These Days

These days I’m taking it easy.  I’m breathing deep everyday, and leaving my hands open for whatever God decides to give me that day.  Although I’m not getting everything done that would be on *my* list, I know at the end of the day that I attended to the things that were important.  So in the last week or two that I haven’t been blogging, because unfortunately I haven’t had the time.  Here’s what I have done:


Gone a little overnight getaway without kids with Knut to the extended family’s lake cabin to celebrate our 13th anniversary.  It’s the first time in a few years we’ve done this, and it was very peaceful.  We actually sat and not talked for several of those hours, not because we were mad at each other, but because we both were in desperate need of silence in general.  It was short, yet glorious.



We had company stay overnight at our house…twice.  ‘Tis the season for family passing through town.  I’d complain except they are so awesome.  So I just have to put up with their awesomeness.  😉

I testified in a legal case.  I’ve never done that before.  I won’t get into details, except to say I’m not the one in trouble, lest you worry.  I was very afraid the days surrounding the case, because I didn’t want to re-live the event I was testifying about.  I was worried how I would handle it.  Once you have been in a dark place, you fear anything that could throw you back there.  The day before and the day after I spent a lot of time staring at walls, blankly.  I gave myself permission to do that.  My kids missed the doing county fair this year, because of this case, but I think that’s okay.  Actually, it slowed things up a lot removing those multiple deadlines for projects, and coaching the kids for their 4H interviews.

I went through a bout of insomnia.  It was likely related to the above mentioned event, but maybe not.  I really don’t think so.  I couldn’t go to sleep because I had on my mind completely different events, where people I loved were hurting.  So since I couldn’t sleep, I prayed for them.  2 nights in a row I didn’t even get remotely tired until about 3am.  It was like electricity was running through my veins and there was no way I would sleep.  With a 7am wake up, that is loud and abrupt due to my kids’ excitement about the sun rising, it left me dragging a bit.  Maybe it was stress.  Maybe it was biological.  I think that praying was just what I needed to do then and I did it.  Maybe there’s stuff going on we just can’t see.


I’ve taken David to yet another doctor for his alopecia and surrounding medical issues.  David is shedding worse than our dogs now, and I think that within 2 weeks he won’t have any hair left.  He just has to touch his head for a downpour of hair all over his shoulders.

He was crying before his shower last week because he was worried that if he rubbed his head to wash it, he would come out of the shower bald, which was a real possibility.  This new doctor is taking a different approach, instead of offering a steroid treatment to fight his immune system that is attacking his hair follicles, she is probing why his immune system has gone awry in the first place.  She thinks that he has some markers in the MFTHR gene mutation, which means he cannot absorb Vitamin B properly, as well as a severe case of Celiacs disease.  We have to do a 4 day fast of all his supplements that help him function day to day, and then they are going to get full blood work done to confirm or deny these diagnosis.  Actually, she said Celiacs requires a surgical biopsy to diagnose with certainty, but she feels that the labs do at least point to this or away from this without being quite so invasive.  We could use your prayers as he goes off everything in preparation for the blood tests.  If it’s not one thing, it’s another with this kid.

The picture above was taken about a week ago, and it looks even worse now.  The back of the head is nearly gone, and the sides and top are thinning with chunks missing there too now.  Apparently this is rare for alopecia cases.  He’s our outside the box kid.

Also, while at the doctors, he was goofing off outside the building, hit a board he didn’t see, running at full speed, and now his balding head has a huge egg sized bump on it.  So we may delay shaving it yet a bit longer…  He’s nervous about shaving it.  He’s keeping a really brave face about it, but he’s acting out in other ways that I know he’s sick and tired of being sick and tired.


We spent time together as a family over suppertime with a tornado warning and visible rotating clouds from our front door.  (The picture above was taken the next night.)  We played foosball and other games in the basement while we listened to hail pound our windows and garden outside, and prayed it wouldn’t come any closer.  While things were looking limp outside, nothing was damaged beyond repair, though I can’t speak for Knut’s fields.  I know he had some of paperwork to file after the storm.

I have raspberries coming out my ears now, and I’m behind on harvesting peas and green beans as well. So the garden wasn’t hit too bad, though we lost a day or two of garden harvest.  My theme this last week or so was “be gentle with myself and just go with it.”  I’m glad for that.  I made 1 bottle of raspberry syrup for pancakes, but other than that raspberries are aging very slowly in the fridge, and I hope to catch up on those the rest of this week.


