Monday, January 30, 2012

Monday Memories – Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

P.D. Eastman’s book “The Best Nest” was given to us as a baby shower gift. The kids could “read” it before they knew the alphabet. They even mimicked my tone. But one of the kids was not convinced our nest was best.

I remember the day she ran away. Cali wasn’t mad. She wasn’t even upset. She was just determined to find a better place to live. Aunt Lynn’s house seemed to be the answer.

My sister Lynn and her family lived about 150 yards away from us – past the loading ramp, the shop, and across the pasture and two cattle guards. Cali had been over playing with her cousins at Aunt Lynn’s house when she came home and made the announcement, “I’m running away. I’m going to live with Aunt Lynn now.” She was quite matter-of-fact about the whole experience. She generously offered, “You can be my aunt now, or my grandma. Whichever you want.”

I watched her pack her things. I explained that anything she left behind would no longer be considered hers, and may have even suggested she would need to pull the wagon. She seemed convinced that a few things would be all she’d need because Aunt Lynn had lots of everything. She packed her clothes in the striped diaper bag and that was it.

I watched her walk out the door. I went to the bedroom window and watched her little four year old frame walk past the tractors, plows, and water troughs. I called Lynn, 655-4280, and said, “Humor me. Cali wants to run away and come live with you. Please make it miserable for her.”

I waited all day for her to come home. I had plenty to keep me busy with the two little boys, Abe and Ty, but I was dejected and wanted her home. It was one long, sad day. Night came. Still no Cali. Lynn called once or twice during the day to give a report and say what stinky jobs she’d given her to do, but said Cali was happy and it didn’t look like she’d be returning anytime soon.

I wondered if my rationale for letting experience teach Cali the lesson would backfire on me. I wondered if Cali would think that whenever something else looked more enticing she could jump ship. I wondered if it would take two hours, two days, or two weeks for her to come back home. I wondered how to explain to Calvin that he was now Cali’s grandpa instead of her father.

Nearly twenty four hours later Lynn called and said Cali was on her way. I met her at the door as if she were one of the neighbor girls. I explained that if she came back home to live there would be no more running away, ever. Home was where she’d live; home is where she’d stay. Cali said that was her plan, and then put her things away and played with her brothers as if she’d never left.

A few years later Abe said he thought he might run away. Cali said, “Not me. I tried it once. It’s not worth it. Don’t do it Abe.” Abe took her word for it and stayed put. If Ty and Ande considered it, we never heard about it.

Interestingly, Cali lived at home the longest of all the kids.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

52 Blessings – Discipline

I remember one time my younger sister Janet came into the bathroom while Mom was combing my hair into ponytails. Janet said something like “I have candy” as she walked in front of me. I looked at her and said, “So.” Quick as not, Mom slapped my face and said, “We don’t say ‘so.’”

If there is one thing I am certain of, it is that Janet was being difficult. But if there is something else of which I’m more certain, it is that there is no room for contempt in a family – even when someone is being difficult. Seldom when we are disciplined are we all right or all wrong. Discipline is to train and make one better, not vilify or excuse. Children of all ages and sizes require and desire discipline. We never outgrow the need.

The other day I mentioned in my prayers a situation where I’d been wronged and wondered what to do about it. The discipline – the training – came today in a quote by President Thomas S. Monson:

“. . . charity – or ‘the pure love of Christ’ – (is) the opposite of criticism and judging.

“. . . charity manifests itself when we are tolerant of others and lenient toward their actions, the kind of charity that forgives, the kind of charity that is patient.

“. . . charity impels us to be sympathetic, compassionate, and merciful, not only in times of sickness and affliction and distress but also in times of weakness or error on the part of others.

“. . . charity gives attention to those who are unnoticed, hope to those who are discouraged, aid to those who are afflicted. True charity is love in action. The need for charity is everywhere.

“. . . charity is having patience with someone who has let us down. It is resisting the impulse to become offended easily. It is accepting weaknesses and shortcomings. It is accepting people as they truly are. It is resisting the impulse to categorize others.

“. . . Life is perfect for none of us. Rather than being judgmental and critical of each other, may we have the pure love of Christ for our fellow travelers in this journey through life. May we recognize that each one is doing her best to deal with the challenges which come her way, and may we strive to do our best to help out.” (“Charity Never Faileth,” Ensign, Nov. 2010, 124–25)

Oh. I get it. We still don’t say “so.” Same message. Same discipline. Just a different parent teaching it to me this time.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Life in Our World – Saturday Small Talk

·        The other day I couldn’t find my phone.  Anywhere.  I was going to be late so I left home without it.  When I returned home I asked Calvin if he would call it so I could find it.  It was up in the cupboard with the boxes of pudding.  Duh.  Who doesn’t think to look there?

·        Michelle had the great idea of us instituting a family temple day.  Three different dates are on the calendar this year and each family attends the temple nearest them on that day.  Though we all attend the temple regularly, by having a family temple day it will give us an opportunity to be unified in thought and purpose on that particular day even though we’re miles (or continents) apart.  January 21st was our first date scheduled.  Cali and Ray went to the Seattle temple, and Michelle and Ty went to the Washington D.C. temple.  Because the Denver temple would be closed on that day, Abe and Grace went the week before.  The roads were too icy for Joe and Ande (they were traveling) and Calvin and me to go on that day so we went this week.  Even though we couldn’t all make it on the same day this first time, I think this is a grand plan and am very glad we have these dates scheduled.  I hope to have family names to take to the temple by the next date.      

·        You know the dancing figures that hold signs on street corners that advertise businesses?  We have a dancing bottle of shampoo on one of our street corners.  If I didn’t have such a great hairstylist, I’d give their salon a try just for his efforts.  Yesterday Calvin and I saw three dancing Statues of Liberty selling Liberty Tax.  I wished the light would have stayed red longer.  They were the funniest things.  There was a plump lady liberty who waved her sign like a beauty contestant, and two wiry men liberties that could do tricks with their signs. 

·        We got the Crawford family’s annual Happy Groundhog’s Day letter in the mail yesterday.  (My friend Denise is studying Hebrew, can you imagine that for your New Year’s resolution?)  We expect the Schofield family’s Happy Valentine’s Day letter in the mail soon.  I just love getting these “Christmas” letters at other holidays and consider sending ours on another holiday each year after receiving theirs.

·        Calvin and I went to Costco together this week.  We needed to buy some industrial strength shelves.  Since it was going to be a big check anyway I said, “How about we both go back to the fruit and vegetable section and each make a choice – cost doesn’t matter?”  Calvin will play games like that.  I always eye the fruits that are out of season (like raspberries that are $9 a pound) and think how fun it would be to go home with them, then talk myself out of them by saying if I wait five more months they’ll be free in the backyard or remember that there are free ones in the freezer at home.  We didn’t stop at one choice; we came home with fresh blueberries, pears, mini-cucumbers, green beans, pomegranate arils . . . and oranges.  Calvin also picked up a couple of lobster tails for Valentine’s Day even though that was outside the vegetable bin boundary rule.

·        We brought those shelves home and put them together and organized the storage room.  Bringing order to chaos is a very satisfactory feeling.  The storage room doesn’t look like a grocery store, more like a Goodwill that sells foodstuffs, but it’s organized and I shall be content with that.

What dances on your street corners?
Do you covet fruits and vegetables at Costco?
What store does your storage room resemble?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Homemaking Tip – Easy Frame

Calvin, Ty, and Abe sporting "Celebration" and "Happily Ever After" pins

Today as I cleaned house I finally threw away our “Happily Ever After” and “Celebration” pins that we proudly wore at Disneyland.  I tried and tried to think of four people that were going to Disneyland that might want them, but I couldn't.  I put one on the bulletin board in my fort for memory and tossed the other three.  They hadn’t been in the trash an hour when my niece Charlie texted me, “Hey Aunt Jane, I LOVE you and want to wish you a magical day in the unmagical kingdom.”  Now what are the odds of that?

