Monday, December 23, 2019

A Jam Packed Month!

My life became quite consumed by church duties a few weeks ago...

Nov 23 - baptism
Nov 24 - practice for primary sacrament meeting program
Nov 30 - baptism
Dec 1 - practice for primary sacrament meeting program in the chapel
             Temple and Priesthood Preparation meeting
Dec 4 - making armor with the young men (male teenagers)
Dec 7 - stake day at the temple (our temple is 4 hours away)
Dec 8 - primary sacrament meeting program
             {attend young women in excellence with Amelia and Elanor}
Dec 11 - helping the young women (female teenagers)
Dec 14 - Ward Christmas party
Dec 15 - teach a song to perform on Dec 22
Dec 22 - primary sings 1 song during sacrament meeting
Dec ?? - baptism

I was called to be the Primary president in our ward in May.  I am the leader in our congregation over the children ages 18 months to 11 years.  I have a presidency - 2 awesome counselors and an amazing secretary to help.  And I have fabulous teachers that teach children based on age.

I also felt strongly that the presidency should take on singing time (teaching the children new songs and singing ones we know).   Um.....  This is a whole calling/job all to itself.  I don't sing well, AT ALL!  I am a disaster at carrying a tune. 
I had a little argument with the Holy Ghost about how it should NOT be me up in front of the children.  Yet I could not dismiss the strong feeling that I should do it.  So I jumped in with both feet. 
While I love it, this task has been a most difficult one for me.  I have learned so much about music, how it affects our brains, how to teach music more effectively.  I don't think my voice is any better either. 
I recently had a 7 year old tell me "THAT WAS TERRIBLE!" after demonstrating how we were going to sing a song opera style.  Ha ha ha.  (My response was that he had better sing out so he didn't have to hear me again.)
My counselors have been up in front too.  I think we are all settling into our roles and supporting each other well.

Shortly after I was sustained as Primary president, I was told the primary program was scheduled for Dec 8.  OK,  so I left it there and did not attempt to change it.  And then, I was also appointed to head up the ward Christmas party. (deer in the headlights kind of look here)

I was a ward (congregation) activities person many years ago, for a very short time.  I was in charge of a Christmas party that did not go so well and was promptly released and given a different calling.  Yeah, it was that bad!  I must say I tried, but I failed miserably anyway.

Last year I was asked to be in charge of the food for the Christmas party.  I did an ok job.  Yay!
But this year everything was on me.

Our Sunday school program focused on the New Testament his year.  So I thought it would be fitting to have a "Bethlehem" themed Christmas party, totally focused on Christ.  But I had never been to or have been part of a ward Bethlehem Christmas party.  I got online and did some research.  I found various ideas and combined the best of what I thought I liked from each into my own plan.

I asked my decorating guru friend in our ward to head up decorations.
I asked the Relief Society President (women's organization) to head up or ask someone to be in charge of the food. When I found out who it was, I was completely confident that everything was going to be wonderful!
The 2 biggest items were taken care of!

We as a primary presidency divvied up some duties.

I decided I wanted the young men to be Roman soldiers.  So I did some more research, about making costumes.

I decided that if I was going all out for the young men, I should do something nice for the young women.  Amelia talked me into making dresses for the girls one week before the party.

Eric was in charge of the Nativity reenactment, but he was out of town 2 weeks in a row, so I took on finding a few for him to choose from.

I realized that everyone had costumes (thanks to a generous primary teacher who loaned us her costumes for the reenactment) except for the sheep.  So I made a few sheepies too.

I had the general idea of what I wanted to do for the Roman soldiers.  I even collected cereal boxes for a couple of weeks.  But I didn't start to construct the parts of the armor until the day before I was to meet with the young men (10 days before the party).  I bit off way more than I could chew!  I had all available onions on an assembly line for 2 days straight.  We got things done just in time for me to greet the young men and get started.  12 suits of armor in 1.5 days is not too bad, especially when I was making it up as we went.
I was a little apprehensive.  I was concerned that the boys would think the armor was lame.  I was overjoyed when everyone was willing to wear it and they even liked the armor.

