Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 - A Fruitful Year


I went to South Carolina to celebrate 
Ezra Wilhelm being born


Calvin and I went to Hawaii


We live simply and try to produce much of what we eat.


We took three carloads of youth to SLC, Utah
for LDS General Conference
with Brent and Nesha Roylance 

Kathryn Cali is born


I become a full time seminary principal and teacher.


Calvin takes us on a drive in the Willys most every night.


The berries in the garden overflow and family
from all over the country comes to visit.


Payne Family Reunion 2015


We said good-bye to the best garden yet


We welcomed Hazel Grace to the world


We counted our blessings again and again and again.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Monday Memories -- Newborn

It was early December 1988. Due to family emergencies we had moved for the second time in six months. The home we’d barely moved into was up-for-sale and, a few days after we'd put our things away, it looked as if the house had sold and we’d only be able to stay there a few weeks. I was nine months pregnant and the baby was due December 27th ; we didn’t only have our little family to move, but also our livestock. Our resources were very limited and our options few.

For days I fretted where our newborn baby would “lay down its sweet head.” The physical and emotional ache of the previous months, along with a 5-year-old, 3-year-old and a 2-year-old were wearing me down. All I could do was take one morning at a time.

That year gave me empathy for Mary and Joseph. The stress that Calvin and I felt was heavy – and we weren’t pulling a donkey.


And then she was born. December 21st. Suddenly it didn’t matter if that baby was going to be put in a laundry basket, a crib, or a box. She was here in all of her purity and innocence and our family was richer for her birth. She came home from the hospital Christmas Eve and no Christmas gift has equaled her since.

A baby can set things right.

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 when they came to the manger. Mary and Joseph must have thought of it repeatedly as they fed, diapered, washed, and cuddled Him. Simeon, Anna, and the Wise Men, surely they knew it when they found Him.

Baby Jesus set things right in this world and in eternity. A newborn, sent by God to save us all.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

52 Blessings - The First Christmas Spirit

One of my students came in excitedly to class one morning and said, "My uncle is Joseph in the new Mormon Message.  Can we watch it today?"

I loved this video the first time I saw it and loved it even more after the sixth viewing.

I hope you enjoy it, too.

"What would it have been like to raise Jesus Christ? Joseph was a humble carpenter when God gave him the responsibility of being Christ’s father. While traveling the road to Nazareth, Joseph reflects on experiences he and his small family have had so far and on the significance of his Son’s mission to become the savior of the world. Even though he was often overwhelmed, Joseph was always loyal to God and to his Son, Jesus Christ. How will we follow his example this Christmas season?"

Though I doubt the Savior ever told Joseph, "I don't have to, you're not my real dad," nevertheless, it isn't easy being a step-parent and I watched the interaction between the Savior and Joseph with great interest and respect.   One way I want to follow Joseph's example this Christmas season is to listen more carefully to what the Savior says and to quickly act on what the Holy Ghost whispers.

Saturday, December 19, 2015


Having a testimony that Jesus Christ is the Savior brings me peace and confidence in a troubled time. 

I know He lives.  I know He has the power to redeem us from our sins, rebuild us when we're broken, comfort us when we're hurt, and fill in the gaps of our inadequacies.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


Fifteen pictures of family for the fifteenth of December 2015.

Folletts: The roast in the crockpot didn't cook. 
we had to go to plan B so Ray could make his
temple assignment tonight. 
Levin sampled the hot chocolate machine at his office. 
Atlas sampled everything else.  

 Zeph:  I chipped my front tooth on the bath tub. 
And I walked on the dock bridge all by myself (it's scary).

Ande:  My favorite view today.

 Ezra:  Sometimes I don't take naps so I can 
have alone time with mom and all the toys.

Grace: me and my babies 

Grace: The newest addition to our family- Hazel Grace Payne.

Henry:  me and Hazel 

Abe: Wrestling with Henry

Jane:  Celebrated Hanukkah with 150 students.  
That’s a whole lot of hashbrowns, donuts, dreidels and gelt.  

Kathryn: In the last week, I turned into both a crawler 
and a bottler holder. Since I'm getting into everything now, 
I might as well give Mom a few extra minutes to clean it up.

Michelle: enjoying the good weather while we still have it, 
while trying to beat both the sunset and the oven timer. 
We failed at both, but had a nice walk.

Ty:  I spend a lot of time in front of this board each day. 
Scheduling for my flight.          

Afton: Sticking it to the man.
If I'm going to nap, I'm going to do it MY way.

Strawberry banana juice: "Hi. How was your day?" 
Orange juice: "Good. How was your day?"  
Strawberry banana juice:  "Good."

