Friday, May 30, 2008

School's Out!

School is out for the summer! As a parent, I think I looked forward to this day even more than my children did. Yes, it was nice not to have to worry about homework every night and multiple trips to the school each day. But even more than that, I viewed it as the opportunity to re-direct our energies to projects and time commitments that would benefit our family. It meant more time to practice musical instruments. Girls could do a sewing project or learn how to make bread. Boys could clean out the garage, mow lawns and spread mulch. I’ve missed the “summer help” so much since the kids all left home.

I heard a talk the other night in which the speaker listed the seven greatest problems facing schools today. They were:

1. Drugs/Alcohol

2. School Dropouts

3. Sexually Transmitted Disease/Pregnancy

4. Depression/Suicide

5. Oppositionally Defiant Behavior

6. Robbery

7. Bullying

The speaker then compared these problems with the seven greatest problems facing schools in the 1940s – the decade when I started school. They were:

1. Talking out of Turn

2. Chewing Gum

3. Making Noise

4. Cutting in Line

5. Breaking Dress Standards

6. Running in the Halls

7. Littering

Wow! Perhaps we need to get back to the basics of behavior again. Perhaps children need summers full of fewer vacations, fewer movies, fewer play dates, fewer video games, less swimming, less playing, less shopping, less money, less free time. I love this quote from a friend, “You Can Never Get Enough of What You Don’t Need.”-- Mary Ellen Edmunds. What kids do need is more jobs, more accountability, more work, more attention, more time with parents, more responsibility, more exercise, more reading, more quiet time, more thinking. Yeah, I know. That’s easy for me to say. Good luck to all you who still have kids at home!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Our Grandpa Ted

Perhaps most families can point to one particular event that has occurred in their family history that is really significant. It could be 9/11. It could be the birth of multiples, or an accident. It could be some wonderful award or achievement. For our family, this family-altering experience happened to our Grandpa Ted. And on this 65th anniversary of the occasion, our family says “Thanks.” The details of the event have provided the materials for unending talks, school projects, creative writing pieces, skits and journal entries. It occurred on May 29th, 1943 in St. Quay/Portrieux, France. Ted was 24 years old.

It was his very first bombing mission, and before he had even dropped his bombs, his B-17 Flying Fortress plane had been hit by enemy anti-aircraft fire. With only one functioning engine, he had hoped to limp his way across the English Channel and back to London, but it quickly became evident that they would have to bail out. As pilot, he was the last to leave "Lady Godiva" just minutes before she crashed into the bay off the north coast of enemy-occupied France. Eight members of the crew were captured and became POWs. Ted’s parachute blew into a tree and before he could untangle himself from branches and shroud lines he was surrounded by a group of teenagers who made it clear that they would help him. One took his flight boots. One took his parachute. Two boys led him into a ravine where he was to hide until they returned for him that night.

A week later, his bride of only a few months received a telegram that he was “missing in action.” For her, that was the beginning of a long three months of hoping and praying. There was no way for her to know that these boys had put him into the hands of the French Resistance. The problem was how to get him out of France. Up until this time, the French would put a rescued flier into a boat and, under cover of darkness, race him half way across the English Channel to meet an Allied Forces boat for transfer to safety. But by May 29th the days had become too long. There was not enough darkness, and their strategy had been discovered. While Ted posed as a French art student or as a tuberculosis patient languishing in a sanitarium, a new escape route was being hatched.

The escape itself involved an arduous hike (by foot) across the Pyrenees Mountains into Barcelona, Spain. The eleven day trip was made without food or water, with the exception of one meal they ate when they passed through Andora.

The very tree where Ted's parachute landed is still standing in a field near St. Quay. A few years ago we stood under that tree on May 29th with Ted and one of the young boys who came to his rescue. We stood in the ravine with Ted and heard him tell how he had felt and what his thoughts had been as he waited alone, hearing the German motorcycles moving back and forth across the area looking for him . He made a promise that day that if he were allowed to return home safely he would spend the rest of his life serving the Lord. He did that. Thank you, Ted, for your wonderful life and example.
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Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Grandkids are absolutely the best! Three of ours arrived late last night. They are tuckered this morning --

all except Charlie. He was an early bird. What a privilege to be able to get that little guy up and enjoy him all to ourselves. It's going to be a fun week.
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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

An Experiment

A friend recently asked me if I know how to bottle chicken. The answer was “No.” I did offer to help her figure it out. Canning with a pressure cooker always makes me a little tense, so I decided it would be better to experiment on my own, rather than inviting an audience to watch me blow up my kitchen. I decided to do a Judy in the Kitchen version of Pioneer Woman Cooks. So here goes my first attempt to chronicle “Chicken in a Jar.”

