Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Oregon 1986 and 1988

Early in my parents' married life, they bought a chunk of wilderness in the middle of the Umatilla National Forest in Oregon. For as long as I can remember, my dad talked about the day we'd all go live there build a log cabin. He talked about how great it was going to be to live like our pioneer ancestors for a summer, to really commune with nature, and to make some amazing family memories as we worked hard together.

My mom said she was up for the adventure as soon as she didn't have a newborn. Finally, in 1986, when I was 15, the youngest, Eli, was 2 and it seemed like the right time to go build our cabin.

Here's the story in words and photos. There are great memories from several of my siblings and a bunch of journal entries as well.

(Sadly, we don't have a lot of photos and somehow the camera we had on the trip made a black triangle on all the photos - but something is better than nothing, right? I'm the one in the pink shirt below and Eli's eye is all swollen up from a bug bite. This photo was taken shortly before we left our 1/2 built cabin and returned to civilization for two years before coming back to finish it.)

The summer of 1986, we spent a full month camping and working on our cabin. We dug up foundation stones and carefully put them in place. We tried cutting down some trees but quickly realized we'd need seasoned wood and that we didn't have the time to start from scratch. So we had a big load of lodge-pole pine logs delivered to our camp. Shawni, Saydi and I were in charge of "skinning" those logs - getting all the bark off with these scraper things. We liked to do our log-skinning in swimsuits and shorts so we could work on our tans and we liked seeing the muscle definition in our arms develop. We felt so tough and strong - and dirty!

Once a week, we'd drive for a hour or so to Walla Walla, WA or Pendleton, OR to enjoy some long and wonderful showers at a public swimming pool before swimming and to get groceries and supplies. How we looked forward to those trips into town!

Every day, we worked quite a lot on the cabin, but we also had a lot of time to explore and enjoy our beautiful surroundings. We hiked up the hill to what we called the "Grassy Knoll" that looked out over "Looking Glass Gorge." We established our own trails and found our own secret places. We spent hours climbing around in the Alder trees near our camp. And every night, our parents read to us around the campfire after dinner.

In the photo below, we've got the foundation in place and we're working together to put the next log on. Every time we put on a new log, my dad would yell for us and we'd come running to put our strength together and get a log in place. When we got to the higher level logs, we had to use a block and tackle as well as our combined strength. I remember my dad doing a lot of figuring and engineering to make it all work. He did use a chainsaw (something our ancestors would have loved to have had) but other than that, the cabin was built in a pretty authentic pioneer manner.

We set up a yellow dining fly (on the left a few photos up) where we ate our meals and had a tent for all the non-perishable foods (the brown one you can see beneath the yellow fly in the photo). We used PVC pipe to bring water from a spring nearby to the edge of the camp where we dug a deep square hole to use as a "refrigerator." All our perishable food simply floated around in the cold, cold spring water in that hole and it worked great.

We learned to cook on an old pioneer-era wood burning stove (wish I had a good photo of it but you can see the back of it under the dining fly above). Shawni and I were SO proud of ourselves when we figured out how to bake cookies on that thing, keeping the temperature nice and even and just right! We also did a lot of cooking over the campfire (my mom faithfully read and followed Diane Thomas's ideas from this book:

Shawni, Saydi and I shared a little tent called the "girls tent." We prided ourselves on keeping our tent nice and clean. Here are Shawni and Saydi in front of our girls' tent.

Then older boys had their tent (which grossed me out - all full of dirt and bugs - but they sure didn't care). My parents and the little kids slept in this teepee. To this day, I'm not quite sure why they went with a teepee but it was typical of my dad - eccentric and fun.

In the photo below, you can see how Dad looked most days - covered in sawdust and dirt. This particular day, he sooty because my brothers had been playing around in this huge awesome old hollow tree near our camp and had the brilliant idea of trying to light the cobwebs inside the tree on fire. They came running into the camp screaming that they'd set the tree on fire. My dad had to climb up inside the tree to throw the buckets of water that we brought to him up at the flames and sparks. After a while, he lost his footing and fell, breaking a rib. It was pretty darn scary and we were so grateful that the fire got put out and that my dad's injuries turned out to be manageable. He'd broken ribs before and knew there wasn't much he could do about it anyway so we all kept working!

Here's my dad and some friends helping put out the fire in the old hollow tree. See Josh there looking like he's been crying? He felt pretty bad about setting the tree on fire.

I have wonderful memories from that first month we spent in Oregon. Many of my memories are echoed by these memories my siblings put together:

In my  opinion, Oregon was one of our very best family adventures.  I brag about it all the time.  I mean seriously, what 10 year old kid wouldn't love going to survive in the wilderness for a month in the summer.  The whole idea felt like something out of a novel to me, so packed with adventure and romance.  I remember really enjoying it at the time, but I think I've derived even more joy out of it as time has gone on.  I think our adventures in Oregon really shaped a lot of who I am now.  I'm not afraid of the outdoors, in fact, a big part of my heart is captured by wilderness.  I still crave to go and be alone in with nature, to see great vistas, to wake up with dew on my forehead, to try to push back into time, to a simpler life.  I've told my kids so many stories of Oregon that they all crave to go and try to brave the wilderness and simpler life too.  