Another small joy that I’ve been blessed with is continuing to write letters to you dear readers.  I look forward to that “chore” more than anything some days.  I have a good handful left, and am giving myself to the end of August to finish them up.  I’ve already received a few letters back, though that was not the point of this project, and they have brought me more encouragement than you can possibly imagine.  I’m so grateful that I did this 50 letter project this summer.  You readers are just so dear to me.  You have no idea.

The Delight of a Child

Family history is inspiring, isn’t it?  I love history.  What’s equally as fascinating to me is the idea of a family culture.

So, a few generalizing things to know about the Langager family that I was just visiting with, is that they will hug you.  We don’t often sit on a couch without snuggling.  The men will weep easily when talking about their children, grandchildren, or their God.  They love kids.

When my parents got divorced, my grandparents had just retired, and moved in with us during the 2 year transition.  My mom went back to night school and started working full time.  I remember one time I was 5 or 6 years old and stayed home from school sick.  I had thrown up by accident on my grandpa and kept saying I’m sorry, and he would look me in the eye and say “It’s a privilege to care for you.”

The attitude towards children there can pretty much be summed up by that.

So one thing that really made an impression on me at the reunion was that the kids ran free everywhere. It wasn’t just my kids, it was everyone’s kids.  That was normal.  My kids would go up to an adult and ask if they had time to play a game, and the adult would act like they had been asked a high honor, and pull out a board game.  Most of these people, when given the opportunity to have a conversation with an adult or a child, will pick the child.  They find children interesting, delightful, and conversations with them to be a high honor, and a small window to pour love into that child and effect their development that should never be passed up.  To be invited into the life of a child by the child himself?  There is no greater honor.  It’s part of our family culture.

Kids and grown ups aren’t usually segregated.  I remember growing up sitting at the table of aunts, uncles, and cousins as adults talked about politics or religion, and my questions and comments were given the same attention as anyone else.

My kids made so many great relationships last weekend.  It was incredible.

So there cannot be any better example of how children are delighted in without telling you about the Saturday night family talent show.  Kids and adults both sang, played instruments, did sign language, Tae Kwon Do demonstrations (that was my David, of course), danced and so on.  Actually there were always more skits at talent shows from reunions in the past, and there weren’t any skits this time which I found odd.  Anyway…

My little cousin David L. who is about a year older than my son Elias (so about 7 years old), wanted to do art for his talent.  He loves to draw, and wanted to draw something for the show.

So when his name was called, he brought his notebook up to the stage, sat down, and started to draw.

Now, I under the impression that maybe he was going to show us his artwork for his talent, but no, he wanted to draw right before our eyes.  With over 100 people watching, this little boy just sketched away in his notebook.  The crowd soon became anxious.  He seemed in no hurry, and was very obviously careful and diligent in his work, but minutes passed, and he was just sitting there…coloring.  It became awkward, but with every person in that room so in love with this little boy, no one wanted to push him aside, or tell him he was taking too long.  Nearly everyone in the room wanted him to have success in his performance.

So after minutes passed, someone in the audience started humming a patriotic tune.  Soon all of us were humming as we watched him color in his notebook.  It was a good save.

The next patriotic song we sang instead of hummed.  At the end of the song, with deep satisfaction, my little cousin sighed with contentment and put his color back in the box, paused, and then after studying his picture pulled out his next color.

My aunt and I were standing in the back, and when he took out the next color we got a fit of the giggles.  He was just so adorable.  Oh my word, how long would this last?  When would the Langager delight in children reach the end of our collective rope and someone break in and say to this sweet one “why don’t you finish over there and we’ll see it when you are done?”  No.  We all sat there singing, with anticipation.  Not one of us wanted to be anywhere else or do anything else.

When my aunt and I got the giggles, I was worried he would hear and be ashamed, though we were pretty quiet.  We have often joked that our family has a “silent laugh” because when we laugh really, really hard, our laugh makes no noise, and all you see is our red faces with tears streaming down.  So I leaned over to her and said to her, “It’s a good thing this is happening in a room full of Langagers because all of us have the Langager silent laugh.”

That really made her laugh, which really made me laugh, and pretty soon we were pointing at each other doing the silent laugh involuntarily, wiping tears away, and doubling over the laughing spell was so severe, with the occasional quieted hand clapping and leg slapping, intermixed with eye wiping.

And the singing continued in the crowd.

I think it was 6 or 7 songs altogether that the crowd sang on the 4th of July, all patriotic tunes, while little David L. drew his pictures.  He proudly held up his landscape at the end and we all clapped and cheered.

Also, to end this little mini-series on our little vacation, I just wanted to add that my Grandpa was doing so well all weekend.  He always knew who I was, and was so full of memories to share, and held my hand tight on numerous occasions just because.  You could tell that after being in his secure nursing home in Arizona, coming back to his homeland was feeding his soul.  He was breathing easy, and taking the sights and the people all in like he had missed us all so much.  I feel so blessed that his mind was sharp for this trip, and his energy endured through it all, as I know he got hours less sleep a day at the reunion as his normal routine.