I really believe this.  Home is our most important work.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Not Even Close to 15 Pictures for the 15th of November 2015

Argh!  We almost forget 15 on 15 . . . but here is our attempt to remember:

Calvin:  making Spudnuts from my Grandma Lunt’s recipe

Jane:  The recipe written by Calvin's mother.
We ate and ate and ate . . . because they’re best warm, after all.

Ty:  When we realized it was the 15th, 
we took almost all of our pictures in under 15 seconds.

Michelle:  Quite possibly the least flattering picture that has ever been taken of me

Afton: If you see four legs, you know I'm in there somewhere

Eliza:  I eat cheese like candy bars.

Kathryn: I have yet to find a limit on 
what my sisters will do to make me laugh.

Abe: Taking a night walk with Henry.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Monday Memories - Andy, Barney, Opie and Aunt Bee

When I was in grade school, Andy Griffith used to come on at 4:00.  We got off the bus right about that time and if we ran into the house fast enough we got to see all of it.

I still enjoy the Andy Griffith show . . .

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Life in Our World - How Does Your Garden Grow?

A couple of weeks ago, we prepped the garden for next year.  We shoveled out the chicken coop and scooped up the steer manure in front of the manger and spread it over the garden.  Then I picked one last bouquet and Calvin rototilled everything under.

Good-bye garden 2015.  You were our best one yet.

We had a large willow tree at the edge of the garden. Each year, as it started to take more and more growing space away, Calvin threatened to cut it down.  Today he made good on that threat.

Ray, Atlas, and Levin are here for the weekend while Cali is at a scrapbook retreat, and Ray helped Calvin cut the tree down.

Atlas took the whole experience very seriously.  He does not like loud noises and chainsaws and falling trees are loud.  However, he did learn to say "Timber!"

Levin, on the other hand, yelled, "It's a playground!" the minute the tree hit the ground and ran off to climb. As he worked his way into the branches he yelled back, "It's a jungle with gorillas!"

It will take hours and hours, more like days, of cutting and hauling away the wood and branches, but it will be nice to have a larger growing space again.

Hello Garden of 2016.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Payne Family Reunion 2015

We held the Calvin Payne Family Reunion 2015 over Labor Day weekend at our home.  We had a great time.  Here are a few memories, dictionary style.


Our home has only 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, but when you add a couple of tents and adaptable people it can sleep 23 comfortably.

Well, almost comfortably.  Atlas was a bit cramped.

"Home is the nicest word there is."  -- Laura Ingalls Wilder


We have eight grandchildren four years old and under.  That means a whole lot of cute. It means a lot of rocking and holding, too.

Atlas holding Kathryn

Michelle holding Eliza

Cali rocking Kathryn and Ezra

Cali rocking and feeding Kathryn

Grace reading and rocking Levin, Afton and Eliza

Grandma rocking Kathryn

Eliza holding Ezra

Afton holding Kathryn and Eliza

Grandma holding Ezra

Joe holding Ezra

Ty holding Eliza and Afton.

Abe holding Henry

Lots of babies also means lots and lots of diapers,

 . . . and a little bit of crying.

Ande helping Levin with a beesting

"A baby is God's opinion that the world should go on."  -- Carl Sandburg


The work load was divided by everyone, even the kids.

Ty, Eliza, Atlas, and Afton gathering the eggs for breakfast.

Zeph and Afton helping make biscuits.

Atlas and Zeph feeding the steer.

Ty and Atlas doing the dishes.

Abe, Ray and Calvin moving the grill back and forth depending on the rain.

“Work relieves us from three great evils, boredom, vice, and want.”  --French Proverbs

Day to Day

One of the wonderful parts of being a family is the pooling of talents.  Everyone divvied up the responsibilities which made the difference between a good reunion and a great one.  For example, Abe's job was to make the schedule, Cali was in charge of the service project, Joe was in charge of two grandchildren projects plus the music, Ande was in charge of food prep and grocery shopping, Grace was in charge of family night and a kid's project, Michelle was in charge of the music video, Ty and Michelle were in charge of the fun activity, Ray was in charge of meaningful conversation, etc.

"Organizing is what you do before you do something,
so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up."
-- A. A. Milne


Eating meals together played an important part raising our family; therefore food will always be an important part of our gatherings.

Joe and Abe were on the rib detail.  They made goooooood ribs.

Grace and Michelle building their pizzas for the grill.

Trent, Crisa and Calvin manning  the grill.

Tradition:  Sunday dinner.
We didn't serve it fancy, but it tasted really good:  corn on the cob, steaks, melon salad and baked potatoes.