Here are some things that come to mind when I think of Oregon.  I'm not sure which ones happened on which trip, they're all sort of muddled together into one big adventure.
  • The way we made things work without the modern world.  The awesome "fridge" we made piping in spring water with pvc pipe to drain into a big rectangular hole in the ground.  I loved scooping up our milk from that cold pool and taking a drink.  I remember trying to wash my hair quite a few times with that spring water, boy did that make your head feel hollow.  I remember the first thing we did was to dig the outhouse hole. I thought it was so great how dad built up a little potty with a real seat for us to sit on.  Mom fashioned a great little tarp around the potty and put in a real toilet paper dispenser.  I remember being so interested in how it all worked, how we had to get Lie for the outhouse to keep the flies out maybe?  I loved how we set up our tents.  Girls tent, boys tent, van for little babies and then the Teepee for mom and dad.  Seriously, that was weird.  Why did they get a Tepee?  I can just see dad getting that in his mind, that it would be cool to live in a Tepee and then going for it.  Gotta love that Dad. 
  • I loved the way we ate there. The campfire dinners, cooking over that old wood burning stove, trying our best to make things that we'd make at home with such different tools.  Something about having to make do with what we had and get creative really stuck with me.  I still feel like I'm pretty good at doing that.  We made cookies and cakes and bread in that wood burning stove.  Mom made some delicious tin foil surprises over the fire.  I remember learning to boil an egg over a fire and trying to cook things in the ground and on sticks and in our own little tin foil ovens.  
  • I love the little adventures mom and dad let us go on all by ourselves.  I remember that Saren and Shawni and I got to go and camp overnight by ourselves on the Grassy Knoll. I don't think it was too far from the main campsite, but it felt like such an adventure.  We made Mac and Cheese over a Coleman stove and pitched our own tent and had a great time, feeling all big and tough.
  • I remember mom took us each on our own nature discovery walk.  I remember her pointing out different animal foot prints.  That's about all I can remember, but I'm sure she tried to engage me in all kinds of conversation as we walked.  I remember feeling so excited that I got to go with her all by myself.
  • The only real work I remember doing was stripping logs.  It seems like Shawni and Saren and I did a lot of stripping bark off logs and I remember we always did it in our swimming suits so that we could get a nice dark tan. (Here's Shawni working on some logs.)

  • I remember being so excited to go into town and swim.  I remember being a little worried that all 9 of us were showing up as dirty as we were at the public pool, but feeling so relieved to be clean!  I also remember taking quite a few solar shower showers.  That little black bag didn't heat up the water too well, and the water pressure was severely lacking.  
  • I remember playing a lot in the woods. Climbing around on the alder trees and swinging in our pocket hammocks.
  • I remember swinging with little Charity in the hammocks and singing her songs and teaching her all kinds of things.  I spent a lot of time with Charity in those woods. 
  • The second time we went I had to wear a neck gear and I remember being so happy that I didn't have to see any of my friends and trying to wear it as often as I could to get those teeth moving before we got back home . 
  • I loved all the names we gave to the little places we discovered: The Grassy Knoll, The Looking Glass Gorge, the Hollow tree.  
  • I remember siting by the campfire when it was dark and having mom read to us.   I remember loving that. 
I remember climbing on the alder trees and being so happy to find that I could cross the whole patch of trees without touching the ground. The boys and I also found out that we could make quite good toilet seats on those branches. 

I remember being sent to find the leaks in the PVC pipe and patching the holes make by varmints. One day I was asked to find where the leak had occurred and I literally stumbled upon a small litter of baby rabbits. The reason I found them was because I accidentally stepped on one of them. We took it home and nursed it back to health. Boy, I hope it made it because I remember it had a little blood coming out of its nose.

Jonah climbing up the Mother-in-Law tree
I remember scraping out old moldy tree stumps and making a basketball out of tape and other items so we could play basketball in the forest. 

I remember hearing about bear sightings and that sort of scared me a bit. 

I remember there was a girls camping night and a guys camping night in different parts of the forest. I felt like a grown boy on that camp out and was so happy to be there with my older brothers and Dad. 

I remember mom making great breakfasts near the cabin under the dining fly.
Noah with some fish he caught - our "kitchen" behind him

I remember not needing shoes because I was "part of the forest" -- my feet were calloused and didn't need them. 

I remember cutting down ferns with a stick in all of the open fields be because it was so fun and the ferns were so big!

I remember being really excited about pocket hammocks (through Josh) and tying them up everywhere. 

I remember the refrigerator being a nice whole in the earth with the spring water running into it. i loved getting a cold milk gallon from the bottom and taking a drink. There always seemed to be some evergreen Fur needles in that cold, clear water.

Essie (our dog) would chase us when we were out on the dirt roads in the truck getting logs or going to town.  She would run off into the deep forest and then all of the sudden he would pop back out onto to the road at dull speed with her tongue hanging out the side.
I remember lots of flies. 

I remember loving to make the fire. 


I remember how luscious I thought it was that we hauled in our own antique wood-burning stove.  I became a great fire-starter because if i could start a good one in there, my chocolate chip cookies would come out well.  

I remember washing dishes in big pans of water and trying to keep the camp clean.

I loved that we got to wander to and explore to our hearts content. 