And speaking of LOVE, and Happily Ever After, and wedding photos. . .

Using an old window frame as a picture frame is not a new idea, but it is one of the easiest.  You just need pictures, an old window frame, and some double sided tape.  That's it.  No matting, no measuring, and no broken fingernails from prying staples off the back -- just your pictures and a window frame.    

Sunday, January 22, 2012

52 Blessings – The Club of Clubs

Yesterday, I wrote a random question in an e-mail asking Michelle, Ande, Grace, and Cali, “Any of you ever belong to a club growing up? A club you organized?”

Michelle answered, “My brother and I started a ‘bravery club’ when we were kids. Our neighbor's mom didn't like it because you had to ride down the hill on a skateboard, face first on your belly to be in the club. Needless to say, it didn't last.

Ande replied, “I wanted very badly to be in the Lisa Frank fan club...alas it was $13. I didn't join.”

Grace wrote, “I wanted to be in the Lisa Frank club, too! But never got to. I was part of the American Girl club though and remember reading the magazines and being so excited to see what paper dolls I would get. I still have a bunch of the paper dolls. I always wanted an American Girl doll, but never got one because they were way too expensive.”

Cali said, “I got a kick out of the Bravery Club... ha ha ha.

“Grace, I remember the American Girl's club and wanted to be a member... but didn't. My friend Nikki would show me her paper dolls though.

“Ande, I bet our neighbor Leigh was a member of the Lisa Frank club.

“I was in the Baby Sitter's Club when I was in second grade. There were 4 of us. Weekly dues were $.10 and we never got a babysitting job... not a very good club.”

I had one very short stint as club member.  One of the sixth grade girls invited a few of us first grade kids to be in her club.  I should have been suspicious from the invite, why wasn’t she out playing with the other six grade girls?  We were supposed to meet at noon in the school library.  I attended a country school and our library was half the size of a bedroom – with no librarian, but after lunch four or five of us met at the library.  First thing Joanie said we had to do to be in her club was to go behind the bookcase and kiss the boy she sent in to us.  We scattered.  There was no second meeting.

Each week I wonder which blessing for which to publicly express appreciation.  There are literally thousands of choices – from the air I breathe to the carbon dioxide I exhale.  But, all of that casual talk on clubs yesterday reminded me of a blessing that I’m very grateful for this week:  my membership in Relief Society.  Relief Society is the women’s organization in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and it is the club of women’s clubs.  But, it’s more than some club, it’s an organization that is open to all with its purpose to build personal righteousness, strengthen our families and homes, and provide relief to others.  I looked forward to the time I would be old enough to join it, and have been grateful for my membership every year since then. 

Relief Society could be called a club of bravery.  One of our responsibilities as members of the Relief Society is to go visiting teaching each month.  Members are assigned fellow “sisters” to watch over, care for, and include.  One of the women I was once assigned to visit teach was Lorie.  No one had met Lorie though she’d lived in our area for several years.  I was assigned to make contact with her, invite her to come back to church, and be her friend regardless of whether or not she wanted to join us at church.   The first month I went to Lorie’s house and was greeted by her dogs.  Big dogs.  Dogs that barked.  Dogs that lunged at the fence trying to break it down.  Dogs that gnashed their teeth.  Dogs that loved Lorie and didn’t mind eating you alive.  Lorie didn’t answer the door that first month, nor the second, nor the third, nor the fourth.  After that startling first month of being greeted by her dogs, I thereafter pulled in to Lorie’s driveway as carefully as I could, quietly opened the car door, and ran as fast as I could to her front door.  I’d hang an ice cream bucket full of treats on the doorknob as well as a message for the month, then run back, jump in the car, and slam the door while I waited to see if Lorie would answer the door.  Each month I had two goals:  one, that Lorie would open the door and two, not to get eaten by her dogs.  Both goals were met.  Lorie did finally open the door and we became fast friends, even her dogs became my friends.  Five hundred miles later and we’re still good friends.

One thing Relief Society isn’t is an American girls' club.  It is a club of women all over the world.  I have a friend serving a mission in Africa and she writes about the work they’re doing in Relief Society and it’s just like what we’re doing in Moses Lake.  If I attended a Relief Society anywhere in the world, I would find women who, just like me, are trying to improve their personal righteousness, and strengthen their family and home while caring for others.  Women of all races, ages, languages, sizes, and circumstances belong in one organization and because our core desire and purpose are the same, it is a very efficient one-size-fits-all organization.

I’ve gained skills in homemaking, teaching, and life from Relief Society.  I’ve gained friendship, fellowship, love, education, and care from Relief Society.  I have gained a better perspective about my roles in life through Relief Society.  It’s been a grand blessing. 

Relief Society General Presidency (l-r)
Silvia Allred (1st Counselor)
Julie Beck (President)
Barbara Thomspon (2nd Counselor

Friday, January 20, 2012

Life in Our World – Snow Day

Yesterday I went to a class on education. Though I’ve read this statement before, it was stated again in the class that: “Children primarily look to their mothers for guidance and to their fathers for acceptance.” I’ve thought about that statement quite a bit. As of 2010, 40% of all births are out of wedlock. Where, oh where, will nearly half of the nation's children look for and find acceptance. I didn't know how important a good dad was, I really didn't, when I was dating and preparing to get married. I feel so blessed that Calvin is such a good father. I feel like I dodged a bullet. A really dangerous bullet.

Calvin came near the end of the class to see me. It had been snowing all afternoon so he scraped the car windows while it was in the parking lot and started it so it would be warm when I was finished.  It was such a kind gesture.  Then he took us out to supper. We picked up the movie Courageous and came home and watched it. The only thing better than a date on Friday night is a date on Thursday night because school is going to be cancelled.

So today was a snow day. Truth be told, I was a bit sad it was today of all days. I know, I know, “As a rule, man’s a fool. When it’s hot he wants it cool. When it’s cool he wants it hot, always wanting what it’s not.”

In an attempt to make the most of it (and really, can you help but have fun on a snow day even if it isn’t on the day you wanted?), I have had a grand day:

First thing I did was go on a walk in the snow.  It was deep enough in some places to go inside my boots and was hard breaking through the drifts in all places.  I was wishing I’d worn two jackets instead of three a quarter mile into it.  But, the silence really was golden.  I could hear the train blow its whistle three miles away.  I only hear it on days when the snow muffles the other sounds (like worms, flowers, wheat, and grass busting through the dirt [hmmm.  I wonder if those things really do make sounds when they come up for air.  I suppose with a billion in the chorus they must, but I’d never thought about it until now], weeds wheezing in the wind [which I think sound just like a woman in nylons with healthy thighs walking by], crickets, frogs, and dogs.  And then there are fewer noisy things on the road like trucks and cars when it’s snowy, and no tractors or combines in the fields, either).

Calvin called this afternoon and asked me to make a pot of stew for the families he home teaches.  He asked if I would use his recipe and the blue pot.  (I think that is another funny difference between men and women – nine times out of ten women will complain at what they’ve just cooked when they sit down to eat with others, while ten times out of ten men will heartily compliment themselves on what they just cooked to the whole table.  Have you noticed that?  I’ve been observing it for quite some time now, so I think it can safely be considered a fact.)  I asked Calvin to tell me his recipe again even though I knew for sure and for certain that it is the same one I use, and indeed his directions matched mine.  Nonetheless, I have a kettle of Calvin’s Stew on the stove waiting for him to deliver.

