Thursday, January 30, 2014

Thursday Thinking - #Snowday

Ray is traveling on business so Cali and their boys came to spend the week with us.

Providentially, we had a snow day yesterday.


Levin and I built masking tape roads in the center of the living room.  We loaded trucks with hay, corn, and silage and dumped the feed into the masking tape corral that held one lone cow.  She got fed a lot.  I'm surprised she didn't bloat.

We had wrecks that ambulances had to fix.  We had one lego man who did all the driving.  Levin called him Prophet.  (He did have a long beard that looks just like Noah's, [then again he had a wizard hat and a white wand too], so Prophet we called him.)

All the time we made truck noises (an idling truck sounds much different from one backing up or one shifting gears you see) and crawled.


We handed Atlas potato head parts to chew on and listened to him courtesy laugh when we laughed. When we ignored him for too long, he coughed so we'd look his direction and then he'd give us a thank-you smile. Never was there a more amiable, old-soul, gracious spectator for a game of make-believe.


We made froot-loop necklaces and practiced patterns and colors.  And eating.


We fed the steers hay and grain for Grandpa, and successfully chased one chicken back into the coop and unsuccessfully chased two chickens around and around the pasture.  We fed Dan an egg and didn't lose our boots or tip over in the mucky manure once.  

We jumped on the trampoline.

We danced the hokie pokie.


We raked a snowman into being.  Levin insisted our snowman needed hands, so we put gloves on him.  (You pick:  He's either a prophet and pointing all souls towards heaven, a disco dancer stayin' alive, or Horace Greeley saying "go west, young man, go west."  It doesn't really matter.  What matters is he has hands.)

#snowday Cali and Levin

Cali read Rainbabies to us and we took a nap . . .

Never are children as innocent as when they lie asleep softly snoring, twitching, and occasionally flopping an arm around your neck.  Everyone who has ever admired a child sleeping, knows gazing on him causes deep reflection in your soul.  You want to scoop him up, hug him, rock him, stroke his head, and tell him you're sorry for every time you were cross, and promise to do better, to be better.

. . . but all I can think of as I lay next to Levin and hear him softly breathe is, "Oh no.  He's recharging.  He's going to wake up with all that energy all over again."

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Life in Our World - Details

We have an old lady's cupboard.  My mom had one, clear full of odd foods no one liked.  Now I know how you get one:  you pick something up here and someone gives you something there and no one eats it or knows what to do with it.  Dried tomatoes, masala, seaweed, marmalade, V-8 juice, stuffed green olives - there they sit on the shelf and rest.  And age.  I'm wondering what to do with it all -- short of tossing it to the chickens and calling it feed.

The night before my neighbor left on a Caribbean cruise she called and asked if I would like her amaryllis. She said it had at least three blooms ready to open and it bothered her to think it would sit on her table and no one appreciate it.  I see this neighbor once a year at the grocery store, but I see her husband several mornings a week during the summer out on the ditch-bank.  It was sweet of her to think to share it.

I picked up a bouquet of daisies to give away because "they're such a friendly flower" (name that movie), but wasn't able to deliver them like I'd planned.  I brought them home and now I have two bouquets (of sorts) at the same time.  This never happens to us except during weddings and funerals.

Calvin built a feed box for the steers and then we scooped 1400 pounds of grain into it, one scoop at a time.  It took about 300 scoops to transfer it.   That's a lot of bend, scoop, lift, dump, bend, scoop, lift, dump.  It almost felt like an exercise routine.

I read a good book this week, Peace Like a River.  The review on the front said this book "serves as a reminder why we read fiction to begin with."  I enjoyed it.  It was one of those books that felt like an accomplishment when I closed it, and I was glad I read it.  It had some wonderful sentences in it.  Have you read it?  Did you enjoy it?

I watched the Mitt Romney documentary on Netflix.  I enjoyed it as well.  It made me smile watching him pick up trash and clutter.  It was interesting hearing how the mind of a businessman thinks in politics.  What a good man.  I still wish he would have won.

Calvin and I went out to dinner Friday night using a gift certificate.  The only thing better than a good dinner out is a free good dinner out.

We went to Fort Lewis on Wednesday to be with Grace for an ultrasound since Abe is still away on training. The baby kept his face squished against the walls of Grace in every facial picture.  Seeing the images I imagined his nose and lips pressed up against our glass door in a few years.

Today I went to Marv Vernon's funeral.  He just turned 90.  Brother Vernon was our home teacher for several years.  By occupation, he was a banker, and by the end of his career he was a consultant for failing banks.  I remember a church lesson he gave several years ago. He shared his experience of helping troubled banks and that he quickly learned it was fruitless to ask, "What happened?" and "Why did you fail?"  That question only caused accusations and excuses.  Instead, he learned to ask, "Now that we're in this situation, what can you do to help get and keep us out?"

