Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Great Minnesota Get Together 2011

It's the once a year event that we all look forward to...The Minnesota State Fair!

My parents are big fans of the fair, and my favorite memory is going down the giant slide with my brother Paul. The year we tried the slide, my Dad decided to go with us. To show us the ropes, as it were.

For most kids, it's a nice, meandering ride down a huge yellow track, while sitting on an old gunny sack. Given the fact that my Dad was probably 150-200 pounds heavier than us, his ride was anything but meandering.

My Dad went flying down the slide at the speed of lightening, while my brother and I looked at each other with eyes as wide as saucers, wondering what was going to happen!

Mom was watching from the bottom, and wondering the same thing.

That day, my Dad had worn his favorite work shoes to the fair.

Good walking shoes.

At the end of the giant slide was a very thick rubber mat. When your gunny sacks hit the rubber, it would slow you down, and you'd jump up from the sack, and beg to ride again.

Poor Dad.

His shoes had about 2 inches of rubber coating the bottom, and his feet actually hit the rubber mat, BEFORE his gunny sack. When his shoes hit the mat, it stopped him instantly, and the motion propelled him straight up in the air. He went from sitting on the sack to a standing position, and then went stumbling/falling forward like a really bad scene out of a movie.

All in the space of about 3 seconds

"DAD! Are you all right?"

Dad was all right, except his pride was a little bruised.

Mom was laughing too hard to speak.

Best year at the Fair ever!

Mom and Dad-MN State Fair 2011

Monday, August 29, 2011

Frogs on WIndshields

            The Prude, while not a frog-kissing sort of gal, nonetheless has demonstrated compassion for amphibians.

            Before her husband heads out to mow the lawn, she yoo-hoos and stamps the grass, warning small toads and frogs to leap off to non-grassy areas lest they be compacted, diced and spewn out for mulch.

            In her college days, one soft and drizzly spring evening, The Prude and her roommates took a walk down a quiet road, having heard that rain was good for the complexion. As they strolled and saturated their pores, they noticed a lone toad ever so slowly trying to cross the road.  The ladies feared for the toad.  Any moment a vehicle could have come along and extinguished its little life.  Since coeds of this type and nature Did Not Handle Toads, they took turns nudging it across the street with their 70’s-style shoes.  Somewhere between the centerline and the safety of the opposite ditch the coeds noticed the toad no longer responded to their nudges. They beat a hasty retreat, leaving the warty corpse a victim of good intentions and clunky shoes.

            This all should convince you that, when The Prude was driving her jeep on a recent soft and drizzly night and saw a three-inch frog staring at her through the damp windshield, she bore it no malice.

            (At this point The Prude should address with some anxiety the threat of small frogs dropping from the sky onto windshields of the innocent but she doesn’t want to be an alarmist.)

            All along the 3-lane highway the frog clung to the rain-spotted windshield, adjusting its position occasionally but never taking its bulgy eyes off The Prude. It practically dared her to turn on the windshield wipers. Whenever her hand would, of its own accord, creep toward that lever, the frog would blink at her.

            The Prude and the frog continued at this impasse all the way through town: Frog glaring and daring, Prude twitchy and neurotic. 

            The duo reached a country road.  The frog’s demeanor changed.  It sniffed the air from where The Prude assumed its nostrils to be. It heard the Call of the Wild from where its ears skulked. Its muscles tensed.  So did The Prude’s.  She knew what was coming. She moaned, but to no avail.  Sneering, the frog relieved itself on the windshield. Twice.

            Then, before The Prude could shout out a warning, the frog took a giant leap into the air. From a vehicle going 57 miles an hour. Nothing was left but the trail of ick from its backside.

            Somewhere, if there is an amphibian afterlife, a toad and a small frog are comparing notes on who or what done them in and how they plan to get even.  Henceforth, The Prude plans to carry an umbrella.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Babies Don't Keep

The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
for children grow up, as I've learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep.
Ruth Hulbert Hamilton

When our children were very small, we lived in a small, blue, ranch style house in St. Louis. All of the kids shared a bedroom in our home, except for the baby, whoever that was at the moment.

We painted the baby’s room a creamy yellow. The maple crib was used by all our babies and matched the dresser and changing table. The only other piece of furniture in the small room was a rocking chair my father had found at a garage sale. We had painted it black hoping it would blend in with the other furniture. Every afternoon, I would remove the family of stuffed animals from the rocker and the baby and I would read picture books and rock.

