Training Wheels

We’ve been enjoying Indian Summer here in Washington for the last few days, which has been delightful. The weather really seems to have changed on my birthday, for which I take full credit. Yesterday the sun shone all day, and we enjoyed temperatures in the 70’s – I’m told that today is likely to be the same or even a little warmer.

We were finally able to schedule some time at the Duckabush House. It is a little funny, because I have been anxious that the house be sufficiently used by The Refuge as a practice retreat center. During the winter, when usage drops off (what sane person wants to ‘vacation’ in the Duckabush valley in January?) it seems as though the house lies empty week after week. This summer and fall, however, have seen a steady stream of ‘customers’ using the house, and it has been difficult to find a time when we could stay there.

One pleasant surprise was finding that my Dad had arranged for these stairs to be built, a long-intended part of the deck that I started.

In honor of my birthday, we drove out to the Duckabush on Friday night, and spent Saturday, Sunday and Monday there. Dad and I worked on the deck railing, Mom and I planted blueberry seedlings, and a good time was generally had by all. The kids lost no time in arranging play dates and sleepovers with various friends and kept it up all weekend. My folks had planned a birthday meal for me on Sunday, and we invited a bunch of the old gang over for dessert afterward – surprisingly, everyone was able to come. It was very nostalgic to have the house filled up with these five neighbor families and their children. I did a count at one point – considering Kara an adult, I think there were 14 adults and 19 kids in all – a goodly crew.

Mom made me a Black Forest cake, always my favorite.

It has been two years since we moved away from that valley, and a lot has changed in terms of kids growing older and people changing in general. I feel I have matured a bit, which is certainly not before its time. It is very cheerful to see first-hand that being a Christian makes a difference in my life and brings about healing and forgiveness in relationships.

The Main Lodge at The Refuge continues to be built, and may be ready for use by Christmas 2007.

At one point my youngest son (David) arranged his “first sleepover EVER” with a boy he has generally considered to be his “best friend” (even though they rarely see each other these days). As they played together, it was discovered that David did not know how to ride a bike without training wheels. Sadly, he confided to his friend that I would not remove the training wheels from his bike (which was true, but only temporarily). Aghast at such barbaric treatment, David’s friend rushed to teach him to ride his own bike, and offered his own bike as a gift, since I was clearly such an ogre. By the time I heard of it, David had learned to ride a bike without training wheels, and yet another childhood milestone slipped past.

Of course, there is a reason I was reluctant to take off those training wheels …

Over the weekend, David had been angling to celebrate his Special Day with me, since he was next in the rotation. I’ve been trying to do at least two Special Days a week, so that each child gets about two a month with me. They all keep careful watch of the rotation, and each one knows when he or she is next, often campaigning for their turn before the previous child’s day is even completed. Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays are the most likely days, but some have snuck theirs in on Fridays or even Saturdays. There is nothing quite so tenacious as a child who is next in line for a Special Day – I guess I should be flattered that they want to spend time with me.

I staunchly refused to celebrate David’s day with him until we returned home from the Duckabush (it was, after all, my birthday) and so he immediately collared me when I arrived home from work on Tuesday. The kids were out riding their bikes, and there was David’s little bike with its Training Wheels, now anathema to a boy (practically grown up) with the heady skill of riding a ‘real’ bike.

We asked David to demonstrate his newfound ability on Rachel’s bike, with the seat lowered all the way down – sure enough, he could ride it! We toyed with the idea of bumping Rachel up to another bike and giving hers to David, until I saw the worried look on his face. “It’s a girl’s bike,” he confided to me. Enough said.

This is not a girl’s bike.

Kathy and I quietly conferred, and agreed that he could no longer be expected to ride the little 12” bike with the training wheels. I jumped in the car and we headed off to the store, not telling David anything about our errand. At one point I asked him if he knew where we were going for his special day – “Sure!” he replied. “We’re going to the dentist!” I nearly had to stop the car, we both giggled so hard. He can be a very silly boy, sometimes.

We arrived at Target and I made a big show of being there to buy a shirt for myself, but we soon found ourselves in the bike section. We found two possible candidates: one, a basic (red) bike for $35, and another, more elaborate (blue) model for $80. I got them both down, and he tried them out. At some point I must have told him how much they cost — the next thing I knew, he had latched onto the cheaper bike. Personally, I was pushing for the bike with more features – I liked the way the height of the seat could be adjusted without requiring tools. I asked him which one he wanted, and he cheerfully replied, “I like the red one, because I don’t want to spend all your money.” My heart immediately melted, and I wanted to buy him the most expensive bike in the store, which may have been his plan – he is a clever rascal.