I remember that we had church up on the Grassy Knoll every week.  I remember one week we bore our testimonies up there.
church meeting at the "Grassy Knoll"
I loved our "fridge" in the ground with that ice-cold water, and our "solar shower" we hung on a tree and I think Saren and I may have been the only ones who took advantage of it - you got like 2 minutes of warm water and then the bag of water was gone.

I loved when we would make the trek to town for groceries and showers.  I was always sure to make sure mom got all the ingredients for my chocolate chip cookies.  Man, I think i based my life around those things! 

I remember skinning a LOT of logs.  And swimming in a pond.  And loving the beauty but being VERY homesick.

Probably my most favorite memory was reading.  Whether it was around the campfire with Mom with her velvety reading voice (I thought we read "Education of Little Tree" there??) or alone in the "girls' tent," I learned to love reading more in Oregon.

Ok, I just found my journal.  Here's one entry:

The days are beginning to seem much longer.  The schedule is usually the same: get up, use the outhouse, eat breakfast, pounding nails, rolling logs, etc., eat lunch, work some more, have dinner and go to bed. The mosquitoes are really out!  I've got about 50 mosquito bites. I miss Salt Lake SO much. 
To wash my hair, I do it in the spring.  The water is SO ice-cold, but that the only way I can do it.  It makes me feel as if I had 3 holes in my head and as if my brain was falling out of them. 

We went back to Oregon to finish our cabin in 1988, right after I graduated from high school. I found my old journal from that 2-week stint and had Ashton type it up. Here's what I wrote:

June 16, 1988
Oregon is gorgeous and green and unbearably hot. The flies this year are absolutely innumerable. I hate flies. I swear they just love to bother us. And they're sticky flies. They won't just leave if you shake your arm, you have to literally scrape them off. Quite frankly, this afternoon, I felt like I'd had quite enough of the wilderness already and wanted SLC so bad! But this afternoon it rained and everything smells so fresh and new. I love rain, even when you're camping and it can be a pain. Mom and dad and most of hte boys are sleeping in the cabin nad it leaks badly. It doesn't have a roof yet so Dad put a tarp over it but it's so windy that the water blows right in. Shawni and I are safe and dry in our tent and Saydi and Char are in the van. It's about 9:30 at night now and it's POURING. I love the sound of rain on our tent. I hope we'll be left with some dry food in the morhing. I builkt a supply tent last night but I'm afraid it's not all that water tight...I'm so dirty! Everything is so dirty. I hate files but I love rain so it's OK. What other family would build a log cabin in the wilderness? This is sort of ridiculous but it's so good for us. Good night.

June 18th
It's dark in this tent so sorry if this is illegible. Today we went down to Jenna and Ben's house (our neighbors about a mile away) to swim in their pond. The water felt SO good. It was hot today but I think most of the flies got killed in the rain so it's much better. Dad's got 5 rafters on the roof frame now and we have 8 to go. The Wolfs are coming up on Monday. Yesterday we also went up to the Grassy Knoll and hiked over to the mother-in-law tree. It's so GORGEOUS. I love Looking Glass Gorge. Today Shawni and I went on a LONG hike and found the most lovely little water fall.

June 21
All but two of the rafters are up. Our cabin is actually beginning to look like something. Going into town the other day was SO nice. I've never enjoyed a shower more in my whole life - and a bed never felt quite so clean and nice. I'm afraid I've had it with sleeping in tents - I'v emoved into the van with Charity and she wakes up about 5 times a night but I feel more civilized sleeping off the floor.

Oregon's gorgeous but I must say I want to go home so bad. Actually, I just feel like I'm missing out on lost of things. I wish I was in Mazatlan with lots of my friends on the senior trip. And I wish I had a job waiting for me when I got home.

The Wolfs got here late last night. It's nice having them around. They really know how to camp and I'm afraid we don't.

Today we went to Jubilee Lake and most everyone went swimming. I didn't wear a swim suit because I thought the water was all slimey even though Dad said it wasn't. Sometimes I'm far too stiff-necked. I'd have had a far better time if I'd have been able to swim.

We're reading The Secret Garden around the campfire. I love that book.

Wed, June 22
Chauntel Sparks (my good friend from Bear Lake) is getting married in two days. How weird that one of my friends is actually getting married! I wish I could go to her reception. She's only 19. I think she'll be missing out on a lot of stuff. I have hundreds of things to do before I even think of getting married.

Today we got the roof on almost all the way. Most of the plywood's on - just the tar paper and tin left to go. This flashlight is almost gone. I'm so sick of flashlights.

Charity's a pain but she's awfully cute sometimes. She gets into EVERYTHING and is constantly filthy dirty. Eli's is so funny. He's constantly concerned about what he's wearing, even up here. On the other hand, Tam (Talmadge) has only changed his clothes about once since the trip began. I bet you'd have to scrape the dirt off him.

Shawni and I always have such a good time together I'll miss her a huge amount next year when I'm in Boston. We are absolutely obnoxious sometimes and it's SO much fun. We sang 50's songs from Stand by Me all day today and everyone's sick of us but somehow that doesn't matter. Dad's being a bit of a male shovenist lately. We won't let me and Shawni pound in nails or help on the roof. We can only hand him nails, scrape off bark, carry plywood over to him and do other demeaning tasks. We told him we were sick of it. He says tomorrow we can be his "big helpers." Somehow, it doesn't sound that promising. I guess I'll wait and see what happens. I'm perfectly capable of doing all sorts of things Dad won't even let me try. I'm fed up.