Jenny loved Berenstain Bears. Jon's favorite book was Toulose the Chocolate Moose. Julie adored Honey Bear. Joy, our last sweet baby, loved stories about baby animals.

As, I rocked our baby before their afternoon nap, I often pondered this poem, hanging over the changing table. It was a constant reminder to me that the quiet time I was spending with this little one was more important than cleaning, or cooking or laundry.
I am so glad that I took that time with my children. While they were too little to remember those precious moments, I remember them with a tender joy and gratitude.

Today, while babysitting our two youngest grandchildren, Samantha and Madelyn, I was amazed how true that poem is even for a grandma.

Babies don't keep.

Our oldest grandchild, Nicole, will soon be 15. I spent hundreds of hours pushing the swing, picking dandelions and playing dollies with this little girl. Our only grandson, Kevin, is 11 ½. Every minute we have spent with our loving, intelligent and creative boy has been a gift. We know God has wonderful things for his future. Now, the other two are growing and changing before our eyes.

So, once again, and with great joy, I am putting the cleaning and scrubbing on notice: "Quiet down cobwebs! Dust go to sleep. I'm rocking my (grand) babies and babies don't keep."

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Peek at a Piping Plover

We're in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

We've hiked up "mountains," down beaches, and along trails.

We've just come back from the Au Sable Light Station near Grand Marais, and the grandgirl and I are hiked out. She just wants to crash in the cabin with her Littlest Pet Shop critters and her case of plastic fish. I just want to make some coffee, put up my feet, and eye my slice of blackberry pie from the West Bay Diner in anticipation of having it later--warm, ala mode.

So Dennis takes off on his own for an early evening beach trek.

He's gone a long time.

I steal a couple bites of pie.

He's all excited when he bursts through the door. "I wish I'd taken my phone! I wish I'd taken the camera!"

He rattles on about piping plovers and how he's seen one, and I say I never heard of a piping plover.

Grace pops her bag of popcorn and bottle of vitamin water into a sand pail. I slide my shoes back on and slip the camera strap over my head.

We hike down the hill.

At the bottom, Dennis looks at my shorts (bermuda length--he's wearing swim trunks) and says, "You know we have to cross two bodies of water."

Ummm, you could have told me that earlier. I'm not climbing back up to change.

We cross the road and follow the sandy trail surrounded by trees and beach grass.

"How far is it?

"See that house down there? Just a bit past it."

Uh huh.

I know what "just a bit" means to him. I prepare myself for another hike. Grace is cool with the whole thing when we tell her we'll gather some stones on the way back.

We pass some signs.

We come to the "bodies of water," little lakes with swirling rapids. I fold the bottoms of my shorts up as high as I can. Grace hikes up her dress.

In the distance I see two chairs and a woman with a pair of binoculars trained on something.

She comes to meet us as we close in on her.

She's a volunteer here from Marquette to monitor the endangered piping plover. She says they look for nests and then take turns watching over the chicks from dawn to dark.

She's out here watching a single babe, a late bloomer, the last one around. It's tried, but it can't fly yet, and the other plovers have headed south. She thinks the dad might still be here, but she hasn't seen him lately. Mom has gone.

She says she hopes the wee one will be able to take wing in a couple of days, and we talk a little about the mystery of bird migration.

We can hardly see the little thing skittering up and down at the edge of a pool of water, perfectly camouflaged by the sand and cobble. Just a ball of fluff. Almost invisible. All alone. It doesn't seem too concerned about us, but we keep our distance. I'm glad I have my big girl camera.

Part of her job is also community education. She tells us that she's found dead babies on the beach, run over by ATVs, and how they encourage people to hold off on that kind of fun during the nesting period. She also tells us how important it is to leave driftwood on the beach for protection, not to remove or burn it. And, of course, to keep dogs leashed.

We don't linger long before we start back through the "bodies of water." Dennis tells me it looks like I wet my pants. And that he knows I'm disappointed about missing the eagle shot and about not seeing a moose or a bear on this trip, but he thinks this sighting of a piping plover baby is so much better.

When I tell my sister about this, she repeats over and over, "She left him? His mother LEFT him?"

I think about how sometimes we feel invisible and about how small we are in the whole scheme of things. And yet our Father knows each of us, each feather of our fluff, and has His eye trained on us, always watches day and night. Never leaves us alone.

And never, never, no not ever, leaves us without His wing of protection.

An article by a piping plover monitor.