He suggested families would do well to use that advice and focus on the future and what can be done, rather than on the past and what was done.  I've often thought of and used his advice.

And finally . . .

. . . today was also our stake young women's conference.  While Nesha and I didn't have any young women attend with us, we still went and enjoyed it.  Our theme this year is Come Unto Christ.  I find this video we watched inspiring and heartwarming.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Thursday Thinking - On a Scale of One to Ten . . .

Today I asked the kids to place themselves on a patriotic continuum between 1 (not very patriotic) and 10 (very patriotic).  They were to defend their responses.

Frankly, their answers surprised me.  And inspired me.  The majority of the kids believe they are very patriotic.  They have a lot of love for and trust in their country and her people.  Many recognized that our country has serious problems facing her, and most said that they should do more to help her.

The class then compiled a list of what "more to help her" looks like.  They had several suggestions; then they turned to Mosiah 29 in the Book of Mormon where King Mosiah establishes a republican form of government among a people formerly ruled by a monarch.  Mosiah lists what citizens of a republic must do if they wish for their society to thrive.  Here is the combined list from the students' and Mosiah's ideas:

  • learn the history of the country

so we know what works and what doesn't
so we know what the framers of the Constitution intended and it can be clearly interpreted
so we can appreciate what we have and what it took to get it and what it takes to keep it

  • build strong families

a nation is only as strong as her families
families and nations are successful when they are built on moral principles

  • stand up, stand tall, and be heard

using John Hancock as an example a student mentioned we must not be afraid to stand up for freedom and what makes and keeps a society free
be exemplary in conduct and attitude

  • everybody has a responsibility in a republican form of government because everyone is represented and expects something in return

be actively involved
serve on juries
register for the draft
pay taxes
be a watchdog
recognize that a republican government takes lots of effort by her people and requires patience

  • obey the laws

don't try and avoid consequences
citizens must pay for their crimes and be accountable for their decisions

  • recognize that everyone has an opportunity to pursue happiness which is what gives equality to all

  • be wise

pay attention
be informed

I came away buoyed by the discussion.  In a day when cynics are loud, debt is huge, unity is splintered, and problems are mounting, I saw enthusiasm and conviction . . . and answers.

It was a great thing to think on all day.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

52 Blessings - Lessons Learned

Calvin reading scripture stories to Levin

We just finished the school semester in seminary on Friday. One of the things that I love about the scriptures is that they give valuable real-life examples of people making every day choices - whether to live or not live the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ - and the consequences of those choices.  Watching the cause and effect in other people's lives is like getting to see what is behind door #1, door #2, and door #3 before I ever have to make a choice.

If the qualifying markers (modes of transportation, time-period vocabulary, foods [not very many of us eat locusts or manna anymore]) are taken out of the scripture stories, they represent people and their choices from any period of history.

Like these stories of three young men:

1. The first young man was a likable kid with lots of friends. He had charisma, and people were drawn to him. He set the rules for what was cool and what wasn’t among his friends. His dad was an important man in the community and was in front of the public often. His dad also held much influence among the people religiously as well, and he worked hard helping people.

This young man was also a knot-head.  The older he got the more rash and stupid decisions he made.  His friends followed him.  He became a societal nuisance.  He was making his folks, and the community, miserable.  He began causing problems in his congregation as well.

One day this young man had a spiritual experience unlike any he’d ever had before. It was made clear to him that our Heavenly Father was aware of him and that the road he was on was a dead end, and if he didn’t change his course, and change it soon, he’d lose everything he had or hoped to have.

This young man listened to what he felt.  He changed his direction. It was hard. It was humbling. He took a lot of guff from a lot of people, but he changed his attitude and began making better decisions. 

This young man never forgot that spiritual experience and the chance the Lord gave him to begin making better decisions. Never. He spent the rest of his life trying to undo the bad he'd done and helping people make good decisions.

2. The second young man was really talented. He was both athletic and good in music. He was a good-looking kid and he blushed easily which made him even more handsome. He was just an all-around great kid.

He had seven older brothers that razzed and teased him, but it didn’t seem to bother him. He thought he was indispensable. And pretty much, he was. The older he got the better at athletics and music he got. He was a great leader. People really, really liked him.

One day he had a spiritual experience that changed the direction of his life. He knew that Heavenly Father was aware of him and that he was capable of great things. That experience also changed the direction of his career. He got into politics and became very successful; people thrived where he led.

I’m not really sure why, but after he’d become successful, he started to slack in his personal discipline.  He wasn't as humble as he had been, and he started to make some sloppy decisions. He wasn’t always where he needed to be when he needed to be there. He got involved with stuff he knew better than to get involved with. He started looking at things he shouldn’t have been looking at. Before he knew it, he ended up sleeping with a woman who wasn’t his wife, and he got her pregnant.

