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Buckle Up! Summer’s Heading Out.

6 Aug

A friend asked me last week if I’d bought my kid’s school supplies yet. I stopped. Turned. And stared at her. “Umm, excuse me, but what did you say?”

“I was just wondering if you’d bought your school supplies yet,” she repeated, looking a little defensive. “I mean, they’re already being picked through….”

I walked away from that conversation feeling a little ill. How is it possible that summer is almost over and I need to buy school supplies already? I guess I was in denial.

But then I went and spent $150 on supplies and reality hit home.
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But enough about that. I have to say that it’s been a great summer and a lot of the greatness is due to all the hard work that many, many willing adults put in to making a ton of great activities for my kids to participate in. Kids need summer activities. Yes, they need to relax and just hang out but they can’t do that for three solid months. If they did, they and I both would go insane.

And so we signed them up for a few things. Not as many as some years, mind you, but a few, well-chosen things. My oldest two did Summer Band at the middle school and they both loved it. I have never seen my daughter so excited about her band instrument, as she was able to begin playing a “Frumpet” because French Horns simply aren’t marching band instruments. Along with my son on his marching band tuba (read Susaphone), we had several marvelous duets in the evenings and loved every minute of it. Thanks so much to Mr. Anderson and all of the band teachers and helpers involved with that program.

A little Frumpet action.

A little Frumpet action.


My daughter also was able to participate in Summer Orchestra and she enjoyed that very much, remembering what it is like to pick up a viola after quite a few weeks of…I admit it…not doing so. The students were even were able to take a field trip to the National Music Museum in Vermillion, SD, which definitely is a place our whole family needs to check out, from the sounds of it. Thanks to Mrs. Loy for a great couple of weeks!

Most recently my two oldest kids enjoyed Kid’s College out at Minnesota West. For four days they experimented, learned, played, created, and soaked in the atmosphere of the college and many willing and capable instructors. Too bad it couldn’t be longer, says this mom!

Not his Susaphone, but you get the idea.

Not his Susaphone, but you get the idea.


Not to be forgotten, our youngest, too, had weekly fun at the Summer Library Program at the Nobles County Library, thanks to all the hard work of Jackie Van Horsen, the children’s librarian. Three Hershey’s kiss gnomes, a caterpillar, an ant, and something that I’m a little unclear as to what it is exactly – still grace our family room with their smiling faces. Her crafts are all smiling, according to her, because she was having a great time making them with her friends at the library.
Library gnomes.

Library gnomes.


There were other activities our kids did – and other activities they should have done (read swimming lessons) – and somehow, all of a sudden, summer is winding down and there is very little I can do about that. Okay, there’s nothing I can do about it, I just like to pretend that maybe there is.

One thing that was very different for us this summer was not being involved with the summer musical at the Memorial Auditorium here in Worthington, as we were for the past two summers. Instead, we were able to sit and RELAX in the audience and enjoy the hard work that the cast and crew of SHREK THE MUSICAL put in over the summer to entertain us all. I intimately understand how much effort it takes to put on such a show, and I appreciate their time and commitment so much. I can’t say that we didn’t miss doing a show a little bit, but mostly, we were just glad to have summer evenings at home. But yes, in case you’re wondering, I’m sure the stage will lure us back one of these summers, if not more than one.
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Summer has been lovely, but all good things must come to an end. School is important, and I guess I’m ready for it, at least as far as my kid’s supplies go. Mentally, though…I’m thinking I’d rather cuddle with my six year old a little longer, savor my coffee on the deck with a good book, watch the kids catch lightning bugs, and have just one more day to sleep in.

But this is my life, at least for a few more years. School supplies, alarm clocks, homework…. Someday I’ll miss all that, they tell me.

For now, I’ll buckle up for the ride.

Didn't catch him flashing, but here is a lightning bug...in all his non-glowing glory.

Didn’t catch him flashing, but here is a lightning bug…in all his non-glowing glory.

One got caught in Boo's hair!

One got caught in Boo’s hair!

