Thursday, June 30, 2011

A "Joyful" Surprise

Imagine my surprise when I woke up this morning to find that Mary Ann from, "A Joyful Chaos", had featured my little blog on her wonderful website!  I was humbled by her kind words, and honored that so many of her followers have hopped on over to pay me a visit.

Thank you all for your lovely and hilarious comments throughout the day.  It felt like Christmas with a full inbox of little notes to read. You have all been a tremendous blessing to me today.

In 2009, I stumbled upon Mary Ann's blog by pure chance and I was instantly drawn to her story.  It's always been fascinating for me to read about the journeys and twists and turns in life that make people who they are today. I'm of the notion that the life stories of  seemingly ordinary people are often extraordinary. When I started reading "A Joyful Chaos", Mary Ann was recounting the years when she and LV were just young Amish children, and I had a hunch that these two were going to marry some day.  Like a good book that I couldn't put down, I had to keep coming back every day to find out what happened next.  I was purely an anonymous blog reader for well over a year, and then I joined the ranks of the many wonderful people who loved reading her blog, and became an "official" follower.  It's been a great adventure, and I'm eagerly anticipating each new piece of her puzzle as she shares more of her history with us.

Thank you Mary Ann for your kind thoughts today!


Monday, June 27, 2011

"This Scale Lies"

"The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don't want, drink what you don't like, and do what you'd rather not."- Mark Twain
There is a shiny, new electronic scale in my bathroom.  A scale that you tap with your toe to turn on, and then it tells you your weight in digital fashion. It's fancy. It's accurate. I hate it.

Here's why:

For nearly eleven years, an ugly white scale has lived on the bathroom floor next to the shower.  I'll call it "Old Trusty".  Old Trusty has a manual lever to zero him, and a little circular dial that spins when you step on him.  The plastic covering over the dial has been gone for at least 7 years.  The laminate is curling up around the edges, and occasionally you have to jump up and down on the scale to un-stick the dial.

"Old Trusty" definitely has his quirks... the biggest one is that he is roughly ten pounds my favor.  That's the trait that I've always loved best about him.  Whenever I hop on the scale, he shows me the number that I want to see. 

Oh the back of my mind I know to add ten pounds to that number, but that never really bothered me.  I think it's flattering that "Old Trusty" tells me what I want to hear.  He doesn't see my love handles, or junk in the trunk. As far as he's concerned, I'm still in good shape.

"Old Trusty" has been with me through all of my pregnancies, and he never told a soul how much weight I gained each month.  He was there with me during the postpartum years when I begrudgingly did Denise Austin Work-out videos, and sweated to the oldies with Richard Simmons to lose my "baby" weight.  It doesn't matter that he's old and ugly.  It's the inside that matters most, and "Old Trusty" had a heart of gold.  He never wanted to hurt my feelings by telling me that I ate too many blizzards.  He would never suggest that I lay off of the cheesecake.  No.  He loved me just the way I was.

Then my mother-in-law came to stay at my house as a wildfire evacuee while we were on vacation.  She started to clean things, and organize things, and replace old things.  She stepped on "Old Trusty" and he told her that she lost ten pounds.  She was flattered.  She was excited.  She was hopeful. 

Then she began to doubt.  She was skeptical.  She was disillusioned.  She was mad.  She took "Old Trusty" to the garage and put a sticky note on him saying, "This scale lies!!!"

She went to the store and bought a new scale.  A scale with bells and whistles.  A scale that tells (gasp)....the truth! Oh the horror!!!


I know that she meant well.  I know that she was trying to do us a favor by surprising us with a new scale.  She was being very kind, and thoughtful.  She didn't know about my love for "Old Trusty". Now I feel depressed about my weight.  I am sad.  I am regretful that I ate Chicago style pizza and hot dogs on vacation every day.  I am tearful that I ate Texas Sheet Cake, Rolo Mc Flurries, and  cookie dough Blizzards every night. I am sad that the number on the scale is ten pounds higher than it was before I left "Old Trusty".

So I decided to do something about it.  I decided to start working out every day so that the number on this new evil, communist, mean, insensitive scale will show me the number that I want to see.

I'm walking/ jogging 4 miles a day, 5 days a week.

I'm cutting out 90% of my beloved Dr. Pepper.

I'm eating salad....a lot.

