Sunday, April 29, 2012

52 Blessings - Letters

Hands down.  Letters wins the blessings crown this week.  (Well, next to air, water, food, and love which kept me alive.)  I love letters.  It doesn't matter to me if they are hand-delivered, zip through internet lines, or come in the mail box; they're all words I can read again and again.  (By the way, did you know we don't send mail via ship anymore?  Phil, our postman, said so.  Also, my other favorite postman, Tim, retired on Friday.  He's the father of ten or eleven children and didn't hesitate to express his belief in God in the stories he told about his kids.  I will miss him . . . and his kids.)

They say that you know a man best by reading his personal correspondence.  The true man is revealed in his letters.  Thomas Jefferson wrote over 19,000 personal letters.   

This week we got some great letters. I got an e-mail from Ray and one from my sister Rachel.  I received e-mails from blog friends and copies of e-mails from missionaries serving throughout the world.  Joe and Ande sent us a postcard of Duke, the surfing legend.  Grace sent pictures of projects she completed.  This morning I opened the in-box to a detailed letter (and pictures) from Abe who is currently deployed to Afghanistan.  

can you tell which one is Abe?

All is quiet on the Cali front only because she's visiting the Ellsworth family this week, but I can't wait to hear about it soon.  Tonight or tomorrow we'll receive a weekly family e-mail from Joe and Ande, and Ty and Michelle.   

And then . . . there is this text Calvin sent a week or so ago:  "You are right ........ I was wrong ....... I apologize ..... 123."  I saved that one in my phone in case he needs to say it again soon.

I'm certain that is why I enjoy and appreciate the scriptures.  They remind me of letters.  Letters clear full of details signed, sealed, and delivered from Heavenly Father.  And you know what they say . . . you know a man best by reading his correspondence. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Thursday Thinking - What Animal Does Your Mother Most Resemble in the Morning?

Last night for our young women's meeting the Laurel’s (girls aged 16-18 years) had an appreciation dinner for their mothers. We ate Hawaiian Haystacks. (Earlier on the phone Ande, who just returned from Hawaii, said, “I told Joe that I think the only Hawaiian food I’m really fond of is Hawaiian Haystacks. Those don’t really count as Hawaiian, though, do they?” I laughed and said, “Nope. Cause we called them Chinese Sundaes.” She said, “That’s right because of the little Chinese french fries.”) The chicken gravy was really good. I’ll have to get the recipe from Shelly, our young women’s president; it was more than cream of chicken soup.

Shelly had a fun game for the girls and their moms based on The Newlywed Game.

A few of the girls’ questions to answer about their moms were:
What job did your mom have in high school or right after?
What does your mom fix for a last-minute supper when everyone is hungry?
What is your mom’s favorite kind of pizza?

A few of the moms’ questions were:
What’s your daughter’s favorite kind of ice cream?
What pet would your daughter want if she could get one?
What kind of movie would your daughter want to watch: romance, comedy, action?

Once or twice a mom remembered a daughter’s old favorite instead of a new favorite and I empathized. I think I know our kids, but for the life of me I can never remember which child loves ham and beans and which one loathes them, or which one likes cookie dough ice cream and which one likes cookies and cream. To their annoyance I still call them by each other’s names, most often calling Ray, "Grace" or Ande, "Cali."

While the girls and moms were playing the game, I remembered when Ande was eight or nine years old and she and I played it at a church activity. The only question I still remember was, “What animal does your mother most resemble when she wakes up in the morning?”

I thought Ande would say I was like a bird. After all I arose early, was cheerful, fairly chirped when I woke the kids, and cooked a breakfast that would have made Aunt Jemima proud (which is better than an early bird getting the worm).

There was no need to pretend to think about it. I quickly said, "Ande would say I'm like a bird," though I thought song-bird or meadowlark more apropos.

Ande shrunk a bit and said, “My mom is like a porcupine.”

I looked at her. “A porcupine? But Ande, I’m happy when I wake up.”

She said, “Mom, it’s not that . . . .” And then later, “It’s your hair. It always sticks up in the morning, just like a porcupine’s.”

(Truth be told my hair not only sticks up in the morning, it flies away in the afternoon, too.)

How about you? What animal would your child say you resemble in the morning?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

52 Blessings -- Spring

cherry blossoms above the kitchen sink

The frogs are croaking.  The ditch banks are burned.  Water is in the canal.  The garden is tilled and partially planted.  The lilacs are budding.  The hens are laying steady.  The baby chicks are still downy but getting a few of their pin feathers.  Dandelions are everywhere.  The peony bush and irises have sent up their shoots.  The rhubarb is ready to cut.  We had two warm, sunny days in a row. 

