...and they all lived happily ever after...

...and they all lived happily ever after...

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The most wonderful time of they year...

Fall is my favorite, I'm so glad it's here.  It is delicious to my soul.
I love this season.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

My washing machine adventure

So I had a miraculous adventure this week that involved my washing machine.

Yeah, I've pretty much never thought of washing machines as adventures before, but that's how it turned out.

Here's the story.

I started a load of laundry just like every other day (I have to do two loads a day just to keep up with clothes, towels, wash cloths, rugs, blankets etc that are dirtied by our family of eight).  Then I took the kids to the dentist (now that's an adventure all on its own).
My happy, now working, washing machine!
When I got back the washing machine was blinking E20 on its face and I knew we had trouble.  I also knew that we really don't have the funds to pay a repair person to come and fix it (which we've already had to do twice this year -- each time the guy pulled stuff out of the drain hose, stuff like plastic bracelets, coins, and Barbie clothes which quietly get into the laundry and then work their way down the drain).

So, I decided to see if I could handle the problem on my own.  Thank you Internet fix-it pros.  I Googled my fancy E20 error message and found that -- surprise surprise -- the coin trap and drain hose were likely clogged.  Awesome.

I read up on how to fix the problem, slid the machine away from the wall and opened up the back panel (if you have the choice, this issue is much easier fixed from the front, but my washer has a dryer stacked on top and I would have had to take the dryer down to get to the screws to release the front panel which really isn't in my realm of ability).

Anyway, I open the thing up and look inside and see a whole new world before me.  This is not a world I have ever played in before.  I got the lay of the land and plunged in to the job.

This is the part I needed to focus on, it's called the coin trap (I learned this).  I loosened the screw holding the gasket which attached the top tube of the rubber piece to the washer drum.  I ran my fingers inside (as Mr. Online Repair Person told me to do) and found a toothpick (seriously kids?  Why are we washing toothpicks?) but that was all.  That seemed odd because in the past the repair guys have pulled much more than that out.

Well, I was stumped.  I had done what I was instructed, but I knew that just wasn't it.

So here's my miracle.

washing machine guts...this picture is from the front
not the back
I muttered a quick prayer (or, actually, several of them over and over as I sort of chatted it through with my Heavenly Father) mentioning my stupidity when it came to the internal working of washing machines and the fact that I know God knows how they work.  I asked if there was something more that needed to be done to please let me know.  I was willing to do the work and put in the time, I just had no idea what to do.

I waited a bit.  I looked at everything.  And then I knew just what to do.  I KNEW how to open a section of the coin trap that I hadn't thought of before even though it opened differently than any clamp I've ever seen before in my life.  I KNEW how to clean it out and how to maneuver the thing so that I could clear everything that was in there (which turned out to be $1.43 in change, two Barbie shirts and the pad from a girls swimming suit...oh, and the toothpick).  Then I was able to put it all back together (reattaching the hoses was a bit of pain), close up the back and slide everything back into place.

And it worked.

No leaking water on the floor (so everything is connected tightly) and no E20 error code!

I do have some paper cut type slices on the back of my arm (where it rubbed against the side of the machine) and a few bumps and bruises, but that's a small price to pay for a working washing machine.

So, here's the truth of the matter.

I do not know how these machines work.  I do not know how to repair them.  But my Father in Heaven does.  And for one afternoon, He allowed me just a smidgen of His understanding so that I could take care of a problem and bless my family.

I am ever thankful for a God who cares about His children and is concerned with even the small things, like tight budgets and broken washing machines.  I knew long before this event that He cared about me (and you) and that He hears and answers prayers, but this was a pretty amazing reminder for me.

Yeah, I'm pretty grateful.

And I feel pretty blessed.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

One Super Party

So, a while ago it was Gavin's birthday.
I am not the kind of mom to be tied to convention when it comes to proximity of parties to actual birth dates (or, life was busy and I'm only just now getting to it -- my poor, neglected offspring) so we had his party last weekend.  As long as we're talking unconventional, I also don't throw a party for every child every year.  It just gets too overwhelming for me (I am not a partying kind of gal).  We have smaller family parties most years and then on banner age changes (like 8 or 12) we throw a bigger event and invite a few friends (mostly just people in school classes or the list gets too long) to join in the fun.
Gavin decided on a super hero themed party, which was ultra convenient because a lady Josh works with just happened to give him a bunch of decorations for just such a party that she used for a school event and was going to throw away.  I've always loved hand-me-downs.
So, we decked our house all super hero-y and off we went.
I'm not exactly artistic so the kids get stuck with what I CAN do, however, I think my Batman, Spiderman, Captain America cupcakes turned out alright (for an uber-amateur).
Once the kids got home from school, it was out in the yard for games (12 boys in the house is just too much for our tiny little abode).
We ran balls of plutonium across the yard before they could explode (no touching with your hands of course, that stuff can be dangerous! -- or, so I hear, I've actually never met any in real life).
 Then we ran a relay race that involved knocking stuff around with an inflatable Thor hammer (which was also a huge hit -- ha ha ha, hit -- during duck-duck-goose later as well)...

