Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year 2010!

Where do you go after you've spent a year  focusing on living with intention?  I took the Ali Edwards one word challenge, last year and chose the word intention.  With Sara's  beautiful artwork displayed in my sidebar I have joyfully been reminded to live with intention, with purpose, every day.

For this year, I finally decided to make a list of words...






Help!  All of them?  None of them.  Just one of them.  Which one.

I wish I had an epiphany to share about the word I finally chose.  I just don't.  Although it came to me while watching Nolan play hockey this afternoon.  I was telling one of the other moms it has been a real stretch for Nolan this year, as well as for Rick as his coach.  We've incurred some losses and had some fun wins.  But we've had to keep reminding Nolan the outcome he desires someday is always within his abilities, he only has to continue to reach.  And so do we.  So do I.

And that is how I chose my word.

It means:

1- To stretch out or put forth

2- To arrive at; attain

3-To succeed in having an effect on

Have you come to a conclusion yet? might be a stretch....  

but I am going to... reach...  

How about you?  


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas surprise

The best presents are the ones you can't buy. They're the ones that burst through your door and take your house by storm when your best friend comes to town for a visit.

He walks in all full of himself in his 3 year old big boy glory and makes you laugh till your sides ache. With the promise of Christmas and presents dancing in his eyes, his magnetic energy draws you in.  And you know this energy well.  It reeks of "boy" and is fueled by trains, and playing games of chase and turns presents into chairs when it needs a quick breather.  And then like a flash he is off again, a whirlwind of motion and noise and chaos.  So you breathe in deeply, as your memory takes in the smell of yesterday... your own were this young once.

But that isn't all. They bring you more gifts.  The gift of a tiny new miracle.  A baby sister.  Longed for, hoped for, waited for.  Then one November day she arrives.  And she is plunked down into the midst of this family, where it turns out it was a "Brynne-shaped," hole waiting to be filled all along.

She is 4 weeks now and makes those cute "o's" with her mouth and still curls herself into a tiny ball when you hold her up on your shoulders.  You hold her and melt.  And you know what you are really holding is an answered prayer.

Although, her big brother wasn't so sure Brynne was the name he would have chosen for her. His favorite name for her? Colton... and when that wasn't approved? Nolan-Colton. The compromise? Brynne Nicole... with the Ni for Nolan and the cole for Colton...  this time your eyes mist over at the thought of her history forever entwined with your own as she shares in the names of your own two sons.

With the excitement of Christmas Eve looming and my mind focused so completely on later, this visit from my friend and her two kids, caught me so off guard (even though we had talked about it.)  I was filled with the spirit of Christmas when they left.

Its several days later and looking back I can say it became my other favorite Christmas gift.  I don't make Christmas wish lists anymore.  I may toss out an idea or two, but I'm finding the best "gifts" are the ones you wouldn't even know how to put on a list.  

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Eve 2009

We had a joyful Christmas and felt so blessed we got to spend it with at least part of our family. With a big blizzard breathing down our necks we didn't venture too far from home. With the wind whipping the snow about and the roads slick and slippery in spots, Rick picked up mom and dad and brought them to our house Christmas Eve.

I enjoyed watching the boys get just as excited to see Grandpa and Grandma opening their gifts as the boys did opening their own gifts. I've spent a great deal of time making a photo book for my dad with all the pictures from his 80th Birthday party. I also edited a stack of photos for my mom from her retirement party and made some prints for her to scrapbook. I even saved my babysitting money and used it to buy some things for Rick, something I haven't been able to do in a long time.

My dad surprised us all with his own gifts for us. He wrote a card to the boys and enclosed it with a small check for them. He thanked them for all the little things they help him do and told them how much he loved spending time with them.

He also gave a card to Rick and I. But he shook his head when he we opened it and found only his words inside... as if to tell us his words weren't enough. No explanation was necessary. I know what limited "spending" money my dad has. He makes due with very little and yet he has never focused on what he lacks. So I shouldn't have been surprised when he told us what he had done instead of being able to give us money.

With what limited money he had, he decided to send some money to the pastor. He knew Pastor Craig helped people get a hot meal from time to time or helped them when they had a specific need. Dad wanted to contribute to helping Pastor Craig help others in need. He also sent a small amount to the women's circle at church. They have always sent cards and well wishes to him and prayed for him. He thought it was only prudent to help them be able to buy more cards to help others who might need some support.

Despite the fact we got a Wii for Christmas, and Nolan got a new hockey stick and Spud sweatshirt, and Colton got Star wars Legos and a Wii game, and many other generous gifs, its my father's words in a simple card that were one of the best gifts I received.

The other favorite gift I received that day was a visit from a friend. I need to seek her permission before I share about it, but either way, I'm noting for the record her visit really touched me and I am grateful.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas 2009


As the snow begins it's accumulation outside we are nestled away inside prepared for as many days as needed. We've watched the forecast increasingly call for more and more snow. I went to bed hearing the prediction at 10-15 inches of snow spread out over 3 days. The brunt of the snow is due Christmas day although it already looks like a winter wonderland!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Monday, December 21, 2009

The cousin's party

Every year for many years running, my family has gathered one Saturday night in December for what we now call "The cousins" party. My mother was one of 6 children in her family. So I grew up with 19 first cousins. We gathered together often in our childhood. And while some of us have continued to live in this area for years, some have lived in other parts of the country. And some years, like this one, we get lucky and have those who live elsewhere travel to see us.

