Calling in the Cavalry

Many of you may remember that we frequently host a one day – all day Vacation Bible School here at Windy Ridge. And it’s all done outside, in tents and on the lawn.

Every year people ask what we will do if it rains. Every year I just smile and say we’ll figure that out when it happens. But it never did.

Until last year.

In the middle of the worst drought in 100 years (seriously , we hadn’t had any rain for almost 3 months!) yet the minute the kids step off the bus that morning it started to rain.

Then the wind picked up and it started to pour.

Then the lightning came and some really strong wind gusts.

We huddled together under the tents we had set up and watched the wading pools fly by.  After we saw the food tent fly by – we decided to quickly move all the kids back on the bus.

We were just in time to see the porta- potty blow over.

When the rain stopped, we moved back outside and enjoyed a great day.

But I determined then and there that we needed to have a back-up plan. What if they rain hadn’t stopped? We sure couldn’t spend all day in the bus!

My idea? The pole barn.

The only problem was that it, like all the other buildings on the property, was full of “treasures”.

But if we could simply rearrange the building to put all the storage items in the back half and keep all the easily moveable things in the front half (things like tractors, mowers, balers, etc..) Then, on VBS day, we could simply drive out the things in the front half , park them in the pasture and set up VBS in the now empty front half of the pole barn.

It seemed like such a good idea at the time.

All winter it seemed brilliant. All spring it seemed genius.

It really did seem like a wonderful plan until last week when we suddenly realized there were only 3 weeks till VBS and we still hadn’t started re-arranging.

We worked in the evenings – sorting, emptying – but the task was monumental.

The scrap guy hauled away 3 loads. THREE loads! God bless him.

We’ve had a fire going that would rival the eternal flame.

But still we had a massive job.

It was time to call in the cavalry – the kids in the youth group. Young, strong, and would work for food. Perfect.

They arrived Friday afternoon in the midst of heat and humidity.

And they worked. Hard.

They moved piles and piles of wood left over from remodeling. They toted and carried. Car parts and bike parts. An outboard motor. Many, many doors. They unearthed some very interesting artifacts.

I’m wishing now that I had made them sign a confidentiality statement.

They were covered with sweat and dust and old spider webs, but still they smiled.

Then I fed them all the hot dogs they could eat and they had a massive water fight well past dark.  And I smiled.

They earned it.

They got us over the hump. God bless them.

We spent another day doing the finishing touches, but now we’re ready.

So – maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

And maybe I need to bring those amazing youth group kids some ice cream. And cookies.  And squirt guns…

Fire at Midnight

We were sleeping hard when Dagmar woke us up last night. It was almost midnight.

“Hey Dad – they just called the ambulance out. There’s a fire at Heartland.”

The news took a minute to sink in.

Heartland is the small wind turbine company where Jan works.

We laid back down – in shock.

Mentally I gave Jan fifteen minutes to decide to drive in and see what was going on. He only took twelve and half. As soon he jumped out of bed – so did I. There was no way I was letting him go to this fire alone.

We scanned the horizon as we drove through the blackness of midnight. The last time we were speeding through the dark at that time of night – I was in labor. We both wondered if this event would be as life-changing.

The smoke was heavy in the air as we pulled up to the building. No flames could be seen – just thick heavy smoke and lots of flashing lights.

The fire was in the second building, where the blades are manufactured.

Volunteer firemen from 3 different communities were there.

Yes, volunteers. Risking their lives with no pay. I will never again look at the firemen tossing candy from the pumper truck in the local parade the same way again. Those guys are heroes. Just saying.

We carefully maneuvered our way through the labyrinth of fire trucks and hoses to the small huddle of Heartland employees, watching the scene with shocked expressions.

It was a little surreal.

And sad. Very, very sad.

What would this mean?

How can a small 6 year company recover from a blow like this? How much damage would there be – not just to the building but also to the equipment?

This is special equipment – much of it designed and made by the guys themselves. Six long, hard years of labor.

As we watched the firemen cut a hole in the roof and lower themselves down – I had to take a deep breath and remind myself that God was still in control.

And there was peace in the midst of the chaos.

We managed to get a few hours of sleep last night but Jan was back at Heartland early this morning when the firetrucks were called back in to put out a flare-up.

Before he left, he held my hand and prayed over his hastily prepared breakfast, “Lord, we know that none of this is a surprise to You. We know that you are in control. We trust you.”

And there is still peace.

Ready for Opening Night!

Sunday night is the big night.

After weeks of rehearsals – hours of sewing and singing and writing – the Children’s Christmas Program is really coming together.

And as it came together – we all saw both in the story we tell on stage, and more importantly in real life – that God always provides.

Christmas Program 2012He provided costumes – many of them free.

All the girls have jumpers, blouses, and great big hair ribbons.

All the boys have knickers, sweater vests, argyle socks and hats.

Everybody has black shoes.

McTavishOur smooth talking salesman has a loud checkered coat, super sized bow tie, bowler hat and cane.


