she got what she wanted. OK, really I think Monday when I brought her home from daycare she was just a little under the weather, but Tuesday when she tried it again she couldn't keep from smiling so she wasn't able to fool anyone.

  • We have already gone through the stomach flu (Nessa then Megan at Applefest time, and then Shawn and I at Oktoberfest time -- one reason there are no Oktoberfest photos this year), and now we all kind of went through or are going through some other virus. I'm hoping we're getting things out of the way so that we can be all healthy for the holidays!

  • I also confirmed the over the last couple of weeks that gluten is total poison to my body. I am so used to feeling well now, and it feels SO GREAT, that when I feel ill, it feels REALLY bad. :-( Three times in two weeks I got gluten ... once by cross contamination of some sort when eating out, once because I plain wasn't careful enough when eating out, and once because I thought I would try "gluten free" oats and realized that even labeled gluten free I can NOT handle oats either. :-( So, to help heal and feel really good again the last few days I've gone to a 100% raw food diet, and I feel SO good again! What a difference from Monday night when I was sicker than I've been in a long, long time. I've gone 100% raw for days here and there, but generally it about 75 to 90% raw.

  • Speaking of food -- I've also been busy blogging on the Green Smoothie blog! Please check it out, and please comment on the posts, and if you don't want to comment then let me know directly what you would love to read about there (or elsewhere, lol). Right now it is taking a chunk of my time, but I'm hoping once I get going it won't be as long. However, the inspiration I get from doing interviews and talking to the other bloggers is SO worth it. My posts may sound like I don't need inspiration, but I do need it -- A LOT. I mean you would think that feeling normal again would be enough inspiration, but nope, I'm human. :-)

  • In other news, I've lost my cell phone. :-( I'm sure I'll find it right after I get a new one. I'm just trying to decide if I'm just replacing a phone or changing plans, etc. So, stay tuned for a possible new number, and in the meantime if you need to talk to me, ping me for an alternate number or call Shawn's phone on nights/weekends.

  • And in really BIG news, Shawn and I are finally reading the same book! The Bible. ;-) Okay, not that we each haven't read from Bibles over the last five years, but now we're really reading the same one (okay Shawn ended up buying his own). It's the "Bible in 90 Days" which lays it out in 12 pages a day reading and has larger text which is surprisingly important. I'm really loving it even when I realize why I never read the last several chapters of Exodus before. :-) I'm reading lots of other inspirational stuff too, but I'll save that for another post.

Well, I know there are some things I forgot ... and a few things I intentionally left out because this is already a book. Hey does anyone remember when I actually hand wrote letters this long back in my other life (pre-email and yet living away from family and friends)? Well, I did. So, if you made it this far count yourself lucky that you're not having to read this hand-written.

Much more soon ... maybe even photos ;-)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Pride Goeth In The Fall

Remember how proud I was a couple of weeks ago that Nessa picked her Vikings shirt to wear? Well, on Sunday I received my comeuppance.

For some time now Nessa has been saying that her favorite colors are green and yellow (which can make choosing clothes from her predominantly pink wardrobe a bit tricky, but that’s another story for a different day). This has filled me with foreboding, and now my worst fears have been realized.

Nessa (seeing football on TV): “Are the Packers playing?”

Daddy: “No, they played already and lost.”

Nessa: “Maybe they’ll win tomorrow!”

Daddy: “Well, they don’t play tomorrow, sweetie. But we don’t want the Packers to win, we want them to lose. We want the Vikings to win.”

Nessa: “No, I like the Packers!”

Sigh. Nessa has been known to say things just to push Daddy's buttons, so I'm hoping that was the case here. On the other hand, perhaps--like so many parents before me--I’m discovering that it’s difficult to keep your children adhering to traditional ways in a new land.

I told Tami I thought we needed to move to Rochester, into the Mayo High School district. At least there green and yellow are acceptable, as long as there isn’t a big white “G” in the middle.

Now I know how my father, a Bears fan, felt when I was growing up.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Family photos and family fun all in one day!

Is that a great picture of Nessa, or what?!? Anyone that has tried knows it isn't easy to get good natural pics of our sweet girl. ;-)

We met Rachel at Tweite's Pumpkin Patch near Byron, MN as we were spending the day there as part of my niece Rebecca's birthday party. The bright sunny fall day was great for fun, but a bit challenging for pictures. From the few preview pics, I think Rachel did a great job.