Some piping plover photos

Piping Plover Fact Sheet

Friday, August 26, 2011

10 Ways to Know It's Time for September

1. You let the kids play with the water hose -- in the living room.

2. Mom and dad are doing full-out cannon ball dives into the community swimming pool -- that is, until they ask you to leave.

3. Bedtime is now 7:30 sharp -- in the morning.

4. You roasted smores with the kids over an open fire last night -- that is after the marshmallow catches fire on your stovetop.

5. You make truckloads of lemonade for dinner -- using the water from the fire hydrant.

6. You call your friends and tell them you're calling from seaside at Martha's "Grape" Vineyard -- actually you're sitting in a 2 foot plastic wading pool, after your son smears grape jelly all over his face.

7. You contact Carnival Cruise Line on-line and ask if they will sell your family one way tickets.

8. You tell your husband you're having "shrimp on the barbie" for supper -- actually its your way of telling your husband that your five-year-old daughter left her favorite doll on the gas grille.

9. You call your favorite baby-sitter and insist tonight they read a story and make macaroni and cheese -- for you.

10. Mom finally takes a nap -- but doesn't notice, under the sprinkler.

Picture above in our four oldest children (out of six) at the end of August 1990.

Cheryl Moeller with Momlaughs does her comedy mainly in the Midwest.  Why?  She's taking over the Midwest, one state at a time.  Cheryl's latest Kindle book, Help! Mom's Stuck on Spin Cycle answers the proverbial question, "Why do I lose both of my socks in the dryer?" Other people lose one sock, but I lose both.  Buy here

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hope For Scowling Gardens

By this time of summer, my garden is frowning. Literally. All the perky annuals are wilted by the relentless August sun. My salvia is spent. My bee balm is tired. And my aster and mums haven't yet popped open any colorful bursts of brightness. What to do?

Solution: Garden Art

I'm not talking swanky little trolls. While cute in a freakish sort of way, those ceramic wonders (now on clearance) are not particularly inspiring. But before all you troll lovers come after me with pitchforks, just listen for a minute. If you're going to go to all the trouble of jazzing up your garden, why not choose some pieces that seriously make you think?

Here's one of my favorites. Granted, my photographic skills leave much to be desired. Those birds are not actually pecking out the dude's brains. I like to think of them as symbolizing the Holy Spirit, who frequently has to knock me on the head to get my attention, or to sometimes drill truth into my skull, and not just from one direction but two.

Notice the hands. Held upward, ready and grasping on to whatever God sends. Then check out the big cross emblazoned the length of this fella's body. What a great reminder of the largeness of what Jesus did for me. At the bottom, this piece splits into three, symbolizing the Trinity.

Here's another sweet way to revive your
flowers and your spirit in one fell swoop. On one side of these markers are Bible verses. On the other, a reminder of God's nature.

These are just a few examples of unique garden art. Remember: it won't be long before winter white blankets everything. Swipe that scowl off your garden's face and go for it now.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Under His Wings, with Liz Tolsma

From our guest, Liz Tolsma, today, please welcome her!

Do you remember the magical moment you first read Little House on the Prairie? With each page I turned, I became more and more drawn to Laura Ingalls’ life – into what I saw as a very romantic lifestyle. Getting to wear dresses all the time appealed to this girly-girl. So did braids and ribbons in my hair. Before I knew I wasn’t a go-camping-in-a-tent kind of person, I thought traveling over the grassy prairie by covered wagon would be so cool. And having a dog, too. In those days I didn’t have one, but longed for a companion as faithful as Jack the brindle bulldog.
When summer came, my sisters and our friends would divide the yard into homesteads and “cook” our salads made of grass and berries. In the winter, we’d tie my dad’s robes around our waists and pretend we wore long skirts. As I swooped down the stairs (never walked or bounded, but swooped), I’d imagine my long train trailing several steps behind me.
I guess that fascination with days gone by hasn’t waned. Years ago, I loved to play pretend. Today, my writing allows me to continuing doing that even though I’m all grown up. So imagine my glee when I opened my email one day to a note from my agent that Barbour Publishing was looking for log cabin Christmas stories. I was born to write this story!
And that is how Under His Wings came to be. Years ago, when I first started this book, I did research at a logging museum in northern Wisconsin. I drank in every word on the placards and studied each item carefully. As soon as I got the contract, my friend and I set off in search of a log cabin. We were blessed to be among the only visitors that day at the museum we found, and the docent gave us his full attention, telling us all about the log cabin – how it was built, who lived there, how they survived. I combed over the humble dwelling and pictured myself tending to my biscuits baking over the fire.
To me, that’s the best part of being a historical writer – I still get to play pretend even though I’m all grown up. And I don’t have to sleep under my covered wagon!

