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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