Funeral for a Turtle

Just over a couple of months ago, our boys were given a tiny painted turtle (at the time, they thought it was a mud turtle, so the boys named it Muddy) by a friend of ours. We had no intention of keeping it, really. We don't have room for a pet. But we quickly grew attached to it and Muddy became a fixture around our apartment.

This morning, I discovered Muddy wasn't moving in the water (don't worry, I didn't even attempt mouth-to-mouth). He had been a bit lethargic lately, so we wondered if he was getting something. We had just discussed releasing him into the lake at the nature center so he could have the freedom he needs (but we weren't entirely ready to see him go). So it was a sad day. Anders cried off and on through most of the morning.

We had a burial after lunch. I've never cried so much for a turtle--though it wasn't so much for the turtle as it was for my son. It was hard to see death through his eyes. There were some points of remembering my grandfather's and my father-in-law's funerals. So we talked a bit here and there about life & death and being sad and missing people.

And so we laid Muddy to rest. I dug a hole in the grass behind the apartment building. Anders picked a stick to mark the grave. The boys said goodbye to Muddy (like they're going to see him again tomorrow--I don't think they grasp the finality of death--or maybe they just know there's more life to come). We said a prayer (Anders prayed that Muddy would get better). Then I covered up the hole, and we said good-bye one last time. Anders cried for a while more, but seems to have moved on--just as life goes on.

RIP Muddy.

End of the Season

Last night was Anders' last practice & game of the season. It was good. We enjoyed getting to know some other parents well (and the fact that the commitment was only for six Thursdays for only an hour). Anders enjoyed being on a team. He learned a bit, I think, but we're not signing him up for the Olympics yet. First we need to work on: staying a little more focused on the game and not on playing on the sidelines, not slapping his coach on the butt, and not laying down in the goal during a game.
Coach Emily & most of the teamAnders with his soccer medal
Anders and his friend Sophie, enjoying a post-game push-up.


Another Weekend Away

My cousin Chad got married this weekend, so we headed down to Iowa. It was another good weekend with family. We got to see a lot of cousins and other relatives and friends we hadn't seen for a while (some hadn't met Nils). All of my family was staying at my parents' house for the first time in years (for five years we lived less than an hour away, so we didn't stay overnight there). The wedding was nice (congrats again, Chad & Tiffanie) and the boys made it through it without too much trouble (they really were pretty good during the ceremony--and the reception. They sat along the edge of the dance floor and watched the bride dance).

My grandmother came out and had lunch (or dinner if you're from the country) with us after church. She was in pretty good form; she enjoyed watching the great-grandkids play. It's still very hard to see the effects of the stroke; it's even harder to say good-bye each time. We finished getting our kubb game made, so we taught the family the game and enjoyed the time on the lawn.

The weekend reminded me of how much I love the country. I took some time at night to walk to the end of my parents' lane and just look at the stars. They seem so much brighter. An orange crescent moon setting on the horizon and heat lightning in the opposite direction added to the wonder of the night. Even just the fireflies buzzing across the fields is a sight to behold.


Pictures by Anders

Anders got a hold of the camer while we were driving in the car yesterday. Here are some of his snapshots.

A Penny Saved

The boys and I went up the street to Golden Valley's penny carnival. I love that the towns do these. They've got simple little games (most of them cost 3 cents) that they give little toys or candy for as prizes. They learn a little about the value of money (that even the pennies add up) and have a lot of fun at the same time.

Nils watching a puppet show & Anders throwing at the dunk tank


The Hip-Hoppers

Here is a long-awaited video of the boys dancing.

Video by Kennan Archer--apologies for it being sideways.


Scenes from the Minneapolis Sculpture Park

Good Times

Wednesday afternoon our friends Kennan and Alaina arrived. They had just left their family in Iowa that morning. On their way to Alaska. To live there. So I'm very grateful that we were included in their journey. We took them that afternoon to the Minneapolis Sculpture Park.