A friend told me about her ward did sheep - cardboard spray painted black with batting glued on and brads to hold on the black felt ears.  OK.  No problem.  I can do this (7 days before the party, and 2 days before practice) Eric wanted to do it different than me.  I managed to get a few made in time for our practice at church.  They were such a hit, I made more (with help) to accommodate all who wanted to be sheep.

Just 5 dresses - no measurements and no pattern.  It took 3 days, working on and off, to get all of them done.  I copied the design from one of Amelia's dresses, made it longer, and guessed at measurements.  The fabric was stretchy like a T-shirt, but it was very thin and light, so I made it 2 layers thick.  Tricky!  Amelia sewed almost every seam once I got everything pinned just so.  Elanor tried it on.  Beautiful! 
I surprised the young women 3 days before the party.  They all looked so lovely.

During this process, the onions saw me take on something I have never done before and did not have a "how to" manual.  They helped when I needed them, which was a LOT.  They helped with opinions on how to shape things.  They suggested better ways of doing things.   They worked hard and got things done.  I enjoyed our team building experience. 

While some of the onions did not think the effort was worth the outcome, I 100% think it was worth it.
I wanted everyone involved to feel needed, to play an important role, and to be part of something big.  I think I accomplished that. 

For the actual party, I wanted everyone to feel welcomed.  But I also wanted them to experience a little of what it might have been like 2019 or so years ago.  I think that was accomplished too.  We had a few visitors (non-church members) attend.

Before, during, and after the party, I was flitting about trying to help things go smoothly. I think it went rather well overall.  Ward Christmas "A Night in Bethlehem" party: success!

If you are an over analyzer like me you will understand.  If not here is a peep into my life.....
 When I went to bed, I could think of nothing but the party.  It played over and over in my head.  I learned where I lacked planning and communication.  I learned where all my mistakes were.  I began to doubt that the party went well at all.  I began to beat myself up mentally.  I was focused on everything negative.  I tormented myself with entertaining that I was a failure and that all of my mistakes could have been avoided. 
I eventually recognized that this was the adversary's way of getting to me.  I prayed for relief.  It did not magically come, like I had first hoped it would. 
I remembered that a friend told me that when we bombarded by satan, we can use our BODIES to combat him.  He does NOT have a body.  At 2:20 am, I peeled myself out of my warm cozy bed and sat on the stool in front of the wood burning stove.  And I wrote thank you notes to all who helped out with the party.  I used my body for good, and good thoughts pushed out the negative.  I finished after 4 am and was feeling positive and good and slept soundly for the next 3 hours. 

I received many positive compliments at church.  No one thought it was a disappointment, let alone a failure. 

While I would not choose to have an overwhelmingly busy, all consuming month of church service.  I learned so much that I would not trade it for anything. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Hunting with Papa

My dad decided to join us for hunting season was a few weeks ago.  It started on a Saturday and he told me he was coming on the Tuesday or Wednesday before.  What a nice surprise.  Super exciting!

The first day, papa and Elanor went to sit near the trash pile, remember that? 

I took Scott and Naomi with me.  We walked to the opposite end of our property, cut across and started walking toward Papa and Elanor.
We flushed out 2 deer, but they looked really small.....  Then 5 or so more, but they were running too fast to take a shot.  No go.
Our neighbor said we could shoot anything we wanted in his fields. So we sat and watched the neighbor's field.  There was ONE.  Not enough time to take the shot. Bummer.

Then.... Papa decided to drive around and see the country and hopefully some deer too.  We drove and drove and drove, and eventually saw a few deer.

Papa turned onto a road that was meant for 4 wheelers.  Scott and Elanor were with us in the back of his truck.  
We drove over a tree.  The trunk was over the "road" but the top branches were "passable."  I never would have believed it.  But I was in the truck as my dad confidently drove on through.  
He drove through a wet boggy area.  I thought we would get stuck in the mud, for sure.  
He drove through 2 trees so close that we had to turn the mirrors in to get through.  I would have turned back at the first sight of any of those, but my dad is amazing - we made it through each obstacle like it was nothing.  
Elanor and Scott gained the off-roading experience that I remember driving around with my dad in Bishop, CA and Angeles National Forest.  Such fun memories.  And now my kiddos get that too.

