Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Ben Hur Chariot Race March

We did this for Mama's birthday.  Watch for Laura's innovative page turn.  Sorry about the mistakes I made-- I got excited and lost my place.

This is a funnier version of the same song.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

December Newsletter

From Laura, 14 … Last month we studied Italy.  The country has a complex history, so it was difficult to settle on one specific topic.  I wrote a report on Italian holidays, and Becca wrote on a monk named Savonarola.  For our special Italian meal, Becca and I dressed as nuns.  I ended up sort of as a novice, because of my white head covering.  I liked the outfit; it was simple and comfortable.  Maybe I will keep dressing that way!  For the Italian supper we made an antipasto tray, a white bean and sausage dish, a hearty minestrone soup, and polenta cake.  Polenta cake is like lasagna except without pasta.  Instead, it has flat, rubbery sheets made out of polenta, which is basically cornmeal.  Later, Becca and I performed the Italian national anthem, with me on the piano and Becca singing.  We also danced some exciting Italian folk dances.

From Becca, 17 … Around Thanksgiving time I started a bread business.  Laura and I went around to our neighbors giving out flyers and free samples of fresh rolls.  We got several orders for the following week, so I was very busy.  I made six dozen rolls on Thanksgiving Day and two loaves the next day.  It was fun making so much at once.  I had three bowls of dough rising all at the same time.  On the first batch I nearly panicked because I thought I had gotten the water too hot and killed the yeast, but it rose after all and we were able to deliver them all on time.  I didn’t earn a whole lot of money, but I had a great time planning everything and making the bread.

From Seth, 20 … One recent change for me is that I got a job working for a land development engineer.  It’s part time, and involves working on surveys and site plans.  One major part of site planning is designing the drainage systems and the detention ponds.  It should be an excellent learning experience.

From Anna, 23 … In October our church hosted a conference featuring Dr. James White as a guest speaker.  The topic this year was Islam.  I think the biggest take-away from the weekend for me was the renewed realization of how hopeless Islam is.  Islam shares with Christianity a belief in a holy God, a broken law, and the threat of hell, but in Islam there is no mediator.  This should point us with even more gratitude toward our great hope in Christ, who has satisfied the wrath of God on our behalf, and give us a desire to share this great hope with those around us-- Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Our family was in charge of registration again this year.  We had over 400 attendees, and a large percentage of last-minute registrations, so we had a busy week leading up to the conference.  I enjoy that sort of work, though, and I was glad to be a part of it.

From John, Megan, James, and Ezra … (by Judith) Their biggest news (and the reason I’m writing this entry) is the birth of Ezra Michael last month!!  The birth was harder and longer than James’, and Ezra was 1 ½ pounds bigger, but mother and baby are doing well.  At first Ezra wasn’t sucking or able to open his mouth wide enough to nurse.  The next morning after he was born, they gathered themselves up and headed out in the pouring rain to have him treated by a chiropractor especially skilled with this type of problem.  The improvement was immediate and dramatic!  He hasn’t had any trouble since then.  They’re having the usual adjustments to an additional baby but are gradually getting back into the swing of life.

From Ray, Katie, Peter, Samuel,  Andrew, and baby … (by Katie) Ray has started his own real estate brokerage, and it’s going very well.  He hopes to start having other agents working under him, probably starting next year.  He has also hired a part-time employee, starting in January, to handle a lot of the paperwork and communications involved with properties that are under contract but not yet closed.  It should take a lot of the work load off Ray, and allow him to focus more on client relationships and new business.  

The boys are doing very well, and growing up fast.  Peter recently turned four, and we had a fun party with family, games, folk dancing, and ice cream cake.  Peter is excited about the new baby we have coming, because he wants to hold a baby, but Andrew won’t hold still!  It’s Peter’s first time to really comprehend a new baby coming, so that’s fun.  The baby is due in late May.  I felt yucky for a while, but it only lasted a few weeks, thankfully.  The other day I said to Peter, “Maybe God will send us a girl this time,” and he said, “Maybe God doesn’t have any girls left!”

From Judith … Honestly it doesn’t really matter to me that so far all the grandchildren that God has blessed us with are boys.  I find that I’m instantly in love with each one from the first moment I get to see and hold him.  Each of the five boys is truly his own unique person.  It’s fascinating to think about how different they are from each other.  Girls are likely to come along eventually and will be received with as much delight.  The first girl will of course be a great novelty, but ultimately she too will settle in among the ranks of the very special and unique little people in our lives.

From Gerald … Even though my work is very much the same as it has been for the past several years there has been a change in my management.  Earlier this year I was transferred from engineering to IT.  This was a change that made a lot of sense because I was already functionally working for the person who is my manager now, even though I still had a manager in the engineering department.  Now the person who is responsible for managing my workload and for writing performance reviews actually understands and knows what I do.  I still work closely with engineering staff and actually have some added responsibilities that involve more interaction with engineering management than I had before. 

