May 30, 2012

Why Is There War?

5/30/2012 — cori
We decided to go to a Memorial Day ceremony in Rochester, MN this year.  While very touched by their tribute to the fallen soldiers, extremely grateful for the peace we get to live under and respectful of all those who serve or have served, I ended up coming away from the event concerned.  I went to take a picture of this statue:

While I was there, a mom and her young son were also standing beside it talking.  The son asks, "Mom, why is the lady and the little boy sad?"  And she explained that they just received notification that a loved one died.  So naturally he asked, "Why does there have to be war?"  The mom's response saddened and surprised me, "Sometimes you have to fight someone when they take something away from you."


What did the British take from us during the Revolutionary War?

What did the Mexicans take from us during the Spanish-American War?

What did the Koreans take from us during the Korean War?

Weren't we fighting for ideals?  Weren't we fighting for more land, safer governments, the right to rule ourselves?  Sadly, many of our wars were because we wanted something, not that it was taken from us. We wanted to keep slaves because it made the South richer with such cheap labor, thus the Civil War.  We wanted to rule our own country, a noble cause, but it was land we stole from it's previous occupants by force, thus the Revolutionary War and many of the Indian Wars.  We joined WWI because the Germans sank our ships 3 years after the war had already begun.  We didn't join WWII until Japan attacked Pearl Harbor even though we knew the travesties that Japan was inflicting upon the Chinese and the anti-semitism the Germans were inducing upon the Jews.

I admire when Presidents and governments try to avoid war.  I'm glad we don't run in to every altercation with guns blazing.  I'm thankful we offer so much humanitarian aid to the countries affected by the Wars we've fought.

But I'm still sad that wars must even be fought.  I'm sad because it shows how incredibly difficult it is to "love your neighbor" forget the directive to "love your enemy".  How are we loving them when we're fighting them under the guise, as this mother put it, "because they took something from us."  What did Iraq take from us?  What did Afghanistan take from us?  Her reasoning is flawed.  I'm sorry that young boy now feels justified in fighting whenever something is taken from him.

We should listen to experienced, distinguished Presidents and Generals who've lived through war.  Eisenhower said, "War settles nothing." or Abraham Lincoln when he states, "I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends." General MacArther stated, "I believe that the entire effort of modern society should be concentrated on the endeavor to outlaw war as a method of the solution of problems  between nations."  I think these men would have a much different answer to that little boy.

War happens because we are sinful, greedy, selfish humans.

I have to agree with FDR, "I hate war!" he said.  This picture is from his Memorial in Washington D.C.  It sucks.  I hate it.  It goes against everything Jesus taught.  Yet we use him as a justification for so many wars.  The Crusades come to mind.  "God is on our side."  Really?   Don't both sides think that?  Is God more for Americans than say, His Iraqi children, or His Vietnam children, or His Spanish children?  How can we justify killing one another in the name of God?  I will never understand this phenomenon.

On the same day as the Memorial Celebration in Rochester, there was also a Memorial Celebration at an Ojibwe Reservation in honor of all their fallen soldiers.  I think next year I'd like to go there and thank them just as I've thanked the American soldiers.

As a side note, did you know that there were over 3,000 Japanese-American soldiers who fought, segregated, for the US during WWII even though most of their families were in American Concentration Camps (and their Regiment became the most highly decorated in the history of the Armed Forces)?  Have we thanked them for their sacrifice?  What about all the African-Americans who fought, again in segregated conditions, during the Civil War - on both sides.  Have we thanked them for fighting for a country that kept them segregated for decades longer even though they were free?

I owe a debt of gratitude to all the soldiers of my country who have fought and died.  I'm especially thankful for my two Grandfathers, my brother, my brother-in-law, my cousin.  War affects each one of us.  We're each personally tied to it.  That's why that statue is so touching, no matter who you are.

Chloe actually asked me the same question as that little boy did.  I responded by saying, "I don't know."  I'd rather be honest than ignorant.  I honestly don't know why there is war.  Some wars do seem like noble causes like fighting for the freedom of a people with a horrible despot ruler or countries committing genocide on certain ethnic groups.  But why don't we do this every time (Rwanda comes to mind)?   I can't make judgements on areas I'm not educated in.

