December 31, 2014


For Christmas, Jocelyn and Kira got we went to get their ears pierced at the local tattoo parlor. I hoped they wouldn't say anything too judgmental. It was their first taste of being in a different sort of place. Lola, the piercer, has an interesting look. Think half of her head shaved. The other half in an assortment of dread locks. She sports a few nose rings and facial piercings and more than a few tattoos. She's also super friendly and knowledgeable, works really well with kids and came highly recommended by a friend of mine.

While filling out the paperwork in the foyer the girls noticed some scary pictures on the wall and asked about them. to phrase this? It's not like I could say anything was wrong with the them. I mean, we put that sort of stuff up every year in our basement. So I explained that this shop celebrates Halloween all year round.

Jocelyn wanted to go first. She yelped as the needle went in and took a few minutes to regroup before having the second one done. Kira was next. I asked if she was going to cry (I'd pinched her ear the day before to prep her for what it might feel like). She said no. And she didn't. Not a sound came out of her, just a little grimace as it went in. Lola thought that was the best reaction to a piercing that she'd ever had. And not just from a 3 year old.

The girls were brave. I'm pleased with how well it went and how well they behaved. Now, if I can find my phone, I'll post some photos of it.

November 30, 2014

November Round Up

So, my new blogging goal is once a month...well, it's not really a goal. It's sort of just a statement of how things are for me right now. Nonetheless, I've got just a few precious minutes to get this posted before midnight and December rolls around.

The first week of this month, I spent in Las Vegas attending the Driving School Association of the America's annual convention as well as a pre-conference workshop that will help us better teach those with disabilities driving skills. We stayed in the old part of town and got the Fremont Street Experience every night. My brother, cousin, uncle and I went on the zip line over the pedestrian walk zone which was a few blocks long. It was fun and had more of a floating sensation as opposed to a my-stomach-is-in-my-chest thrill ride.

I am photoed here with the DSAA board. At one point in the board meeting I was the only woman there. It was a little awkward. But then a few more came in. I enjoy working with this organization and know that our business has grown in part due to what we gain every time we meet with other driving school owners. 

I also presented during the convention. I'm happy to say that many of those who chose the other break out session last year when I was speaking came to my session this year. Unfortunately, the other lady speaking only got 7 people. I feel bad about that. But we had a good time.

I came home and about 10 hours later Tymon left for two weeks on a business trip to Brazil. Yikes! I'm not that great of a single mom. We did get to Seattle for Veteran's Day, though. That was fun.

One week for Cub Scouts we toured the fire station. Both Hilary and Cami decided to skip the teen youth group in favor of being in the presence of some cute firemen and their trucks. 

A couple of friends and I put on a baby shower for the little angel in orange below. We did a Saturday morning brunch theme and I really liked the breakfast casseroles.

This year for Thanksgiving, we spatchcocked our turkey. What's that, you ask (besides sounding kinky)? Basically, you cut out the back bone and smash the turkey so the inside cavity is gone and we put our 20 pound turkey in the oven for 90 minutes and it was beautiful...well, okay it looks like it's doing a little jig. But other than that, the skin was nice and crispy and full flavor from the brine it'd been sitting in for a few days.

My brother set up a photo studio in our basement for us. The lighting wasn't exactly perfect, but several of the shots came out well.

Babies, babies, babies. We had a few of those and I didn't get to hold a single one. Boo.

After a few months of delays, Jett was finally baptized yesterday. He chose some of his favorite people to speak. While Jett and Tymon were getting changed into dry clothes, we sang Christmas carols while we waited. I love Christmas songs. They bring a peaceful spirit whenever they are sung.

October 27, 2014

Haunted Howler 2014

Saturday we had our annual haunted basement party. I'm pretty sure it's the highlight of Tymon's year. He starts preparing every year for it in September. That's totally not hard core, though. We found some YouTube videos of people who start their spook alley preparations in November of the preceding year.

This year instead of doing a couple of parties, we invited everyone at the same time. That equals 70 of our closest friends and neighbors getting spooked by the walking dead.

Hilary led the tours, while my cousin's twin daughters did jump scares and Graeden grabbed ankles from the other side of the "walls". Cami was a zombified Hilary after guests saw Emma - a back-bending zombie. I'm not sure everyone got that connection. But whatever. The storyline was rock solid. 

The entrance to the haunted basement underwent the greatest improvement to our show yet. Tymon and his old roommate Jimmy got together one Saturday and made this monstrosity with chicken wire and paper maché. Our boys love Jimmy's boys. They helped out, as well as the girls, and had the most awesome play date ever.

