Thursday, January 11, 2018

An Experiment in Familial Love

One of the basic tenets of our LDS faith is that the family is ordained of God and is the fundamental unit of society. Our prophets even released a proclamation to the world about the importance of family, which includes the following guidance for finding familial happiness: "Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities."

We have put all those principles to the test in our home, and I can tell you that statement is true. Sarcasm didn't make it on the list; but I have to wonder if that's one for our family to add.

At the beginning of November, I attended a 3 Key Elements self-improvement seminar with a friend. We had a fun and insightful three days together. (It could have been condensed to two days, but I'll leave my review out of this post.) One of the ideas they presented that has stayed with me is the power of words. Words thought, written, or spoken. Words can create or destroy. I can use words to rewire my thinking and thus my life.

The presenter (and the president/founder of the company), Kirk Duncan, did a show and tell for us of an experiment he did, similar to Dr. Masaru Emoto's rice experiment. Kirk added rice cooked from the same batch to two glass jars. He applied a strip of tape to each jar and labeled one of them "love" and one of them "hate". He held the "love" jar and thought love toward it. Then he put the lid on it and stuck it in a dark corner in his office. He thought hate toward the other jar, closed it, and kept it next to the first jar. He then showed us a picture of the two jars taken a few weeks later.

I couldn't find Kirk's photo online, but it looked basically like this.
The rice in the jar of hate was rotting, while the rice in the jar of love looked fresh.

I decided this would be a powerful object lesson for my next Family Home Evening. I cooked up a couple cups of rice and brought the family into the kitchen. They helped me scoop rice into two jars. Then I handed one jar to #3 and asked her to tell the rice that it was stupid, she hated it, or any other negative comment she could come up with.

"What?" she asked.

"Just do it please," I asked, which earned me a a few this-is-weird-and-maybe-Mom's-finally-lost-it looks.

Finally, #3 held the jar near her mouth and said, "I hate you." It was the most unheartfelt hate I've heard from any of my children in a long time. But at least she was complying. I asked her to pass the jar to her sibling, explaining that we would each say something negative to the rice.

Kent, seeing where this was going, chimed in. "Won't the other rice overhear us?"

"Good point," I said, and rushed the innocent little jar to #2's room where it could sit peacefully behind a closed door.

The family passed the hated rice around, growing increasingly convincing in their negativity. They were having fun with this! Then I popped a lid on the jar, labeled it "HATE", and tucked it away in a kitchen cupboard.

I brought the as-yet-neutral rice out and asked everyone to give it love, handing it to #2...who is 17 years old. She raised her eyebrow at me, like she couldn't believe I was still insisting we all talk to food. But she also complied--sort of. "I love you rice," she said. Then she brought the jar's mouth right to hers and in mock whisper added, "Just kidding. I hate you." Argh! Haven't my kids put me through been through enough science fair experiments to know how important it is to keep the independent variable controlled?! Losing a bit of control myself, I snatched the jar away and handed it to the next child.

"Come on guys, just be nice to the rice and then we can go back to the family room," Dad reminded them. We finished loving the rice--sort of. Some kids worked with me and seemed sincere in their positivity. There was also some, "I love you SO much. You're the most amazing rice I've ever seen." Is rice a stranger to sarcasm? Would it be able to differentiate between words of love and intentions of love? I held the jar last, giving it all the sincere love I could muster--for rice. Then I capped it, labeled it, and put it away next to its brother.

I kept an eye on the jars a couple times each week as I used their cupboard. For the first month, there was no noticeable change. I began wondering how rice kept in my refrigerator seems to fare worse than rice kept in a non-vacuum-sealed jar at room temperature. But that's an experiment for another science fair.

There are plenty of pictures online from people who performed different variations of this experiment. Most results seem to support the hypothesis that things fed with love thrive, and things fed with hate rot.