"All great change in America begins at the dinner table." -- Ronald Reagan

Fort Payne

The kids had suggested in the past that we do a service project whenever we all get together.  It felt so good to be on the receiving end of this project -- building a fort for the grandkids.

Ray and Calvin digging the holes for Fort Payne

The crew.

Zeph and Ty

"The happiest people I know are those who lose themselves in the service of others."  
-- Gordon B. Hinckley


After the reunion we asked everyone to share what the 3 highlights of the reunion was for their family.  Everyone agreed that one of the best parts was seeing the kids play together.

"Grandparents House:  where cousins go to become best friends."  -- Anonymous


There is too much sadness, selfishness, arguing and fault-finding in many families today.  I've seen families broken because of unkind words and unforgiving attitudes and it always worries me; therefore I'm always grateful for our family's happy times of harmony.

“Harmony makes small things grow, lack of it makes great things decay.”
-- Sallust


The key to the jeep was lost.  Really lost.  Even prayers couldn't find it quickly.

Ray hotwired it so we could still go on a ride.

We later found the key out in the grass in the tent.

"Failure is a part of innovation -- perhaps the most important part."
-- Curt Richardson


I'm a believer in keeping a family record.  Civilizations with written records are more prosperous than those with only oral histories.  I want our family to prosper, therefore I record.  Even records of family reunions.

Michelle assigned a hashtag for our Instagram posts.  After the reunion she created Chatbooks for every family from everyone's instagram pictures.

Two year old Eliza calls the reunion photo-book her "Everything is Awesome" book (that was the theme of our reunion) and two year old Atlas hugs and pats his book at night and says, "My family."

"When saving for old age, be sure and store some memories."  -- Anonymous

Kiara's 6th Birthday

What better way to celebrate your birthday than with lots of cousins and uncles and aunts?  Though Kiara had never met any of her cousins before, she quickly became a friend to all of them and took such good care of them.  She was so sweet and patient about her birthday and included others in baking, frosting, and decorating her cake.

Trent and Kiara

"The way I see it you should live everyday like it's your birthday!" -- Anonymous

La Ta Ta and Dan

LaTaTa and Henry

Eliza and" Dan

"Happiness is a warm puppy."  -- Charlie Brown

Meaningful conversation

Ray was in charge of helping us to have meaningful conversations.  A few weeks before the reunion he sent out a list of potential questions so we could come prepared for discussion and sharing.
  • Tell about a lesson you learned this past year or a mistake that you learned from
  • Share the highlight (best thing that’s happened) and low-light (biggest challenge or most upsetting) of your past 12 months 
  • Share something you are good at (strength) and something you are working to improve (weakness)
  • Come prepared to share your family's credo 
Each night we discussed one or more questions and shared credos.  I still enjoy reflecting on those conversations.  It was a great building time.  It built us as individuals and as a family and topped everyone's list as the favorite part of the reunion.

One night we had a great friend's family take all of the kids for 3 hours so we could have uninterrupted time to visit as adults.   That was a wise idea and I suspect will be repeated when possible.

“A single conversation across the table with a wise person is worth a month's study of books.”
-- Chinese proverb

Never gets old

The Christmas we got a trampoline as a gift from my sister still stands out in everyone's memory. The trampoline gave our home the extra space it needed during long winter months . . . and it helped consume some of Ty's ever-abundant energy.

This isn't the same old tramp, but it serves the same old purpose.  And it played a good part in this reunion.

Joe jumping with Henry

Crisa, Trent and Ethan giving Joe and Afton a big bounce.

Ray rolling as hot lava and the kids squealing and trying to jump over him without getting burned.

Brena and Kiara

Zeph and Afton

"Fun without a trampoline?  That's crazy talk."  -- Anonymous or Joe

Old-fashioned Family Home Evening

Our family home evening has had the same format for as long as we've been a family:

Opening Song
Opening Prayer
Closing Song
Closing Prayer

Grace was in charge of our family home evening and she followed the old format.  The familiarity felt so good.  For old time's sake, we even sang Hymn 273 and Ghost Riders in the Sky -- two of Calvin's favorites.

Ethan playing the flute for his part in family night.

"We cannot afford to neglect this heaven-inspired program [family home evening]. It can bring spiritual growth to each member of the family, helping him or her to withstand the temptations which are everywhere. The lessons learned in the home are those that last the longest."  
-- President Thomas S. Monson


Cali took pictures for each family.

Trent and Crisa
Brena, Kiara, Ethan

Ray and Cali
Atlas and Levin

Grace and Abe

Michelle and Ty
Afton, Kathryn, Ezra

Joe and Ande
Zeph and Ezra

"A good snapshot stops a moment from running away." 
-- Eudora Welty


I can't remember if there were ducks, but one morning while it was raining outside Joe had all of the kids pretending they were animals.  He kept them entertained for a good half hour.  I was in the kitchen but could hear them and it was pretty darn funny.  They had such a good time.