You can see the rest of the preview pics on her own blog:

After pictures we had lunch right at the pumpkin patch which is a nice treat for us. The Tweite's are familiar with celiac and were able to tell us what was safe for Nessa and I to eat. While picnics are great sometimes, it's also nice to just come and play and eat when we're hungry.

Then we went and played, and played, and played. There are many different playground areas, including slides and fun for the big kids. There are lots of fun make believe areas as well as a large corn maze too. And then there is the large sand
box that kept Nessa's attention for over a half an hour late in the afternoon. There are lots of amateur pics of the day too, but not on my camera which was left at home...when I get some from my family I'll post a link to them.

As the rain came throughout the day today (Sunday) Shawn, Nessa and I still had one reminder of our fun fall day that was filled with sun -- sun burned noses and cheeks! Apparently MN in October is still sunscreen weather when you're outside ALL day! :-( It's pretty mild, but still a good lesson. Hopefully we got a nice dose of vitamin D too. ;-)

And in other notes --
It was a nice break between hectic weeks. Last week we were recovering from Nessa and then Shawn being ill with a mild stomach flu when Wednesday evening I got sick as well. Of course I had to do it while trying to have a fun night out at Oktoberfest with Megan. Poor Megan didn't get to go on many rides this year.

This week is my work customer conference, so along with my normal deadlines I'll be making sure all my business clothes are ready to wear. Then Shawn and I will be preparing for a couple of nights away while Grandma and Grandpa Brooks stay with Nessa next weekend.

And Megan and Nessa just keep growing and learning each and every day. I sometimes wish I had a recorder going 24/7 just so I could remember and share all the wonderfully entertaining, and sometimes impressive, things they say. Nessa's not too entertaining new thing is to be a back seat driver. Megan did the same thing so I'm not surprised, but why it it that I have to teach my children the rules of the road when they're THREE or else they don't stop asking why we don't "get in front of that truck" or numerous other questions or demands concerning driving. Nessa also likes turtles lately and she said that yellow lights are like turtles because I told her yellow lights mean "caution / slow." (Why do we teach kids that anyway?) Oh, and Megan is learning just a bit about politics this fall although I wasn't actually able to take her to see Obama when he was in La Crosse this past Wednesday. Megan did however fall asleep while watching the VP debate. And that was the exciting debate. ;-)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Atta Girl!

I set out several different items of clothing for Nessa to choose from this morning, and when she got to the shirts she immediately said "Vikings!". So she wore her Minnesota Vikings t-shirt this morning.

It makes a father proud...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Hey mom, look at me ...

Originally uploaded by Tami of BrooksGroth

Nessa loves goofing off with Daddy like this, and I love watching it! :-)

Just wanted to post this quick along w/ brief updates:

--Busy week, including Nessa home sick with the stomach flu :-(
--Spent a night up late w/ Nessa after she slept all day ... was able to finally start really using facebook which was cool
--Spent the weekend catching up on housework and other things -- even rented a steam cleaner to try to really get some things clean and sterilized around here
--Megan got sick Sat. with the flu. :-(
--Nessa and I got a nice long bike ride in on Sat. ... I think she's finally starting to enjoy it!
--I did get some photos uploaded to flickr, so click this photo and go look around ... didn't get around to adding descriptions though so you'll have to guess. :-) And of course you'll notice lots of food pics since I'm trying to prepare for posts on my "learningtoeat" blog ... but if you look hard you'll still see some smiling girls! Maybe I'll get around to video next weekend.
--ignored all the work I should be doing to watch Emmy's and read/write email ... at least I got cleaning done today :-)

Speaking of cleaning -- just a short note about one of the many ways Shawn made me smile today. When I was getting not so motivated about the steam cleaning while waiting for it to heat up again, he smiled and said that he loved watching me do all this cleaning -- NOT because it needs to be done, but because I simply would NOT have been able to physically do it a few months ago. I would have been worn out after a few hours Saturday, and needed a nap to recover on Sunday! He is so right! And here I was wishing I could get more done ... when I feel good I just want to keep going. I guess after about 4 years of low energy (pregnancy, post-partum, chronic fatigue) I have a lot of time to make up for. Luckily the dust will still be there next weekend. :-) (hey, shawn, I love you)

We're gearing up for another busy week. I'm also hoping the wonderful weather continues. I love the nice fall weather.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Fundraiser Time Again

The beginning of the school year in La Crescent means fundraiser time. I'm posting this here to help facilitate friends and family that we won't see in the next week or so (Orders must be in by Oct. 1st). It's easy to order online, and I'm including details below.