A much-appreciated side-benefit of this change is that it is now possible for me to work from home more than I was allowed to before.  Nearly all of the collaboration that I have with other workers is easily accomplished by phone or by using online tools.  This is the case regardless of where I am located.  Working from home has a double advantage in allowing me to be more productive because of fewer interruptions from people coming into my office and also allowing me to be more in touch with what is going on at home during the day.  When I am at home, it takes less than a minute for me to come home for lunch.  I cannot easily do that when I am in the office.  It also saves me the financial and time cost of commuting on those days that I stay at home.  I still go into the office a couple of times per week. 

With love from the Pedersen clan

Saturday, December 7, 2013

How to Not Be Like Romeo and Juliet: Six Easy Tips for a Happy Romance

I just finished reading Romeo and Juliet, so I compiled some tips for people who are in romantic relationships.

1. Don't kill people.

2. Don't commit suicide. 

3. If you get married, tell your parents so they won't try to marry you off to someone else.

4. Don't take potions that make you look like you're dead because your lover might think you are dead. 

5. Always keep your cell phone handy so that important messages don't get stopped by the plague.

6. If you want to avoid a whole lot of trouble, try not to fall in love with your archenemy's daughter in the first place.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Giving Thanks

I've been musing these last few days on the difference between "being thankful" and "giving thanks."

In some ways, a Christian celebration of Thanksgiving and a secular celebration of Thanksgiving aren't any different, but I think there is an important difference that lies in the distinction between these two phrases.

To "be thankful" often means no more than recognizing that there are a lot of nice things in one's life that could just as easily not be there.  We look around at the roofs over our heads, the loved ones around us, the food that we have to share with them when they come, and we're glad for those things.  We see that not everyone has them, and that there are no guarantees that we always will either-- or that we necessarily deserved them in the first place.

If that's as far as we go, however, all we have is a vague sentimentality. 

Giving thanks, on the other hand implies a definite object for our thanksgiving; thanks are given to someone, not just felt.  For the Christian, the object of our thanksgiving is God Himself-- our Creator, Sustainer, and Provider.

As soon as we recognize the reality that God is the one to whom we are to give our thanks, the content of our thanksgiving will be transformed as well.  God's blessings to us go far beyond the physical, tangible things that we can see around us.  This is why a Christian perspective of thanksgiving can go beyond sentimentality;  it has an answer for the hard reality of intense suffering.  Even for those who are not experiencing physical blessings, the abundant spiritual blessings possessed by every believer are more than sufficient to merit our thanks to the One who has given them to us.  We have been redeemed from darkness to light, given the Spirit to dwell within us, granted access to the Father, and united with Christ.  We are God's children, His chosen ones whom He loves.  How can we not give Him thanks?

But we can take this one step farther.  We are to give thanks not only for what God has done, but also for who He is.  Giving thanks is one form of praise.  God is, in Himself, inherently worthy of our thanksgiving.  As we thank Him for His goodness, mercy, love, holiness, power, and sovereignty, we also praise Him and give Him glory.

That is a distinctively Christian expression of "being thankful."

May this, dear friends, mark us all the year round.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

On Monday We Rode In A Limo

We were taking pictures of our neighbors in front of the limousine they hired for their anniversary.  We looked inside and said, "We've never ridden in a limousine before!"  The chauffeur said, "Get in, I'll take you around the block."  So we all piled in.  Not one of us had ever been in a limo.  There was fancy lighting, soft music, and a glitzy drink bar. 


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Italian Celebration

We did Italy this year for our Annual International Unit Study.  (Click here to see pictures from the past twenty or so celebrations.) Laura and I, being the only ones left in school, read books about Italy and wrote reports.  (She wrote about holidays in Italy and I wrote about an Italian monk named Savonarola.)  Then to culminate our study, we had everyone over for a beautiful feast with decorations, costumes, and dancing. 

We began the day with biscotti and hot chocolate.  We were not very authentic when it came to Italian drinks because we don't like either of the two most common drinks: coffee and wine.

Mama set the table really nicely for dinner.  She got the wine bottles from an Italian restaurant because they were just throwing them away.  The candles dripped wax down the sides and made pretty red stripes all around the bottle.

The first course of our meal was this lovely antipasto tray made by Mama, along with a salad.

On the right is a polenta layer cake from Sardinia, which is kind of like lasagna except made with layers of solidified polenta instead of pasta.  It was surprisingly easy to make and the fennel gave it a very unique flavor.  The other things in the picture are white beans with sausage and Milanese Minestrone with pasta on the side.

This was our last course:  fruit, nuts, cheese, cookies called "love knots", and pizzelles.  Katie made the pizzelles using a recipe passed down for generations in Ray's Italian family.  It has apparently had some modifications over the years as the filling includes ingredients such as chocolate chips, maple syrup, and an enormous amount of nutmeg.

Laura and I dressed up as nuns.

Mama and Anna went for the peasant look.

Peter was Julius Caesar!

Even James wore a costume.

Here is everybody else.  John had the mafia look, Seth went so far as to put on a hat, and Ray combed his hair the way his Italian grandfather did.