Chloe asked me, "Mom, why can't we just talk about our differences and work them out that way, like you teach us?"  Maybe Chloe should run for President.

I leave you with a quote from  JFK, "Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind."

May 27, 2012


5/27/2012 — cori
I could hike every day and never tire of it.  It is like a breath of fresh air for me.  Beauty is around every corner.  Today's adventure took us to the St. Croix River on the Minnesota/Wisconsin border.   Thankfully, the only 'oddity' we experienced was Ninja's puking episode in the car...right next to Chloe...which caused Chloe to scream and stand and attempt to jump over the seats while we were driving.  But other than that, we did pretty good at keeping this adventure as 'normal' and 'low key' as possible. 

The trail we blazed.

 A gorgeous wood carving of an eagle.

 The iris, such a strong, delicate flower.  It is one of my favorites.

The intricate beauty of textures and colors.

We walked on a trail that used to be an old railroad line.  
We came across some old timbers that still contained the original nails. 

My favorite hiking parters. 

May 21, 2012

I'm Not Alone

5/21/2012 — cori

I can't tell you how relieved I feel!  I learned just today that someone else in this world shares a "problem" I have.  I won't keep you guessing at which "problem" this is any longer.  You know how some people can carry a conversation great and others...well...can't.  I fall into the latter category.  I blank out when I'm in a large social group.  I don't know what to say.  I have zero social skills.  And now, it's nice to know I'm not alone.  Unbelievable, but true, Carrie Underwood, of all people, also claims to have this social phobia.   It has previously been un-named in my life...but no longer.  I love what she calls it.  She says that she is the "Queen of Awkward Moments".  As soon as the phrase was uttered I was shaking my head and laughing my butt off cuz I GET IT!!!  I can't even tell you the number of awkward moments I have lived through between myself and any number of people who have tried communicating with me.  My mind goes blank,  my tongue speaks on its own or gets tied, I say things I don't mean, I don't say the right thing at the right time, I say the wrong thing at the wrong time, I stutter, the list goes on and on.   I've gotten really, really good at sticking my foot in my mouth.

The awesome thing about blogging is, I can edit myself before I "speak".  There are no awkward moments for me in this platform.  I can write out what I want to say, read over it, edit it and push the publish button.  I don't start getting nervous or sweating or overthinking what I should say next because I'm not sitting and talking to a real person.  That's the beauty of the blog.  I talk.  You listen.  I don't mess up. No awkward moments.  I like it.

It's just nice to know I have at least one thing in common with Carrie Underwood.  Too bad that one thing couldn't have been her smile, her voice, or her hair...but I'll take what I can get.

May 20, 2012

Too Much

5/20/2012 — cori

Bennett and I were chatting the other day about sports.  He was telling me that almost all the boys in his grade were playing baseball right now.  And that before that, they were all playing basketball. And before that, they were all playing football.  He wondered out loud, "When do they rest?"

Good point, my son.

I asked him if he felt left out because he wasn't playing baseball.  He replied, "No!  I want to play one thing and get really good at it.  That's why I chose basketball.  I'd like to play baseball, but with Daddy.  I don't want to play on a team and have to have lots of practices again.  Then I wouldn't have time to just play or be with you guys.  It's all too much, Mom!"

Why can a kid see this and adults can't?

He went on to tell me about his friend.  "Mom, my friend doesn't have any toys in his room.  And his Dad isn't nice to him, neither is his brother.  So he either has video games or sports.  I can understand why he plays sports all the time.  But then when he grows up, he'll think playing sports all the time is normal..." and I finished his sentence with,  "...and spending time with your family is not."

I actually find this current social fascination of putting your child in some extra curricular activity each season a negative.  I personally see it as activity suggesting a life full of meaning.  We justify these activities with statements such as, "I want my child to experience all different types of things" all the while thinking, what am I going to do with them during the summer, I can't have them hanging around the house for goodness sakes.    So we over-schedule them.   We put them in every camp imaginable because it will be "fun".  We sign them up for every sport during the proper season because we want to give our kid the opportunities we didn't get as kids or think they somehow deserve.

What they "deserve" is time with their parents.