And now I'm hungry...starving...alright, not starving but no other appropriate adjective comes to mind.  I'm constantly thinking about food.  Mourning Dr. Pepper. Craving donuts.  Salivating over pictures of Dairy Queen Blizzards.

I'm so hungry that I've been tempted to bite into my cinnamon bun air freshener in the truck.  It smells so good in the cab that my stomach growls every time I drive.

What is the net result of all of this major sacrifice?

I've lost a whopping 1/2 a pound.  Is it worth it? I think not.

But I carry on anyway.  I push through the hunger pains and eat my spinach leaves.  I jog through the pain.  I step on that horrid new scale to see it's daily insult. I'm not happy about it, but I will climb this mountain.  I will conquer the digital numbers.  I will survive.

R.I.P "Old Trusty",


Thursday, June 23, 2011

7 Things

There is so much going on around here!

1. First and foremost, I have to tell you that I'm going to have a little niece in the fall! Yep, that's right, my brother and his wife are going to have a baby girl! I LOVE being an Aunt! Here are my niece's first glamour shots!
The coolest part is that she is due on my mother's birthday. Her arrival will be something I'll be anxiously awaiting. I'm certain that she will bring so much joy to our family! I can't wait to spoil her rotten!

Precious little hand!

2. The wildfire that has been burning on our mountain has grown to become the largest wildfire in Arizona's history.  It is now over 532,000 acres, and is just over 60% contained.  It has forever changed the landscape of our mountain, and the first round of pictures coming forward in the aftermath have been devastating to us all.  Many of the spots that we used to love look like moonscape with little match sticks now, but there are still green patches left in some areas of forest.  35 Homes have been lost, including the home of one of my best friend's parents. When the rains start in July, the fire will die out, and then we will be challenged with flooding and soil erosion because of lack of vegetation.  The road to recovery will be a long one, that's for sure.

3. Regular Little League season has finally come to an end for our three ball players, and this week my boy was selected to play on the All-star team.  This is great for him but hard on us because he has practice every night of the week. Baseball never seems to end at our house. :) 

4. We've been heat- synchronizing our heifers this week, and will artificially inseminate them on Saturday morning.  Initially, the scheduling of this seemed great, but somewhere along the way too many other things got penciled in for the week. Now we're running around non-stop and the engine in my truck never gets cold. My husband has been working and running cattle through the chute while I take the kids to vacation bible school in the morning, orthodontic appointments in the afternoon, and baseball practice and irrigation in the evening. When it rains it pours with activities, I guess.

5. My son caught an un- identified baby snake yesterday in our back-yard.  We have a giant snake that lives under the chicken coop, and I think it had little snake babies.  Someone needs to stop this kid from capturing everything he finds.  It's a habit  he refuses to grow out of, and I don't know how much more I can take of this!

6. It's so hot outside that my old dog has taken up permanent residence in front of the box fan in our kitchen. I guess he knows a good spot when he sees one.

7. Did I mention that I'm going to be an Aunt?? OK, OK, I'm just so excited about it.  This has been on my prayer list for YEARS...and there is finally going to be a little, tiny, pink bundled answer to my prayers.


Aunt Nell

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Monday, June 20, 2011


After spending a peaceful week watching the corn grow at Grandpa's farm, we decided to experience the fast pace of the big city.  We drove three hours north to visit my sister-in-law and her family in Chicago, and they were gracious enough to act as personal tour guides for us.  Taking a hick family on a tour of Chicago must have been nerve-wracking for our street savvy Chicago native brother-in-law, but he was very patient with us.  We stuck out like a sore thumb, but thankfully no-one shot or mugged us because of our lack of street credentials.

Coming from a rural mountain area where the nearest mall is 3 hours away, our family experienced many "firsts" on this vacation.  First airplane, train, and subway rides.  First time in a big city. First time in a sky scraper, etc. etc.

There was more diversity in the local pizza joint than we have in our whole town.  We loved it!

Here are a few of the things we saw and experienced in Chicago:

This is the Chicago River, as seen from my brother-in-law's office building.  It's a great view to have if you must be stuck in an office all day. I could watch people all day long from the window of his office, and subsequently,  I would never get any work done if I was employed there.


Chicago boasts some of the finest architecture in the world, and "Marina City" on State Street was designed by Bertrand Goldberg to resemble two corncobs. They were the largest residential buildings in the world at the time of completion in1964, with 65 floors.  They are unique cylindrical buildings in a sea of rectangles.

