Saturday, July 26, 2008

Campfire time!

We finally had friends over for a CAMPFIRE!

We had been waiting for the perfect window of time, not too hot, not too cold, not too many mosquitoes, not too busy. It never came, so we just went for it! We decided to invite several families whom we haven't seen for a long time, knowing they wouldn't all be able to make it, and they (almost) all came!

Heidi and her boys came over first, which was a big blessing, as we had lots of things to wrap up, not the least of which, getting our laundry off the line. Her three blessings happily helped reel everything in and cart it into the house.

We BBQed turkey dogs and had them all warming in the roaster oven by the time everyone else started showing up. Much poultry was scarfed by all! Lauren brought a most excellent cabbage salad, the recipe for which I wish she would give me ASAP.

Heidi's hubby, J, met the rest of their tribe at our house. He, along with EVERYONE, was relieved (I think) to see the improved sanitary standards in our kitchen, as the remodel moves along. J is doing his basement at present, which sounds fun.

It seems our nearest neighbors, James and Anne and family, are the ones we have he hardest time ever seeing! Dave so much enjoys visiting with other dads, and this was no exception.

Zak always takes advantage of his visits with the Baxters, extracting as much guitar expertise as he can from Mark. Funny, Zak also has this same lighthouse Tshirt Mark is wearing in this photo. Coincidence?

Solomon took over the fire maintenance, as song time began. Mark and Zak took turns leading and following. Mark is just all over that fret board.

The high ratio of mosquito to people inspired Mark to create his new, old, standard, "the mosquito blues".

We set up lemonade and zuchinni bread stations nearby, in case the need arose. And it did.

We always tell our children, "Its only because of the Lord that we can have special times like this with our family in Christ!"

Sunday, July 20, 2008

By God's grace, 23 wonderful years!

After our visit from the grandparents, we took a little early evening trip the day after our 23rd to Roche A Cri park, where there is (woo-woo) 300 foot observation tower. It is built around a mound comprised of glacial moraine...just a big pile of rocks. It was cool and breezy at the top, and Dave and I were hot and breathless at the top!

We got married at 18 and 19, and many people thought we were too young and wouldn't make it. I don't know, the first 23 years have been good...

Love beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things....

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Invasion of the "old people"!

(We call them "grandparents", but...Grandpa says, "us old people".)

Grandpa inspires fun just by showing up!

Grandma is a good sport too!

We had a great time of visiting and chatting, often in the house, as it suddenly got pretty hot outside! Grandma and Grandpa always have helpful ideas for stuff we are working on, such as Grandma's suggestion of using Comet cleanser to clean a dirty ice chest....DUH! It worked so good!

We enjoyed an evening walk with G&G, but poor Grandma is apparently immune to insect repellent and got munched badly! At least the skeeters were happy?

Dave had to work for the first day they were here, but took off Friday, so we had more time for visiting.

Grandma enjoyed seeing the new kitchen improvements! She suggested those counter corners were a certain trip to the ER, so we got wise and covered them with foam bumpers. Grandma is always a help with dishes. The kids have to be fast or she'll just do them all in a wink.

On their last day here, it was Dave and my T W E N T Y - T H I R D anniversary, so we coerced Grandma into making two of her many specialities: cabbage rolls and banana cream pudding pie. Ben and Abi made video of most of this, and she taught the girls all the tricks to these yummy Klein favorites.

While waiting for dinner to finish cooking, we played "dictionary". Poor Grandpa did not know what kind of, um, intelligence he was up against. When it was his turn to pick the word that all the players would "define", Ben had a doozie for him, and he nearly fell out of his chair trying to read it. I am sure its one of those "you had to be there" things. Ben is always willing to sacrifice a chance to win (by making a convincing definition) by causing an uproar with his crazy ones.

Dinner was yummy, and it was hard to say goodbye! We sent them off exhausted to the next set of grandchildren!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


As we approach our baby's August 22 due date, we are also awaiting some unknown due dates, as there are some other expectant mothers at our house...

Here is Soozie Duck, nesting alongside our old kitchen sink (we thought it would make a nice nesting box, but she did not). The females don't escape from the pen anymore, as they are content to lay around on their eggs, only leaving long enough to get some food and water occasionally. We only have three females left (one got sick or poisoned), and the eggs are kind of community property, with two of the moms sitting on adjacent nests.

We are wondering who will be first, us with our baby, or the ducklings.

