Thursday, October 27, 2016

Lessons from the Wild

Levin with a nest of baby robins in one of our apple trees

Perhaps like many, I have a love-hate relationship with life in the wild:

watching birds carry branches and twine to build nests

deer and elk feeding in the meadows

squirrels running from branch to branch in the trees

ants carrying crumbs to their hill

fish jumping in the lake

dolphins feeding in the tidal marsh

alligators basking on the bank

coyotes barking and howling

– all of these are familiar and loved sights and sounds.

Watching animals in their habitat with their habits is fascinating, and I’ve learned much watching animals in their natural environment.

Consider three lessons I’ve learned from birds:

I anticipate the return of the birds each spring. One year they returned with a thud. Early one morning I heard the clear notes from a solitary bird even before the sun was up. Soon after, while cooking breakfast, I heard a thump. Our kids hurried to the living room window and cried, “Quick! You gotta see this!” A hawk was outside in the flowerbed with an injured bird in his claws. One bird’s misfortune of hitting the window pane had become another bird’s fortune of breakfast.

Lesson one taught to me by the birds: Life isn’t fair, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be good.

The life of a bird is filled with adventures and hard luck; few die of old age, which make their songs especially beautiful. Birds chirp and sing amidst the risks, rain or shine, few species are as optimistic. I read where one sweet, caged and unmated female canary laid eggs and was so happy that she offered food to the unfertilized eggs and chattered and chirped as if willing them to hatch. Contrast that with the turtle that lays her eggs and then leaves. Not one word of encouragement or advice to her young.

Lesson two taught by the birds: Face life with optimism and encourage others within your influence.

Birds travel light and make their accommodations with what is at hand. Nests are made or lined with dryer lint, hair, string, mud, twigs, tinsel, twine, and leaves. Each year, as a couple, the male and female birds either build or extensively remodel their homes – a trial for even the hardiest human marriages – and they do it debt free.

Lesson three: Be self-reliant and work on a harmonious relationship with your spouse.

Even the alligators who rest under the same shady tree at the same time each hot day have taught me by remote example that a little sun goes a long way, a good daily routine should not be messed with, and it’s good to conserve energy in the heat of the day for a nice evening.

Neither can I underestimate the influence of the story of the Grasshopper and the Ant. I suppose every child of the 60’s grew up on it. I listened to it on the record player and loved it, notwithstanding the static and skips. As the story goes, the ants stored food in their hill for the cold winter days while the grasshopper loafed, laughed at the ants, and played his wings as he sang, “Oh, the world owes me a living. Deedle dardle doodle deedle dum. If I worked hard all day I might sleep badder when in bed at night. Deedle dardle doodle deedle dum.” The winter winds came and the grasshopper got sick, hungry, and nearly froze. The ants took pity on him, made him a mustard plaster, and he soon grew better. The grasshopper changed his tune and instead began to sing, “Oh, I owe the world a living. Deedle dardle doodle deedle dum. You ants were right the time you said you’ve got to work for all you get. Deedle dardle doodle deedle dum.”

The ants’ example in this story has motivated me for more than thirty years to store enough food to last through hard times.

I have loved learning from the animal kingdom and watching life in the wild.

On the other hand, the animal kingdom makes me so mad sometimes . . .

I not only grew up with lots of kids in my family (I come from a family of ten children), I grew up with lots of cows. Because of the cows, the coyote was our enemy. Coyotes were sneaky and costly. One calving season the coyotes were especially bad. Coyotes have neither ethics nor morals; they have only the will to survive. They would creep among the cows, find the newborn calves that had not yet gotten their legs under them, and begin chewing on the soft tissue of the calves—the nose, the rectum, or the umbilical area. The coyotes literally began to eat the calves alive and often left them to die half eaten. I detested them for their cruelty.

I remember one situation clearly. It was cold and snowy and a cow had secluded herself from the herd to calve. She gave birth to twins, 30 yards apart. Then the coyote moved in. The mother cow would butt and charge as the coyote came close to one twin, then the coyote would quickly move to the other calf so the cow would run over to protect it. Back and forth she ran trying to protect her two newborn calves from the coyote. In her weakened condition, she was near collapse from the effort. The coyote would soon have three kills had my father not happened on the scene.