Then the next Saturday, Jimmy the graphic artist came over for a second play date and the masterpiece took form. So pretty much it takes up most of the staircase and you have to duck under the teeth to enter the basement. I wonder what form the improvements for next year will take. 

September 27, 2014

Mudder Nation

I can barely walk. My knee is swollen and cut up a little. I kind of think the Tough Mudder is for young guns looking for fun and for old farts trying to prove they still got what it takes to complete a challenge. And they do.  

Before and After
This year my team consisted of my brother and his wife's brother. We were roped into joining a guy in our office's team...but he also had some other friends on the team and well, they're 15 years younger and a bit quicker than us and they ended up going on ahead. We stuck together for the warm up, though. Ha ha.

Our shoes...yikes!

My favorite part about the Tough Mudder is the camaraderie between participants.  We were a small team and limited on the number of people to help overcome each obstacle. There were so many others graciously helping us to scale walls and get through obstacles. It's not often I'm a part of a group that is willing to see a need and fill it. Not only that, but there is genuine joy in helping others.

It feels good to finish. I couldn't believe I made it up the Everest challenge again. In my head, I'd planned to walk around it. Last year it was too hard. But then I decided to try it...and slipped down. Twice. And for the third try, I reached one of the hands coming down from the top. Then another guy got my other hand. I walked the wall with and got my feet up and then let the guys pull the rest of me up. It's crazy to be without strength when you really do need it. They were awesome. 

Today, I'm happy for the very physical reminder that I can do hard things. 

September 21, 2014


Elliott had surgery on his arm Friday, a week ago. The surgeon put in two titanium rods to stabilize the bones so they would heal straight and Elliott would be able to have a fully functioning arm again. He got a cast a few days ago after the initial swelling had gone down. 

He's got this angry face on. I promise it's not pain. He did well without any painkillers after leaving the hospital. He only took ibuprofen a couple times a day for swelling. So, I'm thinking Mr. Grumpypants, who was happy before I started taking photos, might be embarrassed. 

Of what? I don't know. Because most kids who break an arm or a leg have a pretty lame story to go with it. Elliott's story on the other hand keeps getting better and better the more questions I ask. 

Thus far, I've ascertained that Elliott and a neighbor boy were each on top a 55 gallon drum and racing to the top of a slope in our yard. The neighbor went down first, without incident. Elliott fell forward and somehow snapped his forearm in half. Both bones. Clean break. 

I asked if he'll ever get on a barrel again. He said yes. Good thing the circus is leaving town this weekend. Elliott needs to work on perfecting his act before they come back again. 

Bend knees, 
Lowering center of gravity 
And above all, BE ready to jump, if necessary.

We had no idea how troublesome these barrels would become when we got them a few months ago. They were fun to roll on in the level area of the yard. And even funner to float on in the lake. But barrel racing up a hill just wasn't ideal.

September 11, 2014

Prayer Call

Yesterday after school, Elliott fell while barrel rolling and broke his arm, both the ulna and radius bones. Pretty much snapped them in half. The doctor at the ER basically pulled his arm back into place, but it shifted and he had to do it again. I've never seen one of my children in so much pain. And there's nothing I can do to make it feel better. Bones are so awesome. I think we've been taking them for granted around here.

Today, the orthopedic doctor recommended surgery to put a couple of titanium rods in Elliott's arm to keep it from moving and allow it to heal correctly.

The surgery is set for tomorrow morning at 6:30. Yikes! That's early. We ask for your love and prayers in Elliott's behalf. And blessings on the surgeon, that his hands will be guided so Elliott's arm will heal properly. Thank you, dear friends. 

September 4, 2014

First Day of School

The boys started yesterday. The girls, today.

Kira was so excited to go to Shauna's house when we went to work this morning. She calls it school, which is cute. So are all of her faces lately. Especially the ones when she winks. Cracks me up every time.

August 31, 2014

It's A Girl! Times Two!

No, I didn't have a baby. And no, I'm not pregnant. I just look like it. Thanks for noticing. But we did get two exchange students this week. Hilary (spelled Rilary) is from Brazil and got here on Monday. Kira loves her already. It's pretty cute. Cami is from Bolivia and arrived late last night. She brought us all hats, even Rilary, which was super thoughtful. We're looking foward to an exciting year.