We've been busy on our myriad projects and jobs, and especially were getting ready for an upcoming visit from Grandma and Grandpa Klein, so attempts were made to clean up, and everyone had something to do. Here are the little boys doing "furniture diving"

Since our our kitchen is so lacking in cabinets, most of its furniture is freestanding stuff from garage sales. Actually, this is nice, because you can move it around wherever you want to put it (like they do alot in Mexico). However, stuff accumulates, so its good to regularly clean out underneath it. You find utensils, pens, hardware, the occasional banana peel, the occasional undergarment, etc.

If you've got bandwidth, here is the video, so you can see what childlike fun really is...

So, everyone was pretty busy, but some of the older kids were just standing around for a long time...

After the Kleins' visit here last year, we were really hoping to make some headway in the kitchen. We are afraid poor Grandma had nightmares about our old counter/sink! Before that could get done, we had to attach the matching backsplash against the wall. The material had to be clamped for a while, so the adhesive would take.

Zak really pushed on getting the counters done and finished hours before the grandparents arrival...

This is the long, L counter, upside down. To help conceal the uneven floor, we made the sides extra deep, or tall..

Zak has studied up on making countertops so much, he could probably do it in his sleep. First you glue on the edge pieces and trim them with a router.

Since they were working with contact cement, we did most everything outside.

And here you go! The formica pattern was chosen to match the floor model sink we already had. The counters around the sink will be tricky, but the main counter was done! You can just make out the sink in the background hopefully. The installation of that will make this seem like a brand new house to us!

The garden has been growing like gangbusters, but production seems a little behind last year. We are thinking that the bees are just not doing their thing. Our cucumbers have produced zero, even though they are vigorous and flowering. Tomatoes are growing, but not prolifically. The green beans and snow peas have done well though.

Zucchinis are doing well, and we have three rows of them! But I think even they are not producing like last year. Our favorite zuke dish is to dice them up and put them out in the bus, in our big roaster oven, mixed with basil, garlic, onion, chopped pepperoni, diced tomatoes, and some oil. We stir it every 20 minutes or so until done (375?). Then we drain it and top it with mozzarella. Its yum!

And of course, we have made a few loaves of zucchini bread.

Green beans are Mommy's favorite, eaten fresh and raw of course. Why anyone cooks them, I will never understand. Most of the little kids now eat them raw too. Delicious! But we are trying to save some for freezing too.

Well, more on baby soon! I am just trying to deal with all these pixels!

Friday, July 04, 2008

When the going gets tough, the tough call MEXICO!

The kitchen remodel is moving ahead well, and we are learning all the time. We went to order formica countertops, to match the installed, under-mounted sink we got over a year ago. It has an interesting formica finished, etched to look like granite. Not what we would have picked, but it simplifies getting the sink installed and was very inexpensive! Dave decided to get matching formica for the exposed wall under the wall cabinets, which is a very good idea!

So we went to the home store, and the cabinet/counter guy very graciously informed Zak that his cabinet depth was 3/4 inch greater than standard depth. Zak was bummed and felt a little dumb, but all it really means is we will make our own counters, which will be vastly less expensive. He's over it now. We are learning all the time, and that really is more important than the actual kitchen.

Sarah salvaged the old kitchen wall cabinets. She painted them with Killz paint, so they'd be able to stand the humidity in the basement. I found a couple of clearance jugs on sale at Walmart, miss-mixed or something. It turned out really nice.

Just one teency problem, which nobody thought about until they tried to navagate the hairpin U turn heading down to the basement. Can you guess? No way that thing was going down stairs in one piece! So, we made a little change in plans, and put them up in Mom and Dad's room.

Sarah's consolation was that the wall shelf Zak had built for us previously (which is way smaller) would fit easily in the basement, and she wasn't really crazy about the colors (pink and purple) of the newer shelves.

Since our house is so small, it takes a lot of maneuvering and forethought before you do any significant moving of furniture. All the free standing stuff in the kitchen had to be moved before the attempt to put the shelves in the basement. Then put back. Then we had to empty the front entry way to back the huge unit in there, and then stack a bunch of stuff on our bed so they could get the shelf in. It's kind of like watching a team of ants working on bread crusts.

Anyway, in keeping with our post title about Mexico, I will backtrack a bit: Upon our return from Rhinelander, Dave departed for a conference in Virginia. He was due home Sunday after church in Madison. We were hoping to accomplish some great home project, but couldn't think of anything we could really bring to completion, other than taking dominion over our garden once more. It has rebounded from a total of 13 inches in one week, six days under water, and is doing really great, praise the Lord!

Most of the snow peas survived the attack of the ducks, and the flooding, and they are now cranking out peas! Yum!!