When he found out the girl was pregnant, he panicked. If word got out about his affair and the pregnancy, it would be the end of his career and his standing in the Church. He was desperate to cover up the pregnancy and willing to do whatever it took to hide it.  Anything. And that is what he did. He covered it up. Rather than confessing or repenting and trying to fix things, he took a life.

This man’s life pretty much fell apart after this. He stayed in politics, but he wasn’t as happy or as influential as he’d been. He began to have a lot of trouble within his family.  His kids became belligerent and defiant.  He didn't even try to correct them or help them learn from their mistakes. It was sad, sad, sad.

3. The third young man was pretty much a regular kid. He wasn’t popular, nobody called him handsome, he wasn’t good at music, but he was a really happy kid that liked to work and play. He was also curious and asked lots of questions. He always wanted to know why and how.

One day this young man had a spiritual experience, just like the other two young men. That day he also came to know for himself that Heavenly Father knew him, loved him, and expected great things of him.

This young man never forgot that experience and what he felt that day. He continued to live his normal life, but he also began to work hard helping other people learn what he had come to know for himself: God lives and knows us and wants us to return to Him.

Sometimes this young man made some unwise decisions and acted immature. He knew better, and he knew he knew better. He'd feel badly and repent.  He'd make corrections and then go on with life.  He was a quick learner and seldom repeated mistakes.

This young man turned out great and every time I think of him I smile, and every time I think of how hard he tried to do his very best and help others do their very best I want to cry . . . or at least cheer for him from the sidelines. 

Most of us will see ourselves in one of these boys.    

-The knuckle-head boy who made some very wrong decisions in his life and knew it, repented and made better decisions, then spent the rest of his life helping other people was Alma.  His story is in Mosiah and Alma. 

-The talented, athletic, popular boy with lots of opportunities who started to take things for granted and wasn't as careful about his decisions and commitment to the Lord as he knew he should be was David.  His story is in I and II Samuel.

-The normal boy that did normal things like work, play, and sometimes act immature, but who was humble about his mistakes was Joseph Smith.  His story is in Joseph Smith - History. 

Because of the scriptures, I feel like I know these men.  I’ve read their stories several times and seen what made them excited and what scared them, what made them cry and want to give up, and what made them laugh and willing to try harder.  Not only have I learned truth and the doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ through their writings and words, but I have learned about choices and consequences through their examples.

As the semester closed Friday, I fretted about all the lessons we didn't get covered in the Book of Mormon. I wished we'd have had more time, more days.  I wished I'd have taught more efficiently and effectively.

But then I thought of the students individually.  Every single one of them has or will have finished reading the Book of Mormon within the next week, some of them for the first time, others for their second or third time. Their love for the book has been evident this semester in the things they have said and the spark in their eyes as they described different people from its pages.  Slowly the worry I felt began to fade.  I understood their love for the scriptures would take them back again and again.   they'd get the lessons that were missed. They'd see themselves in the stories and they'd be able to choose door #1, door #2, or door #3 wisely by following the examples of the people they have come to love through the scriptures.  


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Life in Our World - All Caught Up

Quick!  Come visit.  The house is dusted and vacuumed, the kitchen and bathrooms are scrubbed, the floors are mopped and the garage is swept, the laundry and ironing are finished and put away, there are fresh loaves of bread and  a new batch of cookies on the counter, a batch of apple-raspberry-blueberry-peach fruit leather is just about to come out of the food dehydrator and Calvin is cleaning and organizing his shop. All. at. the. same. time.  This is a phenomena, and this particular combination of events may not repeat itself for years.  Please, please come visit while everything is in order.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

14 on 14 of 1-14

Each month we have a family post that correlates to the date.  For example in 2011, when the tradition began, each member of the family took a picture of what they were doing on the 11th of the month.  Each month's post that year (theoretically) had 11 pictures in it.  In 2012, each member in the family took a picture on the 12th of each month and each month's post (theoretically) had 12 pictures in it. 

Now, here we are to 2014 . . . and (theoretically) there will be 14 pictures on the 14th of each month (but realistically, there will be more like 12 or 17 pictures).

January 14th . . . 

Grace: See all this? It's my deal of the day. I went into bareMinerals
today for a makeup brush I was planning on spending $28 on.
Instead, I found this hole box of goodies for $34 INCLUDING the same exact brush!

Abe:  Lovely Ft. Irwin, CA

Zeph:  Zeph and Joe at the Atlanta aquarium yesterday.
(I'm sending yesterday's picture because Zeph was a giant grump monster today.)

