Family Stories

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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.)


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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.



Yarn Along


Life has been a little crazy on the farm lately, at least on my end of the farm.  For many months of the year, I rarely venture outside, and the ground is hard, solid, and tucked under a bed of fluffy snow.  For a few even shorter months, the ground wakes up and produces life (food, flowers, animals) that comes at you faster than a Mentos in Diet Coke.  I can’t catch all the life thrown my way during these intensely colorful months, but we do pretty well.

My knitting got put on hold, not because I never had time to sit down and do it, though.  I got to the edging portion, with over 700 stitches on the needles now for this shawl.  The edging was a ribbing pattern I wasn’t quite familiar with, and increases that needed focus to accomplish.  Fundamentally it isn’t a difficult pattern.  It’s actually quite simple.  It’s just I needed to concentrate without interruption for over 700 stitches in a row.  That kind of pocket of time just doesn’t exist in my life right now.

So knitting stopped, and I was not happy about it.  Finally, yesterday, I locked myself in the women’s locker room of the YMCA, away from my kids and in the corner so no friends could see me.  I got the majority of this “set up” row done, and once I recognized the rhythm of it, I was able to finish it up after the kids went to bed last night.

So now I’m in the clear to finish up this lovely shawl.  I honestly think I did it wrong.  I think I increased on one side way too much.  Since this is a massive project using lace-weight yarn with tiny needles and I’m just finishing up the edging there are only 2 things I could do about my thoughts that it might be much more curved than the pattern shows:

1) Rip out 2 months of work, grumbling, and start over, grumbling.

2) Call it a “modification,” take fabulous pictures of it, and hope to make it to a “Modification Monday” post by Knitted Bliss.  One can dream.  It doesn’t look bad.  It actually could be pretty cool.  I’ve decided it will be pretty cool and I am determined to block it to my will once it’s off the needles.  We shall see.  All bunched up on my circular right now, it’s tough to tell how it will all turn out.  Talk about a mystery knit!

I have been focusing so much on my garden, and doing so little knitting that my muscles were so after knitting 2 rows of the edging.  I realized that my little callus on the inside edge of my middle finger on my right hand (a callus that is a constant when I’m knitting hard) needs to be reformed.  I feel like an athlete out of shape when it comes to my knitting muscle memory.  It’s a real thing.


For reading, I’m going over a history book.  My kids love, love, love Susan Wise Bauer’s history books Story of the World and we are about to study the middle ages this next school year.  Someone told me that Susan Wise Bauer also wrote parallel history books that go into much greater detail that is aimed at adults instead of children.  So I took the bait, and started reading The History of the Medieval World, a few pages a night a few weeks ago.

I love history.  There are several history buffs in this house.  Not only do Knut and I LOVE history books, we’ve managed to pass that love onto both Silje and David which is kind of miraculous as they rarely like the same thing.  The younger kids haven’t caught the bug yet.  So this has been a fun read, though I’m not sure I will be able to finish it.  It’s just so much.

My favorite story so far in this book is the coronation story of Shapur II who was king of Persia around 325 AD.  He became king a month before he was born.  His father died when his mother was 8 months pregnant and the Persian noblemen and priests actually crowned the queen’s belly king.

I cannot get that picture out of my mind.

So what are you knitting and reading these days?


IMG_3249There’s a thought that’s been circling around in my head the last few weeks, perhaps longer, about dependence.  I don’t know for sure, but I’d guess this is an especially big problem in America.  I think it’s rooted in the idea of charity or welfare, and our destain for it.  We don’t mind giving charity as long as it’s temporary, with measurable improvement.  We don’t mind welfare as long as we are certain that the recipients are worthy, and it’s temporary.  (Emphasis on “temporary.”)  We want them to be working to get out of welfare.

And yet, this post isn’t about welfare or charity.  Though I could easily follow this rabbit trail for a few thousand words.  This post is about how we let our view of them effect our view of dependence on a very, very personal level.

I was sitting on my porch the other day, looking out over our yard and watching the kids ride bike and chase the dogs.  I was thinking about how I’ve needed God so much these last few years since my car accident.  I’ve been so very dependent.  I haven’t always been able to get food on the table, and God provided.  I didn’t always have childcare for my doctor appointments.  God provided.  Sometimes I would walk into an appointment, not knowing what my kids would do in the waiting room by themselves but I was literally left with no other choice, and one of my friends would be waiting for me there at the office, saying she just felt I needed her that day.

My work ethic, patience, pain tolerance, teaching ability has essentially been broken and I’ve been left with no other choice to depend on God for very, very practical needs.  As my strength has been improving these last months with some physical therapy, and continued treatment, I finally see light at the end of the tunnel that it won’t always be this way.  I will be myself again.

I won’t need God so much.

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Finding Joy


I am pretty sure that I said “no” to pretty much all activities this summer to make it free for playing and family time.

IMG_3113 IMG_3121 IMG_3122Then I got fed up with my kids lack of desire to do anything fun besides sit in front of a box with pictures that flash in rapid succession, and we took a June challenge to stay off the computer and television, and you know, do other stuff.

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