Thursday, June 29, 2006

Walkway Work Begins!

This week marked the beginning of work on our new front entry walkway. We are so excited! We started out with Ben removing the old plywood ramp on Monday evening. He was quite proud of himself for managing it so well (and kept telling me he really didn't need any help.)

On Tuesday, a crew of 4 worked all day, getting the foundation dug and laid for the retaining wall which will keep the new walkway and stone step from sliding down the hill to land outside of Ty's bedroom window.

Wednesday they finished the wall, and started prepping the walkway area. Thursday, work began on the walkway itself.

Yesterday Ty took a chair out on the bridge to chat with the workers. He learned all kinds of things, including that one of the workers speaks Spanish, so they tried communicating en espaƱol!

They will be finishing up the walkway tomorrow, and then bringing in rock for under the bridge, and grading the dirt around the walkway so that I can start playing "gardener" and do some planting. More pictures coming soon!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

More on Heroes

I've been thinking about my personal definition of 'hero' since that last post. I realized that I am more a believer in heroic acts than heroes, per se - if there needs to be a differentiation between the two. What I mean by that is that I admire people for doing great things but I don't always expect their entire lives to have been admirable. Now I can hear my mother laughing at that, as I have certain authors I will not read, or actors whose films I will not see, as I find some aspect of their lives reprehensible. So I guess I have a bit of a double-standard there. If you do something I disapprove of, it's hard to get back on my good side. But if you do something I admire, I can overlook other parts of your life that aren't so rosy. And of course, I hope it goes without saying, that this is all in my opinions of famous people I will never meet or know!! This is not the standard to which I hold my friends, family and neighbors!

Jimmy Carter - make that Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter - definitely make my list. What a humble, selfless and giving couple they are. From their commitment to Habitat for Humanity, to The Carter Center, their nonprofit dedicated to "waging peace, fighting disease, building hope" ... incredible people dedicated to doing everything they can to make the world a better place. I love waging peace. What a great word. Deliberate, forceful, commited. hero - A person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life

I like the "nobility of purpose" part of the definition. That's what I look for in my heroes.

Monday, June 26, 2006

In case you hadn't heard...

Warren Buffet has now joined my A-List of Modern Day Heroes. He has announced he will be donating 85% of his $44 billion to charity, mostly by way of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Gates, by the way, are the founding members of my list. This list of heroes I have is something new - for me anyway - and Cher just joined, too, for her donations to give our soldiers decent head gear to wear in combat. And a few weeks ago I wrote about Angelina Jolie's commitment to giving, which I admire. Oprah goes off and on my list. Yes, she does some incredible things with her wealth and power. But sometimes it seems a little too self-serving for my liking. I don't know - I like what she does but I don't like her.

I have some local heroes, too, and non-celebrity ones. My friends Carla & Mark are heroes to me, for leaving the known and moving to a poverty-stricken country with plans to help the children there.

People who go out of their way to notice a need in the world, and then do something to mend the situation - these are the true heroes in our world.

I'll add more heroes as I come across them. In the meantime I get dizzy thinking about all the good that can be done now that two of the richest people in the entire history of the world are going to be working together to do good.

Skogfjorden, 2006

(Text and photos by Ben)
This summer was my fourth time at Norwegian Camp - Skogfjorden. I was there for one week. This is one of the cabins the students stay in. I stayed in this one my first two years (it's called Oslo, after the capital of Norway) but this year I was in the cabin called Hamar, another city in Norway.

Each day, we got up at 7:30, (my bed is pictured below) then had half an hour before breakfast. During that time we would generally finish waking up, take showers, get dressed and do morning stuff. For breakfast, we had things like smorbrod (Norwegian open-faced sandwiches), or a rice & oat cereal (kind of like Rice Krispies and oat clusters, but with a brown sugar flavor), and on the final day we had 'horns' - a Norwegian pastry that looks like croissants, but are more dense. I didn't think they were very good.

After breakfast, we would go directly to Streng Grupper (string groups - we were divided by the color of the strings holding our name tags). Usually we would learn Norwegian words and play games to help enforce the learning.