About Liz' story in the book, Log Cabin Christmas, which releases in September:
Under His Wings is the story of lovely and lively Adie O’Connell, stranded for the winter and defenseless in a logging camp full of uncouth men. Lumberjack Noah Mitchell, having promise her late father he’d protect Adie, proposes a marriage of convenience. Adie is opposed, but when another jack, Derek Owens, continues threatening her, she agrees to the wedding. But their union may not be enough to keep either Adie or Noah safe. Will she lose her heart – and maybe Noah – before Christmas arrives?

Liz Tolsma has lived in Wisconsin most of her life, and she now resides next to a farm field with her husband, their son, and their two daughters. Add a dog and a cat to that mix and there’s always something going on at their house. She’s spent time teaching second grade, writing advertising for a real estate company, and working as a church secretary, but she always dreamed of becoming an author. When not busy putting words to paper, she enjoys reading, walking, working in her large perennial garden, kayaking, and camping with her family. She’d love to have you visit her at www.liztolsma.com or at www.liztolsma.blogspot.com.
Soli Deo Gloria

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

How a Midwesterner sees the...West

So, trips, PART II.
Note: this was not a Vacation...this was a Trip. There is a difference. We left Wisconsin, headed west toward Washington State and Canada. Although I'd been through Walla Walla at one point in the past, I'd never been up the coast or seen those mountains. I gotta say, Washington State is pretty cool, despite the Palouse Hills, which are in desperate need of trees.

We do not have volcanoes in Wisconsin, for which, despite their beauty, I am grateful...Mount St. Helens here:

We have a fantastic great lake and beach, but no horseshoe crabs, like this poor cracked one on the Pacific Ocean shore:

And, chicken that I am, I am glad we do not need events that prompt these signs:

Victoria...okay, if there was a vacation part, this was it. Very cool. Amazing flowers. Even got in a little on BC Day. They have the James Joyce Bistro:

Alberta has a very cool road kill policy, which we haven't thought of yet in Wisconsin:

So, it was a nice trip, rural Saskatchewan was quite the adventure, I got to use my passport and sees fun things. But there's no place like home. Did you get away this summer? Where to?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Field and Sky of Illinois

Just over a week ago, my girls and I went on a road trip up through Illinois, and I have to tell you, I enjoyed the company and the state. ;-) Central Illinois may be flat and boring to many, but as we rolled north, I saw beauty and grace...

When I moved to Illinois I left the Andes mountains and before that I lived in view of the Atlantic on the coast of Maine. So, to be honest, I really wasn't sure how I'd do without mountains and without the ocean. But God is good...

It didn't take me long at all to fall in love with the wide open fields of Illinois. It's a different kind of beauty from the mountains and the ocean, but just as addicting. The many shades of green and watching the crops grow throughout the years fascinate me.

I see God's fingerprint all over Illinois and have grown to love the land and the history that surrounds me. I wish the old barns could speak and tell me their stories. I'm sure they have much to tell.

The sky has captured my heart as well. While in the city I've found I miss the sky and look forward to getting back to the country where I can watch the seasons and weather roll across us. This last trip was no exception. A few days of being on the out-skirts of a city had me feeling boxed in and eager to get on the road home. Once we were back in the corn fields I felt better.

This truck said it all...

Where would we be without God's great grace?

So tell me, what's your favorite feature of your state?

Finding the Extraordinary God in our Ordinary Lives

Sunday, August 21, 2011


The car was hot. Summers are like that in Kansas and we did not have air-conditioning. Our family took a camping vacation out west. We visited the Badlands, Mount Rushmore and the Rockies. On the way back to Indiana, my parents wanted to drive through Miltonvale, Kansas to see our denomination’s college campus.

Miltonvale was a small town with a population of perhaps 8000. As my father drove up one street and down another pulling our camper behind us, my mother kept suggesting we ask for directions. My dad refused, saying, “I will not ask for directions in a little town like Miltonvale!” Eventually we found the campus. It was very small and boring to a kid like me.

'Mount Rushmore 5' photo (c) 2006, Liz Lawley - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

How often have we approached life with the same attitude? “I will not ask for directions.” We imagine that we have all the necessary knowledge and skills to reach our goals. However, we set our sights on objects that ultimately disappoint us. Then doubt overwhelms us and we ask why we feel so let down and heartbroken. We wonder how we ended up in such a mess.

