Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Week

We’ve had all sorts of Halloween fun this week.  We’ve had Halloween Hair,


while playing on the Halloween ukelele.


(We had other hair fun as well.)

IMG_7677IMG_7678photo 1photo 2

We had Halloween Food,


and we had Halloween Pumpkins (aka Jack O Lanterns).


And of course we had Halloween Costumes.

Jenna’s new costume wasn’t ready for the first party so she wore last year’s costume.


Rachel had ordered her Catwoman costume online, but Jenna asked me to make her a Pikachu costume.  It was ready for the trunk or treat the next day.



Josh wore his horse head and crazy shirt to a Halloween Party.  Jared decided to skip dressing up and didn’t go trick or treating this year.  (Though he is regretting that a little now that the girls have candy and he doesn’t.)  The girls wore their costumes to school as well.  (The kids go to the middle school every afternoon for band and art/computer class.)  It sounds like Jenna got lots of positive attention for her costume.


So there you have it—it’s been a fun Halloween week.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Things I learned while I was Radioactive


#1) The GI doctor’s assistant called the other day with the results of my stomach emptying study. 


That makes 3 completely normal tests for me: endoscopy, breath test (checking for h. pylori), stomach emptying study.

Their conclusion: that I have an unusual thing called cyclical vomiting syndrome.  In layman’s terms, once I start throwing up I have a hard time stopping.

I would be tempted to dismiss this as malarkey except wait.  Just this last spring my dad was hospitalized for a weekend when he couldn’t stop throwing up.  And one of my brothers has been hospitalized several times for uncontrollable vomiting.

So.  Maybe this really is part of my answer.

#2) I hate eating while I’m timed.

#3) I have issues with time.  Worse than I knew.

When they told me about the structure of the stomach study they apologized that I would need to spend half of the day sitting at the hospital because I would need a picture taken every hour for 4 hours.  I looked at it as a mini vacation and started plotting all of the things I would accomplish during my four hours.

You know, I was going to completely catch up on all of those blog posts, organize some pictures, and clean up my computer too.  Oh, and check my email and look at facebook as well.

Doesn’t that sound like a reasonable use of time?




In my first 55 minute break I sat in the lobby, checked and responded to email.  Then I logged onto Facebook to look for cute pictures of Kate and to check in on various conversations.  When I finished I looked at the clock—much to my despair 45 minutes of my 55 had passed! 

During my next 55 minute break I worked on a catchup blog post complete with lots of pictures.  Guess what.  It took almost the whole time.  Great—two hours gone, 1 blog post done.

In my last break I essentially accomplished the same thing.  One blog post.  One. Measly. Post. 


I thought about this a lot in the days afterwards.  I’d been getting (and resisting) some messages in my head and heart about time for a while already, and this experience forced me to see what I had previously resisted:

There is a LIMIT to what I can accomplish with my time.

I have always been overly optimistic about time.  I have regular fantasies that it will stretch to accommodate my needs and wants, that somehow I will be able to fit in what I refuse to accept is humanly impossible.  I fail and I get frustrated, but I continue to try.

But that day in that timed environment, I was forced to see what I can ignore in my regular free-flowing days.

Time just does NOT stretch THAT far.

The message that I had been feeling in my heart for some time before the stomach study was this: that in addition to the “must do’s” of my life, the personal care and making the bed, the laundry and feeding people and homeschooling, I have time enough for ONE THING in the morning and ONE THING in the afternoon.  ONLY. 

So if I went to the store, that was IT.  And if I made a more complicated dinner than normal that was it.  Sew?  Blog?  Work in the yard?  Choose one and only one.  Because that is all the time there will be.


As much as I have resisted understanding and believing this truth about my life, paying attention to it has helped me.  I plan my days more effectively when I plan them with the “only one” understanding.  I make choices better when I acknowledge that I am really making choices.  I still feel sadness about all of the things that I wish I was doing, but I don’t have to feel so discouraged that I’m not managing to accomplish them.  So even if I’m not terribly impressed with the doctor’s diagnosis, I would have to say that thanks to his study I did learn something invaluable.

Sunday, October 27, 2013


A repost from last year in case you haven't made your own delicious homemade caramel apples yet this year!