August 13, 2014

Farewell To Blog Fodder

Spyra's been slowing down lately. Not super interested in exercise. Or eating toilet paper rolls. Super sleepy. But just the other day I watched her hang from the top of her wheel by her teeth, then pull herself up on top of the wheel and then ride it down. She did it like 4 or 5 times in a row. Such strength in a little creature is amazing.

I thought maybe she was just sick and had gotten over it. But no. This morning she was leaning against the cage...and I'm pretty sure I've never seen her like that. So I asked Tymon to move her. He watched for her breathing. None. Then he moved her wheel. Sure enough, she was stiff. Died of natural causes? Heart ache? GMO corn in her food?

I've felt sad for her - ever since she ate Gimpy and was all alone. 
Then none of the kids played with her.
It was Gimpy who liked people.
Poor canabalistic Spyra.
I must admit though,
There's a part of me that's happy our gerbil saga is now complete. 
We had a funeral and buried her this afternoon in the forest.  

Rest in Peace Spyra,
May your children 
And grandchildren 
Forgive you 
For eating them.

And for those that made it out alive,
When Tymon took them to the pet store, 
May your spirits meet again
And you're not hungry 
For protein.

June 29, 2014

Spiritual Conversion

Today I spoke in church. I was nervous and prayed for calm and the ability to speak from the heart. This is a version of what I said. Only a version because I found I couldn't make eye contact and read what I wrote. And then I stumbled on sentences. Apparently that wasn't super noticeable because I took those opportunities to add in a few unnecessary details. Except they were needed to buy me time to figure out where I was in my notes.
I don't remember the precise time or place when I gained a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It came so slowly I didn't realize it was there. The first time I recognized that I had a testimony, I was 16 and living away from home as an exchange student. For the first time in my life, I didn't have to go to church if I didn't want to. I didn't have family scripture study. I could do what ever I wanted. 

Turns out that I wanted to go to church. My host mother found a phone book and with a rough translation of what the name of the church should be, she called the bishop and got directions to the church and took me there the next Sunday morning.

Fast forward a couple years.

After graduating high school, I was determined not to waste any more of my life away with useless education. So I didn't take any college entrance exams and looked for other opportunities. I found out about a program that sent Americans (native English speakers) to Russia to teach English to children. No college degree necessary. Yes! That fit my qualifications exactly. I pretty much signed up to go the same day. Interestingly enough, I had a few months to prepare and immediately registered for Russian classes at my local community college. So much for not going to school. Ha ha.

My father was nervous about my decision and conversations about communism and oppression were frequent in our home. My mother was more supportive and shared her only experience with Russians with me.  She'd had her passport confiscated in Berlin by the Russians in the 1960s when the wall was still up and she was going through a check point. She shared her fears and relief with me. I knew my journey might be scary, but the cold war was over. Going to Russia promised to be an exciting adventure where I would learn for myself what life was like in communist Russia.

I arrived in Moscow on a cold January afternoon in 1995. From there, my teaching group got on a bus for what should be a 6 hour journey to the city where we would live. Our host families were scheduled to pick us up at our new school later that evening. Except we didn't arrive when we should have. Driving on the snow had reduced our speed to about 20 miles per hour which pushed our arrival back to nearly 3 o'clock in the morning. We got all of our stuff from the bus and hauled it into the school where host families gathered. A lady took me, asked me my name, checked me off of the coordinator's list and took me home. She had a pot of borscht on the stove for me. It was delicious. I ate and went to bed.

In the coming days, we adjusted to our new lives. There were many differences and even though I'd traveled overseas before, I was ill-prepared for the culture shock that living in Russia brings. They do everything odd. Or so I thought. 

For example, not too many people have cars. They take busses everywhere. There don't seem to be enough of them, however, and they pack the people in like sardines. Literally. There are 3 doors in the bus, front, middle and back. When they open you get in whichever one has someone get off. Don't worry about paying for your ride. You just get on. And don't worry about finding a bar to hold onto, you're in so tight there's no way you'll fall over.  At first, when we saw a full bus, we waited for the next one. We soon found out they were all like that. So we pushed our way on like everyone else. 

There was one night that I was with a small group of friends waiting for a bus to come. Even though we were layered with scarves, sweaters, warm jackets and boots, it was cold. A few of us sat close together and another few sat on us to see if we could generate some body heat. It didn't work. We stood up and moved around to drum up some heat. A sign said the temperature was something like -5 degrees, but that didn't include windchill. My feet were frozen and hurt. The bus was 45 minutes late. Did we complain? Yes, but we were grateful when it finally came.

