Archive | December, 2012

2012 in Review

31 Dec

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 25,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 6 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

Our Merry Christmas Card

25 Dec

Greetings from the frozen Minnesota Northland!  We are currently enjoying snow-caked trees, freshly decorated Christmas cookies, and lots of time with family and friends.  We hope your holiday finds you in similar circumstances as we celebrate the Incarnation of God – Merry Christmas indeed!

The past year has been unique for us in many respects, mostly because of its lack of major life transitions:  We made no big moves, no graduations or career changes, and no new additions to the family (yet).  We are settled in northern MN and can hardly believe it’s already been 1½ years with Jared serving as the Associate Pastor of Youth and Young Families at  our wonderful church.  We have a loving church family and have established great friendships in our church and wider community.

Last year began in the warmth as Jared and Caitlyn went on a January cruise with Caitlyn’s family as a gift for Jared and Caitlyn’s completion of the grueling seminary life.  We were able to leave the girls in with Jared’s mom, Mary, as she graciously guarded the home front while we cruised the Florida seas.  January ended on a tragic note when Jared lost his uncle to a sudden heart attack.  Jared’s family grieved this loss and still mourns the absence of Brian, but the shock was absorbed on the shoulders of a strong family that has borne the burden well.  In this, we have also grown much closer to Jared’s cousins and Aunt who live in nearby Grand Rapids, MN.

The rest of the winter and spring was spent making the most of the mild winter and early warm weather.  We hosted a Polar Swim and Sauna with our youth group and jumped through a giant hole in the ice on a balmy 50 degree March day.  Aleah continued her gymnastics classes until summer and gleefully bounced around on the long trampoline and swung on the bars and rings every week.  We were also blessed to move into the church parsonage in May and begin our very own garden! Aleah and Sophi were certainly overjoyed to join us in the garden, where one child meticulously planted a row of wonderful sweet peas and the other mostly just smeared dirt all over herself.  Perhaps you can guess which was which.

In June Jared took a 4-day camping trip with his dad, brother, uncle, and several cousins into a remote lake bordering Voyageurs National Park.  They set up camp on a beautiful island and spent their days fishing from canoes, swimming, and jumping off cliffs.  Shortly after, we went to the Twin Cities for the wedding of Michael and Caroline (Caitlyn’s little sis) and again we celebrated with family and friends.  The rest of the summer flew by with more camping, daily trips to the beach, and the annual Belcher family reunion in Michigan.

Fall came fast and with it many new challenges and adventures.  Caitlyn took on the role of coordinating the church’s Wednesday afternoon Kids’ Club program, and with lots of hard work she managed to implement an AWANA curriculum and recruit the necessary volunteers.  The program has been humming along.  Aleah attends a full day of school twice a week and enjoys practicing her alphabet and writing words, but she comes home completely exhausted and adorable – we are proud of her.  She continues gymnastics and is developing the vaulting skill…Yikes.  Sophia spends her time screaming (‘cause it’s funny), randomly asking if she can take her clothes off, and grabbing our new kittens by the head.  She’s incredibly clever and silly, frequently leaving the rest of us in the family shaking our heads in amusement.  We are also expecting one more Bangs in early May and wondering what this next little ball of humanity will be like!  Yipppee!

In November we met Caitlyn’s folks, Paul and Barb, in Florida where were able to enjoy Disney World with the girls for their first time!  We had a wonderful time and the girls’ have had princess obsession ever since.  We spent Thanksgiving in Fergus Falls, MN with Jared’s brother, Jesse, and his family, along with several other cousins and relatives.  December has been full of church and community Christmas events, but we are starting to relax with Jared’s folks, Mary and Steve, as they celebrate with us.

Here’s to a great year and another one to come…Merry Christmas!


The Bangs

Round Three

21 Dec


It is true, we are happy to announce that the third Bangs child is on his/her way!


Baby Bangs will be arriving sometime late April or early May!  Aleah’s due date was July 2nd, she was born on June 25th and Sophi’s due date was April 1st (April Fools Day) and she was born on March 28th.  My due date this time around is May 10th so I am assuming beginning of May some time but you never can figure these things out =)


Aleah and Sophi are ecstatic with excitement.  Aleah has been praying and asking for a baby sister or brother for about a year now.  When we told her she was going to be a big sister again, I thought she was going to smile her face right off.  She is going to be a HUGE help when the baby arrives.  She has even been sleeping with a little rattle under her pillow so she will be ready to give it to the baby and it won’t get lost.


Sophi will be a big sister and perhaps be graduated from her baby monster role into something a bit different.

Can’t wait to meet the next little Bangs to grace our life.  I already love this little kid so much and we are happy to share this news with all of you!

Gymnastics Bar How-To

20 Dec

Repost: We still get frequent inquiries into the construction of our gymnastics bar, and some readers have asked some very good questions.  Thus, we’ve decided to repost with some added explanation and photos toward the end.  Also, read the comment thread to follow the discussion.

A number of people have inquired about how I constructed the gymnastics bar, so rather than answer each question individually, we decided to devote a post to explaining the gymnastics bar project.

First the materials:

The structure I used requires 6 – 8 ft. 2×4’s.  Head to your local lumberyard or check the rafters in the garage for all that lumber leftover from the last project.

You’ll need a rod for the bar.  I used a fairly heavy duty 1.5 inch dowel rod I’d gotten at a yard sale.  Like most things purchased at a yard sale, it came in handy one day.

To drill the holes in the vertical support beams for the crossbar to fit in to, I used a spade bit attachment on my power drill.  Spade bits come in a variety of sizes, just get one wider than the diameter of the dowel rod.