God provided everything we needed on stage – including a front porch complete with screen door, window and a rocking chair.

He provided all the props – the quilts, the wagons,  even the horse.

piggies in tutusHe provided some adorable piggies with appropriate noses, pig ears, and pretty pink tutus. Piglets just look prettier in a tutu!

Now – after taking the kids on the road for a dress rehearsal at the local nursing home – we’re ready for the big night.

It’s always a little sad when it’s all over.  I really love working with the kids – and this has been such a fun program!

Soon this Christmas program will be just a memory – but I hope and pray that the kids remember the lessons learned in the program – that God always provides.

A Battleground State

I heard on the radio the other night that I live in a “battleground” state.


Well that explains the daily stack of political mailings in our mail box. Poor mailman could get a hernia before election day.

And the phone calls! Wow! I must’ve taken a survey a day for the past month. Most are the same one.

I will admit to being tempted to say I’m a Hispanic male who planned to vote for Elvis. Now wouldn’t that mess up the results?!

I do feel kind of bad for the nice lady doing the agriculture survey. I honestly meant to hit the number 3 on my phone to answer the question – not the number 8 on which ended the survey – but I was making supper and 2 kids were talking to me and Jan had just gotten home.

I mean really – it was the first time I had that particular survey and I was dying to know what she would ask next.


I’m thinking some of these candidates must have us on speed dial because they call almost every night.

We don’t even watch the local news anymore. I can’t stand all the commercials. First commercial break – all Democrats. Second commercial break – all Republican.

Makes you almost miss the used car ads.


Some states battled the Revolutionary War.

Some the Civil War.

But Iowa gets to be part of the battle of words and ideas in Election 2012.

It’s an honor and a privilege to have this right to vote – and believe me – I plan to use it on Election Day!

But some election years just last longer than others.

Just a few more days now.

Lunching the Tractor Ride

We spent Saturday at the local park with the 4H Club lunching the Waubonsie Tractor Club’s annual Tractor Ride.

There’s nothing quite like spending the better part of a day listening to the putt putt of old tractors, the banter of a bunch of retired farmers  and serving food.
tractor rideSo what exactly is a Tractor Ride?

Well, first you take a bunch of guys who love restoring old tractors, then you invite them to bring their “babies” to the local park on a Saturday morning.

friendly 4H kidWhile the tractors are all getting lined up – just so – you wander over to the shelter house and buy a cinnamon roll (baked that morning by yours truly!) and some juice or coffee from the friendly 4H kid. (Yes – that’s Pedro with yet another hair style!)

admiring the tractorsThen you sit around in lawn chairs with your buddies and talk.

And laugh.

And talk.

And get up and buy some more coffee or another roll.

And admire the tractors.

And talk some more.

And tease the 4H kids a little.

Then someone will say, “I guess it’s time boys.”

 And everybody gets up, brushes the cinnamon rolls crumbs of their overalls and heads for their tractors.

tractor rideSoon the air is filled with the smell of gas and oil and the putt putt sound of old tractors.

You line those tractors up like a parade and head down the street, around the block and out of town.

Smiles on your faces. Wind in your hair.

You come back hungry and after parking your tractor – just so – you head back over to the shelter house and buy a beef burger or hot dog.

And tease the 4H kids some more.

And sit in lawn chair in the shade eating and talking.

And laughing.

Then you get up and buy another cookie and a can of pop.

And you talk.

And you laugh.

After a while you load up your tractor and head home.


And the 4H kids pack up the remaining food and clean up.

DSC_0205And count the money they made.

And head home.


Making History

I interrupt your regularly scheduled activities for this special political announcement:
Your Vote Counts
We attended the Iowa Caucuses last night – and helped make history!

That’s right – we gave up a couple hours on a Tuesday night in January to weigh in on who should be our next president.

We made our voice heard.

We were a part of the process.

One thing we learned as we braved the standing room only crowd and later as we watched the returns on TV – every vote counts.

Every vote.

I’m thinking that some of those undecideds were wishing they had decided – and some of those who stayed home were wishing they had participated.

Now I’m not going to go into some in-depth political commentary about last night’s results – I’ll leave that to somebody who knows what they are talking about. 🙂

But this much I know – every vote counts.

Your vote counts.

Are you registered? You should be.

Okay – my rant is over. I will now step down from my soapbox and return to my usual ramblings about the important issues in life – like what’s for supper and how to survive life with four teens in the house.

But remember this – your vote counts.

Now use it.

I’m Melinda Shervheim and I approved this message.

Photo courtesy of Mike LoCascio.

“It’s Buddy the Elf…”

Ahh… the Christmas holidays.

Lots of goodies to eat, special times with friends and family, Christmas cards and letters in the mail, and… lots of politics.

Since we are privileged to live in Iowa – with the coveted first in the nation caucus – every four years we get to spend our holidays with presidential hopefuls.

This was one of those years.

Every day the mailman leaves a handful of campaign mailings among the brightly colored Christmas cards.

Those really don’t bother me much – other than the horrible waste of resources. I just file them in the wastebasket as soon as they come in. 

