Tuesday, December 30, 2014

In the Doghouse

We built a dog house... for our cats.

It has been so bitter cold here for the past little bit, and I felt bad for our poor kitties.  We have two cats who lived quite comfortably in the house - in our last house.  When we moved in with my dad, they were relegated to be outdoor cats because of my dad's allergies.  They coped just fine with that, only occasionally sneaking in the house (and regularly sneaking in the garage).  But when the snow and the cold came, they had no shelter.  Poor kitties.

So David and Eddie and I went over to a kind neighbor (the greatest scout leader ever!) who helped us cut and assemble this dog house.  It was pretty easy, as the directions were all nice and clear at the Lowes website.  

Just one sheet of 4x8 plywood, cuts, some 2x4s, a bunch of screws, and we were done in a morning.

We brought it home and painted it green in the kitchen.  Because I could only find green paint and pink paint, and because the kitchen is the only place to paint when it's below freezing outside.

Trent cut up some carpet scraps to insulate and make it all cozy for our kitties. In the spring, we will put on shingles and make it pretty, but for now, with a tarp thrown over to keep off the snow, they are warm and toasty.  Every time I look on the back porch, I see a tail or two or some whiskers through the door.  Glad they can be warm!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Christmas Decorations

We've finally got the Christmas decorations taken down.  It has been a trial this year, since I have my own decorations, as well of those of my mother.  She loved to decorate for Christmas!  She loved the lights and the mistletoe and the pictures on the windows.  She had Christmas tablecloths and garlands and doorknob jingles and even a Santa toilet lid cover.  At one time, she had a Christmas tree in ever room of the house!  One had pictures of  us kids growing up, one was decorated all in white and angels, one had bubbling water lights, one had golden balls and red apples...  it was fun to see.  Fortunately for me, she started downsizing before she passed away, so I had a bit less to go through.  

Going through it all, sorting out which things to keep and getting ready to set things up

We set up the angel tree in my dad's room and our Christmas tree in the front room.  That's about all the space we had.  I put up a bunch more decorations than I usually do (remember Mom=happy Christmas decorator, me=minimalist) just because it was there.  But after Christmas, it was sure nice to put everything away and have a bit of visual breathing space.

All packed up and ready to stash in the storage space in the garage.  This is what we ended up with - minus four(!) trees and the outside inflatables.

Ah.  Much better.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Police Car

We recently had a police car pull up in front of our house.  The door opened and... out jumped my husband?  He had a discontinued police car down at the dealership and wanted to drive it around a bit.  My happened to come over just then, and he got to drive it, too.  Evidently the thing has some get-up-and-go to it!  While they were talking, the kids turned on the lights, and then siren.  That thing is LOUD!

Of course, all the kids wanted to have a ride in it, too.  I got a kick out of seeing them through the bars in the window.  You be good now, you hear?

They had a great time going for rides.  It was all fun until a neighbor boy locked his own hands in the handcuffs, and we had no key.  They had to drive back to the dealership and fortunately someone there could free him.  See what happens when you mess around with the law?

Monday, December 1, 2014

24 Days of Giving

Every year, our big extended family on Trent's side likes to do a service project.   The past few years, we've purchased fleece and tied blankets for the Linus Project.  When all of us work together, we get quite a pile of blankets!  It's great to be part of something helpful like that.

This year, instead of doing an all-together service project, each family was asked to do their own projects.  We hunted for a while, wanting at first to do something epic.  But epic projects require epic amounts of money...  Then we wanted to do something for folks in South Africa or Madagascar.  For some reason, we have an affinity for those two places!  But we don't have enough knowledge or time to find something there.  And I'd really love to do something where the kids can be directly involved and see what good things happen when we serve.

So we finally settled on a smaller project that requires a bit of service every day.  Instead of one big project, we will be doing lots of little ones.  This way, we can help others around us and get that giving spirit all month long.

So here is the plan.  We went to multiplygoodness.com to print off their free pdf file of the day cards.  They print off four to a page so it's easy to cut them apart.  There are 24 cards - one for each day until Christmas.  Each card has an idea for a bit of service to do: leave a treat for the mail person, give change to the bell ringer, send a cheerful text, put a nice note on someone's car, give chocolate...  

None of them are hard, but all the little acts of goodness will add up.  Some require money (pass out candy canes), some need some advance planning (leave goodies on someone's porch), and some you can just do whenever  (encourage a young person).

I made open envelopes out of a half sheet of paper, then decorated them and numbered them all to 24.  I tucked a card in each envelope and paper-clipped them to tibbons I had strung up between nails.  No sheetrock was harmed during this project - the holes were already there.  Honest!
We'll open a new envelope each night - or maybe the first thing in the morning if (when) we forget (just keeping it real).  I hope we can remember and that the kids will get the feeling of giving through this Christmas season.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Formal Dance

Isn't this boy cute adorable handsome?  Psh.  They get older and we have to quit using the adjectives that are the most descriptive. 