"Spring shows what God can do with a drab and dirty world."  -Virgil Kraft  

Friday, April 20, 2012

Life in My World -- Visiting the Ellsworth's in Oklahoma

I was perusing the sizeable Ellsworth bookshelf and told my niece Maddie, “This is better than a library.” 

She said, “I know, ‘cause every book here is liked by someone so you don’t have to sort through the junk.”

Earlier we had named our favorite reads as well as our biggest-waste-of-time reads.  My sister Rachel had said that she loves Huckleberry Finn and as I was looking over the books I came across two copies.  I told Maddie, “I think I’ll ask your mom if I can borrow one.  I’ve never read Huckleberry Finn.”

She said, “Sad.”

I said, “It’s sad?  I didn’t know it was sad.”

She said, “No.  It’s sad you’ve never read it.”

Sad.  That’s the word if you've never spent time with the Ellsworth family.   Last week Calvin and I went to visit them and wish our nephew Cache well on his mission to Thailand.  My sister Chris and my niece Charlie also went.

Here are a few highlights from our trip:

Hydn and me

Chris, Rachel, and I grew up looking for arrowheads.  At the Ellsworth's we look for fossils instead.  It’s much better than looking for an arrowhead.  One, fossils are plentiful; two they are big and easy to spot; three, they are unique.  We all found several.  I found a little rock that looks like a swimming pool for fairies.  I brought it home to put fairy-sized things in it.

The walk to and from the fossil beds go past Pal's trap line.

He has set (and made) several traps to catch animals.  Here he is with a raccoon trap:  a hole in a log with something shiny in the bottom and a bunch of rusty nails pounded in at an angle.  Just like the one in Where the Red Fern Grows.  The idea is that the raccoon will grab the shiny object , but when his paw is fisted around the object it won’t fit back through the nails, thus trapping him.
Pal is named perfectly.  He's everybody's buddy.  He's pleasant.  He's willing.  He's funny.  He's agreeable.  He's
the kind of kid you wished you could order out of a catalog for every family.  He also loves Shakespeare . . . and
doing magic tricks and playing games. 

This is his snare trap.  It has a brick slung over a branch and when the animal steps in the snare it triggers a stick which makes the brick fall.  It fell on top of him while he was showing us how to set it.  It had to have hurt.  (His shirt appropriately fits him:  "If history repeats itself, I'm totally getting a dinosaur."

We walked back to the house via the shop where Calder and Cache were rendering fat into tallow for their Grandpa Ellsworth's saddle making.

We also visited a lot.  

Calder is an incredible young man.  He has lots of common sense and a happy personality.  He loves history, but
has a lot of strength in the sciences.  He figures things out.  He's also good on the piano.
As Calvin said, he's a young man of great integrity.

Jesse is remarkable.  A few years ago after seeing her drawings on the sidewalk drawn
with chalk, her folks suggested she start her own business painting scenes on the
windows of stores in town.  She's had her own business for a few years.  Jesse reminds
me of Snow White.  All she has to do is whistle and animals come.  She's very kind to
animals and people.

All of the Ellsworth family are very well read on a variety of subjects.  In fact, one time while Hy and I were paddling on a kayak I was telling him a story and he said, "I already heard that story.  My mom read me the book."  I started to tell another story and he said, "I heard that one, too, my mom read  the book at home."  The only story he hadn't heard was one I made up about a little boy and a turtle.  

Visiting is one of my favorite things to do at the Ellsworths.

Hydn on the other hand would rather have sword fights and gun fights with Calvin.  They fought every day.  Calvin said lying on the trampoline was his favorite fighting position as he just had to bounce every now and then and wave his sword.

  We also had a sling shot contest.  Hy did not win.  Cache did.  Some of us went down to the pond and rode around in the paddle boat.

Rachel parking the boat.  She's kind like that.  Sometimes I so wish Rachel had been older
than me so that I could have learned from her earlier.  She really is one of my heroes.
I'm just so grateful our kids have her as a friend and mentor now.

As you can see, their place is a perfect place for kids to grow and thrive.  It's a place where each child has been able to develop his talents and abilities.  Rachel's kids seem to go from childhood to young adulthood without ever being a "teenager".  She and Bert have taught school to each one of them at home.  As a result, they have been given an extraordinary education and have bought them a long and healthy childhood.  And then, after they've had all the sword fights and turtles, and set all the home made traps they can think of, they become young adults with firm ideas and opinions about their values and future, our country, books, and ideas.  They're very respectful to everyone, and loyal to each other.