The first thing you must do is prepare your jars. Run your finger around the rim of each jar to check for nicks or chips that might keep the lid from sealing. The jars should be cleaned well. You can wash them by hand if you like. I prefer to put them in the dishwasher. I use the hottest water temperature and the Heat Dry setting.

Put a half teaspoon of salt in each jar.

Wash your chicken and trim off any fat. I bought boneless skinless chicken breasts, but you can use other parts or even do a whole chicken.

A pint jar holds a pound of chicken. Two chicken breasts per jar is about right. Since some breasts are larger than others, you might have to trim a small piece off or add a small piece so that your jar is filled to within a half inch of the top.

Use a clean damp cloth to clean off the rim and neck of the jar. Any tiny piece of food, lint or fleck of anything on the rim will keep the lid from sealing.

Run water over your new lids to make sure they are free of dust or particles. Place them on your filled jars and screw the bands on tightly. Put the rack in the bottom of your pressure cooker and arrange the jars in the cooker. Add three quarts of water. Adjust the lid and screw the knobs on tightly. Adjust the knobs opposite each other at the same time to assure that the lid stays level. If the lid is crooked, liquid can escape during the pressuring process.

Place the pressure cooker on the stove and turn heat on high. Make sure that the steam escape valve is open.

Allow the water to boil until steam escapes freely through the valve for two or three minutes. Then close the escape valve --

and allow the pressure inside the cooker to come up to ten pounds.

The trickiest part of the process is to now keep the pressure at exactly 10 pounds by regulating the heat up and down. The chicken has to process for 75 minutes. You can then remove the pressure cooker from the heat and let it sit until the pressure gauge returns to zero. At that point you can open the escape valve to vent any remaining pressure inside. Remove the lid and lift the jars out onto a towel. Allow them to cool completely before moving them.

So now the first part of the experiment is complete. Didn’t blow up the kitchen. Didn’t break any jars. They all sealed. They look good. Now we just have to try eating them. I think we'll try chicken salad sandwiches for lunch. Will there be a post tomorrow?
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Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

Yesterday I took a quiet walk through our local cemetery. It seemed strange to read the names of so many people that I do not know. I had a sweet conversation with a man whose wife had recently died after 69 years of marriage. He was planting a little hibiscus tree near his wife's headstone.

My brother, Charles, died when I was five years old. As far back as I can remember, Memorial Day always meant a trip to the cemetery. We called it Decoration Day, and mother always prepared containers of beautiful fresh cut flowers for Charles' grave. The neighboring plot belonged to a child. The grave was never visited that day and we could only assume that the family had moved away leaving the tiny grave behind. My sister and I would take a soup can, cover it with tin foil and fill it with pansies, grape hyacinths, or other small flowers from mother's garden. We carried this bouquet just as proudly as mother carried her large arrangements of iris and tulips. Ever so gently and lovingly we placed our tiny arrangement on the little headstone, carefully anchoring it with stones against the wind. I wonder if that little grave is still there. I wonder how that child's mother felt on Memorial Day. Was her heart heavy with sorrow to think that no one would visit that little grave that day. How could she ever have known that two little girls were following their mother as she trimmed the grass around the stone, carefully washed it with water, and then decorating it with beautiful little flowers that a child would have loved.
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Saturday, May 24, 2008

A Trip Down Memory Lane

I don’t usually post on the weekend, but kind of a cool little thing happened 57 years ago today and I thought I’d like to note it. My parents had always wanted to take our family on some kind of big trip. However, my oldest brother had a heart condition and was never well enough to go. After he passed away my parents said, “There are no excuses left. We’re going.” So my dad bought a 1951 Chevy sedan and the eight of us drove to Hood River, Oregon for three months. We lived in a small “migrant workers cottage” in the middle of a fruit orchard owned by my uncle. From that base, we traveled all over the Northwest, enjoyed getting to know our cousins, met wonderful new friends and renewed old acquaintances. My oldest sister kept a diary and expense account every day of our trip. You’ll see from the first entry that this was a way different time.

“May 24, 1951 – Left at 7:55. Breakfast with the Wasdens before departure. Picnic lunch given to us by P.K. Edmunds. Mileage reading, 841. Beautiful day. Arrived in Hyde Park at 7:30 p.m. Mileage reading, 1202. Joined by the Hazen Cooley’s at Nephi for lunch. Stopped at the Springville Fish Hatchery. Called on Joel C. Barlow family at Provo. Stopped in Salt Lake. Gas - $5.75. Food - $4.60.