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A Very Good Day in a Busy Week – and a Rustic Peach Tart that will Make Your Day Even Better

30 Jul

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We have had an adventurous week in the O’Donnell household. Visitors. Animals. Jet lag. And several hundred photos (okay, more than that) to peruse and remember our vacation in Washington.

First: our visitors. Audrey her husband and Randy, from  one of my favorite blogs, Minnesota Prairie Roots, stopped by on their way to a family reunion. How lovely it was to see my friend again! We enjoyed an evening of laughing and eating together just as we had at their home one year ago. The recipe I’m including at the end of this post is in honor of her!

Audrey and Boo.  Such a lovely photo!

Audrey and Boo. Such a lovely photo!

Secondly: our animals. When we left for vacation on July 4th we left the care and keeping of our two cats (and my tomatoes, herbs and flowers) to our neighbor’s daughter. We had no worries. The cats, however, seemed to feel differently. Even with a visitor twice a day, they decided that they had been abandoned and so set off to seek their fortunes.

One, Copernicus, (as blogged about here  in her skunk vrs. cat cat-astrophe and here when she was expecting her kittens and a couple weeks ago, here) stopped by from time to time while we were away, but her year-old son, Zephyr, did not – at least not that anyone ever saw. So, when we returned at midnight on the 20th, no cats were to be seen at all. Thankfully, Copernicus showed up the next evening, looking healthy and fine and far cuddlier and purringer (not a word but I’m choosing to use it!) than ever before. For several days she loved us and cozied up to us – making us think that we should leave her more often!

But there was no sign of Zephyr. The kids and The Sailboat King took walks looking for her. We even drove around, calling, and driving in a neighbor’s driveway when we saw an orange cat…but no sign. Nothing. Nada.

I admit, I was thinking the worst. But we were still praying.

And then, Friday morning, the 26th of July, after not having been seen by anyone since the 4th of July, he showed up, walking nonchalantly across the driveway, just as I came upstairs in the morning.

My eyes bugged out. I opened the front door and called to him. He stopped and turned and began walking toward me. I reached for him and he backed off. I knelt down. Held out my hands slowly. Called him by name. Saw his golden eyes looking up at me, inquiringly, accusingly?

And he came to me.

Back in his favorite spot on the deck.

Back in his favorite spot on the deck.

I picked him up and went into the house.

“Hey, guys! It’s Zephyr! Zephyr is home!” I woke them up with my calling and they all came running.

I admit it, I was crying.

It was a good day, beginning with the kitty’s return and ending with Audrey’s visit. 

Beach treasures - being sanctified in the Minnesota sun.

Beach treasures – being sanctified in the Minnesota sun.

Thirdly: The Jet Lag. What can I say? It is what it is. It’s only two hours different here in the Mid West from the Pacific Northwest, but it’s been hard to recover!

Either Zephyr became a pirate on his adventures away from home, or he was yawning after being wakened up.  He and his mama seem happy to be home.  And we're quite happy, too!

Either Zephyr became a pirate on his adventures away from home, or he was yawning after being wakened up. He and his mama seem happy to be home. And we’re quite happy, too!

Peach Rustic Tart Recipe, which I made for Audrey and Randy – I like this style of pie because it’s so much easier than a traditional pie! This is a Martha Stewart recipe – and it’s delicious!! 🙂 Here’s the link: Stone-Fruit Galette. PS – I sprinkled a little more cornstarch over the top and drained the fruit before adding it to the crust because I hate peach pies being too runny.  Oh, and I added Turbinado Sugar on the top of the crust instead of the fine sugar that she suggests.  It’s so yummy!

The marvelous rustic tart...or galette, as Martha Stewart says.  I call it a tart.  It's a more normal word.  :-)

The marvelous rustic tart…or galette, as Martha Stewart says. I call it a tart. It’s a more normal word. 🙂

A Story I’m “Dyeing” to Tell.