Three months ago I walked out to our chicken coop to gather the eggs and saw some dead chickens in the run. I hurried inside the coop and found only the old arthritic rooster. I hurried out behind the coop and looked in the pasture for the rest of the brood and found more dead birds. Not one live hen was found. The coyotes had dug in under the pen and carried away, or killed for sport, every last hen. All 25 of them.

I was mad. Deedle dardle doodle deedle dum.   Coyotes think the world owes them a living and there is nothing more repulsive than an entitled attitude.  They will not pilfer from our flock again. Girded with the optimism and self-reliance learned from the birds, Calvin went right to work to teach the coyotes a lesson they obviously missed in the wild: you don’t mess with the Payne hens.

Calvin fixing the coop


No way, no how is a fox getting into the hen house now

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Relief-Society-Favor Cute

Last Saturday I made pumpkin-shaped sugar cookies. I wished I could call our grandkids and invite them to come get one, and thought as I often do, “I wouldn’t wish any of them to come back here to live in Moses Lake simply because we miss them; they have wonderful, fulfilling lives where they are, and they followed personal inspiration to live where they live, but sometimes, just sometimes I really wish we all lived on the same mile and the grandkids could walk over to visit and get a cookie.”

The next morning I woke up thinking there had to be a grandma somewhere wishing that her grandchildren lived close to her instead of in Moses Lake.

I packaged the cookies up in cute, little, orange with white polka-dot bags and went to church looking for some children whose grandma lived far away.  At first I saw the Davis children quietly sitting on the pew; their grandma is serving a mission in Australia. Next I saw the Johnston boys, four of them. Max, who is 3, came with his dad to say hello.  His dad said, "Max, tell Sister Payne what you’re wearing today.” 

Max ducked his head into his dad’s chest so I guessed, “Max, are you wearing big boy underwear?” 

He looked at me carefully and slowly smiled. I pulled his pants out a bit so that I could see what character was on them and said, “Ninja turtle shorts?  Oh Max.  Ninja turtles are very cool!” 

His smile got bigger.  

Max reminded me of Eliza and Henry, two of our grandchildren, who are in the beginning stages of potty training, and it just seemed like he and his brothers could use a cookie.  

Thank you to Max's grandma, wherever she lives, for encouraging her family to live in Moses Lake. Her little grandsons filled a void and gave me someone to give cookies to.

Max and his brothers could have cared less how cute their cookies were packaged.

Part of my responsibilities for our Stake Relief Society Leadership meeting tomorrow night was to prepare a favor that would reinforce and remind the sisters of the message taught.  Maybe Max and his brothers didn't care if their cookie came in a cute bag with a cute tag, but women do.  So I put a green tag that says it all on an orange bag. 

Instead of cookies, I thought white chocolate popcorn sprinkled with fall-colored m&m's, candy corn, and oreo cookies would be a festive filler. I was wrong.  It looks u.g.l.y. in the bags.  They need something flat-er and now I'm out of time so there will be no favors at our meeting . . .   

. . . but there will be a lot of happy kids where I work, because, like Max, they don't care about relief-society-favor cute so they'll eat the dishpan full of popcorn.

You win some, you lose some, but should you need orange bags, give me a call.  I've got 200 minus 4.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Fun Gift Packets

Eliza, Afton, Kathryn

These little mail-able packets are fun to make and send for Halloween, Valentine's Day, birthdays, or . . . well, good heavens, you could put a few cough drops, package of kleenex, and a packet of chicken soup and have a get-well packet.  Truly, anything goes. just sew them together and take them to the post office and they mail them as is -- promise.

Materials needed: heavy table-cloth plastic (available at fabric stores), small firm candies (such as skittles, smarties, tootsie-rolls, bubblegum, candy necklaces, jolly ranchers, etc.), little doo-dads like straws, pencils, erasers, decks of cards, balloons, socks, etc.

