Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Aloha From Maui . . . Sort Of

This is Cindy Lynn here, posting for my mom. Unexpectedly, the owner of the condo they're staying in has just canceled his internet, so she won't be able to blog or post pictures until she gets home next week.

In the meantime, you can always check out my blog!


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Dreaming of Dolphins

By the time this shows up on my blog, Russ & I will be leaving on a jet plane. (Though we know exactly when we'll be back again.) We are spending a week+ in Maui, part of it alone and part with friends we have known for many years. I'm excited to get to hang out with Russ, excited to be really warm, and excited to snorkel again. We're planning on posting pictures to the blog once we get internet access, which should be by Monday night. So if you want to see what we're up to, come look. And if you someone to plan a trip to Maui for you someday, I'm your gal.

In the meantime, here's a video that someone sent me. This is something I can only wish we would see in Hawaii!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Longing for Lava

Several years ago (4, to be exact) Russ and I went to the Big Island of Hawaii with friends. One of the really amazing things we did was to hike out onto the lava in the evening, trying to get out to where the lava was flowing. Due to some inaccurate information we left later than we should and it was soon dark. As we were hiking in the dark it started raining, which made the lava slippery. After about an hour and a half we decided that we had better turn around--there was still too far to go to keep walking. As we were making that decision one of our friends cut her leg badly on the lava, which sealed the decision to turn back.

While hiking in the dark we could see the reddish glow of the lava flowing (slowly) down the mountain. And at one point we could see the lava spilling over the edge of the land and into the sea. I think that moment, even though we were so far away from the lava, is burned into my memory.

I love lava.

Russ and I have always said since that night that if we ever went back to Hawaii we would go back to the Big Island and hike out to the lava and make it this time. When we realized last year that we had enough frequent flier miles for tickets to Hawaii, one of the first things we started talking about was a day trip to the Big Island to hike out to the lava. We planned exactly what we would do so that we would be successful this time.

What we didn't plan on was the volcano not cooperating. Four years ago we would have had to hike 4 miles across the old lava to reach the lava flow. This year we would have to hike 16 miles. The state opened a viewing area in a closer location so that people could still come see the lava flowing into the ocean, but now the lava is flowing through lava tubes all the way to the ocean and is often almost invisible. We finally decided a week or so ago that it no longer made sense to take this day trip, and that we would enjoy our time more if we stayed on Maui.

And so we will have an extra day on Maui, and maybe we will see the sun rise from the top of Mt. Haleakala instead of seeing the lava flow into the ocean.

But oh, how I wanted to see the lava...

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Together Again

Playing our new favorite game, "The Bucket King" earlier this afternoon.

It's been so nice having Cindy Lynn back at home again. I know she's married and has a husband and a home of her own now, but we really like having her here--and not just because she's going to babysit for us while we go to Hawaii. I think it has to be one of life's greatest ironies that you raise your kids to the point where they're awesome human beings and you enjoy having them around, and that's when they leave you. I'm sure there's a life lesson in there somewhere, but whatever it is--I don't want to learn it. I just want her to come back to visit often. Thank goodness for cell phones and Vonage and IM!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Enjoying the Loveseat

So Russ & I aren't the only ones enjoying having a loveseat in our bedroom...we had a few guests today!

Do You Ever Wonder What People Are Thinking???

One of my friends had a link on her blog to a great site called Cake Wrecks. It has pictures of some of the strangest cakes you've ever seen. Then a friend sent me a picture of this cake and someone's idea of how it happened, and I just haven't been able to delete it. It makes me laugh every time I look at it, and I thought maybe you could use a laugh this morning.

Okay so this is how I imagine this conversation went:
Walmart Employee: 'Hello 'dis be Walmarts, how can I help you?'
Customer: ' I would like to order a cake for a going away party this week.'
Walmart Employee: 'What you want on the cake?'
Customer: 'Best Wishes Suzanne' and underneath that 'We will miss you'.