9 Jul

Six years ago I bravely entered the world of Tye Dyeing, not knowing what I was getting into, but figuring, “How hard can it be?” I learned that it’s not hard, exactly, but it is…what shall I say… time-consuming, trickier than expected (if you want to get it perfect), and, to be honest, far more full of finesse than I ever would have guessed.

We enjoyed the results of our labor that day, and love seeing the photo we took of our wee baby in her “Hippie Duds”.

Our first tye dyeing event - 6 years ago!

Our first tye dyeing event – 6 years ago!

The biggest thing I retained from that original experience was remembering how much my fingers hurt from removing the rubberbands one at a time. (This year I got wise and CUT them off…good grief, why didn’t I think of that before?!) My kids tell me that we tye dyed one other time, but I have, apparently, blocked that moment from my life.

All geared up and ready.

All geared up and ready.

Well, this year I thought I could face the process again. So, when we finally got a warm and dry day here in SW Minnesota last week, we pulled out the tye dye kit we’d bought, found all the white clothes we could get our hands on, and set to work, plastic gloves firmly in place – alongside huge amounts of optimism.

Hard at work.

Hard at work.


You may be wondering how a person can go wrong when tye dyeing? Well, in a way, you can’t. But if you want your t-shirt to turn out like something bought at Woodstock in the 60’s, there are tricks and cautions and rules that you need to obey – the “rulelessness” of Woodstock notwithstanding.
Waiting...for 6 hours.

Waiting…for 6 hours.


Rule One: Yellow + Blue = Green; Pink + Blue = Purple; but Pink + Yellow = Mud.

Rule Two: To make a “Vibrant Sunburst” you must twist excessively and tie tightly and, to make it really stand out, leave the area around it WHITE. White is your friend in tye dyeing. I forgot this rule.

Rule Three: There are no experiments in tye dyeing. What goes on the fabric stays on the fabric. Perhaps you’d be wise to buy two kits and use lots of flour sacking towels to experiment on. I’m totally doing that next summer.

Rule Four: When they say that you have to “rinse the garment until it rinses clear” they are optimistic beyond belief and if you try to do this you will lose your mind. Know this in advance and know that the washing machine setting of “rinse and spin only” is your friend.

Fashion show.

Stained with blackberry juice? Nope. Tye Dye.


I’m afraid that I depleted our well in our tye dyeing extravaganza. I’m afraid that I turned my daughter’s arm permanently pink to the point where she looks like a burn victim. Or as if she’s been mashing blackberries with her bare hands. I’m also afraid that my husband will never wear the shirt we so carefully dyed for him…at lest in public.
Fashion show!

Fashion show!


But, all in all, I’m afraid that I love tye dyeing. My husband is right: I’m a hippie at heart. Albeit a non-druggie one who never listens to Jimi Hendrix. I do eat nuts and berries, though. That’s about as wild as I get. But watch out, world, if I start eating nuts and berries while wearing my tye dye. Who knows what crazy things might happen then?
He Wore It!

He Wore It!

Good Morning, Farmland!

25 Jun

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There’s nothing like waking up to the sound of an airplane flying right over your house. For a moment – that moment between awake and asleep – you might think you’re in a war zone (minus, thankfully, the shooting guns). You might think that a maniacal driver is out on your dirt road, going about 100, and then, when it’s almost too late, you realize what it is and suddenly you’re wide awake, running for the camera, because it’s crop dusting season, and you love it.
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I blogged about this once before (here, in a longer post than this one, titled A Ten Year Olds Epiphany)  – but it was only a couple of months into my blogging adventure and not many people had a chance to read it! So, I quote in part from my previous post…but with all-new photos for your enjoyment!
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Out on the deck we laugh and wave and delight in the noise, the proximity, the sheer overwhelming power. Inevitably, at some point, I run for the camera, though I’ve never been able to get a shot of it directly over my head. The good thing is, I usually have several tries, as the planes come back and forth, back and forth in their job of spraying the corn, the soybeans, the bugs that threaten the crops.DSC_0346
Not all of my friends understand the joy I find in the crop dusters, though a few of them understand a little. My husband, bless his heart, gets it, and he runs to the deck with us, shading his eyes against the sun as he admires the dangerous flying. Nevermind the possible philosophical issues with chemicals vs. organic farming, to me these planes are my youth, growing up as the daughter of a pilot – my wonderful childhood of tidepools and forts and parents who loved me – all rolled up in that airplane sound, flying over my house, over my years of memories.DSC_0347
The pilot has no idea, I’m sure, why this crazy family comes running to wave. Maybe he doesn’t even see us, focused as he is on the field before him. And then, so quickly, he’s gone, only to return, time and again, rising like the sun on the horizon, like a ship on a sea of grain.DSC_0348
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Mount Saint Helens Exploded 33 Years Ago this Week – My Dad Was There the Next Day – And Here are Some of his Photos

