Sunday, September 2, 2012

52 Blessings - Well, Really 26 Blessings . . . Summer Recap Z - A

When my grandmother was a little girl, her mother handed her a plate with the letters of the alphabet printed around the edges and told her to go outside and memorize them. So my grandma did. First she memorized Z then learned Y, next she moved to X. Around the plate she went until she had memorized the alphabet all the way to A. She was quite proud of herself and went back in the kitchen to tell her mother what she had learned. Her mother was exasperated when she heard Grandma recite the alphabet backwards and sent her back outside telling her, "Turn the plate the other way and learn them again." Grandma used to sing us the alphabet song backwards with as much ease as we did forwards. In honor of Grandma, here is a review of summer’s highlights from Z to A.


I plant zinnias in the garden every year because they are such a bright spot amongst all the peppers, potato vines, and squash. They also take no effort. You pick them when you want and you leave them on the stem when you don’t want. This year I planted some striped as well as green zinnias with the regular seeds. I’m glad I did, they’re a plus.

One day two friends (both excellent decorators) stopped by and when they saw a bouquet of zinnias in the middle of the kitchen table asked where I got them. It was quite satisfying to say, “Ohhhh, you know, the garden.”

You want to wash your car?”

I went to the Honda dealership where they have a free car vacuum. I had just finished vacuuming our car when a young man approached me and said, “You want to wash your car?”

I smiled, tilted my head, raised my eyebrows and said, “I already did. Can’t you tell?”

He smiled slowly and said, “I think it could use another one. I’ll get you a token and you can wash it for free.”

I like free vacuums and nice kids very much.


Our summer began clear across the country in Maryland.  We flew back to meet Afton and spend time with Michelle and Ty over the Memorial Day holiday.  My favorite part of the whole trip (besides holding Afton) was watching Michelle sing to Afton to calm her down (it usually only took one verse) and Ty being a dad.   Another perk was happy ice at Rita's.   What a great way to kick off the summer.

Week of babysitting.


Levin was our happy little sidekick for one of the last weeks of summer while Ray and Cali were gone on a business trip.

One afternoon I picked some cucumbers from the garden and put them in the wagon with Levin to haul to the pigs. Like Hansel and Gretel, he dropped them out of the wagon behind us as I pulled him along. When we got to the pig pen and I found them missing we turned around and went back to pick them up. When we got back to the pig pen they were gone again. We were a good team.

It was such a fun week.  Ray met us half way and took us out to dinner when our week was over.  It was so fun to see Levin's reaction to seeing his dad again.

Virtual Reality.

Calvin, Abe

Skyping, texting, e-mailing, talking on the phone to the kids . . . well, in the words of Clint Eastwood, it just makes my day. (I even have a voice message of Abe saved so that I can replay it every now and then and hear his voice, and we were late to church last week because he could skype.)

Unexpected visit from Rachel.

Rachel, me

One of the ways I keep from being sad when Rachel and I part is to focus on the next time we'll see each other.  As long as I know there is something in the future (even if it's a year away), it makes the leaving easier.  It's always been that way, so about a day before it's time I'll say, "Now when will we see each other again?"  And when we don't have any concrete events ahead,  Rachel says something like, "Well, so-and-so might get married" or "Well, maybe there will be a funeral or something."  Sometimes I chime in with, "Or maybe we'll get free tickets somehow."   What a bonus when Rachel came out this summer AND IT WASN'T EVEN ON THE RADAR.  Last March when we parted I said something like, "Well, if Mitt Romney wins we'll hope for cheap tickets and go to the inauguration together."  (Yeah, she's willing to humor me; it beats banking on a funeral.)


Michelle texts us a picture of Afton daily. Like Pavlov’s dog, I get incredibly excited when I hear the ding.