P.S. The Cake Wrecks site is great if you're trying to avoid stuff you should be doing...like cleaning the house or doing the laundry. But even if you don't go to the site, you have to check out this post--it's beyond amazing. I had no idea people could do cupcake art!

Monday, February 16, 2009

FHE Conversations

Due to a combination of jet lag, a stake dance, and ward fireside, our family had no time for any kind of valentine's celebration until tonight. For family night I made giant sized sugar cookies and then we frosted them. Then we took turns passing them around the table and making conversations on each other's cookies.

Sweet fun.

Here are a few of my favorite messages:

Guess what? I ♥ you heart throb e-mail me!

Friend 4Ever sweet thing, no doubt.

You rock--e-mail me!

Good times sugar lips LOL!

I want you soul mate!

What can I say?
You know how important they say good family conversation is!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Pecan Harvest

Sometime in December my dad and stepmother told us that they wanted to come visit us on their way to South Carolina at the beginning of January. When I asked why they were going to South Carolina, they said that they were going to spend a week harvesting pecans on the Farm. Right then I decided that I wanted to take the kids and go help harvest pecans too.

While I was in South Carolina for my grandma's funeral someone mentioned that all of the aunts and uncles were staying for the nut harvest the next week. I was even more sure that I wanted to bring the kids down for a day to help—a chance to spend more time with my aunts & uncles was not something I wanted to pass up. (One of my dad’s brothers and his wife weren’t able to come to the funeral in South Carolina—they have a grandchild with cystic fibrosis who had been hospitalized in Utah for emergency surgery and didn’t feel like they could leave him. Other than that, all of my dad’s living siblings and and sisters in law were at the funeral in SC.)

On Tuesday I loaded up Jason & the little kids (Josh decided he wasn’t interested in a day off if it had to be spent driving to and from South Carolina and working while we were there) and we started driving. Here’s a funny thing about me—I don’t like driving to the grocery store, but I don’t mind driving to the Farm. (Or the beach, or even Utah!) And I love having adventures.

We arrived at the Farm in time to have lunch and visit for a bit, and then it was time to get to work.

My grandfather was a man with a lot of foresight. When his older children were little he planted pecan trees—just tiny twigs—all around the perimeter of the yard. Today, almost 70 years later, those tiny twigs have become majestic trees that offer much needed shade in the summer and a bountiful harvest of pecans in the winter.

The day we were at the Farm we were harvesting from a small grove of nuts out in the middle of the cotton field. This land was not a part of the original property—it was land that my grandpa bought later when it became available. My dad told me that when they bought the additional land there was a sharecroppers house on it with 6-8 pecan trees around it. The sharecroppers house is long gone but the pecan trees are still going strong.

Jared & Jenna work near Ramona
Before we started picking up nuts we had to pick up branches. The trees are what are called “self-pruning” trees—they drop branches throughout the year. I’m sure this serves some important purpose, but I don’t know what! We picked up branches and dragged them over to make a pile for a big bonfire. Then we were ready to start picking up nuts.

I have never harvested nuts before, so I didn’t know what to expect. I was a little bit worried at the thought of stopping over all day long to pick up nuts off of the ground. It turned out that I didn’t need to be worried about that—there are tools made just for picking up nuts, and Ramona & the aunts had gone that morning and bought 5 more so that the kids and I would be able to all have one to use.

It was a cold day, and we were all bundled up in our coats and jackets with gardening gloves from Grandma’s huge stash. I was so proud to see my kids working so hard. Jason hauled branches for hours, and made a huge bonfire. Rachel, Jenna, and Jared hauled branches and then picked up nuts for several hours before they got tired and lost interest. I love these pictures of them working with their great aunts and Ramona. As we were driving home that night Jason said “I didn’t know your Aunts and Uncles were so interesting and so much fun!”