But we're really doing them a disservice in the long run.  By schelling out money left and right for this activity and that activity we're only encouraging our children's natural bent toward egocentrism.  Kids naturally think the world revolves around them.  It is our job as the parents to teach them it doesn't.  However, when we sign them up for every activity under the sun and spend all our extra money on them, and sacrifice all our extra time carting them to and from each event/activity, we're only feeding and reinforcing that egocentrism.  We are proving with our actions that they are more important than our family unit as a whole.

I'm not against extra curricular activities.  I think kids can learn valuable lessons through these endeavors.  But they need to be balanced with family time.  Moms and Dads need to impart their life and time into their kids.  And you can't do that when the kids are never home.  You can't do that when you are just the driver getting them to and from their activities.  You can't do that if you never eat dinner together or play together.  And we wonder why our children don't share our sense of values or want to spend time with us as they get older.  

Children need time! Lots of play, to process what they're learning in the world.  Play is learning.  Play is super important.  Too much structured time and too little play leads to very frustrated kids.  Kids who are always catered to, being allowed to take part in any and everything they fancy, never learn to appreciate anything.  

Less is  more!

May 17, 2012

Speech Therapy

5/17/2012 — cori

You would never know that Chloe ever had a speech impediment.  I personally thought it was adorable how her 'r' sound still came out as 'ur' sounding.  But it doesn't feel adorable when you're being made fun of.  Chloe was lucky to have the most wonderful speech therapist in school this year.  Chloe was determined to say her letters and words correctly.  She began speaking even more properly and articulately than ever before.

That's why my heart smiled super big this morning as I dropped her off at school.  She excitedly told me, "Mommy, I'm going to try to do a flip on the trap-uh-zee bars today!"  I knew immediately that she was talking about the 'trapeze bar' but I didn't correct her.  I love it.  I love that she's still young enough to pronounce words wrong even though she can still speak so proper.  It reminds me of those days that seemed to fly by way too fast where each of my sweet little people had unique pronunciations for all sorts of words.  I actually miss not having to translate for them or spend countless hours trying to interpret what they could possibly be saying in their limited english vocabulary.

May 14, 2012

DUFDN Returns

5/14/2012 — cori
It's been way too long since we celebrated this fun, family tradition.  It's funny how time gets away from you.  But have no fear, Dress Up For Dinner Night is here!  We voted on the theme and "Jobs" ended up winning.  So, without further ado, here we are dressed up in our "Jobs" costumes ready to eat a yummy dinner:

Don't you wish you were sitting at the table eating with thee freaks.

Introducing:  Herb Smiley, the used car salesman.  What makes Herb's outfit special is the fact that he used all his own clothes from his everyday wardrobe.  That takes a special skill to take any thing you own, and put it together in such a way to make you look like an idiot.  Way to go Herb!

I am Edwin the English Detective from 1940's England.  I am sporting my son's blazer and dress shirt, my husband's hat and tie, any thankfully, my own pants.  Chloe let me borrow her notepad with the crayola marker so I could look official writing down my detective findings.  I feel I came across looking a little more like Hiter than Edwin, but oh well....gotta just go with it sometimes.

Gavin asks me, "Mom, can it be a job I read about in a book?"  Naively, I answer, "Sure".  I should have known something was up.  No other job on our planet would suit him.  So he decided to dress up as a Ranger Apprentice.  Apparently this is a viable occupation in some other worlds.

Chloe was all too excited to be Louise the Maid.  She asked me earlier on in the day if maids wore make-up.  I assured her they do.  That's all she needed...she would now be a maid, even though she hates to clean.  But she did inform me that she LOVES to clean rich people's houses because they have cool stuff to look at.

No guessing needed here.  Bennett proudly portrays his alter ego, Bob the Plumber.  Let's just say he has lots of experience in the plumbing department.  No, he didn't grow a beer belly over night.  That is just all the underwear he owns stuffed inside his shirt.  His goal, apparently, is to use underwear in each of the costumes he tries to assemble.  He hasn't failed yet.  At least they weren't on his head this time.