Directions:  (This size is simply a suggestion.  Make your packets big enough to hold the items you wish to send.)

1) Cut a 16 x 12 inch rectangle of heavy plastic and fold in half lengthwise so that the dimensions are 8 x 12 inches with the fold at the bottom.

2) Sew, using a zigzag or straight stitch, both 8 inch sides closed.

3) Measure in approximately 3 inches from side seam and stitch from bottom to top.

4) Repeat by measuring approximately 3 more inches from that seam and sew again from bottom to top—creating columns in the plastic rectangle.

5) Fill each column two inches full with candies.  After all the columns are filled; sew a horizontal stitch across the columns, sealing the candy inside.

6) Repeat steps for the next row of columns; except add the name and address which you have written on a postcard, index card, or a piece of paper in one of the columns instead of candy. Sew closed, and layer candies again.

7) Sew columns closed and take to the post office and mail. They will mail it just like it is—honest!

16 (or so) pictures taken on the 16th of October 2016

We've been doing a monthly family post for almost 72 months.  In all of those years, we missed one month and stretched the original perimeters on many others, including this month.  

Some of these photos were taken on 10-16-16, some were taken days before, and a few were taken a day or two after.  I am grateful for the family's contributions. whenever they come and however many come, for it captures a piece of life in our world.  

In the month of October of 2016 . . . 

Calvin:  preparing to give a talk in church.

Jane:  Popcorn, a typical Sunday night supper.

Kathryn: One great way to make Mom happy is to express an undeniable desire to go to bed.

Eliza: Dad asked me to pick up a few pairs of shoes that were out, and that gave me an idea...

Afton: We made some cinnamon rOOOOOOlls yesterday,
and delivered them to some neighbors today.

Michelle: At the end of the day it's another day over.

Ty:  I had to do a quick inventory of our church's games for the Harvest Festival.
They are functional, but not pretty.

Abe: Training in Idaho with my 1SG.

Grace:  Family selfie to send to Dad.  Henry's not very cooperative
these days.

Minion Hazel

Henry and Hazel are really starting to interact and play with each other.

Ray:  Fishwheel on the Yukon.  Catching 350 fish per day to dry and feed 63 sled dogs year round.
(Ray went moose hunting this month with his brother Johnny.)

Ray:  Drying salmon for the dogs.

Cali:  Helping Atlas stay quiet while listening to General Conference.

Levin:  Museum of flight.

Levin and Atlas:  Ray taught the boys if they ate food before they pray
they have to open their mouths while he blesses the food.

Atlas:  Zombie Krispie Kreme donuts for Family Home Evening

Atlas:  Museum of flight

Ande:  When life hands you a 5 day power outage...
you use your questionable, but decent smelling, milk
to make a two gallons of Greek yogurt.
(Thank you Hurricane Matthew for not knocking over
Joe and Ande's house when it knocked out the power.)

Ezra: Mom made yogurt. I dipped my fingers in it and ate it plain.
We won't give company our yogurt.

Zeph: My favorite part of post-hurricane Matthew yard-clean-up
is keeping the branches in the wagon.

Until next month . . .

Monday, October 10, 2016

Monday Memories - Christopher Columbus

This morning in the gym locker room, I asked a 1st grade teacher who teaches at a private school if she was teaching anything about Christopher Columbus today.

She carefully said, “Noooooo, he’s so controversial these days we just don’t say anything about him really.”

I was a wee bit surprised, and more than a little disappointed, so I changed the subject to a safe topic like the upcoming presidential election. ;0)

I value Christopher Columbus' contributions to the Americas and the world.  I believe it's important to examine history in the context of its cultural and historical background instead of strictly through a modern lens. 

Here are a few interesting things from Columbus' life:

Christopher Columbus could be described as plucky. According to an old story, Columbus entered a tavern one day and came upon several men who were scoffing and belittling his achievements, saying, “Anyone could have done what you did.” Columbus picked up an egg and asked the men to make it stand upright on the table. Several attempted the task, but no one succeeded excusing themselves by saying, “It’s impossible!” Columbus took the egg, tapped it lightly on one end which slightly broke the shell, and sat the egg on end. He looked at the men and said, “Even something that is impossible is easy to do - once someone shows you how.”