After two months in the cupboard, the jars of rice made their appearance again last night:

(Click the picture to enlarge.)
#4 saw them first and laughed, "This explains why our family works the way it does!" When the rest of the family gathered for dinner and game night with friends, they had pretty much the same reaction. But as I type the previous sentence, I realize that whether our sarcasm does or doesn't communicate love, we are still building our family on important rituals and good principles. We laugh together. We eat meals together. We play together. And even if our humor is a little sarcastic or off-center, we still get each other. Most importantly, we hug and kiss (and hiss--that's for yet another blog post) and tell our kids multiple times a day, "I love you." And usually, they respond sincerely with a quick, "I love you too."

P.S. We do also maintain our family on the principle of working together. After avoiding it Wednesday night and Thursday morning, I decided tonight that I had to face the rice rather than leave it on display. #s 3 and 5 were in the kitchen visiting with me as I did the dishes, until I took the lids of the rice to scoop it into the garbage. They wisely vacated as I began dry heaving at the disgusting smells of mold and rot. Working together doesn't always work well when you're disposing of "loved" rice. Bleh!

Monday, November 27, 2017


There are important milestones in life. Certainly, accomplishments and events such as graduations, marriage, and the birth of a child qualify. Most people also experience less public milestones, including career advancement or leaving an addiction. Whether public or private, milestones deserve celebration. Celebration is important for helping us to see our progress. As we advance along a chosen path, or when we've reached the end of a path and attained a goal, celebrating keeps us motivated to keep choosing the right paths. It is a means of unleashing gratitude and connecting with those who helped us reach our path's milestones.

In our case today, our path was mostly asphalt and our milestone was literally measured in miles. 300,000 to be exact.
300,000 miles
This milestone has been more than 20 years in the making. Our role in this accomplishment began in June of 2011 when we took ownership of the car we affectionately call "The Camry". (I know, real original.) When my parents bought a new car, they suggested we give our hand-me-down Buick to the African refugees they were serving in Salt Lake City, and they sold us their Camry for $1, which also happens to be the amount required by law to transfer title. They had taken great care of the car, and Kent was excited to advance to a better auto audio system.

March of 2014 marked another important entrance into The Camry's life. That was the first time our car met the mechanics at Clegg Auto for its first oil and filter change there. In their hands, The Camry continues to drive well, even in her old age. Last year when she got stuck on a gravel driveway, and we wondered if she would ever run the open road again, the guys at Clegg gave her the car version of hip replacement surgery; I think the technical term was a new driver's side ball joint and axle.
1. She's fallen and she can't get up!
(Cars struggle when their wheels aren't parallel.)
2. Aw, back in the pre-deer meeting when The Camry
still had her insignia. (Cars also struggle with teen drivers.)
So of course Clegg Auto had to be part of the celebration! This afternoon, Kent ordered pizzas for the guys and they all posed with the car to laud it's new odometer reading. Celebrate good times!

Post script: I'm glad the shop was open today (Monday). Kent reached 299,994 in the car last Wednesday. He's had this pizza party in mind for the last 300 miles, and when he didn't make it in before they closed for Thanksgiving weekend, he was adamant that no one put any more miles on The Camry. Since we celebrated Thanksgiving as a family, it worked fine to have only the van available for the holiday--but I was not loving Kent's suggestion that I drive him to work Friday to avoid overage. Thankfully, he instead stayed home all weekend and helped with house projects. If he had pressed me on chauffeuring him around town, I would have followed #5's idea to secretly drive the car during the night, pushing it past 300K and pushing Kent past his hang-up on the event of that number turning in the mechanic's parking lot. It all worked out for the best; celebrate!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Chicken Casserole

I have a love-hate relationship with breakfast casserole.

With the right recipe, it is delicious!  The combination of sausage or ham with sharp cheddar and Swiss cheeses is tasty.  Sometimes I throw in some pepper jack for a kick, or top it with diced tomatoes fresh from the garden.  It is substantial enough for breakfast or dinner, and the leftovers are great for lunches, too.  It's a winner for serving to guests.  All it lacks are realistic expectations.

Too-high expectations are the bane of my existence.