We have lots of little green tomatoes coming up, and hope to crank out lots of salsa soon!

Gracing our front porch are these "Jerusalem Artichokes," which we obtained from our dear friends the Brauchs. True to their promises, the bulbs or tubers or whatever they are took off like rockets! They produce little potato-like "fruits" which we enjoy. I think they are supposed to have pretty flowers at some point, too. They are hard to kill, which is definitely a plus for the Kleins!

We hoped to pick Dave up after church, but our new bus had been stalling on the road, and we couldn't trust it to bring us to Madison. We felt it was related to the fuel: either the line or pump or filter. We got a new filter, learning a lot in the process (some filters include the fuel cap, and the first one they gave us did not).

We are really encouraged by the boys' budding mechanical prowess, so I was not long upset about them using one of our best stainless steel mixing bowls to catch the diesel when they removed the old fuel filter.

(That's Sammy on the far right, who likes to help with trickier jobs.)

However, we took the bus on a test drive Saturday, the day before Dave was due home, and even with the new filter, it died on us. This meant we would certainly not all be picking up Daddy after church on Sunday; I would have to take the minivan.

However, in the most imminent problem at the time was that we were stuck on this country road, a mile from home. Fortunately, we weren't blocking traffic, as it is a country road.

It was fairly early in the day, and all we could think of was to call Uncle Danny, in Mexico!

So, Zak called him, and amazingly, he was home! Often, he would be out in the villages on weekends, with no way to contact him. Danny is an expert diesel mechanic, which has been a very practical skill for a missionary in a remote, poor area. He helps everyone from the other missionaries, the police, and the beer truck drivers. He is very well respected, and it has opened a lot of doors to sharing the gospel.

Anyway, our engine, the International 444, is the same thing he's got in his Ford truck. Zak explained the symptoms and what we had tried, and Danny says, "As soon as you said you replaced the fuel filter, I knew what it was." Wow!

So, Danny explained there is this part, the cam shaft position sensor, and when it goes bad, it shuts off your engine indiscriminately. In fact, the way Danny put it, that seems to be its only function: it does nothing until it goes bad, and then it shuts off your engine.

Well, we thank the Lord that we were able to get the bus home (after waiting a few minutes and a few tries) and then find the part that Saturday, here in town (!!!) for about $40.00. As Danny warned us, it was a bear to pull off of the engine. But they succeeded, and the second test drive was a total success, enabling us to get some diesel and take-n-bake pizza (to cover labor).

Now Daddy is back home, and we are able to travel together in one bus again. Thank you LORD!

With our kitchen still under construction, we do dishes in the front yard (unless its raining). The girls just douse themselves in insect repellent, and bring a bucket of hot water out with them.

Here we are enjoying breakfast with Daddy back at home! We have had such lovely spring-y weather, not very hot. But the mosquitoes are pretty aggressive, so we haven't eaten outside as much as we would like to.

This area has also become Hannah's main wood finishing area, when we are not dining!

A few weeks ago, we located a free L shaped formica counter top which is idea for our remodel of the attic bedroom. We needed more of a dedicated office, for various computer projects, and we are praying for a telecommuting job for Daddy, so he can work from home.

Ben installed additional wiring and outlets, and Solomon worked on getting the counter mounted at the right height. Of course, getting it up the stairs was no small feat. We took off the doors, wood trim, upstairs bedroom rail, and a bit of the counter! But it does fit perfectly, otherwise!

Coupled with a new window air conditioner, this has worked out really well for us.

We enjoyed our first campfire, after the boys mowed our trail to the fire ring. We started before sundown, with leftover beans and hot dog casserole, and enjoyed a game of "Occupation" after our meal. Since Gideon is now pushing 4, all the kids are able to play. In Occupation, everyone tells the "name keeper" (privately) an occupation. Some of them are boring, some silly, some in-between. During Gideon's first game, the list (which the name keeper reads before the guessing begins) sounded like this:

1. Zuchinni-picker
2. Saharan snow plow driver
3. Onion watcher
4. Napkin folder ... on and on... and then
12: A Giddy!

Each person takes a turn asking one person if they are one of the occupations. If they are wrong, the person asked gets a turn, and if they are right, they get to ask another person.

Every so often, the names remaining on the occupation list are re-read, to refresh everyone's memory. Whenever Daddy (the name keeper) read "A Giddy", Gideon, just coincidentally, burst into laughter and rubbed his hands together in excitement.

We let Gideon enjoy the suspense for quite awhile before bursting his bubble.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Rhinelander youth meetings

We had a very nice weekend+ at the meetings in Rhinelander in June. I will write a little about them.

