Aug 30, 2012

Math

8/30/2012 — cori
It is no secret that I am not a fan of math.  Not the basics of course, that I get.  And I honestly enjoyed Algebra 1 when I took it in 8th grade.  But I've just not found a use for it since then.  Thus, logic would lead one to believe that since I haven't practiced that particular math muscle in, oh...26 years, I might be a bit rusty in this field of thinking and processing information.

It would also make sense that since I (for lack of a better term) hate math, Gavin would absolutely love it.  In order to keep that math muscle strong, I had all the kids continue doing math all summer long.  This goes back to my utter and complete failure as a math student in 3rd grade.  I forgot how to subtract between 2nd and 3rd grade!  Seriously.  I had no clue which side you started on if you were subtracting two digit numbers. Right side or the left?  Apparently, the creative side of my brain was pushing for more space and my short term memory loss was beginning even then.  So it would make sense that I would want to spare my own children the humiliation of having to ask their teacher how to do subtraction again at the start of each new school year.

Since Gavin is years beyond me in his math reasoning and comprehension level, I found someone who could teach him for me.  It is called Khan Academy and it is golden!  You can learn so much through this awesome website, not just math.  The instructor talks you through the lesson as you watch him work through problems on screen.  Genius!  Gavin happens to love this.  Each video can range from 5 minutes to 20 minutes.  He couldn't wait to do them each day.  Even on days I told him he didn't have to do it he begged to because he said he was really looking forward to learning the 'next thing'.  Whatever.

And being that he is Gavin, he can't wait to share what he's learning with me.  I love that about him.  He gets so excited about learning that he just has to talk about it and I usually get to be the lucky recipient.  That's all fine and good when it comes to history or literature and even science.  But when he starts throwing math words at me, I seem to shut down.  Just the other day he learned how to Invert a Matrix and promptly sat me down at the island to have me watch him work through his problem.

This was wrong on so many levels.  First, I don't even know what a matrix is besides a movie.  I think matrix and a picture of graph paper pops in my head.  I have no idea why.  Secondly, I know invert means to turn something inside out or upside down but how in the world would one do this with math?  More importantly, why would anyone want to do this with math?  I know my incompetence and ignorance is shining brightly even by admitting such questions.

So I do the motherly thing and watch Gavin as he multiplies lots of numbers and puts them in weird places.  Every once in a while I throw him a bone like, "oh ya, when you're multiplying negatives and positives the product is usually negative" just so it looks like I'm paying attention and that my brain really does work (even if not at the same level).

We got interrupted at least 3 times while he was working through this problem that was way too long in my opinion.  I asked him what real world application inverting a matrix has and he told me, "I don't know, but they're fun to do."  Spoken like a true lover of math.  He then advised that if I really wanted to understand, it would be best if I watched the videos.  I tried.  I got a whole 1:09 into the first video titled, "Introductions to Matrices" and then my brain just shut down.

Gavin, I wish you all the happiness in your future math endeavors.  I will be more than happy to listen to, watch, and smile at your presentations and explanations but I can't promise any comprehension or intelligent conversation at the end.  But I can write a good story about it.

Aug 26, 2012

Learning All The Time

8/26/2012 — cori

How lucky we were to be a host family this summer for the St. Paul Intercultural Institute.  This summer has been proof that we never stop learning in life!  We learned so much from having Nao as our exchange student.  I'm forever thankful for this opportunity to have her come experience life with us in Minnesota.  To be honest, I don't know that I could have been as brave as Nao was.  Every single thing she experienced was new for her.  She had  never been to the U.S. before.  I'm pretty sure her culture shock was massive.

One of the most interesting things I learned from her was that she felt Japanese people were very polite but Americans were very friendly.  She loved all the green and trees and lakes surrounding her.  She said she would miss the beauty of the area very much.