Of course we've grown. And have spouses and children of our own. So we counted at this last gathering. Of the 19 of us first cousins, 13 were in attendance. As a group we numbered in the 50's.

It was a fun night filled with memories. My mother and her three sisters are a force of something indescribable when they are together. It just involves a lot of laughter, shrieking and wild gestures that only they seem able to interpret.

I think by the end of the evening I had a fairly firm grasp on just what it means to be part of this family.  Here is what I came up with.  Its a sort of a "You might be a Brainerd if ..."

  •  you have had your gallbladder removed or... (Dot, Carol, Mary Ann, Pam and myself.)
  •  you have been told you need to have your gallbladder removed but are too stubborn, or scared to actually have the surgery... Marlene AND now Jennifer.
  •  you aren't sure you want to travel too far because you don't know how far it might be to the nearest  bathroom...  ( I am so not naming, names on this one, way too many of you to count) 
  •  unless, the exception to #3, you are asked to go to the casino.  Then no distance is too far to travel!
  • start a story and lose your train of thought half way through.   
  • know a good "throw up" story...  (sorry Lee, wouldn't want you to feel left out) 
  •  know what uff da means and use it frequently while talking.
  •  have eaten lutefisk... and then said uff da.  
  • can only pronounce wrestling as "Wrassling." 
  • know a good joke and it begins with "Ole and Lena..."  

And if none of these make any sense to you, breathe a sigh of relief.  You are probably not a Brainerd!  Although, at the rate we are multiplying there is a good chance you will come in contact with one soon.

(Left to right)  Aunt Carol, Aunt Dottie, Aunt Marnie, my mom Mary Ann.


Attending her first cousin's reunion, my cousin Jackie and her husband Fred

Cousins Cherri, Rob and Pam. All three of them were born the same year.


Vicky, Brenda, and Jennifer. All three of us were born the same year.

Jennifer's son Dane (7) and Nolan (9) Do you see the striking resemblance?

Jackie and Carol

Cousin Arlin, whom I haven't seen in 7 years.

Colton and his new friend Eddy.

Keenen and Pam

Marlene and Ernie


What you do when you have had enough of the Brainerds! (Eddy and Tigger.)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Congratulations mom, on 33 years at Concordia College!

My mother has been saying she'll retire, "next" year, for the last 10 years, from Concordia College. At 74, she shows little sign of ever slowing down. Her latest position at the college has been as the supervisor of the Meals on Wheels program. She personally packages over 200 hot meals every day for anyone signed up with the program and makes extra frozen meals that get delivered on Friday for the weekends.

Her management team could not have done a better job in putting together the reception and the program. Understanding my mother's wit and humor, they strung together funny moments chronicling my mother's 33 years at the college. In that time she "trained in" over 16 of her own supervisors. Although, the personnel coordinator admitted, he wasn't sure if it just took two years for mom to proffer all of her wisdom, or two years was the maximum anyone could put up with my mother! Obviously, they understood my mother well.

I loved that they remembered to include something about my mother's friendship with Dr. Prausnitz.  My former roommate could attest to his ability to reduce students to tears over poorly written composition papers, and yet somehow my mother found his softer side.  He eventually came to call her "pennikins" and while others merely saw a gruff and reclusive professor, she saw past this to his warmth and tender side.  On his death bed, there were but three visitors allowed in his room at the hospital.  Dr. Lell, Dr. Lell's wife, and Pennikins.

The room at my mother's reception was packed. As a true testament to my mother's ability to befriend anyone who comes in contact with her, the event was filled with both the former and current presidents of the college, her coworkers, managers, several professors, many students and lots of our family.  When one of mother's managers quizzed my mother about how she had managed the unheard of precedence- to have both a former and current president of the college in the same room together, my mother smiled and said, "simple, I have always just thought of them and talked to them as my friends."

It seemed that everyone had a story to share about some way that my mom had touched their life.  Whether it was with a treat from her stash of chocolate hidden away in a drawer, or a hug,  or smile when it was needed, its obvious she provided more than just her job skill at the dining service.   As I walked with her down the stairs into the basement of the work area,  her final salute of the day was perhaps the most fitting.  Several of her workers lined up and one by one they fired off rubber bands at her. Its obvious to me that my mother was herself at work... and they all loved and admired her as much as we do.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Snowy surprise

We see them mostly in the empty fields over by our new church. Hundreds of them, laying in the fallow fields, the lucky ones at least. Others succomb to the wheels of passing cars, or the hunting prowess of the hawks that circle the fields.

At first glance you may mistake them for a rabbit or a bunny of some sort. But they aren't. Look closely and you'll see the long and floppy ears that look too big for their heads, and gargantuan feet of equally disproportionate size. They are white jack rabbits, or hares. The difference between a hare and a rabbit is that a hare's babies are born with fur and their eyes are open. Rabbits are born without fur, and their eyes are closed, leaving them dependent on their mother's care for awhile.