Spraying a villain with silly string, and maneuvering a few obstacles before tagging your next team mate to head off and do the same thing.  We ran the even several times an had a lot of fun.

Finally we brought down the house with a snappy game of Heavy Heavy Hang Over and Gavin got to open gifts (I used to not have kids open presents while their friends were around to try to save feelings if one present wasn't as well loved as another, but long ago learned that kids LOOOVE to see the reaction of the gift recipient so instead I just prep my kids to be pleased with EVERY gift they receive no matter what it is).
Last of all, candles and cake...or cup cake cake as the case may be and home they went.
It was a lively afternoon, but the kids had a great time and Gavin came away feeling very happy so it was a success if you ask me.
Hooray for birthdays!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Tomato Creeps

I told you I have a bunch of tomato plants.
What I didn't tell you is that over the past couple of weeks my poor, sad, plants have been barraged with some plague which has decimated their leaves and pocked many of the green fruits before they have a chance to ripen.  The problem was almost exclusively near the tops of the plants which ruled out many of my usual offenders like snails (we live next to an irrigation canal so snails are a problem we battle all the time).
I had not seen this particular scourge before (we've dealt with snails and powder mildew and blight, but not this issue).
So, last week I decided I was sick of it and was going to get to the bottom of the problem.
While I was searching through my plants for an answer, I came across these little beauties (which I say with the most sarcastically dripping sarcasm you can imagine...they are NOT beautiful...AT ALL).  They are called hornworms.

Knowing where there is one there are likely many I continued to search and quickly found two more ugly tomato molesters. Then Parker found two that afternoon.  Blegh! 
My inclination was to smash their little brains into oblivion, but then my little pixie daughter came by and asked if she could keep them. 
I told her she could keep them in a jar long enough to show her pre-school class but then they were dead meat!

I ended up with three jars of two nasty caterpillars each.  Oh my gross, these things are horrible.  Also, just an FYI, they poo their little brains out and leave a disgusting mess on the bottom of the jar.  It was an awful couple of days keeping them alive on tomato leaves (they are insatiable and eat a TON) and cleaning out the jars every evening.
After their school performances (four of the kids took them to show to their classes) these unfortunate creatures met their demise.  I wasn't sad to see them go (although I did have my boys smoosh them because they like that sort of thing and I don't). 
Our infestation has totaled nine (that's right, nine) awful creepy crawlies so far (I'm sure there are more that I haven't discovered yet, but I've offered the kids a reward for each new larva style vermin they find).  I've trimmed the dead areas off my plants so I'll know where these lime colored beasts are hiding if more dead areas begin to show up.  I'd treat it more vigorously if it wasn't the end of the season.  We will be tilling like mad in the spring (which apparently greatly decreases your chances of more nasties in the future) and we may plant some marigolds or dill to help out as well. 
I hope your plants have been safe from these bad boys.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Yes, I Can

It's fall and that means it is time to gather up the stuff growing in gardens and on trees and shove it in cans for future use.

I love that.

This year I am not doing jam (which I usually do, but I'm lazy and fairly fruitless) but I still have plenty of stuff to try to preserve.

First off, I have loads of tomatoes to take care of.  I had more than 30 plants volunteer (not exaggerating) in my garden this year despite the four that I actually planted.  Unfortunately, most of my volunteers were cherry tomatoes and there is no way I am spending the time or effort to peel, de-seed and can those babies.  

So I pulled most of them out.  Sad day.  It happens.

However, the plants I am left with are fabulous (one volunteer did produce full sized fruit so he got to stay).  I have a plant of huge salmon tomatoes, a delicious heirloom sweet tomato plant which spouts yellow/gold babies that are amazing, and another heirloom plant that gives me these tie-dye beauties.

Aren't they gorgeous?
 I get a haul like this most mornings so every couple of days I am canning these lovelies.

It only takes about 20 minutes to turn that pile into this...
(although then they have to sit in boiling water for a bit to seal the jars, but that's the really easy part so it doesn't count).