Mid-morning, we would have 'mat pakke' -- a small packaged snack of fruit, sandwiches or granola bars. After that, we had 'Krets'. Everyone at the camp was divided into three groups, randomly. Each group would go off on their own and learn some aspect of Norwegian history and culture. We learned about immigrants TO Norway, and go to pretend to be people moving to Norway. I pretended to be a Swede, wanting to move to Norway to be a blacksmith or silversmith. Another Krets activity was kind of like a treasure hunt. We were supposed to find Norwegian artifacts. The shield pictured below was one of them. Another one was a horseshoe, but my friends and I discovered it wasn't real as it was engraved with the words "MADE IN MANHATTAN"!

Then we would have lunch, and after lunch we had another session of 'Streng Gruppe' to learn more Norwegian words and phrases. Then we had 45 minutes of free time. Usually I would buy a candy bar and can of Sprite and then go back to the cabin and draw, while snacking away!

Every day we also had time called 'Kosetime' which means "cozy time" but I wouldn't call Dodge Ball very cozy! It really was time to do fun things. The first kosetime you could do Dodge Ball, do a fun music thing, or do "girl stuff" like make jewelry. After lunch in the second kosetime the options were soccer (fotbal), chess (sjakk), or painting (rosmaling).

Dinner was a bigger meal. We had homemade bread sometimes, which I loved, and other days had knekkebrod (a rye cracker bread) that I do NOT like.

Every day we would sing songs in Norwegian at the time called 'Alle Sangen' -- the "everyone song" time. The last night we had a party with a dance. You didn't have to dance if you didn't want to. I found it more fun just to run and run and run around in the gym area.

Here is a picture of one of my favorite parts of Skogfjorden - the Stavkirken, or Stave Church, a replica of many churches in Norway. There are dragon heads on the church to scare off evil spirits. The last picture is some of the 'Gruppeledere' or group leaders. Some of them are from Norway and others are Americans who have studied Norwegian a lot. I'm hoping to be a 'Gruppeleder' when I am old enough.

El Lago del Bosque, 2006

(This is Ty writing, and he took the photos, too.)
Last week I went to El Lago del Bosque. I had gone there for a weekend before, though this was nothing like I thought it would be. It was different because there were different activities you got to choose, and there was a very different schedule.

I usually got up at 7:27 - 7:30, though the first day I woke up at 8, which was when you were supposed to get up. If you wake up earlier, you have to stay in bed unless you have to go to the bathroom. At 8 you had to get up, get dressed, or if it was your assigned time, you took a shower. I was assigned to take evening showers. Then we went to breakfast. Before every single meal, we had to sing a song I call "Gracias por el pan" which means "thank you for the bread." We usually had some kind of cereal or oatmeal for breakfast, but it usually wasn't very good. There were croissants with cinnamon replacing the butter, which were bad. On the last day they had Fruit Loops for breakfast, which were great.

After breakfast we cleaned the cabin. This is what it looked like in the evening, so we had to clean in the morning. After the cabin was clean, we had free time for half an hour. Usually I played ping pong. Then, we did our first activities. I did a nature walk every day. We went down to the lake, and we had to walk down this long, winding old deer trail to get there. It was too cold to go swimming until the last day, but I didn't want to go swimming that day. We would occasionally stop to see an animal or interesting plant, but I wish I could have been signed up for boating instead of walking.

After that, we had more free time, then group activities before lunch. It varies what activities you do, though each group does a different activity each day. One day we did a play. Another day we made folders and put papers with the names of our familiy members, in Spanish, in them. Ben was Benito, I was Martin, my parents were Mama and Papa, and Colby was Perro.

After that we had lunch. We usually had salad, bread and something else. The bread was wonderful. It was homemade every day and I loved it!

After lunch was a half-hour siesta and we actually had to rest in our beds. This is the view from my bed. I am taking a picture of Jose and he is taking a picture of me!

After siesta we would get even more free time. This time we had an hour and a half, from 3:00 - 4:30. I usually played more ping pong, though I also liked to relax in these comfy chairs. There was usually a counselor sitting in one of the chairs, also, so I usually chatted with him or her, en espanol.

The buildings all surrounded the center of the camp, where there was a fountain. Here is a picture of it.