May 12, 2012

Rude Awakening

5/12/2012 — cori
I was so looking forward to sleeping in this Saturday morning.  We had no where we had to be.  Instead, at precisely 7:19 a.m. we heard the distinct sound of something crawling around in our attic.  Not. Good.  It was loud enough to wake both Chuck & I up from a dead sleep.  You know when you hear foot steps.  You tend to take that kind of thing seriously.

So what did we do?  Well, first we jumped out of bed and stood there looking up at the ceiling.  That's the level of brain competence we're dealing with first thing in the morning.  Then Chuck asks me if it's raining.  Since I'm the one closest to the window, I peer out and assess the situation.  No rain.  Even if, I've never heard rain that sounds like footsteps in my attic, but whatever, it was early and we were just so rudely awakened by this mystery sound, we can't expect to be thinking clearly now, can we.

Now that heavy rain has been checked off the list, we start letting our imaginations run wild.  Maybe a badger is trapped in our attic.  It's too loud to be mice.  Maybe it could be a raccoon.  Or three.  It was loud!  And it kept running back and forth.  Whatever it was sounded nervous.  That was making us nervous.

I'm sure we were talking between ourselves but I can't remember a word of it.  All I know is that after about 3 minutes of standing in our room looking at the ceiling, suddenly we're both taking off for the front our jammies.  I follow Chuck out to the driveway.  We now have two kids in tow.  All 4 of us are standing in our driveway, with bed head, sleep still in our eyes, and jammies all caddy-wampus from just rolling out of bed, staring at our roof.

And guess what we found:

Yep.  These Mallards decided that our roof made a nice perch midway on their journey to find the next nearest lake.  Apparently they (there were 3 of them) were running back and forth.  We were elated.  The alternative would have been horrible.  If something was actually in our attic that would mean there was a hole in our roof or the side of our house somewhere.  And it's pitch black up there.  I would hate to see Chuck have to pull down the attic stairs and start wrestling with some unknown creature in the dark after he just woke up.

After our little discovery session we decided to go back to bed.  Since we didn't have to actually deal with any furry creatures with teeth and rabies, we were relieved enough to resume our original positions.

May 10, 2012

Spring Flowers

5/10/2012 — cori

The saddest things about pictures are that you can't smell them.  If you could, the intoxicating fragrance of this picture would make you keep your nose stuck to the computer screen all day.   These lilacs almost knock me over every day with their fragrant blooms.  I had no idea the power behind these tiniest of flowers.  You put a million of them together and their fragrance makes you walk around with a silly smile on your face the rest of the day because you're awed by their beauty and refreshing smell.  Joy is in the simple, little  things, isn't it?  I love sitting on my front porch, in my rocking chair and reading by the light of the sun and the fragrance of my lilacs.  This is going to be a good day.... I can just smell it!

May 9, 2012

Bite Me

5/09/2012 — cori

So...remember that little epiphany I had?  Live fully in the moment, don't worry about the past or future, don't covet time,  yadayadayada.  Well...I knew that would come back to bite me.  I just knew I'd get the opportunity to 'exercise' this little lesson, I just didn't know when.

Turns out yesterday was 'training day' for me.  Okay Cori, let's see how deep this new beautiful truth is in you, shall we?  Let's throw a curve ball at you today and see what happens.  Oh goodie.

It helps to have a little background information first.  You see, I used to be a huge stickler for a schedule.  If anything got off MY schedule by a fraction of a minute, I was so irritated (to put it lightly).  I lived and breathed by my own self inflicted schedule.  I did not live a free life.  I put all kinds of walls and boundaries up to protect myself.  Those little walls I liked to call "my schedule".  If you wanted to enjoy me, you had to also like my schedule because it controlled me.

I thank God everyday for teaching me a better way to live because living like that is miserable for you and everyone else around you.  But when you feel you have no control over your own life, setting up pseudo-control in the form of a very strict schedule has a way of giving you a false sense of security that you cling to desperately.  A whole day could easily be ruined because something in our day happened out of order or our time frame got messed up somehow.

Looking back, I can't even begin to imagine living like that.  Who was that person?  She must not have been very happy.  Having three kids and homeschooling abruptly threw that philosophy of living right out the window.  I either had to become Nazi-Mom or learn to go with the flow.  I now LOVE the freedom of seeing where the day takes me; staying flexible and open to adventures or emergencies or whatever else might come up.  I'd say God transformed me completely and I hardly remember that old, suffocating way of life I used to live bound up with my rigid schedule.