Rhinelander is about 3 hours north of us, in the northwoods of Wisconsin. The area is generously speckled with lakes...so many lakes that they number some of them, I think. There is a little fellowship up there which we esteem highly. About twice a year, they host special meetings. The summer one is aimed towards young people.

The main draw is the preaching. There is no water-skiing or climbing walls at this gathering. There is also a high proportion of parents. The food is provided by the fellowship there, and it is wonderful too! Home-fixed and nutritious, with the possible exception of lots of yummy cookies which we suspect are single-handedly prepared by Pauline Whittaker!

We were really thankful to get to go this year, as Joy Clark, a friend of some friends, was speaking to the young ladies. A former missionary to Ghana, Joy shared some really valuable lessons learned in her 30+ years as a single woman. Challenged as a young girl by a family friend who told her "Joy, your name is Joy, but you're not doing too good at showing it!", she delved into the Bible to learn some important things that God says about contentment and joy. It was really a good message for all of us, single or not. Joy spent a lot of time with various young ladies throughout the weekend. We really enjoyed visiting with her and hearing about the old days...

The other main messages were very good. I don't know if they coordinated them in advance, but they all complemented one another very nicely.

We showed up a little late to the first meeting, Thursday night, to hear Roy Daniel ( son of Keith and Jenny Daniel of South Africa) discussing evidence for a young earth from Mt. St Helens! Wow -- its only one of our favorite creation evidences! Roy is a single man of 25 who really loves the Lord. He also had a good message on family life, which included the statement "When they're 18 is not in the Bible" or something like that. This is addressing the arbitrary setting of 18 as the time when young people can do whatever they please, because "now they are adults." (Reality check: those who determine to follow Jesus are supposed to do whatever HE wants, not whatever THEY want, right?) The 18 idea is exactly what Dave shared in our "Don't Shoot Yourself in the Foot" message at the Wisconsin homeschool conference this spring, so the girls and I were majorly elbowing each other during that juncture.

There is the world's idea that you learn leadership and independence (dependence on God, rather) through trial and error, just jumping in, making your own mistakes, etc. Then there is the Bible's idea that humility and servanthood are prerequisites for godly leadership.

Brandon Martin had a good message on how the family priorities of youth are indicators of spiritual maturity and growth. Rather than rushing out the door to "serve the Lord", we should be serving our family in the home first. I think it was he, or someone, who brought up the verse about "corban". Jesus rebuked those who neglected serving their parents because they were too busy "serving God".

Timothy had a very convicting message about how young people raised in a Christian home, because they have had so much opportunity to hear the gospel, would be accountable for that to God. Kind of like "To whom much is given, much will be required."

The accommodations at the Whittakers are always first rate. We slept in Abigail and Pauline's room, which has a very comfy bed, as well as two huge windows open to the south. So it was no problem waking at 3:30 AM every morning, as that was sun-up! We intended to weed some of Jackie's vigorously growing garden, to earn our keep, until our hostess-ettes got out the arsenal of trucks and dolls! Our little ones were just barely getting over their fear of huge dogs, when one came in for the night scented with SKUNK. He was temporarily banished, and I have to confess, Gideon and Sammy were not too sympathetic. (The goldfish, however, probably enjoyed the distance that the fear of Queenie kept them from his tank.)

I wish we could have brought our digital camera, so we could share some smiling faces and show off the new crop of babies! We left it at home to document the kitchen remodel. We did get some video footage, primarily greetings to the folks we left at home. Ben Wissel blessed us with an impromptu diesel primer. Every little bit helps. I enjoyed finally meeting the mother of the Bale family, Terri, a very sweet sister. We got to chat with the Dewings, whom we hope to have come visit us soon (hint hint)! We also got to have some nice farewell visits Monday on our way out, as the remodeling crew encouraged us to take our time. We played an the park and lunched with Alicia Whittaker, Rachel Conjurske, and their charges. They have such a heart for orphans; may the Lord grant them the desire of their hearts! Lastly, we stopped in to see the Brainards, under the ruse of picking up our bug spray (which we failed to do!). Sammy, Gideon and Susanna especially liked playing and getting chased by Roy D. who was still at their home. "Come and play with the African!" he tells them. (Didn't have the heart to tell him that they really think he's Austraillian!)

We trust the Lord really worked through the messages and testimonies shared and we are hoping to get the recordings of these talks so we can share them with the kitchen remodeling crew who had to stay home. Maybe they can send some of Pauline's cookies too!