I’m happy to report the steers have not escaped since the opening debacle. Not once. Every day they come running when they see us walk towards the pasture, never mind I’m going to feed the chickens not visiting them. They hope (kind of like me hoping for free tickets) that I’ll give them another scoop of grain, or corn husks, or an old cob of corn. Every time I see the flies crawling all over them I think how lucky I am to have hands to shoo them away and use a flyswatter.


The night before school started Calvin went in with me to set up the classroom. While I was running around organizing things, he wrote this message on the back whiteboard then pulled the top whiteboard over it so I wouldn’t see it until during class. The kids collectively sighed when I pulled the board back.

And then, one night while we were camping my feet hurt. Really hurt. They felt like I was walking barefoot on marbles even when I wasn’t walking at all. They were dusty and dirty, too. Calvin was sitting on my cot and offered to rub them. Whoa. He’s never offered that even when they are fresh out of the shower. He sat and rubbed them over and over. 

I fairly swooned.


Calvin, Levin  (kind of reminds me of that scene Michelangelo painted)

Sometimes I have wished that our lives were broken down in living-quadrants so that we could experience lots of different ways of life. 

The hustle of working in a big city sounds appealing. Temporarily. 

The sturdy life of a pioneer woman is enticing. Temporarily.

Traveling as a statesman sounds stimulating. Temporarily. 

But life as I live it is good too.  It's a simple life. A life where I wake up just before the sun does and might not see or talk to another soul until Calvin comes back home from work.  It's a life where we water the lawn with a hose and feed apples that drop to the pigs. It's a life where the little things are big things and the big things are little things.  It's a quiet life.  It's a good life and, since most of us don't have living-quadrants, I'm glad a simple life is the one we chose.  


Summer must be over for the pigs are nearly ready to butcher. They have gotten fat off of milk, corn, and mutant garden vegetables. If they are what they eat, then their meat will have a hint of cucumber, squash, melons, and apples. 

On-line classes.

I've spent a lot of time in the computer chair this summer counting syllables, practicing meters and poetic feet, creating iambic tetrameters and trochaic trimeters.

But mostly all I came up with were works like this:

Her hair like fur
Her feet like paws
For sure, for sure
That’d be my ma.

I think my teacher hoped for greater things.


We enjoyed watching bits of the Olympics and the National Republican Convention this summer. While I enjoyed the keynote addresses of Mitt and Ann Romney very much, my favorite visual was when the Romney and Ryan families joined the candidates on stage after the speeches. One little boy looked a wee bit stage struck when he saw all the people, and then a single balloon caught his eye and he forgot all about the people and chased it. It was an innocent gesture in a million dollar gala affair. And then one of the little granddaughters wrapped her arms around her Grandma Romney’s legs, just like little children do, tucking the dress between Ann's legs.  I've never seen better reality TV.


One of my summer goals was to record several memories in our family books. This summer Cali, my niece Haley, and I spent four days scrapbooking with friends and I got a lot done on that goal.

Ty made this job even more fun because he wrote down several memories a few years ago,  so all I had to do was find a picture to go with them.  (I'm excited to share this simple scrapbooking idea in a few months when it is more complete.)

Lightning storms.

This summer we got more lightening storms than normal.  Since our house wasn't in danger and we had no crops to lose, Calvin and I rocked carefree on the patio and listened to the thunder and watched the rain and hail.


Afton and Ty at a Page Family Reunion

The kids had busy summers as well.  Ray and Cali continued to make home and yard improvements.  Grace ran an a 1/2 marathon and Abe and Grace celebrated their third anniversary in a deployment (that makes two of three they've had to celebrate individually).  Ty and Michelle traveled North, South, and West to be with friends and family.  Joe and Ande traveled hither and yon to the four corners of the earth for fun and business.  Hearing about their work and life experiences is like living them.  I love hearing about life in their worlds.  


me, Afton

Leviticus 25:10 And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubile unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.

My birthday was definitely a summer’s highlight. All those years of family scripture study at the breakfast table paid off.  The kids followed Moses’ law to the letter and certainly hallowed my fiftieth year and even returned to our family. What a grand, grand, grand time.  I'm still humbled and so very happy that they did that for me.