Miracle Multi-Grain Bread

I’ve wanted to try a multi-grain bread recipe that I saw on a blog, but when I read the complicated directions I knew I wouldn’t be trying their version soon.  Instead, I made substitutions to the Miracle Bread recipe:

Miracle Multi-Grain Bread
5 cups of 9 grain cereal
2 ½ cups of white flour
2 ½ cups of wheat flour
3 rounded Tbsp saf-instant yeast
1/3 cup sugar
3 Tbsp sunflower seeds
1 ½ Tbsp salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup apple sauce
3 + cups hot water

Mix the first six ingredients together.  Add oil, apple sauce and hot water all at once.  Mix (knead) for 10 minutes.  Shape into loaves.  Put in greased loaf pan.  Spray the loaf with cooking spray and sprinkle oats on top.  Let rise 25 minutes.  Bake in 350 degree oven for 25-35 minutes or until done. 

I like it.  I really like it.  Granted, I like fibrous things like whole grains, nuts, and celery, and those who don’t like lots of texture may not find it as good as I do.

Payne's Peanut Pieces

I also made cookies.  Remember the snack bags Ande put together for us when we went to Disneyland?  She put big bags of peanuts and cashews in them.  She was so generous, we didn't get them all eaten on our trip.  I wanted to use them before they went stale and this is a great recipe for using lots of peanuts.  If you like salted nut rolls you will really like these.

Payne's Peanut Pieces
4 cups salted peanuts
3 Tbsp butter
2 cups peanut butter chips
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups miniature marshmallows

Lightly spray 11 x 7 x 2 inch baking pan with cooking spray.  Spread 2 cups of peanuts in the bottom of the pan.  Melt butter in saucepan on the stove.  Add peanut butter chips and stir until melted.  Add sweetened condensed milk and marshmallows.  Stir constantly until marshmallows are melted.  Pour over peanuts in pan.  Sprinkle remaining 2 cups of peanuts over the filling, press lightly.  Cool in refrigerator and cut.  

I had great plans to start another college class today, but the FedEx man still hasn’t been able to get the textbooks here.  (Guess I’ll have to take a snow day.   Nothing like making do.)

And that’s our week (heavy in parentheses).  

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Homemaking Tip – 25¢ Projects

Mother Nature went into labor all right.  I don’t know that she’s birthing anything iconic (but I thought each and every one of our kids was incredibly historic when they were born, so maybe she does too).  We had school today, but no mutual tonight.  

Here are a few projects I finished up today.  Each one cost less than 25¢ and are made from things you have on hand -- paper, dirt, string.  I thought you might appreciate the ideas:

Wraxing Paper

Remember when we used to shave crayons onto a sheet of waxed paper, and then cover it with another sheet of waxed paper, then iron the two sheets together and pretend they were stained glass windows?  Martha Stewart remembers and she suggested instead of crayon shavings that we cut shapes from tissue paper and put them in between the waxed paper instead.   It makes darling wrapping paper for baked goods. 

Here’s how to make wraxing paper:

  1. Lay a long sheet of paper towels on your cupboard or ironing board.
  2. Place a piece of waxed paper on top of the paper towel.
  3. Put tissue paper cutouts on top of the waxed paper, then place another piece of waxed paper on top.
  4. Place a long sheet of paper towels on top of the sandwiched waxed paper.
  5. With iron on low heat, fuse the papers together. 

Spring Fever

Another project was to cover empty tin cans with free vintage labels from or scraps of scrapbooking paper.  

A week ago I filled the cans with leftover soil (from a re-potting project) and put a paperwhite bulb in each.  (You can see the green spears starting to peek through on two of them.)  Today I glued the paper on the outsides of the cans then tied them with baker’s twine.

These free pots look great in the kitchen windowsill and will be a fun valentine to give next month.  

Medicine Cabinet

Several weeks ago I painted the inside of an old bee box and glued (mod-podged) scrapbook paper to the back of it.  I left the outside of the box as is – peeling paint with an old metal band around it.  Calvin hung the box on the wall as a shelf in the bathroom.  Old canning jars filled with Epsom salt, swabs, cotton balls, and band-aids, are on the bottom shelf while washcloths and a plant are on the top.  Today’s project was to simply add the apothecary tags to the jars and “ladies must wear bloomers” sign to the top shelf – all courtesy of freebies. 

And now it's time to go fix supper.  Calvin smoked a pork loin as Canadian bacon a few days ago so we'll have a few slices of it, and we have a pan of scalloped potatoes in the freezer from Christmas dinner.  What are you having?  "What's for dinner?" is one of my favorite conversation topics.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tuesday – Ready or Not

The mother of all storms is supposed to come in tonight:  “Enormous.  Major.  Potentially historic,” says the weather channel.  The Seattle weathermen say they have 100% chance (that’s a funny oxymoron isn’t it) of snow.  They don't get snow very often and, what with the narrow, hilly streets that have outlawed salt, it shuts the city down when they do.

I keep my expectations low on what forecasters say – I don’t fault them, I’ve watched the sky for years and can’t predict the clouds either – but just in case they’re right I ran a mental checklist for the snowbound this afternoon:  wood, a charged flashlight, candles, water, food.  Check, check, check, check, check.  Oh, and a good book or a project.  Check, check.  I’m ready; I'm hopeful.   

Monday, January 16, 2012

Monday Memories – Tangled

Chewbacca and Ande

Joe sent this picture with the caption "Sunday nap" to the family yesterday.  Abe responded:  “Where does her hair end and the dog begin?”

Ande called and we laughed about the picture and the comment. She has taken a lot of ribbing on her hair through the years; I think because she has had so much more than the rest of us (at least ‘til Grace joined the family).  Ande is good natured about the teasing (now there’s an unintended pun for you).  The first time Ray saw her fresh out of bed he cried, “Medusa!” and froze in a curled position.  A few years later Ande dressed as Medusa for Halloween with Joe as the gray, stone man.

Ty used to call her the-hair-with-the-girl-attached, and Calvin, a bit envious he was losing his hair at the rate she was gaining hers, begged her to wear it natural – meaning lots of fluff and frizz. He still begs her and she still gives him an emphatic, “No.”

But one of my favorite stories of Ande has nothing to do with hair. It has to do with salt, but I guess if you put Lot’s wife, who turned into a pillar of salt, and Medusa’s victims in the same story you could draw a corollary there.

Ande loved play-dough. She had been begging to make some for several days, but each time I successfully distracted her. One morning in yet another attempt to avoid making play-dough, I said we’d make some right after her chores, knowing full-well we were low on salt, probably too low, which would mean yet one more day I didn’t have to make play-dough. But, I wouldn’t tell her no, the absence of salt would tell her. Ande hurried and did her morning chores and then I sent her to the storage room in the basement to look for salt. She was gone a very, very long time. She slowly came back upstairs and into the kitchen and sadly said, “No salt. I guess we can’t make it.”

While she was searching in the basement, I had a change of heart. I felt guilty I’d kept putting her off. I felt badly I’d sent her on a goose-chase to find the no-salt that was not in the basement. I thought if we emptied all the salt shakers in the house we could come up with enough salt for one batch of play-dough. I decided when she finally came up from the basement I’d tell her so.

After Ande came back into the kitchen so disappointed and said we wouldn’t be able to make play-dough because she couldn’t find salt, I explained emptying the salt shakers. She sat up on the counter and quickly got to work. Pretty soon she said, “When I was downstairs looking for the salt I said a prayer that I could find some.” She paused, “I looked and looked and looked, but there wasn’t any so I told Him it was okay, I knew He was too busy answering other peoples prayers today.”