14 May

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I remember the boom that Sunday morning, May 18th, 1980 – 33 years ago this week – as we were getting ready for church on Orcas Island, Washington. It was 8:32am – or however long it takes for sound to travel 300 miles. My oldest sister was off at college, my Dad was down in Oregon at work with the Air Force, and my other sister, our Mom, and I were slipping on our Sunday shoes and just about to head out the door when we heard it.

“Oh, they’re dynamiting on Buck Mountain,” Mom said dismissively.

But Jenny and I said, “No! It was Mount Saint Helens!”

“No,” Mom disagreed. “We couldn’t hear it this far away.”

“It was the mountain, Mom,” we said again. “Turn on the radio.”

Sure enough, Mount Saint Helens – which had been steaming and belching and threatening to explode for weeks – had finally blown her top. The mountain – the entire skyline of southern Washington State – was no longer the same. The north face of the mountain was gone.

And so were 57 people with her.

My father, LTC David K. Wendt, was a rescue helicopter pilot for the United States Air Force Reserve, based out of Portland, Oregon. Here’s what Dad had to say about May 18th:

“I was the duty officer that Sunday – in the RCC (Rescue Control Center) which was a madhouse!! We were getting calls from everybody – including the President of the United States (or the White House office, anyway, to set up a visit for President Carter.) I didn’t get to fly until Monday morning – when I found the Moore family. Lienau’s rescue was a week later.” (The following photographs will fill-out the stories of these people a little more.)

These are some of his photographs, taken over the next several days following the event on May 18th.

The cauldron!

The cauldron!

It's like a photo from you-know-where.

It’s like a photo from you-know-where.

These were trees.

These were trees. The explosion – firing at several hundred miles per hour – killed every living thing within a 230 square mile radius. All within a time period of 5-9 minutes. The orange smudge in this photo is a flare. (See links below to verify this information.)

Blasted trees on the surface of Spirit Lake.  Spirit Lake was made famous even before the explosion because of a long-time resident, Harry Truman, who refused to evacuate prior to the explosion they KNEW was coming.  His body was never found.

Blasted trees on the surface of Spirit Lake. Spirit Lake was made famous even before the explosion because of a long-time resident, Harry Truman, who refused to evacuate prior to the explosion they KNEW was coming. His body was never found.

Steam vents - filled with logs from the blast.

Steam vents – filled with logs from the blast.

Steaming waterfall.

Steaming waterfall.

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Devis Valley

Devis Valley

A 200 foot hover, while a parajumper is hanging on the end of a 200 foot cable as he works to make a rescue.

A 200 foot hover, while a parajumper is hanging on the end of a 200 foot cable as he works to make a rescue.

Flying toward a lake on the mountain.

Flying toward a lake on the mountain.

Micheal Lienau, rescued by Dad and his crew.  They have kept in touch over the years.  He was a photographer for National Geographic.