As Americans, we are used to giving our opinion, asked or unasked.  In Japan, this just is not done.  You do whatever is expected of you whether you like it or not.  You do not state your opinion.  Even sitting in class all day at Bethel University was difficult for Nao because in our culture we expect student participation and talking.  In Japanese culture, you listen to the instructor who is more knowledgeable than you.   You do not speak.

Nao said that she missed Japanese food the most.  But shockingly, she loved everything we gave her to eat.  I know I would never be as brave as that...to eat anything given to me in a new and vastly different culture. I admire her.  She even said she liked my cooking!  That was the icing on the cake for me.

We appreciated her soft-spoken ways and her flexibility to do any and everything we did.  That included alot of basketball in this basketball crazy house.  She loved playing games with the kids.  She picked up on our favorite card game super fast and was the Uno champion the whole time during her stay here.

I also learned that in Japan they do not show physical affection.  Nao said that she had never seen her mother or father hug or kiss but still knew they loved each other because she felt it in the atmosphere.  Imagine her shock when seeing Chuck and I hug and kiss all the time! Or when I hug on the kids and tell them I love them multiple times a day.  This is a huge cultural difference I had no clue about.  Nao was very kind to let us hug her as much as we did.

We told her at the beginning of her stay that we are a "crazy American family".  I don't think she understood what I was talking about.  By the end of her stay however, she knew exactly what a "crazy American family" was.

It is not the same without her here.  We miss her.  Her place at the table is empty.  Look what a difference 3 short weeks can make in our lives.  We connected with someone from the other side of the world...and we found out that we are more the same than different.  But we appreciated each other's differences and each learned how to "love our neighbor" as ourselves.

Aug 22, 2012

I Am The Moon

8/22/2012 — cori

I am the moon
just a rock
dirty, dusty, dented
there’s no beauty in me
except that which I reflect,
the Son.
The beautiful and brilliant
radiates in me
reflects through me
resonates from me.

I am the moon.
I shine because of Him
not because of me.
The beauty seen in me
is only the glory of Him
shining in the dark
to give 
comfort and love 
 hope and light 
to all
in the dark of night.

I am the moon
created to shine 
because of the Son,
for the Son,
by the Son.
I am noticed only
when I’m reflecting
His radiant light.
I have none of my own
I cannot help the sun shine
I can only be
and let him do the rest in me.





(picture credit: Picasa Web Albums, Crescent Moon, Earthshine, Venus Copyright 1989 Jerry Lodriguss)


Aug 19, 2012

Running For Kids Who Can't

8/19/2012 — cori
That is the by-line for the Miracles of Mitch Foundation that puts on the triathlon the kids ran yesterday.    After my kids watched the video on the website, they couldn't wait to sign up for the chance to do it.  They even wanted to immediately go out and start training.  What I love, love, love about this organization is that they give kids an opportunity to help other kids.  The kids feel like they can actually make a difference - because they do!

We trained for over a month, running, biking and swimming almost everyday.  We practiced (as a family) doing all three of them together and transitioning from being wet to drying off and getting all our gear on to ride our bikes.  Even a 'kid sized' triathlon put Chuck & I out of commission for the rest of the day after practicing with the kids.  But the kids learned such beautiful lessons that their commitment to this task taught them.  Character traits that are learned by doing, not just reading or hearing about such as:  endurance, perseverance and discipline.

I'm so proud of them.  Not just for wanting to do this and for training so hard and for raising money all on their own to help benefit the kids and their families, but for acting out of a compassionate heart.  They saw a need and knew they could help.  That's what I love.  To quote a missionary in Ghana, "I'm responsible for the ones he places in front of me."  The needs of people and the world around us seem so great, overwhelming at times.  But when an opportunity to help meet those needs presents itself, I love that my children responded with hearts filled with compassion.  Not looking for something they could get out of it...but knowing that what they were giving was the greater gift.

Love in action.