As it turned out, neither bike seat could be adjusted low enough for our taste, and so we determined to find a bike somewhere else. We tried K-Mart (where a foolhardy clerk tried to sell us on a 16” bike with training wheels, much to David’s disgust) and eventually found a suitable (green) bike at Fred Myers. Returning home as the last light of the day faded, we rushed to try out the bike – sure enough, David was able to get it going without help from anyone. It is tricky for him to get on and off it, and it is hard for him to wheel it about (it weighs almost as much as he does) but I think he really likes it and it has room for him to grow into. On the way home, with the bike safely in the trunk, David said to me, “Thank you for buying me this great bike, Daddy.” When I commented on how pleased I was that he didn’t want to spend all my money, he said, “When people give me something, I try to be respeckful.” It is nice to see that he is taking to heart some of the things we are trying to teach him. He must have thanked me eight or ten more times, over the course of the next several days, which I found very satisfactory.

David’s new bike, fresh out of the trunk.

Hebrews 5:12-13: Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

Thinking about training wheels as a metaphor for spiritual growth, it occurs to me that David is growing up in more ways than one. As a Dad responsible for his spiritual growth as much (or more) than for his physical growth, I couldn’t be more pleased.

Two of my favorite boys, and their wheels.

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Wired for Blogging

I wrote this blog a while ago, but never got around to posting it. Now that the entire month of September has gone by, and I haven’t posted a single entry, I’m scrambling to find anything to post.


With my usual carpool buddy gone to Alaska for a friend’s wedding, I find myself commuting up to Bellevue alone, which is not much fun. Yesterday I planned to take the train, but just before exiting the highway to the train station, I heard there had been an accident between a freight train and a pedestrian, and that all northbound trains were cancelled ‘until further notice’. So I joined the hordesfolk on I-5; a good reminder as to why I ordinarily commute via carpool.

Even though I left the office right at 3 pm, it took me an hour and fifty minutes to get home, much of it in stop-and-go traffic, which wears me out. So today I am riding the train, smugly typing away while the peasants change lanes and cut one another off.

As a bonus, I found that there is a free wireless network covering the train station – I was able to fire off a quick e-mail to Kathy before the train moved out of range. I amused myself for a while by scanning the wireless networks we pass … but in most cases we move beyond the range of the network before I can log in and take advantage. Many of the wireless networks are secure, but there are still a few that are free. I saw one encrypted network in which the broadcast name (SSID) was ‘NotFreeAnymore[Expletive]’ – I guess that guy resented others piggybacking on his bandwidth.

I wonder if wireless networks will continue to proliferate, and if most towns will soon, in effect, be one big ‘hotspot’? There is no real technological reason why a utility company couldn’t set up enough wireless relays to offer a network pretty much anywhere you go in an urban or suburban setting. Of course, making that profitable might be tricky. If I were a city government, I would probably set up a network like that and ban all cable and DSL companies from doing business in my town – force everyone who wanted something better than dialup to use the city network (and pay the city an equivalent monthly fee). Over time, it could be quite a cash cow, I think, without really gouging the populace. Alternatively, a town might pay for the initial setup costs out of real estate taxes and maintain the network through volunteers, making it free. I’ll bet most towns have enough people savvy enough to run the networks to pull it off.

Of course, you could expect the cable and phone companies to squeal. As voice-over-IP (VOIP) continues to be adopted, I would not be surprised to see more and more people move away from traditional phone lines and start using cell phones or VOIP phones exclusively, even for local calling. This won’t happen overnight, but I know a lot of us are tired of paying $40-$70 a month to local phone service monopolies.

Some cell phone companies are offering high-speed data services via their networks, sometimes called ‘3G’ or third generation services. Even though I work for a telecom company, I’m embarrassed to admit that I haven’t figured out how to connect my laptop to high speed data through my phone. I guess I need some sort of air card or connector cable for my phone … I need to look into that.

Of course, there is only so far that all this mobile connectivity will take us. Most people want connectivity to the internet at home and at work, but it is hard to make a strong case that most of us ‘need’ it while we travel around, and many don’t travel very much. Even riding the train, where I have a table and can type away on my laptop, I probably wouldn’t use an internet connection very often. I heard talk some time ago of setting up a wireless network here on the train (as they have on the Washington State ferries), but I’m not sure if it would be worth their while.