I very undeservingly received a hug from her and said, “But He did answer your prayers! He reminded me of the salt shakers so that you could empty them and we’d have enough.”

Cliché as this is, the-hair-with-the-girl attached is beautiful inside and out, awake and asleep. And I’ve got lots of good memories of her, including the times I made up stories of Mr. Rat and Mr. Snarl (and their Mrs.' and the things they did and the things they ate at the party they had during her hair in the middle of the night) so that she would stand still as I brushed out her tangles every morning.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

52 Blessings – Muscle Memory

muscle memory: a movement that you have repeated several times that your muscles remember how to do independent of your conscious effort. An example of a muscle memory would be riding a bike, you could go fifty years without riding one but still remember how when you tried again.

One muscle memory I am grateful for is playing the organ. The organ requires the hands and feet to play in unison. The feet play the bass note while the hands play all the notes. I practiced hymns on the organ in high school over and over and over so as to be able to accompany our church congregation. Even now, thirty years later, when I play those same hymns my legs and feet remember where to go from the repetition of those younger days. (And that is a very good thing, because every now and then I’ll be playing a hymn with people singing and my mind says, “How do you know how to do this? How do you your hands and feet know what to play next?” And when that terrible thought enters it causes a little glitch [the muscles like to be trusted you see], but then my hands and feet go right on to the next note and the one after that until my brain catches up and quits questioning them.

It’s a marvelous system of learning that muscle memory is. I’m so glad God thought of it.

What's a muscle memory you're glad to have?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Life in Our World – The Week


one of the girls wasn't wearing make-up so I promised to just show their hands

Some of our young women came here Wednesday night to learn how to bake bread.  They're all getting ready to go to college next year and cooking is a big concern for them.  Desperation can make for an eager student.  Shelly, our young women’s president, has already taught them how to make cinnamon rolls, caramel, and pizza and they still want to learn more.

This week we made Miracle Bread (the bread that takes an hour from start to finish).  I gave them five homemaking tips while we baked:

  1. Learn how to bake bread.  It improves the value of your home.  No lie.  I remember one appraiser told me, “I’m appraising your house higher than I should because of what I feel when I’m in your home.”   Baking bread.  It’s subtle, but it works.
  2. Eat supper together.  It has amazing effects on a family.  When you’re figuring out what to cook, think of topics you can discuss at the table.  (Setting a Table is an article I wrote on that topic.) 
  3. Set the table when you start to cook breakfast or dinner.  If the family sees the table is set they think food will soon follow and it’ll buy you time to get dinner on the table.
  4. Keep cookies in the cookie jar.  A full cookie jar is the most magical appliance in the kitchen.  If the cookie jar is full no one complains if dinner isn’t ready or if dinner is bad; if the cookie jar is full company feels like you were expecting them.
  5. If you can only keep two rooms clean in your house at a time, try the kitchen and bathroom.  The rest of the house will seem much, much cleaner than it is if those two rooms are really clean.
I love making a home.  I really do.  I don’t love all the tasks, but I do love the effects of having those tasks done.  That result motivates me to work at the tasks and try to get better at them.  It felt good to "pass it on" to the next generation of homemakers, just like others passed it on to me.


12 on 12 of ’12 – the rest of the story. You know how I post pictures once a month of what our family is doing on a given day?  Well, what you haven’t known or appreciated is the hyperventilating that has gone on behind the project.  Abe and Grace did it first.  They sent photos that were not . . . were not . . . well, they just weren’t what I was expecting.  They acted like those two photos were their submission for the month and didn’t say anything.  I was sick I hadn’t set more clear and definite boundaries when I enlisted everyone’s participation, and didn’t know how to tell them I wouldn't be posting them.  A few hours later another e-mail came in from them with two more pictures and that’s when I knew the joke was on me.  

It happened again this month.  This time it was Ray.  He sent his picture with the caption, “Not sure what kind of photos you were looking for. I'll scrounge a few and send a couple your way - if you insist...”  Oh gee.  I didn’t even open it bigger than the thumbnail size because it . . . because it . . . well, because it looked like it was one of those pictures where you don’t push back, you don’t push refresh, you just KILL the computer switch.  And then Ray sent another one and it said, “Guess who and what this is.”  Once again I was really wishing I had set more clear and definite boundaries, creativity and honesty be hanged.  I didn’t know what to do.  I try to be cognizant that Ray and Joe don't like their pictures posted on the blog much as it is, but here was Ray participating with great enthusiasm and I was going to have to squelch it.

After fretting and wondering for several hours about what exactly to say to Ray when he saw his pictures didn't make the post,  Cali called laughing and said, “Did you guess what Ray's picture was?”  Indeed I had made the obvious guess.  She said, "Nooooo, it's Ray's elbow.  We both got to laughing as he took the picture and wondered what you'd do with his elbow crease."   

Well I'll be, gutter mind and all.  Who knew that so many parts of our body resembled other parts?  

I can't believe I fell for it twice.


Calvin bought a few cords of wood this week and the man dumped it across the driveway.  We stack a little each night until it gets too dark.  One night as we were stacking and talking we decided that we ought to go see the kids in Seattle this weekend while they still live so close.    

Calvin, Ande, Cali

Ande and Joe had given Calvin “a dining experience” for his birthday in November and so Friday night they took us to a tapas-style restaurant to redeem it.  Ray, Cali, and Levin also joined us.  Oh my.  The dining experience was beautiful, and fun, and good.  We had things I’d never had before – like octopi sitting on little roasted red potatoes and duck liver.  We also had venison, pork, fish, and several different vegetable dishes that were presented in a way I’d never tasted.  I think we had ten or twelve dishes in all.  It was fun to see each new plate delivered and the garnish presentation.  The colors were so vivid and bright.  It kept the eating experience fresh the whole hour.  I’m excited to read Joe’s review of it on foodbibber – my guess is it’s going to get a “5.”

Calvin woke up this morning (Saturday) early and fried some bacon and sausage that he’d made for the kids.  After we ate, we unloaded the wood that we’d brought for Ray and Cali, played with Levin, and drove home while listening to a really good talk on tape.  We were only in Seattle a little over twelve hours, but it was well worth the drive and we had a great time.


Betty Lou (photo courtesy of Emily/Ken)

We didn’t stay in Seattle long because my friend Betty Lou was having her 90th birthday party and I didn’t want to miss it.  Betty Lou was my visiting teacher.  For months she faithfully came to visit.  Many times I was busy driving the kids to their lawn-mowing, weed-pulling, filing-insurance-claims jobs, and hard to catch at home.  Betty Lou told me, “You’re a hard dog to keep under the porch.” We’ve been good friends ever since.  

One of the things that I love about Betty Lou is that she is a great story-teller and laughs easily.  It's very fun to visit with her.  We have discussions about all kinds of things -- politics, the brain, the community, voting, our experiences, faith.  I remember one time she told me, "Let go and let God." It was timely advice.

A few years ago after a major health set-back, she had to go to a nursing home for several months.  It was plain depressing; however Betty Lou was always upbeat when I stopped to see her.  Once she said, “I just pretend this place is a spa – they feed me, they bathe me, they exercise me.  I just keep telling myself it’s my spa experience in life.”  Now that is an imagination, because Betty Lou is not only a lady she’s a well-traveled lady, and knows what a spa should be.  

Betty Lou is also very generous.  She's been very kind to our kids as well as me, in gifts as well as kindness.  One time I hurt an older woman’s feelings in the ward by referring to her as an older woman.  Betty Lou smoothed everything over.  The older woman brought me a peace rose from her garden to apologize for being mad at me (and I wasn’t even aware of it until she brought the rose!).  