He got asked to the girl's choice formal dance - by a girl he knew he was supposed to know but he didn't know who she was.  It was a bit embarrassing and tense for a bit, but he figured it all out and now has a friend out of this cute girl.  So glad my kids have good friends to hang out with!

He wanted to make her corsage, and in finding out what color her dress was, he came up with a new, unfamiliar word: burgundy.  What the heck was that? I had to pull up a color chart so he could learn that burgundy was just a deep, rich, not-purply red.  

No, this was not the chart I pulled up for him.  But it does describe his expression when I started going over the finer nuances of different colors.  Eventually we got it all figured out and bought the stuff.  He helped me to make the corsage, and I think he is ready to do the next one by himself.  Awesome that my boys can take learn how to do of these kinds of things.

What a stud!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Musical!

David has been taking a musical theater class this year, and really enjoys it.  One of his requirements is to participate in the school musical.  

He auditioned, and got the part of a Wickersham in the school's production of "Seussical."  We had to put an advertising poster in our yard, or a vinyl ad on our car.  We got the vinyl, and managed to smooth it out and pick all the letters back together after Georgie played with it and smashed them all up.  

He loves being on the stage, and performing in front of people.  I don't know where he got those genes, as that thought terrifies me.  I've only acted on stage once or twice, and it was terrible.  I'll happily leave that to those who enjoy it.  Like David.  And like Trent!  He was in the the drama club in high school and very much enjoyed his time performing in various plays and musicals.  Good for them.  Every play needs an audience, and applause is one part I can handle!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Good Morning, Good Morning!

I remember hearing my mother's voice as she walked through the house.  She would sometimes sing a little song in the mornings, as a cheerful way to wake us up, I suppose.

Way up in the sky
Is where the little birds fly.
And down in the valley
The little birds rest.

With a wing on the left
And a wind on the right,
The little birds sleep
All through the night.

Then up comes the sun
And the dew goes away.
"Good morning, good morning!"
The little birds say.

I walked through our neighborhood this morning, listening to all of the voices singing.  The voices were of the feathered variety, and there were sure a lot of them!  It seems that every tree had birds tucked among the branches.  There were chirpers and tweeters, squawkers and even a few warblers.  I wish I knew enough about birds to be able to identify their songs, but I love listening to them.  Our street sounded like Saturday morning at the Tweedlebug market, Good morning to you, too!

The weather has turned cold, and the summer birds are gone.  I've just started seeing a few of our winter birds, but in the middle are the migrating birds that stop in for a few nights.  Our street is lined with trees, a good 30 to 40 years old.  They aren't anything like the trees we had in our neighborhood in Washington State - those were enormous and stately.  No, here they are much shorter, suburban trees, but that means the birds are closer to the ground.

I grinned as I walked home, pulling my thin jacket closer around me.  The weather forecast said it would snow today.  I was glad that all my birdie friends were wearing down coats.  I ducked my head under the branches of one tree, half its golden leaves still shivering on the branches.  As I did, the tree came to life and a whole flock of little birds whooshed out.  The chilly breeze seemed to pick them up and whisk them right away.  I was impressed with how much noise their tiny wings made.

I guess if we work together, we can do amazing things.  Or just be more noisy.  My twins have that one down.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Mission Monday

It's Christmastime at our house!  I think we are actually running a little bit late.  A package only takes about 2-4 weeks to get to South Africa, but they are currently having a postal strike, so who knows?  It can take anywhere from 6 weeks to 3 months to get a package to Madagascar, so we are crossing our fingers.  Here are the contents of the first two packages.  We wrap things and put them in padded envelopes - I hear those get there better.  Oh, and the packages going to Madagascar get Jesus stickers stuck all over them.  Evidently, the people don't want to rip Jesus's face so the packages don't get broken into.  We still need to get a few things, and we'd better hurry!

From Madagascar:

Let's see, other than the water being cut, the power keeps getting cut too. Not that that's a big deal, because if we try to make toast while the dryer is going the power dies... However, it's been especially bad the past few weeks and we have our candles set up all the time because it's only a matter of time before the power goes out, so James... one upped!

As dark goes, Eskom, the government run power company has had some issues with power, from what I've heard, one of the main coal hoppers failed, and has resulted in them doing a bunch of load shedding, basically, rolling blackouts. This past week, we only had our lights on two nights, but we do have them on in the morning. So there Nate, there you go. And we don't have a dryer, we do clothes the good old fashioned way. So Nate, One UPed!

So here is the news that you have been waiting for. I am getting transferred to ...... Port Alfred! Which is a ways away from everybody...  So area three, here I come! It will be sad, I enjoy the area here, but I'm excited at the same time to go on to a new adventure. It really is bittersweet.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

10 Easy Steps to a Clean Pantry

This was my pantry the other day - after I had declared war on it and had already worked on it for a while.  The doors were hard to open, everything was crazily stuffed in, the chaos on the floor was nearly knee-high, and I could never find anything.  As an organized person, I made an followed a plan.  It will be easy!  Remove, clean, toss, decide, stack, corral, purchase, label, tidy, photograph!

