Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Things You Can Do With 25 Pounds of Oregon Strawberries

Yesterday I took all four kids strawberry picking at a local family farm.  Like most kids they thought it was the best thing ever for the first ten minutes when they stuffed their mouths full of berries as fast as they could pick them.  But then the sun came out.  And their bellies got full.  And they got bored.  And the complaining started.

Like any good parent, I told them to buck up, stop complaining, start picking and then regaled them with stories of days long-forgotten from my past.  I heard myself telling them, "Did you know when I was a kid farmers actually hired kids to work on their farms?  This was a fact my mom discovered when we first moved to Oregon.  The next thing we knew my Mom and Dad and some other equally mean parents started driving us and a bunch of other kids out to a berry farm every day.  They'd drop us off really early in the morning and come back to pick us up at 3 p.m. We'd have to pick berries all day long in the hot sun to earn money for school clothes.  So don't you dare whine about picking berries for one measly hour.  Hey - maybe we should see if this farmer would hire you to earn money for camp..."

After one hour, we weighed our berries.  25 pounds of fresh, warm Oregon strawberries.  We brought them home and proudly displayed them on the counter for Curt to see when he got home from work.  He walked in the door, stared in disbelief at our strawberry-laden counter and said, "What on earth are you going to do with all those berries and why did you pick so many?"

I spent six hours in the kitchen today with those blasted berries and I am now emotionally scarred for life.  I may never eat another strawberry again.  Just in case you were wondering, I thought I'd list out exactly everything you can do with 25 pounds of strawberries.

1.  Spend an hour picking through them and throwing out all the rotten ones your kids picked because they weren't paying attention and just wanted to fill the basket so they could leave.
2.  Give aforementioned kids free reign to eat berries until they get sick.  That alone took care of at least ten pounds in 24 hours.
3.  Sort remaining berries into three piles: mushy to use for jam, somewhat firm to use for pies and freezing, and store-perfect to eat last.
4.  Slave away making three fresh strawberry pies that are now cooling in my refrigerator.
5.  Make 112 ounces of freezer jam.  Yes - you read that right.  112 ounces.  Can I get a BOO-YAH!
6.  Freeze two gallon bags of berries to be used later when you decide you actually like strawberries.
7.  Clean up your kitchen that is now covered in a sugary-sticky mess.
8.  Confess out loud that you will NEVER be a farmers wife and it's no wonder the ladies in Laura Ingles Wilder days died young.  WHEW!
9.  Realize you've totally become a mom in every sense of the word.
10.  Start scheduling in your mind when you'll go pick some more.

Happy strawberry picking!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Grant County - by Grant Stilp

Our son Grant (10 years) won a class-voted award this year for "Most Improved Writer."  He showed me his last writing sample and I laughed out loud at multiple points.  Twice we asked him, "Did you really write this?"  It was descriptive and funny.  Maybe he could have a career writing marketing?  Here's what he wrote, all typed up with a hand drawn map listing each feature of the county.  I did not correct punctuation or spelling.

"Are you sick and tired of living in the rainy valley?  Then come on down to Grant County where it NEVER rains.

Did you know that from 1862 - 1900 aproximently $16 million in gold were mined from Canyon City, the county seat.  We also are known for Ponderosa Pine logging.  Sheep farming and sheering in our county provided wool to some of the biggest industries in the world.

Grant County was named after general and president Ulysess S. Grant for his bravery in the civil war.  In 1864 my county was created and established.  from old Wasco and Umittila counties.  My county shares borders with more counties than any other in Oregon (8).  Our highest point is strawberry mountain at 9,038 feet!

In Grant County we have TONS of recreation and tourist attractions.  At the John Day Fossil beds there is an amazing lodge were you yourself can become a cowboy.  wake up in the morning to a breakfast of slam-johns and sow-bellys (pancakes and bacon).  Then spend the rest of the day in the field tending the cattle.  As you come back from a delightful day in the field you feast on baked beans and steak.  At the fossil beds we don't only have a lodge we've got , you geussed it fossils!  Many tourists each day stare in awe at the fossils of long ago.  We also have another famous tourist attraction, the world championship snowmobile biatholon.  TOns of people from all over watch as the snowmobiles zip down the track.

I hope you will come to magnificent Grant County."