The last night we had a fiesta. Every person got one ice cream cone, and chances to do activities, like trying to cover a balloon with whipped cream before it popped. It was very hard - I only saw three people who did it. There was music and some dancing. I didn't dance but I had fun anyway.

On the last day I was very happy to see my Mom. Then we went to pick up Ben at Skogfjorden, and drove back home.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Play Doh is 50!

To celebrate, the company has developed "eau-de-play-doh" -- a perfume so you, too, can smell like that unforgettable and distinctive Playdoh aroma.

While I do have many fond memories of playing with Playdoh, I don't know that the perfume will be high on my wish-list. It is a memorable scent, though, I can easily imagine it even though it's been years since I last smelled it.

Made me laugh ...

No reason for this post, it just made me laugh.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Success! This morning likes me, it really likes me! Here are the rest of the pictures from yesterday:

Ty using the GPS

Searching fruitlessly at Penn Lake

And finally showing the prize at our fourth attempt!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A - Geocaching we go!

We are trying something new this summer. The boys pooled their money and (with a little help from Mom) bought a GPS hand-held unit so that we can try Geocaching. Ty has been reading online about the "sport" and Ben has been learning to use the GPS.

So today, Wednesday June 21, we are setting out to find our first caches! (I'm still learning the correct jargon.) According to the geocaching site, there are 29 caches within 2 miles of our area - guess it pays to live so close to Nine Mile Creek and lots of park land!

Each site is described online with its latitude and longitude, and occasionally some hints as to how to find it. There is also a degree of difficulty reported on, and people are encouraged to log in and write comments after they visit the cache, to make sure that it is actually where it's supposed to be. Not surprisingly, it seems to be a very efficient and effective self-monitoring system!

Ben was the keeper of the GPS for our first search. I had downloaded info on 4 nearby, thinking we would whiz through them pretty quickly. We went to Nine Mile Creek and set out. We got fairly close. We thought. Then we realized we needed to be on the other side of the creek, so we had to back-track and find a bridge (we were not dressed to cross where we were!) We ended up crawling up a steep hill, through woods and rough terrain.
We found a bone ... and a lifeless baby raccoon (so sad!) .... but no treasure.

So, on to the next site ... with similar results. By now we were hot, tired, sweaty, and a bit crabby! WHO KNEW THIS WOULD BE HARD??? Certainly not us!

We perservered to what we thought would be a really easy one. Penn Lake Park - a nearby park we know well. We are still certain we were in exactly the right place, but again ... no luck.

So, weary but still a tiny bit hopeful, we decided to try one last time. I was really hoping this one was a success because I didn't know if I would ever convince the boys to try again if we struck out 4 times in a row. Ty took the GPS in hand this time, and off we went. We got to the right area. We thought. Then we had to use our minds, as the GPS couldn't help us any more. We looked around and tried to guess where the person might have stashed the cache - and we found it!!! (I have a picture of the cache itself, so you can see what we were seeking, but is refusing to let me upload any more photos tonight. Who knows.) Anyway - we were, in reality, just too pooped to even celebrate. On the ride home the boys were not sure they ever wanted to try this again but I put on my best "mom" hat and gave a pep talk that apparently worked, as now (hours later!) they are talking about where we will go next! And I have spent quite a bit of time at the geocaching website reading up on all the cool-sounding places I would like to visit. I, for one, am hooked!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Colby's Idea of Heaven

Colby's favorite part of our yard is the rope swing. Don't try to convince him it's a toy for kids. If a child sits on it he will pull them out, away from the wall, and not let go! He knows that really it's there for him to conquer.

The rope is a fierce competitor ...

But it's no match for a determined poodle!

Don't let it get away ...

Hang on tight!

If it does get away, just start again ...

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Happy Father's Day!

Steve, Ben & Ty pose in front of the new fire ring the boys gave to their dad today. We picked Steve up from his business trip to Miami and headed over to Uncle Dave's for dinner with the Peterson side of the family (We saw Grandpa Holt earlier in the day.) We had a great BBQ on Dave's patio and celebrated fatherhood. Then back home for Steve to be honored - we even had a small fire to make sure it worked!