This world is so beautiful and so diverse. The ferns are all uncurling now and Oregon's gorgeous. If we only had a little plumbing and electricity. We get to go home on July 2nd. I'm afraid I'm counting the days. Dad might stay another week with the boys.

June 24th
Chauntel got married today. I hope she's happy. She's going to Hawaii on her honeymoon.

The roof's on -- well, the rafters are up, and the plywood's on and the tar paper's tacked on one side. It's starting to look like a real little cabin.

Shawni and I are building a railing to close in the loft in the cabin. It's hard, primarily because we're extremely inexperienced in carpentry. Dad made fun of us and we laughed with him for a while, but it really made us feel bad. He won't let us help with the roof, but he'll let Tom and Jonah help. So we tried to find something useful and less high-up to do -- the railing. And he tells us it's just not going to work -- we should just give up, I wish he wouldn't act that way. We didn't give up. We worked on it for three hours and it was half done. We'll finish it tomorrow.

I can't wait for Sunday! We get to go into town. Mom and Dad have to be near a phone Sunday nights so they can call KSL and do their radio show. Lask week we stayed at the Comfort Inn in Walla Walla and we get to stay there again this time. It's so nice, at least in comparison to out humble campground here in the heart of the Umatila Forest.

I think it's gorgeous here but I want to go home badly! If I can just hold out 8 more days I'll be home. I think I'm standing this a lot better than most people would have but I've had just about enough. I want a bathroom. The outhouse hole is very nearly full.

Well, good night.

June 26
It rained all day yesterday. Saydi, Shawni, and I worked on our railing for about 3 hours and got it finished. I think it looks rather good.

We spent the majority of the afternoon reading The Secret Garden and cooking muffins and cookies in our little wood stove. We've really learned how to make things cook on that ancient stove, but using it really makes me wonder how my great great grandmothers could have cooked 3 meals a day, every day on such a primitive piece of engineering. We all had to stay indoors all day. It was a real exersise in family togetherness. Now I really appreciate having somewhere warm and dry to go when its cold and wet outside. The roof is not yet covered w/ tar paper so it leaks quite seriously.

This morning it rained a bit more and we had church under the lining fly. It's sort of nice having church with just our family. After church we got our stuff together and headed into town. We had reservations at the Comfort Inn but they canceled our reservations because Essie wet in one of the rooms. Dad was pretty mad. We're staying at an "Imperial 400 motor inn" which is definitely a demotion, but it does have showers, clean sheets, and a swimming pool -- our basic requirements. I'm totally sick of the wilderness. My hair feels so wonderfully clean!

Shawni & I had to watch all of the kids at the pool while mom and dad called in for the radio show. We've got so many loud, small, troublesome, funny, cute kids in our family. I sort of hate babysitting them.

We went to dinner at this steak house and an old, rother senile man tried to give dad $5.00 "for the children". We could hardly keep from laughing. I must say, dad looks like he could use $5.00. He has a scraggly beard and the only clothes he bought up here are stained and torn and rather poverty-stricken. His perm's gone out and his hair is too long. I suppose the $5.00 was a kind-hearted offer, but the whole episode was rather hilarious.

Dad and I got in a big argument tonight -- he said I was using a disrespectful tone of voice, and I didn't think I was or that ir was something to have a huge argument about. We ended up having a really good talk about lots of things I was worried about -- not having a job, not having money, not being really good at anything in particular. I think dad and I are so much alike that sometimes we have a hard time communicating. Well, tons of laundry and shopping to do tomorrow. Good night.

June 28
I can't believe the weather! Today was freezing. The sun only came out for about an hour late in the afternoon. It's so miserable to be cold and have absolutely no where to go to get warm. It's supposed to get down to 32 degrees tonight, Ollie says and it's pouring with rain right now. We're using every blanket, coat, and sweater we brought up here. Last time we were here it didn't rain at all and it was unceasingly hot, It's lucky we even brought warm stuff this time.

Yesterday we did all the laundry at the speed wash. We used 5 washers and I'm afraid all they did was shift the dirt around a lot. We went grocery shopping and bought some "antiques" at a professed antique store, ideal thing for the cabin, We got an old sideboard w/ flower and sugar bins and drawers and a pull-out chopping board and we found an old chest trunk with drawers in it to sit on and store stuff in and a rocking chair, a frying pan, a couple kettles, and some old bellows and books.

Shawni, Saydi and I are building shelves, The cabin's starting to look really homey and quite authentic. It was cold yesterday too. This flashlight's gone, I hope it doesn't get too cold tonight! Good Night.


Rain on a
Tin roof
Lulling to sleep
But it's cold
And wet
And there's
No where
At all
To be warm.
Maybe the cold
is lonely
Perhaps that
is why
it whips
about me
with wet

June 30
The end of June. I'm nearly 18. I just don't feel that old. It seems like I graduated absolutely ages ago. I really miss my friends -- and it hurts to know that I'll probably never see most of them again. I'm not old enough to be going away to college!

Day after tomorrow we go home, at least the girls and mom do. Dad's staying until he gets the cabin all closed in. Tomorrow Dad's going into Walla Walla to get lots of windows. Almost the whole upstairs will be windows so it'll be light and airy.