The ancient Jewish prophet, Isaiah declared, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way….” (Isaiah 53:6) That is the answer to most of our questions. We simply did what seemed best to us. We did not ask God for directions. If we did, we did not follow his advice. We chose to live life on our terms, as we saw fit and now the results disappoint us.

Good news for all of us! God waits and longs to help us follow his way out of the messes we created. He will not hold a grudge or find fault with us. He simply invites us to ask him for directions – to trust him to lead us to an exciting and fulfilling life.

Jesus will lead you to people, places and situations that will heal and refresh your spirit. The LORD says, "I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.” (Psalm 32:8) Take his promise to heart. You will always enjoy his company as he leads you on new adventures – maybe even in a little town like Miltonvale, Kansas.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Great Lakes Adventure

It was the final trip to the airport when the last of our Faith Writer’s members checked their baggage and boarded their flight home. The afternoon was spent resting, visiting, and—for me—grocery shopping. (I love Trader Joe’s and stock up on all my favorites when near one.) When loading my minivan that afternoon, a puzzle was assembled in the back trying to make sure there was enough room for four passengers, luggage, and my groceries. 
 As I shuffled, re-arranged, and stretched my exhausted brain, I remembered another time of packing and unpacking my family and I tackled. 

It was our first family vacation since the two older children were 5 and 6-years old. (There was the four of us then and it was a 3-day jaunt to Cedar Point’s hotel.) This time, we (6 of us) packed—or should I say, jammed—the minivan, prepared for a 21-day tour of the Great Lakes. Oh, the memories! 
 If our van had rebelled and spoken to us as Balaam’s donkey, I would have understood its frustration at our abuse. It didn’t, though, and we eventually lightened the load as the food disappeared. 

Loading and unloading the van was an adventure in creativity and ingenuity; but it was not our only adventure. We began that trip in the cloak of night, scooting across I-94 to the west side of Michigan where we huddled in the shelter of our van while it stormed around us, and then prayed that once the break of day came that police would be blinded to our month-overdue license plates. Once the plates were taken care of, we skirted around the southern tip of Lake Michigan through Indiana and Illinois, headed for Sheboygan, Wisconsin where our first camp site was waiting for us. 

Kohler St. Park. Sheboygan, WI
Lake Michigan. Sheboygan, WI
From there, we headed to Wells, Michigan for a night and re-negotiated our itinerary due to the fires in the Tahquamenon Falls region. 
Wells, MI
At the suggestion of my father, we considered visiting McClain State Park in the Keweenaw Peninsula, but opted for Pictured Rock instead. 

Our son was intent on seeing Lake Superior.

Our arrival was met with disappointment when we were told all sites were filled. By the time we made it to McClain St. Park, it was 10-minutes to close. After mentioning to the ranger my longing for a nice quiet site and sleep, she smiled, “Well, don’t judge your site until morning.”

I didn’t listen.

The sites were so close to the neighbors I could hear the guy whispering his conversation next to us. When I ran into that same ranger at the ladies’ restroom, she reminded me, “Wait until morning before making your judgment.”

Morning came.

View of Lake Superior from McClain St. Park 
Stopping along the way to Copper Harbor

Four days later we headed for Tahquamenon Falls to stay for a week. A favorite by far. 


After leaving there, we dropped into the Lower Peninsula and met my father and his wife at a campground near them.  
Often, we talk of making another trip, with hopes to visit the copper mines, Porcupine Mountains, and camp at Pictured Rock. I've lived in Michigan all my life and have never realized how much the Great Lakes has to behold.

Thank you for listening as I rummaged through days past. It's been a pleasure to share some of my favorite places to visit and inhale the majestic beauty of God's creation.

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Dry and Thirsty Land

Psalm 63:1
O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land
, where no water is;

After the heavy spring rains which prevented timely planting, the dry weather came. Like all farmers, Husband hates to see the crops suffering.  
Before he pulled out the irrigation rig, Husband gave thanks that we aren't having a flash drought like some parts of the country where the crops are totally dried up with no prospects for a harvest.

When the hose was completely unrolled, Husband
 aimed the gun. Then he put the tractor away. 
 What a beautiful sight as he turned on the water.
 Beautiful. Refreshing. The beans soaked it up.
 Q4U: What are the prospects for harvest in your part of the world?


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