This organization mailed each of the kids a packet that included the name and picture of their very own child (they call them All-Stars) they were helping.  Everyday the kids thought of, talked about, prayed for and wondered about their All Star.  When they were training and getting tired, they thought about what their All Star must be feeling and that propelled them on.  They put the needs of someone else before themselves.  I have been trying (futilely) to instill this lesson in my precious people - to no avail. This experience did what I could not.

The most heart wrenching time during the day of the triathlon was right before the race was to begin.
All the All-Stars and kids paraded into the main area where we were all congregated.  Seeing the kids and families we were doing this for just brought it all home.  I don't think there was a dry eye around.  Some of the All-Stars even tried to run the race.  I can't imagine being in the shoes of one of those families, wondering daily if my child would live to the next day.


The energy was palpable.  The racers (ages 7 - 17) were strangely subdued.  They were reverent, in awe and very respectful.  I couldn't tell if it was nerves or just the realization of the enormity of the impact they were making when they saw the large group of them together (1100 kids) and the All-Stars.  It was truly a beautiful moment.


This morning, the day after the race, as soon as Chloe wakes up she says, "I wish I could run the triathlon again today!  I just can't wait till next year when we can do it again."  I think that says it all about the impact it had on them.

Waiting for the race to start

The transition zone

 The All-Stars they were racing for

A small portion of the sea of kids 
during the opening ceremonies






This was the part Chloe liked the best - all the cheering 
and high fives from the crowd as she made her way to the finish line. 

Aug 16, 2012

A Windy Day

8/16/2012 — cori
It was a beautiful, crisp morning.  High 60's with a gusty, cool wind swirling around us.  We were taking Ninja for her morning walk.  The air smelled like fall was approaching.  We were talking about the differences in the seasons and the joys and memories each of them brought.

Chloe is walking barefoot with her hair down and uncombed (it's constant natural state) and after a few moments of contemplation says in her very feminine, carefree way, "Mom, I just love it when the wind billows my hair."

"Billows, huh?  Where'd you hear that?"

"I've just always known it."

Lucky you.  Too bad my hair was in a pony tail.  No billowing going on for me today.  I'm too practical to enjoy billowing hair.

Aug 11, 2012

The Accident

8/11/2012 — cori
Yesterday, the kids and I got to spend the entire day (8am - 8pm) with 30 Japanese exchange students.  It was wonderful.  We enjoyed the day canoeing 7 miles down the St. Croix River (a destination we seem to spend a lot of time at).  The day and weather couldn't have been more beautiful.  Gavin helmed his own ship with Bennett as second mate and two other Japanese boys.  I was Captain of my ship with a co-oarsman that often went awol.  Chloe preferred taking in the sights rather than being my assistant paddler.  We also had two students in our canoe who were scared out of their minds.  They slowly warmed up to the idea of this little floating vessel and by time the end of the trip rounded the corner, they could paddle with the best of them.

No one got injured the entire time....that is until Gavin tripped and fell upon trying to enter our car at the end of the trip (no pun intended).  Here's the damage:


First of all, yes, this is my first born even though he no longer looks like it.  He's on some "warp-speed growth plan" that I am unfamiliar with.  That being said, let me explain what happened....

The bus dropped us off from our exhilarating day of fun.  We went inside the university to change before we got in the car.  On our short walk back to the car, I was listening to my voicemails and the kids were skipping, running, jumping ahead of me.  We get into the car and I look over at Gavin and see him crying and holding his head.  My phone falls out of my hands as I reach up to touch his face and see what he's covering.  As I pull his hand away from his eyes I see blood dripping down his face and a bulbous form swelling his eye shut (larger than the one in the picture - this picture was taken after ice had been on his wound for quite a few hours).

Not knowing what to do, but knowing something needs to be done, I jump out of the car, run around to the passenger side and pull him out of the car and start "excitedly" directing everyone to run with me back to the bathroom area in the University Center where we just came from.  My main goal was to ice the wound.  If we could get ice, I knew I could get the swelling down.  That was all I could think about  at the time.   Triage nurse is not my calling in life, but it is a role I am forced to play often in this family.