Later, I was looking through old photo albums and found this photo of Steve & his Dad, John, from 1964 when Steve was just 8 months old. He's the oldest child so John was delighting in his new role of Daddy!

Self Portraits

Is this odd, to try and take a picture of myself? I never would have tried but noted how much I enjoyed seeing other people's attempts so ... here we are.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Something I read at lunchtime today

After I picked the boys up from camp this morning, we drove for a while before stopping for lunch. We ended up at the A-Pine Family Restaurant in Pequot Lakes, MN. A fine place to eat, if you are ever in the area.

We happened to arrive at the height of the lunch rush, so we ended up waiting quite a while for a server to take our order. So I found myself reading the menu from cover to cover. It's one of those family-run places that gives a little background on how they started. They had a story on the inside cover of the menu that I liked, so I googled to find it now that I am back home. The version I found online is slightly different from the menu story, but the message is the same:

A father, in order to test the geographical knowledge of his son, took a map of the world and cut it into many pieces. He then called his son and said to him, “Look, my son, I have cut up the map of the world and I would like you to put these pieces back together correctly.” The son took away all the pieces, and in a very short time brought them back, all put together correctly. He had taped them together and showed his father the intact map of the world. The father was taken aback. Even he himself could not have put those pieces together in such a short time. Very curious, he questioned his son as to how he had done it so quickly. The child replied, “Papa, on the back of the map is a picture of a man. I put him right and then, the world was right, too.” Yes, thought the father - if the man is right, the world is right.

It struck me as such a simple saying with such a profound meaning. If the man (or person, to be gender-neutral!) is right ... it will naturally follow that the world is right.

I really like that restaurant :-)

Wealth - it's all in how you measure it

On a friend's blog she recently wrote something and referred to herself as wealthy. The next day she wrote another note offering an explanation of why she wrote that, worried that some might misunderstand. She lives with her family in a suburb neighboring ours, and certainly would not be on Robin Leach's list to film for his show (neither would we!) But I agree with her - her family, and mine, are indeed wealthy.

A few years ago (ok, it was closer to a decade, wow time flies fast) another good friend was telling me the story of how her oldest came home from kindergarten (or maybe it was first grade) and asked if their family was rich. I have never forgotten the answer she gave him. She asked him what he thought it means to be poor. He responded with "you don't have food or toys or maybe even a house." She then asked him if he had all those things. He didn't hesitate before replying in the affirmative. She then said to him, "See, my son, we are rich. We have a home to keep us warm and dry. We have plenty of food to eat. We have toys to play with. We are rich, indeed."

When you look at the American popular definition of wealth, then no, we don't fit that mold. But when you compare our lifestyle with that of the majority of people in the world, we are so rich it's distressing. Why do we need so much when so many have so little? And why do we continue to want for so much more when we waste so many of the resources we have been given?

This morning I read an article about Brangelina (I admit to being terrifically curious about that whole situation) and it ended with a note that Angelina gives one-third of all her income to charity. ONE-THIRD. Can you even IMAGINE what the world would be like if everyone who is in her income bracket, the TRULY wealthy, followed suit?!?!?!? Heck, let them just give one-fourth.

Which reminds me, I wanted to write about Bill Gates' retirement and future plans. But it will have to wait as my boys are home from camp and want to share their experiences with me.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Can you see all the text?

OK, I have noticed that almost every time I visit my blog, some of the text doesn't appear. If I run the cursor over it and highlight it, the missing stuff shows up - or if I scroll up or down, so that the missing text goes off-screen momentarily, it will also appear. It usually happens to the titles of posts, and the last lines of paragraphs.

Is this happening when you visit the blog, too, or is it just my computer? I may have to consider using a different background template if everyone is having this problem!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Lego Alien Avenger

Ben displaying his first eBay purchase - the 1997 (no longer sold) Lego Alien Avenger UFO. Ben writes: This large dome-shaped spacecraft has four Lego people, two scouting vehicles, and, of course, the large UFO with a detachable top. My favorite part about it is the black colored alien in the top small dome. He's my new leader. I have created a base in my bedroom which is home to this UFO (is it really a UFO if I have identified it? I don't know!) It came completely put together but I had Ty take it all apart so that I could put it together myself (it was put together wrong so I corrected it.)