The money raised by the fundraiser is used primarily for field trips and other items to enrich the educational experience at La Crescent Hokah Elementary.

So, follow the link and check out what they have for sale. They have a lot of different items, including lots of wrapping paper and other Christmas items. You'll know you're on the right page because I included a picture of Megan.

Or, if that doesn't work try the tiny url I made (or try copy/paste as recommended below)


If you choose not to participate in the type of sale, a tax-deductible cash donation can be made to La Crescent-Hokah PTO to help reach their goal.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Nessa: I can only eat one bannana a day!

Nessa threw up while napping today. :-(

She then went back to sleep for the rest of the day. Then at ten tonight she woke up, was thirsty and also said she was hungry. So, we were talking about what she could eat, and after everything I mentioned she said: "but then I'll still be hungry." She said this after I suggested a banana and so I said she could then have another banana, and she said,

"I can only eat one banana a day."

I'm not sure why but I thought this was extremely funny. Maybe it was because I knew I was likely to be up with her for awhile.

By the way she didn't keep the water down so she didn't get to eat even one banana. :-(

At midnight I gave in and let her start watching cartoons. We started with Dragon Tales and now we've moved on to Signing Time.

I guess I should at least try to catch up with some of my email.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Taking a 3-year-old to the zoo is ...


Taking a 3-year-old to the zoo as part of a group with another 3-year-old, a 1-year-old, a 5-year-old, a 5-month-0ld, and an 11-year old ... in the rain ....

Well, we'll get back to you when we recover ...

OK, seriously, it was a great day in many ways (what's up with us and getting rained on though?), and Megan was a HUGE help. And, yes, we ended the day as tired as the napless little girl who won the award for most determined to walk rather than ride in the stroller when she got tired. I do have to say that she also did NOT ask to be carried. Of course she also did not walk very quickly when we were trying to not get totally soaked either. And only the promise of ice cream got her to put on her rain coat (I was being hopeful and left my raincoat in the car). As far as seeing animals -- the monkeys and gibbons (look like monkeys to a 3-year-old) were the big hit of the day with the under-11 crowd (Megan said she must not remember what it's like to be 3 because she couldn't stare at the monkeys that long.), and the rest of us enjoyed any glimpse we were allowed between chasing after kids that were ready to race on to the next thing!

Sunday we arrived back home in La Crosse shortly before 5, and Nessa was in bed and asleep for the night by 5:30! (OK, I know Shawn is going to call me on this -- she was in bed for the night and other than waking up several times and making noise to wake up and alarm her parents, she was asleep most of the night.)

There are a few pictures of the zoo ... I have no idea when I'll get around to posting them, but I will eventually.

And in other news -- we have our van back!!! :-)

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Parenting Rule Number 474

At least that is what I think Shawn called it when I walked by Nessa's bedroom and noticed she was standing on her head while Shawn was trying to put her pants on! Technically she was on her head on her mattress with Shawn helping to support her of course ... but still.

He then told me --

Parenting Rule 474: Do not offer choices (even in jest) that you are not prepared to follow through with.

He then explained what had happened --

Nessa was kind of crabby this morning, and as usual Shawn used Humor as part of his tactics to change her mood and get her through the morning routine. We also like to offer her choices when we can so that is a common reaction for us as well.

So, Shawn asked Nessa "would you like to put your pants on sitting down or standing on your head?" And of course, Nessa being Nessa, immediately said, "Standing on my head!"

So, there we were helping Nessa stand on her head while we put her pants on her. Afterward she was indeed smiling and giggling. I am a little worried about her asking for this routinely in the future though.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Home Sweet Home

It's past my bedtime again, but I needed to quickly log on and share that while we had a wonderful weekend visiting not one but both sets of grandparents, it is again so good to be home. Just walking in the door renewed my energy and spirits after a long car ride home today. And I'm so grateful that I feel that way (it wasn't always true in my life).