Ironically, I wanted pictures of the snow falling as big fluffy flakes floated down from the sky. But when Colton and I looked at the pictures we were shocked to see a jack rabbit nestled next to the neighbor's fire ring.  We set out to see if we could get closer to it and as we did we were even more surprised to find three others lying under the branches of the evergreen tree.  We were still yards away when they heard our crunching boots in the snow and they scattered.







Saturday, December 12, 2009

Only Nolan...

Only Nolan would even think something like this up. He keeps asking me to buy things for him at the rink. Just a gatorade or just a hotdog starts to get expensive when you are at the rink 6 days a week. I finally told him he has to find some spare time to earn some money. I explained he can shovel the front walk, straighten up the basement, or clean his bathroom. He nods his head and goes to school. He comes home grinning. "Mom," he says, "I figured out another way to earn a little money"... and he lays a freshly pulled tooth in my hand.

Apparently, the 4 bucks he got was well worth his trouble, because the little stinker came home the next day from school... with ANOTHER tooth! Guess I should have bothered to ask him how many loose teeth he has. At this rate, I was better off paying for the gatorade!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Playing at "The Ralph"

I could alternately title this one "the other thing that occupies most of our time," otherwise known as hockey. Nolan is a first year squirt and is on two teams this year. On Sunday we traveled to Grand Forks on a blustery/snowy day to the creme de la creme of the hockey world. Ralph Englestad Arena, known to many of us as "The Ralph" is a 110 million dollar hockey facility which is home to the University of North Dakota's fighting Sioux. Some of the accoutrements of the arena include granite concourses, seats made with leather and cherry wood, and full color LCD displays found throughout the venue.  I would venture to say it is a hockey mecca, one that we've made the trip to visit many times to watch the Sioux play, as well as some of our former high school players. Its a very high level of hockey, one our kids dream of playing one day.

So when we found out our squirt team was going to play in an adjoining arena at the Ralph, on olympic ice, our kids were beyond excited. I think it was worth going just to see the boys step on the ice for the first time, proudly wearing their Moorhead "M."

We're discovering hockey at the squirt level is full of newness. Playing on a team, keeping score, skating the full length of the ice, learning the game, trips to the penalty box, all of these things are new to us as parents and new to our kids as players. We didn't quite have it together on Sunday as a team. The game was not much of a contest and the other team won pretty decisively. But I don't think any of us will remember this experience because of the score of the game. I would say for many of our kids, the hockey dream just took flight, having played their first game at The Ralph.

And what do you follow up with after your first out of town hockey game? Why another game in town! We had exactly 90 minutes to get ourselves back to town for Colton's mite game, and then we capped off the evening with... another squirt game!

This week, while Rick is traveling, I will spend every night, and all weekend, at the rink with the boys. And you all were worried about what I would do without my girls to keep me busy... and now you know the rest of the story.





What you do when the hockey game gets a bit uninteresting... pull out a book...

... or just take a nap.

The sun was setting through the swirls of snow. I enjoyed watching the silhouettes it made along the side of the road.








Sunday, December 6, 2009

Our last days...








In ten weeks, your life can change in ways you don't anticipate. You knew when you brought two little girls into your house to watch during the day, that you'd be changing diapers, feeding bottles, and playing dolls. You knew that teething babies require extra love and compassion when they are working so hard to push those teeth through, but extra compassion can be exhausting! You knew that a 2 1/2 year old without a nap can be a force to be reckoned with. You knew 10 weeks could feel really, really long.

What you didn't know was how much your joy could double and double again. That every time you went to open the door in the early morning hours, two little smiling faces would light up your world. You didn't realize how much your heart would expand when you saw your own "baby" flex a "big brother" muscle hidden below the surface. You couldn't have known this young boy who can barely tie his own shoes, would patiently sit and wiggle on little E's shoes and tenderly zip her coat so the two of them could go out to play.

You are amazed to discover that 4 kids getting along = much less noise than 2 kids fighting. You also loved that asking your own children to get something or do something for one of the girls, was not debated, ignored or met with an eye roll... it was just done.

In fact, just this last week I saw Nolan and three of his friends cheer and clap when L took first 3 then 5 steps unaccompanied last week. You would have thought their favorite hockey team was on tv and someone had scored for all the high fives going around.  This group of boys that come to our house and wait for the bus usually only want to play tag outside, but lately they come in wanting to see how many more steps L would take.

These weeks weren't long at all.  They were actually very short.  The days flew by.   The girls will be returning to their regular daycare provider next week.  It was bittersweet as I packed up their things and prepared to hand them off.  I kept a calm exterior while crumbling a bit on the inside.  I will miss them, in all these ways, and other ways I haven't experienced yet.

I think its such a privilege when you are asked to care for someone's kids.  I have a huge admiration for working moms and how hard it is to juggle it all.  For a few weeks I joined the ranks, and now I am retired again.  Waiting really, for that next adventure to come my way.

When you get lucky

When you get lucky

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