Joe:  Ande has been happy to finally be in our own house and making dinner.
I enjoy the spoils.
Tonight it was steak (courtesy of Cactus Cal), pesto and tomato pasta, and burrata

Ande: The closed door to Zeph's room while he sleeps.
Goodnight and good riddance!

Calvin:  Finally, to eat real food again.

Calvin:  "You know it's serious business when I get my bow bible out."  
(Jane speaking here, Calvin's getting ready to make a bunch of bows again.)

Jane:  I keep telling Calvin what a lucky man he is to have me for his wife.

Ty: I'm doing some ground ops for my pattern solo flight.

Michelle: It's 9pm, I just got home from a meeting, and I still have
this to tackle tonight.
Addendum: I'm not dealing with the aforementioned things tonight.
I'm going to bed.

Afton: eating a PB&N (Nutella). Her favorite kind of sandwich.
On the counter, one of her favorite places to be.

Eliza: on her hippo--one of her favorite places to be.
Also, Afton was told to go give Eliza the toy.
From the other room, I heard a struggle and then eventually an "I did it!"
Can you spot the toy?  (Hint.  It's a teething ring.)

Levin - I put the puzzle together all by myself

Atlas:  I'm reading a book . . . all by myself

Cali:  It took me two years to organize this stuff.
Now, nobody play with it and mess it up.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Life in Our World

A week ago, Cali and Grace’s good friend, Jaimie, hosted a baby shower for Grace. It was such a fun party.  Jamie was in charge of the decorations, Cali was in charge of the food, and they both did the party favors. People are so very generous and many came to celebrate with Grace. Baby Payne is only four weeks away. Abe is away on training for the next month, but his commanding officer said he would do everything in his power to get him home for the birth. I’m hoping his commanding officer’s power is mighty.

Abe, Brett Bergeson, Dayna Bergeson

Dayna Bergeson, a good friend of ours is going to the Philippines on a mission. Since Abe served his mission there, he offered to fix her Filipino food to help her prepare. Other good friends of ours, Babette and Barbra, a mother and daughter from the Philippines, also came and brought food. Barbra even brought balut, boiled duck embryos that are a common street food in the Philippines.

We met at the Bergesons and had a great evening eating Filipino food and talking about the culture, customs, and expectations. Abe’s mission was an incredible experience for him and he talks about the people with such gentleness, sincerity, and love. Dayna’s dad, Brett, was Abe’s young men’s leader and helped him prepare to serve his mission.  This picture captures that circle.

Some mornings when I have been very tired, I have daydreamed, “Oh, to have a sick day where I would be forced to lie in bed all day. I could sleep and read. How I wish for just one day where I could call in sick.”

It finally came and I shall never wish for another. Contrary to my imagination, you don’t sleep and read. You lie there groaning and aching. It is a miserable experience. You get shriveled from taking so many showers trying to get warm, and the bed becomes your enemy.

I even had company in my wish. Calvin came down with the flu first. He came home from work early shivering and shaking on Wednesday and by Thursday night I’d joined him.

At one point I was in a lot of pain. I asked Calvin if he would give me a Priesthood blessing. He pulled the chair over to the couch because he wasn’t strong enough to stand. He blessed that the sickness would leave and commanded it to depart. Shortly thereafter I gave a mighty heave then crawled into bed. Two hours later I woke up and the intense pain was gone. It was a sweet miracle.

For the last three days we have been pathetic. We paddle from the couch to the bed to the chair and whoever is feeling the strongest fixes toast and canned soup for the other one. Calvin said, “Jane, this is bad. This is what it’s going to be like in 20 years. The last one left standing will be the winner.”

I don’t know what they’re calling this strain of flu, but it needs a mean and nasty name like rhino, wolverine, or pirate.  Though it’ll be another day or two before we attempt public living, the fact that I’m blogging says that we’re mending.

A new Bible Video came out this week.  We love them and scroll through the list and watch them often, sometimes for family home evening, sometimes for scripture study, sometimes just because.  One of my favorites is the Savior being baptized.

How are you doing this week?

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Thursday Thinking - It Makes a Difference

"Your donation makes a difference."

That's what the blood bank always says in their e-mails. They also say “come save lives," and “your support means families get to spend more time together, laugh more, and create more memories."

They beg for blood.

No doubt this is all true, for blood does keep a heart pumping and a life living. I'm happy to share, ‘tis easy to make more.

Being a mother and making a good home to raise children in takes a lot of blood;  it also takes sweat and tears, and that’s what I’ve been thinking about this week.