Another day we drove all over the place.  We stopped for lunch, and then for ice cream.  Of course, "Betty Lou" got treats too.  

We also drove through some public lands.  We stopped for a few hours.  Papa took Elanor and Scott, and I stayed with Naomi by the truck.  Naomi was resourceful - she cleaned out the truck, putting trash in bags, and organizing the blankets and clothes.

At on point Betty Lou would not move out of the front seat, so I shared with her.  

That night we got home after dark, having been gone for about 8 hours.  We were cold, tired, and HANGRY.  Thankfully Amelia had made us dinner and it was waiting for us when we arrived home.  Seth and Eric worked all day, be they were there for dinner too.

It was really nice to see Papa!  We really missed Grandma ma though.

There were a couple of days of hunting left after my dad departed empty handed.  So I headed up to the trash pile.  As I was walking down the road, I spotted a doe that had jumped the fence into my neighbor's field.  I watched it walk across the field - through my scope.  Another deer!  She saw me and decided to go back.  The first followed her.  HA! They were both back on my property!  I made it to my spot and waited.  About 15 minutes later, I spotted 2 ears through the brush near the road to our pond.

This was my view: On the left is our access from the road.  It curves around.
On the right, the road meanders up to the pond.  

I know what you are thinking..... Don't be jealous of my orange.  Ha ha ha. 

Back to the story...
So there I was SUPER EXCITED that the two does came back to the exact spot I wanted them to.  The first one walked into the road, broad side!  
I took a few deep breaths to calm myself down and to steady my shot.  
I took aim. 

In the beginning of the week, I discovered that my safety didn't work.  SO I was super careful with my gun.  Then it fell.  Now, in this moment, I could not get it off of safety.

I opened the bolt to be sure a bullet was in the chamber.  Yes.
Aimed and Fired.  

I tried all I could think of.
I fiddled with my gun as the two deer noticed me, but didn't seem to care too much.  They continued across the little road and I frantically tried to get my gun to fire.  
Finally I pulled the bolt out and back as far as I could, kind of slamming in back.
It made a metal "click" sound.  
It was off of safety!  But it alarmed the deer.
I was a bit frantic at this point.
It had been well over a minute.  
The first deer had disappeared into the brush on and the second was facing me right on the edge of the road and the thick brush.
After 5 prior failed attempts, I took aim one last time, forgetting to hold my breath, and took a shot.
Well good news: the gun finally fired.
Bad news: it was a complete miss.
I have to confess that this story is rather embarrassing.  But I learned a LOT from this experience. 
And... it is what happened.  

I did go up the next day.  It was windy, and there was no way the deer were going to walk where I could see them.  Eric even walked from our house toward me and heard several deer moving around.  He saw 3 or 4.  I saw ONE run very fast out the access road.

I am severely disappointed that I did not harvest a deer this year, and I have only myself to blame.  I am grateful that my family does not depend on me to provide meat for them at this time.  While I do not eat cows or pigs, the rest of the family does.

I imagined what it was like for early settlers with no grocery stores and what it is like for people in need. Hunting is free on your own land here.  You do not need a license to hunt in Missouri.  I know of many people who even process their own meat.  This is such a blessing to those who strive to provide for themselves.  Better quality meat at the cost of your own effort.  
While I do not want to come home empty handed to hungry people, I know that could be a real scenario for some.  
So I say "maybe next year."  But I do not say it lightly.

In April 1978, (one of my all time favorite general conferences) A. Theodore Tuttle, a leader in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints, said:

            “Live within your means. Get out of debt. Keep out of debt. Lay by for a 
            rainy day which has always come and will come again. Practice and 
            increase your habits of thrift, industry, economy, frugality.”