This year my Grandpa also gave me a bunch of apples from his tree.  The problem is that his apples are a fairly sour variety and I made the mistake of turning similar apples into apple sauce once before and then my kids WOULD NOT eat it (and I don't blame them, it was pretty tart and no amount of doctoring with sugar and cinnamon can completely fix that).  I ended up using that applesauce in cooking (it is a great substitute for oil in most recipes like cakes or cookies and it much better for you).

Well, thankfully I have an amazing mom and she did some research and learned that by pairing a tart apple with a very sweet apple you can balance the flavor and end up with fabulous sauce.  So my brother, Brian, grabbed us some Gala and Honeycrisp apples when he was at the farmer's market and we went to work.

We got the whole family in on the fun (it is wonderful when we can all work together, plus I love that my kids are learning skills like this) and we were able to pound out lots of quarts of applesauce and it is DeLiCiOuS!!

Last, but not least, my brother, Kevin, and my neighbor across the street each gave us some peaches.  My kids do not care for fresh peaches (I think it is the texture of the peel that gives them pause) so we opted to can them.  Josh and I spent one afternoon in the kitchen and now we have a half dozen quarts of golden peaches in our store room.  Good stuff.

I love canning.

I love watching something that is perishable turn into something that will last and will benefit my family.  I love watching the cans of fruit slowly fill my shelves.  Besides, this stuff just tastes waaay better than store bought canned goods (I am telling you, my tomato sauce is to DIE for!).  Every way you slice it, it is a beautiful thing.

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Shadow Taker

I told you earlier this week about a book called "Charlie's Monument" by Blaine Yorgason.  Have you read it yet?  You should.  It is wonderful (shoot, maybe I am building it up too much and then you will hate it because your expectations were too high...um...it is mediocre, but REALLY REALLY read it anyway).

Remembering that book also remembered me another book by Mr. Yorgason that I loved and have read over and over.  It's called "The Shadow Taker."

Now, I admit that I am a sucker for a good title and when I first read this book (I was 11 then) it was because I got suckered into the name of the book.  I'm ok with that.  Generally speaking, a good title leads to a decent book (Other examples: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, The Man Who Loved Books Too Much, The Book of Lost Things, The Wednesday Wars, Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter - Witch, or Uglies to name a few).  Of course, many books with ridiculous or limp or trite titles are among my favorites as well so it's not exactly a perfect system.

Anyway, this book is about a self-important young business man who gets stranded in the dessert when his Jeep conks out on him and how he comes to see the person he really is as well as the person he wants to become with the help of an old Native American shadow man.

But, the real beauty here is that this is a book that will make you think.  This is not one of those, "Oh that was nice," lay it on the bedside table and move on with life as usual sort of reads.  This is a book with teeth -- now they are little, and not painful, but they sink in so the story stays with you for a bit and you can't help but examine your life and your choices because of what is written on these pages.

Anyway, yeah, if you need something to let  your brain wander across, this story is maybe a good fit for you.  I don't think you'll be disappointed.  It isn't a long book and it moves quickly so it is a fast read.  Plus, it is set in the Utah dessert and the imagery is fluid and thick in the most heated and amazing way.  I really think you'll like it (but let me know).

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Baptism #4 for our family

This weekend was a big one for our family.  Our son Gavin turned eight last month and made the choice to be baptized and become a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

We are very proud of him and the young man he is choosing to grow into.  This kid has a big heart and he is not afraid to show it.

It was interesting for both Josh and G that Gavin's baptismal interview with his bishop happened to be an interview with his father.  Josh said it was pretty incredible to be with him acting as his bishop and hear his testimony of the gospel.  

It was a pretty wonderful day and we got to share it with some family and close friends who came to support our boy (thanks, everyone!).  

Bryce was particularly touched by the service and commented how much he felt the spirit.  He said he understands the covenants you make at baptism much more now than he did five years ago when he was baptized and that made it a really powerful event for him.

I'm grateful for the choices my children are making and for the privilege of watching them grow into the amazing people they are choosing to be.  I just love these monsters!

Thanks for a fabulous day, G.  You are a really amazing young man and I feel very blessed that you are my son.  Love you, big guy!

P.S. While outside the church we happened upon a big, nasty spider on a pretty big web.  I am not a fan of spiders but I have a deal with them that if they stay out of my house I will stay out of theirs so I don't bother them when they are outside (and I won't let my kids ruin their webs or smash them outside either...except for the black widow I found hiding in a riding yard toy the other day which I had Josh kill before it could venomize my children...sorry spider, yard toys count as an extension of my house).

People say they are beautiful, and I try really hard to see that, but mostly they just seem icky to me.