I worked and worked and worked. By the end of the afternoon my neck hurt from looking down for the nuts, and my back hurt from my neck hurting, and my hand hurt from pushing the nut-picker down on the nuts over and over again. But the physical discomfort was so much less than the emotional satisfaction of the day. For a while I picked nuts near my Aunt Pam and talked with her. My Aunt Pam is the only living daughter in my dad's family, and she is the one with whom my grandparents lived most of the time in the 10 years before they died. She has traveled from her home in Utah to the Farm in South Carolina several times every year, both to make sure that her parents were able to spend some time in their own home, and to make sure that the house and yard were cared for properly. I don’t think I ever had an idea of the enormity of that job until I spent just an afternoon harvesting nuts.

Rachel & Aunt Pam

After Aunt Pam I picked up nuts by my Aunt Diane for a while. My Aunt Diane is just about the cutest woman in the world. She told me with some amazement that she is 70 this year. I was shocked—and hope that when I am 70 I will be as much fun as she is. When I was almost 12 my family moved from Southern California to a small town in Arizona where Aunt Diane’s family lived. My dad got a job in Arizona and had to be there to start the job at the beginning of the school year; my mom stayed in California to sell the house. My dad took Margaret and I with him to Arizona so that we would not have to switch schools so early in the school year, and we lived with Aunt Diane’s family for 6 weeks. As a child this didn’t seem unusual to me at all. As an adult I know that having someone else’s kids live with you for 6 weeks is certainly a burden at some point, and I am grateful for her kindness to us.

Rachel working by Aunt Diane

Next I worked near my Aunt Debby. We lived near my Aunt Debby’s family for several years when I was a teenager, and then my parents lived near their family again when I was in college and a newlywed. They happened to be in Utah when Cindy Lynn was born, and came by our apartment to visit us the day that we came home from the hospital. (Which was before Cindy Lynn was 24 hours old.) My Uncle Mark had a new video camera and he videotaped my newborn baby and took the videotape to my parents, who were not able to visit until Cindy Lynn was several months old. My mom later told me that she watched the video until the tape wore out—thank you Uncle Mark! When I visited my parents in North Carolina I tried to always take a day to go to Aunt Debby’s house. My aunt & uncle always managed to make me feel like my visit was the most interesting and important thing that could have happened to them that day, and I cherish the memories of those times. One of my kids’ favorite stories is the story of why mommy got her first cell phone. I had never seen a reason for a cell phone—I’m kind of a technology idiot. One time we had gone to visit Uncle Mark and Aunt Debbie, and as we were leaving their house up in the mountains of western North Carolina I got turned around. After I’d driven with my three small children for 15-20 minutes I realized that we were going further up into the mountains instead of towards the interstate and civilization. I finally turned around on a small dirt road called something like “Ma Hog Waller Road” and prayed that I would be able to find my way back to their house for more directions. When I told my uncle where he had turned around, he had exclaimed in his fabulous southern accent, “Honey, that there is moonshine territory, and those people are likely to shoot you!” And then he got in his little truck and guided me back to the interstate.

A couple of months ago one of my friends mentioned that her nephew had stopped calling her “Aunt” and had begun to call her by her first name. When she told me that the nephew was 32 my first response was that he was old enough that surely this was ok. But then she asked me what I call my aunts & uncles. As I thought about it I realized that I still address all of them as “Aunt” or “Uncle.” And as I thought about it more, I realized that I have no desire to change that. Sure, I am a middle-aged woman now. I am certainly old enough to be “allowed” to call older adults by their first name. But my using these names isn’t just about propriety or even respect. Each time I call one of them “Uncle” or “Aunt” instead of using just their first name, it reminds both of us of the connection that we have. It reminds me that these are the few people who have known me for my entire life. These are the people who knew and loved me as a child, through my teenage years, and now I delight to visit with as an adult. And my afternoon working in the pecan trees just reinforced those feelings.