We invited two couples over for breakfast on the patio this morning. Afterward, I re-read the entire three-month trip diary. It was a real “trip” down memory lane.

Friday, May 23, 2008

One-way communication

A little boy was persistently trying to show and tell his father about a scratch on his finger. The father, who was trying to read the paper, finally lowered the paper and said, "Well, there's nothing I can do about it, is there?" The boy answered, "Well yes, you could have said 'Oh'."

Is anybody reading this blog?
Does anybody care?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

An Opportunity to Serve

A few months ago our Area Authority asked me if I would chair a committee to plan and implement a BYU (Brigham Young University) Fireside for the entire Chicagoland area. President Samuelson would be the main speaker and he would bring Head Football Coach Bronco Mendenhall and Athletic Director Tom Holmoe with him. The Fireside took place last night at the Westin O'Hare Hotel. It's such a busy time of year we found ourselves competing with high school graduations, seminary graduations, state athletic competitions, AND the final performance of American Idol. We were sweating bullets about filling the grand ballroom. We estimated the crowd at about 800 and it was a fabulous evening. We are on our way into the City for a fund-raising luncheon today and then my responsibilities will be over! Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


I don’t know if I’m up to writing this sad post today, but this is weighing so heavily on my mind. This sad story involves the family of our daughter-in-law. Her brother and sister-in-law live in the small community of Sweet, Idaho. Just over a year ago, their three teenage children and two of their friends slid off the road and into a reservoir on their way to school. All five of the teenagers drowned. This tragic accident rocked their little community to the core. As if losing three of their children that day were not enough, the Walker family was still grieving the loss of a younger sibling who was run over by a construction vehicle just a few years before. This little community of about 1,000 residents has rallied around these two families in a way that is hard to imagine. On Saturday, another tragedy rocked their world. They were having a “clean-up” day at the cemetery where these children are buried. A man and his three children who were on their way to the work project were hit by a runaway pipe trailer and their truck was thrown into the river. The father and two little girls drowned. Within a few days, three more beloved friends in that community will lie in that very cemetery.

I’m so grateful for a church that provides answers to the really big “Why’s” of life. I’m grateful for the knowledge we have of the purpose of life and Heavenly Father’s plan for us. I’m grateful for the comfort and understanding that sustain us through the difficult times of our lives. Our daughter-in-law shared this email from her sister-in-law. I felt comforted just reading it.

“It took me several times to gather my emotions
together enough to walk into that hospital emergency
room last night. There in the same room that my three
children lay just over a year ago,I saw a mother with
her arms around two little girls. The look was also
all too familiar. Faces once so full of life and fun
now stilled. Their little bodies broken. It was a
reminder again that these bodies are not who we are.
They are oh so very temporary and fragile.

Emily and her family have shown such strength and it is always
amazing to see that the Lord gives us what we need to
handle anything that comes to us...even tragedy. We
had a wonderful testimony meeting today in our ward.
Lots of tears. The reality of the atonement and the
assurance of a resurrection and life with our
families is something that I do not think that our
little ward takes for granted. We are all comforted
in the knowledge that HE is over all and that HE could
have easily stopped this accident just as he could
have stopped my own children from leaving us that day
last year.

Please keep Emily Coburn's family and friends in your
thoughts and prayers....that is what helps the very
most. I know....I have been there. I will miss
seeing those beautiful little faces in my primary
every week and knowing that there are some things that
do not make sense....but we must have faith that there
is purpose in all things.”

Hug your kids today!

A Cool Gizmo

When I was in fourth grade, the music teacher at the college called my parents and told them they should consider starting me on a string instrument. My first violin, borrowed from Etta Leigh's attic, was taken to the violin shop, and after an incredibly long week of waiting, was finally ready to be taken home. I was so impressed by the inside of the case with its apple green crushed velvet lining and the long satin ribbons where the bows were fastened.

String instruments are interesting because becoming proficient requires not only training the fingers, but also the ears. Playing "in tune" is completely dependent on where you place your fingers, and you learn to place your fingers correctly by "hearing" with exactness. "Tuning" is a big deal for strings and you will always hear an orchestra "tuning up." After more than 50 years of playing, my daughter gave me a gift for my birthday last month that is really a cool little gizmo. When you play your strings, red and green lights flash, dials indicate whether the note is sharp or flat, and you can tune your instrument with precision using your eyes. Who'd of ever thought!
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Monday, May 19, 2008

Not for Sissies

Our son called the other night to tell us that it is time to sign up for this year’s New England Triathlon at Hyannis, Cape Cod. Our family has really enjoyed participating for the past five or six years. The thing about this triathlon that works well for us is that you can participate as teams. So you can do one, two, or all three events, and you can put together a team of one, two, or three individuals. Even our older grandkids can participate. We’re way more about participation than we are about winning, but we have a wonderful time cheering each other on. We rent a charming beach cottage (Dawning Day), and the weekend is full of kite flying on the beach, clam digging, seafood feasts, nighttime beach bonfires for s’mores and singing, pizza, fishing, and long walks along the beach. Our Cape Cod memories are among our very best!