Micheal Lienau, rescued by Dad and his crew. Several years ago they saw each other again as they were both asked to be a part of an NBC production on “Disaster Survival”. Here’s what Dad had to say about Lienau: “He made a video of the whole ordeal – saying how they looked back up the pass they’d come through and saw a volcano-blasted tree in the shape of a cross – just showing in the narrow slit of overcast volcanic cloud and the pass. He told the others with him – after seeing that cross – that he truly felt they were going to be saved – and a few minutes later we flew over the pass! I was hover-tracking them by their trail left in the ash and mud.” Otto Seiber, another guy rescued by Dad and his crew, was a filmmaker from Seattle, who went with his film crew to document the destruction on May 23rd. Their compasses freaked out in the volcanic atmosphere and they got themselves lost in a hurry. The mountain then erupted again on May 25th, and Dad and his team rescued them. 

Taken from another helicopter.

A helicopter-view of another Huey.

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Steam vents

Steam vents

They searched for the Moores - and they found them on the 19th.  Alive.

They searched for the Moores – and they found them. Alive. Mother, father, and two small children.

The Moores.

The Moores.

Heart Lake

Heart Lake

Reid Blackburn's car.  He was a photojournalist for a Washington newspaper as well as for National Geographic magazine.  His body was eventually recovered from his car.

Reid Blackburn’s car. He was a photojournalist for a Washington newspaper as well as for National Geographic magazine. His body was eventually recovered from the car.

Chemically-altered pools.  All sorts of weird stuff in that ash and lava!

Chemically-altered pools. All sorts of weird stuff in that ash and lava!

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30-Cold Lake & reflection-Dig

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Dad didn't send me this photo - but I wanted to include it!  Details of the rescue of the Moores.  This is the nomination form that was turned in, nominating them for the Helicopter Heroism Award that year.

Dad didn’t send me this photo because he’s not one to brag – but I wanted to include it! Details of the rescue of the Moores. This is the nomination form that was turned in, nominating them for the Helicopter Heroism Award that year.

Amazing what the ash in the air will do to a sunset!

Amazing what the ash in the air will do to a sunset!

Forever changed.

Forever changed.

Here are several interesting links:

A very informative video put out by the USGS – the United States Geological Survey.

The USDA/FS site (United States Department of Agriculture / Forest Service)

Mount Saint Helens.com

A USGS summary of the event, including right before it and several years after it.

There are many, many more sites – I just choose a few which seemed especially good.

My Dad has had his photos used by the USGS, the Mt. St. Helens Interpretive Center, and this book, Fire Mountain. I have many reasons to be proud of my dad. The things he did during his Mount Saint Helens rescues are definitely some of them.

Copyright Notice: Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any material in this blog without written permission from the blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Copyright May 14, 2013 by Gretchen Anne O’Donnell and Col. David K. Wendt, USAFR

A Short Post About a Serendipitous Tradition

2 Apr

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Okay, you might not believe me when I say this, but truly, we TRY to find each and every plastic Easter Egg each year at our outdoor Easter Egg hunts…but somehow, every year, one or two get lost and then a year or so later we find them, bitten by animals, grubby, abandoned, lying in plain sight beneath a tree or a bush. We love this “tradition” – even if it happens purely by serendipity and never by design.

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The first time it happened, 8 years ago when we moved out to our acreage, we weren’t too surprised. We had hidden over 200 eggs that year, and, though we didn’t count them all afterwards, we were pretty sure that there were some unaccounted for.

Searching high and low!

Searching high and low!

“Did you guys search in the way back?”

“No, that was too far.”

The hunt begins.  Seven 5 & 6 year olds having fun.

The hunt begins. Seven 5 & 6 year olds having fun.

We went back to look and found about a dozen. BUT…we still didn’t find them all. In fact, it took us three years to find all of those, we know because that was the only year we hid little erasers in some of the eggs and, sure enough, when the lawn-mower found an egg three years later, it had a butterfly eraser inside it…and the marks of some creature’s teeth all over the egg’s smooth, plastic, ovoid exterior.

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Mostly they’re found in the spring, when the long grasses have died back and the new ones haven’t yet taken their place. It’s as if the snow has rooted out the eggs, shoved them forward like icebergs shoved rocks across the plains, and they wait to be found, little mountains of color in our prairie lawn.