10 Easy Steps to a Clean Pantry

1. Remove.  Take everything out.  Ignore teenagers who are trying to walk through through the mess and grumbling.  You have to make a bigger mess before you can clean one up.

2. Clean.  Wipe down shelves and doors.  Scrape off old, unknown blobs.  Scrub at grease and oil stains for a while before giving up.  Sweep the floor.  Deodorize a little, if needed.

3. Toss.  Throw out anything obviously gross or rotting.  Put these items in the garbage, underneath something else so they won't be found and returned to the pantry.

4. Decide.  Determine what you want to do with the space.  Is your pantry for food exclusively?  Small appliances?  Long-term storage? Your mother's paper plate collection?  Look at what you have strewn about the floor, and decide how much room you need for what kind of thing.

5. Stack.  Start putting like items together.  Stack cans in neat rows like the supermarket, or load into neato-mosquito can roller thingies.  Line up boxes.  Pile bags into neat areas.

6. Corral.  Get containers to contain small items.  For some reason, I have a bunch of baby shoe boxes.  Oh yeah, my box fetish.  They work great for collecting and sorting spices, seasoning packets, birthday candles, and other little  things that tend to get in the way.

7. Purchase.  Go to Cute Tubs and Baskets R Us or your local amazing mart and get all the adorable containers that you see on Pinterest.  Make sure to know what sizes you need before you go.  Measure the shelves from one corner all the way to the other...   Hey!  What's that box in the back corner there?  I've never seen it before.  Fruit snacks, granola bars, baby doughnuts?  Must be Trent's secret stash.  Looks good, though...

8. Label.  To heck with all the cutsie homemade chevron chalkboard labels.  I'm eating doughnuts!

9. Tidy.  Someone is coming home!  Brush the powdered sugar off your chin!  Stuff all the rest of the goods into the pantry and close the doors!

10. Photograph.  Doesn't that look lovely?  Much better.  I should just always leave the doors closed, and the pantry looks fabulous, dahlink.  Fabulous. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A Camping We Will Go

A little bit ago we decided to up and go camping.  We had Opa with us, so actual tent camping was out.  We hadn't really planned ahead, so most everything else was out.  Trent came up with a cabin that some of he relations used as a hunting lodge, made a few calls, and off we went.  

Trent and the boys went down on Wednesday evening, and the little ones went with me and Opa the next afternoon.  Trent figured that since one hunting season ended on Thursday, while the next hunt didn't begin until Saturday, that we would have the place to ourseles.  It didn't turn out exactly that way, but the boys had a good time.

The bigger three boys spent some time target-shooting with BB guns.  There were a few targets hung in the trees, and the plink or ding of a target hit was a common sound.  When they put the guns away, there were always 4-wheelers to zoom about on.  It was a far cry from the quiet forest I had been envisioning.  The riding up and down trails was curtailed somewhat when David wrecked one of the machines, and Trent realized that only licensed drivers should be driving.  David smashed up his hand pretty good, and bruised some ribs, but fortunately nothing was serious.  Chris, the only boy with a license, may or may not have smirked a little as he rode for the rest of the day.

Trent kept the little twins entertained in the mornings and evenings by starting the fire for them.  Yes, that is a flame thrower.  He had a great time with that noisy beast, and they were properly awed.

After the stove got nice and hot, Eddie and I popped popcorn on it.  Or we tried to.  The wood stove was hot, but not quite hot enough, so we gave up and used the gas cookstove instead.  David shook the popper for me, and we all enjoyed hot popcorn.  Yum!

We all spent most of the time outdoors, looking through telescopes, sighting up rifles, shooting BB guns, riding 4-wheelers, swinging on a plank suspended between two giant trees, or just sitting on the porch and breathing the clean, crisp air (when it wasn't full of the dust the quads kicked up, that is).  Oh yeah, and we spent a little bit of time out back in the outhouse.  I'll let this picture speak for itself. 

It's nice to make memories as a family, even if it doesn't go exactly the way you planned it.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Mission Monday

What's that?  I disappeared?  Nay, verily.  I was merely writing in invisible ink.  

Um... the truth?  I just can't write and do Halloween costumes at the same time.  And process apples.  And keep the house marginally clean.  and feed nine people thrice daily.  And write my missionaries.  But at least they write back!

The work here in SACTM during the summer here is slow. Most people are away from home and they those that are home don't want to meet with us, and that makes work slow for us... Planting seeds stinks sometimes, but we have to remember that without the planting, there is no reaping the rewards from that. And we think that all of missionary work is just working on the reaping, but there is also the part of working with the ward, and building the ward....