Columbus left Spain with his fleet of three ships on August 3rd and sighted land on October 12th. His flagship, the Santa Maria, had 52 men aboard while the Nina and Pinta each held 18 men.

The food that was served on the voyage was cooked in an open firebox. The box had sand on the floor and a back to screen the wood fires from the winds. Most of the food was boiled and served in a large communal wooden bowl. The men ate with knives and fingers.  Their diet of protein consisted of poorly cooked meat with bones, barreled sardines and anchovies, legumes, dry salt cod, and pickled meats.  On calm sea days the crewmen fished and ate their fresh catch. They drank wine and water and also ate cheese, honey, raisins, rice, almonds, garlic, and hardtack. 

Columbus returned from that famous voyage and made three more. After his last voyage in 1498, his health declined. He suffered from arthritis and the aftereffects from a bout of malaria and died in 1506.

Columbus wrote in his journal: “From my first youth onward, I was a seaman and have so continued until this day . . . Wherever on the earth a ship has been, I have been. The Lord was well disposed to my desire, and He bestowed upon me courage and understanding; knowledge of seafaring. He gave me in abundance, of astrology as much as was needed, and of geometry and astronomy likewise. Further, He gave me joy and cunning in drawing maps and thereon cities, mountains, rivers, islands, and harbours, each one in its place. I have seen and truly I have studied all books—cosmographies, histories, chronicles, and philosophies, and other arts, for which our Lord unlocked my mind, sent me upon the sea, and gave me fire for the deed. Those who heard of my emprise called it foolish, mocked me, and laughed. But who can doubt but that the Holy Ghost inspired me?” (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1930, pp.19-20)

Columbus was plucky . . . and humble.  He believed God opened the way and the Holy Ghost showed him how to do it.  “Even something that is impossible is easy to do - once someone shows you how,"

Happy Columbus Day.

(* Source: “Christopher Columbus....His Gastronomic Persona” by Lucio Sorre,’ Abeka fourth grade history book, and

Monday, October 3, 2016

Monday Memories - Summer Magic from A- Z

This summer Joe and Ande's family came and spent several weeks.  The Follett's and Abe and Grace's family came to spend time, too.  Here is the cliff notes version -- from A to Z -- of our wonderful month together.

Atlas and Aunt Tracy at the pirate party

Atlas Lincoln -- 3 years old.  If Atlas knows a ride in Grandpa's jeep is in his future, he will do anything happily.  Even take naps.  Atlas was a great little peacemaker.  He would play with whoever was alone and share what he had.  One day Ezra was swinging from the tramp trying to get down.  The chair that the boys used to climb up and down had been knocked over and Ezra was stuck.  He swung there and cried.  Atlas, who was playing with the hose, looked up and saw Ezra's dilemma and ran to him.  He tried to get the chair under him but Ezra’s swinging legs kept knocking it over.  Atlas looked around frantically for other solutions; he finally tried lifting him back up on the tramp. Nothing worked.  Cali went to both of their rescue and I believe Atlas was more relieved than Ezra.

Another time, Zeph couldn’t get in the back of the jeep.  First Atlas tried to pull him up, but when that didn't work then he jumped down and ran around and pushed him in from behind.

I watched both of these from the kitchen window and it felt as good as if the sunshine was warming my heart.  

Another time Henry couldn’t climb the haystack and was yelling at the top of his lungs “HELP!”  Atlas was clear over by the pig pen talking and walking with Grace, but he stopped and said, “Wait!  I need to go help Henry.”  He ran over and pushed Henry from behind.

The boy is named correctly.

Now it should be mentioned that Zeph got an enormous goose egg from Atlas throwing a car at him and Atlas also bit every single boy at least once, but when he was good, he was so very, very good!