Time passes …

When I got to work after I wrote the above paragraphs, I decided to investigate my employer’s offerings for this kind of technical problem. It turns out that they do, indeed, have a way for me to do this. I purchased an ‘Air Card’ that fits into the PCM/CIA slot of my laptop through the employee phone program (I get a 40% discount). The air card uses the SIM from my phone (a tiny little chip that tells the cell network who I am and that I am one of their customers) and connects to the cell network. From there it connects to the internet using General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) at speeds a little faster than dialup (50 kbps or so). In certain areas, they also have a faster service (EDGE) which flirts with faster speeds (a technical max of around 384kbps, I think). I arranged for an unlimited data package to be added to my phone account so that I wouldn’t run into unexpected charges (the basic data package only gives you 10MB a month – not enough for an internet-browsing, e-mailing techno-fool like me).

In a few days I received the Air Card and happily installed the software that came with it. I popped the little SIM card out of my phone and put it into the Air Card, plugged it into my laptop, and away I went! As I write, we’re zipping down the tracks near Tukwila, but I have internet connectivity so that I can quickly google the speed of the service in the paragraph above.

One place I really enjoyed the air card was in Fort Clark, Texas.

I’m pretty smug. I don’t know why I feel such a strong sense of personal accomplishment in using this technology (after all, GPRS and even EDGE have been out for some years now), but I can’t help feeling as though I have invented sliced bread. Call me a techno-geek, I really like being able to send and receive e-mail from the train.

One afternoon recently, my carpool buddy got sick, and we came home an hour earlier than we usually do. I worked from my desk upstairs for an hour or so to repay the time, and then the kids wanted to go to the pool. Kathy seemed like she needed a break, so I offered to take them all to the pool, craftily bringing my laptop with me.

When we got to the pool, I grabbed a table in the shade and fired up my laptop, connecting effortlessly to the cell network that covers our neighborhood. I was able to work for more than an hour while the kids splashed happily in the pool. I was very smug, because I would have squandered that time reading a novel, but instead the time was quite productive. I think that this Air Card will prove to be a very wise investment, since it helps me to make better use of time when I am waiting for something and allows me remote connectivity in a variety of situations. I’m excited about using the card when we go to Texas this year … dialup connectivity is always tricky there, and Kathy does like to get her e-mail. It looks as though my company’s wireless coverage is pretty good in that area … hopefully I’ll be able to get some decent bandwidth there.

Today I overslept again, which is why I’m riding the train. Staying up too late seems to cause my brain to ignore my alarm … both of them were turned off when I finally awoke, and I know I turned them on last night. When I’m tired I become very resourceful, telling myself (and anyone else, apparently) all kinds of lies about what time it is and what time I really need to get up.

When I was a freshman in college, I had a class at 9:30 am on Tuesdays and Thursdays. My brother, who was a senior that year, took much glee in coming over to my dorm room and waking me up on those days. He had a PE class (I think it was golf) on my side of the campus, and he would usually jog over to my dorm. If I didn’t respond to his hammering on my door, he would come in and bounce on his knees up and down on my bed, oozing sweat and generally making a nuisance of himself. I think it was the highlight of his day.

As was my usual practice, I stayed up late playing wargames one night, and was therefore rather out of it when my brother arrived. As it turned out, he failed to wake me up, and I missed my class. In typical failure to accept responsibility, I later called him up and chided him for his lack of responsibility:

Me: Hey, Mark, why didn’t you wake me up this morning?

Mark: I did. I was there at 9:20.

Me: What? You never came!

Mark: Yes, I did. You told me that one of your buddies needed you to drive him up to Richmond so he could give blood, and that you were skipping your 9:30 class to do that. You said you had a little more time and that I should let you sleep.

Me: And you believed me?

Mark: You seemed a little glib … does this mean you didn’t need the car? You stinking weasel!

I had no recollection of my brother’s visit, or of the elaborate story I told him, which was entirely untrue (except that there is, in fact, a city by the name of Richmond). Apparently my semi-conscious brain woke up just enough to fabricate a believable tale – enough to make this hot, sweaty and overly-cheerful person go away. I slept until almost noon that day … and I learned not to trust my brain when it is sleep-deprived.


I know this blog really didn’t have a point, but, hey, I made it in under the wire and managed to have at least something posted for September. My work here is done. :)

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A day in the life of our summer

Mondays are often difficult in our household-Tim is back at work, the house (whether it started out clean or messy) needs attention throughout the day, the relaxed feel of the weekend is GONE, and there is usually school to be done.

Sunning boys
Daniel and David sun themselves on the picnic table after an exhausting time playing in the sprinklers.

Today was no different. I am working through the plans for our school this year. I have almost all of the materials gathered (the stack of books in the living room is growing–not sure where we’re going to put everything as the shelves are ALREADY full), I know what subjects we’re going to study, and have a tentative schedule in place. It’s exciting to see the collection of books from Sonlight sitting on the table. I’m trying to organize the instructor’s guide and plan out how we’ll fit in all of the subjects. It’s a hectic, slightly stressful time as the summer draws to an end and the year of school rapidly approaches.

