Sunday, December 30, 2012

52 Blessings - A Good Habit

I have enough bad habits to make me really appreciate when I have a good one. One of my most rewarding habits is the daily reading of the scriptures. I started the habit when I was 12 or 14 years old and heard this story by Spencer W. Kimball:

“Let me tell you of one of the goals that I made when I was still but a lad. When I heard a Church leader from Salt Lake City tell us at conference that we should read the scriptures, and I recognized that I had never read the Bible, that very night at the conclusion of that very sermon I walked to my home a block away and climbed up in my little attic room in the top of the house and lighted a little coal-oil lamp that was on the little table, and I read the first chapters of Genesis. A year later I closed the Bible, having read every chapter in that big and glorious book.

“I found that this Bible that I was reading had in it 66 books, and then I was nearly dissuaded when I found that it had in it 1,189 chapters, and then I also found that it had 1,519 pages. It was formidable, but I knew if others did it that I could do it.

“I found that there were certain parts that were hard for a 14-year-old boy to understand. There were some pages that were not especially interesting to me, but when I had read the 66 books and 1,189 chapters and 1,519 pages, I had a glowing satisfaction that I had made a goal and that I had achieved it.

“Now I am not telling you this story to boast; I am merely using this as an example to say that if I could do it by coal-oil light, you can do it by electric light. I have always been glad I read the Bible from cover to cover.” (Ensign, May 1974, 88)

Like President Kimball there have been pages that weren’t always interesting or easy to understand, but “I have always been glad I read the Bible from cover to cover.”  Also like President Kimball, I don't share this to boast, but just to say that I'm really grateful for what the scriptures have provided to me through the years.  They continue to guide, correct, inspire, and comfort me, and provide a standard of truth against which to measure philosophies, teachings, governing’s, and ideas.

Here is a Mormon Message about William Tyndale, the man who translated the Bible into the English language, and the importance reading the scriptures. I especially liked this line in it, “our need for constant recourse to the scriptures is greater than in any previous time.”  I think people concerned about our day will agree with that.

I’m really grateful the Lord has helped me to cultivate this very useful habit which has the power to help me overcome my bad habits.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Life in Our World - Normal

The other day Calvin said, “Whoa, you've got to take Dan jogging again. He’s getting fat.” After we butchered the pigs a few months ago Dan stockpiled lard in lots of hiding places and it’s kept him fleshy all fall. For two years we've worried because he was so skinny, but the last several months I've been exercising in the morning with Calvin rather than jogging with Dan in the afternoons. Who knew my jogging pace could keep a dog so thin. Hardly seems fair. (Truth be told he probably runs four times as far and fast as I do chasing the birds and airplanes in the sky.) All this to say Dan and I have jogged again this week and it’s felt good to both of us to do the old normal routine.

In other normal news:

  • we've had snow in measurable amounts.  There is a giant snowball in the pasture (like big enough for a snowman's bottom).  I don't know who put it there.  Do steers roll snowballs?  You would think I would know about that before now if they do.

  • the calves are growing bigger.  It'll be time to butcher them in a few more months.

  • I filled the chicken boxes with fresh wood shavings 
  • I ironed and watched three episodes of Andy Griffith while I did it. I wonder if Opie’s real mother watches reruns like old family movies just to remember what a cute little boy he was. 
  • I have finally mastered homemade pizza – now that there are no longer kids to eat it and want it. It’s all about making the dough several hours early and heating the stone before baking it. 

  • I volunteered to do some learning activities for a group of youth who were spending the day reading the Book of Mormon. 

  • We went to wedding receptions this week.

Life is good. I like normal very much.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Thursday Thinking - A Quote to Think On

I spent thirty-five minutes looking for a new quote for our chalkboard this afternoon.   

Yes, yes, I love you Calvin is a very fine quote and could stay indefinitely.

No, no.  Calvin won't replace it if I just leave it.

No, I didn't just write it up there so as to look good before I took the picture.  It's been there a couple of weeks now.  

No, I'm not coyly trying to show off my old door with its wire baskets and chalkboard-made-from-a-cabinet-door.  

No, I'm not trying to blatantly show off that I obviously have a better camera now than before Christmas.

I have my scruples readers.  I have my scruples.  I really have been looking for a new quote for the week, but it seems when I'm looking all the good quotes I promise to remember hide.  