Don't you want to go visit?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

John Chapter 10 in T-chart Form

A bunch of my friends are walking through some tough stuff in their personal lives and it breaks my heart.  When you're in the middle of dark valley it can be hard to know Jesus is there or to feel that God is close.

Today I read John chapter 10.  If you don't have a Bible, go to to view the chapter.  Jesus refers to himself as the Shepherd and to us as his sheep.  I decided to T-chart out what the Shepherd does and what the Sheep do to keep my mind focused.  It was a great exercise because listing out each thing made me realize again the deep love my Savior has for me.  I pretty much fell in love all over again today.  Here's my list and happy studying!

Things The Shepherd Does
Things the Sheep Do
Uses the gate to the sheep pen – has access to the sheep – Jesus said, “I am the gate”
Listen to the Shepherd’s voice
Calls his sheep BY NAME
Follow Him
Leads them out
Know His voice
Goes ahead of them
Don’t follow strangers
Run from impersonators
Lays down His life for the sheep
Come in and go out and “find pasture”
Knows his sheep
Live an abundant life
Knows the Father
Know the Shepherd
Brings in the lost sheep

Unites flocks and creates one flock with one Shepherd

Gives life (eternal)

Protects – no one snatches them

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Make It Enough

Today was a crazy day.  Our dog Dusty is under contract to produce three litters of puppies for the breeder that is essentially leasing her to us.  Once Dusty fulfills her obligations, legal guardianship gets transferred to our family.  She spent the last week in Eugene with her boyfriend, Hero, and today was the day we got to pick her up.  It's a two hour drive each way for a ten minute errand.

We were 45 minutes into our drive to Eugene when Alli said, "My stomach hurts.  I think I might barf."  She said it flippantly and then never said another word about it so I just assumed she was bored.  I gave her a lame, "Oh that's too bad.  Why don't you color?" and kept driving.  Thirty minutes and three cucumbers after her prophetic statement, she did just that.  Barfed.  In the car.  On the Interstate.  

I don't DO vomit.  That's Curt's job.  But he was at work.  I strapped on my big girl panties, pulled across two lanes of traffic, and stopped on the shoulder of the Interstate.  There we were:  Alli and I on the side of the freeway, cleaning up the carnage (which we left on the side of the road for the lucky litter patrol people) and me mentally moving "Clean out inside of the van" from the bottom of my To Do list to the top.  Thankfully I carry a Costco-sized jar of hand sanitizer and box of baby wipes in the van so we had some ammunition for cleanup.  Alli immediately perked up and said with a huge smile, "My stomach feels awesome now.  I'm hungry," and proceeded to beg for a snack for the next hour.  

Grant skipped the trip to Eugene and opted to spend the day with his best friend at OMSI.   Imagine his disappointment when he felt terrible ALL day!  Plagued by bad stomach pain and a headache, he finally succumbed to barfing before bed.  Curt was home but downstairs, so that left me to rub his back while he hovered over the toilet.  I managed to do it without getting sick myself - these kids just might make a mom out of me after all!

Katie apparently swapped her 8-year-old bladder out for a 4-month-old infant sized bladder and declared her need to pee a minimum of every thirty minutes while we were driving.  I'm pretty sure she hasn't peed the rest of the day because we hit every rest stop between here and Eugene.  (It was a good chance for me to practice patience.)

At the first rest stop, we encountered a homeless family.  A mom with her two daughters (ages 5 and 6) were sitting in the sun by the bathrooms on a quilt with their laundry drying on the ledge and a big cardboard sign that read, "Anything is a blessing.".  The girls were filling in worksheets from a workbook and the mom was cussing one of them out when I walked by.  My heart just broke for all three of them.  

The whole time we were in the bathroom I prayed, "Lord what can we give?"  The situation just seemed too big.  It was tempting to pretend we didn't see and go on our way.  But on the way back to the van I busted Alli openly staring over her shoulder in disbelief at this family.  I herded the girls into the van and then sat there, mindlessly shuffling piles around and stalling.  I didn't want to leave, but I didn't know what to do.  I just kept praying, "Lord, what can we give?"  I could tell the girls were as disturbed as I was so I asked them, "What can we give?"  

We had packed a big picnic lunch because I was being cheap and didn't want to buy lunch.  It had chip packs and juice boxes (a rare treat at our house) as part of the picnic and a huge bag of left-over burgers and hot dogs from the church picnic last night.  The girls immediately offered up their lunch, including their juice boxes, which was hard for Paige.  Alli also grabbed her favorite toy phone and said, "The little girl needs it more than I do."