Yesterday it was absolutely freezing so we went into Pendleton to visit Ollie and see his llamas and do various errands. Ollie wasn't home, but we saw his llamas. They're the most curious animals, so gentle and quiet looking. They have the thickest, softest wool and the thickest lashes around their deep, kind eyes. I think a llama would make an excellent pet, but I suppose we have enough pets; 7 cats, 1 dog, lots of fish, about 5 gerbils, 1 turtle, and 1 horse. I might forget their names so here they are: Pearl is the cat, Greaseball, Dinah, Ashley, Rusty, Electra, Geneva. The dog is Lady Esmerela McKnight (Essie) The rabbit is Cossette, the turtle is Bubba, horse is Banner and I don't know the rest.

Excuse the detour. Anyway, yesterday afternoon we went to see "Willow" and I thought it was an excellent movie. I love fairy-tale type movies, full of wholesome fantasy.

After the movie we drove past a Travel Lodge with a pool and every one of us started begging Dad to let us stay overnight. It was freezing (the flashlight just died) [words are large and far apart] He protested for a while but upon learning that Wimbledon men's finals would be on he finally gave in. The joy of clean sheets, showers, and warmth after our two weeks of wilderness and especially our two days of absolute misery in the cold is inexpressible We all watched Madonna starring in "Who's That Girl" on HBO and decided Madonna is very strange and somewhat disgusting -- a sad Marilyn Monroe wannabe. This morning we returned to the wilderness and Shawni, Saydi, and I finished the shelves and I like them lots. Good Night.

Velvet or
warm or cold
security to some
a tiger underneath
your bed,
who wants to
gobble up
your feet.

July 3, 1998

I'm home. I'm sitting on my beautiful clean bed in this big, wonderful house. I'm writing by the light of a real lamp the works on electricity and just down the hall there is a bathroom equipped with full-fledged plumbing! I absolutely love this house, and every time I come home from a trip I love it more. I'll miss it. It's sort of funny that an inanimate object can hold such fond memories and warmth similar to that usually found only in living creatures.

Friday we packed all day and I spent about two hours thinking between the logo. Mom and planned to leave Sat. after lunch but we convinced her that leaving after breakfast was a far superior idea. Sat we got away at about 10:30 am and drove for a long time. Dad just kept the 3 biggest boys so there were seven of us in the van. To most of the U.S., 6 kids is a lot, but it seemed as if the can was practically empty.

We had planned to stay in Burley, ID but after much driving around and a lot of frustration we discovered that there were just no vacancies in Burley or even in the next town, Some of the places we looked at were pretty scary. We were desperate. We ended up eating in Burley, then driving on to wherever we could find somewhere to stay. It was getting dark and I drove, mom was really tired. From Burley to Ogden there is precious little. We drove on and on. Maybe I'll build a motel on that lifeless endless strip of highway some day.

We finally found an Inn at Tremonton at about 1:00 am. We all fell into bed and woke up and nine this morning. This morning we tried to watch the men't finals at Wimbledon on TV but it got rained out. We watched part of Steffie and Martina's final match. I'm so glad Stoffie won this year! Now if she wins the U.S. Open she'll win the grand slam. She is SO GOOD. we're watching Bons Becker play Stephan Edberg in their delayed men's finals match tomorrow morning. I wish I was in England! I want London and Wimbledon and Mustcals!

Well, we got home around one and went to the 12th Ward's sacrament meeting at 4. It was nice to go to real church. I have to get a job within the next few days.

Christine came up for a while. I just love Christine! Our baby kittens are getting so big! Well, Good night.

A certain
Overcomes all
That is old
And warm
When it is
seen again
and the
Heart shines
and shifts
Home again.

Monday, February 25, 2013

A Favorite Quote

I've always loved this quote about motherhood.

This quote along with a lot of other favorites is now posted in this new section of beautiful printable/pinnable/shareable quotes at Power of Moms. We had some volunteers step forward to make a bunch of favorite motherhood quotes look lovely. Check them out here: Power of Moms Printable Quotes

What are some of your favorite motherhood quotes? We'll be making more and more printable quotes and would love your ideas!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Scripture Challenge: Week 31

Thanks to a suggestion from my sister-in-law, Julie, one of the things I did for scripture study this past week was to read over the talk that President Uchtdorf gave on happiness at General Conference in October 2008.

I love the simple but profound message of his talk: true happiness, the sort of happiness that God feels, comes from two things - creating and being compassionate.

Really, every time that I am able to successfully create something (be it a beautiful moment with my kids, a lovely dinner, or a successful Power of Moms Retreat), I feel true happiness. And I also feel honestly and deeply happy when I am able to show real compassion for someone else.

I love that creating and showing compassion are one of the two key elements of motherhood. So as I see motherhood as a great vehicle for creation and compassion, I'm also seeing it as a great vehicle for bringing deep and lasting happiness.

Here are some favorite passages from President Uchtdorf's great talk:

Creating and being compassionate are two objectives that contribute to our Heavenly Father’s perfect happiness. Creating and being compassionate are two activities that we as His spirit children can and should emulate.

The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul. No matter our talents, education, backgrounds, or abilities, we each have an inherent wish to create something that did not exist before.