However, Abraham Lincoln rarely disappoints.  He has great one liners.  And since the movie Lincoln finally came to our theater this week and Calvin and I just got home from seeing it, I spent five more minutes this evening and found these to choose from:     
  1. I don't like that man. I must get to know him better.
  2. Any nation that does not honor its heroes will not long endure.
  3. I want it said of me by those who knew me best, that I always plucked a thistle and planted a flower where I thought a flower would grow.
  4. How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg.
  5. Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.
  6. My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.
  7. Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.
  8. No matter how much cats fight, there always seem to be plenty of kittens.
  9. Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right.
  10. The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.
  11. The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly.
  12. The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.
  13. What kills a skunk is the publicity it gives itself.
  14. When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That's my religion.
  15. When you have got an elephant by the hind legs and he is trying to run away, it's best to let him run.
  16. I will prepare and someday my chance will come.
  17. You cannot build character and courage by taking away a man's initiative and independence.
  18. You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.
  19. You have to do your own growing no matter how tall your grandfather was.

or I suppose I could always use this one:

"I generally don't trust quotes from the internet." — Abraham Lincoln

What would you write on your chalkboard for the week?   Any particular reason why?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Life in Our World - I'm the Grandma Now

We went to Seattle and stayed with Ray and Cali’s family for Christmas. It reminded me of my own grandparents coming to our house for Christmas when I was a little girl. Grandpa and Grandma Hoops only lived 30 miles away so Christmas Eve was the only night of the year they slept in our beds. It seemed like a very big deal. As we slept in the Follett’s bed I thought, “Hey. I’m the grandma now.  I think I'm supposed to come bearing fudge like Grandma Hoops.”

I like being the grandma and sleeping with the grandpa in the bed while the mom and dad fill the stockings and put the presents under the tree.

This is what the grandma in me saw this Christmas:

We went to the Follett's a day early as Ray was speaking in Church on Sunday. One of the things he said in his talk was, “Christmas is all about family, love, service, and Christ.”

That statement certainly hit the Follett Christmas celebration nail on the head.

Christmas is all about family . . .

Levin wore this hat e.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e. all. day. long.  It was pretty darn funny.

And just because Levin yells out, "Ho! Ho! Ho!" but still won't call Cali 'mom' doesn't mean it isn't about family.  As he laughed and played and squealed and ran from one person to the next, I wondered if a little boy could feel more loved than he.  

Since none of our children were spending Christmas Eve together this year, it was a mass texting ring throughout the day. It was just as Ma Bell said, “long distance is the next best thing to being there.” It was fun to get several pictures, texts, and videos of what everyone was doing because Christmas really is all about family.  

Afton enjoying the snow in Colorado

Christmas is all about love . . . 

Ray reading to Levin

Ray and Cali put a lot of time and effort  - which certainly spells love - into their Christmas traditions and celebrations to make things good for their family. 

They made this for Levin's Christmas present and he loves it!  They had noticed that Levin is fascinated with how things work (unscrewing nuts from fans, picking at locks, etc.), so they created a gift he would love and explore.  It was pretty hard to get him excited to open another present for a verrrrrrry long while after he found this.  Ray and Cali took an oil spill tray and reinforced it with plywood then attached hooks, gadgets, locks, lights, knobs, wheels, door jam springs, and switches.  Christmas really is all about love.

Christmas is all about service . . . 

Cali made gifts for their neighbors.  

playing Dreidel.  Cali cleaned every one of us out of our macaroni gelt.

Ray and Cali invited the missionaries over for a very fine Christmas Eve dinner of prime rib and shrimp (where we all toasted a favorite Christmas memory) and a special family home evening.  We sang carols, read Luke 2, and shared our thoughts on the Savior.  

Ray also took Levin and Calvin with him as he helped a man (who he didn’t know) haul his rabbit hutches to another residence because he needed help and  . . .  because Christmas really is all about service.

Christmas is all about Christ. 

Without Christ, Christmas could quickly become a gluttonous holiday filled with spending, ribbon, batteries, candy, butter, cheese, sugar, crackers, chocolate, drums, bells, and lights, but with Christ at its center it's a wonderful celebration of hope filled with love, service, and family.  