When I think about triathlons, I can’t help but think of a story I heard recently about a man who competes in marathons, triathlons, and even the Iron Man with his handicapped son. It’s one of the most touching stories I’ve ever heard. I’ve watched this clip many times and am moved to tears each time I see it.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

House Guests

Our son, Rob, was home this week. He's getting an MBA at Brigham Young University and will be doing an internship with Union Pacific Railroad this summer in Omaha. Since he doesn't start work until Monday he brought a work colleague and spent a few days showing him Chicago. We always love having company because it means we get Portillo's Chicago-style hot dogs, we eat Giordano's Chicago-style pizza, we always watch a few good movies, and if I'm lucky I get a little bit of help. This trip, Rob power-washed the patio and set up the patio furniture for me. This week I planted all our annuals and now if the weather just warms up we're ready for breakfast on the patio! Check out the good-looking headboard Rob's leaning against. He built this bed and it's beautiful!
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Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Good Day's Work

I love strawberry season. And with a freezer full of strawberry jam we are looking forward to meals of homemade rolls and jam with many of you!
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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Book Tag

Last week I got tagged by Aprilynn. So this is my first experience with “tagging.” Apparently I’m supposed to pick a book with at least 123 pages, open the book to page 123, and share the fifth sentence on that page. Here goes!

I have just re-read A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini. The fifth sentence on page 123 reads, “Then Babi’s hand was on Laila’s shoulder, and he gently pulled her from the door.” I read this book about a year ago, but was recently asked to lead a discussion about the book at our May Book Club, so I thought I better do a quick re-read to refresh my memory

This book was depressing to me from beginning to end. That doesn’t mean I didn’t like it. While it is nice to read a “happy ever after” fairytale, I think it is the book that bothers us that has the capacity to change our lives. This book deals with the way Afghani women are treated in their society. I have had the great good fortune to be married to a man who treats me like a Queen. He has loved, encouraged, and supported me in everything I’ve ever wanted to do. He has always had more confidence in my ability than I have and has always found the time to be my mentor, my cheerleader, my therapist. When I read about how women in some parts of the world are oppressed and mistreated I instinctively want to fight. I feel anger. I feel panic. I feel sick. But I don’t know what to do. A few months ago I also read Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortensen. This book chronicles one man’s efforts to educate Afghani women, which would certainly go far in solving the social ills in any society. I recommend both these books. I tag Kaye Lynn.
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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The gift I got twice

My daughter knows I love gardening, and every spring I have a long list of plants and yard toys that I want to buy. For Mother’s Day she called a local nursery and ordered a gift certificate which she emphasized had to be delivered before Sunday. On Saturday, as I was leaving for a meeting, I stopped at the mailbox to see if the mail had come. There was one lonely envelope from The Growing Place. It had a stamp on it, but it had not been cancelled. I thought to myself that it was likely some sort of advertisement that they had hand-delivered to everyone in the neighborhood. I decided to leave it in the mailbox to be picked up with the other mail which would be delivered that day.

On Mother’s Day, Heidi asked if I had received the gift certificate. “Oh,” I said, “I saw it, but it’s still in the mailbox.” Randy offered to go right out and get it. The mailbox was empty. We tried to remember who had brought the mail in the day before, where they had put it, etc. We searched the entire house. We searched both cars. We went through the trash piece by piece. The envelope was not there. I could only think that someone had taken my Mother’s Day gift from the mailbox! Oh, why hadn’t I taken the envelope out of the box when I saw it?!