I am certain, though, that he just soaked in every minute.

Family Stories

IMG_3279 IMG_3282-1

We just got back from a little road trip out to the far side of North Dakota for a family reunion on my mother’s side.  The Langager family is very dear to me, and this reunion was unique in the fact that the location was picked based off of where my great-grandparents homesteaded when they came over from Norway.  Another thing that made it special was my grandparents decided to come, even though they decided awhile ago that they were not traveling anymore from their home in Arizona.  (It wouldn’t be the first time they went back on this decision, but this was especially surprising as my Grandpa has suffered from some mini-strokes and dementia and has had to be in a secure living facility to prevent him wandering and getting lost.)

Well, when Grandpa and Grandma decided to come, Grandpa’s little sister (and only remaining living sibling) who also has declared her traveling days were done decided to come from Florida, because she was not going to passed up by her big brother.

It was about a half a day drive for us, which isn’t too bad.  Our kids have trouble traveling long distances, and so we planned into the travel day several stops at playgrounds across the state.



IMG_3336-1The reunion started at my mom’s cousin Kathy’s farm just outside of Williston.  A little over 100 Langagers from all over the world met on the lawn, and and it was a heavy, humid day.

From there we all caravanned to all the old sites.  First stop was the graveyard.


Every family reunion we went to when I was growing up had my grandpa and his siblings and all their families.  My grandpa was the 7th of 8 children, and when all 8 got together we nicknamed them the “Super 8″ and they were each so incredible and made a huge impact on each of our lives.  My great aunts and uncles were the kind of people who would pull me into their laps when I was a child, and with great love say, “Gretchen, do you know I pray for you every day by name?  You are a treasure from the Lord.”

They were that kind of people.

Actually, though, there were 9 siblings, as little Ester died when she was about 3 weeks old of pneumonia out there on the prairie.

The graveyard was very small, next to the foundation of a church.  The basement was dug, and the homesteaders in the area met there for services where my great-grandpa preached until a proper pastor could be obtained.  My grandpa was baptized in that little basement.  However, they never got the money to build the church past that, and eventually the tiny congregation moved to churches further out.  All that remains now is the foundation to that basement next to a few graves, including my Auntie Ester’s here.  “Budded on earth to bloom in heaven” the marker says.

The story goes that it was so cold that time of year that she could not be buried until spring.  So they laid her body in the attic of the barn in a little cradle.  Her big sisters would do their chores out in the barn and sneak up there and pet her head, tuck in her frozen body, and silently mourn her loss all winter long until the ground thawed enough to dig a grave.  It definitely put a picture on how hard and cruel life was out there on the frontier.


Of course the scenery has changed since the early 1900s, or even 10 years ago, as there were oil fields across the horizon.  I went to Williston often as a child, and I could not believe how much it has changed.    I wonder what my great grandparents would have thought of that.  In town, parking lots were full of pick up trucks, and scattered across the horizon were temporary homes that looked like a field of shipping crates with a door and window slapped on each of them.  Construction was everywhere.


The next stop was the 2 room schoolhouse where my grandpa and his siblings attended, as well as several of my mom’s cousins.  I’m told that it was actually in very pristine condition up until a few years ago when the oil workers filled the town to the brim, man camps became a common sight, and this was a common squatter’s spot and it became quite vandalized.


(Knut and my cousin James walking my grandpa over the rough ground to tour the inside of the school.)


IMG_3360-1 IMG_3366-1 IMG_3367-1 IMG_3373-1 IMG_3372-1 IMG_3374 IMG_3378-1 IMG_3382-1

The ground was knee deep in grass and wild sage, and it smelled incredible.  Grandpa showed us which was the primary school room and which was the secondary.  All the stories Grandpa told me growing up all of a sudden has a visual picture to match the action.  Like when a bully loosened the wagon wheel on his buggy as a prank, and Grandpa’s little sister Marie nearly got hurt so Grandpa challenged the bully “Arne” I think, to a fight in the school barn amongst the horses.  Grandpa lost and got his nose broken.

The last part of the tour we went to the original homestead site, and got to experience how far exactly the covered wagon with a coal stove inside drove the kids to school those cold winter months.