From their we went to Lake Harriet for a picnic supper. Then we played a rousing game of Kubb--a Swedish game which we've seen many times around here, but never had the chance to play ourselves; it drew a few spectators.n we sat to listen to one of the nightly concets there. It happened to be 4 artists that are part of the Minnesota Songrwriters Association, showcasing their works. It was fun--we were all in a silly, tired mood. Once duet mostly sang songs about dogs (they have a CD with 15 tracks about dogs, if you're interested). We had a hard time not laughing too loud through some of it. I don't have pictures of the concert, except for the man with the dog doo bag haning out his shorts. It seemed appropriate.

Yesterday we just relaxed and enjoyed time together. Kennan & Alaina got the oil changed in their car before they started off on the next 4000 miles of their journey. Anders had a soccer game last night, so we went to that. It's been cold here the last couple days (well, cold for Minnesota in July. We're lucky to hit the upper 60s), so we pulled out sweatshirts and pants. They took off early this morning to get across North Dakota and into Canada. And they leave with many blessings as they start a new life/ministry in Alaska. Kyrie eleison down the road that you must travel.



My reading for today included Psalm 63. Here's the first verse which has resonated with me today:
O God, you are my God;
I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you;
my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land
where there is no water.
--Psalm 63:1
My desire lately has been to experience God's presence throughout my day, like Brother Lawrence. I don't get there very often. Daily routines distract me, rather than bring me closer. Maybe I'm not thirsty enough. Maybe my soul is being falsely satisfied (like desserts give us a false sense of fullness)--I don't feel that's the case, but it's possible, I guess. Yet, I feel if I'm thirsty enough, all my everyday moments can be moments of walking with God. I guess I can't lose that desire.

Hungry I come to You
for I know You satisfy
I am empty
but I know Your love does not run dry
so I wait for You
so I wait for You

I'm falling on my knees
offering all of me
Jesus, You're all this heart is living for

©1999 Vineyard Songs (UK/Eire)
Words and Music by Kathryn Scott


In Tents

We got in our second camping trip of the summer. Which is good--we didn't get any in last summer (which was maybe for the best with Nils having been really young and into everything). This time we were down to Clear Lake State Park in Iowa where we met up with all of my family. In true Wenell-camping fashion, we had rain. Not much for us, just sprinkles here and there Saturday night and Sunday morning, but my parents had 2-3 inches on Thursday night when they were there early.

It was a good weekend with family. Each family took a meal, so that made meal times more relaxed, and we all enjoyed the anticipation of what each meal would be. The weather was cooler, so the lake wasn't the best for swimming, but the kids still got in some and enjoyed playing at the beach. We played a bit of bean bag toss and ladder golf. And the campfire was almost continuously going.

It wasn't our favorite campground (not very tent friendly), but it was a good half-way point between us all. And we could overlook what the place lacked since we were having a good time together. Sometimes that's what camping is about (not all the time, but for this weekend family-time was the biggest need and blessing).

Celebrating Anders' birthday.

Nothing more relaxing like sitting around the campfire.

Playing lawn games.

Uncle Bubs & Baby Riley

Anders, Ethan & Nils playing at the beach.

FarFar & FarMor with all the grand kids.


Five Candles

Anders is officially five now that he had that "thing with the presents and the games" (see previous post). He wanted an outer-space theme. Beth made a great rocket cake for him.

The weather held and we were able to be outside for the whole party. The kids played some space games: ring the space shuttle, alien bowling and feed the alien (with water balloons). The slip and slide became the favorite activity for a while. Oh, and of course there was present-opening. "Awesome" was used a lot. I don't think I'll see him for the next couple days; he'll be busy with his toys and building things.

It's hard to believe we've been parents for five years now. I'm still not used to this part where they keep getting bigger. Just when they get into a cute phase, they move into a different one. And I mourn the loss of the previous phase, but marvel at what's next. It's a wondrous (and at times frustrating) journey watching Anders grow into the man God created him to be. He's creative, artistic, sensitive, loves to build things, loves to learn, loves natures, needs a lot of affirmation, hates shots (kicking and screaming), is shy but loves his friends and so much more. That's my son, and I love him.