You haven't seen a picture of Maddie yet.  That's because she's the one behind the camera in nearly every one of these pictures.  About a year ago she discovered she likes photography.  Not only does she like it, she's discovered she has a talent for angles, ideas, colors, shapes, and subjects.   Compare the picture I took of her below, to the next six she took after that and you'll see what I mean.

Maddie in the tree house the kids built on their property.  There is a pulley swing that
runs between two of the trees and Maddie is getting ready to ride it.

Bert is a vet.  His specialty is horses, though he works on all kinds of animals.  They have
several horses on their place.

I showed this picture to my students when I returned from our trip and a few said, "Hey!  You look like your sister."
I wish I did.  It was the nicest compliment I'd heard all day.

There's a small town near the Ellsworths that has an old five and dime store.
It also has a main street (where the funeral home has a loading dock in front of it) and a great museum.
While we dug around the garters and toys in the five and dime
 (there is Polident from the 70's for sale on the shelf), Calvin sat on the park bench
and slept and visited with the kids when they got bored of five and dime treasures.

We went crawdad fishing while we were there as well.  Here's a baby one.

Even barb wire looks artistic through Maddie's eyes.

As does fire.  I think the flames are amazing.

Cache.  The impetus behind the trip.  Cache left Wednesday to serve a mission in
Thailand.  Besides handsome, Cache is determined, driven, brave, smart, and a good
conversationalist.  He recently returned from a trip to China where he taught English
to young children.  It wasn't part of a big safe group program, rather it was an
opportunity he sought out.  After he'd filled his contract, he did a two week
walk-about China by himself, staying in hostels.  

Maddie's a good photographer, isn't she?  She's also very idea oriented and conscientious.  She's a natural leader.

I mentioned my sister Chris and niece Charlie went to visit the same time we did.

Charlie can weld metal, bake a cake, and is an Art major.  She is a jack-of-all-trades.  She's also a fast, determined and
hard worker.  She loves shopping at thrift stores and is frugal, so she's rich, too.

Chris is a grown-up Charlie.  She is also a hard worker.  She is very good with cattle.  She might be gathering them
in the hills one day, doctoring them in the pens the next, and then down at the sale yard selling them the next.  She
is also very generous with her time and money.  She doesn't hesitate to give.
She also looooooves sugar. 

We met them at the Dallas airport and drove up with them.  It was fun to spend time with them as well.

The day before we came home we went kayaking.  I think it was Bert's suggestion.

Bert is a great man and it shows through each one of his children; they all have some
of his attributes.  Bert sacrifices a great deal so that his kids and Rachel have the
opportunities that they do.  He commutes four hours a day and spends every other
 weekend on call at the clinic.  He has a very stabilizing influence and I'm grateful he's
my brother-in-law.   He's always encouraged Rachel's and my friendship. 

Oh man.  What a fun, fun time we had in the boats.

The people we rented the kayaks from wisely suggested we not take our cameras or wear our glasses.  Best suggestion they could have given me, Calvin, Chris, and Bert.  We all tipped over.  Three of us more than once.   Oh man kayaking was fun.  It was beautiful.  There were enough rapids that you felt like you were moving, but it was calm enough Pal and I could handle our own kayaks.  I came through one little run of rapids and there was Pal perched on top of a rock like Yertle the Turtle.  I thought he was playing while waiting for the rest of us to come down the river, but as I went past I realized he’d lost his boat.  I grabbed him and was trying to pull him on my boat, but Cache and Calder hollered at him to let go as I had to go over a little waterfall that I didn’t see coming.  I biffed it soon after.  Good thing Cache and Calder told him to jump ship.
We saw well over 200 turtles sunning on the rocks.  Calvin, Cache, and Calder caught several.

Right before we pulled out of the water several of us hit a snag.  A big snag.  A tree-across-the-river snag.  It tipped all but a few of us into the water, and once we'd all bobbed safely to the surface, it was very, very funny.  

And that was our trip to the Ellsworth's.  We had a grand time.   And now Calvin and I are . . . sad.  And waiting for the next time we'll be with them.

Friday, April 13, 2012

12 on 12 of April 12

Afton Jayna Payne - April 10, 20121
6 pounds 14 oz.
19 inches long

Ty, Michelle, and Afton - first adventure, leaving the hospital

Afton's cradle isn't quite finished yet.