Everyone can create. You don’t need money, position, or influence in order to create something of substance or beauty.

...remember that you are spirit daughters of the most creative Being in the universe. Isn’t it remarkable to think that your very spirits are fashioned by an endlessly creative and eternally compassionate God?

But to what end were we created? We were created with the express purpose and potential of experiencing a fulness of joy. 4 Our birthright—and the purpose of our great voyage on this earth—is to seek and experience eternal happiness. One of the ways we find this is by creating things.

You may think you don’t have talents, but that is a false assumption, for we all have talents and gifts, every one of us. 5 The bounds of creativity extend far beyond the limits of a canvas or a sheet of paper and do not require a brush, a pen, or the keys of a piano. Creation means bringing into existence something that did not exist before—colorful gardens, harmonious homes, family memories, flowing laughter.

Start small. Try to see how many smiles you can create, write a letter of appreciation, learn a new skill, identify a space and beautify it.

The more you trust and rely upon the Spirit, the greater your capacity to create. That is your opportunity in this life and your destiny in the life to come. Sisters, trust and rely on the Spirit. As you take the normal opportunities of your daily life and create something of beauty and helpfulness, you improve not only the world around you but also the world within you.

We are commanded to “succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.” 7 Disciples of Christ throughout all ages of the world have been distinguished by their compassion. Those who follow the Savior “mourn with those that mourn … and comfort those that stand in need of comfort.” 8

As we lift others, we rise a little higher ourselves...As we lose ourselves in the service of others, we discover our own lives and our own happiness.

James Barrie, the author of Peter Pan: “Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.”

In the end, the number of prayers we say may contribute to our happiness, but the number of prayers we answer may be of even greater importance. Let us open our eyes and see the heavy hearts, notice the loneliness and despair; let us feel the silent prayers of others around us, and let us be an instrument in the hands of the Lord to answer those prayers.

I believe that as you immerse yourselves in the work of our Father—as you create beauty and as you are compassionate to others—God will encircle you in the arms of His love. 15 Discouragement, inadequacy, and weariness will give way to a life of meaning, grace, and fulfillment.

As spirit daughters of our Heavenly Father, happiness is your heritage.

Eliza's Tea Party and Sugar Cookie Recipes

Every year since she turned 2, Eliza has had a tea party for her birthday party. It's become a cherished tradition for her that she's determined she'll do every year for her whole life.

The menu for the tea party is pretty simple: cucumber sandwiches, banana and peanut butter sandwiches, snipped little clusters of grapes, baby carrots, sugar snap peas, sometime some fancy little tarts or chocolates, herbal tea and sparkling cider to drink; then after a break to open presents, we decorate and eat heart-shaped sugar cookies.

The main key to a tea party seems to be presentation - as long as everything looks fancy, the girls are delighted.

Since it was Eliza's birthday recently, I wanted to get down all the "recipes" for the tea party menu items. I remember having these treats when I would go over to my friends houses after school when I lived in England when I was 6, 7, and 8.

Cucumber Sandwiches

  • thinly sliced bread - white or wheat (get as square a loaf as you can find - easier to cut off crust and cut into neat triangles)
  • whipped lite or regular cream cheese (way easier to spread than regular cream cheese)
  • sliced English cucumbers (the English ones have a thin skin so you can leave the skins on - if you get regular cucumbers, you'll want to peel them)
Spread a thin layer of cream cheese on two pieces of bread (sometimes we do one slice of white, one of wheat on the same sandwich). Place 4 cucumber slices on the bread. Put the sandwich together. Cut off crusts (I've never been a crust-cutter-offer but it makes the sandwiches more uniformly shaped and fancier-looking). Cut into squares or trianges (Eliza says triangles are way fancier). Arrange on a pretty tray.

Banana and Peanut Butter Sandwiches

Same as cucumber sandwiches but use peanut butter (or Nutella or Cookie Butter from Trader Joes to be less healthy and more yummy) instead of cream cheese and bananas instead of cucumbers. We liked to put as many sliced bananas on each sandwich as we can fit.

Herbal Tea

The biggest hit at our tea parties has been Wild Berry Zinger (Celestial Seasonings). I put several tea bags into a the hot water in a tea kettle, let that brew a while, then add a fair amount of sugar and honey. Most of the kids haven't tried herbal tea but they generally seem to like it a lot!

Eliza's Sugar Cookies

Here's the sugar cookie recipe we always use. I have to say sugar cookies are a real investment of time (and I think there are a lot of yummier kinds of cookies) so we really only make them once a year. This recipe is the best one I've found - they're soft and tasty and the frosting is pretty darn good.

1 1/2 c. butter
2 c. sugar
4 eggs
1/2 c. milk
Cream together the above until smooth, then add...

2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp cream of tartar
2 tsp vanilla
6 c. flour (add one cup at a time)

Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

Roll out and cut with cookie cutters.

Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes (or until just slightly browned on the very edges if you want soft cookies).

Buttercream Frosting

1 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
4 c. powdered sugar 
2 tbsp milk (or a little more or less, depending on desired consistency of the frosting)

Cream butter, vanilla and one cup of powdered sugar until smooth, then add the rest of the powdered sugar, one cup at a time. Add the milk at the end, a little at a time, until the frosting reaches desired consistency. Add food coloring if you want.