Betty Lou has given me some great examples on how to be a grandmother.  Both her granddaughters and grandsons remember her spending lots of time with them.  One granddaughter liked to play Cinderella.  She liked to be the wicked step-mother and tell Betty Lou (Cinderella) to do the chores.  Cinderella did just what the wicked step-mother said to do.  Betty Lou has lots of beautiful things in her home and when someone asked her how she never got upset when the grandchildren broke things she said, "Because they're grandchildren.  That's the difference."  

We've been lucky to have Betty Lou and her family in our world.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

12 on 12 of January '12

Ande -- Today I was in charge of Levin and Chewie. I had aspirations of teaching them to both roll over. Alas,
my dreams were dashed when one vomited five times and the other whined from teething pains. I'll let you
guess who did what. Levin and Chewie did learn to share however. You might notice Chewie's bone in Levin's
mouth. That wasn't planned for the picture--I didn't even notice until after the picture was taken.
Who knows what else they shared...  (Cali, let me know if Levin gets fleas.)

Joe -- dog proofing the house

Michelle -- The mouse (or mice) has taken to the poison and I am happy about it!

Ty -- I went to Pennsylvania to look for hardwood to make a cradle with.

Ty and Michelle -- We decided after three months without catching a mouse, that we needed to try making our own traps.  We hate this mouse (or mice)!

Abe -- Went out to dinner at Red Robin with our friends, the Heaps.

Grace -- super happy now that I have a new phone! 

Jane -- attended a Relief Society meeting on journaling, blogging, scrapbooking, and story-telling.
These friends sat by me and completely understood when I said I needed a picture.
Back Row:  Barbra, Viki, Betty, Donna, Lisa, Brianne, Josh
Front Row:  Sandra, me

Calvin -- bacon brigade.  He loves being his very own taste tester.   

Ray -- the drop-off

Cali -- the pick-up

The woodpile that Calvin and I are moving and stacking one log at a time.  

Thursday Thinking: "You Say Good-bye, I Say Hello."

I say hello.

You say good-bye

That sound bite is what popped into my head this morning when I saw the bright-spot-of-the-day sun in the same sky as the bright-spot-of-the-night moon.  One was coming in the front door while the other went out the back, and it was very cool standing in the middle of the house as they said their hellos and good-byes.    

Sound Bites – bits of songs or speeches that sum up the message like “you say good-bye, and I say hello” – are popular in the news right now.  The presidential primaries are full of them.  Good sound bites (that are accurate and in context) are as Mark Twain said:  “a minimum of sound to a maximum of sense.”  A good sound bite can feed you a long time.  Here are two other sound bites that I’ve been thinking about lately:

Look up, not over.   

I have a hard time making comments or asking questions during question and answer sessions, discussions, or classes.  If you give me a pulpit and ask me to say something I can deliver, but for me to ask for the pulpit (or airspace) is a hard one and I always second guess my comments after I do. 

For example, once a month we have a testimony meeting at church where members of the congregation stand (free-will) and testify of their convictions to the other members.  Whereas I stand in front of people every day and teach gospel principles, and whereas I’m not embarrassed of what I believe, you wouldn’t think sharing my testimony in church would be difficult, but it is.  It’s that thing of asking for the pulpit and supposing my thoughts and words are important enough to interrupt your thoughts and ideas and take your time.

“Look up, not over.”  I read that concept by Carl Cook this week and realized that sometimes I look in the wrong direction for validation and that fear prevents me from doing what I should do.  I need to look up to see if what I do and say is what the Lord wants, not sideways to see if I have the nod of approval.

Forget yourself and go to work.

One day during Christmas break I didn’t feel well.  I wasn’t terrible sick, just medium sick.  After I knew lack of sleep wasn’t the problem, the blip “Forget yourself and go to work” played, and then, “you’ll feel better when you do” followed.  I did and I did. 

This is an oft-quipped sound bite because Gordon B. Hinckley used it and its truth resonated.  You’d think hearing it once would be enough, but that sound bite is stuck on repeat in my head.  And that's a good thing. 

Any sound bites you’ve been thinking of?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Homemaking Tip – Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen, Infinity?

Last year I asked the family to participate in an 11 on 11 of '11 project with me.  Each month on the eleventh we took a picture to document our day and then I posted them on the blog.  It was fun each month to anticipate where or what we'd see each family doing.  I especially enjoyed reading the captions.  

I compiled the photos and captions into an album for each family.  I chose 8 1/2 x 11 inch layouts so they would be easy to add to each month, and scrapbooked them very simply with just a few embellishments.  

While I enjoyed the blog project each month very much, I had doubts about the albums as I compiled them.  As I worked on them I wasn't sure they were worth the time, effort, or money -- that is until they were finished and I gave them to each family at Christmas time.  They enjoyed seeing the year in review and I was glad I'd done them.  It really is as I'm always telling Ande, "Don't judge a project until you've finished it.  It almost always has an ugly phase where you want to chuck it.  Finish it before you throw it away."

I downloaded "I Love Us" from for the cover.  Click here for your free copy.

The opening page was an overview of the year.

This is an example of a monthly layout.  Simple.

In September/October, I asked the men in the family to take a picture of themselves going to General Priesthood meeting and the women to take a picture of themselves going to the General Relief Society meeting.  They also sent their notes
as to what they had appreciated in the meetings.  The pictures and notes were included in the book as well as the family appreciations everyone wrote at Christmas.

I'm not positive how many years we'll continue this project, but I do know that everyone voted to do it again this year. Twelve on Twelve of Twelve.  I'm excited to see what rolls in tomorrow.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Monday Memories – Dolls

Yes, yes.  I know I've posted this picture before, but it's not like I have more than a dozen to choose from.
Grandma Erma.  Me.  Judy (doll).  Grandma Julia.

Just before Christmas I went to a fun ornament/bingo/Christmas sweater party.  We introduced ourselves by telling a favorite gift and tradition, and it reminded me . . .

Dolls.  I loved when I got a new doll for Christmas.  But by Christmas night I was exhausted from taking care of her – what with all the crying and feeding and burping and rocking, and if you happened to get a doll that wet she was constantly leaking which made for lots of diaper changing and line drying and making diapers from washcloths.  My dolls just never slept long either so by Christmas night I was begging anyone to hold her so I could have a break.  I took her care very seriously, so seriously in fact that after a day or two I just couldn’t do it anymore and put her away in the back of the closet so I wouldn’t feel guilty – I couldn’t leave her on the bed or she would see me and feel left out, or she might roll off and break an arm, or get caught in plastic and suffocate, or see that my sister was playing with her doll and wonder why her mother never came and got her to play, or . . . or . . . or . . .   

For this very reason I avoided child development classes in high school when I saw the students carrying around a little sack of flour in a blanket.  Though I was a good ten years older, I knew I was no better prepared to handle the pressure of a making a flour sack happy than I had been of a doll.  When I finally took child development I was in college and the bag of flour had been replaced with a fresh egg – more fragile and realistic they said.  That egg ‘bout did me in.  I padded a nest from cotton in a l’eggs nylon container to keep her safe, but everyone knows that you can’t leave a baby on the side of a pool unattended or it will drown, so I had to swim with that egg tied to my ankle bobbing along behind me as well as sleep and eat with it.  I was so glad when that week was over.  I never did attach to her.    

You can imagine my great relief to discover that being a mother to real people was not at all like tending eggs and dolls.  People told me they weren't the same, but I was still very relieved to know it for myself.  Children make wonderful memories.  Being a mother is where so many, many of my happy memories reside.

