Wednesday, January 31, 2007

1000 hits

It's official! This morning our blog went over 1000 recorded visits. Thanks to all of you who check out what is going on with the Gammons family. Thanks for reading.

Average Per Day18
Average Visit Length3:34
Last Hour3
This Week125

For the price of a cup of coffee . . .

How many times in a week do you make the trip to your local Starbuck's or Caribou? What are you buying when you pony up for that $2.00+ cup of House Brew or Rain Forest Blend? I have been as guilty as the next person, but it seems that what most people are buying is the white paper cup with the recognizable green symbol and the status that comes with it. Because if a good cup of coffee is what people are looking for(and I think Starbuck's makes a good cup of coffee), there are a number of less expensive options.

This week McDonald's beat Starbuck's in a blind taste test. This was not just a test of the normal Joe off the street. Apparently, Consumer Report had trained coffee testers taste coffee from a few fast food chains and Starbuck's. McDonald's won.

In 2004 Consumer Report rated Eight O'Clock coffee as a CR Best Buy. Since reading this article a few years ago, Eight O'Clock coffee has been our coffee of choice. I especially like the Columbian roast, but lately we have been doing the decaf. Which, according to this article, " Eight O'Clock 100% Colombian decaffeinated tastes better than most regular brews." The Cub in White Bear Lake has been out of Eight O'Clock decaf for about three weeks though. The one thing that I disagreed with about this article was that they rated Caribou's Columbian coffee as the best. I meet some guys at Caribou once a week; it is some of the worst coffee I drink.

I'm not saying you shouldn't walk down to the Starbuck's in the village from time to time for a treat. What I am saying is next time you buy a bag of beans, make it Eight O'Clock coffee. You'll love it and then you can throw the remainder of what you would have spent in the offering plate when it comes around on Sunday.

I was just home for lunch and Amanda, unprompted, said, "I got a cup of coffee from Caribou at the mall. I wanted to be the cool mom at the play area with her coffee. It was so bad though that I had to throw it out."

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Matty's new sweat suit

G&A got Matty a new sweat suit for Christmas. He has been growing like a weed and so today was the day to try it out. I think he looks pretty cool.

Oh, by the way, check out our new link to our Youtube channel. It is on the right side bar. You can go there for all of your bcm videos.

Friday, January 26, 2007

MUSIC: part 2 (Michael Card)

As previously promised in MUSIC: part1, my discussion of one of Michael Card, one of my favorite artists:

Growing up, I listened to a lot of Contemporary Christian Music (CCM). Most of the time, I was running away from some of the music that I felt I shouldn't be listening to. All of the music that I listened to always left me wanting for more. The thing that it was missing was reality. My world was not always the teenage After School Special that Michael W. Smith sang about. Instead there was pain, questions, frustrations as well as excitement, worship and choices.

Michael Card is someone who seems to have sought a life where his art was more congruent with his life of faith. First, Michael Card is a man of faith. He originally wanted to be a theologian until his music was noticed. He is a great musician. Michael Card plays banjo, piano, guitar and more. Card's music leaves the confines of CCM, much of it taken straight from the scripture. He has written whole albums focused on Wisdom Literature (The Way of Wisdom), the life of Peter (A Fragile Stone), the life of Jesus (The Life), the book of Revelation (Unveiled Hope), the prophets (The Word: Recapturing the Imagination) and many more. The album that really got me excited about who Michael Card again was his latest album The Hidden Face of God. In this album, Card discusses the topic of lament. If you have ever darkened the door of one of our "relevant" churches, you wouldn't find many songs of lament. After 9/11, Card felt there was a hole in contemporary Christian music. Music that does not speak of the times when we want to shout at God or when we don't even know if he is there, does not reflect the whole of the life of faith. Check out an interview with Michael Card about this album. He spoke a lot about this topic on his radio show late last year.

I have many of Card's albums, but I think I like listening to his radio show via podcast even more. He has on very interesting guests, discussing Commentary (the Bible) Creativity (art), Community (relationships) and he plays his own music live in the studio. It has been one of my weekly enjoyments. I wrote him an e-mail a while back thanking him for the show and how he and his guests struggle with the ideas of art and Christianity. They read part of the letter last week. I felt pretty cool, even if they didn't mention my name. If you would like to check out one of the shows, I recommend episodes 241 and 242. Larry Crabb is on these episodes. They were amazing. You can either listen to the archived version on-line or you can download the podcast (you don't need an iPod to do this, just iTunes).