All of our girls are now mothers in the thick of mothering. Some days they sound overwhelmed, exhausted, inadequate, and discouraged. Other days they sound confident and full-of-purpose, deeply satisfied and so pleased. Their particular heartaches and thrills are as unique to them as their children are.  I can appreciate the gamut of emotions that comes from being a mother.  Because I’m not in the middle of changing diapers or fixing food that toddlers can and will eat, or worrying about a sullen or withdrawn teenager, I have encouragement to share ('tis easy to make more when you're on the sidelines):

To Cali, Grace, Michelle, Ande . . . and all mothers, “Please keep going. Your donation makes a difference. You're saving generations.  That takes a lot of blood, sweat, and tears.  It can be joyful, but sometimes it just feels like a duty to be a strong mother and make a good home.   Even though it is a heavy responsibility, please don't get discouraged. What you're doing is so very valuable.  I beg you to understand that what you're doing is making a difference."

Ty made this frame and mat for me for Mother's Day.  I love how it makes me feel when I see it.
It reminds me every day the privilege of being a mother.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Tuesday Tried It - She's Got Good Ideas

A few years ago I asked Jeeves when I needed to know something.  

Then I started to ask Google.

But now I ask Pinterest.

For example.  I had a candle that came in a cute mason jar that I wanted to save, so I asked pinterest, "How do you get the wax out of a candle jar?" She said to put boiling water in the jar after the candle was gone then let it set for a little bit.  She said it would melt the wax and come right out.  She reminded me to not pour the hot water/melted wax down the sink, but to dump it outside.  She said the inside of the jar would wipe clean with a paper towel.

She was right.  Pinterest is as good as asking a neighbor.

Then, Cali gave me a low-bench bookshelf that she didn't want.  I walked all over the house trying to figure out where to put it.  I tried it on the ground.  I tried it on a table top.  I tried it on a wall.  It just didn't look right anywhere.  I put it in the garage until a solution could be found.  What I should have done was ask Pinterest how to display low-bench bookshelves, because two days later Ande sent me one of her ideas.

She said it would work perfectly for children's books if I displayed some big, appropriate things on top of it. She was so right.  It does work perfectly and looks good.  Pinterest is as good as asking a neighbor.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Monday Memories - The Dentist

Twin Falls Idaho Public Library
the dentist's office is to the left of it

Mom must have chosen Dr. Carpenter based on his location.  The public library and the city park (complete with wading pool and maple trees) were just across the street from his dental office.  Mom would drop us off at our appointments and then come back two, or three, or four hours later to pick us all up.  If you were one of the first ones in Dr. Carpenter's chair, and had no cavities, there was plenty of time to go to the library and play in the park until everyone else was done.  Of course, going to the park and library was after you stopped by the receptionist's desk and picked an expandable, be-jeweled ring from the box.

Because we lived thirty miles from town and our dentist appointments took all morning (there were ten of us kids), we stopped at a fast food drive-in after our exams. Those who had cavities got milkshakes; those without cavities got a hamburger and french fries.

I've found milkshakes consoling ever since.

Today I had another dental appointment.  As the dental assistant suctioned saliva, I thought of Dr. Carpenter's office and the green sink with swirling water that was next to each dental chair.  Remember how we used to spit in the bowl?  I had forgotten all about that until today.  But I didn't forget about going to get a milkshake after the appointment.  I drove straight to DQ and ordered a medium hot fudge one.  And guess what?  Anah from Texas sent me a darling card a month ago with $10 in it.  I'd mentioned in a post that I don't like going to the dentist anymore.  Anah said she hated the dentist too; the $10 was for future dentist-visit milkshakes.  Her thoughtfulness warmed me through and through, and the milkshake soothed my aching mouth.  Thank you Anah for your gift. It was very much appreciated.

(By the way, the dentist told me yesterday that my 40 year old fillings - Dr. Carpenter's fillings - were really good ones.  He said fillings never last that long.  He said they usually give them 10 or so years maximum.  He said that for the supplies and technology available then he had done a good job.  Dr. Carpenter had a red nose with lots of purple veins.  Dentists didn't wear masks back then like they do now.  Staring at his nose up close for hours and hours like I did, I often thought I could spot him in a police line-up should someone ever need me to.  No one ever needed me to though.  Maybe Mom chose him on skill, and because he wasn't a criminal instead of location.  Maybe he was brilliant and chose his location.)

How about you?  Were expandable rings your dentist prize, too?  I don't remember what they gave the boys do you?  Do you remember having to spit in the swirling mini-sinks?

Sunday, January 5, 2014

52 Blessings - Reunions (A-Z Recap)

auld lang syne. noun \ˌōl(d)-ˌ(l)aŋ-ˈzīn, ˌȯl(d)-\. : the good old times.
L-R Back Row:   Abe, Grace, Calvin, me, Ande, Zeph, Joe
L-R Front Row:   Cali, Atlas, Ray, Levin, Afton, Michelle, Eliza, Ty
(Thanks to Cali who took our family pictures via timer - she'd push the button and run to her spot.
The timer method makes for pretty authentic smiles as everyone cheered for her to make it in time.)