One of the ways that we have been reaching out is through family history. So we have done a lot of work with familytree on familysearch.org and with some of the programs that are there. One of the coolest ones that I've found is at https://roots-fb.cs.byu.edu/. It shows how you are related to people, and that is how I have found out that Elder Neil L. Anderson is my third cousin, once removed. And in some way, I'm related to all of the prophets, and a ton of other people. So that has been cool, and I wish that I had more time to do Family history.

From Madagascar:

Last Monday we all went to Lake Tritriva, sorry, LAC Tritriva... (that French stuff gets everywhere!). Anyway, it was a nice long bumpy ride, but then it was super pretty! It's up in the mountains and you get a beautiful view of most of Antsirabe from up there. It's mostly a tourist attraction, so when we got there all of us white folk had to pay the vazaha price while Elder Andriamanganoro, the only Malagasy missionary in Antsirabe right now, got to pay the Malagasy price which was several times cheaper. And then we got hounded by people selling souvenirs. That was pretty funny because they all have jacked up prices because they're used to selling to French tourists. So they would run up and show us their carved rocks or bracelets and say, "Mora be!" Which means, "very cheap!" Then when asked how much their little polished rock was, they would reveal that it was more than the cost of my food for a day if I ate out for every meal. But the lake was super pretty, I took some pictures on other people's cameras, because I still haven't figured out what's wrong with mine. Most of that is probably due to the fact that usually I don't have time to mess around with it.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Mission Monday

From South Africa:

On Saturday, we did a little bit of a photo shoot which led to other things, but one of them was making a dummy that was life size. His name is Fred. We had a really fun time taking him and putting him in the boot (trunk) of the car, and then asking one of the members if he knew how to hide a dead body. He thought we were joking until he saw the 'body' in the car. He jerked back and muttered a few things and it took him a little bit to realize that it was just a dummy. His face was priceless, and I wish that I had taken pictures of that, but I didn't. I did however take pictures with Elder Heaton, Fred and I. Fun times that I'm going to remember for the rest of my mission.

From Madagascar:

We were just sitting down (to teach a family) ... when a gendarme (police/soldier) comes in and sits down to listen. We prayed and started teaching the family and he starts interrupting all the time. We kept teaching as best we could...Anyway, once we (answered his question) and got back to teaching the family he kept interrupting. Then we just layed down our testimonies and said nothing could separate us from our knowledge. Elder Cartmill was on fire. With the Holy Ghost of course. Then we closed it off and he left. I was a little bummed by how it went, but we made sure not to argue with him and we didn't get into any Bible bashing with him. Then once he left the family freaked out and were all just so thrilled because the missionaries before had apparently gotten really confrontational and angry or just embarrassed and didn't know what to say when someone tried to argue with them...  Anyway, it was really cool after that and the Spirit was way strong, which was great because the guy was pretty confrontational and was doing a pretty good job of keeping away the Spirit at the beginning. The family was still freaking out right before we closed, so we asked them if they wanted to be able to feel this all the time, they said yes of course! So then we snagged them and got them to promise to read the Book of Mormon every day and come to Church each week and work towards baptism. It was great!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Mission Plaques

There is a tradition that goes back as long as I can remember to honor those who are currently serving missions.  Just before they leave, they are "given" a plaque with their picture, the name of their mission and when they are serving, and sometimes the missionary's favorite scripture.  The missionary-to-be gets to hole the plaque during the Sunday meeting, but then it is hung up at the church.  I love looking at the collections of missionary plaques and seeing where they all went, and I always have a little prayer for each of them.  They are in the Lord's hands.

Alec and Ben were no exception, and they have their handsome faces on these nice wooden plaques.  However, when we moved, the old ward had to give us the plaques so we could take them to the new ward.  Due to conference and maternal forgetting, I was able to keep the plaques for a few weeks.  I loved, loved loved seeing their smiling faces in my room.  I really didn't want to give them up.

Sigh.  Eventually, I did hand them over to the new ward, and they hang up at the church now.  I suppose all mothers get to the point where they have to share their babies with the world.  Maybe I'll have to make up my own shrine.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Bunch of Sillies

I thought I'd take a picture of my me and the man building a playset for the kids.  See, we bought this nice, redwood fort/sandbox/slide/swingset thingie at the end of the summer.  I've been wanting a swingset for the little ones for a while, and as I passed the "play outside" aisle in the hardware store, there was only one swingset left - and it was 70 percent off!  I have a hard time making snap decisions.  I said yes, then no and started to walk away, then reconsidered and looked terribly wishy washy for the longest time.  Finally, I put my hand on the giant box, as if to protect it from the imaginary mob of Black Friday shoppers, and told Chris to go get us a big flatbed cart.

We brought it home (with three kids!  In a smallish vehicle!) and unloaded it in the back yard.  When Trent got home, I had to sheepishly confess my spontaneous purchase.  He was actually proud of me.  The next morning, we walked about the yard, trying to decide where to put it.  Here.  No, away from the cement.  Near the house.  By the chicken coop.  This spot is more level; that one is rocky.  But we never felt really happy about any of the places we thought to set it up.  So we covered the box with a tarp and left it under a tree until we could come to a decision.