Little Winnie was born June 24 and Joe gave her a name and blessing while they were here.  As Ande recorded, "'You'll be guided by your ancestors.  You'll have a keen intellect and a loving heart.' Happy blessing day Winifred.  It was a great day.  Your dad, Uncle Abe, Uncle Ray, Grandpa, and Bishop Knowles blessed you.  We were reminded again and again how special you are."

It was a special day for a special little girl.

Flower and Zeph

We got a new kitten while the kids were here, partly for them and partly for our mice.  Zeph immediately became the kitten's mother.  He spent all one day in the garage tending her.  He’d come in to give us updates on her, but she’d cry so he’d run right back out to her saying, ‘She needs me.”  Everybody needs to be needed.

Grandpa and Ezra

Living near a large dairy and a huge feedlot, we have lots and lots and lots of flies in the summer.  We try our best to keep them outside.  They're very annoying, even disgusting.  Earlier in the summer, Ray helped Calvin replace the sliding door in the dining room with a French door so that the grandkids would have an easier time opening and closing the door.  We also hoped it would help more flies outside..  

It did make it much easier for the kids to go in and out and that was very nice.  The flies?  Well, they liked the new door and came in as well, but Ezra loved to help Grandpa swat them.  A flyswatter and moving flies is better than any toy.

Ande and Ezra

Ezra Wilhelm - 21 months.   He was affectionately referred to as Pig-pen by his mother.  He was ALWAYS dirty.  He had no fears so he had no natural boundaries.  He usually had chicken manure between his toes (one time the older boys locked him in the chicken coop and I briefly considered it as a long-term holding pen for him so I didn’t have to fret over losing him in the canal) and his blonde, curly hair almost always had sand in it.  It was so fun to watch him freely explore.  

Ezra grunted to let us know he needed something.  He was a happy and willing buddy to Grandpa and, much to Grandpa's pleasure, even said "Grandpa" as one of his few words.  Grandpa and I affectionately called him “The Bruiser” because he would push, bite, or hit to get to the top of the pile.  He may have been the youngest little boy, but he doesn't know it and is determined to be a part. 

Ezra was such a fun little companion and I loved having him toddle along behind me and keep me company as we did chores or cleaned house.  He would shake his finger and grunt and that meant, "One more!”  One more swing, one more ride, one more candy, one more anything.  What a fun little boy.

Zeph in the blackberry patch

When the kids were hungry they'd pick carrots from the garden, blackberries from the patch, or apples from the garden and eat them.  Nobody said, "After you eat your supper" or "You didn't eat your breakfast," we just let the forage.

If I needed something for supper I'd describe what I needed from the garden and the little boys would go pick it for me.  It was pretty sweet seeing them run to the garden and then race each other back to the kitchen with their arms full.

I never had to gather eggs once while they were here, of course I didn't get many eggs either.  They loved to feed them to Dan or the kittens or take them out on the tramp while they jumped.

Hazel Grace and Winifred Grace

These two little girls share the same middle name and they're both named after Grace:

Hazel Grace -- 10 months.  She has beefy little thighs that sit in the splits.  She has the biggest and cheesiest grin and 1 ½ teeth.  She likes real food more than baby food and drinks out of a sippy cup.  She eats cheerios and is happy to be held by others if her mom is out of the room, but if Grace is close by, Hazel only wants her.  Hazel can go long periods of time without nursing so Ande and I kept her while Abe and Grace went to Tri-Cities to do a temple session.  She is so easy going and such an easy keeper; she makes you feel like a million bucks because she smiles that grin whenever you look in her direction.

Winifred Grace -- 2 months.  It was fun to watch her grow and change in the month she was here. It was so gradual and amazing to watch. She came with little skinny cheeks and left with plump ones. She loves her arms to be swaddled tightly, and to be held close with a steady, firm pat on her bottom.  Like Hazel, she is happy to be held by others but prefers her mother.  At night, she slept on a blanket on the floor in the living room.  In the day, she slept wherever we could keep her from being stepped on.  Her natural smell is sweet and baby-like and so good.  She coos, smiles, twists her fingers, and sucks her fists. As a former finger sucker herself, Ande is hoping she finds her thumb or fingers soon.