A few weeks ago my visiting teacher (who is cool because she lived in Charlotte for 15 years and goes to the beach in NC several times a year!) brought me a delicious treat.  I haven’t had a caramel apple in years, because making them is such a pain.  (We’ve made lots of caramel apple dip, but that’s another story.  Or at least another recipe.)

Her apple was so delicious that I had to get the recipe, and we made them this week.  Definitely worth a few minutes of coooking!

Homemade Caramel for Apples
from Bon Appetit, slightly adapted by
1 pound brown sugar (about 2 cups packed)
2 sticks unsalted butter (1 cup)
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
⅔ cup dark corn syrup
⅓ cup maple syrup (homemade is fine)
1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. molasses
¼ tsp. salt
12-medium sized apples
popsicle sticks

assorted toppings for dipping (toffee bits, chopped nuts, crushed cookies/candy
bars, etc.) Melted chocolate in zip-top bags

Wash and dry apples, place sticks in cores and place on a baking sheet in the fridge to chill. Prepare all toppings in bowls and have them ready to go.

To prepare caramel, combine first 8 ingredients in heavy 2 ½ quart saucepan (at least 3-4 inches deep). Stir with wooden or silicone spatula over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves (no crystals are felt when caramel is rubbed between fingers), occasionally brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush or scraping with spatula, about 15 minutes.

Attach a clip-on candy thermometer to side of pan. Increase heat to medium-high; cook caramel at rolling boil until thermometer registers 236°F, stirring constantly but slowly with clean spatula and occasionally brushing/scraping down sides of pan, about 12 minutes. Pour caramel into a bowl. Submerge thermometer bulb in caramel. Cool to 200°F, about 20 minutes. If it cools too much just heat it up a little.

While caramel cools, line baking sheets with silicone baking mats or buttered foil. (I used parchment paper). Holding stick, dip 1 apple into caramel, submerging all but the very top of apple. Lift apple out, allowing excess caramel to drip back into bowl. Turn apple caramel side up and hold for several seconds to help set caramel around apple. If needed, gently scrape the bottom of the apple to remove excess caramel. Place coated apple on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining apples, spacing apples apart on parchment paper.

By the time you have dipped all the apples, the first ones should be ready to add toppings. Lift one apple from paper and press decorations into the caramel and return to the baking sheet.

If desired dip caramel-coated apples into melted chocolate, allowing excess to drip off, then roll in nuts or candy. Or drizzle melted chocolate over caramel-coated apples and sprinkle with decorations. Chill until decorations are set, about one hour. Chill up to one week or wrap in cellophane bags for gift giving.

Saturday, October 26, 2013


It rained quite a bit early in September.  That caught me off guard.  Made me think that the good weather was over and the long gray season had already begun.  So it was a delightful and unexpected surprise when the sun came back out, and stayed.  And stayed. 

Every week I think will be the end of the sunshine.  And each new sunshiny day is like a special treat—I savor it like I do a day of beach vacation, with the need to soak it all in and store it up to get me through the days that lie ahead.

Each sunny day I have thought, “Thank you, Lord, for one more day of sunshine.” 

And I mean it.



PS—rain followed by sunshine seems to have a consistent result….mushrooms, mushrooms everywhere!

These aren’t too bad—they’re scattered through the grass and look almost like leaves.


There are way too many of these, and they’re probably about 4 inches across.


And these!  These are HUGE and right by our back door!


Thursday, October 24, 2013

The visible tender mercy


Last year for a while I was working to follow Elder Eyring’s advice from many conferences ago and write down each day the ways I’d seen the Lord’s hand in my life.  The only problem was that often I wasn’t quite sure if I had seen His hand.

I started praying to be more aware, to be able to see past the ordinariness and identify things that the Lord was helping me with.

I didn’t really notice anything different then.  I did recognize several incredible tender mercies that happened this summer after they had happened.  But today I saw one happen.  Was in the middle of one happening.  And there was NO question in my mind but what the hand of the Lord was working in my life.

Helping me get my bacon.


For a year or so now here in Oregon I’ve been buying meat from this company called Zaycon.  They advertise online, sell online, and then at a specific date/time/place you go and pick up your meat.  We’ve been really pleased with everything we’ve purchased from them and so last month I ordered some bacon and sausage.  It was supposed to be picked up between 4:30 and 5:00 today in a little town called Forest Grove, which is 2 towns away. 