Abe - my home for the next 9 months

Grace - little shoes I'm making for the craft fair at the end of the month.  Just maybe little Afton will be receiving a
surprise in the mail ;0)

Ande - packed and ready for our trip to Hawaii

Joe - weather forecast for Hawaii next week
Follett Family - Our living pets: Houdini, Venus flytrap, Levin, and Lemony Snicket
(MIA: Snog the Snail, and Binny the Betta Fish)
Cali, Ray, and Levin - enjoying the sun going down at 8:00 instead of 4:00 p.m.
Calvin and Jane - trip to Oklahoma to wish Cache well on his mission to Bangkok, Thailand
Jane - with my sisters Chris and Rachel while walking on the Ellsworth property 
Calvin - pointing to the spit bug that Jesse is holding and showing to Pal and Charlie

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Homemaking Tip -- Applesauce

I've got twenty minutes of free internet access at the Spokane airport in which to write this post.  Typically posts take me much, much longer.  Add to that, Calvin keeps making conversation (he wonders if I like his new haircut, he said he thinks in a few years that he'll look like an older gentleman that just deplaned, he wonders if I'd ever wear a pair of furry boots like the woman's at the counter has, and then he generously offered me one of his Newton fruit crisps) and twenty minutes is hardly long enough to tell you all I'd like to say.  But that's okay, because most of what I want to say is not mine to say.  Which is to say that somebodies in my family have news to share.  (Good thing tomorrow is 12 on 12 of '12.)

But seeings as I only have 7 minutes left, I did want to tell you that applesauce is more than food for the gummed.  The other night I made a dozen jars of strawberry freezer jam.  I didn't have enough pectin so I added applesauce to increase it (apples have a lot of natural pectin).  It set up beautifully!  That's two times applesauce has saved my jam.  I think I'll add it to every batch from now on for good measure -- it takes on the flavor of the fruit and is less expensive than extra pectin.


Friday, April 6, 2012

Thursday Thinking – I know.

  • I think I may need to change the Thursday Thinking blog topic. Every time I sit down to write a blog, I hear Gastan boast, "LeFou, I'm afraid I've been thinking . . . ." to which LeFou interrupts, "A dangerous past time . . ." and Gastan cuts him off with, "I know."   Sometimes I take it personal.
But. Until I think of a better phrase:
  • I’ve been thinking and wondering if Baby Payne will come tomorrow on her due date. Ty and Michelle held a guessing contest on her arrival, name, and stats. I guessed she would come on her due date and that they will name her Page (Michelle’s maiden name). I would love if Baby Payne proved me right. Besides, April 6th is a significant date to LDS people in more ways than one so that would make it even better.
  • I’ve been thinking about Jeffrey R. Holland’s quote: “We are not in a race against each other to see who is the wealthiest or the most talented or the most beautiful or even the most blessed. The race we are really in is the race against sin.” Except that quote came into my mind this week as I was jogging as: “I’m not in a race to run fast. I’m not in a race to run beautifully. I’m just in a race against quitting, so keep going. Just keep going. End better than you started, that’s considered a win.” Truth is universal.
  • I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’ve been thinking about current events (but those are for different kinds of blogs to discuss). I’m always thinking about those and how and where they fit in the big picture. Since reading The Nine I’ve found issues regarding the Supreme Court from a human interest standpoint intriguing.
  • I’ve been thinking about these paper baskets. 

      Cali and I saw them at the scrapbook store and the salesclerk drew the pattern on our sack so we could make them at home. Here’s to you (the directions exactly as she wrote them):

12 x 12.  You can make it any size that is divisible by 3.

          That's it.  Those are the directions.  They are that easy to make.
           (Here are a few more directions if it helps:  Take a 12 x 12 sheet of scrapbook paper [heavy double-sided cardstock works best] and divide it in thirds so that you have nine four inch squares.  Score along all lines so that they fold easily.  In addition, score across the squares in the four corners so that they will fold inward.  Gather all the corners in the center and punch a hole in them with a hole punch.  Tie the corners together by threading a string through the holes.  Make a tag and fill with paper crinkles.)
        I’m putting garden gloves, seeds, and a trowel in one little basket made from blue, green, and brown polka-dot paper and filled with straw excelsior.  It's cute.  

  • I’ve also been thinking about the “peace which passeth all understanding” that the Savior gives.  It comes in times of turmoil and tranquility; it’s there when reason argues it shouldn’t be.  I’m just really, really, really grateful for it today . . . and everyday.  I know that He lives . . . 