Now I am in "Mama Bear" mode.  I am protective and in charge and no one mess with me until this mission is accomplished.  Of course we run into NO ONE at all.  I start roaming the halls looking for anyone.  Two unsuspecting students walk out and I ask them to point me to the nearest ice machine.  They quickly take me back to the Biology Lab where a Biology professor was working late and let us in and packed a baggie with ice for us.

Phase One is complete.  On to Phase Two - reassess the situation....as in, do we need stitches, is his eye damaged, where are his glasses, how did this happen, is this contusion going to affect his brain, did he break a bone...you know, stuff like that.

Remember, I am alone with the kids, far away from Chuck who isn't quite as emotional or irrational in his decision making as I am.  So, I decide to call him, "Chuck, you'll never believe what just happened. Gavin just injured his eye!"  Not something you want to hear when you're an hour a way and can do nothing about it.  We were supposed to be meeting in 2 hours.  That meeting just got pushed up as he left the minute he got my call.

I remember having a first-aid kit in the trunk of the car (I actually have no clue how I remembered that, miraculously, evidently).  I go pick out some antiseptic wipes, neosporin and a band aid.   I take care of the wound and am very concerned with the instant swelling and size of the gash.  But I am not comfortable making the call on whether or not to go to the doctor.  So, since I can't decide, we go get ice cream instead.   Seemed to work.  That is where I finally get the full story from Gavin on how this whole thing went down.

Apparently, he was running to the car but stopped abruptly.  He said his momentum did not stop when he did and made his feet fall out from under him right there at the car door.  He said some people walking by saw him fall and called out to him asking if he was okay and he said 'yes', just thinking he bumped his head.  Only later did he realize his head received the full impact of the fall since he didn't have time to brace his fall.  He fell onto a parking lot covered in gravel.  His glasses probably saved his eye from getting severely damaged.

Once we finally met up with Dad an hour later, he was concerned, but not as overly as I was.  He said the same thing happened to him as a kid and he ended up ok.  Great, then I'll just keep getting up every hour on the hour to check and make sure he's breathing in order to confirm there was no brain injury involved, no problem.  Of course I have tad bit more fatalistic, worst-case-scenario problem than he does.

I'm sad to say, I didn't wake up even once last night, but as soon as I woke up at 9am this morning, I ran downstairs as fast as my little feet would carry me and saw my poor black and blue eyed boy sleeping peacefully.  Chuck's assessment was true and although Gavin's eye looks even more black and blue today, the wound is already healing nicely.  I told him how he should make up a story of getting beat up but he was able to use all his cool tae-kwon-do moves.  My literal child did not buy that story.  Nor did he like my idea of wearing his sparring headgear all day everyday just incase he randomly falls again.  You can never be too careful.  He did say, "Mom, too bad I didn't have time to use any of my break fall techniques that I've been learning in tae-kwon-do.  It all happened so fast!"

Bennett exclaims, "Man...this is one of those things you just never think will happen to you."

Aug 9, 2012

What Song Defines You?

8/09/2012 — cori
When I asked Gavin recently what song defines him, he thought for a long while, then with conviction answered, "When the Sand Runs Out" by Rascal Flatts.  I was actually surprised.  I didn't know this about him.

Bennett thought "Eye of the Tiger" was a pretty accurate representation of himself.  But then later recanted and said that even though he loves Adele, he would have to say that Tim McGraw's "Live Like You Were Dying" best expressed who he was and how he lived life.

Chloe wouldn't be a typical 8 year old girl if she didn't tell me, "Oh Mommy!  I just love 'Love Story' by Taylor Swift.  To which I replied, "I know you do, Honey.  But I don't want your favorite song, I want you to tell me which song best describes you, who you are, what you love in this life, what you think is important."  In typical fashion, she can't commit to just one song so she gave me three.  The first is the same as Gavins.  The second and third are by her other favorite musician, Laura Story, "Mighty to Save" and "Blessings."