Within a few days, we were packing up our entire household and moving away.  I'm glad we didn't set up the swingset, or we would have had to take it right apart again.  We moved the by then soggy box and piled all the lumber in our new backyard.  

My dad has been eyeing the growing pile of... things on his basketball court.  He even made mention that he would like to use the court again to play some ball.  (He hasn't played basketball in years.)  I know he is anxious about us moving in, and the amount of stuff a big family uses.  We'll get organized, I promise.  Unfortunately, this has turned out to be the slowest-to-get-settled moved that I've ever had (and it's the 15th move for me since high school!).  It's just a challenge to move all your life into a place that is already full of someone else's life.

Anywho, we started setting up the playset today.  I'm so grateful that Dad found the instructions and rescued them from the rain!  Trent and I worked for about 5 hours on a project that the instructions said takes 2 to 4 hours.  They lie.  We're nearly a third done, and I was too busy to snap a cute little with-my-man-selfie as we did a big project together.

After dark, I came in and snuggled with my babies.  They are still babies, aren't they?  They love making funny faces on the phone, to the point that it's hard to get them to give me a nice smile.  I love them.  I even love their unseasonable fuzzy haircuts because they played barber on each other.  And I know they love me.  I have the phone.  Of course they love me.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Selfie Day 4

I was sitting on the couch, reading a book when I remembered that I hadn't shot myself today.  So I did. I love you my hair ended up all swoopy like I was stuck in the 80's.  I also loved how I was able to sneak in a picture of Chris, who hates me to take his picture.  It's ok - I hate me to take my picture, too.  How many more days do I need to do this?  Is three more enough to show my posterity that I really did exist in their lives?

Love that boy.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Mission Monday

From South Africa:

If anybody has sent me letters, I haven't gotten them because there is a mail strike here in SA. No mail is getting through, and it is in such a backed up state, even though they are trying to do their best with the mail that they have, and it is backing up, like nobody's business.

I've really enjoyed working and being in the field with our investigators. We have had some really good lessons, and have a few of our investigators really solidly progressing towards baptism. Our first date is on the 9th of November, so it is coming up quite quickly. I'm super excited and he is ready for it!

From Madagascar:

One thing that I've been hearing a lot about from Malagasies is the Ebola. They tell me that 2 people have it in America and everyone is freaking out. One Malagasy told me that the Ebola is very bad for Americans because they have huge potato processing plants and "once" Ebola gets in, everyone will get sick from their potatoes that they eat every meal (most Malagasies think that since Americans don't eat rice every single meal, there must be something else we eat just as much). She then went on to tell me that Malagasies wouldn't get the Ebola because they have better food, and the Malagsy people are strong. So there you have it. No need to worry about Ebola here, my rice and cold meat will keep me safe! (Also, it's always "the Ebola" so I capitalized it to show what a big deal it is here.)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Selfie Day 3

I am not a seasoned enough selfie-taker that I can just turn on my phone and snap away.  No, the very thought makes me very, very self-conscious.  It is partly because I don't want to look like I'm taking a selfie (I must think there is something inherently wrong or vain or selfish about it... need to do some introspection there), and partly because I really do not like being in pictures.

But I wanted to show that I did, indeed go out and do something social.  With a group of people who were mostly strangers.  And at a girlie event, no less.  

Yes, I went to a baby shower.  Do not get me wrong - I am all for celebrating the coming of a new life into the world.  I am all for women uniting together in what makes us uniquely feminine.  I am all for cheering a new mother into this wonderful and frightening and joyous journey of family-making.  And I am all for this particular family.  The new baby's mother is a beautiful, gentle young woman, and her mother-in-law is the most kind person I have ever met.  Of course I would do what I could to support them.

But I do not know how frilly pink streamers and silly party games have anything to do with celebrating a new life.  To me, traditional shower games are somewhat of an insult to any shred of intelligence, and the requisite small talk is nothing short of painful.  When I had my first baby and was subjected to the traditional shower, I begged my mother to not force me to play party games.  Instead, we learned infant CPR and tied quilts.  Obviously, I survived being feted, and I adored my extended family for being so supportive and welcoming to me and my new little one.

I do not mind being with people, but it is just more challenging.  Please, do not stop inviting introverts to baby showers.  Just realize that it is more strenuous for me than it would be to an extrovert.  The exertion is part of the gift.  As an aside, I think I shall send my very naturally-gregarious husband and our equally charming and friendly daughter to the next shower in my stead. They would probably love it!

So here I am, standing in the hallway outside the party room.  You can see the dangly pink thingie in the doorway - an invitation to enter, I suppose.  If you look very closely, you might even be able to make out the pile of pinkly-wrapped gifts on the table just past some very kind woman-knees.  See, I can be social sometimes!  Next time, I'll bring some knitting.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Selfie Day 2

I'm not sure what caused the sad eyes, the drooping head, or the knuckles dragging on the floor, That's what "I'm hurt" looks like among the younger set of our home.  I'm sure I didn't teach them to do that, but even their oldest brothers hunched their backs, hung their heads, leaden arms hanging limply from the shoulders, slowly slinking away when they felt bad.  It's pretty pathetic looking, and it certainly tugs at my mother-heart.