You see, the instructions for breakfast casserole wrap up with a baking time of 35-40 minutes.  Ha!  I've learned the hard way that that cooking time is not even close.  The first time I got burned--or, rather, not even close to burned, as you'll see--by those instructions was years ago at an overnight gathering with the women from church.  We made our breakfast casseroles at night, stuck them in the oven in the morning, and than had to push breakfast for 40 people back about an hour as we patiently waited for our food to finish cooking.  It was inconvenient, but we were having so much fun together, that we didn't much notice our hungry tummies.

That casserole was so yummy that I forgot about the increased time in the oven, and I decided to make it again for a brunch where I served ten, and again on Christmas morning for my family of seven, and yet again for my mock trial team of 15.  Each time, I opened the oven after 35-40 minutes, only to find an uncooked egg mixture.  I guess I'm a slow learner--or just a hopeful optimist--because it took multiple late breakfasts before I was frustrated enough to remember that this recipe takes about 75 minutes to bake until the eggs aren't runny.  Yep, twice as long as expected.

Last week, Pinterest came to my rescue with a new-and-improved version of my favorite breakfast...or so I thought.  It looks good, right?  And do you see that title?  Crock Pot Breakfast Casserole!  The combination of two of my favorite things!  I love my slow cookers.  I love that I can assemble everything hours before mealtime, while I still have energy, and then it's all cooked to tender perfection when I'm hungry.

Our family's Sunday brunch seemed like a good time to premiere this new slow cooker recipe.  Sunday brunch has become a favorite tradition this year.  Everyone wants to sleep in as long as possible on Sunday, but even the most sleep-deprived teens will wake before noon at the wafting scents of bacon or dark-chocolate brew.  When I come home from my morning church meetings to find my husband donning an apron and scrambling eggs, it absolutely melts my heart.  We all sit down to enjoy each other's company, catching up on our week and laughing together.  Dinners are good, but sitting around a table with my whole family, everyone in PJs with no place to be in a hurry--well, it's a little piece of heaven on Sunday.

The evening previous to this fateful Sunday, Kent and I assembled the casserole.  As I gathered ingredients, he layered them in:
     1 bag frozen hash browns = $1.48
     1 bag diced ham (substituted for
        bacon because it's easier) = $2.38
     1 onion, diced = $0.30
     8 oz. shredded cheddar = $1.83
     Red and green peppers = priceless
        (These were from my garden.
        After caring for them all summer,
        I had high hopes for their use.)
     12 eggs = $0.87
     1 c. milk = $0.11  (But I had to buy the whole gallon, so $1.80.)

I list the prices because I'm that bitter about being fooled by this recipe.  For those of you living on the East or West coast, you probably don't believe those prices.  I know.  I bought groceries while on vacation in LA this summer, and I must say that for people living in an agricultural state, you all are paying way too much for food.  For those of you living in Utah who don't believe those prices, you really should shop at Winco.  Oh, and have I mentioned before that I do bookkeeping for a living?  The total cost of this recipe was $ tax!  So $7.18.  Does that not sound outrageous to you?  Then consider my time and Kent's time.  It was probably ten minutes each in prep time PLUS the backbreaking sum-total minutes of turning on the drip irrigation to my garden all summer and picking two peppers off the plant.  We're easily talking a value of $10 for this meal.  Does that still not sound outrageous to you?  Yeah, I was hoping those numbers would more impressively build my case.  Oh well.

However, the greatest loss stemmed from my expectations for a lovely, hot, Sunday breakfast with my family--and you can't put a price on that!

I came home from my meeting and was a little surprised to not to be welcomed by the warm smells of food upon entering.  I took a serving spoon to the slow cooker, where the casserole had been cooking on warm (as per the directions) for 12 hours (four hours longer than the directions, because I know breakfast casseroles take extra time).  I was greeted by a layer of melted cheese floating on a mass of eggy vegetables.  Bleh!  Foiled again!!  Surprisingly, I was only disappointed, not angry.  I think I've finally learned my lesson.  Breakfast Casserole, to you I say, "Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice (or more like half a dozen times over the past eight years), shame on me."

But I was not giving up!  I removed the lid, turned the cooker to high, and started boiling some quinoa for a different Pinterest recipe that hasn't let me down yet: Five Ingredient Quinoa Superfood Breakfast Bowl.  (Yes, the name is longer than the ingredient list.)