When I sent a letter home, I wanted to tell my family how cold it was. But I didn't know and couldn't easily find out. Google didn't exist.  I could have done the math, but I didn't know the formula. What I did know was how -5 felt. As the weeks passed, I learned how warm 0 felt in comparison. Then how +5 felt, which is our average Washington winter temperature. When the temperature reached 11 I stopped wearing one of my many layers. What I really like is 20-24. Those are my perfect days where the sun warms my face, a cool breeze feels welcome and I don't sweat. At 30 I need a fan blowing on me to cool down and at 35 I seek out air conditioning.

Learning for myself what temperatures feel like without relying on a conversion chart is similar to learning what the Holy Spirit and spiritual conversion feel like. You could look at a chart or in the scriptures to get a pretty good idea. But learning through experience will teaches on a deeper level. One that's hard to forget.

As I write, I'm curious as to whether or not my favorite celsius temperatures match up to their fahrenheit counterparts. I googled them with ease and amazingly enough, I'm right. I don't need the charts to remember what they feel like. 

Experiencing a spiritual conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ is much like the relationship I had with going to Russia and being immersed into a new culture. 

Likewise, coming to church may be one part scary and another part exciting. One part hassle and one part calm. One part frustrating (mostly with wiggly kids) and one part peace. Sometimes, old traditions and habits need to be put to rest. Taking action and being a part of change is hard for most of us. But necessary for our growth. 

So what about our conversion? The scriptures call it a baptism of fire and being born again. In a new setting, like with celsius and fahrenheit, we must learn to interpret our spiritual experiences in a new way with the lens of the gospel. We know that cold makes our arm hair stand on end, but did we also know the Spirit can have the same effect? We know that a hot flash can make us uncomfortably hot, but do we realize our hearts warm when we hear truth? Nerves make our hearts beat faster and so do urgings of the Spirit and calls to action. We cry both when we're sad and full of joy. The depth of our conversion matches the depth of the experiences it took to get it.

Conversion happens over our lifetimes and is not isolated to a single experience. We must build upon our experiences to help us understand our spiritual selves. I didn't understand -5 until I was at that bus stop late one night waiting. I didn't understand 11 until I needed to shed layers. I didn't understand 24 until the sun warmed my heart and soul. 

Sometimes, we experience trials we would never purposefully choose. Almost 6 years ago, when our youngest son was on the verge of death and a crew of over 20 ER doctors and nurses were working on him, Tymon and I took an opportunity to pray in a nearby empty waiting room. We prayed for our son with all our hearts and souls. I prayed that he would respond to treatments. Tymon prayed that the Lord's will be done. The sense of peace that filled the room was palpable. I knew that Heavenly Father loved us and that all would be well. What I didn't understand was that love and peace was what I would need to shore me up in the most difficult trial of my life. Our son passed away and we were helpless to stop it.

The scriptures tell us that Jesus rose from the dead. I never doubted the resurrection when my grandparents or favorite uncle died. I just knew I'd see them again. 

But my son's death hit me harder than I had ever imagined. Key gospel principles, like the resurrection, were no longer a given. My heart no longer believed what my mind told me was true. All that I knew was that Heavenly Father had given me peace. This peace combined with the love of my spouse, family and friends kept me afloat. I worked through the pain until my heart and mind became one. Many of you here were a part of that. Thank you for your compassion.

Today I stand before you with a deeper conversion than I had previously thought possible. When so much of the eternities seem abstract, I'm grateful for a very concrete link to heaven. I have no idea what it'll be like to be embraced by the Savior, but I know exactly how my Evan's hug feels. I'm reminded each time one of my children wraps me in their arms.

Did Jesus rise from the dead? My heart tells me he did. I feel peace. The gospel gives me a sense of focus in the midst of the many people, activities, opportunities and pursuits that vie for my attention. Challenges will continue to come to test the extents of my faith. I pray that my conversion will deepen with each one.

In the name of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, Amen.

June 28, 2014

Doubt Not But Be Believing

I've been thinking about my spiritual conversion a lot over the past few weeks in preparation for speaking in church about the topic on Sunday. Conversion to Christ comes in many forms, probably as many as there are people on the earth. Mine fits into the category with growth so slow I don't realize it's happened, followed by a trial of faith (that may or may not include something dramatic happening), a period of searching for answers, finding peace and finally moving forward with faith. Then cycle repeats itself. Again. And again. 