I was working at the counter, trying to do some paperwork, when this little one of mine moped around the corner.  His eyes on the floor, his feel shuffled along.  I'm not sure how he didn't walk into anything, but he wouldn't have hurt himself even if he had.  He came and stood beside me for a minute, then reluctantly lifted his head to show me his tear-stained face.  He lifted his arms and quietly pleaded, "Hold me, Mommy."  What else could I do?  I lifted him into my arms and held him, heart to heart, for a long, long time.  I only released my embrace when he felt better and wiggled to get down.  "I'm ok now," he said, miraculously cured, and raced off to play.

And I have a record that I was a comforting mother with cozy arms.  It's a lot of what I do.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Where is Mom?

We were up in the canyon, all happily shooting the vibrant fall colors.  I had my nice camera (that I just found in a box!), David had the little point-and-shoot, Chris had his phone, and Eddie borrowed the iPhone.  After a few minutes, watching them all soak in the view and point out an especially beautiful spot, I wondered what we would do with these pictures.  Keep them on the memory card, most likely.  I knew I would share some on the blog here, but as I haven't found the camera cords, I wouldn't be able to get the pictures off the big camera.  Anything I wanted to share would have to come from the phone.  

And why would I want to share it, anyway?  Usually we share pictures to show that we went somewhere, or to remind us of occasions.  I love to look back and see my children happy.  My favorite scenic shots are of the view... with my family in front.  I'd rather have a picture that tells a story than a postcard-perfect vista.  And then I remembered this article about mothers not being in the pictures.  I had read it a few years ago, but now it was pushing to the top of my brain.  I'm never in the pictures.  I'm not.  I'm always the one taking the pictures.  And my kids may not remember that I was even there with them!  I wish I had more picture of my mother, but she was so self-conscious of her appearance.  Man, I miss her.  Nope.  Don't want to be the invisible mom.

So I grabbed the iPhone while Eddie was taking his turn with the binoculars, gulped, and took a picture of myself.  Hate selfies, but it was a little bit more acceptable this time because this is the only way I could get a picture of Chris.

Look!  Here I am!  I went up the canyon with you, family!  And so I'm going to spend the next week (gulp) taking pictures of us doing things, with me in them.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Mission Monday

I've been better about writing my boys than I have been about writing here.  All is can do is mumble something about a mother's love and promises to repent and I'll back-date a few posts I had mostly-written by not-yet-posted.  Sorry!

From South Africa:

We helped one of our investigators move into the other missionaries area and lost them. I'm super bummed about that. I loved teaching them. We got to watch general conference this week, and re watch it when we had time, so it was really cool. I can't wait to get the Liahona with all of the talks written out. It was such an amazing experience to get to see it and to hear it. I love the gospel and it is so amazing how it has blessed me so far. I only wish that I could do more but I can only do the little bit that I can.

I hit my six month mark which meant that there was a tie to be burnt. :)

From Madagascar:

 I have found a new outlet of my personal funds... There is a very good tailor here in Antsirabe and I'm going to get a tailored suit for about $40... I figure if I'm going to get a suit it needs to be at the beginning of my mission when I still haven't lost all of my weight, that way it will fit after my mission too. So today I'm probably going to go buy some fabric in Tsenasabotsy, the big market. And then in a couple weeks I will have my suit. I'm pretty pumped!

We've been teaching a lot of the commandments this last week and we have been teaching A LOT about the blessings of living the gospel. If we just trust in God and do what he would have us do, then he will provide for all our needs and our righteous desires too.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Golden Family Time

I love this time of year.  I love the colors and the crisp morning air and the crunch of leaves on the sidewalk and the smell of wood-burning fireplaces.  I love the return to hot cocoa season.  So we went outside to enjoy it.  After a drive, we were in the middle of so much fall beauty!  Love, love love.

I love this amazing world, and these wonderful people.  Thanks, Lord, for so much.  Happy mama, me.

Friday, October 10, 2014


I know, I often write about haircuts.  But that's part of what I do.  I am responsible for making sure that my children are neat and presentable.  And we had a few shaggy dogs running around here.  I've searched for the hair cutting scissors, I have.  That's why I was in the storage garage yesterday.  But no luck.

I finally called Grandma (bless the grandmothers of the world!) and Trent brought me over her hair cutting kit.  A few minutes later, Eddie looked good again.  And shorn.  Maybe a bit too short, but that's how he likes it right now.  

And he's done complaining about the state of his hair.  For a few weeks anyway, which is good because Grandma needed her clippers back.  Meanwhile, I'll keep looking.  

Is there anything in the good mother's handbook that says I can't trim sideburns and bangs with a pair of children's blunt-nosed safety scissors?  I hope not, 'cuz I just did the twins and the girl.  Shhhh...