We were to have our first official Calvin Payne Family Reunion last summer.  But you can tell by the photograph that that wasn't very good timing as it would have interfered with the family birthing schedule.  The kids voted to have the reunion at Christmastime instead.

We rented a home half-way between here and Seattle and gathered there on the evening of December 23rd. Here is a smattering of our favorite memories from the reunion . . .

Eliza, Ray, Atlas
The Donkey was babysitting a Cow and a Duck

The first night we had family home evening and outlined our agenda for the reunion and everyone was given a team.  Each team competed and performed different duties each day.  For example, while the Cows did the dishes, the Ducks picked up and emptied the trash, and the Donkeys babysat while the Ducks and Cows worked.  The next day the teams switched jobs.

The last night we were together we sat around the kitchen table and had a reunion evaluation. Everyone agreed that being a part of a team was great and wished for more team opportunities.

Michelle making rolls
Ty making cheese cake (good thing he had Abe and Grace bring their pans)

Cooking for 15 people in a kitchen that was equipped with one mixing bowl and  a 4 quart saucepan took skill, but it did not stop us from having great food.  Here are the food favorites:

Ty's cheescake (how could it not be good when it was made with 10 packages of cream cheese)
Michelle's crescent rolls  (how could they not be good with over a pound of butter in them)
Ray's crepes (how could they not be good when cooked to order and served with freshly whipped cream)
Calvin's prime rib (how could it not be good when he aged it for five weeks)
Buffalo chicken wings (plucked by the whizzbang chicken plucker especially for Christmas)

Calvin as . . . no, not Santa . . . Porter Rockwell

We had nightly devotionals.  The first night Calvin gave it.  Beings it was Joseph Smith's birthday (Dec 23rd) that day, Calvin dressed up as one of Joseph's close friends, Porter Rockwell, and told a few stories of Joseph Smith.

Each family's devotional was uplifting and inspiring and closed the day in a very good way.

eliza, afton, michelle, & ty.
Michelle, Eliza, Ty, Afton

Cali, Levin, Ray, Atlas

Joe holding a new game Ande gave him

Several Christmas' ago we started the gift tradition of giving each family "a few of our favorite things".  One of Joe and Ande's gifts to each family this year was a favorite game. Playing all the new games was fun and we didn't have nearly enough time.  Everyone wished for more.

We also played Werewolf.  The second round of Werewolf got a little intense because I fell asleep and wasn't playing my part effectively.  I cost the whole village their lives. After a few very sincere apologies and promises not to get so competitive, we played another round and went to bed safe and secure.

Another game we played was the song guessing game.  Joe had collected everyone's favorite song for the year and burned them onto a cd for each family.  He played the cd and we had to guess the song to the person.  The bonus is we now all have a cd of good, fun songs to listen to and remind us of each other. I won't hear What Does the Fox Say? without thinking of Clara, or What Makes You Beautiful without thinking of Afton, or Eliza Jane without thinking of Eliza.

I always wanted a game loving family, but not bad enough to play hours and hours of Candyland or Monopoly to get it.  God gave me one anyway and I'm so glad.  

Grace and Afton

We are lucky to have a traveling hairstylist that attends all family functions.  Grace graciously brings her scissors, wax, dyes, and talents and makes us feel . . . and look . . . better.

a blurry picture of Cali teaching Joe about camera settings.  Obviously I was the one who needed the instruction most.

One of the great things about family is the different skills, ideas, philosophies, wisdom, and knowledge each person brings to the unit.  Listening to all of the different conversations about politics, business, current events, to-share or not-to-share recipes, programming iPhones, apps, how to fight fair, and many other topics were interesting and instructional.

joe, ande, & zeph.

kind words.
Abe and Afton

Each person had an envelope with their name on it that hung clothesline style above the entry table. Everyone wrote something that they loved and appreciated about each person and put it in his or her envelope.  At the end of the reunion, everyone received their envelope.

Giving appreciations at Christmas is a tradition we have enjoyed for many years, but this was the first time the grandchildren have been included.  The parents enjoyed getting to read what others feel about their children.  Ande said one of her favorite things of the reunion was seeing how much all the siblings love each other's kids.  That is one thing I appreciate about each one in our family too - they are really good uncles and aunts.  They take that calling seriously.  

land navigation.
L-R   Joe, Atlas, Ande, Zeph, Ty, Ray, Abe, Calvin, Cali

There were a few topics that Calvin wanted to discuss while all the kids were together.  One was emergency preparedness. He had Abe teach land navigation to anyone interested in learning it.  The group above spent a couple of hours learning how to correctly read maps (like magnetic north versus true north, locating your location, etc).  Emergency evacuation plans were discussed . . . and the Wheat Thins made it possible by being the paperweights.