I finished up at the chiropractor at 4:40 (ongoing neck pain from my accident) and started immediately for Forest Grove.  I noticed that a reminder had come on my cell phone from Zaycon, but I ignored it because I was on my way.  I got to the usual Forest Grove pickup site at 4:58—but there was no one there.

I panicked.  Then I thought to check that text message.  Sure enough, they had moved the pickup.  It was still in Forest Grove, but at a new address.  The problem was that I had left the GPS at home so I had no way to find the new address in a town I wasn’t at all familiar with.

I called home and told them I was having a crisis and got Josh on the phone.  He pulled up Google maps and started looking for the address that I gave him.  Forest Grove has 2 long one-way streets running through town, and the pickup was on 19th Ave which runs East.  As I was talking to Josh I decided that I had probably driven too far and so I turned off onto another street and drove back west for a couple of blocks, then got back on 19th.  This time as I looked for some street numbers I realized that the numbers were going in the opposite direction of what I had expected—so I still had quite a way to drive. 

Josh told me what cross streets to look for and told me it was in a shopping center on the left, then got off of the phone.  I watched for the right cross street and then watched for the right address—2784.

For a minute I couldn’t see any addresses, and then the next address I saw was in the 2800s.  I panicked, thinking that I had passed by the right place again, and it was already a few minutes after 5.  I was worried that the truck would leave soon.  I pulled into what looked like a narrow drive between two businesses, thinking that it would take me through the block to the other one way street and then I would drive west a little way and try to find the address again. 

As I drove through what turned out to be a small cramped parking lot, something caught my eye.  Way at the back of the parking lot was a white semi.  I wondered if it could possibly be the Zaycon shipment.  Sure enough, when I got closer it was.  I was right there, and I wasn’t even sure where “there” was!  I pulled up beside it and within a minute or two I had my bacon and sausage—probably even before my pounding heart had calmed back down.

Driving back out to 19th to make my way home I couldn’t even figure out how I’d gotten in to the parking lot.  The entrances were small and poorly marked and the parking lot itself was hard to navigate.  The fact that I turned in at what happened to be the right space and drove right to the delivery truck was truly a miracle—there was just no way I ever could have done it on my own.


Thinking about this afterwards was interesting.  There was a part of me that was like “Bacon?  Really??”  But the other part of me was interested to think that even for something as (relatively) trivial as bacon, I was being watched over and guided.

And for that I am grateful…

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Got yer pumpkin yet??

Cause I found mine!!


All 156 pounds of it…

Sunday, October 20, 2013



The other day I drove several times past this row of trees, splendidly colored against the blue sky and shining in the late afternoon sun. 

Just a minute down the road another group of trees stood with bare branches. Yesterday’s beautiful leaves now covered the ground beneath them.

As I drove past the bare trees I realized I was thinking “wouldn’t it be better if all of the fall colors turned at the same time, so that the whole world was beautiful all at once.”

But then I realized that if I got my way, while it would be spectacular in that moment, the moment would be over and gone so fast.

This way there is beauty this week over here and down there, and then next week somewhere else.  The beauty is drawn out over weeks and weeks, and I search for each new display like a treasure hunt around town.

As all of these thoughts ran through my head I realized that, once again, this was an analogy for my life.  I have experienced so many beautiful situations in my life.  But invariably as one situation has changed or ended I have been frustrated.  Even if there were plenty of other good things still in my life, I haven’t wanted to let go of anything. 

I realized that my life is a lot like this season I’ve been watching.  A beautiful experience over here, then a new and different one over there.  Good things happening in one area of my life, then later in another.  I can see that if I am willing to let go of my desire to hold on to everything forever, I can appreciate the fact that there is some beauty in my life all of the time.  And be grateful for God’s careful sequencing…

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Happy Birthday Ben & Grant!

b and g

40 years ago today when I was almost 7 years old my mom got me the best present ever--twin brothers. One for me, and one for Margaret. Happy Birthday to my awesome brothers Ben and Grant, you were the cutest!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Clemency Denied

I think that my petunias are worried that after over a month of non-performance I might be getting ready to replace them.

I say that I think they’re worried because they’ve made a last ditch effort to keep me happy by blooming again.