Two-and-a-half hours later, the breakfast casserole was finally cooked and ready to eat...right as we were leaving for church.  "Well, at least tomorrow's breakfast is ready," I thought, as I turned the Crock Pot dial back to warm and replaced the lid.  Wrong again!  The next morning, my kiddos expectantly dug in, bringing bowls of casserole with them to wolf down on the ride to school.  After the carpool, I parked the van in the garage and looked around at the half-eaten servings that were still with me.  Weird.  But not so weird once I scooped up my own serving.  It smelled right.  It was warm.  And then my lowered expectations came crashing down completely.  It did not taste great.  I think it was the peppers, which I had so lovingly sacrificed for this disappointing recipe, that ruined the taste.  I shook on some hot sauce, but even Tapatio couldn't save this casserole.  Halfway through my plate, I looked deep into a forkful of potatoes and eggs and thought, "This casserole is not bringing me joy.  In fact, it's making me more sad with every bite."  I put my fork down and walked away to mourn.

Have you reached this point of my too-long saga of the breakfast casserole to wonder why the title of this post is "Chicken Casserole"?  That's not a typo.  Here comes the answer.

After another 24 hours of the slow cooker warming this breakfast disaster, I realized that I had reached the end of my mourning period, and was ready to say goodbye.  As you may have guessed by my recipe calculations, I am a person who abhors food waste.  I couldn't just dump this creation in the trash.  Fortunately, I have a visiting teacher (a church friend who is assigned to visit monthly, watch over me and my family, and help as needed) who I knew would not balk at my plea for assistance.  Or rather, the assistance of her small livestock.  I sent her a text, and she said to come on over.  63 hours after assembling the wonderful ingredients, I lovingly boxed up the mess and delivered it to Dovie for the culinary enjoyment of her chickens.

Luckily, chickens are not very discerning.  They gobbled it up.  (Is gobbling reserved strictly for turkeys?)  Regardless, they consumed those potatoes and eggs, which will help them make more eggs, and that is pretty cool in a circle-of-life sort of way.
For the daring among you, here is the recipe for the first breakfast casserole that broke my heart, though we are now reconciled.  The flavors are right, but the cook time is way off.  I've thought about trying these ingredients in a slow cooker, but I don't have 60 hours to kill on this recipe again.

Breakfast Casserole - Proceed With Patience
24 oz hash browns
1/2 c melted butter
seasoned salt
Press into 9x13 pan.  Bake 20 min at 350 degrees.  (This cook time is correct.)

1 c chopped ham
1 1/2 c. Swiss cheese - grated
1 1/2 c. cheddar cheese - grated
Sprinkle over baked hash browns

6 eggs - beaten
2 c. half & half
Mix together.  Pour over hash browns.
Sprinkle with seasoned salt.

Bake 35-40 minutes for at least an hour at 350 degrees.  Let stand 10 minutes.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Pink Slip On Life

Our local talk radio station used to carry the Dr. Laura show when my children were little.  I listened often, trying to learn from others how not to screw up my relationships and my children.  Being a stay-at-home mother of five small children was the most difficult thing I've done in my life so far, but Dr. Laura and her callers reassured me daily that mothering well was the most important thing I could be doing for those five little ones.  To that end, Kent and also I took parenting classes every year or two, and tried to remember that we are not raising children--we are raising adults.

The first of our brood is now 18, and as Dr. Laura would say, it is time to give her her pink slip on life.  We will help her move into her off-campus apartment this weekend.  I am excited for her, and I'm curious how having one less at the dinner table will change the dynamic for those of us still at home.  I think these are good changes.

I also wonder if we've taught her everything we were supposed to.  She can support herself, but does she know how to balance her checking account?  She is physically healthy, but I never got around to teaching her natural fertility regulation.  She can boil ramen, but will she feed her body the nutrition it really needs?  She has enrolled in 17 credits at school, which look manageable on paper, but does she have the time management skills to balance that workload with her job, social life, and sleep?