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Ironically, it’s not green eggs that we tend to find, but pink or purple or orange – colors, in other words, that you’d expect would be easy to spot beneath a tree. But, as Carl Sandburg so poignantly reminds us, “I am the grass; I cover all“.

A few weeks ago, the kids and my husband took a walk in the back yard, despite the March wind and snow. When they came in, cheeks red and noses running, some twenty minutes later, Boo proudly held up the egg they had found.

And then, with a grin, she opened it.

Lovely. Was it a malted egg? That’s my guess. Though, to be sure, it’s an educated guess more than an obvious match for said candy. The remains of it could fool an archeologist.

The interior.  Not too appetizing one year later.

The interior. Not too appetizing one year later.

I burst out laughing, loving the grubby egg, the continuing tradition.

The lucky finder of the Golden Egg one year ago.

The lucky finder of the Golden Egg one year ago.

Anyone care to hazard a guess on how many eggs we’ll find a year from now? If the seven five and six year-olds who came to hunt eggs at Boo’s party have anything to say about it, it will be zero. I, however, as the realistic mom…I’m guessing two or three.

Or, should I say, that’s what I’m hoping for. After all, it would be a shame to let a good tradition die.

I love dying eggs!

I love dying eggs!

PS – Sure enough, there’s at least one that we couldn’t find this year. Boo says that the leprechaun took it. Could be she’s right. How else can we explain their total disappearance?!

Not eggs...but a egg-like welcome to a party!

Not eggs…but a egg-like welcome to a party!

PPS – ON EASTER DAY Boo found one from last year – nice and grubby and innocently hiding all year long near the well. What a hoot.

A tradition continues.

A tradition continues.

Afterwards.

Afterwards.

No Man – or Girl – is an Island

26 Mar

I have been struck anew, this past week, over the tenderheartedness of my two daughters. Though, to be sure, their emotions are shown in different ways.

Boo, age 6, was watching The Lion King the other day. She came up to me, scared, but dry-eyed, when Mufasa the king was thrown off the cliff to his death by his own brother, Scar. I held her, and together we weathered the injustice of the jungle out there.

The Lion King

But her indignation at Scar’s behavior was not done. Later, at the end of the movie, as Scar is trying to convince a young Simba that it is his, Simba’s fault, that Mufasa died, Boo suddenly shouted from her place on the couch. “Dummy head! Double Dummy head!”

That, to Boo, is high abuse indeed.

I must say, I loved that what came out of her mouth in that moment of unguarded behavior was something so benign…and yet so full of truth.

She knew, though perhaps could not articulate, that the “jungle out there” is, truly, the jungle we all live in every day.

I couldn’t help but think of our other daughter, now age 11, who behaved much the same way when she was Boo’s age.

She and I were watching A Little Princess, a nicely-done movie based on the book by Francis Hodgson Burnett.

A little princess

She was sick that day, as I recall. She liked the movie, followed it along, understood – for the most part – what was going on. But every so often she would turn to me and ask, “Why is that woman so mean? What did Sara do to deserve that?”

I suppose I said something about injustice in the world. About bad people. About things not always working out the way we wish.

But then came the end – the part where Miss Minchin lies and denies that the amnesiac man is Sara’s father. And our daughter stood up on the couch and cried, “NO! NO! He is her father!” And she cried and cried and cried and could not be consoled.

Her tender heart has not changed over the years. Just now, at age 11, she came upstairs in tears. It’s well after bedtime, but she’s caught up in her book, Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott, and Beth, the sweet, kind sister, just died.

Little Women

“Why do we care so much about storybook characters?” she asked me through her tears.

Because we love them, my sweet girl. Because books have power to change our lives. Because you have a kind and gentle heart and when you cry over injustice and sorrow and sadness in the books you read, you are really crying over the things in this world you have not yet faced, but you know are real. You know they could happen, and you weep for those they have happened, and will happen, to. You weep for the imperfections of the world. You weep because you are not an island. You are a part of the continent, a piece of the main.*

Never send to know, my darling girl, for whom the bell tolls.