Our long weekend began Thursday when we headed up to Cumberland to visit my parents and spend some time on the lake. We were also blessed to be able to see Rebbecca, Charlotte, Ahnika, Cully, and Ellen. As usual I have lots of pics and Flip video to process ... maybe next weekend. I do have just a few tubing pics that Grandpa Don took that we managed to upload to Picasa Web albums before we left Cumberland so I could access them from home.

We also spent time swimming... (Tami with Nessa and Rebbecca)

While scanning the web album, Shawn saw this nice picture of us on the tube, but when looking closely I realized this was NOT from this weekend (earlier this summer or last year?). These are the errors that happen when the camera doesn't have an accurate digital date. :-)

It was a gorgeous weekend though!!!

Friday evening we left for Walker, and we barely made it there before Saturday morning appeared! We did spend awhile in Duluth as we stopped at their food co-op and enjoyed shopping there a bit too much apparently because we were there quite awhile. Some day we have to arrive in Walker at a normal time again. :-)

Saturday Megan and I explored downtown Walker, and Sunday Shawn, Megan and I managed to sneak off to a movie while Nessa napped at Grandma and Grandpas. Of course there was also much relaxing, and Megan did manage to finish her book before the weekend ended and school started.

In other news -- the drive was uneventful other than Nessa's screams when she wanted a neck pillow like mom's (thank you Jan -- it worked wonderfully), and when the portable DVD player broke ... we did get Nessa a similar pillow at a Wal mart along the way, but the DVD player may still be broken. We did miss our van several times along the way (we were in the rental; a Camry), and we appreciated all of Megan's help with Nessa in the back seat!!!! We are so thankful that this was the extent of our challenges on the way home.

We're trying to get geared up for the fall/school year schedule this week. I'm not really ready and unlike many moms I really wasn't ready for school to start, but it is so we adjust. Megan starts 5th grade tomorrow! Nessa starts preschool Sunday school this Sunday, and it will be our only year with both Megan and Nessa in Sunday school.

I have a week scheduled full of physical therapy, chiropractic, and massage appointments to help with my neck injury. I'm also off of yoga for at least another week. :-( And I have way more than a lot of work to do, so I'll have to find other ways to de-stress ... like prayer and looking around at the wonderful family I'm blessed with!

Happy Fall and blessings to all --

Sunday, August 24, 2008

We're Shaken Up, But OK

Tami, Nessa and I were in an accident on I-90 between La Crosse and Rochester this afternoon (Sunday). We were on our way to Northfield to pick up Megan from her shopping weekend with Tami's sister Ellen.

We think everyone is basically OK, but now that the adrenaline and emotions have worn off, Tami and I have enough minor issues that all three of us are going into the doctor and chiropractor tomorrow to be checked.

Our van was damaged enough to need a tow. It was towed to St. Charles, MN, where Tami's brother Scott picked us up. We met Megan and Ellen at Scott's house in Rochester, where we had supper. I was able to rent a car at the Rochester airport, and we got back home around 9:30 PM.

We'll post more as warranted, but for now know that we're safe at home, with no major injuries that we know of. Please keep us, and the family in the other car, in your prayers.

Surprisingly sleepy Nessa...

Originally uploaded by Tami of BrooksGroth

Last Saturday night Nessa crawled up on the couch at what should have been bedtime, but we indulged her request to just cuddle for a bit. She was actually cuddling with Daddy while Tami was writing on the computer. About five minutes after she crawled up there Shawn asked me if she was sleep.

She was.

A short while later I scooped Nessa up so Shawn could get up. Then I thought I could finally get some time with Nessa just snuggled in rather than moving all over the place as she so often is these days. So we snuggled for an hour or three. :-)

Water play

Originally uploaded by Tami of BrooksGroth

Last weekend Nessa was excited to go play in the new slip and slide (courtesy of a silent auction prize), and Megan was a good sport and played with her for awhile.

It certainly brings back my own memories of when I thought running through the sprinkler was the best way to spend a sunny August afternoon ... childhood ...