She feeds her spirit, but does she know God well enough to trust that He is still watching over her during the difficult times when He will step back and let her struggle?

Obviously, we have not run out of time to teach her.  But I expect that this new phase of relating to my adult daughter will now be a two-way street.  We will do a lot more listening and learning from her.  We will observe and love and hold our advice until she asks for it.  She will continue to make mistakes, and she will continue to learn from her mistakes, just like the rest of us.

Could we have parented and prepared her better?  Certainly.  But I look at this smart, fun, kind, talented, loving, faithful young woman, and I am blown away by the person she already is.  I know she has the capacity to keep learning and growing and becoming as she forges her own adult path.  Kassidy, we love you and can't wait to see what you do with the rest of your life.  It is yours to live!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Time To Push This Night Owl Out Of the Nest

I have never been so terrified in my life.

That includes seeing "Watcher in the Woods" as a second grader and "The Changeling" at a church youth Sunday School Halloween party.  (Sunday School parties should not include ghost movies, unless it is the Holy Ghost.  I'm kind of against church Halloween parties altogether, but I'm probably in the minority on that.)

This story, however, occurred in my adult life.  Yesterday.

As my oldest children have advanced in their teenage years, they have—not surprisingly—found a liking for staying out late. What is perhaps a little unusual is that I’ve not become one of those parents who waits up until they are home. I do worry about my children and pray for them to return safely each night, but with my screwy circadian rhythm, I value my sleep way too much to let their nighttime escapades cut into whatever dormant hours I manage to collect each night.

That said, if (which is almost always a when) I wake in the middle of the night and I see my bedroom door rimmed with light coming from downstairs, then I know they still aren’t home. On those nights, my parent conscience continues to wake me until all is dark, which is the girls' signal to me that they are home.

As I learned last night, though, a dark house does not necessarily mean that teenagers aren’t still awake and prowling through the halls…or up the stairs.

When I conked out at 10:20 last night, #1 was visiting in the front room with her friends. They were keeping each other company until #2 got off work at 11:30, and they would pick her up. (It’s a good thing my non-driving daughters are cute. I’m not willing to bring home a teenager from work at
midnight, but there are plenty of teenage boys who jump at that opportunity.) When I woke at 1:30 a.m., the light was still on in the front room. I figured the kids had gone out for sodas or something after #2’s shift, so I dozed back to sleep.

At 4:30, when my brain incorrectly concluded that I’d had enough sleep to fuel me for a new day, I knew there was no point in resisting. I opened my bedroom door and was happy to see that the lights were now all off downstairs. Only the faint, gray light from the moon drifted halfway up the stairs between my room and #1’s across the landing. I quietly washed up and went in my closet to dress in my workout clothes. I went back in my room to grab my socks and leaned against a wall near my door to pull on my footwear. From where I leaned, my peripheral vision caught a shadow on the stairs.  At first I didn't register the dark shape; but half a second later, I glanced directly at it, and then back at my shoe before comprehending that the shadow was in the shape of a person.

Everything in this next paragraph processed in under two seconds. Literally. Is that silhouette a person? I asked myself. I turned and faced the black shape standing just below the top landing and concluded that there was indeed a person there. My heart started pounding. I recognized that the silhouette looked like #1. But if it’s [#1], why is she not making a sound or moving a muscle?

Two seconds.

I have never felt such terror.

On the third second, I walked toward the shadow, telling myself that if #1 didn’t identify herself, I would push this creep down the stairs. I reached out my hands, pressing my fingers into her shoulders, then her head. My voice, uncontrollably, came out in a loud, husky, half sob, “What are you doing?!”

#1 quietly replied.  “I had to put the cat out. He was in the house.”

As I told this story to the family
tonight, #1 helped out by reenacting
her part.  Imagine her standing quietly
 in the dark, backlit by only dim
moonlight from below.  Creepy!
“Why aren’t you moving?!”

“I didn’t want to scare you.”

Mission NOT accomplished! I thought to myself as I clambered into bed to cuddle with Kent, who was now dully awake. “Just go to bed,” I called back to the stairs.