And it did make me smile every time I saw them for a few days.


(Though the smile could also have been caused by those big blue planter pots that I bought because nothing I had went well in front of our new house.  Those pots are still making me happy.)

Valiant effort, petunias, but it was too little too late. 

Because I’ve already bought the bulbs and pansies that are going to replace you.

Clemency Denied.

Friday, October 11, 2013

I’m Radioactive, Radioactive

This post coming to you from the bowels of Tuality Hospital.  Ok…not really the bowels…just the basement.

In my gastroenterologist's ongoing quest to figure out a reason for my stomach pain, I am having my 3rd GI test today.  This one is a stomach emptying test, checking to make sure that my stomach is dealing with food in a timely manner.

And how do they do that, you ask? 

By feeding you breakfast.  Complete with radioactive eggs.stomach study (4)

Yep, that’s what I said.  Eggs (actually egg-beaters) mixed with a small amount of some radioactive substance that I cannot remember the name of.  (But not mixed with salt.  Sadly.)

What’s even better is that after my first bite of anything on the tray, I had exactly 10 minutes to finish my meal.  Me.  The second-slowest eater in the world.  Who finishes nothing except perhaps a glass of water in 10 minutes.  There was even a stopwatch.

And even better than that was that I got to wear a bib.
stomach study (1)

Truly.  They taped it to my shoulders.  But not because they were afraid that I would drop radioactivity onto my clothes and damage them.  (Because although you can’t see it, I’m wearing a cute new halloween shirt bought on clearance last year.  And cute red jeans too.  It would be a shame to radioactively damage them.)  No, they were afraid that if I dropped a crumb of radioactive egg on, say, my shoulder, it would confuse their pictures.  And they would wonder why I was digesting part of my breakfast in my shoulder.  So there you have it.

In case you were wondering what the setup looks like for getting radioactive pictures taken of one’s stomach, here you go.
stomach study (3)

The bed part raises up, then rolls forward into the open part of the circle.  The camera is in the rectangular part and my stomach went right up till I was almost touching that.  My chin was pretty much on the metal. 

Now I am just thirsty, thirsty, thirsty.  Because in addition to my breakfast I was given 4 oz of water, and that’s all I’m allowed to have until it’s all over.  Hopefully that will be soon!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Fall Colors

One of the things that is beautiful about Oregon is fall.  I know, I know.  I resist it’s coming with all my might.  But once it’s here I sure do love watching it.  Today was a great example—I turned on the street just before ours and happened to turn and look in a different direction.  The tree I saw literally took my breath away. IMG_4402

I came out of Costco last week on a sunny day and one of the trees looked like it was glowing.


This tree around the corner from is has been beautifully bright since mid-September.


These burning bushes between our yard and our neighbor’s driveway are positively scarlet right now.

051 IMG_7491

Just like spring, fall in Oregon is a protracted experience.  One group of trees bursts into flame, brilliant, then the leaves fall to the ground just as another tree begins it’s seasonal spectacle.


One of the things I really enjoyed last year was that there are so many group plantings that turn colors together.


And of course there’s always the delight of seeing trees that are only partially turned—for some reason that entertains me every time.


It’s a nice consolation that if I’m missing North Carolina and it’s beautiful autumn weather, at least I’m enjoying a lot of beauty here.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Tweaking my Story

Recently I’ve read a couple of things about the function of “story” in our lives.  Things that have reminded me that as important as the events of our lives are the stories we attach to and tell about them.  Things that have made me examine the stories I’m telling.

I realized as I was thinking that while I told a faithful story two years ago when Russ lost his job and in the months after while we waited to see what was going to happen, I haven’t done such a good job of that in the last year.  The last year has been filled with stresses; the stress of moving, of cramming our large life into a too-small house, of living for approximately 7 months without seeing the sun more than once or twice, the stress of unresolved stomach pain and stretched thin finances and missing dear friends.  And so my story sort of morphed into a story of stress with a side of depression, topped with a little sprinkle of “I will never get over this experience.”

But I am resolving as of today (as of a couple of days ago, actually) to start telling the first story again.  To tell the story of rescue, and how it was so amazing that Russ found a new job so quickly, and that our money lasted until the exact day that Russ’s first paycheck from Intel came.  To tell the story of all of the help I was given by so many loving friends as I was trying to get the house ready to sell.  To tell how my sisters took turns calling me and crying with me and reassuring me that it would be ok.  And to tell the story (as Jason put it recently) that if we had to get “kicked out of the Garden of Eden,” Oregon is a pretty great place to have ended up.