My suspicions were correct. Someone did take the envelope out of the mailbox! When the mailman saw it with an un-cancelled stamp he thought it had been put there for pickup. Even though it was addressed to me at this address, he took the envelope back to the post office where it was sent to Bedford Park for sorting. Then it was shipped back to our post office where that same mailman sorted it for delivery and then put it back in the mailbox where he originally found it. I didn’t get it by Sunday, but it will be just as much fun to spend. I’m going to The Growing Place today.
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Monday, May 12, 2008

Mother's Day

Yesterday was Mother’s Day, and in the midst of delicious dinners, phone calls from my children, gifts and kindnesses, I kept thinking about my own mother, who died nineteen years ago. She was a mother from a very different era. It was a time when mothers didn’t work outside the home. Families had only one car, and mothers got to use it one afternoon a week to run all their errands. My mother did all our laundry in a wringer washing machine, hung everything on the clothesline to dry (summer and winter), sprinkled each piece of clothing with water and then rolled it up in a plastic bag to be ironed the next day. My mother baked all the bread our family of nine ate. She kneaded it by hand in a special bread pan. Two or three times a week when I came home from school the bread pan was sitting on the counter waiting for the dough to rise. My mother took care of the yard herself, raising beautiful roses and gladiolas that she cut and sold to others. My mother was the best seamstress I’ve ever known. With five girls in the family, she made all our clothes until we were old enough to sew for ourselves – little jumpers with rick rack trim and hand-embroidered flowers; Sunday dresses with ruffles, lace and ribbon; matching dresses for weddings, wedding gowns, Jr. Prom formals. She could take a picture from a magazine and sew it herself for a fraction of the cost. She did it all on a treadle sewing machine.

We children didn’t have money to spend, but somehow we managed to save our pennies and on Mother’s Day, two of my sister’s and I would combine our nickels and dimes and buy our mother a piece of Milk Glass. She loved it (or at least she made us believe that she loved it). She displayed it on two corner cupboards in our dining room – jelly dishes, butter plates, cream pitchers, sugar bowls, dessert plates. When my mother passed away, one of the things I chose was the milk glass pitcher and glasses we had so proudly given her for Mother’s Day.

Thank you, Mother, for your wonderful example, for the happy childhood you gave me, for your testimony of the Lord, Jesus Christ. Thank you for all the ringlets you brushed, all the stories you read, all the petticoats you starched and ironed, all the meals we ate together as a family. Thank you for being patient. Thank you for expecting “the best” from us. Thank you for loving our dad and standing by him. Thank you for loving us and showing us the way. You’ve been a tough act to follow!
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Friday, May 9, 2008

The real thing?

The other night we were talking to our Boston grandkids on the web cam. This old picture of me was sitting on my desk. Randy picked it up and held it up to the camera. We saw Natalie look at her dad and say, “Was Grandma’s hair really that color? (Yah, I was always a “towhead” just like she is). It reminded me of an experience I had as a missionary. When Sister Hafen was my companion we were knocking doors one day when a woman answered the door. We introduced ourselves. She looked at us for a minute and then just before she closed the door in our faces she puckered up her mouth and said, “Zwei solche blonde Maedchen -- und die Eine nicht ganz echt!” (Two such blonde girls – and one of them nice quite real!”) Since we were equally blonde, and both naturally blonde, we’ve wondered to each other for 40+ years which one she thought was using the bottle.

Thursday, May 8, 2008


Yesterday as I was tidying the basement I ran across an old suitcase filled with memories of the past. Neither of my girls were particularly crazy about dolls, but when Quinn was 4 years old, Cabbage Patch dolls were all the rage. A woman in our ward raised money by making and selling these “not so attractive” creatures, and mostly to help her, we bought a boy Cabbage Patch Kid for Quinn. He named him Joey. Joey changed our lives. Here’s a paragraph from a letter I wrote on July 10, 1985. “Quinn insists that Joey has a place at the table (not a huge table and already surrounded by eight people) with real food on his plate. Joey goes everywhere with Quinn (after we take the time to put his winter coat on). At the store Quinn never asks for anything for himself. It is always, “Can we buy snow boots for Joey?” “Can we buy a treat for Joey?”

“One day at Church, Quinn was banging Joey’s head against the door to the bishop’s office (the bishop happened to be his dad). One of the women nearby said, “Quinn, you shouldn’t be banging on the bishop’s door.” Quinn replied, “I’m not banging on the bishop’s door. Joey is.” Joey had a problem with one of the dimples in his knee, so he had to go back to the “doll hospital” for surgery. The day he was returned to us Quinn was so happy to see him that he wanted to have a “welcome home” party and invite all of the neighbors over. Then the Hatches called and invited us to come over for swimming and a barbeque. Quinn was disappointed, but we suggested that maybe he could take Joey to that party instead. He thought it over and decided that would be okay if it was an “exprise” party. He wanted me to call the Hatches and have them all hide so they could jump out and say “EXPRISE!” when Joey arrived. I finally convinced him that we could just blindfold Joey and when we took the blindfold off he would be “exprised.”

Quinn has turned out to be a very loving and attentive husband and father. Perhaps Joey deserves part of the credit.
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