And that is what the grandma saw and enjoyed at the Follett's home this Christmas. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Life in Our World - Merry Christmas from the P.A.Y.N.E. family

P - Calvin and Jane still live in Moses Lake and serve in the Spanish Branch.

A - Ty, Michelle, and Afton live in Maryland and graduate this spring.  Afton has been
their best education.  They will move to Mississippi for pilot training in the summer.

Y - Abe and Grace just completed deployment number 2 to Afghanistan.
They will move to Georgia in April where Abe will take the captain's career course.

N - Joe and Ande live in Seattle.  Joe travels far and wide with his work.
They are expecting a baby in April!

E - Ray, Cali, and Levin live in Seattle and are expecting baby two in June.
Ray continues to travel extensively while Cali holds down their home . . .
and Levin.  He's a climber.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Thursday Thinking - This, That, and the Other

Every now and then I see glimpses of myself – love of homemaking and frugality – in the kids’ lives.   Like yesterday:

Abe texted and said, “What are you doing today?”

I plunked back: “cookies, candy, and caroling. how about you?”

“Making cookies, chocolate-dipped pretzels, wrapping gifts, tithing settlement, watching a movie, and just getting ready for Christmas.”

I called Cali and asked her what she was doing. She was making sugar cookies with royal icing. (I gave her my best sugar cookie tip just in case: “If yours don’t turn out as good as you had hoped, go to Safeway and buy theirs. They are $5 for 50 of them. Frost them with homemade frosting and then shake a few sprinkles on them and people will ask you for your recipe. No joke.”)

Ty texted and said he was at the airport making $90 an hour just for sitting. (He jumped on the chance to get a $450 flight voucher for taking a later flight.)

Ande wasn’t near the phone. She was growing a baby.

It's fun to have more than genes in common.


Calvin told me tonight what he got me for Christmas: a gun.
Perfect! I planned on getting him a camera.


One of the great benefits of my job is to celebrate life achievements with my students. It’s been an unexpected bonus and I appreciate it. Several stop by the building (or call) to tell me about their mission calls or new jobs, and there are always wedding invitations and baby announcements in the kitchen drawer. Last Saturday I attended the wedding of two students and was greeted by several others – one excitedly said he’d just joined the army and another had a scholarship for next fall.

One afternoon this week I’d been gone all day and had just come home, taken off my dress, nylons, and shoes and thought, “Shoot, it’s close enough to bedtime I think I’ll just put on my nightgown.” It was 4 o’clock after all. I changed and then remembered I hadn’t fed the chickens so I put holey sweat pants on underneath my blue floral nightgown and put on a pair of thick black socks and my fuzzy red coat. I got the chicken bucket out from under the sink and slipped on my brown Mary Jane Doc Martins in the garage and headed for the coop. In pulled a student (he wasn’t one of my official ones). It was so great to see him. He walked with me to the chicken coop and offered to slop through the mud to help gather the eggs, then he came back to the house and waited while I changed into respectable clothes. We sat and visited about books and life and then later he sent me one of his short stories. It was great to catch up with him and read his words.

The next morning a former student came in to join the last few minutes of class. Every year she brought me a little nativity and just a few days earlier I had thought, “Oh darn, I won’t get a nativity this year A. is gone.” But she didn’t forget. She had a little nativity in her hand and stayed after class and visited. She told me how her first few semesters of college had gone and what her hopes and goals were for the future. She looked terrific and it was so fun to catch up with her.

Today another former student brought me a big plate of several different kinds of cookies. She gave me a big hug and quickly told me what her plans are for the next few months. It was fun to hear her enthusiasm and see current students excited to see her again.

This afternoon I’ve been grading essays and daily scripture journals of several students in my night class.  A time or two I've felt like I should take off my shoes.  I have been on sacred ground as I read the things they know and feel concerning their challenges and opportunities, answers to prayers, doubts and concerns, questions and desires to know truth for themselves, and of their successes and lessons learned.

Some jobs you have to wait until you retire to get shares, but not this one.


Today I was thinking about the beautiful symbolism in the lighting of the menorah – one light lighting others one by one.  There is no darkness if there is even one little light. I can be one little light and one by one help others.  I can do that.  And while I'm mixing two religions here, it made me think about Jesus Christ being the Light of the world - the source of all light.