Decoration ideas: red-hots (little cinnamon candies), red sugar sprinkles, valentine-colored M&M's, chocolate chips, conversation hearts.

Here's Eliza with her birthday cookies over the years. Fun to watch her growing up in these photos!


Thursday, February 21, 2013

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

I love winter

I never thought I'd be able to say that I love winter. I grew up freezing all winter in the ice storms in Washington DC, the cold that eats right through you in England, and the piles of snow in Utah. Then I lived in Boston on and off for 10 years. Wow, that place is bone-chilling in the winter! And the last winter I lived there went on for seriously six months. Winter was just something you had to deal with. I didn't really think about whether I liked it or not. Winter was just this undeniable fact of life.

When Jared was finishing his degree, we looked at jobs all over the country and when he got an offer in California, the idea of saying goodbye to winter was a very exciting idea. Then, when it was time to leave the Bay Area with five preschoolers in tow, I wanted a place where we could easily get outside year round without the hassle of bundling up so many little bodies. So we settled on St George. Living in a place with a warm climate was wonderful. We hiked and biked all winter long. We enjoyed the subtle changing of the seasons. In California, the leaves turned gaudy colors and feel just before Christmas, it rained and was in the 50's for a while, then spring with riotous green and flowers everywhere came somewhere around February. In St George, we loved having some cooler weather in the winter and the excitement of having a skiff of snow a couple times a year as well as the amazing beauty of the cactus flowers in the spring.

When Jared got a job here in Ogden and we realized that moving here was the right thing, I braced myself. Oh no. Real winter again. And that first winter it snowed and snowed and snowed - from the day we moved in in November right up into May. I missed my California and St George winters (and especially the garage I'd had in St George) as I scraped the snow off my car day after day. The kids had fun building snow forts and having snow-ball battles but winter was just something to be endured as far as I was concerned. I sat here holed up in this drafty old house, waiting for spring.

Two years later, I've now come to love winter. I've learned to embrace it. I'm entranced by the beautiful patterns in ice and snow.

I love the excitement of a snow storm when the big flakes keep coming down and piling up (as long as I don't have anywhere to go - driving in snow is never going to be something I enjoy). I love how snow renews everything with this clean sparkling blanket. I love the chiseled white peaks of the mountains (especially when it's clear - some days we've sadly had horrible pollution haze).

I love it when the cold grabs me, brings color to my cheeks and makes me want to get my blood pumping. I've come to really love running and hiking in the cold and even in snow storms (but I draw the line when we get down into the single digits temperature-wise). I've been running outside pretty much every week and have hiked the beautiful snowy mountains again and again. It makes me feel tough and envigorated and so alive to be out there immersed in winter. I even really like shoveling snow (I'd much rather get a workout doing that than going to the gym - what a sense of accomplishment I get when I've shoveled the whole driveway!).

Like so many things in life, it's hard to love something you don't really engage with. Now that I'm really participating in winter, it's much better.

Of course, I'll also be really happy when spring comes. It's much easier to love something that you know won't last. I really love having four distinct seasons and enjoying each to the hilt.

So here's to winter as something to be enjoyed, not just endured!

Here's our hike to a frozen waterfall last weekend:

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Eliza's Birthday 2013

Our little girl turned 10 a few days ago!
(This was my Easter dress one year when I was a kid - when I found it in an old trunk, Eliza was delighted!)

We celebrated big time. She had her favorite breakfast (oatmeal with cinnamon and bananas and raisins) and I picked her up for lunch and took her to her favorite restaurant for lunch - Tona (it also happens to be my favorite restaurant - excellent Japanese food).

Then she had friends over for her traditional tea party. I'm so glad she's still wanting to do a fun tea party every year. And her friends seem to really enjoy this very old-fashioned, fancy sort of party.
(Check out photos of all her past tea parties here.)

I loved hearing their discussion over their cucumber sandwiches, sparkling cider and herbal tea.

This year, each girl had a chance to make a toast to the birthday girl and it was great to hear what they all had to say about this girl of ours. She's kind, she's fun, she's helpful, she can be silly at the right times, she's a good friend, she's pretty, she's smart.

When they finished their lovely snacking and chatting, it was time to dance. Eliza wanted me to teach the girls some lovely lady-like dances to classical music (I came up with some stuff from my distant memories of English country dancing from when I was a little girl).

After doing the lovely classical stuff for a while, Eliza told me I was supposed to switch the music to some rockin' stuff. It was fun to see the girls shift gears and let loose on the dance floor.

Then the girls decorated cookies.

Eliza blew out her candles on her special cookie.

Perfect party for this wonderful girl.

And here are the top 10 things I love about Eliza right now:

1. Eliza loves to help others. She is always helping her little brothers with their homework, explaining things patiently to them. She looks out for who might need help at school and is almost always the first to respond when we ask "What did you do for someone else today?" at the dinner table. She often comes up behind me when I'm working on the computer and gives me a little shoulder massage. She seems to find great joy in being truly kind and helpful.