How about you?  What was a favorite gift of yours?
Did you tote a bag of flour?      

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Life in Our World

Every now and then Murphy gets it right and the wrong thing happens.  Every now and then Murphy gets it wrong and the right thing happens.

Last week Calvin and Ty found a couple of stray pit bulls by the chicken coop.  The coop door was wide open and only one chicken was left perched on the roost.  I expected to find a feather bath out in the pasture.  Ty and I herded what chickens we could find back into the coop while Calvin shooed the dogs far, far away.  After everything we could find was back in the coop I took a count.  Only two roosters were missing, and I've been trying to give three roosters away for the last three months to any one that would take them.  Those dogs have the ears of a rat.

 Dates are kind of like hot pink, you seem to either love them or hate them.  Dates remind me Great Aunt Rose and Grandma Erma.  They seem like a fruit for older tastes.  I love dates, and while we haven’t had them for years and years, Joe brought some for Christmas and a student brought some from California.  I made date pinwheel cookies since Calvin likes them and have been trying to think of people who might have date tastes, because there is no way Calvin can eat them all.  Still thinking . . .

Our scouts pressed fresh apple juice.  Calvin said he’d buy 25 gallons to support their cause.  The bishop and his son just dropped them off and Calvin is gone watching the wrestling tournament.  Where oh where do you store 25 gallons of fresh apple juice?

Anyone up for a date pinwheel cookies and apple juice party?   I'll give away a rooster as a door prize.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Thursday Thinking – Life Before Google

This morning I was away from home and couldn't remember where to find a specific quote.  My fingers itched for a computer.  

What did we do before Google? 

Hmmmmm.  Well,  if I remember right, I think we . . .

. . . called on the phone to see if someone could remember ever reading or hearing the quote we were looking for, and consequently had much higher phone bills.

. . . walked to our neighbors and knocked on the door to get a recipe if the phone line was busy.

. . . went to Relief Society homemaking day to find the new and latest craft idea.

. . . bought cute things at Christmas bazaars so that we could go home and copy the pattern and teach it at the next Relief Society homemaking day.

. . . couldn’t wait for the daily mail because there was often a personal letter.

. . . we used encyclopedias that were twenty years old for current research papers.

. . . mentally saved up all our malady questions and asked the doctor the next time one of the kids got sick (or we asked a sister to ask the doctor the next time one of her kids got sick).

. . . traced lots of pictures from books and coloring books. 

. . . bought cookbooks.

What else did we do before Google?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Homemaking Tip – Ramekins

I have a friend with incredible home décor skills.  If she were a bird, her nest would not be made of globs of mud and old gray sticks, her nest would be made of mud droplets, lined with feathers (clean ones of course), nicely colored and even length twigs, soft grass clippings, and maybe a strand of tinsel or two for sparkle.  Her nest would be situated perfectly in the tree where the leaves shaded it, but didn’t leave it cold.  She has a real gift in decorating and I love to visit her home and bask in it and get ideas from her.

I’m a minimalist.  My nest would be tidy and well-swept, but it wouldn’t have the glitter of tinsel or the softness of freshly gathered feathers; however I would love it and be very happy in my spot in the tree.

Which brings me to the subject of ramekins. 

I have found they are worth the space to store them.  They fit both kinds of nests – tinseled or simple. 

A few years ago I was making crème brulee, so I bought a few and borrowed some others.  Since then I have bought even more and encouraged others to buy them as well.  They make a meal look attractive.  They’re perfect for baking individual pies and desserts.  A simple pasta, fruit, or vegetable salad look so attractive when served in a ramekin.  Even bottled fruit looks prettier.  A side-dish of macaroni and cheese or scalloped potatoes or a main course like pot pies or casseroles fancy up a meal when served in a ramekin.  Another perk of ramekins is you can proportion the food so you can cook the right amount without having lots of leftovers.  

Our $tore has them in red, blue, yellow.  I've seen them in fall colors as well, and then there's always good ol' white.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Tuesday Tell All

Thank heavens we have 26 letters in our alphabet. It’s just the right number for me to memorize and manipulate. It also is the right amount for summing up favorite things of our last few weeks. Here’s to alphabets . . . and favorite things blog posts.

As a preface, we (Calvin, me, Abe, Grace, Ty, Michelle, Ande, and Joe) gathered in Disneyland before Christmas to celebrate Ande’s college graduation, and then we (Calvin, me, Ty, Michelle, Ande, and Joe) came home to celebrate Christmas, and then we (Calvin, me, Ty, and Michelle) went to Seattle to celebrate New Years with Ande, Joe, Ray, Cali, and Levin. These memories are in no particular order, they're just some favorites. Thanks to Joe and Ande for most of the pictures.


Airports. Five days before Christmas most of our family met at Disneyland (California) to celebrate Ande’s graduation from college. Ty, Michelle, Calvin, and I spent several hours in the airport on Christmas Eve awaiting our flight home. This card table made of suitcases worked perfectly to pass the hours.

While awaiting one flight I saw a soldier sitting by his mother, both were very sad. I went and talked to them and they both cried. The young man was deploying to Afghanistan and he was scared and so was his mom. I gave him a big hug and told him I was proud of him and was grateful he’d take care of us. He smiled real big and I was glad I was brave enough to talk to them. Later, somebody on our flight gave him a first class seat and he showed a bit of excitement. A little thank you seems to go a long way when someone is sad.


Birthday. Ande’s birthday was the first day we were at Disneyland. She wore her birthday badge proudly and the barbershop quartet sang to her. One of the things I love about Ande is that she is happy. She is fun to be with because she not only feels the magic – of family, of Christmas, of birthdays, of Disneyland – she helps spread it.


Christmas gifts. Like Chewbacca, the puppy Ande gave Joe for Christmas. Joe has wanted one forever, but it took Ande several months to come around to the idea. It was a big surprise to Joe. A BIG surprise. Michelle cried when she opened the gift she received from Ty – a free piano from Craigslist and music to go with it. Michelle is a wonderful pianist, but hasn’t been able to play since they moved East – her soul needs music.

This year for Christmas each family gave three of their favorite things to each other family. What a great gift exchange it was. Here are some of the ideas:

Ray and Cali keep a hummingbird feeder filled out their kitchen window and Ray especially loves to see the hummingbirds feed, so they gave each of us a feeder to enjoy as well as an invitation to join his non-profit “Operation Feed Hummingbirds in the Winter” organization as well. They also gave us i-tunes gift cards so that we can download the This American Life podcast apps to our phones, because that is one of Cali’s favorite things to listen to while cleaning house and folding laundry.

Abe and Grace gave us each a Nalgene water bottle with the instructions to find a hike in our area and go on it because that is one of their favorite things to do. They also gave us a cd with 20 of their favorite songs.

Ty and Michelle gave everyone a wooden marble game like the one Grandpa Payne made for our family. Calvin and Ty spent several hours out in the shop making them and I am so happy I don’t have to chop ours up to fairly split it between them now. They have all wanted it. They also gave us a gift of time by sharing one of Michelle’s favorite family traditions – watching the Muppet’s Christmas Carol and eating ice cream together.

Joe and Ande gave us each a recipe journal where they recorded two favorite recipes – onion rings and lasagna. They also gave us individualized gifts of meaningful pictures Joe took that Ande transferred to canvas through a new art technique. For example, the picture Joe took for Cali and Ray was one of boats down at the docks with the Seattle skyline in the background. It is to remind them of their Christmas sailing, their time in Seattle, and their love of water. The one for Abe and Grace was taken in the Philippines of their national flower; its daintiness reminded them of Clara, and the Philippines of Abe’s love for the people he served on his mission there. The picture for Ty and Michelle was taken in San Francisco, where they went on their honeymoon. The picture for Calvin and me was taken in Turkey of a famous painting of John the Baptist.