Friday, December 14, 2012

They Knew It

Recently I bought a book that I had heard three people say was a good, happy, enjoyable read.  I don't usually buy books, I wait for them to come in at the library or borrow them, but the words of the three convinced me it was worth buying.  They were right.

So it is with anything.  When three trusted people say the same thing it is much easier to believe that what they say is true.  A few years ago I sat on a jury.  It was a he-said-she-said case . . . until the witnesses began their testimonies.  Soon it was clear that he did do what he said he did and she didn't do what she said she did.  The law of witnesses exposed the truth.

The scriptures are full of witnesses who testify of the divinity of Jesus Christ.  Some were eyewitnesses and some were not.  Many of those who saw Him knew it from the beginning and continued to testify of Him until their death.  In the scriptural references below are the testimonies of those who were here at the time of the Savior.  Excepting Joseph and the wise men, their recorded words declare the Savior's divinity.  In the case of Joseph and the wise men, their actions speak for them.  They also knew that Jesus was the Son of God and Redeemer of the World.

Here are the King James Version references to those recorded testimonies:
(There are also Bible videos that depict several of these scriptures.  For personal study [and even teaching these to others] I especially appreciated reading the recorded testimony and then watching the corresponding video.  For the videos, go HERE and scroll through them [clicking show more again and again] until you find the ones you're looking for. )


1:42-45     Elizabeth
1:46-55     Mary
1:67-79     Zachariah
2:10-14     Angel
2:20          Shepherds
2:28-35     Simeon
2:37-38     Anna
3:4-6         John, the Baptist
3:22          Heavenly Father


2:13-23     Joseph
2:1-12       Wise men

I especially love what these witnesses did with their testimonies.  It wasn't enough to know, they shared them so that others could know as well.

Jesus Christ is the Son of God, our Savior and Redeemer.  I know it.  May I always live so that others may know it as well. 

Saved by a Newborn Infant

Several years ago I read a true story called, “Saved by a Newborn Infant.” It told of a Christian missionary couple and their five small children who were serving in the mountains and jungles of Africa. They lived in a beautiful, yet primitive area and were crowded into a tiny shack. Not long after they had been there, the mother discovered she was going to have another baby. Having children in Africa was hard with the poor food, threat of sickness and infection, contaminated water and lack of educational opportunities. The mother was resentful and said it did not seem fair that God was sending them another child when they already had so many small children and were trying to help the natives. She blamed God and wished He would take the baby from her.

But He didn’t and the time for the birth of the baby arrived and the mother, being weak and in poor health, knew she needed a doctor’s care. But there were none nearby and the couple had no one to leave their other five children with, so the father loaded the family into a car and drove them into a town where there was a good mission hospital. The family stayed there until after the baby was born.

The mother said, “When we returned to our house with the new baby we learned that in the short days we had been gone the dreaded Mau Mau had come. They had murdered every white person in the entire area. Had we been home we would have all been killed. This little darling was sent by God to save all our lives. Never again shall I rebel against His ways for our lives.”

“This little darling was sent by God to save all our lives” could easily have been thought by the shepherds, Mary, Joseph, Simeon, the wise men from the East, Anna -- whoever saw the infant Jesus and recognized Him. As we look on our nativities, hear the songs of the season, read the account of the Savior’s birth in Luke, and begin our countdown ‘till Christmas we humbly remember that we too were “Saved by a Newborn Infant.”

Here’s a short nativity program to use with your family, friends, or Sunday school class.  Our family has used it many times and though only a few in our family are blessed with rich voices, we all enjoy singing the familiar songs and it doesn’t affect the quality one bit.

Sing the first two verses of “Oh Come, All Ye Faithful”

·         Read Matthew 1: 18-23

·         Sing the third verse of “Oh Come, All Ye Faithful”

·         Read Luke 2:1-7

·         Sing one verse of “O Little Town of Bethlehem”

·         Read Luke 2:8-14

·         Sing the first two verses of “Far, Far Away on Judea’s Plains”* or “The First Noel”

·         Read Luke 2:15-20

·         Sing both verses of “Hark! The Herald Angels sing”

·         Read:  The Wise Men did not come the night Jesus was born as the shepherds did.  They saw the star in the East and traveled far to see him.  They arrived in Palestine from the East sometime later, perhaps even months later.  There is no account that tells us just how many Wise Men came to worship the Savior.  There may have been three; there may have been seven; there may have been ten.  But how many came is not so important.  What is important is that they were wise men who came to present their gifts and worship the Savior.  They taught us that wise men still seek Him.