Late in the afternoon someone finally lit the bonfire and the kids had fun warming their hands by it and throwing in more sticks. We picked nuts and picked nuts and picked more nuts. Finally we could find no more nuts to pick up and the sun started to go down.

Jason had run to Walmart and gotten some marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate so that we could make s’mores on the bonfire. I hadn’t realized that we had burned all of the possible marshmallow-cookers, and so we ended up roasting our marshmallows on the tines of a rake. (I’m so glad that one of the headlines in the NY Times a few weeks later was about how eating more dirt was good for us….)

We ate our s’mores and then walked slowly across the bare cotton field toward the house, the little kids running and playing while I walked more slowly and enjoyed the beauty of the tree rimmed fields and the sunset on the clouds.

I was amazed to see how many nuts we'd picked up.

We picked up about 10 buckets, I think...

We spent a little more time with my dad & Ramona and then we got ready for the long drive home. The kids were all exhausted from the work they’d done—even Jason fell asleep within 30 minutes of getting into the car. I had a lot of time to think as I drove home, and I spent quite a bit of it grateful for the beauty of the day. Sure—it was a lot of work, and a lot of driving, and it was cold, and I had plenty to keep me busy at home. But I don’t know that I’ll ever have a chance like that again—to spend a day working side by side with my aunts, to laugh and joke and talk with them, to be the only grandchild there, and to let my kids get to know these wonderful relatives a little more.

My dad and his siblings had a family meeting this weekend to try to figure out how they are going to settle my grandma’s estate. I’m not sure right now what will happen with the Farm. Whatever happens, I am so thankful for this bonus of extra time there.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

How do I Love Him?

Let me count the ways...

On second thought, I will spare you the details and him the embarrassment of having all of his good points listed in public. Suffice it to say that we are 21.75 years into this joint venture, and he is by far the best thing that has ever happened to me.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Irresistible Spam

How on earth am I supposed to resist this offer???

Thursday, February 12, 2009

More Puppy Pictures!

This is Buddy's friend Beaver.
Here is Cindy Lynn holding Buddy.
Buddy wants to get up by Abigail and Emily.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Rest of My Trip

I had planned on spending some time with my sister and seeing some of my brothers while I was in Utah. At the last minute my sister called telling me that she was sick, and so I went straight up to Logan to Katie's house. I did get to stop and see my brother Sam, his wife Emily, and their new and adorable puppy Buddy. Talk about a cute dog!!! I also got to see my dad & Ramona several times which was nice. (Although they're not as cute as Buddy...)

I had a great time in Logan. I cooked and baked and cooked and baked for 3 whole days. I played with Laura Kate (a.k.a. my favorite two year old) and read her new book to her over and over. (It's called "Laura Kate at the Beach.") I played games with Abigail and Benjamin and read them one of my favorite kid books, Attaboy Sam. (I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a fun read aloud. But only read it if you really like laughing!)

I got a love note from Abigail

and some other kind of note from Benjamin.

I didn't remember to pull my camera out until I went to the play on Saturday, and I left it out so that I would remember to take some pictures on Sunday. Here is Katie's family--Sean, Laura Kate, Katie, Abigail, Benjamin, and of course me.

Laura Kate wasn't in too good of a mood before we started taking pictures--Sundays are sometimes long for little people. But once the camera was out she perked right up.
The kids all wanted their pictures taken--here is their Kung Fu picture and a few others.
Sunday evening Sean & I played Blockus 3D with Abigail before she went to bed. Then we played Pente with Benjamin. Benjamin provided just enough distraction for me to win the first game, which as you can see was a surprise to Sean. He was pretty horrified, and I think it will take him a long time to get over this defeat. ;)

Monday morning we hung out some more, and then it was time to go.

After the kids left for school I put love notes for them on the fridge. I also made a detailed map of the freezer, but someone rearranged it right away...so much for my brilliant organization.

