Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Have Backpack Will Travel

In this backpack is the sum total of everything I am taking to Europe for 16 days. I don't usually travel with a backpack, but we're renting a nine passenger van that advertises luggage capacity for four bags. With eight of us traveling, I decided to do my part to think small.

When I got it packed I called Randy (the younger) to enumerate what I'm taking and see if there was anything I'd forgotten:

Rain Poncho
4 games
First Aid Kit
7 gifts for French friends
Chargers for phone, camera, Kindle and GPS
Metal water bottle
Walking Tour guidebook for Paris
Re-useable shopping bag
2 pair shoes

Randy: "Mom, all that's in a backpack? What are you wearing everyday -- a bikini?
Me: "Oh, are we supposed to take clothes?"

I'm actually quite proud of myself. I have four outfits (and lots of laundry detergent).

Monday, June 27, 2011


Speaking of summer adventures, Emily's having an adventure none of her friends are having this year. She has gone to France to be a "mother's helper" for three weeks. Despite all of our French connections, we have always had to rely on our friends to speak English, as none of us has ever learned to speak their language. Finally Emily signed up for French -- our only hope. School learning is fine, but there's nothing like total immersion when learning a language, so we made arrangements for Emily to travel to France to stay with Florence and Stephane. In return for her taking care of LouAnn and Nils, Florence and Stephane are supposed to speak French to her. She's having a great experience. She flew into Paris by herself, then figured out how to get herself onto the correct train to Brittany (Remember, she just turned 16 and Brittany France is a long way from home. Pretty gutsy!)

Is she learning French? I think she still has a ways to go. She reported that Florence told her the plans for the weekend in great detail. Not understanding most of what was said, she just smiled and kept nodding her head. When Florence asked if she was ready to go, Emily said yes, got her purse, and got in the car. She noticed there were beach towels so she asked if they would be going to the beach. Florence said yes, so Emily jumped out of the car and got her swim suit. It turned out that they were going to Florence's brother's home for two days. No toothbrush, no p.j.'s, no makeup, no clothes -- nothing but a swim suit. Yeah, she's learning French the hard way.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Summer Adventure

Our summer adventure has begun. Last night I dropped Randy off at O'Hare for a flight to Copenhagen. Tomorrow Randy (the younger), Judianne and four kids leave for Paris. I join them the following day. On Friday, Randy (the elder) finishes his work in Copenhagen and joins us in Paris. That evening we will have dinner with a friend we met fifteen years ago. He wrote a book about our Grandpa Ted's escape from France during WWII. Mathieu interviewed us on a 1996 trip to France as he was gathering information for the book. We have been in touch ever since and have seen him a time or two since then. He grew up in the St Quay/Portrieux area, and the crash of the "Lady Godiva" B-17 and subsequent rescue and escape of pilot Ted Peterson is one of the area's greatest claims to fame, and anyone from Ted's family who visits is a celebrity. We are happy to be taking five new celebrities back to St. Quay for a reunion with some of the dearest people in our lives.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

I can do it with a Smile on my Face

We're not having an easy week. We had a tornado warning Tuesday night and ever since the storm front moved through we've had nothing but trouble with our internet, phones, and our computers. Randy and I are getting ready to go to France/Portugal for a couple of weeks, and we have things that need to get done before we leave. And we're not smiling! I just watched this video clip again, and I'm ashamed. We have everything in the world to smile about. So do you! Watch this!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Sunset on the Mississippi

As you read about Church history and events that have taken place in Nauvoo there is often reference made to "Sunset on the Mississippi." If you've ever seen it, those four words bring to mind a spectacular picture that you will never forget. As we drove back to Nauvoo one evening the sunset was so breath-taking we had to stop and take pictures. Unforgettable!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


We had such a terrific Youth Conference in Nauvoo. It was my privilege to meet with five different groups of youth in the Old Nauvoo Cemetery and spend about an hour telling them stories of some of the amazing people and events surrounding Nauvoo and the old pioneer burial ground. When President Hinckley dedicated the cemetery in 1989 he said it was a "sacred and hallowed place," reminiscent of the Sacred Grove. There is a very special spirit there. Although it rained every day (and was often raining as I drove to the cemetery), there wasn't a single drop of rain during the time that the kids were there. It was so quiet and peaceful -- dappled light filtering through the leaves and birds calling back and forth. I dare say that next to the Temple, it is the most sacred spot in Nauvoo. I'm grateful to have had this sacred experience.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Am I Really Up For This Weekend?