·         Sing the first two verses of “With Wondering Awe”* or “We Three Kings”

·         Read Matthew 2:1-11

·         Sing the first two verses of “Joy to the World”

·         Ask the family to each share three reasons they are grateful for the Savior.

·         Sing all the verses of “Silent Night”

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Twelve, or Thirteen, or Fourteen on Twelve on Twelve

Ande - Today has been crafts, citrus, controller, and Christmas.




Ty -  Sorry the picture is so bad.  I was on my way to meet Joe.  Unfortunately
my phone died before I met Joe so no picture with him.

Michelle - At the diner where I worked before Ty and I got married.
Afton and I are with Melissa (my old manager) and Connie who I met for brunch.
We laughed about how we are like oil and water, but we stuck together because our coworkers were crazy.

Michelle - activity in which I spent a lot of time today.  School.  Almost done with the semester!

Afton - Crawling with the Little People.

Afton - Grandpa Brian entertaining me.

Calvin - Young Men's and Young Women's
See the woman standing next to Calvin?  Her name is Nesha.
We discovered when we moved here that she and Calvin are fairly close cousins.
She also co-owns a candy business.  Last night she taught the young women
how to make fudge the old fashioned way without powdered sugar OR marshmallows.
That long brown thing in L.'s arm on the front row is a log of fudge.
Calvin made fire beans for the young men and they ate those down in their man cave and played games.  
(I do love churches and gymnasiums but for the life of me can't get a decent picture in either.)

Jane - I've got two dozen decorated Christmas trees in the orchard with red and yellow dangling bulbs.
Easiest tree trimming I've ever done and it looks so natural.

Grace - Out for a walk in her new coat

Abe - On a walk with Grace and enjoying being back in Colorado

Joe's picture will go here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Life in Our World - Good, Good Things

You know that satisfaction of sucking on a chocolate truffle? Smooth. Sweet. Satisfying. Pleasing. This past weekend was like savoring a Lindt.

Calvin and I flew to Seattle where we met up with Ande, Cali, and Levin’s flight to Denver. Ande and Cali took shift one with Levin, and Calvin and I took shift two.

We landed in Denver Friday evening and met up with Ray who had been working there all week. We met at the car rental place. They gave us a brand new van with only 3 miles on it for 5 days for $100. What a welcome. Certainly a sign of good things to come. Then Calvin, Ande, Levin, and I drove to Colorado Springs via Chick-fil-A while Ray and Cali drove to Colorado Springs via White Christmas, the play in downtown Denver.

Ande, Calvin, Levin, and I met Michelle and Afton at Dallin’s (Michelle’s little brother) basketball game, where he promptly made a 3-pointer. What a welcome. Certainly a sign of good things to come.

After visiting with Brian and Kathy (Michelle’s folks) for a little bit, Afton was more than ready to leave the noisy gymnasium, so Ande, Calvin, Levin, Afton, Michelle, and I got in the new car with only 3 miles on the odometer and went further south to Fort Carson to Abe and Grace’s home. Grace had chocolates waiting on the counter, chocolate chip cookies on the cupboard, and chocolate milk in the fridge. What a welcome. Certainly a sign of good things to come.

In the meantime, Ty had decided to surprise Abe and fly out from Maryland. It was difficult to schedule a trip that far with his military and school schedule, but he finally finagled it. However, when he landed in Florida his connecting flight was cancelled and no other flights were available. He would miss the homecoming after all.

About 11:00 pm Ray and Cali joined Ande, Calvin, Levin, Afton, Michelle, Grace, and me and we rested, visited, and waited until 3:15 am when the welcome home ceremony was to be held for the returning soldiers. 


The Fort Carson event hall was bedecked. It didn’t matter it was in the middle of the night, it didn’t matter it was cold outside, Mr. and Mrs. Claus and three or four hundred people came to welcome home their husbands, fathers, sons, and fellow soldiers from Afghanistan. 