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Big Feet!!!!

While we are on the topic of feet, we just bought Ben his first pair of shoes from the men's department. Waah! How did he grow so fast? I pulled out his baby shoes (which we had bronzed - I felt a bit foolish and over-indulgent when I did it, but boy am I glad now that I did!) just to compare. I remember his tiny toes and his baby steps. Now he wears a size 8 shoe, and his foot is almost the same size as his 18-year old cousin, shown here (OK, I don't know why all of a sudden I have so many foot pictures. It's not planned, really.)

Skin Color

In the summer, my skin looks like the underbelly of a dead fish. White. Whiter than white. The only time it's not white is when it's red ... and I will even admit there have been times in my life I have deliberatly tried to get a sunburn just to get get some color on my body.

So a few days ago when I was at Target, I noticed there are now a plethora of products created to give you a natural-looking sunless tan. I (perhaps naively) assumed that technology would have gotten us past the streaky, uneven, hard-to-apply-evenly products that turn skin a blotchy orange, and decided to give it a go.

Here's my feet now after using the L'Oreal product (hey, L'Oreal does a good job on my hair so I thought it would be safe...)

Yes, it looks like my feet were in a fight and got pretty bruised. Yes, it looks vaguely orange. Yes, I really did try to avoid the bony places ... you can see how successfully that worked.

Thankfully my legs are not so bad, and I will just have to wear shoes for a few days until it wears off.

Sigh. I really did have my hopes up. I really did think that just once I would not glow in the dark all summer long, being so white I was recognizable at night from 50 paces. Back to being scary in the lake (what are those glowing things down beneath you in the water???)

Those of you with a nice color (I don't want to be TAN, just not WHITE) ... count your blessings. And offer me pity as you put on your sunglasses to protect your eyes from the shine of the sun on my body.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

What do YOU need?

In reading randomly online, I came across a "blog challenge" ... now, that's a new phrase for me, maybe you have heard it before ... anyway. This one challenged you to google your name and the word 'needs' and then list the top ten returns you get.

So I dutifully googled "karen needs" and here's my list, in the order Google presented them to me (Ok, I admit I did skip a few which just seemed too odd):

Karen needs to grow up!
Karen needs to be well-hydrated
Karen needs a new job
Karen needs prayers
Karen needs a man
Karen needs a room to rent
Karen needs a Jack
Karen is definitely in need of a friend
Karen needs money to buy roller skates
Karen needs to do some thinking here

So -- what do YOU need? Google and find out and share the best!

Helping a Cambodian Village

Last night, two friends of Ben & Ty's stayed at our house while their parents attended a wedding. The four kids had a great time playing games, and cooking hotdogs and s'mores over an open fire in the back yard. But the friends had come with a presentation to share with us, too.

After dinner we went to the computer and watched and listened as they told us about their upcoming trip to Cambodia - their mother's homeland, and their hopes of helping the village she lived in as a child. Their mother's family was torn apart by the war in the 1970s, and eventually the family members who survived made it to a refugee camp in Thailand. Some of them came to the United States, others went to France. And some stayed in Cambodia. This summer these two children (along with their parents) will travel back to the village which was their mother's final Cambodian home, and they plan to bring funds to dig a well for the village. Currently the village obtains water from the nearby river, which is filthy and diseased. Digging a well should do amazing things for the health of the village and should save many of the children, especially, from parasitic infections which can lead to severe diarrhea, leading all too often to an early death.

These children have spoken in a variety of places over the past few months and have raised nearly $1000 for their mission. I'm so proud to say that both of my boys chose to donate from their own money to help out, too. One of my biggest hopes for my children is that they choose, whenver possible, to help where they can, when they can, and however they can. We are so blessed in our suburban American lives - I don't want them to grow up taking that for granted, or to forget that with great blessings come great responsibilities.

After the trip to Cambodia I will get photos of the village and the new well. In the meantime here's the picture of the 4 children - Ben & Ty and their two friends who are working to improve their world.

Blog Archive