Michael Card has not become a millionaire, he is not winning awards, he is not lauded by men. It seems though, that through his music and through the community that he keeps, he is affecting lives and helping to make people more like Jesus Christ. Thank you for that, Mike.

Home Movies--Updated Link

I recently updated this link. I went public on Youtube again. I think it will be fine. I hope all of you enjoy the videos. I sure have.

Please comment if you think that I should not have these up on the net. I'd like to hear what you think.

Have you been dying for a little more of the Gammons boys in your life? Do you live in Indiana or Florida or North Carolina or Michigan? Has it been too long since you've heard the laughing and singing of great little boys? Then this is the post for you. I have uploaded all of the short videos that I have of the boys. Click this link and have a good time.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Star Wars boys

As many of you know the boys have become huge Star Wars fans. They have now joined the ranks of many Star Wars geeks by making their first "fan film". It is a little difficult to see, but the end is great. Ben (Obi Wan Kenobi) dies after Caleb (Darth Vader) runs him through.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Matty shakes

Check out this great video of Matty. He thinks he is very funny.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

MUSIC: part 1(A brief personal history)

One of my favorite things in life is music. I have liked it ever since I got my first Petra tape (which Mom later threw away because she thought it was of the devil.) Since then, my views on music have definitely morphed. During junior high, Jesus found me and I got rid of all of my AC/DC and NWA tapes and all of my secular music. I got heavy into Petra, MWS, and the oldies radio. During high school I dated a girl whose dad played in a bar band and she introduced me to people like James Taylor and John Denver. They seemed tame enough. That is pretty much how it was until college. At Taylor I met people like Mike Wooten, Mike McGowan, Ben Arendt and others who were listening to music like Johnny Cash, Harrod and Funck, Smashing Pumpkins, and Counting Crows. All these friends of mine seemed to love Jesus. It was a quandary.

When I started to work at Calvin College all of these questions seemed to be answered or at least the struggle was given new language. One of their favorite theologians, Abraham Kuyper, put it this way. “In the total expanse of human life there is not a single square inch of which the Christ, who alone is sovereign,does not declare,'That is mine!'” This would include art and culture and at Calvin College it definitely did. They have one of the best concert series of any college in the country--"Christian" music and everything else.

Today my musical tastes have broadened and yet maintained. The thread I would draw through all of the music I listen to, from Springsteen to Blackalicious, is a relatability. I have to be able to relate to the expression of the artist. That is often a story of redemption, a feeling of mourning or lament, worship, joy, love. Its like getting a new toy for Christmas when I find one of these things in the artists to whom I listen.

Stay tuned for the next installment of MUSIC, where I'll explore Michael Card, one of my favorite artists.

Rooty Tooty

As the first in a series of videos that I have posted to Google, I thought I would share this one with you. I love when Caleb calls himself out. It truly is "the skunk smells himself first"--or maybe in this case, "hears himself."

Gregg Nagel

Through this post, I formally join the Gregg Nagel revolution. Gregg is on a quest to garner all of the first ten Google results for his name. You can read all about it on his blog. This is a noble quest and one that I wish him well in. You too can be a part of this revolution. Best of luck Gregg Nagel!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

And one more makes 4

God has blessed us with three little boys. Every day we look around and remind ourselves of how richly we are blessed. A couple of months ago we found out that Amanda is pregnant again and is due on July 21. The boys are all excited (to varying degrees). Ben has said that he wants it to be a girl so that "when she is older we can have a sister." Caleb is in denial (he is still wondering when Matthew is going away.) Matthew has no idea what is coming. He is very attached to both of us and gets pretty upset whenever we leave. I don't think he'll be real happy about sharing the limelight. Such is life. This is how God teaches all of us and makes us more like his son. Amanda and I are very excited. Amanda has been to the doctor and every thing is going well. She is feeling good. She's tired, but that may be just the side effects of having three crazies around the house.

As we celebrate this news, we seek to always be cognizant of how rare this is and what a gift it is. We know so many friends and family who have struggled through infertility, miscarriages, loneliness in singleness and a myriad of other pains. Please join us in our celebration as we seek to join those who struggle in their grief. Thanks for reading.