Grace and fellow army-wife Jenny

The men landed at Fort Peterson before they were bussed to Fort Carson. While the soldiers were enroute from one base to the other, the families watched a recording of them deplaning. Like Santa Claus and the waiting families, it didn’t matter that it was in the middle of the night or that the temperature was low and cold, the army band and army brass were there to welcome the men as they stepped on American soil. I cried a wee bit with a whispered prayer in my heart when I saw Abe’s familiar smile flash on the screen. Grace shivered with excitement and anticipation. 

Finally, at 3:09 am the soldiers were ready to enter the Fort Carson event center to meet their families. Patriotic songs played and families stood and cheered as the men marched into the hall. After standing at attention, a chaplain said a prayer thanking God for their safe return and we sang the Star Spangled Banner. A general made a few comments thanking them for a mission well-served, we sang “The Army Goes Rolling Along,” and then pandemonium followed as he called out, “Dismissed!” and families were put back together. 

Abe and Grace

Abe and Cali

Abe and Ray

Abe and Calvin

There was an extra bonus for three of the families on Abe’s team. They saved the rank advancement ceremony until they returned to Fort Carson instead of doing it in Afghanistan. We got to watch as Abe was made a captain. 

And then the event center quickly cleared as soldiers went to get their gear and go home with their families. (We found only two soldiers that had no one to greet them and we were glad we had made the welcome home bags for them.  We gave the other bags to soldiers and their families.) By the time we returned to Abe and Grace’s home the night had caught up with us and we all fell sound asleep.

In the meantime, Ty was sleeping in an airport in Florida waiting for a flight . . . to somewhere, anywhere. He finally caught one to Denver early Saturday morning via Charlotte, North Carolina so Ray and Calvin went back to Denver to get him. Abe still didn’t know that Ty was coming. When Abe and Grace came home on Saturday about noon (they turned their house over to all of us and spent the night in a hotel) they brought wings and pizza so we could all celebrate and watch the Army-Navy game on TV. We told them Calvin and Ray had gone to get oranges and bananas (funny what details you throw in when you’re lying), but would be back soon. Just before the game started, in the door the three walked, and Abe bear hugged Ty just like he had all of us the night before. Calvin told me later, “I’m glad he came. It was worth his effort. I wish you could have seen Abe’s eyes light up when he saw him.”

At half time Army was winning. Ty, Grace, and Abe took Afton and Levin across the street to play on the playground equipment.

Afton, Abe, Ty

Levin and Ty throwing rocks down the slide

We came home to watch Army once again shoot themselves in the foot and lose the football game. Argh. “Losing is a disease” with that team. But even a loss couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the weekend. 

Ande and Calvin

It was just great fun to be together. We missed Joe who had to work, but were grateful that everyone else had been able to come. 

After the football game, several of us went to the commissary to buy groceries for the next day’s family Christmas celebration. We ended the evening playing Liebrary. Liebrary is a game where the book title and synopsis of the plot are read to everyone and each player then writes what he thinks the opening line of the book is. One player reads aloud the correct opening line along with the concocted lines and then everyone makes their guess as to which line is legitimate. Bet you can’t guess who submitted this line to Dr. Seuss’ Cat in the Hat:

If I ever saw a cat in a hat I would shoot it dead and that would be that.

Each time we play that game I think it won’t be as funny as the last. I’ve been wrong every time.

We woke up to snow on Sunday morning, but still made it to church by 8:30. No small feat. We were greeted by Elder and Sister Walker. They are a missionary couple that left their home in Utah and moved to Colorado for two years to help military families while the husbands are deployed. They have visited and helped Grace – given her rides to the airport and changed her smoke detector’s battery that was too high to reach.

After church we went back to Abe and Grace’s and prepared for our family night. During all this time Afton was learning to crawl with everyone baiting and applauding her on, and Levin was being chased and tickled by everybody in the family. 

Michelle, Afton, and Ty
What are the chances of being able to see your granddaughter who lives clear across
the continent learn to crawl on the weekend you're with her?  It was pretty grand.

Ande, Levin, Abe, and Cali
Afton, me, Levin
I love having a lap.