My grandparent’s actual home is no longer there.  It was moved to the city of Williston long ago, and still stands there.  The foundation has been plowed under, making way for a wheat field.  The neighboring homestead, though, belonged to my great-grandpa’s brother, Tonnes.  When my great-grandparents came over from Norway, they stayed with his brother Tonnes in a shack behind his house, (about the size of our chicken coop), until their house was built down the lane.  My great-grandma birthed a few of her babies in that little chicken-coop sized guest house as well.  (The shack is behind the house, and not pictured here.  The little building that is seen next to the house must have been some kind of barn or carriage house.)


Tonnes eventually sold the place to my great-grandparents who then passed the place onto my grandpa’s oldest brother, Otto, who lived there many years.  It has been abandoned several years now.  I wish we could have toured the place on foot, but we were all tired and ridiculously hot, and the Bible camp we were all staying at was serving supper at 6 and we were running late.  So our caravan just drove past.

I hope to share with you 1 more post about our little trip tomorrow.  Today was the good pictures and history, and tomorrow is the fun stories of the time with our family.  I have to write out the memories of this trip before they get lost up there in my head.  These people are just so precious to me.  I’m overflowing with thankfulness.



Sunny Skies

After much preparation, we packed up everyone and headed out to visit my family down in Arizona and California.  We have traditionally driven down in the 2 day (15 hours each) drive, but last year we skipped it as I didn’t think I could make the trip with my bad neck, and the year before was especially bad with 3 of the kids getting sick on the way down.  This year we finally bit the bullet and flew us all down, even though it required we drive 3 hours to a cheaper airport.  While the 3 1/2 hour flight beat 2 long days driving for sure, it wasn’t a piece of cake either.

Ingrid and David had the toughest time, but the rest of the kids were pretty good troopers.  Solveig kept telling me.  “I’m not afraid of heights.  I like looking outside.”  When we landed, I instinctively put my hand across Ingrid, and I think the landing startled her so bad that once we slowed down and I put my hand down, she grabbed it and put it back on her tummy just in case it happened again.
We are here now, though.  My neck is in bad shape.  Handling the kids along with Knut, and just sitting for so long which hurts, was rough.  Actually, at baggage claim once we landed, I was feeling nauseous from the pain, and sat in a pile of coats and backpacks.  Knut took the kids over to get the checked bags.  One by one he brought the ornery, overtired ones back to my pile of stuff, and after a few minutes, I was sitting with my head in my hands, on a pile of stuff, surrounded by 3 kids who skipped naps and were over an hour past their bedtime, screaming, and Knut and 2 other kids (Silje and Elias) were helping him haul the rest of the bags over to us.  We had drawn quite a crowd at that point, of people chuckling about how tough it is to fly with kids, and a very nice service man loaded up all our bags on his cart and brought it out to the drive-up for us where we were to meet my parents.  Really, we encountered only friendly people who were delighted to see kids running around the whole trip.  Even business men, would pull out their phones and show us pictures of their kids they were missing.  That made me happy that our crazy brood was welcome everywhere.  In the past I remember getting glaring looks whenever we brought an infant with us on a plane.  It wasn’t so this time.
It is so good to be “home” though.  This morning I woke up feeling better, and the kid have been having fun being at Grammy and Papa’s house.  I’m taking it easy.  The kids absolutely love not having to wear coats.  When taking into account wind chills back home, it’s nearly 100 degrees warmer here.  Well, not today actually.  It’s the coldest day today for the trip, being in the low 60s.  It will soon be much warmer.  My mom is trying to bundle my kids for this cold spell, which they find funny.

My mom got each of the kids a blank notebook and a bunch of scrapbook supplies so they can document their fun vacation.  They’re really having fun with that.

David is having the toughest time, not understanding the lack of wide open spaces, and wanting to run and run, and not having quite enough back yard to suit the speed of his legs.  Thank goodness for parks!  I’m looking into getting adjusted while I’m down here, as I’m still hurting from the trip down, and honestly a little nervous about flying back already.  I need to not think about that right now.  Right now we have some lovely days with my parents and grandparents, and then we’re driving to San Diego to visit my sister and her family by their new home just a few short miles from the beach.

Then we will visit my brother out in Los Angeles, who has a very special surprise for them that is so secret, that I shouldn’t even blog about it.  We’ll also see some dear friends of ours, and then head back to my parents for some rest before we head home.

As a mom of 5 kids, I’m loving so much being “mothered” by my mommy.  I have missed not being here.  My kids felt at home instantly (even little Ingrid), even though they hadn’t been here in 2 years.    My mom is showing them pictures of my brother and sister and I and they are all getting so much attention.  My Papa (wonderful step-dad) had to work a bit today, and David has been anxiously waiting for him to come home so they could play chess.  Papa was his original chess teacher, and I have a feeling there will be dozens of games before we make the next leg of our journey.