Timing is Everything

Me to Anders this morning upon him waking up: Happy birthday! How does it feel to be five?
Anders: I'm not five yet.
Me: You're not? But today's your birthday!
Anders: But I haven't had that thing with the presents and the games yet.



It's been since I was in college that I last worked with clay, making pottery. I enjoyed it, but I wasn't overly good at it. Vessels would seldom turn out the way I intended them to look. Sometimes they became something entirely different.

A real potter knows what his clay will turn out to be--and it will become that. The Scriptures--especially the Old Testament--have several images of God as a potter. In church this morning, Keith Johnson, co-author of the book A Prayer to Our Father, shared some of the Hebrew images (including ones form Jeremiah 18:2 and Isaiah 29:16).

Isaiah 64:8 says: "Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand." A reminder that God formed Adam out of the adamah (the dust, the mess, the ground). We are what is formed. God is the Former. We each of our role (as Is. 29:16 reminds us).

I tried for years to form myself. I doesn't go well; I don't recommend it. The Potter must form us, according to His will. And we can't think we're a finish product yet, because we'll be perfect when we are--and I don't know about you, but I'm nowhere near perfect yet. That'll come the other side of Heaven. Sometimes God has to completely break us to help us become a masterpiece of His work:

"So I went down to the potter's house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him (Jeremiah 18:3-4)."

We must not be afraid of being formed. Only when we let God make us into His design can we be used for His purposes.

Independence Day

Our friend Joel went with us to watch the fireworks last night. St. Louis Park has some of the best that I've seen. Fireworks themselves are a great reminder that with freedom comes responsibility. Let's not misuse it.


The Lecutres

So while we were camping at Devils Lake earlier this week, the boys and I hiked over to the amphitheater while Beth was napping in the car after a trip over to a playground in the park. I go up front and show them that sometimes they have a naturalist do a presentation at the podium or show a film here.

So next Anders goes up behind the podium and starts giving a speech on conifers (their knowledge of which comes from a They Might Be Giants song on their kids' CD). After he's done, Nils and I clap. And then Nils goes up to give a speech. I couldn't hear him (let alone see him) to know what he talked about, but it was probably also on conifers.

They keep alternating giving lectures 4 or 5 times. Mostly on conifers each time, I think. Anders did one on plants, trees and flowers where he was gesturing with his arms around him. I tried hard not to laugh because he would take it personally, but it was quite humorous. And on Nils' turns he stands behind the podium so I couldn't see anything at all of him--nor could I hear a word he said. Thankfully, he would peek around the side when he was done so I would know to clap. It was the best 15 minutes I've spent at a lecture.

Scenes from Wisconsin

I didn't get this posted right away after our trip, but coming back from our camping trip on Tuesday we made a couple classic Wisconsin stops along the way:

The first was actually a candy factory outside Baraboo that had cows as their mascot. The second was a cheese store to pick up some cheese curds. Classic Wisconsin.



Beth's shift today started at 11am, so the boys and I took her into work so that we could have use of the Vue. We hit the Linden Hills area to explore it. There were several kids' shops in the area. We hit Creative Kidstuff (a Twin Cities staple, but our first visit to one) and Wild Rumpus, a fun bookstore with cats, birds (including a little bantam rooster), an iguana, chinchillas, ferrets and other animals (only the cats and the rooster were loose). I wish we had discretionable money to spend at fun local stores like those. Maybe some day . . .

Then it was a trip to Como Zoo. We hadn't really been in the summer before, so we had to take in a Sparky the Sea Lion Show. The park was packed, so we didn't see a lot of the animals--which was fine, we've seen them all before. But we hadn't seen the seasonal butterfly tent. It was a lot of fun--the butterflies just flew around and alighted on us. Of course I forgot to take the camera in--it was with the stroller--so we'll have to get some pictures of the spectacular colors another time.

We also hit the conservatory to see some of the flowers. I'll just let you enjoy the colors without further comment.