Most of all, though, I’m going to tell the story more often of how I know that God has a plan for us.  And that for some reason, one that we don’t know about now and may never know about, His plan included us moving to Oregon.  I’m going to talk about how gracious He has been in His provision for us, and how I’m going to trust that His plan is the best plan.  (And that I hope it periodically enables us to go back to NC to the beach.)

Because these are the stories that my children need to hear.  These are the stories that I need to remember.

Withdrawal Ahead


Strawberries have long been my favorite fruit, and that relationship has only strengthened in our two strawberry seasons in Oregon.  But I have to admit that this year peaches, these lovely juicy succulent round orbs of sweetness, they are giving the strawberries a run for their money.  It probably helps that instead of going out and picking them myself I can just order a box of peaches from the produce guy and pick it up on a Saturday afternoon.  Then I can entertain our tastebuds buy making all sorts of peachy goodness: classic (southern) peach cobbler, fresh peach pie, a new and out-of-this-world peach ice cream, and our new favorite peach crisp.  There are just so many ways to combine peaches and sugar to make something tasty, and we have tried a great many of them.

In the last few weeks, however, I have only eaten my peaches plain.  Straight up, as it were.  Juicy bites of peach flavored sugar is what many of them have tasted like.  I have LOVED them.  Hoarded them.  Not suggested that anyone else eat them. 

And now they are almost gone.  I think there are one or two more in the fridge, old enough now that they are starting to shrivel on the shelf.  The thought that it will be almost another year before I get a new box of peaches makes my heart and (my mouth) sad.  I had planned to freeze some peaches this year but in the chaotic aftermath of the concussion that didn’t happen.  I had planned to dehydrate some peaches this year, that didn’t happen either. 

All this means that my peach-addicted self is going to suffer some serious withdrawal as the winter sets in and the summer seems forever away.  And next year I’ll be more careful where I put my feet, so that I can store away a whole freezer full of sunshiny peaches.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The last first day of school

It’s hard to believe that Josh is a senior.  Here is a picture from his last first day.


And of Rachel, Jenna, & Jared sometime in that first week of school.


(In addition to our homeschool fun at home, the triplets are taking band at the middle school, the girls are taking art and Jared is taking a computer class.)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Summer Goal Fail

Our summer divided into 4 parts:

  • Family Reunion/trip to Utah
  • 5.5 weeks in Oregon
  • Moab vacation
  • Jason’s return

For months I had been planning that the 5.5 weeks in Oregon would be work time for me—time to get boxes and boxes unpacked, and if I was fortunate time to paint.  At the beginning of the summer I read a post on a blog about how this particular family makes summer goals every year.  Well, I thought, goals for the entire summer wouldn’t work for our family, because we’re not going to be around for the entire summer.  But goals for 5 weeks…I decided that was doable.

And that is why, the Monday after we returned from Utah, we had a family night about goal setting.  We talked about things we would like to accomplish during the next month, things that we wouldn’t normally have time to do during the school year, reasons that this was a good idea.  And then we set goals, writing down at least one goal in each area, and read them to each other.  It was great.  Even Tyler who was visiting, wanted to share his goals. 

That night I made little spreadsheets of everyone’s goals and hung them on the wall.

Where they were never touched, ever again.

No really, to be honest, Jenna probably did her goals for a couple of days because she is a remarkably driven child.  But the rest—not a single checkmark.  And it wasn’t that I didn’t try, or remind, or even bribe—because I totally did.  They were just Completely. Unwilling.

In fact a few times an ungrateful child complained to me that having the goals was too much like the regular school year, and didn’t I want them to be able to enjoy the summer???


In the end I decided that while summer goals might be a great idea, it just wasn’t going to work out in our home and it wasn’t a hill I was willing to climb, much less die on.  And I let it go.  But every now and then, when I walked by the wall and saw the spreadsheets still hanging there, it did make me kind of sad…

summer goals


PS—I should clarify—I actually worked on my goals, and accomplished about half of them.  I just didn’t mark my paper.  Smile