Still, it was a cool find.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Charlie's Monument and Me

When I was growing up, my mother used to buy us books and stories on tape (that's right, you remember tapes from the good old days).  I'm not sure if she was trying to get rid of us or what (just kidding, Mom), but I used to spend HOURS in my bedroom listening to the voices of Abbot and Costello, Bill Cosby and a host of old radio show like Amos and Andy and Dragnet.  I also grew to love "The Great Brain" stories and "War of the Worlds" among others.

My very favorite tape of all time was a wonderful little book called "Charlie's Monument" by Blaine Yorgason.  If you haven't read it, you really should.  To this day it is still one of my favorite books ever.

This is the story of a boy born with severe deformities and the way he copes with life through many tragic circumstances.  It is a powerful story; I honestly love it.

On top of being a good tale, it is was also a heady teacher to a young girl still developing her sense of personal-being and self-worth.  I don't know exactly how much of my character was shaped by listening to the fictional history of a man named Charlie that was published before I was even born, but some piece of who I am came from frequent perusal of that particular tape.  I learned to try to control my attitude no matter what is happening around me (which I am still working on) and that you can get through anything and be a success if you never ever give up...among other things.

The preface to "Charlie's Monument" is another lovely little piece of writing that speaks to me and has since I was small and it sets the stage perfectly for the story that follows.  This is what it says:

Before He sent His children to earth
Gave each of them
A very carefully selected package
Of problems.

He Promised, smiling,
Are yours alone.  No one
Else may have the blessing
These Problems will bring you.

And only you
Have the special talents and abilities
That will be needed
To make these problems
Your servants.

Now go down to your birth
And to your forgetfulness.  Know that
I love you beyond measure.
These problems that I give you
Are a symbol of that lave.

The monument you make of your life
With the help of your problems your
Will be a symbol of your
Love for me.
Your Father
-Blaine M. Yorgason
This poetic snippet was a commanding bit of literature for me.  I connected with it.  I cannot say I have always seen trials and struggles as precious gifts (just like everyone else, I do my fair share of whining), but I have always felt like the way I handled myself as I work to overcome those trials is a testament to my Father of the person I am working to become.

Mostly I just love the sentiment in this piece.  I love the idea that every day through my choices I am building something and that one day I will look back at what I have made and be grateful for the hardships that made it possible.  Every chip, every mark will be an event or moment that I blatantly remember and that made my life, my monument, unique and sculpted me into the person I've chosen to become.

Our monuments will all be different, but I imagine they will be amazing.  I can't wait to see how we turn out.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Crohn's, you don't own me!

I have a friend on Facebook who has a friend on Facebook who has diabetes.

OK, I know, that is not exactly news.

But this friend of my friend (let's call her Mary because I can't remember her real name) has a blog or a website or something that my friend references from time to time and the title of the thing is "Mary has diabetes; diabetes doesn't have her."


That sentiment describes exactly how I feel about my Crohn's Disease.  

I don't have misguided delusions about my chronic illness.  I own my disease.  It's mine and I don't try to pretend like it isn't a bother or that it isn't part of my life, but at the same time I refuse to BECOME my disease.  I refuse to let everything I do be defined by this unwelcome invader.  I am more than just a victim of my illness.

Now, that does not mean that I can stash Crohn's in a closet and just ignore him.  I can't.  He is persistent and annoying (at least) and sometimes very loud.  He makes his presence known daily in my world.

OK, fine.  I accept that.

I can't make him leave.  Just like a nasty mole or a nervous tick we will be hanging out together for pretty much ever.  Alright.  I'll give him that much.

However, no matter how obnoxious he becomes (and believe me he can be rotten) I refuse to sign my life over to him.  I refuse to define my days by what Crohn's will allow instead of what I want to accomplish.  

That being said, I do have to make adjustments sometimes.  For example, the past few days I've had special delivery joint pain from my chronic friend and it is not fun.  Lifting children onto your lap, buckling small shoes, tromping up and down stairs fifty times a day, doing dishes and laundry and weeding and the like are no fun when your wrists and ankles are sharply aching.

But that's my life.  I can choose to either curl up in a ball and let Crohn's Disease tell me what I can and can't do, or I can suck it up and do SOMETHING...maybe not everything I planned -- in fact maybe only a small portion of the things I planned...but something, none the less.  

And then I can glory in having accomplished that thing, whatever it is.  I get to thumb my nose and internally scream, "Stick it to you, Crohn's Disease!  You don't own me!" 

I met someone recently who lives every day inside the cloud of a chronic condition.  It is a sad and miserable thing to watch.  Nothing can survive because this girl has decided that everything in her life revolves around her disease.  She has given every ounce of her power over the this illness.  She has become her condition.  

Yes, chronic illnesses suck (not a word I use lightly, it's a potty word here at our house).  But guess what, being controlled by a disease sucks more.  So don't do it.