            “Let every head of every household see to it that he has on hand enough 

            food and clothing, and, where possible, fuel also, for at least a year ahead. … 
            Let every man who has a garden spot, garden it; every man who owns a farm, 
            farm it.”

            “Cash is not food, it is not clothing, it is not coal, it is not shelter; and we have 

            got to the place where no matter how much cash we have, we cannot secure 
            those things in the quantities which we may need. … 
            All that you can be certain you will have is that which you produce.

            “We must purge our hearts of the love of ease; we must put out from our lives 

            the curse of idleness. God declared that mortal man should earn his bread by 
            the sweat of his brow. That is the law of this world.” 

I think this counsel applies now more than ever.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Moving the Wood Burning Stove

Last year we went through 200 gallons of propane in less than 30 days.  So we got a second, larger tank.  We also decided to buy a wood burning stove for about the same price as one refill of the 2 tanks of propane.  We put the stove in the back of the house, in the utility room, because that is where the chimney for the old disconnected and removed wood burning furnace was.

Eric installed a fan that was left here by the previous owner.  When the temperature got hot enough, the sensor would kick the fan on and blow the warm air into the kitchen.

The method was better than nothing, but was not the best  I would often find myself and others sitting on empty joint compound buckets, huddled around the fire in the unfinished, uninsulated room.

Earlier this year, we had a new chimney installed in the front of the house, where we actually exist during the day.  The dilemma was what to do with the floor.  Eric and I have agonized over this.

This area is severely cracked, sounds hallow in some parts, has a patch of cement that bumps up, and also has some pretty rough gouges. 

I actually gave Eric an ultimatum. 
"I need the wood burning stove in the front of the house and in working order before your next travel for work trip!"

I was ok with the original floor (I could put a rug over most of it) or willing to cover it somehow.  Eric had to be the decision maker.  He decided to put brick down.  Yay. Decision made.

I found a brick store - the ACME brick company.  Thoughts of Wile E. Coyote cartoons with ACME everything abounded.

Acme Brick. The Best Thing To Have Around Your House.

Yeah...  Not made up.  It's real out here.

Eric and I walked into the store and found what we both liked - the same sample- in less than 5 minutes, maybe 2 or 3.  Then I proceeded to look at everything in the store to "be sure" I really did like the one I originally picked the best. 
Then we got to the sales guy.  The brick we picked is a concrete brick, not a clay brick.  Questions as to whether it will hold up to the weight of our wood burning stove were raised. 

Back to the drawing board.  I looked at ALL the clay brick options and didn't find a single one I thought I could remotely live with.  The sales guy went to the "expert" brick guy and came back to tell us the concrete brick should be fine. 
OK!  Ordered! 
I picked it up 2 weeks later the same day as our home school group in Springfield.  Taking the truck instead of the SUV was a logistical adventure with where the onions sat, but we got the brick safely home.

Eric and I have never laid tile or brick.  This process is completely new to us.  We decided to get cement backer board, mortar, and the suggested tools. 

The morning of the planned installation, Eric thought it would be better to do self leveling cement.  OK.

The floor transformed into a beautiful shiny marbled super smooth floor.  I would have been happy with it right there, but we feared cracking and we had the brick already......

We had to wait for that to set up and cure. 
Then to lay the backer board.

Another waiting period for that to cure.
Then to lay the brick.

Laying the brick was an involved process.  We streamlined with assigned duties and made the process as efficient as possible.

Elanor globbed the mortar down and cleaned up any extra.
Eric spread it and troweled it.
Amelia back buttered the bricks.
Scott and Naomi held the back buttered bricks to hand to Eric.

We ran out or mortar.....

Then we really got going. 
I back buttered.
Seth and Amelia cut some bricks.
Scott opened new boxes as we needed them.
Elanor took a break, with others attempting to fill in.
The onions held back buttered bricks so Eric could do a larger area and put several down at once.

Another waiting period.

The box suggested that you seal the TOPS of the bricks to help prevent the mortar from bonding to the brick.  But to be careful not to allow any spillage down the sides of the brick because it wouldn't bond where it needed to.  Well, I can say I tried really hard.