Henry Calvin - 2 ½ years old.  He gets so excited about everything and runs everywhere on his tiptoes.  His enthusiasm is palpable.  He learned new tricks from his older cousins – he can now jump high on the trampoline and ride the scooters.  As he rode the scooter, he would stretch one leg back, stretch his face to the sky, and yell, “Seize the Day!”  He also has a sweet tooth that cannot be tamed.  The day his parents went to the temple he began to cry and I suggested we to inside and get a treat.  He wailed, “I neeeeeeeeeeed chocolate.”  He does love it and twice his fingers were caught in mousetraps as he tried to steal the chocolate chip from them.  

Henry is eager to make others happy.  His personality helped to smooth squabbles and make a compatible foursome with Levin, Zeph, and Atlas.  


The freezer was full of popsicles, fudgesicles, creamsicles and homemade yogurt pops.  The kids ate their fill daily.  (It helps we have a 22 foot chest freezer that they can reach into by themselves, though more than once I worried about a kitten getting stuck inside.)


This jeep is worth it's weight in gold.  It provides countless hours moving and still.  When it's not moving the kids play in it -- sometimes it's a tank, sometimes a boat, and other times a jeep.  Always they're on the lookout for "the key" that will start it on their own.

Nap time:  Henry, me, Zeph

a few days later

One morning we played Red Light, Green Light, One, Two, Three.  Atlas was having a good time controlling our movements by being in charge.  He put his arms down to his side signaling Green Light and our little herd of elephants thundered to him.  The look of sheer panic that went across his face was priceless and he turned and ran as fast as he could towards the orchard to keep from being trampled.  Levin, the rule-keeper, ran after him telling him, "That’s not how you play!"  He tackled him as he tried to tag him.  Zeph wasn’t far behind and he landed on top of the other two.  Ezra and Henry came up behind.  I pulled them all apart and suggested we play a “softer” game, i.e., Ring Around the Rosie.  On the second round, Zeph came up while I went down and I ended up with one humongous black eye.

Atlas and Levin

Levin - 5 years old.  Levin hums and sings to himself non-stop.  One day he hummed “Whistle While You Work” for an hour and a half as he played with Legos.  It reminds me of Grandpa Payne, Calvin's dad, who always hummed or whistled.  It's so pleasant to hear.  I always know where he is.

Levin has endless energy and a sensitive heart.  He also sets the pace.  When we went swimming in the canal, he was the first to jump in, the only one to duck his head and swim under the foot bridge and the one that was willing to explore the jungle weeds and look for alligators.  The little boys all look up to him and ask him to build them something with Legos.  He patiently builds them and then gives them back to him to play with.  He and Henry both patiently helped me to sort all of our legos by colors into little drawers (Cali's brilliant idea) so that they can more easily find parts and build real things instead of just miniature towers.

Levin will also eat anything.  He never fusses about food and makes meal time pleasant because he's always complimentary and willing.

It was also his idea to face paint the boys faces so they could be different characters in their games of pretend.  He loves imaginative play.

Levin pulling Ezra and Atlas in the wagon to get another load of sticks
Zeph pushing the wheelbarrow

Atlas putting the school supplies on the conveyor belt at WalMart

Several mornings we worked outside raking and hauling branches and leaves to the burn pile.  I told the boys that some people in the world didn’t have homes anymore because mean people had taken them away.  I explained the people either had to leave their countries or be killed so they went to live in other countries.  We talked about how they didn’t have clothes or food, color crayons, paper, or even a backpack so they could go to school and learn.  I suggested that we earn money to help the people.

After we worked, Grandpa paid us money out of his change can on the top of his dresser.  On the last day, we went to WalMart and bought supplies.  I took the boys in twos.  They picked out crayons, paints, a lunchbox, glue, pencils, rulers, Kleenexes, and a backpack.  The boys handed the cashier their dimes and quarters (we got the same cashier each time) and told her, "These are for the poor people.  The bad men took their houses and they don’t have any money and can’t go to school.”