Sweet brothers
Look at those grins and tell me if these boys don’t look like they are ready (always) for some serious fun.

What happened to my plans of losing those last 20 pounds? What about the rooms I still want to paint/decorate before the summer ends!! You can be certain that I haven’t finished decluttering and organizing the house. We never did complete the astronomy book we were studying — why did I think we would devote the summer to it? If I can’t keep the house clean in the summer, what is going to happen when we are working full time at our schooling?? AHHHH!!

Sweetie Pie Sarah
Sarah snuggles down under a towel.

Adding to all of the unfinished projects is the the general, overwhelming sense that it’s nearly impossible to keep up with five children and a big house. Everywhere I walk there are piles of things that need my attention (whether they are big, small or dustbunny size). The children’s rooms NEVER stay clean. For that matter, I can’t keep my bedroom tidy and picked up. The garage is a continual challenge in housekeeping. And none of this even addresses the outside! Let’s not talk about the lawn or the weeds or the maintenance/clean-up that should be happening around the house outside.

Joshua reading
Joshua enjoys a moment of quiet with his Sabatini book.

At one point in the morning I called a friend, unloaded some of my frustrations on her, and ended with a desperate plea, “Tell me that a good cup of coffee will solve all of my problems!” I’m not sure about the logic in that (and I hate to think what it reveals about my current coffee addiction). Taking immediate action, I fixed a STRONG cup of coffee, added in lots of milk and sweetener and sat down with the children to do some reading. In the midst of all of that I found life was, indeed much better. We read some of our Bible devotions, did a chapter in our Young Peacemaker book, and then started the first reader in our Sonlight 5 book (Seabird).

Rachel's project
Rachel’s craft/sewing project for the day.

From there the day took a very cheerful turn. I remembered that my passion and joy is in teaching and working with the children. When I get too preoccupied with the house and all the work that is never ending/always repeating I become discouraged and overwhelmed. Sitting down with the kids, discovering new books with them, seeing them delight in fresh ideas and watching them grow and learn is probably among the greatest joys in my life as a mother.

The rest of our day was busy and crazy (as usual). The house was still messy, there was/is still much work to be done and there were still arguments and disagreements among the children but somehow, in the mystery of God’s working, I was renewed. I had new peace and was able to face the rest of the gorgeous summer day with a smile.

Tim and Kath
Here we are enjoying a moment together at the pool.

It was a bright, sunny day!! The children played outside, I had several lovely conversations on the phone, did many loads of laundry and even started dinner early. Tim came home just after lunch and finished his work day here at home. Around 4:15 pm I started fixing pizzas and by 4:45 pm we were on our way to the pool. We spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening at the pool. Tim baked the pizzas and delivered them to the pool.

Pizza crew

We ate dinner there at the pool, visited with friends, and relaxed. Tim brought a Sabatini book and I worked on my chore cards for the kiddos. We went home around 7 pm. Tim took care of the night time routine and let me go for a long walk with a friend. It was wonderful to get in fresh air, exercise and good girl/chatting time!

Julee and Chandler
Julee and baby Chandler relaxing at the pool!

Tomorrow Rachel has her piano lesson in the morning and then we have friends coming over for the day. We’ll be busy entertaining and playing. I’m sure we’ll head to the pool again in the afternoon. We have been very spoiled to have so much pool time this summer.

There you have it, the ups and downs of a typical Edgren summer day. All pictures were taken today.


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Where Is Tim’s Blog? Oh, Where Is Tim’s Blog? Oh, where, oh where, oh where, oh where…is Tim’s Blog???

You may have encountered an error with one of our current blog e-mails. We could pretend it was a technical difficulty but that wouldn’t be exactly true. Okay, it wouldn’t be true at all. Tim published his blog and then altered the posting date. Gasp! Is that even legal??

Scared Joshua
This poor boy looks scared!

If you received an error message upon clicking on the e-mail notification, it is because Tim was trying to make sure the date of the blog posting matched up with reality. Since he wrote the blog at the end of July, he certainly didn’t want it published in August. Horrors! I think he sensed I was going to be blog happy this month and wanted to get credit for having written a blog in late July. Sigh. Some people are competitive to the end. Don’t even get me started on what happens when he loses Settlers of Catan (which happens at least twice a year whether he needs to lose nor not).

Car shots
This person has obviously just discovered a blatant case of blog date-stamp manipulation.