We walked back to where they were sitting and introduced ourselves.  The 5 year old girl beamed and played with her new phone while I asked the mom (Spring), "What's your story?"  They live in a bus and Spring was quick to point out, "It could be worse.  We have a roof over our heads, but diesel is expensive and we can't stay for more than 12 hours at a time at a rest stop.  The state troopers know us by name and they patrol for people like us.  Work is hard to come by..."  

Their story was so sad.  A big part of me said, "This isn't enough.  I need to do more."  But Curt reminded me that we gave from what we had in the moment.  I was reminded of the little boy who gave Jesus his lunch.  A hungry crowd of 5,000 men.  One lunch consisting of five loaves of bread and two small fish.  Hopeless odds.  But that little boy gave what he had in that moment and Jesus multiplied it.

As I watched my daughters fork over their coveted juice boxes, big bag of burgers, and favorite toy to two precious little girls who hadn't bathed in weeks, I prayed, "Jesus multiply it.  Make it enough."

Saturday, June 18, 2011

On Whom Am I Depending?

I spent an hour yesterday catching up on my Bible reading in the book of II Kings.  King after king led the Israelites further and further away from the God who had rescued them.  The Israelites blindly followed their leaders into bondage to false gods and oppression from neighboring kings.  Not exactly uplifting reading.

And then comes King Hezekiah.  “Hezekiah trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel.  There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him.  He held fast to the LORD and did not cease to follow him; he kept the commands the LORD had given Moses.  And the LORD was with him; he was successful in whatever he undertook.”  (II Kings 18:5-7a – emphasis in BOLD is mine) What a breath of fresh air!  Wouldn’t that be a wonderful way to be remembered? 

The Israelites’ greatest offense was worshiping other gods.  Hezekiah took care of this problem by destroying all the temples and places of worships to false gods.  Then he re-established worship of the one true God as the expectation for the Israelites.

“In the fourteenth year of Hezekiah’s reign, Sennacherib king of Assyria attacked all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them.”  King Sennacherib was hungry for more so he sent his supreme commander, chief officer, and field commander to Jerusalem.  The field commander stood on the wall in front of the already beaten-down Israelites.  Speaking in Hebrew, the language the commoners would know, he reads a trash-talking letter from the King of Assyria intended to bully and further intimidate the Israelites.  (Read II Kings 18-19 for the whole story, but these statements jumped off the page when I read them.)

“This is what the great king, the king of Assyria, says: On what are you basing this confidence of yours?  On whom are you depending, that you rebel against me? If you say to me, “We are depending on the LORD our God”—isn’t he the one whose high places and altars Hezekiah removed, saying to Judah and Jerusalem, “You must worship before this altar in Jerusalem”?  Furthermore, have I come to attack and destroy this place without word from the LORD? The LORD himself told me to march against this country and destroy it.”
I was struck by the powerfully manipulative lies the commander used.  “On what you are basing this confidence of yours?  On whom are you depending?  And if you say it’s God, well He switched sides.” Who wouldn’t be shaking in their boots?  Who wouldn’t be rattled in their faith?

The Israelites were a train wreck after that speech, but King Hezekiah knew what to do.  He didn't try to solve the problem on his own.  He didn't forge ahead with brute force.  He didn't dissolve into a pile of tears and surrender without a fight.  Instead, he took his problem to the LORD.  Literally.  II Kings 19:14 says, “Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it.  Then he went up to the temple of the LORD and spread it out before the Lord.  And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD.”
I love the Bible.  It’s so practical.  In the middle of battles, and idol worship, and crazy stories of God’s power unleashed on earth, there’s a lesson for me living in 2011 in suburbia. 
So often I behave like the Israelites.  I forget where my confidence comes from and Who I am depending on.  I try to fix things on my own.  I forge ahead with brute force.  On occasion, I dissolve into a pile of tears and surrender without a fight. 
My prayer is that the next time I am challenged by a problem that seems insurmountable I’ll behave like King Hezekiah, spreading my problem out before the LORD and entrusting it to His capable hands through prayer.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Musings from Alli Stilp - 1st Grade

Alli and I on the bus to the zoo

Alli brought home an entire tree's worth of papers that got collected over the school year.  I saved every single writing sample in the pile and thought I'd share some of them because the way a 1st grader thinks and spells just makes me laugh.  Hope you enjoy.  I did not correct spelling or grammar and can't believe how much her spelling and grammar improved even from the first of the year until the end.  Their brains are like sponges!