Too beautiful not to share...

Originally uploaded by Tami of BrooksGroth

Shawn surprised me again this year.

We are so blessed to have had these years ... may this only be the beginning...

Who needs a stove anyway? (cross-post)

Below is a post that is part of my new blog.

Occasionally I'll share posts here as well so friends and family are sure to see some of the things that are such a large part of our lives right now. But I wanted to start a separate blog so that I wouldn't be subjecting all of you to tedious food posts, and so I could make the "food blog" public and optimized for search engines to find. It's about my journey to wellness though nutrition and whole foods (primarily raw foods at this point).

If you're interested, scroll through the dozen or so posts already there. You can skim over the posts about what I'm eating all of the time if that is just a bit much, or if all you want to know is "what the heck" I eat anyway, then you can skip the philosophical posts. :-)

You can find it here:


Originally uploaded by Tami of BrooksGroth

This is what my stove looked like when I woke up Saturday morning.

I smiled remembering unpacking all those veggies Friday night before collapsing on the couch with Shawn. Some of them are from our Friday CSA box, some are from neighbor's gardens, and a few are left from "the farm" (my dad's family farm which now has a family garden). I have many plans for these veggies this week!

But today I spent the day with veggies that didn't even make this picture -- dehydrating all items over a week old that we haven't eaten yet from beans to green peppers to onions to celery. I didn't even get to start on the zucchini and potatoes today!

The stove still looks like that ... if it was just me, they would probably stay there. :-) But I'm thinking that Shawn will want to use the stove this week, so I'll have to find a place for them elsewhere.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Tribute to International Green Smoothie Day

I have more still photos to upload, but decided to put together a short video to make my official toast to International Green Smoothie Day! This was my last green smoothie of the weekend. Do you love the beautiful light green color? It's always a pleasant bonus when my smoothies look as good as they taste.

This one was satisfying my margarita craving--complete with the "salt" and lime! If you want this original recipe, inspired by my craving and what I've learned about using these fruits and veggies in smoothies over the last few months, please let me know. Usually I do more greens in the evening, but this is so light and refreshing that I think I'll be ending these dog days of summer with this one frequently.

Yours in health,

A whole lot of Olympics watching going on ... (quick updates)

I want to take a few minutes to let you all know we're still here just in case my plan for some blogging during the Olympics doesn't quite work out since multi-tasking during swimming and gymnastics this past week certainly hasn't worked. :-)

Where has this month gone!?! (OK, it's not over yet)