I love when my kids share their hearts with me.  I find the vulnerable beautiful.

Just in case you're wondering, Chuck has two life defining songs:  Lead Me, by Sanctus Real and "Offering" by Third Day.  These are the perfect descriptions for a man who is incredibly humble, wise and full of grace and love.  He is the better half of me.

I'm a tad bit more complicated.  Of course I would pick an instrumental to be the song that defines me...that I want played at my funeral.  The song, Promontory on the Last of the Mohicans soundtrack puts the thoughts of my head, the feelings of my heart and the energy of my body into one all encompassing song.  I am so thankful to Trevor Jones for composing it.  I'm too complicated to be defined by words only, the music describes who I am perfectly, serious, strong, playful, joyful, full of emotion and life, vulnerable, awestruck, humbled, and deep.

Maybe you know us a little better now by knowing the words that others put to music that speak the melodies and truths that echo in our hearts and lives.


Aug 8, 2012

Love Is...

8/08/2012 — cori

Bennett comes in to cuddle me on this gray, cloudy morning.  Good snuggle time.  He looks over at me with stars in his eyes that have been there since he was born and says, "Mom, I love your nose.  It's so smooth."

The kid always, always, always makes me laugh.  What a fun way start a new day...with a smile in my heart, a laugh in my belly and the adoration of my son!

Of all things to compliment somebody on, the nose is not usually at the top of the list.

Apparently, my nose is at the top of his though.  Ironically, it's never been one of my favorite features on my face.  But I guess that goes to show that beauty definitely is in the eye of the beholder.

Aug 3, 2012

Pot Holes

8/03/2012 — cori
Our latest adventure took us looking for pot-holes.  That just doesn't sound right, does it?  But it's true.  There is a beautiful area called Taylors Falls on the St. Croix river where the bluffs are as abundant as the rocky terrain.  And amongst this rocky terrain are the area's most famous feature, their pot-holes.  But these aren't on their roads, they're in the rocks.  Apparently, this area of Minnesota used to be covered by glaciers ions ago.  When the glaciers receded, the swirling waters left these fascinating geological features imbedded deep into the rock.  It looks as if someone took a giant drill and made a perfect circle, 10, 25, 60 feet down into the depths of these rocks.

The pictures just don't do them justice.  One pothole was so large, they built stairs going down into it so you could get a better feel.  They are amazingly smooth and perfect circles.  Most are filled with water (naturally), but some have pumps running to keep the water out so you can see how cavernous they are.  Truly a natural wonder and one I've never heard about until now.  We also made this destination our camping site for the next two nights.  No, we didn't camp in the potholes, but the state park one mile south of them.  This was our first camping trip in Minnesota. The weather was phenomenal for late July - only 80 degrees with a light breeze.

This was also our first time with a "kids only" tent and a "mommy & daddy only" tent.  It was wonderful!  Another first, we also had air mattresses.  Let me tell you, camping is such a joy now.  We actually slept and didn't wake up with bruises from the hard-packed earth.  Chloe so graciously organized all our shoes between our tents.  One big difference between camping here and down in Texas is...we didn't have to check our shoes for spiders before we slid our feet into them.  That, and there were no venomous creatures around to keep ever vigilant of where we stepped and climbed.  Speaking of climbing....we did ALOT of it!

We climbed up...

and up and up.

Only to be rewarded with views such as these:


We also climbed down after climbing up, but I was too busy holding on for dear life to take any downhill pictures.  The precipices were so tall and there were no guard-rails anywhere to be found.  So I spent alot of time leaning into the side of the cliff/hill hoping upon hope that my sheer will would keep me attached to the ground and not tumbling over the edge to an early demise.