Calvin and I gave them a gift of meats that Calvin cured – bacon, Canadian bacon, and jerky. We also gave them a gift of a warming bag, chocolate covered nuts, and a book that we both enjoyed this year because curling up with a warm bag, candy, and reading a book is one of my favorite things to do.

We voted to keep this tradition another year. I’m glad gifts are a part of Christmas.


Disneyland. It’s magical. It really is. I have fond memories of going there as a child and now our children have fond memories as well. The girls and I were visiting with Ariel, the mermaid that grew legs. Ariel whispered to the little girl ahead of us, “You know sometimes when you see a big group of fish together? If you lean over the boat and say, ‘Where’s Flounder?’ they will all scatter and swim away to tell him that you’re looking for him. Try it. It happens every time.” Only magical places have clever answers like that and know what fish think.

My niece Charlie worked at Disneyworld last year and she said that her response when someone asked her “How many Mickey’s are there?” was “One. There is only one Mickey Mouse.” Sometimes they would say, “But I just saw him in Fantasyland and now he’s here.” And she would say, “No way! Do you know what Mickey just asked me a few minutes ago? He wondered how many of you there are in the park. He said, ‘I just saw that boy with the striped green shirt and glasses in Fantasyland and now he’s clear over here. How many of those little boys are in the park?” and I told him, “One, Mickey. There’s only one little boy like him. There’s only one of everyone.” Only magical places have clever answers like that and one Mickey.

Grace, Calvin, Abe

Exercise. We logged between 10-12 miles a day each day we were at Disneyland (you can get a third of a mile just weaving the lines). We were dogged tired every night . . . and sometimes during the day during the rides.

During the Christmas break Ty went jogging with me one morning. He said I jog faster than he thought; either I was showing off or his expectations were very low. Ande and I took Chewie on walks, too. I loved the chance to visit with the kids as we exercised.


Food. I like it. All of it. Our family has the tradition of each person picking their favorite food for our Christmas Eve meal. Even though it occasionally gets hectic, I enjoy everyone cooking their choice. Our Christmas meal is so easy now because they're all good cooks.  This year Calvin cooked prime rib, Joe made scalloped potatoes with a sweet crumb topping, Ande fried onion rings, I boiled corn, and Ty mixed a cheese ball. Now that everyone is older our meal is somewhat coordinated (someone might say “Has anyone chosen a side dish yet?” and then make his decision), whereas when the kids were little it was positively carnivorous. We also had pizza twice – once for Michelle and once for Abe. We never did eat Grace’s favorite food.

During the vacation the kids also cooked at other times.  Ty cooked Chinese food for Joe and Ande, Michelle cooked us one of hers/mine favorite recipes and they helped in the kitchen often.  I forgot how fast dishes can be done.



Games. During the holiday we played:

Rummikub (where have I been? I’d never played it before. It’s better than dominoes!)

Clue (we played by the official rules and hence, I lost. I knew there was a reason we changed the rules)

Hearts (I shot the moon once, but lost anyway. I hate it when I have to eat the queen and I ate her a lot)

Banana-grams (still not very good, but I do love it)

And . . .

Celestial Companions (a game Michelle’s sister gave her for Christmas – think The Newlywed Game with your host Baaaaaaa-bbbbbbb Eubanks.).

This picture of Abe sums up our Celestial Companions game.

We played CC one evening at the hotel while we were in California. One of the questions was “On a scale of one to ten rate your husband as a Casanova.” Three of us wives played it safe and said, “A ten. Definitely a ten.” One of us was honest and said, “A seven.” When her husband winced with the wound, she said sweetly, “It’s true if you think about it . . .” Wouldn’t you know that couple went on to win Celestial Companions? Their honesty thumped us in the long run; I’m sure there’s a moral in that story somewhere.

Abe and Grace

Happy. Last year Abe was in Iraq and Grace spent Christmas alone with me and Calvin. I couldn’t help but think what a happy time it was for both of them to be together this year rather than skyping. Last year Ande and Joe and Ty and Michelle were engaged, but very much single. I couldn’t help but think what a happy time it was for them to be married rather than dating. And when the kids are happy, it makes the dad and mom even happier.


Inside jokes. I’m only a fan when everyone that is hearing it is on the inside of it.  For good or ill, thanks to Ty, Michelle, and Joe this trip created several new ones for the Payne's.  Ice cream will never mean the same.

Ande Jane and Mama Jane

Jolly. Excited. Jubilant.

There was a girl from Pakistan that sat next to us on the submarine ride. She had no legs and was missing both of her hands, however it didn’t keep her from moving independently. She is a foreign exchange student and her host family had come from Oregon to show her California. The submarine ride was her first attraction, and she was so happy and excited as was her host family. Watching her enjoy this opportunity enhanced mine.


Kaput. The pipes in the pump house broke – completely went kaput – while we were gone to Disneyland. Why is it a favorite memory? Because when we got home at 12:45 Christmas morning, Calvin fixed them so we could have water on Christmas day. I told him it wasn’t a big deal and we could work around no water, but he said he’d rather fix them so that everyone could enjoy Christmas. The kids were asleep, so while he worked outside on the pipes I unpacked, did the laundry, and put Christmas breakfast in the oven on time bake. It was like old times. By the time we went to bed at 3:30 a.m. it looked like we’d been patiently waiting for Christmas all week. I am so glad Calvin is handy and usually has a solution.


Levin. This little boy grins from ear to ear and squeals when he sees you. He makes you feel like you are the most important thing to him on the planet. And then he does it to the next person and makes them feel just as important. He has the funniest squeal. It is high pitched and he does it when he gets really excited and intense and wants you to be happy with him.

Calvin kept worrying aloud about Ray, Cali, and Levin while they were on their trip abroad. He worried the sharks would eat Levin’s legs off as they dangled in the water. He worried the boat would capsize in a storm. Finally I said, “Calvin, my imagination has enough worries without adding yours. How about we both just keep our scary thoughts to ourselves until something happens?” It's a toss up as to who was more relieved when the Follett’s returned home safe and sound.


Music. One of my favorite things of Christmas is the music. I love to sing along. I love to listen. I love to swing my foot to the beat.

And while we don’t take pictures during our church meetings, one of my favorite memories of this Christmas was sitting on the church pew Christmas morning singing and listening to songs of the Savior with my family. It was just so very, very good. I wish every Christmas fell on Sunday.

Ray's arm

New Year. We rang it in at Ray and Cali’s. Ray said 2011 was his best year yet. I love his attitude. It really should be that way – every year should be better than the last if you live it right, circumstances notwithstanding.

Ty and Michelle

Opinions. One of the most rewarding things in the world is when your kids ask your opinion on a matter, or for advice. There is no one in the world who better knows your mistakes and imperfections than your kids, so to have them forgive you of your stupidities and acknowledge your successes by asking what you think or what you would do is very kind. The kids often ask for our advice on parenting, marriage, career paths, vehicles, politics, brands of mayonnaise, and matters of faith, and this trip was no exception. To hear them humbly ask and quietly listen is something Calvin and I don’t take lightly or for granted.

Calvin coming out of a partridge in a pear tree twirl.

Parts. As in Partridge in a Pear Tree. One of our Christmas traditions is to have a family night on Christmas Eve where everyone has a “part.” I love Christmas Eve family night. We decided to celebrate Christmas Eve on the 23rd so that Abe and Grace could be with us. Abe and Grace had us sing and do actions to the Twelve Days of Christmas for their part.