Ty, me, Rachel, Ande, Calvin

Friends, that is more than glistening on our arms and faces. That is sweat: s.m.e.l.l.y. s.w.e.a.t.

One evening, early in the summer, Calvin said, "Jane, I need to talk to you about something serious, really serious."

His tone made everything get squished and hot inside. I braced for the worst and he said, "I went ahead and bought that Insanity workout system off Ebay and I'm going to need your help to be able to do it."

My mind mimicked a heart-beat, "Ugga. Whew. Ugga. Whew. Ugga. Whew."

"Ugga, this sounds terrible."

"Whew, this serious talk was a breeze."

" Ugga, I dread this.  Who knew jogging sounded so good."

"Whew, I'm so glad he really wants to improve his blood sugars."

For the last three months we have jumped and thudded in our family room five or six days a week. Calvin is bound and determined to earn that Insanity t-shirt.  


I haven’t talked to anybody that has had a good tomato year. It makes those few that are finally ripe taste even better. But where the tomatoes have lacked, the berries have not. It’s been a bumper year for raspberries and blackberries. 

It is easy to eat green – most everything just minutes old – this time of year.   It's hard to beat summer foods.  

George Washington.

I read some great books this summer, one was Being George Washington.  I admire President Washington for many of his character traits

Strong sense of duty
Unique ability to rally and enthuse people
A peacemaker

Other things I learned 
  • George Washington had a penchant for ice cream. He spent the modern equivalency of $5,000 on ice cream one summer. Now that's passion.
  • You've heard how many of the revolutionary soldiers didn’t have shoes (especially during the winter at Valley Forge) and left trails of blood-prints in the snow, but even those who did have boots wore boots that were universal – made for the right or the left foot. Sometimes my pampered self wonders at my ignorance.
  • George Washington suffered many illnesses through his childhood and young adulthood. Those diseases prepared him to be a commander as they not only gave him empathy and compassion for his men, but they also gave him immunity so that he could freely interact with them.  God moves in a mysterious way.


Levin, Cali

We are so lucky to have the Folletts and Joe and Ande relatively near.  Tomorrow we are meeting up with them to go to the Ellensburg fair and rodeo to close out the summer.  (I'll update this portion with another picture and recap tomorrow.)


Junior and Calvin

"Catch the Vision" Aaronic Priesthood Encampment 2012.  

The camp used over 30,000 gallons of water that first day for dust control and we cooked nearly 1000 pounds of meat during the week.  It was a week of quantity.

Days off.

Much as I am grateful for a good, purposeful job I love being home day after day after day in the summer.  



When I was a student at BYU-Hawaii, Mom sent me a box of 144 Idaho Spud candy bars (give or take a dozen).  Do you remember how hungry you were as a freshman?  I do.  I was very hungry, all the time.  I shared the Idaho Spuds, but I think they're an acquired taste for they weren't that popular.  At first I told myself no more than one candy bar a day.  Then I upped it to two.  Finally I said positively, absolutely, no more than seven a day.

When my sister Chris comes to visit she still brings me a brown bag of Idaho Spuds.

Last summer Ande found a recipe for Idaho Spud Cupcakes and made them for my birthday.  Last week I requested she make them again.    The batch made 24, so I suggested we give a few away as there were only three of us.  She said, "Mom, that's only eight a piece."  Oh.  Point taken.  I shared three of them - Calvin's.

The recipe comes from the Your Cup of Cake blog.  Here is the frosting recipe:

Marshmallow Topping:
1 jar mashmallow cream
½ cup butter
1 ¾ cup powdered sugar
4 ounces cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa

Cream the  ingredients together well and pipe onto cupcakes.  Roll in toasted coconut.

They really are good.  And just like I associate caramel with Fall apples, turtles with Christmas, and wienerlangders with Valentine's Day, now Idaho Spud Cupcakes go with summer.