This is Chicago's Picasso.  I don't know what else to say about it. :)

The sea of humanity on the streets of Chicago was incredibly interesting to our country kids.  This sign held by a gentleman on the corner made us crack up!

This is the inside of Holy Name Cathedral.  It was gorgeous! Outside, we put our fingers in a bullet hole left in the concrete on the front of the Cathedral from a 1926 Mob shooting involving Al Capone. There is some pretty cool history in this city.

Our daughters LOVE American Girl books, and have dreamed of going to the American Girl Store for years to pick out their very own dolls.  The store was 2 stories tall and included a high end restaurant, a doll hair salon, a doll hospital for injured dolls, a portrait studio, and hundreds of dolls to choose from.  I was overwhelmed with all of the choices, but the girls knew just what they wanted.  I nearly fainted at the price tags, but it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for them. It was definitely a highlight of their trip!

This is a shot of Chicago from Navy Pier.  It was cold and foggy on that day, but the views from Lake Michigan were still fascinating.  We ate churros, and walked to the end of the pier. The lake is so huge that it feels like looking over the ocean.

No trip to Chicago would be complete without a visit to Wrigley Field! This was a highlight of my husband's day!

That evening, we experienced our first Chicago style Hot Dog, and shortly thereafter, our first Chicago- style Pizza. YUM! Now I need to go on a Chicago- style diet.
The city started to light up as we made our way back to the train.
We walked countless miles that day, and the kids did a terrific job of keeping up with the fast pace. We didn't get home until after 10p.m. that night.

The next day in the city, we spent the afternoon at Lincoln Park Zoo.  I can't say enough good things about this place.  It's free, the grounds are beautiful, the animals are close-up for the kids to see easily, and it has lots of educational information.  For a homeschooling mom, this place was a gold mine!  Pictures don't do it justice, but here are a few of my favorites!


Sunday, June 19, 2011

In The Market for a New Vehicle?

Instead of another truck, I want this to be my next vehicle purchase for the following reasons:

A. Test crashes prove it's a safer mode of transportation for the children.
B. The elevated cab improves my view of potential road hazards up ahead on the highway.
C. It's less likely to roll over in an accident.
D. I can create my own parking spots.
E. The driver's seat features air suspension and mechanical lumbar support for those long drives to Walmart.
F. The swivel seat allows me to discipline unruly children in the back without straining my neck.
G. I will never get high centered in the snow while trying to plow through the driveway.
H. I can mow my lawn in one swath.
I.  The large rear-view mirror is great for applying mascara.
J. The superior hydraulics will make it a breeze to move the trash barrel out to the road on trash day.
K. It has stairs leading up to the cab so I don't have to worry about trying to hop in with a skirt on Sunday mornings.
L. It will run over minivans.
M. I like the color.

I girl can dream, can't she?!?

Always looking ahead,


Saturday, June 18, 2011

This Just Creeps Me Out.

It was Thursday evening.  I was sitting on a patio chair enjoying the company of my family over barbecued hamburgers and watermelon. A gentle breeze  was coming from the north... a welcomed relief from the oppressive heat and humidity of the day.  With a full belly, I leaned back in my chair and enjoyed the chit-chat as I watched the corn leaves tremble in the wind.

I was about to say something deep and meaningful when I felt something tickle my heel. I looked down to view what I thought was a bug near my feet, when all of the sudden I jumped five feet in the air and sprinted to the grass.

"There's a SNAKE!"

It took my breath away.

I mean, I'm not usually squeamish about snakes, but when one unexpectedly brushes up against my heel, it kind of creeps me out.

Within 2.5 seconds, the entire family had evacuated the patio, and they were running for their lives! I've never seen such speed and agility in all of my days! (I still can't stop laughing at the mental picture) !!!

The menfolk were clamoring for a shovel to slay the serpent, and the women were screaming. It was mass chaos. Grandpa was on a mission to chop it's head off, but my dad thought the snake was not really hurting anything so he decided to catch it instead of kill it.  Then we spent the next 5 minutes looking at it before re-locating it to the river. 

I have no idea what kind of snake this is, but I'm pretty sure it was harmless. If anyone in blogland knows the answer, feel free to shout it out in the comments section.