This was her last writing sample/test for the year.  I can't get over how well she spells now.  "My favorite birthday was my 6th birthday party because I got gum from my friend Faith.  It was so good and Faith is such a good friend.  We had chocolate peanut butter cake and that was so good.  My mom and my dad were there.  My stistes were there and my brother.  It was a good birthday party and my mom made the cake.  I just wanted to say that.  And the party was inside.  I loved that birthday party."

From May 2011 "I would't want to be a farmer because the animals are stinky.  The rooster hurts my ears.  It cost tons of $.  I do not get to ware clean clothe.  The crowes yell.  The mice make a huge mess in the farm."

From May 2011 "I leared about sheep cows and goats  Cows and sheep make fine lether and cows make ice cream out of there butter and chees.  Goats eat alfalph hay.  Sheep eat the grass all the way to the groud.  Goats and cows have hooves that are split in tow."

From May 2011 "I have leared so much about goats and sheep.  I have leared that goats and sheep both chew their cud.  Sheep get raised for show and milk.  Goats get raised for milk butter cheese and show.  We get rugs and blackests from sheep."

From May 2011 "We have a new student in are class.  His name is Tweeter.  He is adorable.  His was born on the 28th!!! of May.  He is almost 3 days.  By Alli Stilp"

1-4-2011 "My Christmas was rilly good becuse I got a Wii a red own.  My fravite Wii game is Wii party.  Because it is fun.  And cool.  And you are on it.  And the games that are on it is bingo.  And memre.  And all srs of games.  It fun becuse we can take trs.  I rilly like it.  

1-24-2011 "Dear friends, I loved your playes and acting.  It is cute.  Do you mide if you can tell me your names.  Your friend, Alli."

Alli and I at the zoo - fish face!
This one was an illustrated book with typed text.  I'm guessing it was written some time in early March.  "Me and My Aunt (title)  by Alli Stilp  When I was sitting on the black couch I asked a question about a dog who was named Coby.  But he died.  The question was, "What did he look like when he died?"  My aunt started to cry because it was her dog.  We all were sitting on the couch in the living room.  He was too sick that they had to put him down.  They are going to get a new dog.  Her name will be Stella or Lucy and it's a little black puppy."

Another illustrated book called Vacation by Alli Stilp "When I was sitting on the gray couch my mom said, "We're going on vacation."  I was excited for it!  We took our van.  It took 14 hours to get to Montana.  I was exhausted and sleepy.  But there was traffic, so we stopped.  We ate ham and cheese ad peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch.  We saw our cousins.  We played with them at the park.  We held Maggie and Kayla's lizard!  But we had a lot of fun!"

Way to go Schnookie!  You have learned so much in 1st grade and I'm so proud of you!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Not Your Own ~ Helvetia Half Marathon 2011

stretching before the race
Oh the irony…  Last week I finished my post to the ladies at Solid Rock with this paragraph: “On Saturday you will be surrounded by a cloud of witnesses.  They will be watching you run, especially how you finish.  You’ll experience exhaustion.  You’ll question why you got talked into all this nonsense.  You might even want to hunt me down after the race and give me a piece of your depleted mind.  In your moments of weakness listen for your Daddy screaming encouragement and run with perseverance the race marked out for you.  Just run. All the way to the finish and into His arms.
Little did I know that the person experiencing exhaustion, questioning why she got talked into all this nonsense and wanting to give me a piece of their mind would be ME!
Some Not Your Own girls pre-race
A few months ago I was approached by our pastor’s wife with the idea to motivate the women of our church to start exercising out of obedience to Christ.   Our theme verse was I Corinthians 6:19-20 and it says,  “…You are not your own, you were bought at a price.  Therefore honor God with your body.”   We chose the Helvetia Half Marathon and Widmer 10K race on June 11th as our first goal.  I had the privilege of writing weekly blog posts that encouraged our group to commit to training for these races, build relationships with other women who were also training, and see it through to completion by stomping on the finisher’s mat on race day. 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Day in the Life of the Stilp Family

The next two days all hinge on a finely-tuned plan.  They do not have wiggle room for anything to go wrong.  I almost have to write it out to keep track of it myself.