We finished the evening with reading reports, singing the Italian anthem, and dancing some Italian folk dances.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Random Pictures

We see lots of people walking or riding by our house, but these are by far the cutest.

We had lots of fun playing Cranium for my birthday.  Here is Papa acting out "rope twist".  Mama had to tell him what it was first.

Samuel loves spending time with "Uncle Seth" even when he's just doing math.

I got my picture taken with a heron.

John and Megan did haircuts on the campout so they wouldn't have to sweep up the hair.

Everyone loved this wagon on the campout.

Left to Right: Nathaniel, Belle, James, Elijah

Here are the same children in the same order a year-and-a-half ago.  

They are a lot cuter now.

Papa grew a beard while he was in Alaska, but he shaved it off recently.

The original six.

With everybody else.

Mama's birthday.

This is cooking turned into a science experiment.  The garlic turned this strange color after sitting on the garbanzo beans for a while.

We did some folk dancing for Peter's fourth birthday.

Friday, October 25, 2013

James White on Islam

This past weekend our church was privileged to have Dr. James White as the guest speaker for our annual fall conference.  He just published a book called What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Qur'an, so the topic for the weekend was Islam--its teachings, history, inconsistencies, and implications-- and how it relates to Christianity.

I think the biggest take-away from the weekend for me was the renewed realization of how hopeless Islam is.  Islam shares with Christianity a belief in a holy God, a broken law, and the threat of hell, but in Islam there is no mediator.

Each Muslim is a unique individual in desperate need of a Savior.  Each one needs to know that God is not only characterized by holiness and wrath, but that, in the bounty of His love and mercy, He has provided a substitute who has already borne all the wrath that was due to His people, and that for those who believe in Him there is full assurance of eternal life in the presence of God.  Our response to Muslims we meet ought always to be characterized by love and compassion, not fear or avoidance.

You can see videos of all the conference sessions here

There is also a bonus session on the reliability of the New Testament manuscripts-- a fascinating look at the unparalleled textual evidence for the accurate transmission of the New Testament text.  Just to whet your appetite, there are approximately 2 million pages worth of catalogued, hand-written, Greek New Testament manuscripts from 100-1500 AD.  In those 2 million pages, there are only about 2000 textual variations-- many of which can be attributed to common scribal errors.

Monday, October 14, 2013


Here is just a sampling of our Alaska trip pictures.  Enjoy!
We traveled on this riverboat up the Chena and Tanana rivers.

Here is the Butcher sled-dog training camp.  The husband of Iditarod-winner Susan Butcher is in the lower right.

We watched a demonstration of this traditional method for drying salmon.  The fresh one we had just seen prepared is on the left.  The structure in the river behind is a fish wheel for catching fish.

This covered wagon, pulled by huge draft horses, carried us through a very scenic area near Denali National Park.

Here is a mother grizzly with her two juvenile cubs foraging for berries.

This view in Denali National Park almost didn't seem real.

If the "big one" (locally known as Denali) had been visible that day, it would have dwarfed this snowy range.

"... an example of what bears can do to cans."

We were nearly out of the park when we saw these caribou.

For a long time I (Judith) had wanted to see a moose in the wild and finally got my chance!

We barely caught this picture in a residential section where the homes back up to a landing strip.  Many of the residents have these small planes they can take off in right from their backyards!

We had several opportunities to see glacier silt accumulation.  In this place the silt was like quicksand.  Some people have gotten caught in it, then have drowned when the tide came in.

As we entered Glacier Bay, we came to this abrupt transition to silt-laden water.

When visiting Glacier Bay the rangers came to us!

For perspective a person would be a speck up against this cross-section of a glacier as it meets the ocean.

We thoroughly enjoyed this trio on the ship.  As they moved about performing in different parts of the ship, we sort of followed them around.  They were amused.

If you can see the painters, it will give you a perspective on the size of the ship.

We, along with four other passengers and the pilot, flew in this helicopter out of Skagway.

The helicopter ride was fantastic!  The weather was perfect for the spectacular views we were privileged to see.

Our invigorating five-mile (round trip) nature hike along the Skagway River in the Tongass National Forest gave us an opportunity for some close-up viewing of a little piece of Alaska.  It was a delightful contrast to the grand vistas.

This view of Laughton Glacier met us at the far point of our hike.

Ever the train enthusiast, Gerald was a happy guy to be riding on the vintage White Pass and Yukon Railway!

In Juneau we and our guides were excited to see these orcas (killer whales).  They aren't often seen!

We were refreshed in God's word during a brief Christian worship service on the ship.  Being in a lounge for the service felt strange, but it was a blessing to be gathered with other Christians for prayer, singing, and the expounding of God's word.  A fellow passenger and retired pastor preached on John 3:16.  (He's the tiny face in the very center of the picture.)

On our galley tour we saw several food art pieces such as this one.

We marveled that his seemingly wild whacking away could produce anything recognizable, but it really did!
Well, that's all!