Romans 12:15
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A little peak into Amanda's day

I thought you might enjoy a little peak into Amanda's usual day, including a few fun details. This morning, Amanda laughed her head off while Matthew spent the morning brushing his teeth (sucked water out of his toothbrush). All of the sudden he has definitely decided he is one of the gang. The other day he even discovered that he is quite the wiz with the light saber, even though Ben and Caleb like to call him R2D2. Ben and Caleb are becoming more and more independent. It has happened that many times in the evening, after a long stretch of quiet, I run back to their rooms to see what havoc they have caused, only to find them coloring at their table. Last week, Amanda and the boys made the following diorama. Caleb was very adamant that they cover up the clothes pin that they used to keep the cactus up. When the boys weren't eating the brown sugar (sand) they're creative juices were flowing.
Amanda is a great mom. Though she says she is not creative, I think that the evidence begs the opposite. We love you Amanda.

Friday, January 12, 2007


Check out this video of one of our favorite bands Over the Rhine. Its cool because Linford, who usually plays keyboards, picks up a guitar and sings backup. The audio isn't great, but I think you'll like it.


I made my decision on what to order with my Amazon credit from Bill (who owns everyone.) Whiskeytown is Ryan Adams' band before he went solo. Whiskeytown was going great guns and making good music. Then like your favorite episode of Behind the Music, things started unraveling. Ryan Adams started making solo albums. Pneumonia is the album that the band was making when things exploded. From what I have heard, it is a pretty good album. I am looking forward to getting my mitts on it. It will be the first actual CD that I have gotten in a while. I am on LaLa vacation. Gotta' pay dem bills. I hope everyone has a nice long weekend. It is good to work for the state of MN.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Look what I did!

Click on the picture to see what happens.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Here's my dilemma. Bill, my super sweet friend from work, got me a Damien Rice CD I had on my Amazon wish list for Christmas. Then the day before he was going to give it to me, I bought it on iTunes. DOOOOH! So, I sent it back and now I have a credit at Amazon. You wouldn't think this would be that hard, but I am really having trouble deciding what CD to get. I need some good rock and roll music. I got some great music over the holidays, but it is all kind of mellow. I need something where I can roll the windows down on my car and turn up real loud. I have a lot of The Boss and Neil Young and am looking for something along those lines. If I could get some suggestions in the comments, I would be much obliged. I'll let you know what I decide on. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Your life in your pocket

Just when I thought that I could not love my iPod any more, Apple today has announced HUGE changes in this product. They didn't announce a new iPod, but came out with what they call iPhone. At Macworld 2007 in Las Vegas, Steve Jobs (Apple CEO) unveiled a device that will be a phone, Internet device (surf the web, check e-mail, etc.) and an iPod. (Jobs also made a few other announcements. Check out Gregg's blog for details on the new iTV)The unit will not use a click wheel like the iPod; it will not use a keyboard like most Internet devices; it will not use a keypad like most phones. The screen will change for whatever device you might be using.
All of this can be yours for as little as $499 for the 4GB model or $599 for the 8GB model. It won't be available until June 2007. As great all of this seems, and it seems great, I don't think that I will be in the market for one of these devices very soon. We don't have an extra $500 or $600 laying around the house. Although if any of you are thinking about birthday presents for me . . . So, what does this mean for the normal user like me, who doesn't want all of the extras. What I would imagine is that they will come out with an iPod with a similar screen and UI (user interface). Maybe then, it will be more in my price range. Here's to hopin'.

Also, check out Gregg's blog for his predictions about the future of home electronics.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Best of the holidays

Because I am sure that everyone is bored of reading my literary rants, I thought you might like to see a smattering of some of my favorite pics from the holidays. Enjoy.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

More on Wendell Berry

Since I wrote the post about Wendell Berry, I have been doing a lot more thinking about his, his philosophies, his lifestyle. The more that I think about his work the more difficult it is. He is a person that has put into practice what he believes. Who of us can say that? I will include some links, quotes and some other reading recommendations for those of you who are interested.

"“Be ye separate” and “Go ye into all the world” are not new commands, and neither is the church’s struggle to satisfy both. Wendell Berry’s spiritual retreat to Henry County Kentucky after his stint at Stanford has entered its fifth decade."--Devine, Mark. Martin Luther and Wendell Berry: To Seperate, Serve or Both? That is the Question.

"We have lived by the assumption that what was good for us would be good for the world. We have been wrong. We must change our lives, so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption that what is good for the world will be good for us. . . We must recover the sense of the majesty of the creation and the ability to be worshipful in its presence. For it is only on the condition of humility and reverence before the world that our species will be able to remain in it."

I have read most of Wendell Berry's Port William fiction. My favorites are the following.

Hannah Coulter (2004)
At the end of her life, Hannah Coulter remembers her life of grief. For anyone who has lost someone they love, this is an important read. From when she was young, Hannah was surrounded by sorrow and loss. Berry discusses different types of loss: from death, to children moving away, to the loss of self.