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Cold Storage

Looking at this picture, I'm feeling like I want to become a minimalist.  Yup.  Let's backpack through Europe, honey, with only the things in our packs!  No stuff, no furniture, no worries!

This, unfortunately, is our storage garage.  Or part of it, anyway.  The place is huge.  We. Have. So. Much. Stuff!  

A lot of it is furniture, that we didn't have time to sell due to the quick and unexpected nature of our move.  A lot of it is movies and cords and screens and wires and dead computers and other electronics.  I don't get that one.  A lot more of it is clothes - winter coats, snow boots, jeans-to-grow-into hand-me-downs, and baby twin clothes?  Some of it belongs to Alec, and some of it belongs to Ben, as we store away their favorite things while they are gone.  Some of it is memories that I just can't throw out, and some of it is valuable things that someone thinks should be sold instead of donated.

And some of it is my husband, and some of it is Eddie.  Hello up there!  Better get them out before we turn off the lights.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Take Me Away!

It's been one of those days.  Everywhere I turned, someone wanted me.  

"Mom!  Can I play games on the computer?"  
"Mom?  What is for after-school snack?"
"Mom?  Angel is in the street again."
"Mom!  Log me on!"
"Mom!  I'm hungry!"
"Moooooooommmmmm <sniffle> heeeee hit meeeee!"
"Mom?  What's for dinner?"
"Mom? Oh wait.  When will Dad get home?"
"Mom!  I'm hungry!"

Mind you, I like being wanted.  I think everyone wants to know that they are important.  But when my services are so insistently demanded, I get a little worn out.  It's kind of like this old Calgon commercial.  Watch this - I love it!

So when life gets rough, just get in your giant sunken bathtub with some bath salts or bubbles or magic potion and it will transport your exhausted, naked body to the top of an ancient Grecian temple,  There, the blue skies and fluffy clouds and amazing vistas will instantly melt away all your troubles.  Prerequisites include flawlessly shaved legs (no shaving in a Calgon bath), hair done up in a romantic chignon, and a vase (pronounced vahz) full of fragrant flowers.

Sounds like a good plan to me!  So as soon as the kids were all tucked in bed, lights turned out, teeth brushed, stories read, prayers said, I headed off for the bath.  Yes, it went in that order.

I grabbed my new romance book and found a decorative bottle of lavender bath oil with random baby flowers floating around in it.  I pulled out a freshly laundered fluffy white bath towel.  I even got out a tin of chocolate and mint bath scrub, but it had gone rancid so I put it back.

Looking around, I snuck off into the bathroom.  Can't have anyone know I'm there, or the bathroom door banging would never stop.  I quietly opened the door, flipped on the light, and... Calgon!  It's my Grecian tub, just waiting for me!

Some imagination required.  My mother had a thing with duckies.  Cute, no?

Monday, October 6, 2014

Mission Monday

Here a few snippets from our missionary boys.  They both sound happy, so that makes me a happy mom.

From South Africa:

Conference was my highlight for this week! It was so awesome. I love hearing from the prophets and learning at their feet. They are so knowledgeable, and wise. It is kinda hard to watch here because all of the sessions are out of order, and I still haven't seen the Sunday PM session yet (we will see it later tonight), but it is still an amazing time! I love the gospel and I love the chance that I have to continually learn more and more. I can't wait to get the printed version and reread it again and again. Our bishop commented that he didn't think that it was a coincidence that conference was held on fast weekends. It was different to fast and to watch conference in that spirit.

I also have to say that I'm doing the 90 day Book of Mormon Challenge, on top of all of my other studying, and I'm currently half way done with it, and it has been an eye opener. I've learned so much this time reading it through, and it is interesting to be reading from two different places in the Book of Mormon and to see all the parallel lines between the two places.

From Madagascar:

It first rained like 2 weeks ago, and it's rained a couple times since then, and it is fantastic! When we are on a flat stretch of road on our bikes, our bikes have wakes like little boats as we go, then when we are going down a hill, there is a monster river going down each hill! If you just go straight down, you're good, but if you try to turn sideways, then the water catches your tires and you can fall over pretty easily. Then, at the bottom of the hills is a big lake. Of course, this particular lake that forms at the bottom of two hills we go on all the time is next to an actual lake, so the drainage is pretty good, but there is still a LOT of water. (fun side note--the name of the lake is literally Lake Stinky Water, Malagasy names are sweet. And very honest...)

Don't be ashamed of your beliefs. Lots of people are scared to let other people see what they believe and that it's different from most people. For example most people won't let us come teach if they have other family over, but they should be the people that you want to hear the gospel the most. Then lots of people in part member families don't understand how powerful testimony and simple discussions can be in converting the rest of their family. The Lord has promised that if we open our mouths it will be filled. If you're trying to do his work, He will help you every time.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Welcome to Conference!

We are watching LDS General Conference today.  Won't you join us here?