For our family night meal each family chose their favorite appetizer to prepare: 

Calvin and Ty

Calvin, Abe, Ande, Levin, and Ray

Ande and Joe chose a fruit platter – oranges, pineapple, bananas, limes (actually Joe chose dates stuffed with nuts and wrapped in bacon but since he wasn’t able to come and Ande, who doesn't like dates, didn't think twice about ditching his request)

Cali and Ray chose shrimp and cocktail sauce.

Abe and Grace made cherry bread.

Ty and Michelle made stuffed mushrooms and popcorn

Calvin and I chose a salami-cheese platter and vegetable tray 

Cali and Grace

After we ate we had family night. We started off by singing Angels We Have Heard on High and then I gave the lesson. I assigned everyone a person from the story of the birth of the Savior. Each person told us about their character’s testimony of the divinity of the Savior and taught us what they felt or identified with in that testimony. Cali was John the Baptist, Grace was Mary, Abe was Joseph, Calvin was the angels, Ande was Elizabeth, Ty was the shepherds, Michelle was Anna, and Ray was Simeon. It was a very sweet time. (If you’d like the scripture references I’d be happy to share them.)

After the lesson everyone did the part they had prepared. Grace and Michelle sang. Ande prepared a minute-to-win-it game for us to play.

the family dance

Cali had us dance. Ray recited a quote by Teddy Roosevelt. We played a game with Ty (my enthusiasm was a great handicap to our team). Hmmmm. What did Abe do? I don’t remember now. He was in charge. What do you want to bet he skipped his part? And then it was time to open presents.

As I mentioned before, each family chooses three of their favorite things for the year and then gifts them to all of the other families. 

Ande and Joe gave us vanilla powder for cooking, I Want My Hat Back a children’s book (oh gee it is a funny one, I can see why Joe gave it a 5 on goodreads), and the Monday crossword puzzles from the New York Times and Fluxx, a card game.

Ty and Michelle made a child’s board book from pictures of the family, donated a flock of geese in behalf of the Payne’s to a family in need, and gave us the book Leadership and Self-Deception. (They had Disney song’s they played before each gift to help us guess what they might be.)

Hot chocolate was Abe’s staple and macaroni and cheese was Grace’s while they were apart this past year; they gave us their favorite varieties. Abe weaved us all survival bracelets from parachute cord and burned a cd with a 500 page manual on how to be prepared. They also gave us cd’s of their favorite Christmas songs (from the Killers, Beach Boys, and Tran Siberian Orchestra). Les Miserables is their favorite Broadway play so they gave us movie tickets to see it on Christmas Day, too.

Last year Ray organized us into the non-profit Feed the Hummingbirds organization and gave us a hummingbird feeder. (He is the president but wouldn’t let me be the secretary until a humming bird ate from our feeder.) He gave each Feed the Hummingbirds member a packet of hummingbird feed. They also gave us a container of mini-mini-marshmallows and an apothecary jar. Levin gave us one of his favorite board books about cowboy bunnies.

Calvin and I gave everybody a boning knife, the Little People Nativity set, and a rubix photo cube of this year’s favorite family photos.

I’m telling you, this is a tradition that fits our family. It’s such fun to be a part of everyone’s world. We have all really enjoyed it and look forward to it.

Sunday evening, after our family night was over, it was time to take Ty back to the airport and Michelle and Afton back to the Page’s. Ray had to catch a flight out early Monday morning. Slowly but surely, the party was breaking up.

Calvin, Ande, Cali, Levin, Grace, Abe, and I visited and played games and watched movies on Monday.


Grace made us flautas for supper and we continued our gospel and life discussions that had been an ongoing part of the whole weekend. It was a relaxing and satisfying day. We had plans to do other things, but all voted to stay home and be together instead.

I’ve written of the things we did and saw, but the best part was the things we felt and heard. I don’t know how you write about harmony, love, trust, and gratitude. I don’t even know how you take a picture of it. I just know you feel it and sit there thankful and humble that you got to experience it.

Tuesday, after everyone had left, Abe texted this message: Grace and I want to thank you all again for coming to see us. It really meant a lot to us. We love you all!

Michelle responded: Thank YOU. We had a great time. You two are fabulous hosts.

Cali wrote: Amen. What a great trip. Another of many more to come.

Ty wrote: I had a great time with all of you. You guys are the best family.

Ande wrote: Ditto x 100.

What a welcome home party it was.

Certainly a sign of good things to come.