Abe, Calvin, Joe, Ty, Ray

Not a one of them complained during family pictures.  Not once.  Even when they were promised it was over and then were asked to come back for this one.  They are not only handy, they are handsome.

oh, ho, ho.
Ande, Afton, Levin on Christmas morning

A favorite memory Ande had was lying in bed with Levin on Christmas Eve and telling him the story of Rudolf the red-nosed reindeer for the first time.  Levin giggled and held his hands over his mouth in excitement as she told him about Santa, presents, and Rudolph.

Joe ran around the house after the kids went to bed jingling bells and saying, "ho, ho, ho."  Joe could easily hire out as a Santa or Disney enthusiast.  He makes things fun with his enthusiasm and hearty laugh.

Grace and Abe

Ray and Atlas

Can you have a family reunion without a qualm or two?  You can't help but worry something will go wrong. Luckily, things went smoothly.  Except . . .

Ray and Levin were in charge of getting a Christmas tree for the reunion.  I thought they had forgotten, but quietly and without fanfare they dragged a fresh Christmas tree in after dark on Christmas Eve.  Ray made a make-shift tree stand from a bucket and wound a strand of lights around the branches.  When I asked him about it, he said, "It was touch and go for a minute."  They found a tree about a mile from the house and since it was cold and dark, Ray left the truck running with the lights shining and Levin inside to stay warm while he sawed it down.  Levin started playing with levers and buttons and locked Ray out.  The truck windows are heavily tinted and you can't see in on a sunny day let alone a dark night.  Ray's phone was on the seat.  He was stuck.  He couldn't leave Levin in the running truck and walk a mile.  He couldn't call for help.  He couldn't break in.  In the meantime, Levin was enjoying himself at the wheel.  Ray banged on the window and finally got Levin's attention and told him to start pushing buttons on the door.  Levin finally hit a button that rolled down a window and Ray shoved his arm in it as fast as he could while he coached Levin to keep pushing.


Cali said she knew that I truly loved our grandkids when she saw me brave the backyard hairball jacuzzi with Ray and Levin so that Afton could go swimming.

Along that same line, Ande said one of her favorite memories was taking Zeph swimming for his very first time at the pool down the road from the house.  Ande, Calvin, Abe, Ray, and I had a great time on the slides.  Since Grace couldn't go into the hot pools or down the slides, she quietly walked Zeph up and down the cool pool while he waited for Ande.  

Calvin had a hard time leaving the steam room and sauna while the rest of us had a hard time tolerating them to keep him company.  It was a sweat lodge.

top shot.

Without a doubt, Top Shot (run by Ty and Michelle) was a top contender for favorite memories.

Ty conducted it just like the TV show with contests, elimination ranges, shoot-offs, videoed interviews, a cup mounted to the mantel as each contestant was out-shot.  It was incredible . . . and so fun.

As the rules were announced, I think it is safe to say many of us didn't really care if we got out early.  But once the competition began the more each of us wanted to win . . . or at least compete for more than one time.  Ty gave us many challenges with different weapons:  ping pong balls, sling shots, darts that we blew out of pvc pipe shooters he made (we left incredible slobber trails on the window), and the wii.

We were in our teams - Cows, Donkeys, Ducks when the competition began.  The Donkey team consisted of Ray, Joe, Calvin, Grace, and Atlas.  Their team was obviously weighted for shooting challenges.  And that is why it surprised everybody when they got sent to the elimination round first. Joe and Ray both tried to protect delicate, pregnant, female Grace, but Calvin had no mercy and shot her cup and sent her to the elimination round.

Everybody was giving him guff for picking on Grace.  It didn't even fluff his feathers.  It was a contest.  He made a perfect run in the shoot-off.  It was an obstacle course throughout the house shooting cups with blow darts.  It was impressive.  While high-fiving his good run, we couldn't help but feel sick for Grace. Reunions just shouldn't self destruct on the first event.  But Grace was a good sport even though she is a fierce competitor and likes to win.  She started the course.  All be darn if she didn't have as perfect a run as Calvin's.  Until she hit the last challenge.  It took her three darts to put the last target down.  Nonetheless it was a respectable run.

Grace in the elimination challenge

Colby Ty gathered us all together to recap the event and read the times.  Grace won by 2 seconds!  There was loud rejoicing.  Everyone knows Calvin is a good shot, and he wouldn't let you forget it if you did, but someway, somehow, Grace put him down.  If you ask Grace what one of her favorite memories is of the reunion she will smile and say, "Beating Dad at Top Shot."  If you ask Calvin what one of his favorite memories is of the reunion, he will solemnly say, "When Grace put me out in Top Shot." If you ask anyone else they will say, "That Calvin went out on the first round in Top Shot."