It was a great little activity.  I was proud of them.  I want to do a service activity with them every year.

Atlas, Zeph, Levin, and Henry watching a movie  (Hazel and Winnie are in their beds)

Calvin took Grace, Ande, and Cali out to dinner one night while I stayed home with the kids.   

I wanted to whisper to Calvin before they left, "Have meaningful conversation while you're gone. You only have so many uninterrupted opportunities with the girls," but I forgot.

A few hours later, after most of the kids were asleep, Calvin and the girls came in the door laughing and lighthearted.  Their conversations had not been meaningful -- Calvin picked the topic -- but it had rejuvenated and bound them all even more tightly together.  And that is but one reason, sometimes you just need to leave the mom home!   

me, Atlas, Hazel, Winnie, Henry

At times it was utter chaos as 5 little boys and two little girl babies cried to have their needs met.   But in the middle of all that bedlam, there were such sweet little moments:

~little boys riding their scooters so fast and fearlessly outside on the cement.  I never tired of watching them or ceased to be amazed, and grateful, that they didn’t crash or maim each other

~swimming in the canal and watching the boys get braver and braver in the cold water and then lie in the sand to warm up

~watching the little girls lying on the blanket in the grass mesmerized by the sunshine coming through the fluttering leaves overhead

~rocking, rocking, and rocking each grandchild -- sometimes through the night, sometimes in the early morning, sometimes in the evening

~reading scriptures and having family night with such enthusiastic learners

When the chaos would get really chaotic, you could find Cali sitting in a lawn chair at the corner of the house where she could keep tabs on the kids and crocheting wildly, or find Grace hidden back in the family room folding piles and piles of laundry. We each had to find a zen place at some point in the day.

Walking the Plank:  Zeph, Aunt Melanie, Levin, and Atlas

Ray’s sisters, Tracy and Melanie put on a pirate party for the kids – complete with jagged-edged pants, striped shirts, bandannas, pirate tattoos, eye patches, telescopes, keys, earrings, sashes, swords, weapons.  It was just the best.  They turned the jeep into the pirate ship, walked the plank, bombed the bad pirates with water balloons, hunted for treasure, popped bubbles with swords, pinned the eye-patch on the pirate, and ate cheese/crackers/meat/ and blue jello with gummy fish and octopi.  Tracy wore a red velvet wench dress and Melanie carried a stuffed parrot around on her shoulder.  It was an incredible party.  Such love and fun those two women gave  not only to their nephews, but all of us and it was greatly appreciated.  


We had plenty of both and they were needed to build the trust and companionship and influence that we wanted.

Hazel, Grace, Winnie, Ande, Cali, Tracy, Melanie, Zoe, Abby, Emily, Hannah, Jenny, Donna

Cali organized a Family and Friends-that-are-like-family retreat in Snohomish.  We had a wonderful, wonderful time.  It was restorative and healing, energizing and fulfilling.  Some of the highlights of that retreat were:

1.     Favorite things swap.  Each woman brought three copies of their favorite thing.  For example, Jenny brought 3 wooden boxes she’d made.  Then we drew names out of a bowl and got 3 items from different people in the room.  It was so fun to learn from each other about ourselves and go home with some new items to enjoy.

2.    The meaningful conversation.  We took turns preparing the meals.  We sat and ate as a group and answered a question such as:  high light and low light of the year, or a place you’d like to travel to.

3.    Watching the women share and learn from each other.  There was a lot of giving and taking advice/helping each other with projects or babies/listening to stories and events from each other’s lives.

4.    Working on projects and spending time being creative.

While the women were at the retreat, Calvin, Ray, and Abe cared for Zeph, Levin, Atlas, Henry and Ezra.  They were incredible and if we had pictures of their activities they would be of Calvin, Ray, Zeph, Atlas, and Levin at the Ellensburg Fair, and Abe, Henry, Ezra, and my great-nephew Austin touring Fort Lewis and learning about Army life.  These men gave us a wonderful gift to socialize and create and rest.