“Okayee. Sorry.” #1 sneaked into her room while I tried to figure out why she was feeding me this story about a cat, and more importantly, wondering with whom she had been all these hours. It took a good 20 minutes for my adrenaline to wear off before I could scamper to the office (and the refuge of its lightbulbs) to start my daily routine.

In the security of daylight, I asked #1 what she had really been doing at 4:30 a.m.  Apparently, she and her friends brought #2 home around midnight. #2 went right to bed, but #1 stayed up visiting with friends on the front porch. When she finally came in and locked up around 2:00, the cat lurked in with her. #1 fell asleep on a family room couch, but kitty got bored after a few hours of exploring the house and woke #1 at 4:30ish to be let out. #1 heard me moving about upstairs. As she came up to her room, she saw me putting on my shoe and froze in place so she wouldn’t startle me.  Her consideration backfired grandly!

Addendum to the original post:
When I told this story to someone recently, #s 2 and 4 filled us in on what had been happening in their room.  As I said, #2 went to bed at about midnight, right after getting home from work.  When #1 finally said goodbye to her friends two hours later and came in from the porch, the sound of the front door closing woke #4, who is a very nervous sleeper.  She climbed into #2's twin-sized bed, and her older sister tried to comfort her before they both dozed off.  At 4:30 a.m., when #1 got up to put the cat out, the sound of footsteps in the house startled #4 awake, and she again woke #2.  They both listened to the front door open and close, and then footsteps padding across the tile floor and up the stairs, which are the ceiling to their closet.  Straining their ears, they heard my alarmed cry, which set off their fearful imaginations.  They were worried about what had happened on the staircase, but too scared to get out of bed to check.  They told each other that it was probably #1, but the factor of the unknown kept them awake until the comfort of morning light around 6:00 a.m. finally let them rest.

Despite her good intentions, it is clear that my #1 night owl needs to leave the nest so we can all get some sleep!  Only 38 alarming days to go...

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Reverse Lost

#1 in the middle (gray shirt) with her friends.
#3 wasn't our only child to head south for the border this summer.  When #1 couldn't get any of the school groups to organize a trip to Mexico with A Child's Hope Foundation, she organized her own group.  She led an orientation, collected travel money, and made hotel reservations for herself and six friends to join the charity's June work project.  This coincided well with #3's stay at the orphanage, because it meant that her older sister could deliver a few long-sleeved tees and other necessities.  (It turns out that the June fog is rather chilly in Baja.)

Neither sister considered the fact that #3's presence at the orphanage might be confusing to anyone else.  It set the stage for a humorous exchange.

The ACHF work project group arrived in La Mision on Tuesday afternoon.  They dropped by Buena Vida Orphanage (where #3 is staying) that evening, but the group didn't do a lot of mingling or introductions at that point.  Samantha, who was leading the trip for ACHF, was also training two Trip-Hosts-to-be, Brennan and Emily.  She was busy introducing them to the director, and then everyone returned to camp for a fireside chat and bedtime.

#1 with her sister's summer "siblings".
After a morning of hard work on Wednesday, several of the volunteers went to Buena Vida to eat lunch, including Samantha, Brennan, and #1 and friends.  #1 sat next to #3, who sat next to some of the teenage girls from the orphanage, who were next to Samantha and Brennan.  Our American Trip Hosts were speaking to each other in Spanish, and #1 could tell they were talking about her and #3, though she couldn't overhear their exact words.  Here's the conversation she later learned, which is translated into English for your convenience:

Brennan: Okay, I've been working really hard to memorize the names of all our volunteers.  I cannot remember that girl, the one sitting next to [#1].  What is her name?

Samantha:  I don't know!  I don't recognize her either.

Brennan:  Is she with our group?  I don't even remember her being at our meet-up yesterday.

Samantha:  It looks like she knows [#1].

Brennan:  But I know for sure she didn't come in [#1's] vehicle.

Samantha:  Yeah, I don't know which family she's with.

Brennan:  This is so weird!  I've never reverse lost someone before!

Samantha:  Maybe she's just passing through and is visiting the orphanage?