It's Youth Conference! The buses are ready for loading, chaperones have been trained, and we're off to Nauvoo--one of the great blessings of living in the midwest. Love that place and the spirit you feel while you are there.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Can Grandmas be Friends?

You know I always wanted to be the grandma that lived close enough that the grandkids could stop by on their way home from school for snacks and a report on their school day. Well, that hasn't happened, so I'm always looking for little ways to forge some kind of relationship with our grandkids. For some unexplained reason, this guy seems to like to call his grandma -- sometimes as early as 6:00 a.m. (not really understanding the concept of different time zones, of course). When the phone rings early I think, "Ah, Theron," and you can't imagine how sweet it is to hear his little voice say, "Hi, Grandma. Guess what?" He recently had a birthday, and I now know all about these awesome Lego sets that are ninjas with "golden" weapons, like bullets ("ping, did you hear that Grandma?") or golden nunchucks. I think all my children should post our phone number next to their phone and have FHE lessons that teach them how to dial it.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Sad Ending

As you probably know, Randy's dad flew a B-17 in WWII and was shot down over occupied France, escaping only with the help of the French Resistance. B-17s have always held a special place in our hearts. On Saturday we learned that one of the remaining four operational B-17s (Liberty Belle) was at the Sugar Grove Airport. Although it was not a great day (foggy and drizzling) we drove out to have a look. They were having some mechanical problems and were not flying the plane, but we did enjoy looking at it and sharing stories with others who were also there to see it. Randy had a chance to talk to the pilot, who said that the plane was scheduled to leave this morning, but that is the weather was good they might stay today so people could take rides.

We, of course, were up early and busy with our daily "to do" list and forgot about returning to Sugar Grove. Imagine our surprise when we heard that Liberty Belle crashed this morning on its second flight of the day. Each year there are fewer and fewer WW Vets. Now there is one less operating B-17. Fortunately, all seven on board the plane survived, but the crash of the plane was a tragic loss. I'm so glad that we got to see it!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Hard Day's Work

Wow, what a day! It started at 7:00 a.m. for both of us--Randy to stake meetings, and I (with the help of our good friend Logan) started spreading mulch. Eight hours later we covered the remaining mulch and blew off the walks. May I just say that with the lawn freshly mowed, every flower bed weeded, preened, and mulched, hostas rearranged and transplanted, it was one of those ten minute windows where everything seemed just about perfect. By tomorrow there'll be new weeds, the roses will need to be dead-headed, and the front porch pot will need water. But just for those few minutes I want to take a folding chair across the street and sit and look at my beautiful yard through half-closed eyes to make sure I don't see something else that needs to be done. Thought you might like to see a couple of shots of the berm (before the mulch went down, so even more beautiful now). I love this little period with the peonies and the princess iris. Yes!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


I'm a person who really loves traditions, and I've instituted a number of them throughout my life. A few of my children are just as bad as I am, and they are not happy when changes are made.

I've always liked the scripture from Luke 14:28-30: "For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish."

When our first grandchild was baptized and confirmed, receiving the Holy Ghost (also known as the Holy Comforter), Randy and I decided we would honor the occasion by making that child a "comforter". Unfortunately, when I sat down to count the cost and decided that I had sufficient to finish, I only had seven grandchildren and the energy of a 50-year-old. I've just finished comforter number ten (Nicole is turning eight on Saturday), and I have nine more to go. I'm going to do my best, but I'm not certain I have "sufficient to finish".

Geraldine Edwards (one of my favorite authors) said, "Traditions are an important part of the celebrations of our lives. The repetition of things we love leaves deep and happy impressions in our minds and spirits and helps us to live with rejoicing." She also said, "When an event becomes so crusted with traditions that we find ourselves dreading the work rather than eagerly looking forward to the event, when the doing is no longer a delight, then we are serving the tradition -- the tradition is no longer serving us."

Thank you, Geraldine! When I find that I am dreading the work involved in perpetuating a tradition, I give it up and replace it with something different. Remember, if you have done the same thing more than once, it is now a tradition. Perhaps I should work hard and make all the comforters now. Another ten years or more could do a lot to squelch my "sufficient."