My dad told me that he read somewhere that poisonous snakes have pupils with slits like a cat in their eyes, where as non- poisonous snakes have round pupils.

I'm sorry, but I'll be darned if I'm going to take the time to have a close look at the pupils of a snake when it slithers past my heels.

My new motto: "When in doubt, run it out."

Still calming down from my brush with death,

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Farm History and More!

We were so fortunate to spend a day traveling around the countryside to see where my mom's side of the family grew up.  It was really special for my husband and children to experience the journey right along side me.
This aerial photograph of the farm was taken in the 1960's. The old farmhouse was still in place at that time.

Here is an aerial shot of the farm taken in the mid 1970's.  Grandpa tore the old house down and built the existing home. 
  Some of the buildings in this picture were destroyed in a tornado, and no longer exist today.

Pictured below is the home where my grandpa was born and raised. My great-grandfather built the homestead right across the road from where he was raised.
Below are pictures of my grandpa's granddad's place. The home was originally built in the 1800's, and he later built a smaller home next to the main house.  He moved into the smaller house and my Grandpa's aunt and her family moved into the farm house.   My Grandpa grew up with his cousins living just across the street from his house.

Here is the building where my grandpa went to school.  It is still an Amish schoolhouse today.

This class picture was taken in front of the school shown above, and it is now hanging in a restaurant in town.  My grandpa is the boy circled in white. He was in 7th grade and was about 13 years old in the picture.

A closer view of the home he grew up in.

I always love the look of clothes drying on a clothes line!

This is Grandpa's neighbor's house. The old home was torn down and a new Amish home was built two years ago.

This home is on the back of my Grandpa's property, and he sold it to an Amish family who makes beautiful furniture.  In fact, it is some of the most solid and well made furniture that I've ever seen.  They leave no detail unattended to. The family was so kind, and they gave us a tour of their wood shop that runs off of air compressors and a large diesel engine.  It was fascinating to see each step of the furniture making process! Their furniture is contracted to be sold to a company called "Simply Amish".

Here are some pictures of farmers working out in the fields.

By the time my grandpa was 12 years old, he was in charge of his family's farm while his father and older siblings did carpentry work. He farmed using horses, and once told me that he had an eight foot plow that he pulled around the field.  At the end of each row, he moved over 4 feet and then started back down the row. I can't imagine how tedious that would have been with horses.  One thing is certain, not many 12 year-olds today would be mature enough to do that type of work. Times have changed a lot!

Below are buggies starting to line up in a field before the start of an Amish wedding.  There were young men taking care of the horses while the families were inside for the festivities. 

I'll end today's post with this picture of a mare and foal.  This countryside is filled with some of the most beautiful and well bred horses around.  I never tired of watching them go down the road.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Grandpa's Farm: Part II

I'm back on the computer! I'm so sorry my blogs have been scarce.  There are obviously no WI-FI hotspots in Amish country, and I spent my days on the farm watching the corn grow....therefore the laptop has been collecting dust.  It was the most relaxing five days that I've experienced in a while.  I'm going to dump lots of pictures on here over the next week or so, so please bear with me as I journal my visit to my mom's hometown.

Here is the place where my grandpa delivers his corn. It's in the center of the nearest town, right next door to the tractor dealerships.  In addition to the grain silos, there is a small grocery store, a Dairy Queen, and some quaint shops down a small street.

Here is the inside of a cute little country store.

Here we are enjoying the shade in a rocking chair on Main Street.

Here is one of the sheds where my husband spent hours chewing the cud with Grandpa while leaning up against a piece of equipment.  I'm not joking when I say that my husband never wanted to leave. Farming in the midwest is so different than back home.  The abundance of water and good black soil makes everything grow so nicely.  It takes a lot of labor and irrigating to grow things in  our dry climate. I was certain that my Grandpa was going to have to build a small bedroom in the barn for my hubby so he could stay forever.

There is a small river that runs through the woods on the back part of the farm.  The trees are thick, lush, and  unlike anything we have in Arizona.  They were beautiful.

The deer are prolific around these parts, and there is a deer stand that my kids loved to play in at the edge of the corn.

Grandpa has a tree swing in his back yard that over-looks his corn fields.  Whenever I couldn't find my daughter, this was the first place I would look for her.  She spent hours in this swing where the views would inspire her to sing sweet little songs as she glided through the air.

My next blog post will focus on some family history in the area. 

Stay Tuned!