 An example of one such cliff...from the bottom it's gorgeous, from the top, life-threatening...at least if you're me.  However, around the campfire later that afternoon, while relaxing from our miles of hiking, we were discussing what our favorite hike so far was.  I answered, "Believe it or not, the one that was the scariest, the Sandstone Bluffs Trail, was my favorite.  I guess the adrenaline hit me after the fact.  I guess if I'm not scared, we're not having an adventure."  That last sentence has since become our family tag-line for camping/hiking/adventure/thrill-seeking.  There's nothing more exhilarating than conquering your fear and having fun despite your wobbly legs and a fast-beating heart.

Speaking of campsites...this was ours.  Another funny story.  See that blue, vinyl square in the background?  Our neighbor gave us this mosquito-like net to use.  It's big.  It came with no directions and about 57 random pieces of metal poles, all with different numbers and shapes.  It was so funny to watch the boys all staring at it trying to figure out how to put it together.  Chuck even made a drawing to represent what it should look like upon completion.  Apparently, nobody except him understood the drawing given the blank looks on everyone's faces upon reviewing our new 'plan of action'.  We sat and stared at it for a long time.  We attached random pieces of poles together and attempted to put them on/around/through/under the big, blue square.  After an hour and a half and zero progress, we deduced that none of us are engineers and just don't care that much whether or not we get eaten by mosquitos.  At one point, we even thought our neighbor might be trying to play a joke on us, giving us this impossible puzzle to figure out knowing he didn't give us all the pieces.  Thankfully, the mosquitos had mercy on us.   
Another wonderful thing about our campsite was our proximity to the bathrooms.  One might think that this would be a negative point.  But oh, contraire!  These were the Taj-Mahal of bathrooms.  Okay, maybe I exaggerate a little, but they were spic and span, no creatures lurking under lids or behind doorways and no odors hovering around the structure.  Clean is the name of the game at this campsite.  And since we were right next door, we took full advantage of going to the clean bathroom whenever nature called.  Chloe even went in by herself!  That is huge people, huge!  And get this...we even showered there.  Never before have we felt the need to clean the camping effects from our personage.  We just stayed "woodsy"/ "natural" if you will.  There was no way I or anyone in my family were going to end up in their birthday suit in some of the bathrooms we've encountered.  Staying dirty was the best option.  But not here.  We smelled fresh and clean.  An experience I've yet to encounter while camping.  It gave me hope for future endeavors.
When we weren't hiking, we were either sitting around the camp fire reading or playing games.  The kids play hours of Yuh-gi-oh together. 

And each night ended in a competetive game of nertz.  The big challenge of this particular game was that our cards were on a sliding surface since the tent wasn't exactly sitting on flat ground.  Our cards kept sliding down towards Chloe giving the game that much more of a challenge.  Good times.

 
Lastly, one of hikes took us into the near-by town of Taylors Falls.  We passed this teeny tiny pink building that was just so adorable, I had to take a picture of it.  Once we got closer, we saw the sign announcing that it was a public library.  Well, of course we had to go in.  Our curiosity was piqued.  Plus, if there are books anywhere close by, we are there!  

Of course there was a retired, old school teacher who was the librarian.  She was so sweet to sit and talk with us and give us the history of the building and let us ohh and ahh over the gorgeous architectural features and touch the spines of books from eras gone by.  Come to find out, we were in the oldest library in Minnesota.  It has been operating as a library for over 100 years.  

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, as did our mini vacation.  Out of no-where on our last night, at around 1am it started raining.  We waited it out in the car for about an hour thinking it was going to be a nasty storm.  Of course the nasty storm never materialized and we woke everyone up for nothing.  So, we all sleep-walked back to our respective tents only to hear the pitter patter of rain drops on the tent roof and walls all night long.  Air mattress or not, that was not a good night of sleep.  We were packed out and driving away from our weekend of fun by 8am the next morning. 





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