While you’re at the hardware store getting your spade bit, grab some primer and the paint colors you want for the bar.

…Oh, and some screws, you know, to screw everything together.

The basic procedure:

Disclaimer:  I am assuming a basic knowledge of carpentry when I give these instructions thus they are not as detailed as they could be.  If you need more insight, ask your next door neighbor.

First, make the support beams.  Cut three of the 8 ft. 2×4’s into 4 ft. boards.  You should now have six – 4 ft. boards.  Two of these boards will be your straight vertical supports and the other four boards will be the angled support beams that attach flush with the  edge of the vertical beam and flush with the ground.  See the picture for clarification.  I made these angled cuts with just a skill saw and they are kind of sloppy.  A chop saw is the best tool for the job.

You may now screw these sets together and you will have two structures that look like ‘A’s but with a vertical beam in the center extending beyond the diagonal supports.

In the vertical supports you may now drill your holes near the top of the vertical beam using your spade bit.  Drill the hole at the same height on each support, this ensures your bar will be level.  I didn’t drill the hole all the way through each 2×4 but I did drill about on inch deep into each support.

You should now build your rectangular base that the support beams will screw in to.  I built my base 6 feet long by 4 feet across, thus cutting my boards to these lengths. Screw these boards together into a perfect rectangle.

You may now set your A-shaped support posts onto the rectangular base.  These supports should sit directly across from each other, centered on the 6 foot long sides, thus there will be about 4 feet between them.  Decide exactly where you want these to sit on the base, and mark accordingly before screwing down.  Based on where you decide to set your support posts, you should now be able to calculate the length to cut your bar.  Remember the bar will sit about 1 inch deep into each support post.  Factor this in when measuring the distance across between the posts.  Cut the dowel rod accordingly.  Figure it out.

You should now have made all your necessary measurements and cuts.  You can screw the whole thing together if you want, but you may need to assemble it all in the room you plan to leave it.  it doesn’t fit easily through doors.  And yes, I would even put a few screws through the vertical posts into the ends of the bar, just for good measure. (As you can see, I painted mine before screwing it into the base, no big deal).



As you can see, I added two screws through the post into each end of the bar. This should keep the bar from twisting. One might also fill the space with wood glue if necessary.

DSC_5110 DSC_5109

The above photos show how I increased lateral support by extending a post out perpendicular to the frame, aligned with the center support.  I then ran a support down diagonally from the center support to the additional board on the ground.

Prime and paint.  (Oh, and you can putty the screw holes is you want, but only if you’re trying to impress your daughter’s friend’s dad.)

Have fun!

A Muddy Christmas Gift

14 Dec

Today is Aleah’s last class until next year so we decided to make some muddy buddy treats for her teachers.  But they looked rather boring and not quite like a Christmas gift so I spruced the ziplock bag up to make it beautiful!


How fancy is that?


I was so happy with how they turned out.


Wish I got a picture of Sophi helping me make the Muddy Buddies, she had chocolate EVERYWHERE, even on the bottoms of her feet.


This is a great gift for your kids school teachers, sunday school teachers and I bet your friends would take a bag too!  I sent Jared to the post office this morning with some for our good friend who is serving in Afghanistan, wonder what they will look like when they arrive =)

Snow Ice Cream

10 Dec

Some people here in MN were more blessed than others with yesterday’s snow storm.  (the most blessed people got 16 inches, the least blessed got an inch)


BUT  we got just enough, about three inches, to make snow ice cream!


Here is the very complex recipe:

1.  Fill a large bowl with snow

2.  Pour some milk in the bowl, how about a cup or two

3.  Add some sugar, lets say about a 1/2 cup

4.  Add about a teaspoon of vanilla

5.  Mix together

6.  Enjoy your snow ice cream and wonder why you have never tried this and make up for lost time by making it everyday this winter


Snow ice cream tastes better if you wear a princess dress and crown while eating it.

New Bathroom

6 Dec

DSC_5060The downstairs guest  bathroom had not been finished until just a few days ago.  Right when we moved in to stripped the wallpaper and it has remained that way until now.

We really couldn’t get a grasp on what we wanted the bathroom to look like and we really never use that bathroom so it was easy to forget that it needed some attention.

We found a sale on dark brown bath towels and decided to paint the walls a rich teal color.  It was a bit bright for my liking so I took the paint back to Sherwin Williams to have them tone it down a bit, but unfortunately they couldn’t.  Ah well.

The girls painted the towel holders dark brown.  I was busy supervising and didn’t get a picture, sorry. I rolled the teal onto the walls and Jared cut the paint.  Aren’t we a good team!

It is growing on us and we can call that room, done!  Yay!


I found this fabric and made a little runner

Making this took me about 5 minutes and adds a nice touch


Jared took some pictures out of some old books and put them in brown frames

The colors are growing on you aren’t they?


Now we can have some more company I guess =)


the soap and candle holder complete the look nicely


1 Dec

We have two new kittens but first things first-

Let’s have a moment of silence for our beloved cat Roxy who disappeared in late October.  She was the best mouser, extremely kind and gentle to the girls and was always there to cheer us up.


She came into Jared and my life as a stray when I was pregnant with Aleah.  We took her in later to find she was pregnant with 5 kittens!

It has been sad and strange the last couple of months without her.  She would always prance over to the door to greet us when we came home.  Never thought we could get to attached to an animal, let alone a cat.  But she weaseled her way into our hearts and we will always miss her.

Good-bye Roxy.

okay, now on to the next thing- we have two precious new kittens:


The dark one’s name is Cricket and the Orange one is named Maple (like maple syrup).


They are rambunctious and curious and very patient with the girls.  Welcome home little kittens, we are so happy to have you here