  • Grant has a field trip all day tomorrow at the State Capitol.
  • Alli has an all day field trip to the zoo.  Jodi (me) is chaperoning this field trip.  I have to be at school with my picnic lunch packed in a back pack by 8:20 a.m.
  • Katie has a Summer Birthdays Party at school that starts the second I get back from the field trip and lasts until the end of school.
  • Paige is shuttling to a friend's house until 2 p.m. when Sarah (our extra "kid" for the summer) will pick her up and babysit until I get home from school with the older three hooligans.
  • I will drop them off and dash to Portland Running Company to volunteer at packet pick up for the Helvetia Half Marathon that happens on Saturday.
  • While there, I need to pick up my race packet since I'm participating in this event and then head home to eat dinner, lay out my race morning attire, and go to bed early.


  • Get up at 4:30 a.m. (can you say OUCH?) to leave by 5 a.m.
  • Arrive at Hillsboro Stadium, the start and finish of the race, by 6 a.m.  for more volunteering and getting nervous and mingling and trips to the porta-potty.
  • Run a half marathon.
  • Come home and crash.

Doesn't that sound exciting and fun?  Well Grant threw a kink our plans when he crashed hard on his skateboard this afternoon.  He was showing off for Sarah and her friend Brooke (who happened to be Grant's student teacher) and got going too fast, lost his balance and crashed.  He didn't want to cry in front of them so he was ridiculously tough, brushing off the gash on his hip and his sore wrist as "slightly painful."

Curt got home from work and examined Grant's very-swollen wrist.  His diagnosis?  "I'm 98% sure it's broken."  Great.  Cause I can't take him to the doctor tomorrow.  I'm at the zoo.  And Grant doesn't want to miss his field trip.  And if we did the emergency room tonight, he'd still have to go to an orthopedic doctor tomorrow to get a cast.

Our newly revised plan is:  Curt stays home from work.  He takes Grant to the dentist with him.  Grant sits in the waiting room while Curt gets his teeth cleaned.  They go to the clinic where Curt works (it conveniently happens to be in Salem just blocks from the state capital) and get x-rays and a cast if need be.  When they are done doctoring, Curt brings Grant to the capital to hook up with his class.  VIOLA!

This is eerily similar to the last time Grant broke his wrist (but that time he fell out of a tree).  It happened to be the day before I was having knee surgery so we just brought him us to the surgery center, did his doctoring before my pre-op stuff, and sent him home with a friend.  Now that you have a glimpse of a day in the life of the Stilp family don't you wish you lived here?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Catching Up

My neighbor, who has all tile floors in his house, rented a commercial steam cleaner for twenty-four hours to clean his rugs.  He was done in twenty minutes and offered his rental to me for the remaining twenty-three hours and forty minutes.  My house is full of carpet.  I despise vacuuming it.  Cleaning it had never crossed my mind and it certainly wasn't on my list of things to do in the next 23 hours.  But I trudged over to his house and gratefully borrowed his carpet-cleaning machine.  Almost six hours later, I'm finally finished.    Random thoughts I had as I steamed my way to a house full of clean carpet:

  • EWWW!  You should clean your carpet just to see how dirty the water gets.
  • I'm glad I like the smell of the all-purpose cleaner I just bought because now my entire house smells like citrus ginger.
  • There is way too much carpet in my house. 
  • I could never have done it without Sarah's help.

Sarah with Katie, Alli, Grant and Paige
Oh - I should introduce you to Sarah.  This is Sarah (with our kids at Peter and Molly's wedding, but that's another post I still have to write).  She graduated, at the end of April on a Saturday, from George Fox University as an Elementary Education major.  The following Thursday she started her Masters of Education at George Fox University.  The Sunday after that she moved in with us.  We are so lucky.  While I would like Sarah to get a job because she's such a great teacher, I'm also torn.  Remember how I've been whining on Facebook that I need a "wife" to be successful?  Sarah fits the bill and if she gets a real job and moves out we won't have her around anymore to enrich our lives.  Sarah went ahead of me while I was steam-cleaning and prepped each room for me.  She also cleaned up the kitchen after dinner just to bless me.  Did I mention that she's also a huge help with the kids?  Yeah.  I'm pretty sure I don't want her to get a job any time soon.