Why do we like Conference?  The biggest reason is because it is inspiring.  There are so many talks on different things we can do to become better, and there are always a few that just hit.  Those are the ones I know I need to take to heart and do something about.  I always feel happier after I've been listening to Conference.

Another reason to celebrate Conference is because I get to share it with people I love.  It's just nice to be able to sit around, in our pajamas, and just be together.  I love my family.  Lots.  And it's a good thing we have lots of couches.

Oh, and another Conference favorite is the fun food we have.  That's a big part of life for a group of boys.  We like to just have a table full of food that we can snack on and enjoy whenever we get hungry.  It's good fun.  This year, we will be spending Saturday with some of this.  Oh yeah.

Zucchini bread and pumpkin bread are definitely on the menu.  David and Eddie will be learning how to make sweetbreads this year.  Chris has already made two cheesballs - ranch and Italian - to eat with crackers.  And fruit.  We have a counter full of fruit just waiting to be cut up and enjoyed.

It's a nice way to spend the day.  With my family.  In my pajamas.  Being spiritually and physically fed.  That's the good stuff.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Writing, Writing, Writing

So I didn't join up with the Nester's write-every-day-for-31-days-in-October project this year.  I did last year, and the year before as well.  But this year?  Meh.  I guess it just boils down to a bad case of I-don't-want-to-itis.  Sometimes it's nice to be an adult, because no one can make me do things I don't want to.  Bwahaha!  At least that's what my kids think.  I won't go there today.

But I don't have to write every day about the same topic for a whole month if I don't want to.  And I don't want to.  I'm having a hard enough time being coherent in real life right now - being coherent in my writing would be near-impossible.  And I did get burned out after the exercise the past two years.  I'd rather just keep trying to get in a good habit of writing regularly this year.  After all, it's not like I'm trying to write a book.

This is what my book looks like.  Blank.

I went to visit the midwife who so expertly assisted us to get our twins into this world.  We got some fresh produce from her garden, some good hugs, and reaffirmation that we are doing ok.  After I left, I reflected on what an extraordinary life she had led.  So many babies and so many stories!  Someone needs to write her book.  Really.

My husband thinks I should write it, and I'm flattered that he has such a high esteem of my writing.  He is so kind.  But frankly, I don't have the skills needed to write a book.  A biography, no less.  I would be terrified at such a huge undertaking.

But as I was thinking about it, late at night, I realized that I have been writing a book.  This one.  The history of my family and my odd ruminatings on life.  And I am writing a biography.  My dad's.  We've been working on it for over a year now.  On the one, I just skim off the top of my thoughts and dump them here.  On the other, I just listen to my dad's stories and record them.  No big deal in either case.  One I've always wanted to write a children's book, so maybe one day...

But for today, I think I'll curl up in a corner with a good book that someone else wrote and nurse my I-don't-want-to-itis.  Where's my blanket?

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Ye Olde Sourdough

During the summer, we went to a colonial village where they were re-creating life in the 1700's.  It was fun to watch people, dressed in period costume, making and hawking their wares.  One booth that especially caught our attention was the baker.  We were lured there by the scrumptious smell of bread baking in their brick oven, and kept there by the skills of a master storyteller as he told us the history of bread and what people ate in colonial America.  

Trent procured a sourdough start and a loaf of hot bread before signing us up for a breadmaking class.  The classes weren't held for a few months, so we nearly forgot.  But we didn't.  We went to the class and had a lovely time.  We learned lots of things about our country and its early settlers, and even a thing or two about bread.  We helped make a big batch of bread, and I mean BIG!  I wish I had the capability to make this much bread at once.  The sourdough takes so long that it would be nice to just spend a day and have the week's baking done.

Here is Trent, lecturing the dough balls on how to rise.  I'm not sure what he was really doing, but it does look instructional, doesn't it?  Yes, we actually made 26 2-pound loaves.  You should see the size of his mixing bowl!

We took home some of the bread dough and made a few more loaves at home.  They turned out gorgeous.  It would have been perfect if the parchment paper hadn't stuck to their little bread heinies. At first we picked away at the paper, and then, out of burned-finger desperation, sawed their bottoms off.  The bread still tasted good, don't worry.

Not long after the last crumb of bread was consumed, I promptly forgot how to make it.  It didn't even take very good notes.  There is some information on his website, but not enough to make me confident in my sourdough skills.  So I had to make another batch.  I'll re-learn by practicing, I guess.

Good thing my dad loves sourdough!  The kids tolerate it if it isn't too sour - unless it is hot.  Everyone loves hot bread, slathered in butter.  The next batch is in the oven, and it is starting to smell wonderful. Hopefully, the parchment paper does what it is supposed to do this time, and doesn't stick.

Is is rational to be wanting to build a brick oven in the backyard?

P.S.  The loaves came out gorgeous!  And delicious!  But I'm picking off the parchment paper again.  Sigh.  It doesn't taste as good as the rest of the bread.