Samantha to Jaquelin, one of the Mexican teens:  Jaquelin, do you know that girl?

Jaquelin:  Yes.

Samantha:  Has she been here this whole time?  [Meaning, has she been with our group these two days?]

Jaquelin:  Yes.  [Meaning, #3 has been here for two weeks.]

Samantha, trying to clarify:  Has she been here at the orphanage all day?  [Meaning, has #3 been here doing construction work?]

Jaquelin, taking the question literally:  Yes.  [Meaning, #3 has been here all day, and all day the previous 15 days, too.]

Brennan, understanding that Samantha and Jacquelin might not be understanding each other, now interrupts in English to Samantha:  Maybe she is just a really white Mexican and she's one of the newer children here.

Brennan decided to test #3's language.  He got her attention and asked: Come te llamas, por favor?

#3, without batting an eye, gave her name.  She and #1 were now wondering what Samantha and Brennan were saying about them.

Brennan, in Spanish to Samantha:  Whoa!  She speaks Spanish!  She must be one of the orphans.

Finally, it hits Samantha:  I know who she is!  Kent told me his daughter was living at the orphanage this summer so she could learn Spanish.  This must be her!

#3 got a ride to, and at, the beach with the rest of the volunteers and orphans.
They all shared a good laugh, which grew funnier when they shared this exchange with the whole group at the fireside that evening.  The volunteer families had also been confused by the presence of this very white girl at the orphanage.  Most had assumed she was part of someone else's family in the work project...until she lined up with the orphans before dinnertime and chanted their evening prayer with them--in Spanish.  That really confused everyone!  Rumors and assumptions were flying in whispers, and were revealed at the fireside after #3's presence was explained.  The favorite rumor was that she had moved to Mexico with her parents, but when they both died, she couldn't get back across the border and was sent to be raised in an orphanage.  Obviously!
#3 in the middle of a volleyball game, literally.

Serving an early meal at The Breakfast Club in Tijuana.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

My Farm Boy

Maybe Idaho is the burr in the saddle that makes my children want to leave home in the summer.  A few years ago, Kent and I decided that farm work would be good for our kids, so we sent them all up to live and work with our Idaho cousins for two weeks.  (All except #2, who adamantly refused and signed a contract to be my personal assistant for the summer because she couldn't stand the thought of hard manual labor.)  The other four of them tended chickens and goats, weeded a massive garden for the weekend farmer's market, cleaned out the cat barn, moved irrigation pipe, and did any number of other farm jobs needing attention.  They also played Rambo and other night games, went to a rodeo, camped in Yellowstone, and took a sailboat out on the water while there.  They all seemed to have a great time.  Yet fewer of my children go back every year.

The first year was so good for their work ethic that we, their parents, enacted a new summertime standard: if our kids don't find another good work option for themselves, they get sent to Idaho.  This summer, all our girls found other options.  #1 has a work-from-home, paying job, and also paid to spend next week in Mexico with one of ACHF's work project groups.  #2 is putting in many hours at Mooyah's to earn moolah for her choir trip to New York.  #3 made a run for the border.  #4, who eschews hard labor, signed a personal contract to develop her YouTube editing skills and enter some video contests.

#5, however, likes hard work and LOVES being with the cousins on their farm in Idaho.  Last week, I took him shopping for jeans, boots, and work gloves, and then drove through a pelting rain storm to meet up with the cousins who were visiting Salt Lake for the weekend.  The exchange in the downpour from one car to the other was so hurried that I forgot to give him a hug goodbye.  That boy is such a tender heart that I worried about him getting homesick.  Luckily, the farm is way too fun.

In our phone chats every other night, #5 tells me he misses the family, but he is having a great time. His daily chores include cleaning the house, caring for turkeys, and weeding two rows of the oversized garden. Then he gets paid $8 per hour to help with a major landscaping project.  He already earned enough to buy a semi-automatic airsoft rifle.  His summer mom, Elan, assures me that their kids wear goggles, long sleeves, and gloves for their evening airsoft battles.  So far, I've received no reports of injuries, only of adventures from my cheerful farm boy.