2. Eliza is determined. If Eliza really wants to do something, she'll do it. She set out to shovel the whole driveway by herself the other day when we had a big snow - and it's a LONG driveway. I thought she'd get tired and give up before too long. But she did the whole things. When she wanted to save up to help pay for her dance lessons (our kids pay 1/2 on extra-curricular activities), she did extra jobs and put away every bit of money she earned until she had enough. When her new recorder kept squawking as she tried to play it, I gave her a tip or two and she went upstairs and worked and worked until she could play "Mary Had a Little Lamb" perfectly. When she sees a hard patch on the hill she's skiing or mountain biking on, she gets this determined look on her face and says, "I can do this" and does it!

3. Eliza loves so many things that I love - art, dance, beauty, reading, hiking, writing. It's so fun to have a daughter I can enjoy sharing my favorite activities with.

4. Eliza is a great writer. She churns out stories and reports right and left. She's always working on a writing project of some sort and does a great job of writing in her journal. And what she produces is wonderful stuff!

5. Eliza sees and points out the beauty and patterns in everything around her. She loves the world and loves life.

6. Eliza has her own sense of style and doesn't care what anyone else thinks. She thinks make-up and fancy hair-dos are dumb but likes to look nice and neat in a simple way. She has a fun sense of style and puts together great outfits I'd never have thought of.

7. Eliza loves to choose the right. This girl is very thoughtful in her choices and likes to be sure she's doing the right thing. She has a deep and beautiful desire to be good and do good. She helps make sure we all stay on the straight and narrow path! Eliza loves God and Jesus. She has a strong, firm testimony, is often the first to arrive for scripture study in the mornings, and understands the gospel in a manner that is remarkable for her age.

8. Eliza is smart as a whip. She just gets things really quickly - both academic stuff and social stuff. She memorizes quotes and scriptures fast and well. She reads quickly and really understands what she reads. She can see what's going on in a situation in a book or in real life and can see what can be done to reach a good conclusion. She gets people, gets school, gets so many things so well.

9. Eliza is lovely. I just love her big indigo blue eyes and her soft flaxen curly hair. I love her gracefulness as she dances. I love her smile.

10. Eliza is a great combination of seemingly opposite characteristics and interests. She loves girly stuff like dolls and dressing up and tea parties and dance and crafts. But she also loves hiking and playing basketball and skiing. She is sensitive and kind but she's also tough and stubborn when she needs to be. She's emotional and dramatic sometimes - but she pulls herself together remarkably well and rationally decides to go to sleep or shift to a different activity when she feels her emotions running high.

How blessed I am to be the mother of such a wonderful girl!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Great Little Happenings - November, December & January

Here's a glimpse of the activities over the past few months that I never blogged about - small, lovely little happenings that I don't want to forget.

Eliza played basketball with a great team and really fun coach during November and December. Lots of her best friends were on the team. Sadly, many of the games were scheduled during her dance class on Tuesday nights so she had to miss some dance classes and some basketball games (and I gave the Parks and Rec department a little talking-to about changing the game schedule after we'd already signed Eliza up to participate). But despite the scheduling challenges, Eliza had a great season and was so fun to watch. She really got aggressive out there and did a great job getting the ball where it needed to be. Plus she made some great points.

Here's Liza with a couple of her best friends:

One evening, everyone else was somewhere else and the twins and I went on a special Mommy Date to get them some new ties at the mall. We don't end up at the mall much so it was kind of fun and special for them to be in a festive shopping environment like that. They were overjoyed when I let them ride the little train that went all over the mall - even though it was sort of a rip-off at $3 each. It won't be much longer that they beg to do little-kid stuff like this so it was fun to indulge them.

Ashton doesn't love having his picture taken. But if he's allowed to be on the computer, he'll pretty much let me do whatever I want. Ashton has had to be banned from computers here and there over the past few months - he gets sucked into Minecraft and other fun and generally harmless computer activities when he's supposed to be doing something else. We're working together to define where "harmless" can become "harmful" because it's taking away from the other good things we could be spending our time on. Ashton's learning about respecting limits and we're learning about what to accept and what to insist upon. This teenage parenthood isn't the easiest thing but Ashton's showing us the ropes and he's so much fun to talk to and hang out with (when he isn't being surly, grumpy or antagonizing).

Self-portrait by Ashton:

The first snow was really beautiful.

The twins were pretty amazed to see what the snow did to their bikes:

We went to see cousin Portia perform in the musical, Grease. Eliza and her friend Rachel had a ton of fun with the confetti they threw out in the last scene. And somehow I didn't think to get a photo with Portia in all the post-play craziness. We love having some fun cousins living not too far from us.

Jared fully celebrated "No-Shave November" and grew himself a nice beard:

After getting sick of the beard, he tried out some other adventures in facial hair. And in the end, he went back to clean-shaven, which I have to say is my favorite look for him even though it was interesting to be married to a different-looking guy there for a while.

Isaac was in a Spanish play at school (that's him with the blond wig). He was "Fred" in "Scooby Doo." I didn't understand much of the play (which sure seemed long given that I couldn't understand anything) but it seemed like Isaac did a wonderful job! 

Here's a close-up of "Fred" (who actually looked a bit like Ashton with that blond hair...)

The twins lost lots of teeth and are now getting some pretty crazy new teeth coming in at odd angles.

The twins' hair got long enough for some cute hair-dos before we cut it.

We spent a really nice day at the Ogden Nature Center and learned all about local animals, birds, spiders, bugs, you name it.


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