Ezra, Henry, Atlas, Levin and Zeph


Each morning for the week that all of the kids were here together, I planned a different activity.  The first morning was in the sand pile.  It’s big enough, and we had enough small trucks, they could play without much incident (except sand throwing – that always seems to happen).  Levin suggested they play Construction and that I be the boss.  I said I didn’t want to be the boss, so he suggested I be the master instead and they would be the slaves (they had been reading about Joseph in Egypt in their family scripture study).  I said that was worse and that I would rather be the boss.  I was hired.

I asked what a boss did and he said I should fire them if they didn’t do things right.  A little later Atlas did something he shouldn’t so I said, “Atlas, you’re FIRED!”  He did not like being fired.  He was good and mad.  We made him sit on the ground until we counted to 10 and then he could join the work crew again. Later in the day, and even throughout the week, when Atlas would be guilty of something he'd say, “Don’t fire me, ‘k Grandma?”

He did get fired a few more times, but sitting and counting to 10 always seemed to fix the little problems I was in charge of solving.


Our home is modest - 3 bedrooms and 1 1/2 bathrooms.  Our yard is immense.  In the summer a tent makes up for the lack of bedrooms.  I was amazed at the kids' lack of fear.  Zeph would go out to the tent by himself in the dark with a flashlight, climb into bed and read.  Perhaps equally amazing was that we could send Zeph and Atlas out to bed together and they wouldn't goof off, but would read books by flashlight and then go to sleep.  Cali and I would join them later.

The tent was warm . . . and breezy . . . and a great place to build memories and have some good conversations.  


I'll let you imagine the amount of laundry we had!  Luckily, we have good laundresses in the family and they stayed on top of it.


There was one big hole in our summer and that was Ty, Michelle, Afton, Eliza, and Kathryn weren't here.  They had lots of exciting things happening in Michelle's family (a wedding, a missionary homecoming, and two family reunions) and their time and travel funds were exhausted, but we definitely missed them and it felt vacant without them.

Clockwise:  Zeph, Levin, Atlas, Ezra

Inside this huddle is a bucket of wooly worms -- for 10 minutes a bucket of wooly worms is better than any video game.

Ezra checking on the pigs.

Chickens, pigs, steers, cats, Dan (the dog), Ezra, Zeph, Hazel, Henry, Winnie, Atlas, and Levin.  They all got along famously and entertained each other.

Joe and Ezra

Joe was able to join Ande and the kids the last week they were here.  Ezra would not leave his side. 

While Joe was here, he saw many of our tomatoes rotting on the vine in the garden.  He took it upon himself to pick, roast, and cook those tomatoes down into a wonderful pasta/pizza/marinara sauce. He made 4 large batches which means close to 70 quarts.  Not only is the sauce very, very good and sweet with the taste of garden fresh tomatoes, but his kindness makes it even sweeter.  Every time I see it on the shelf or cook with it, I smile remembering his work in our behalf.


Joseph Carl IV or Zeph - 4 years old.  He laughs easily and quickly.  He also argues or tells you something exciting with a stutter.   He is anybody's best friend and accomplice.  He taught Levin how to play Captain Hook in the orchard, helped Atlas learn to go to the tent by himself in the dark, and helped Henry conquer the scooter.  He can talk the hind-leg off a mule and it usually involves him trying to convince you why his idea is the way to do things.  It makes me and Calvin laugh to hear him.  We raised one just like him.  Since he's gone home, we find ourselves repeating Zeph-isms like: "I know, I know, I know, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry," and "Hey, I got a great idea; how 'bout you just say 'Sure!'"

Zeph likes companionship and gets lonely without it, he also likes to do chores.  Having a happy little buddy help cut and core apples, do the dishes, or feed the pigs was satisfying.  His book of choice was Go Dog Go and meal of choice noodles-n-broth.  Zeph liked familiarity and after being here a few weeks, he had wormed his way into familiarity with everyone.

It was a wonderful month of summer and family.