I know that my Redeemer lives;
What comfort this sweet sentence gives!
He lives, He lives, who once was dead;
He lives, my ever living Head.

He lives to bless me with His love,
He lives to plead for me above.
He lives my hungry soul to feed,
He lives to help in time of need.

He lives to grant me rich supply,
He lives to guide me with His eye,
He lives to comfort me when faint,
He lives to hear my soul’s complaint.

He lives to silence all my fears,
He lives to wipe away my tears
He lives to calm my troubled heart,
He lives all blessings to impart.

He lives, my kind, wise, heavenly Friend,
He lives and loves me to the end;
He lives, and while He lives, I’ll sing;
He lives, my Prophet, Priest, and King.

He lives, all glory to His Name!
He lives, my Savior, still the same.
Oh, sweet the joy this sentence gives,
I know that my Redeemer lives!

Truth is universal. It really is.  That He lives makes all the difference and I know it.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Homemaking Tip – All I Got . . .

You’ve seen those T-shirts that say, “My mom and dad went to Tahiti (or Paris or the Bermuda Triangle), but all I got was this t-shirt.”

Well, I’ve had a grand several days, but I didn’t take pictures. As I was getting ready to drive home this afternoon, Cali snapped this shot . . .

And that’s all I’ve got.

But, if I’d been thinking I’d have also taken shots of:
  • All of us watching general conference on the couch last weekend. We didn’t look any different than any other family sitting on a couch watching TV, but it’s our family doing something that is important to us and I do wish we had a picture of it.  Next time. That couch has been one splendid family investment
  • Cali learning to crochet a hat from YouTube videos and, later, help from friend and neighbor Viki 
  • Ray and Calvin making a Follett Measuring Stick to record family heights 
  • Calvin and Ray in their shirts and ties ready to go to the Priesthood session of conference 
  • Ande sitting next to Cali on the couch and reading “Hey girl” jokes and the two of them laughing at themselves and each other 
  • Ray making up his own “Hey girl” jokes and teasing Ande 
  • Cali and Ande making cherry bread 
  • Lunch with Melanie. We had potato soup and scones. And herein lays a homemaking trick that I learned from Joe: Add a squeeze of lemon juice to all of your cream soups. It “freshens” the soup and really does make them taste better. Another thing that makes cream soups and milk gravies more flavorful is to use half milk (or cream) and half chicken broth. It really develops the flavor 
  • Levin walking along the fireplace and picking at the flame of the candle behind the glass fireplace door 
  • Going to Seattle to spend a few days with Ray, Cali, Levin, Joe, and Ande. Flowers and trees are in bloom and their walks smell so sweet 
  • Supper at Ande’s: butter chicken with cilantro and cashews over rice, naan with mango and mint chutneys. Ande is willing to try all kinds of different flavors and spices and I come away inspired and determined to try more recipes 
  • Watching Frozen Planet together in Seattle and still wondering if the wolf and the buffalo died 
  • Supper at Cali’s: fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, rolls (Joe and Ande picked up the chicken from a place near them. My, it is good. Ande said she has to limit herself when Joe’s traveling) 
  • Ray, Cali, Ande, Joe, Levin, and I visiting around the table after supper
  • Watching Cali play the piano. She started taking lessons several months ago
  • Levin crawling all over the house in no particular direction or with any particular cause, but just because he can 
  • Levin always looking in Ray’s direction for his dad’s reaction and affirmation
  • Shopping at Madscrappers, Ikea, and Michael’s with Ande, Cali, and Levin
  • Watching Levin crawl up all 12 or 15 basement stairs. By the time he reached the top his arms and legs were quivering, but he wouldn’t give up 
  • A little boy that was playing by the sidewalk at Joe and Ande’s. I was getting in the car when he waved his dandelion in my direction. I walked over to see him (his mother was with him) and he told me he was cooking. I had some little pastel egg cups in my hand that Ande had just given me and asked him if he needed one to help him cook his rocks and flowers. He said he liked purple 
  • Following Grace’s directions and hand-drawn pictures on how to dye Cali’s hair 
  • Seeing Ande’s new art projects. She made a dandelion that had gone to seed on canvas using string. It was very cool 
  • Seeing several projects that Cali had completed in her home. I love going to each one of our kids’ homes. Each family has a unique style and has made a wonderful home. It is very fun and fulfilling to share their homes with them 
  • Seeing Calvin when I walked in the door. He was clearly glad I was home

I'm glad that at least I got one shot to go with those memories.