"I like pigs. 
Dogs look up to us. 
Cats look down on us. 
Pigs treat us as equals."
 -- Winston Churchill

Race, as in Amazing

Ty and Michelle organized the funnest family activity -- The Amazing Race.  We were divided into teams and then raced around town to complete the challenges.  It was great. in fact it really was amazing.  Reliving it after was as funny as living it.

Ty, Michelle and Eliza with the official yellow envelopes

Team Brena
Brena, Trent, Abe

Team Levin
Joe, Levin, Calvin

Team Afton
Grace, Ande, Afton

Team Kiara
Kiara, Crisa, Cali

Team Ethan -- Also known as The Winners!

I thought Ray would/should drive, but when we ran to the car to start the race he jumped
into the passenger side and yelled, "You drive.  I think."  Turned out to be a great plan.
He offered me $100 if I could pass Team Levin.  I almost got it.

Challenge One.

Team Brena blocking the driveway so no one else could get out until they had finished their puzzle.

Challenge Two.

Team Afton at the lake.  Ande wrote, "That time I slipped and fell in the lake while holding
Afton on our first stop in the Amazing Race.  Grace laughed so hard she peed her pants.
 I laughed so hard I cried.  Afton cried that her sparkly skirt got wet.

Challenge Four.

Cali said, "Although Team Kiara came in dead last, Kiara was sure we were first because
she had worn her 'fastest shoes' (Hello Kitty Mary Janes)."

Team Levin.

At this point they were in first place.
Team Ethan.

So many funny memories of this game.  

"It is a happy talent to know how to play." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson


Afton, Levin, Atlas

How do you like to go up in a swing, 
Up in the air so blue? 
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing 
Ever a child can do!
-- Robert Louis Stevenson


For years, Calvin has wanted to make a family dinner table that would seat everyone, and so he did a few weeks before the reunion.  He built it using old-fashioned joinery; there isn't a nail or screw in it.  It's made from reclaimed oak found in an old tobacco factory.  

It's absolutely beautiful. 

"A man who works with his hands is a laborer; a man who works with his hands and 
his brain is a craftsman; but a man who works with his hands and his brain and his heart 
is an artist."  -- Louis Nizer.


Who knows how long ago it started, but arm wrestling is as much a part of this family as guns are.

I always root for the underdog.   

Which means I root for myself and, now, Calvin.  His old man strength has finally been over powered by the young.  (He'll argue this, but it doesn't count if you have to tickle your opponent to get them to fall.)

Ray and Ty

Ande and Cali

Ande and Michelle

Abe and Ty

Abe and Calvin

Joe and Abe

"Success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm."  -- Abraham Lincoln


Trent and Crisa

Abe, Grace, Crisa, Trent, Brena

Late night snack.

"Ordinary things are often extraordinary."  -- Anonymous


Grace made dirt pudding with gummy worms for the kids.

Zeph with a wooly worm.

"Believe what you are doing is important even if you are only grubbing for worms in the backyard." 
-- Ronald Reagan


Sunday we went to the cemetery like we do every Sunday after Church.  Each of the cousins put a flower on Clara's grave and we reminded them of their cousin that is in heaven waiting for all of us and the Resurrection.  The kids were extra curious, gentle, and reverent.

We got ready to leave and Afton sat down.  She said, "I think I'll just wait here for Clara 'til she gets resurrected."  It was extra sweet.

“Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: 
for of such is the kingdom of God.”
Luke 18:16


We had planned to go boating during the reunion, but the weather was lukewarm not hot.  Imagining lots of little grandkids shivering with blue lips, the kids suggested we just stay home and let the grandkids play in the yard instead, and then offered to help in the garden. 

I wish I would have captured the pepper-picking crew which included Michelle, and wish I could have captured the conversation. I enjoyed it as much as the help and the help was greatly appreciated.

Ande said this was one of the reunion high-lights for her.

Ande, Cali, Abe, and Atlas digging potatoes.

Cali, Levin, and Ande collecting flower seeds.

"A seed is a dime's profit to one and a miracle to another."  --- LeGrand Richards




Ande, me, and Ty waiting for the next game of Werewolf to start

"Fatigue is the best pillow."  -- Benjamin Franklin

It was one great reunion.  It wore us all out and filled us all up.  Truly . . . 

"The family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children. 
The family is ordained of God."  
--The Family:  A Proclamation to the World

And we're so grateful for ours