  • August 2nd: Tami's Birthday :-) Yes, the month started out delightfully as I was treated to a very lazy Saturday from sleeping in to making things in the kitchen with my new blender and cookbooks. There are pictures of me yet to uploaded smiling with my new "cook" books (or uncook books as Shawn calls them since most of them are raw food books). That is exactly what I wanted to get my year off to a great start now that I'm 37. Much of my spare time (?!) this month has been spent reading those cookbooks as well as experimenting with raw recipes beyond Green Smoothies. Most of the time I've felt great in comparison to much of the last few years (chronic fatigue/allergies/Celiac symptoms/low thyroid function fibromylagia symptoms/cadida-related symptoms), but there have also been some days of detox symptoms as my body heals. The detox days encourage me even more than the days I feel great because it means my body really is healing. This post isn't all about that so I'll stop here -- but if you want a less biased opinion just ask Shawn about how he fells about having "his Tami" back.
  • August 7th -- Our Anniversary! :-) There are photos of my wonderful flowers -- those gorgeous red, yellow and orange roses like we had at our Wedding. Shawn got extra bonus points for not only sending the flowers to work, but then stopping buy and picking them up for me when I ended up not going into the office that day because Megan was sick so I worked from home after returning from the clinic (no strep this time). We went out on the weekend for a combination birthday/anniversary dinner and a movie so we spent the day just appreciating the every-day wonderfulness of our marriage and our family. It has been 4 wonderful year, and my only hope and prayer is that it is only the beginning.
  • Vacation Bible School: Megan went to VBS at Prince of Peace in La Crescent Monday thru Wednesday (because she was sick Thursday and Friday) the week of August 4th. She had lots of fun and also enjoyed seeing friends from La Crescent. Then starting Sunday evening August 8 we had VBS at our church. It was Nessa's first experience at VBS or "macation Bible School" as she called it even though she says "vacation" perfectly well by itself. I stayed to help in the preschool room and to help be sure Nessa didn't accidentally get any gluten. Shawn stayed nearby at church most nights as well, and it made for a busy week for the family.
  • Olympics -- starting on about the 9th Shawn and I started watching Olympics most nights. Who else out there knows how late those gymnastics events went? Well CST, it was way past our bedtime, but we watched anyway. It was particularly fun to watch with Megan the last half of the week as she is old enough to appreciate the athletes and ask good questions. In addition the gymnastics, you may have guessed we really enjoyed watching the swimming. :-) I'm sure we'll find some new favorites this next week too.
  • Houston County Fair -- I'll do a post with photos and/or video on this, but as a quick bullet point -- Megan showed two of her goats on Thursday August 14th and then Megan, her friend, and I went back on Saturday to spend some time with the goats as well as go on rides and do other fun fair things. Megan did get a Reserve Champion while showing one of her goats and received blue ribbons for her goats in their respective classes. She also learned a lot about what to do to improve her standings for next year! It was the first goat show I've watched, and I look forward to watching more.
  • Sand on the Riverfront ( The event was Friday August 15th and Shawn was on the Business Objects team. It took nearly all day Friday to build the sand sculpture, but for Shawn's team it was worth it -- they won Best on the Riverfront and Best Interpretation of the Theme! Unfortunately my picture isn't very good, but hopefully you can get an idea of their "Farmer in the Dell" themed sculpture. There were also many fun kid's games and inflatables so Nessa had fun playing without getting frustrated at not being able to play in the sand on Friday afternoon.

  • International Green Smoothie Day!!! Yes, Friday the 15th was also International Green Smoothie day, and I was ready to have an excuse to celebrate! I'm always ready to toast to the drink that has helped me along my path to wellness -- AND gets Nessa to eat greens as a bonus! For more info go here: / if you need and more ideas or recipes, just let me know. I've developed many favorites over the summer from juicy nectarines to fresh berries! And I've explored all kinds of greens as well with many thanks to our CSA Farm for providing me with a wide variety of chard, kale, carrot greens, beet greens, lettuce and more. Pictures and possibly video coming soon. I know I've forwarded my original green smoothie post, so if anyone out there has been inspired to try green smoothies due to my sharing please leave a comment or email me. I want to know and so do the Raw Divas ... so let me know you're favorites or even your flops (even I still have those sometimes). Shawn is becoming a sometime green smoothie enthusiast too, but my urge for a post-workout smoothie of banana, celery and frozen blackberries didn't go over as well with him, but I didn't mind too much because that meant there was more for me (yum! ... oh there was one chard leave in there too just for good measure). And by the way the rest of you are not allowed to say "eww" until you've at least tried it ... it wouldn't hurt to read about the health benefits of blended greens as well. Who else has managed to have more than 10 fruits and veggies by noon and two bunches of greens each day this week? Smoothies are the best way to keep up with my increasingly busy schedule ... but wait this is just a quick update post so more on that later ...

Coming up before the official end of summer:
  • This Wednesday I'll be taking Megan and a friend to the WI Dells to a water park for a fun day that she requested instead of a birthday party or big present. So far the weather looks ideal for such a day.
  • Then Thursday Megan leaves to go stay with Aunt Ellen for a long weekend. Megan will be going shopping with Ellen as only Aunt Ellen is really good at shopping according to Megan. :-) We'll go up to Northfield to get her on Sunday. (And I hope to sneak a few smooches and baby snuggles with Cully as well.)
  • Then it will be time to start getting ready for our Labor Day weekend trip which will include visiting both sets of grandparents. We'll stay in Cumberland for a few days and then move on up to Walker for a bit.
We did manage school supply shopping today, so we're officially prepared for school in that regard. The weather has been great this week (not too hot or humid!), and we hope to spend a bit of time outside with water toys yet this afternoon, fit a few more evening trips to Erickson pool in yet this month, and I personally hope to get many more bike rides in not only this month but also throughout the fall.

I hope everyone else is enjoying the last days of Summer!