But yesterday it all came flooding back in full force.  Of course it did.

We had planned to go see Daddy's softball games after school.  He works almost an hour away, so logistically, it's very hard for us to make it up there and back before bedtime on a school night.  Most of his games are late at night but these were at 6 and 7pm.  Perfect.  I could just pick up the kids and get up to his work 45 minutes later.  We would have time to eat and get to the ball fields with time to spare.  It was a brilliant plan.  And to top things off, this was like the only game of his season we were going to be able to come to because of kids' extra curricular actives.

Que rain.  Bummer.

Que cold, cloudy day.  Double Bummer!

This is not turning into the picture I had in my head of a beautiful, sunny, 70 degree, spring day.

But that's okay, they probably wouldn't call the game because it wasn't  supposed to rain during game time.  They'd just have to deal with the puddles all over the field.  Not my problem.  I'm going with the flow just fine.

Then comes the final blow.  Apparently my internal stress-o-meter was already set at pretty high because of the previous, unplanned weather circumstances.  Then Chuck calls like 5 minutes before we were supposed to leave.  "Uh, I have some interesting news for you."

"What could you possibly tell me that is interesting 5 minutes before I have to leave?"

"Well...turns out we don't have a 6 o'clock game.  Only a 7 o'clock game."

You would have thought he told me he hated me and never wanted to see me again.  I was so ticked off by that change of plans.  See, I had planned to hang around with the kids for the 6 o'clock game and leave by 7 so I could get home by 8 to put everyone to bed.  Perfect plan, right?  Apparently, no one else got my memo.

"ARGHHHH!!!!  So, do you not want us to come now?"  What I was really saying here was, I guess that means we don't get to have Smashburger for dinner now and have to eat leftovers that I DON'T WANT and we won't get to see you until like 9 o'clock tonight.  And I have to unpack the car with all the stuff I just finished putting in there to bring to your game.

"Sure, you can still come if you want.  We'll just have a longer wait till the game."

"...........", that's me fuming and thinking.  Suddenly, old Cori rears her ugly, control head and every and anything I've learned over the last 10 years disappears.  I let this new change of plans ruin my ever lovin joy.

Then, to make matters worse Chuck's like, "Remember that living in the moment thing?  Let's just enjoy whatever time we get whether you go to the game or not, at least we'll get to eat together and hang out for a while."

"Ok.  Fine.  See you soon."  Inside, I know this whole thing is so petty.  But I can stop the volcano of emotions erupting just beneath the surface.  It just plain feels good to be mad.

So, I go pick up the kids from school.  They can instantly sense I'm not "happy mommy" at the moment.  They start peppering me with questions about whether or not I'm tired or if I have a headache.  I decide to just confess and tell them, "Mommy is fine, just a little irritated is all.  Things aren't working out the way we thought they would for tonight and I'm just trying to not let it bother me.  But until I've reached that zen state, I will probably look a little perturbed and sound a little frustrated."

Bennett is all over that.  He knows the cure for a bad mood.  He jumps in with excitement in the Trying-To-Help-Mom-Not-Be-Mad-Anymore Cure.  To make matters worse, I'm the one who taught him the cure.  "So, Mom, Whatcha' thankful for today?"

His timing is impeccable.  He knew if I would chose to be thankful, I couldn't be upset anymore.  I'm sure I mumbled something pathetic like, "I'm glad you're finally home from school."  Not like my conscience wasn't doing an adequate enough job of reminding me to just let it go, now I had Chuck reminding me of my epiphany and Bennett reminding me to be thankful.   Man, what does a girl have to do stay in a mad mood around here?!

Oh, I know... how about, get stuck in traffic.  Let's sit right in the middle of a construction zone and try to merge 3 lanes into 1 in the course of one block.  That will help eat up time and mental energy.

What seemed like ions later, we finally made it up to Chuck's work and over to Smashburger.  I silently pray the world's best prayer, "Help God!  Help, please!".  It worked.  For me, that was my surrender.  That was me admitting my way sucked and I would prefer to live thankful and in the moment and chose His way, not my pathetic, self-serving way.