Another tense moment was later when Abe and Grace had to shoot against each other to stay in.  Colby's Ty's watch said Abe won by a few seconds, but Joe's watch said Grace had won.  However, Ty's watch was the official timer so Abe mounted Grace's cup on the mantel.

There were plenty of lighter moments too.  Ty was shooting paintballs at Michelle during one break in the competition.  Michelle is athletic and agile and was effectively dodging the balls, but it was cartoon material when she hit the ice.  Both feet went up in the air and she splatted on the ground. And once she rolled over and we knew she'd live it was very funny.

The best shot might have been Ande's first nailing of a 3 point cup with a paint ball and sling shot.  It was a fine shot that shut down the false bravado from the other side.  Good thing Cali had Ande on her team because that same challenge Cali couldn't hit the cup six inches away from her.  Luckily Cali escaped the elimination challenge, but sadly Ande was put out.

Ty was creative in the contests and each challenge was unique.  Nobody's possessions were safe when it came to targets.  Even Afton's.  She got a frog game for Christmas where the frog jumps into the air when a lever is stepped on.   Within hours that jumping frog was a skeet-shoot target.  The shooter would yell "Pull" and Colby Ty stepped on the lever and sent the frog in the air for the darts to hit.

The saddest event to watch, however, was the final match between Ray and Abe.  By now, the contest had been going for three days.  There was skin in the game.  The final challenge was a contest of all the events. Abe competed first and had a good solid time to beat.  Ray followed and, at the last target, it appeared he had the lead.  All that was left was to hit the tree with a tennis ball and Ray would be THE top shot.  Ray could. not. hit. that. tree. to. save. his. soul. or. to. win. the. title.  Each time he missed, he had to fetch the ball to throw again.  After ten throws it was painful to watch.  We cheered loudest when he finally hit the tree.

Victory was Abe's and is one of his favorite memories.

But if you ask any of the girls, the real victory was when we had a shoot-off with the boys and won.  It was a classic example of male versus female strategy.  The men were aggressive and on the offensive.  They were hunters.  We defensively held our ground (high ground mind you, we stayed on the stairs where we could see better) and knocked them off one by one.  It was pretty great.  I know the men will all contest this paragraph, but it's like I tell them, "History belongs to those who record it."  So let it be written.  So let it be done.  We won.

Eliza, Calvin, and Levin
Calvin teases the kids mercilessly . . . and they love him.

Grace said, "We each got our own bedroom and bathroom, but we still got to come downstairs and live amongst each other.  We didn't have to leave each other.  I really liked that."

Cali said, "One of the highlights for me was watching Afton slide down the stairs on her bottom.  Levin was sitting on the couch watching her.  When they made eye contact they both started screaming, excited to see each other.  It was so sweet."

Afton discovered shadows a few days before the reunion.  It scared her.  Badly.  She refused to touch them which meant she couldn't move sometimes without stepping on her shadow or on a chair's shadow. Everybody jumped in to help her, whether it meant carrying her around her shadow, moving chairs, or encouraging her through her fear.  It was pretty sweet to see uncles and aunts rally around and help her.

Zeph trying to get some strength back

Even projectile vomit from 3 of the 5 grandchildren while we were there didn't deter us . . . much.  Everyone accepted that sick kids are a part of real life . . . and reunions . . . and helped each other out by rocking, holding, and cleaning up.

Cali, Ande, Michelle, Grace, me

If I were to going to be stranded on an island I would want to make sure each one of these women were on it with me.  They are fun, sensitive, caring, smart, resourceful, and funny.  We share many similar traits, but we are also different.  Our family needs these women.

Eliza and Michelle

Calvin and I were going to babysit while the adults went skiing, but there was no snow so the moms and dads didn't get a break.  Instead we played more games and had fun being together.

Ande and Zeph

How Calvin and I wish that a Payne family reunion could be a yearly thing.  But with families scattered across the nation and their responsibilities to business, country, and their own growing families, we don't feel it right to put the financial burden on everyone that often.  So our next one will be in 2015 and the Follett family will plan it.  In the meantime, we'll work to keep our relationships growing and healthy and wear our t-shirts that Ande made to remind us that we have each other every day not just every other year.

L-R  Afton, Levin, me, Eliza, Atlas, Calvin, and Zeph

My, oh my, what a wonderful time we had.  Being with the kids and grandkids was so fulfilling and satisfying.

It's the truth, it's actual
Ev'rything was satisfactual
Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay
It's a wonderful feeling, feeling this way

And . . .

Calvin and I left as the reigning champion ping-pong team.