I was worried about leaving Logan because it had been snowing all morning, but by the time I drove through the canyon the roads were clear and the mountains were beautiful.

The roads were bad around Ogden, but thanks to Russ and a service we call Blonde-Star I managed to avoid all of the accidents and made it back to Salt Lake safely. I had a delightful lunch with my friend Janet, and then went to the airport, where I promptly passed out for 45 minutes until my flight was called.

What a great trip. Thank you Russ for sending me, Alli for singing so beautifully, and Katie for letting me help out for a couple of days. And of course thanks to my beautiful kids for being so good while I was gone and so happy to see me when I got back!

Home again, Home again...Here we are last night watching Horton Hears a Who.
All snuggled up together, with Russ playing with my hair. How good can it get??

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

My Niece with the Golden Voice

Several years ago my annual escape to Utah happened to coincide with my niece’s jr. high musical, “Honk.” I love plays and musicals and so I was delighted to be able to go and see it. What I didn’t expect was how excited my niece was that I had come to see her play. Later that year we were talking about rumors she had heard about what musicals her high school was going to do. She told me that one of the things she had heard was that the high school might do “Beauty and the Beast” her senior year, and that she hoped if that happened she would get to be Mrs. Potts. I agreed with her that that would be excellent, and told her that if that ever happened, I was coming to see it.

Last summer we found out that Alli had gotten the part of Mrs. Potts. I was so excited for her, but at the same time not sure if I was going to be able to keep my long-ago promise. I wasn’t sure she even remembered my promise—but I did, and it was important to me. At the same time plane tickets were becoming increasingly expensive, the musical was going to be in February, and Russ & I had just used our frequent flier stash to procure tickets to Maui in February. Things did not look good for seeing Alli in the musical.

After Christmas I was talking to Alli’s mom, my incredible sister-in-law Marilyn. I asked exactly when the play was, and she told me it was all of the weekends in February. Later Russ found a really reasonably priced ticket. But I still couldn’t decide if I should go. It seemed like such a selfish extravagance in this time of economic instability, especially since some of that instability is affecting Russ’s job. I waffled back & forth about going until my friend Katie got sick, and then I decided that I was going to go.

I went to see the play both Friday and Saturday nights. I figured if I had come this far to see it I might as well see it as much as possible! On Friday night we had a big Ray dinner before hand and everyone went together to see it. On Saturday I brought Abigail (Katie’s 11 year old) with me to see it and we had dinner before hand with Cindy Lynn and Mahon and had a good soak in Marilyn’s hot tub.

Cindy Lynn adoring Mahon/Gaston and Abigail as Belle

The musical was incredible. I really can’t explain how good it was. Marilyn had told me over the years that this drama teacher is kind of out-of-control, and after seeing this I can believe it. These kids have been practicing after school since the beginning of the school year, as well as having to take one theater class, and the leads (which included Alli) had to take two theater classes! But the end result is an amazing experience. I sat and watched it both night just enthralled. (I was less happy with the experience the 2nd night due to the baby 3 row in front of us who cried for fully half of the performance—from the 5th row. So here’s my rant—if you take your baby somewhere like that, please have sympathy for the people who have flown 2,500 miles to see the performance, and take your baby out or at least to the back when they cry!!!!! End of rant…) But other than the crying baby it was amazing and incredible. I was all choked up and teary every time Alli sang--I was that proud of her. I have to explain--the Rays are all wonderful people, they are just not really musical people. So a voice like this is a delight to us.

The first night I forgot my camera, but the second night I brought it and took video of Alli in all of her singing parts. I’ve uploaded them here in case you’re curious, and so all of the proud relatives can see/hear her. Her best song is definitely the last one--the title song. (Even with the baby fussing through half of it.)

I am so glad I went--I would do it over again in a heartbeat!

PS--the video clips are quite loud, so you might want to turn your volume down before you start them!

Home (Reprise)

Be Our Guest

Human Again

Beauty & the Beast