We ended up laughing so hard at dinner.  And yes, it rained but who cares.  Chuck was the one who had to play in that weather.  The kids didn't once complain about the long drive or the fact that we didn't get to go to Daddy's game (I should have been relieved actually knowing my luck with softballs).

And just to make sure I wasn't 'faking' my new found joy, I got lost on the way home and still didn't blow up.  Okay, maybe once I screamed in frustration over the phone when I was calling Chuck for the 3rd time in angst over not being able to find my way back to the highway and driving aimlessly for 20 minutes.  But we did get to see the most beautiful rainbow on the way it all worked out in the end.

It's so strange how old habits can rear their ugly head.  Just goes to show how my best effort is never good enough.  I need to chose Jesus every minute of every day.  And having people who love me around me to remind me of that fact is an extra bonus when I'm too dense to remember.

May 8, 2012

What is important to you is important to me

5/08/2012 — cori

This past weekend, Bennett and I experienced what was probably the best day of his life - ever.  The University of Minnesota has a Raptor Center where they rehabilitate injured raptors.  Once a year they have a ceremony where they release these raptors back into the wild.  Bennett & I just happened to make that our date day.  It couldn't have been more awesome!

Bennett's obsession and love affair with birds of all varieties is widely known.  But to have someone else take as deep an interest in what you love and share the joy of that with you....well, that's priceless.  He loved that we got to do this together and that I thought the whole thing was as awesome has he did.

They had several areas sectioned off that allowed us to get some pretty amazing and up close and personal views of these spectacular birds of prey.  Bennett peppered the lady in the enclosed area with the birds with a million and one questions.  And then he proceeded to tell me every minute detail about each of the birds in the enclosure.  It was such a delight.

He told me more than once, "Mom, I think this is the best day of my life so far."

Here's his version in his own words.

May 5, 2012

My Epiphany

5/05/2012 — cori

It came to me in the oddest of places.  I was scrunched over a dandelion weed and I think I just about solved all the world's problems.  Okay, maybe not the whole world's, but mine.  It was a beautiful day to be outside.  I actually wanted to pull weeds.  We were all outside doing our part to help make our outdoor space more inviting.

As I was maneuvering the trowel, I was thinking.  I was thinking about what I had to do next.  I was thinking about what I'd already done.  Then it hit me, why aren't I thinking about what I'm doing exactly this minute?  Why am I spending so much energy on the future and the past.  Why can't I enjoy this exact moment?

Then it struck me....I'm coveting time.  I believe coveting is the root of all problems.  We want what we don't have right now.  Isn't that the cause of discontentment?  If I was fully living in the moment, unconcerned about what I had to do 5 minutes from now, wouldn't I be enjoying and seeing so much more life around me?  Wouldn't I be living abundantly?  Why is there that concern about what I have to do next?  Why am I allowing that to steal the time I have at this exact moment?

What can I learn from the right now?  Was I employing all my senses while pulling the weeds?  Did I really smell the beauty of the rich, dark dirt beneath my fingers?  Did a smile cross my face when I heard the sounds of children playing, laughing and talking in the background?  Did I hear the intricate sound of birds chirping and leaves blowing in the breeze?  Did I feel every ounce of warmth on my skin?  Did my eyes behold the beauty of the earth?   Did I take the time to thank God for each of these gifts?  Did I take the time to listen to that 'still small voice' speak into my soul and fill me up?

As you can see, I think in questions.

I want to be ever aware of no longer coveting that which I don't have.  Not only the things I'd like to own one day.  But the time laid out before me.  I'm not promised tomorrow.  I'm only given the gift of today.  I can't be disappointed in what doesn't happen in the future if I didn't covet that time today.  I would be too busy living my life fully today to let worry or covetousness subtly steal the time away I have right now.

I hate to think of how many precious moments with loved ones I allowed to be ruined because I was too concerned about what I needed to do next.  I might have missed a nuance in their actions, a look in their eyes or the tone of their voice because my mind wasn't focused only on them in that one and only beautiful moment.

I think I now truly understand Jim Eliot's quote:

Whatever you do, be all there.

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