Since Tim did this little finagling after publishing the blog it means the e-mail points to an error page. Sorry about that. It couldn’t have been helped. Okay, that’s not true. It totally could have been avoided but it’s late and Tim’s in bed so this random blog is the best we’re going to do. At least it’s the best I’m going to do. No doubt tomorrow Tim will come along and fix everything (more blog manipulations–does it never end?). Did you realize just how much tweaking and maneuvering programmers do with our computer systems??? Much more than we will ever know. Well, now you know a little bit because I just told you but beyond that it’s all a great mystery.

I think I need to finish this blog and get to bed myself. I’m starting to sound a little loopy.

If you are still reading this, and perhaps are wondering if I’m going to get to the point and finally tell you how to locate Tim’s blog, read on. In order to find your way to his posting, simply click on the title, Duckabush Blog, at the top of the page. This will take you to the current Duckabug Blog site (hence the title) and you can read Tim’s blog (way down below my MULTIPLE postings–not that we’re counting or anything).

Laughing Joshua
Joshua finds this all very amusing. Does this count as a sort of blog laugh track?

Sorry for this inconvenience! I’m sure it won’t (or maybe it will-I can’t really promise anything) happen again (at least not today as I’m going to bed now).


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Day at the Lake

I think I write in bursts at a time. It drives Tim crazy (probably a bit of an extreme statement). I should say it mildly bothers Tim as he thinks I should dole out my blogs in dribs and drabs. Ah, when the blogging bug bites, I think you have to run with it. My friend De’Etta blogs several times a day. She’s my blogging hero! Not to mention she has 9 children, grinds her own wheat to make fresh bread, can study the Bible with the best of them and ‘fun schools,’ as she calls it.

David is ready to jump off the dock.

Even when I point to other multiple post bloggers (MPB’s) like De’Etta, Tim just shakes his head in confusion (or maybe it’s disgust). We watched some of the musical Oklahoma this evening. My blogging habits remind me of the song, “For Me It’s All or Nothing.” I have several blogs going at once and then a week or two will go by with neither Tim not I posting anything. Not a good way to develop a real blog following but it’s our life so there you have it.

Mama and David
Kathy and David posing at the edge of the lake.

On to the actual subject of my blog. See how easily distracted I am. It’s a good thing Tim is here to write the deep, insightful, challenging blogs while I chatter on. He always was a bit more melancholy than I.

Last week we had the opportunity to go to the lake home of one of my friends from church. I worked with Nancy on last year’s Women’s Retreat and thoroughly enjoyed getting to know her. She was kind to share her home, and little slice of lake, with us for an afternoon. I brought snacks, sunscreen, and my wonderful new digital camera. I took picture after picture. I told Nancy that I had enough photos to make it look like we had been at the lake for a week. Ha!

Sarah's float
This float has been Sarah’s constant companion over the summer–a great Dollar Store purchase!

One thing I particularly enjoyed was using the ‘burst’ function on the camera to take action shots of the children. They would climb up on the deck, run and jump off the diving board while I snapped away.

Rachel jumps
Rachel makes an incredible jump off the diving board!

Since it was a bright, sunhine filled day, I had no trouble with my flash and was able to capture the children running and jumping with abandon. Even David had me take multiple pictures of him as he sat at the edge of the dock and jumped in.

David jumping
David jumped into the lake to a waiting Joshua.

He’s made tremendous progress in his swimming skills this summer. I’m very impressed with how well he’s doing. I think he’s going to have an excellent time at the pool in Texas.

I think we’ll string the action pictures together for a fast slide show. The children (and, I must admit, I) had great fun taking the photos and then watching back at home.

Daniel jumps
Daniel’s turn to jump for the camera.

I’ve taken over five or six hundred pictures since Tim gave me this camera for my birthday. Of course, we have a big family so we have to take more pictures just to make sure everyone is getting equal screen time.

The kiddos, despite my best effots to put on sunscreen, are all turning quite brown. They will definitely have a nice ‘base tan’ for our trip to Texas. I’m not sure children really require a base tan. You don’t notice how tan they are getting until you see a blinding flash of white bottom at bath time.

Tim doesn’t like to violate the programmer code of ethics and remains a constant shade of pasty white throughout the summer. He says he’s allowed to burn but computer programmers are not permitted to have any sort of tan. I think it’s something they sign when they begin their life of programming. He does his best to find an umbrella and some shade whenever he joins us at the pool.

Tim at the pool
Keep this man stocked in diet Coke!

This blog was mainly an excuse to put out some fun pictures from our time at the lake. I do love summer!!

Rachel and Daniel thoroughly enjoyed the floats and boats on the lake. They even managed to hang on to the oars. I thought for sure we would lose one to the lake bottom.


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