This year Joe and Ande mimed a scene, and Ty and Michelle taught us a dance. (Mind you this was all done in the confines of a motel room so Ande danced on the bed.) Mine and Calvin’s part was to share our 11 on 11 of ’11 photo project. I compiled each month’s photos into an album for each family which also included our family appreciations for the year. Traditionally, my Christmas Eve part is to have everyone sit in a circle with a piece of paper with their name on it. While we listen to instrumental music we write down the things we appreciate about the person whose name is on the top of the sheet and pass the papers every minute or two. But since Cali and Ray wouldn’t be with us and I knew we would be pressed for time, everyone wrote their appreciations ahead of time and sent them to me and I compiled them. What a great thing to be reminded of all the good traits that others appreciate us for. It is not only fun to hear them read, but to have a chance to let others know of our love for them.


Quid pro quo. There was a lot of give and take this Christmas. Like riding the merry-go-round. Michelle and I were going to ride it while we waited for everyone else to come off the roller coaster, but before I knew it they’d come back and jumped on with us. And even though there is no line at the merry-go-round you can’t fool me that was anyone’s first choice.

Before we went to Disneyland the kids were assigned the job of finding the best motel room – meaning price, cleanliness, and location. Several options came back, but when it came time to the final decision we started side-stepping so as not to step on toes. Ande wisely wrote to all of us: “Personally, I think every couple should send their vote between those two hotels and then we'll make reservations with the majority. Saying, ‘I don't care,’ is very thoughtful, but not helpful, so everyone has to make a real vote. I think it goes without saying that we are all willing to do what the group wants over what each of us necessarily wants as an individual, so make a vote and we'll make a final decision based on the group, knowing no one is feeling bad or disappointed or sad.”

I often thought of this comment – “I don’t care is thoughtful but not helpful” – and sometimes referred to it when I was in charge of seeing a decision was made. Everyone was willing to take one for the team or to step up and make a request throughout the entire holiday and it was great. As our family grows our dynamics are changing and it’s a big relief when the adjustments go smoothly.


Reading. Calvin started and finished Killing Lincoln on New Year’s Day. I’m still reading it.

During the vacation Ty was completely engrossed in the books Michelle gave him for Christmas. He’s a funny kid, he has amazing self-discipline and control . . . until he gets in a good book and then he can’t put it down. I love seeing a passion for good reading.


Shopping. Calvin and I gave each other a computer for Christmas. Buying a new computer before the old one is completely dead is a very grown-up thing for us to do. We are quite excited to have been so responsible and to not have lost one single file. Joe and Ty greatly helped us make our decision of which computer to buy. Ty rewarded Michelle and Ande with a smoothie for making it through the tedious, boring process.

It's a Small World

Thrills. Thrills like Tower of Terror. I should have guessed. The family told me Tower of Terror was like the Haunted Mansion and that not only would I like it, I would love it. It might even replace Small World and be my favorite they said. They also said it was supposed to be scary but that it really wasn’t; it just played with your mind a bit. Grace led the charge. And if I happened to question someone they would say, “Grace, tell Mom what it is like,” and she would pat my arm and say, “You’ll love it.” I believed her. Oh man. Oh man, oh man. I should not have. There is a reason the Tower of Terror ride is not called Small World. It was not touchy. It was not feely. It was scary. I could not have been happier than when it was over.

Cinderella's stepmother was a funny addition to the Disney Parade.


I was so grateful that our group was so unselfish. E.v.e.r.y.o.n.e. – even when they were tired or sore or blistered or hungry.

Michelle couldn’t go on any thrilling rides because she is pregnant. She patiently waited in line with us on the scary rides so she could be a part of the visiting, and then sat at the exit holding our coats, bags, and cameras until we finished.

After Soaring over California for four or five times I asked Abe his choice between two rides and he said, “Actually, once of Soaring was enough for me, but everyone else loves it so I didn’t say anything.” I would have never guessed it wasn’t his first choice. He also led out and walked ahead by himself so that we wouldn’t get stuck in a cluster and frustrated by indecision and the crowds.

Calvin went on every ride anyone suggested. It didn’t matter if it was the carrousel or the rollercoasters or the water rides. Actually he was the water rides proponent, but he was game for anything and everything the whole time even after his schematic nerve (that’s what he calls it) begged him to give it up.

Grace wore her Santa hat even though it messed her hair up because we asked her to. She also got excited for every little thing; she’s a paradox in that she calms through her excitement. Every group needs a Grace.

Ande’s enthusiasm energized everyone. She also made each of us a great big bag full of dried apples, fruit leather, nuts, and candy. Each bag was immense and so good. She also packed wet-wipes and hand sanitizer. Ty and Abe wore backpacks and happily toted everybody’s snacks, water, and sweaters every day all day and didn’t make you feel bad once when you asked to retrieve something or added something to the pile.

Joe was the photographer and happy to accommodate everyone as well as make great suggestions. He never hesitated to find the answers to our questions and knew how to navigate all things Disney. He even happily acted out the part of a bear in the Golden Horseshoe Saloon skit.

I was so grateful for everyone’s kind and unselfish attitude which made the trip not only possible, but fun. Everyone’s willingness to come and celebrate with Ande was appreciated.

Ande, Calvin, me

Vertigo. The kids laughed when Calvin requested this ride a second time, but they were happy to oblige. I made it once. It takes me awhile to recover from the dysfunction of the vestibular system in my inner ear after one loop. Calvin's ear seems to thrive on it and every other ride that makes you dizzy.

Ty, Michelle, Abe, Joe, Ande, Calvin

Waiting in line. At the end of our Disneyland trip we asked everyone what some of their favorite things were. The universal answer was “being together.” Oddly enough, I really enjoyed waiting in the lines. I loved them because of the conversations. Sometimes it was all of us talking together – like the time we waited at Soaring over California and discussed how often we argue as couples and how we handle disagreements. Sometimes it was conversations between two or a few – like the time at Toy Story Mania when Ty and Joe spent the entire time figuring out how to better their scores after Ande thoroughly thumped everyone in round one. It was great visiting and catching up no matter where we were. Waiting in line gave us the chance to really be together.

Michelle and Ty

X-hairs. Right after we finished this ride, Ty called, "Hey Dad! How come your glasses are still up on the top of your head?"  Calvin wondered why he took last place.

Whenever Ande saw Lotso, the mean and nasty bear in Toy Story III that
smells like strawberries, she stopped to smell him.  Joe surprised her
with one in her stocking on Christmas morning.

Yuletide season. Many mornings Calvin gave a little devotional. One of my favorites was on December 23rd, Joseph Smith’s birthday, when he read from the scriptures about Joseph Smith and then bore his testimony that he knew he was a prophet of God. I left the tree up longer than ever before this year. I only made peanut brittle and chocolate covered peanuts and cashews. We made four or five dozen tamales one afternoon and ate on a cheeseball for over a week. It’s been unseasonably warm. Truly twas a season to be jolly.

Grace, Michelle, Ande

Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay, 
My, oh my, what a wonderful day!
Plenty of sunshine, headin’ my way,
Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay!

Splash Mountain plays the story of Brer Rabbit looking for his laughing place, his happy place, as the boat floats through animations representing happy times. Right before the edge of the waterfall, there is a sign that says, “You can’t run away from trouble; there’s no place that far!”

The laughing place. The happy place. That is what home and family is intended to be:  a safe and happy place to help us withstand the troubles of life that we can't run away from. This Christmas reminded me of that again and again. It made me grateful for our family and families everywhere.  In the words of Tiny Tim, "God bless us every one."