It tolls for thee.

*John Donne, Meditation 17

What’s a Little Ice When You’ve Got Angels on Your Side?

5 Mar

After 19 years of living in the Mid West, I think I’m beginning to belong.

I have joined the ranks of Minnesotans who say, “If we stayed home at the least little bit of nasty weather, we’d never go anywhere for six months.”

I have survived two horrid driving events in the past month and a half, and I am alive to tell about it, with my untainted driving record still in place.

Lest you think I am bragging, let me hasten to assure you that I know – I KNOW – that God has at least one angel on perpetual “Keep Gretchen Safe While She’s Driving” duty – so it’s not to my credit that I’m alive…it’s to His.

I don’t know why He has chosen to protect me in this way. All I can think is that He must still have some plans that involve me and it’s just not my time yet. Which is fine with me.

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Both of these wretched driving situations of the past few weeks have involved freezing rain. Both involved me saying, “What am I, nuts?” as I drove along the highway at speeds less than half of the 65-75 suggested miles per hour. And both found my husband out of town and my kids and I braving the elements together.

And both, I must admit, did not take me out of the house for life or death reasons.

Take last night, for example. The kids and I drove out to our pastor’s house for a book discussion with some other couples from church. I like this chance to talk about interesting stuff, and the kids like the opportunity to play with their friends. I’d seen the weather report, yes. I knew that the rain was beginning to fall as we left the house…but I’m an optimist. I figured, “Either the weather report is exaggerating and this won’t come to anything or I’ll drive home in the freezing rain and put those angels to work.”

Okay, I didn’t really think about the angels. I just hoped for the best and ignored the worst.

When we left their house two hours later I was slightly worried. As we slid on our tennis shoes across the road to our car – holding tight to each other’s hands – I was a little more worried. As I started up the car, after breaking the ice on the door handles, I was in full “praying mode”.

This was one of those, “Kids, please turn off the radio and don’t talk,” car rides. What usually takes us 13 minutes took us 35. I saw a few semi trucks pulled off the road and I wondered – not for the first time – how truck drivers do what they do.

The temperature was 26 and the rain was relentless. In the dark and the conditions, I managed to make a wrong turn. I forgot to put on the Four Wheel Drive until I was about three miles from home. The ABS brakes kicked in several times.

But, despite it all, we made it home.

When the garage door finally shut behind us, I realized I was shaking.

“I never stopped praying,” Meep, our oldest daughter said.

“I prayed a little,” our son added.

The six year old was asleep.

Yep, she’s a born Minnesotan. “Mom will get us through. What’s a little ice?”

Either that or the angels were singing her a lullaby as they kept our car on the road.

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Boo Who?

12 Feb

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A sad – and yet, of course, happy – thing has happened and I must memorialize it.

I’m not quite sure how it happened. Nor am I certain that I fully believe it, but the calendar tells me that my youngest child, fondly known on this blog as Boo, is turning six years old this week. How can this be? How is it possible that she, born conveniently between snowstorms – one which kept us trapped at home for 3 days, less than a week after she was born – could be six? Somehow six sounds so much older than five. So much more grown up.

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I have before me my old copy of A. A. Milne’s book, Now We Are Six. It describes Boo’s opinions quite well. For example:

The End

When I was One, / I had just begun.
When I was Two, / I was nearly new.
When I was Three, / I was hardly Me.
When I was Four, / I was not much more.
When I was Five, / I was just alive.
But now I am Six, I’m as clever as clever. / So I think I’ll be six now for ever and ever.
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Or this one, titled Us Two

Wherever I am, there’s always Pooh, / There’s always Pooh and Me. / Whatever I do, he want to do, / “Where are you going today?” says Pooh: / “Well, that’s very odd ‘cos I was too. / Let’s go together,” says Pooh, says he. / “Let’s go together,” says Pooh.

“Let’s look for dragons,” I said to Pooh. / “Yes, let’s,” said Pooh to Me. / We crossed the river and found a few – / “Yes, those are dragons all right,” said Pooh. / “As soon as I saw their beaks I knew. / That’s what they are,” said Pooh, said he. / “That’s what they are,” said Pooh.