Jayber Crow (2000)
The story of Port Williams barber, Jayber Crow follows the story of how an outsider becomes part of "the membership." Jayber longs to love someone and to belong. The story is of how he becomes an important part of the lives of all of the people in Port William.

Fidelity: Five Stories (1993)
Some of my favorite Berry fiction, Fidelity deals with topics of marriage, death and love. My favorite story in this collection is of how Burly Coulter, one of the main characters through the Port Williams narratives, dies. It is the story of his family's struggle to figure out how Burly would want to spend his last days.

Nathan Coulter (1960)
This is the first story about the Port William community. It is a story once again of loss and of the growing and changing of a young boy. One of my favorite scenes in this story if when Nathan's older brother decides to take is dad on in a crop mowing contest. Berry describes the tension of a boy wanting to become a man and the father standing in his way, so well. I read this as a part of a later collection entitled Three Short Novels.

So check out the links above for better reviews of these books and then head to the library or Amazon. Have a great weekend and thanks for reading.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

A Membership

Do you have people in your life that you love? Do they live near you? When something is wrong are they there to help bare your load? When something is right and beautiful are they there to celebrate it with you? Are they family? Are they your neighbors? Are they a part of your everyday life?

These are the questions that I ask myself, especially when I read Wendell Berry's stories of the Port Williams Membership. Set in agrarian Kentucky, Berry writes about how the people in this fictional little corner of America work together, live together and love each other. Mom gave me his latest book Andy Catlett: Early Travels. Like most of his books, this one is written from the perspective of an older man looking back at a particular time in his life. Andy is nine-years-old, gone to spend a week alone with his grandparents. Looking back at his life, he wishes he had been more attentive, longs for the touch of his grandmother, the teaching of his grandfather, the simplicity of the smell of biscuits baking in the kitchen.

While sometimes overly nostalgic, Berry's work always leads me to a place where I long to give my boys a life that they will look back at and love. It also makes me think of the "membership" that I am a part of and the one that I came from. I could write many stories about the people that I held hands with and sang songs with at Ripley Blvd. Baptist Church. I could write the story of the people who came to our house when my father died or the people that came over and cleaned our house when it flooded. I could write stories of the people that I talked with for an hour on the beach last week.

One thing that I long for in Minnesota is a "membership". It takes longer and is more difficult in a metropolitan locale. Things are different in a place like Port William or Alpena or Upland or ___________.

Go to the library or click on the links above and take a trip to Wendell Berry's Port William and join his "membership" as you seek one of your own. Thanks for reading.


Dave and Joni got us a family membership at our local health club for Christmas. Wanting to be a good steward, I started my workout regiment yesterday bright and early. What fun! I ran about a mile and a half on the treadmill, did some bike and the elliptical machine. I listened to my iPod and thoroughly enjoyed myself. They even have coffee that I can take to-go. Everything was fine until about 2:00 in the afternoon when I got up from my desk and almost fell down because of the pain in my thighs. That was nothing though compared to the pain I felt when I woke up this morning. But after a few ibuprofen (Can you say Brett Favre?) I feel much better. I am looking forward to getting back on the bike (literally) tomorrow. With a little luck and some hard work, I'm shooting to get back to my high school graduation weight. You can see a picture of me from my senior year below. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

So much to say, so little time

What a great vacation! We had a great time at Mom's in Alpena. Amanda loved our two trips to Connie's Country Cafe (her favorite place in the world for breakfast). I loved not waking up every morning and going to work. I also really loved being outdoors so much. My mom also got a new iMac, which I had a lot of fun setting up and playing with. The boys and I made fires outside almost every day. The boys loved all of their new toys and also loved being outside.

It was also great to see Tricia and Alex and especially Davy. It is fun to not be the only one in the house with a crying baby. She is very cute. Our boys thought is was fun to hold her. A little girl is a novel thing in our family.

On our way home, we spent the night in West Michigan. With our friends the Arendts (4 kids), the Goosens (1 kid) and our kids (3), there was a lot of fun had. We also stopped in and saw Amanda's friend Jamie (Ritsema). We then spent the night in Chicago to pick up Shube and had another birthday party for Caleb. It was great to see all of these people that we don't get a chance to very often.

With all of this driving, the boys were champs. We watched a lot of movies in the car. (Tricia gave the boys the original Star Wars trilogy on DVD and we watched all three). We are glad to be home though. Happy New Year to everyone.