What is really getting on our nerves is all the phone calls.

“Hi! This is so and so calling for so and so candidate…” Click.

“Hi! Stay on the line for a live town hall meeting with…” Click.

One candidate in particular is very annoying. We get a call from his campaign at least once a day. Interestingly – he’s one candidate that is rarely in the state campaigning – he just sends oodles of junk mail and annoys us with daily automated phone calls. We’re not impressed.

It was so bad that one afternoon when the phone rang I told Pedro that if it was that particular candidate I would scream.

It was.

I did.

I would estimate 98% of the calls we received in the last 4 weeks were either political or from telemarketers. No one wants to answer the phone anymore! And when we do –  we’re not always friendly.

The kids have started having lots of fun talking back to the canned calls – especially the ones that come during meal times.

“Hey – nice of you to call! Say hi to the wife and kids!”

“Great to hear from you! We’d be happy to spend New Year’s in the Bahamas with you!”

“Thanks for all the great campaign literature! We have enough now to wallpaper the chicken coop!”

But still the calls keep coming.

Finally Dagmar – after threatening to do it for weeks – answered the phone with a line borrowed from a favorite Christmas movie  –

“Hi! It’s Buddy the Elf! What’s your favorite color?”

There was silence on the other end – then a blessed click.

We doubled over with laughter!

Thankfully, the 2012 Iowa Caucus will soon be history and all the candidates will pack up their campaign literature and phone lists and annoy another state.

But until then – if Buddy the Elf should happen to answer when you call – just laugh and answer the question.

I can’t wait to see Dagmar’s expression when you do! 🙂

“Chwistmas” Sausage

MeatI was in the midst of Christmas preparations Saturday afternoon when I heard a timid knock at the door.

I opened it to discover two adorable Amish children on my step, a little girl about seven and her five year old brother.

All rosy cheeked with big eyes – I decided that they must be from Herman’s, our southern neighbors, since the youngest ones to the north are all boys.

I couldn’t help but smile at their cuteness as I said, ” Well hello. How can I help you?”

The adorable little Amish girl looked terrified as she handed me a plastic grocery bag, “This is for you.”

I smile again and said, “Oh, thank you!”

My response must have given her courage, because she gave me a tentative little smile and added, “It’s ‘fwesh’ sausage.”

Then I understood – Herman’s had butchered that week and the older ones were all busy helping, so the younger ones were given the task of delivering a gift of sausage to the neighbor lady -me!

I gave them an even bigger smile and said, “Oh – that sounds yummy!”

She smiled a little bigger and said eagerly, “It’s ‘alweady’ salted and peppered!”

“Oh , so all I need to do is cook it and eat it?” I ask.

She’s nodded and added, “It’s for your Chwistmas!”

“Oh, Christmas sausage! That’s the best kind!” I say.

I’m rewarded with two very big, very relieved smiles.

“You stay right there!” I tell them – and walk into the kitchen and find two of the most sprinkle-covered sugar cookies.

Their eyes got big and they grinned from ear-to-ear as I put one in each of their mitten-covered hands.

“Thank you!” was their heart-felt response as they turned and started the half- mile walk home.

I smiled as I watched them go.

“Chwistmas” sausage, indeed!

Playing Hooky – Again

Yes. It’s true. I played hooky – again.

I’m becoming a habitual offender! 🙂

At least this time I brought the kids with me!

the moms We met up with several other home school moms and their kiddos at a local park to enjoy one of the last wonderful days of fall.

While the kids played and played and played –

The moms sat and talked – catching up on life, sharing ideas, and just soaking up the sunshine.

Our biggest entertainment –

babiesWatching the babies be cute.

It was one of those “easy” kind of days that makes me so glad to be home schooling.

kiddosI’m thinking the kids were kind of glad, too!


A Stroke of Brilliance?

Jan did a double take when he walked in the kitchen the other day.

There I was – sitting at the table with four of the kids surrounded by a pile of blocks and Duplo people.

A few years ago that sight would have been commonplace – but now that 3 of those 4 kids are teenagers – it was a little unusual.

So unusual that it made him pause and ask, “What are you doing?!”

“I am being brilliant!” was my reply.

ToysHe looked at me quizzically.

Okay – so maybe brilliant isn’t the best word. Maybe creative would be better.

I explained that it was time to stage the Children’s Christmas Program – and since that was traditionally a very confusing and noisy rehearsal – I had the brilliant idea to use Duplo people and stage it on the kitchen table before using live children.

The kids found the right number of Duploes and helped me name them. We added a few blocks to act as the piano and the riser and my cell phone became the manger.

We went through the script scene by scene, moving our Duplo characters across the stage.

It went pretty well except that I often forgot who was who and would occasionally call them “carrot nose” and “fireman” and “mustache dude” instead of Eli, Jotham and Levi.

Funny thing was – because of my large hand maneuvering them – those plastic kids still fell off the riser and often knocked each other over!

But at least they didn’t talk out of turn!

I still think it was brilliant. 🙂