Then on to "grout."  But brick has mortar, not grout.  So on to mortaring, but with a lighter color.

Eric and Elanor came up with the idea to pipe in the mortar with cake frosting bags.  OK.
We had a little bit of a learning curve with what consistency worked best.
We had mixers, bag fillers, Eric pipes, I troweled. 
I used a half circle tool for a very short time.  It made the floor rather bumpy. 
I then tried the "wipe it with a sponge method."
Winner winner chicken dinner!

I was rushing to get done to go to a meeting at church... The first part was ok, but as time went on the cleaning job became increasingly sloppy.

I spent the better part of a day chiseling and wiping off the excess mortar.

The final step was to seal the whole thing.  I liked the wet look more than the dull look.  So we switched to glossy sealer.

Eric left on a Saturday.  I sealed the floor late Friday night after a fun filled date night.  Eric, Scott ,and I moved the stove to the front of the house Saturday morning.  I was personally very thankful for our 2 moving dollies.

I plan to have a small seating area on the left.  We will install the trim around the windows after they are replaced.  We used some baseboard trim to keep our little dog out of the area while we were working and while it was setting.

Location, location, location!
The stove has been in the front of the house for a couple of weeks now.  I absolutely love it!  Our whole house is warmer.  The heat goes up the stairs, into the living room, and even into the master bedroom without turning on the central heating and cooling fan.  We are cozier and we are one step closer to a completed home.  Win - win.

And..... We are back to hovering when it is cold.  But on actual stools rather than buckets this time.  Ha ha.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Canning Pears

There is an amazing man in our ward.  Brother Cox.  He is in his 90's and does not act his age!    He came to our home school group so the class I was mentoring could meet and interview someone who served in WWII.  He gardens, very successfully.  He brings his garden surplus to church every Sunday to share his bounty with others.  He has offered me specific items in bulk.  He even invited us over to pick AND can beans at his house, with the help of his lovely daughter.

About a month ago I received a call after 9 pm from brother Cox.  {He would give the energizer bunny a run for his money, for sure.}  Brother Cox invited me, along with a couple of other families, to pick pears. 

OK.  I've never loved pears.  I've never picked them.  And I have never canned them.  But OK.

The pear trees were supposed to be ornamental.  Nope.  The city planted several fruit bearing pear trees at the cemetery.   Brother Cox noticed all the fruit going to waste and asked the city if he could pick them.  He has been doing this for well over a decade.

We arrive on the agreed upon day.  There is Brother Cox, up a ladder, in a tree, picking pears!

The pears were delicious, but needed to sit to ripen.

I decided to can pear sauce.  I do not have a pressure caner and sauce seemed easiest.  My food strainer says no skinning or coring.  
My first attempt did NOT go well.
The strainer barely fits onto our very thick counter-top and slipped off easily, it leaked, it was very difficult to turn the handle to churn the pears, and NO sauce came out.  
I have canned a few things several times, so canning in and of itself is not new.  I have made applesauce only once and that was a few years ago and I did it as a family project with lots of helpers, including Eric.

So I inform Eric of my plight.  He asks if I have boiled the pears.  I responded rather indignantly and an emphatic "NO" escaped my lips.  Eric just stared.  Wait for it...... He thoroughly enjoyed watching my gears turn and the light bulb go off and then GASP!  I didn't cook the pears!  Maybe you can picture this hilarious akin to I love Lucy moment.  There was some laughter at my folly.

The second time was tedious at best.  It took a LONG time to boil the water, to quarter and add the pears, to empty the water set aside the pears, refill the water and beginning the boiling process again, and then, grind the pears into sauce.  (This is all wrong if you are unaware.)  I got sauce!  
I started with so many pears!  I piled as many as I could up on the counter and the pile looked the same after I filled the pots.  And there were still more pears waiting in bags and boxes.  The job proved to take much longer than I had anticipated.

The sauce was rather liquidy, and I didn't want to wait longer for it to simmer down, so I strained the sauce into two jars - 1 for the juice, and 2 for the sauce.  I thought I was so clever.....  Really it was just time consuming.  
Even my helpers doubted.