Grace, Calvin

Leavenworth is 100 miles from here and is a Disneyland version of a Bavarian village.  They have wonderful brats and street musicians dressed in short-overalls playing horns and accordions.

Grace and Calvin both love gas station hot-dogs.  They will even call each other on the phone and report when they find a good one.  I'm a fair-weather hot-dog fan, but I have had two memorable ones:  one was in Washington D.C. three years ago and one was in Leavenworth this summer.

Annie Get Your Gun.

me, Grace

Leavenworth also has three outdoor theaters.  For several years I have wanted to go to Leavenworth to a play.  Finally, this year Calvin, Grace, and I went.  We saw Annie Get Your Gun and it was very entertaining, and while I hate one-upping in real life, my favorite scene was when Annie and Bart sang “I can better than you.”

What a great summer.


Watson Family said...

How I love your posts and pictures, your glorious quadrant, and beautiful life experiences! Compared to my own, you are living the Anne of Green Gables/ Little House on the Prairie dream that I read about and longed to experience in my youth and childhood, and beyond. Thank you for sharing your world, faith, and family, and lessons learned that strengthen and bring joy to faraway friends through your blog... truly!

Jill said...

I'm always amazed and your A,B,C posts! What is your process when making these? It seems like it would take forever!

You've had a great summer and your family is so wonderful. I love Zinnias and wish I had planted some.

Cassidy said...

I think my favorite line was "I fairly swooned." hahaa. love it. I'm glad you had such a good summer! I love you!

michelle said...

Oh I love this post! I love zinnias and am planning to plant a whole lot more next year.

I hate parting from my sister as well and we play the same game of figuring out when we can see each other again.

I love that Michelle texts you a picture a day. Great idea!

I believe I would swoon if Marc ever rubbed my feet.

I can't believe you've been doing insanity! I have been tempted by that infomercial, but I honestly don't know that I could do it.

I don't care for Idaho spuds, but those cupcakes sound pretty great.

What a wonderful summer!

melanie said...

Oh my goodness, I laughed out loud. Seven 'souds' a day. Oh to be in college again.

You've made zinnias sound easy enough to grow I might give them a go next year. I love their vibrant colors.

I still smile at your birthday surprise. You have one amazing family. Love Rachael's visit that wasn't even on the radar.

Great post!

Becky said...

What a treat to read after my weekend of camping!

When I read your posts I long to be a good gardener (I'm not) and I even pretend that I love fresh veggies (I don't but I do love fresh fruit).

Yeah for a happy summer! Here's to a fabulous fall :)

Mommar said...

Such a fun seeing all you guys are doing!

Could and would you email me all the kids updated addresses.

Tell that big brother of mine "good for you" for doing that work out! Makes my running and exercise seem lame....and tell him to grow some hair back on that head. Seriously!

Miss and love you all, Charlotte

Melinda said...

Those flowers are so beautiful! I. Going to try planting them next year.

You have had such a fun summer! This was a really great post to read.

Rachel said...

How fun. This makes me feel not as bad for not keeping up on my blog reading this summer. You got me all caught up on yours! I miss your family and can't wait to see some of you next week!

Deidra said...

I feel like I should take notes so I remember all I wanted to say. (Have I said that before on these types of posts?)

I can't believe how big Levin is. How fun to get to spend so much time together.

I'm so grateful for technology. From texts to video chatting, it sure helps in making those long distances seem not quite as long.

Knowing when I will see my family again is the only way I can bear it. I have to have something to look forward to.

I miss life in the country, with big patches of grass, fields and big gardens. Oh, I had it good growing up.

Amie said...

I love your blog. I should come by more. It makes me feel like there are good things going on in the world.

Ande said...

I enjoyed reading this very, very much. What a great summer.

Grace said...

I enjoyed this, too! I'm so glad I got to be apart of your summer. I love you!

jenny said...

Loved every word of this post! Looks like a very busy yet successful summer!