And that applies to much more than just medical conditions.  I don't know what your chronic issue is.  Whoever you are, there is something in your life that assaults you and tries to break you down and wants you to give in.  Don't let it win!  

Yes, it is a daily battle.  Yes, some days the fight is harder than others.  Yes, some days you feel like you just can't do it anymore.  

So breathe.  Take a moment to find center.  And then do one thing.  And then do one more thing.  And then one more.  And maybe you can only get four things accomplished that day.  Or maybe you can get forty things checked off your list.  But either way, you win.  Sometimes a win looks like a day when you were incredible and accomplished everything and sometimes it looks like day where you could barely find the strength to stand but you chose to get up and get the dishes done and read a couple stories to little ones and that's about it.  

Glory in the moment and then get ready for the battle tomorrow.  Your issue cannot break you without your permission, so don't give it.  

Life rarely looks like what we expected when we started out.  It's surprising and intriguing and fabulous and sometimes painful and depressing and difficult.  But it is also beautiful and powerful if we take hold and choose not to be a victim of our fate, whatever that fate may be.  Don't let a problem define you.  

I am more than Crohn's Disease.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


This weekend, Josh and I took a trip to Ikea.  Now, I normally I avoid Ikea at all costs because it is a store full of ideas and those normally translate to dollar signs so it is safer if I just stay out.

Unfortunately, our two oldest boys (who share a bedroom) have been doing this whole "growing" thing this last few years and their clothes no longer fit in the one six drawer dresser that we have provided them to share (we did try the whole "just hand some stuff in your closet" plan for a while but that resulted in piles of clothes stashed on the floor and under the bed because they refuse to play along...score one for the boys).

Anyway, we schleped to Ikea to purchase an appropriate dresser because their dressers are sturdier (by far) than the rotten K-Mart do it yourself furniture, but less costly than something similar from RC Willey or the like. 

And, Voila!

New dresser for Parker (as you can see, he has already moved in and made himself at home all over this thing).  No more bursting drawers because each boy has a space big enough to hold his clothes.

Mission accomplished.


But then there is that whole cute idea thing.

Stupid Ikea.

While we were there we saw a display of spice racks that were tacked near beds to form a quick and easy book shelf for children.  Yeah, I've seen this one all over Pinterest and I have always loved it, but the last time I was at Ikea (more than a year ago) they didn't have any spice racks in stock so I came out budget intact.

No such luck this day, this time there were plenty.  So I bought some. (Where is your self control, woman?)

We are big readers around here and have lost not a few books to kids rolling all over them after falling asleep while reading (this also resulted in a "no library books on beds" rule around our place).  This little project seems like the perfect solution.  I love it.  

Insert dollar sign here. 

 Besides being big readers, my kids also love to draw and paint.

No worries, Ikea has a solution for that too.  We came home with a couple of self contained paint sets perfect for budding artists and this wonderful paper dispenser (this thing has been GREAT for us so far).  The kids love using big papers and this baby quenches that thirst for them.

But wait, there's more!  (Curse you Ikea!)

Our oldest daughter has been without a bedside table for a while because she isn't allowed to have one with a drawer or closed cupboard (it's a long story and one I think she would rather I didn't tell).  While perusing the store I saw this little, wooden side table and thought it would be perfect for our need in her room.  Josh put it together and I set her up to paint the same color as her bedroom walls and she did a good job.

Last, but not least, we found a lovely sale on a bookshelf and since Aubrey's bookshelf was one of those Sauder put it together yourself glorified cardboard pieces (they are probably great for someone, but they can't stand the pressure of a house full of children) it was literally falling apart.  Lucky us, Ikea had a fabulous book shelf/ curio shelf just for us.  We already own two of these babies and they are nice and sturdy and we love them.  Sigh, lets bring that guy home too.

Notice how Aubrey has books stacked two rows deep in order to
leave room for her doll hotel.  Silly girl.  Guess it's a good thing it's a
big bookshelf.
Add to that the wedding gift that we snagged for that evening, several boxes of cute, spaceship bandages (we always need inexpensive bandages around here) and we called it a day.

Ikea, I love you and hate you at the same time.  I probably won't be back for another year or two, but thanks for sharing your treasures with me anyway.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Party like a rock star

A friend of ours gave us six inflatable guitars.

That made for a fun afternoon....especially for one particular member of our crew.

We may have impersonated rock stars for most of the rest of the day.  Ellie may have sang songs to me while strumming her plastic instrument for almost two hours straight while I read a book to review for the newspaper.  

Yeah, as far as days go, this one ROCKED!
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