A friend told me that the sauce seems watery, but if you strain it the sauce could be too dry.  Argh.  So the latter batches were not strained.  If it is indeed dry, I have the liquid to add back to it.  If the sauce is fine, I have cider.

I learned the the difference between sauce, cider and juice; for me anyway.  Obviously I am NOT an expert.
Sauce - ground up COOKED fruit.
Cider - the juice of the ground up cooked fruit
Juice - is the water the fruit is cooked in.  I learned this on the very last batch.  Sigh.  It was very watered down.   But repeatedly using the same water cooking the pears would have yielded a flavorful drink.

cider, juice, sauce

I did not take as many pears as I could have that morning at the cemetery.  I did not want to overwhelm myself.  But I got a bit flustered anyway.  This project took an entire day, from shortly after breakfast until after bed time for the onions.  But at least I did it in one day.  One day of standing at the stove.  One day of everything I touched getting sticky.  One day of frustration and finding the way.  One day of disarray. 

 I seriously questioned whether it was worth canning or not.  

There were a couple of jars that did not seal properly.  I was SO sick of pears, I just put them in the frig.  

Well....  I learned a lot from this experience.

I learned:
that even when I think I know what I am doing, I might not.
that seemingly simple things can be complicated if you don't know what you are doing in the first place.
how to can pear sauce.  I am confident my next attempt will be much easier.
perseverance even when I'm not sure it is worth it.
that I LOVE pear sauce!  I will certainly be canning again next year!

I see the gospel and life in general in this experience for me.  
There are videos and blogs and other canning resources available.  I looked, but did not study or gain knowledge.
I jumped in without preparing myself.
I ask:
How often have I read the scriptures for the sake of obedience without ever gleaning anything from my reading?
How often have I acted impatiently without prayer or pondering or waiting for an answer.
And yet when I do this, how often has Christ been there to help me and show me a better way?  Every time! - if I am willing to follow Him.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Scott and Soccer

Scott loves soccer!  It is his favorite sport.  The only sport he cares to play.

Last Spring I missed the sign up date.  I gave my information to the lady that coordinates soccer and she said I would be on the list to notify us when the next time soccer was about to begin.  Um.  Nope.  However, we have some church friends with boys that play soccer too.  Scott got signed up and our friends were Scott's coaches!

Scott enjoyed himself.  He was goalie much of the time.  It worked out perfectly because the team didn't have a goalie.

Scott was not often busy because the team was usually at the opponents' goal.

Sometimes the ball made it down to his end of the field.

Scott practiced anytime he could talk one of his sisters into playing with him.  
It paid off during games.

Scott was not the best at drop kicks when he started.  
However, he was soon kicking to midfield with ease.

Most of his blocks were straightforward and uneventful.

Scott blocked a goal and kicked it back out into the field.  It went straight to a player of the opposing team who was in perfect position to make an aggressive goal shot (almost a fast action penalty kick).  Scott quickly realized his error and dove for the ball.  Amazingly, he blocked it..... again!  

Though the season lasted only a few short weeks, Scott learned much, improved his skills, and let very few balls get past him.  There were times everyone thought the ball was going in and to everyone's amazement, even Scott's, the ball was deflected.  

One time a ball was coming in very high.  Scott jumped and made contact with the very tips of his fingers.  The ball shot straight up and went over the goal rather than in.  Another time Scott blocked a ball destined for the goal.  He leaped parallel with the earth deflecting, but not capturing.  The ball hit the post and bounced back into the field.  Thankfully members of his team backed him up and got the ball down field with no chance for the other team to try again.  

I asked Scott if the scrapes were worth the block.  He looked at me perplexed: as if there were a choice.  Of course!  I figured out battle wounds from soccer are like mini trophies - reminders of the effort, hard work, quick reflexes, and successes.

Scott's team was undefeated and he allowed only THREE goals the entire season.  The end of season tournament proved to be the same. Undefeated!

Note:  Ava Martial Arts sponsored the team Scott was on.  We might try that too.