“Let’s frighten the dragons,” I said to Pooh. / “That’s right,” said Pooh to Me. / “I’m not afraid,” I said to Pooh, / And I held his paw and I shouted “Shoo! / Silly old dragons!” – and off they flew. / “I wasn’t afraid, “said Pooh, said he, / “I’m never afraid with you.”

So wherever I am, there’s always Pooh, / There’s always Pooh and Me. / “What would I do?” I said to Pooh, / “If it wasn’t for you,” and Pooh said: “True, / It isn’t much for One, but Two / can stick together, “ says Pooh, says he. / “That’s how it is, “ says Pooh.
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Boo’s “Pooh” that sticks with her almost wherever she goes is called “Buddy”. Buddy is a crocheted baby blanket, bought for Boo by my Aunt Betsy. And Buddy is Boo’s best pal. Buddy is the background – or foreground – of almost every baby photo of Boo…and toddler photo…and pre-schooler photo…

The earliest recorded proof of the importance of Buddy...at less than two months old.

The earliest recorded proof of the importance of Buddy…at less than two months old.


Even Daddy likes Buddy.

Even Daddy likes Buddy.

We prepared Boo for kindergarten far in advance, by warning her that Buddy would not be allowed in school – at least, not out of her backpack. “He isn’t a student,” we said. “Though I know you wish he could sit beside you.”

“She,” Boo corrected us. “Buddy is a she.”

“Of course. I always forget.”

Luckily, Buddy travels well.  Makes for happier plane rides.

Luckily, Buddy travels well. Makes for happier plane rides.


Buddy likes the ferryboat.

Buddy likes the ferryboat.

The first days of kindergarten last fall, Buddy hung out in the backpack. That first week was great fun. Adrenaline was high. Excitement huge. Fear very low.

The second week, the adrenaline was lower, the excitement tinged by homesickness, the fears rising fast. Buddy-in-the-backpack wasn’t enough.

So we sent a piece of yarn in Boo’s pocket. Yarn felt like Buddy; could be fingered and caressed throughout the day. The yarn was an “Assistant Buddy” – that’s what Boo called it, not “substitute” but “Assistant”.

Sometimes Buddy makes a good wig.

Sometimes Buddy makes a good wig.


Buddy was irreplacable when Boo spent 4 days in the hospital when she was two.

Buddy was irreplacable when Boo spent 4 days in the hospital when she was two.

But soon all the pants (or dresses) with pockets were dirty and what now? Where does the yarn go when there is no pocket to hold it?

Around the neck, of course.

This lasted a few weeks and then, one morning, “assistant Buddy” was forgotten in the excitement of morning preparations.

And Boo survived the day just fine.

Halloween candy tastes better with Buddy.

Halloween candy tastes better with Buddy.

Now, several months down the road of maturity, Boo – and Buddy – have reached another milestone.

Buddy is beginning to unravel.

The blessed unraveling.

The blessed unraveling.

Quite badly.

The Sailboat King and I believe this is from God.

It was the final acceptance of our new rule that Buddy Must Stay in Bed All Day and Not be Dragged Around the House/into the Car/in the Backpack.

Note Buddy on the ground.

Note Buddy on the ground.

Buddy, being introduced to the new "tent" one Christmas Day.

Of course, another Assistant Buddy has arisen.

Lamby.

Lamby...found after much hunting, hiding on the rocking chair.  Lamby - as her predecesor Buddy - tends to wander off.

Lamby…found after much hunting, hiding on the rocking chair. Lamby – as her predecesor Buddy – tends to wander off.


Made of wool yarn and equally appealing in texture.

But far less grubby…for now at least.

And so our six year old progresses on her route to emancipation. One step at a time. And, as long as she’s got Buddy – or some approximation thereof – she can fight dragons with the best of them.

Just like Christopher Robin – “As clever as clever” – forever and ever.
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