When I'm 100% confident in the direction of my spiritual and religious journey, I'm happy. Right now, I'm struggling. For the past year, maybe two, I've been questioning and not finding the answers or peace I crave. A wise prophet once encouraged seekers of truth to ask God, with a sincere heart, real intent, and faith in Christ to know the truth of all things. So I should be able to get answers, except I don't have real intent. I'm afraid of what the answer might be so I'm not asking any questions that commit me to action.

My finding peace would result in one of three options. The first option is being fully committed to a gospel community, which I love. Another involves leaving it. The third is a bit more complicated. It involves finding a way to reconcile doubts and fill my heart with faith. The problem with making a decision is that I'm not okay with all of my options. And since I'm not ready to act, I do not have real intent. And since I don't have real intent, putting effort into scripture study, meditation, or the kind of prayer necessary for settling my internal unrest has been put on the back burner.

I've got to figure something out before I speak in the morning. I feel pressure, which isn't necessarily good or bad. It just is. Sometimes, I need a gentle nudge to get me to take the next step in my journey to become more like the Savior.

June 25, 2014

Oregon Coast

New adventures this summer are well underway and sitting in the back of my mind are little nagging thoughts that there are things I didn't post from last summer and a few big events throughout the past year. Part of me wonders if the lessons from my experiences will be lost since I didn't get them written. Or like a hastily written essay with it's various pieces slopped together, it'll leave my soul wanting. Wanting clarity. Wanting purpose. Wanting to find meaning in the little things. Acknowledging the problem is only part of the process. Finding notes I've made will help. Rising when the house is quiet would probably seal the deal and give my heart release.

This past weekend, we went to the Oregon Coast with Tymon's cousin and his family. We go camping every summer and pick a new place each time. When we arrived we discovered that Canon Beach was hosting their annual sandcastle building contest the next day. What an amazing find!

We looked at the number of cars piling into the parking lot near the beach and wondered how there were still empty spaces. Ha ha. We soon found out that cars were being directed to park on the beach. Hundreds of them. What a great resource for a large event. Going in, at least 3 different people let us know that we needed to be off the beach by 5pm, since the tide would come in.

Well, the line to get off the beach was over an hour long...and when we got off at quarter after 6pm, the tide was less than 10 feet away from our vehicle. That's cutting it close - but there were probably at least a hundred cars behind us. I wonder if they had to move farther up the beach (into softer sand) or if they were able to make it off with the established route.  

I've only seen a few photos of sandcastle building contests in the past. Seeing these builders in action was amazing. They had specialized tools, random foundation builders, buckets and wheel barrows, rakes and chisels. Several teams were using water in weed control sprayers to carve into the sand. They used straws to blow out bits of sand from letterings. Fingers dripped sand into trees. People were so creative with their use of tools.

My favorite entry is the one with the spheres. I mean how did they get those to balance on sticks? The "Sandhawk" gave us warm fuzzies for our favorite team: the Seattle Seahawks. Some of the entries were so fantastic. Others not so much, but the teams had a lot of fun regardless of the quality of the output. My favorite team was a husband and wife with their 3 young boys. They worked together all afternoon with a peace that other frenzied teams didn't have. That's so cool. I'm sure those boys will participate in other contests with fond memories of their childhood

The entry with the parent and children (middle of previous collage) actually had two of those and a heart...and a proposal.  It was a middle aged couple who according to the sandcastle entry, each had a couple of kids. She said yes, and how could she not with such a creative proposal? Ha ha. She could have, but maybe not on the beach in front of so many people looking on.

I really like our summer camping expeditions. It's such a great way to slow down, immerse ourselves in God's beautiful earth and creatively solve the little dilemmas that pop up only using a limited number of resources that each family brings.

June 18, 2014

Upcycling Adventure - Floating Dock

One of the great things about our house is the forest in the backyard. It's not really ours. But we call it that. And then act surprised if any of our neighbors are on the trails back there. Ha ha ha.

A couple of months ago at work, we got a driving simulator that was shipped on several large crates. We could have taken them to the dumpster, but I didn't have the heart for that. It seemed like such a waste to throw them out. 

Tymon got this idea that he could build a raft or floating dock. Perfect!

We borrowed a big van and got them home. Tymon got some 55 gallon drums off Craigslist, watched YouTube how-to videos and put together the raft. Then he and his running buddy got together to put on the finishing touches and got it in the water. Yay!

It wasn't all fun and games. The first time Tymon got on it, it broke in half. Ha ha. Nothing like a good engineering challenge to get the creative juices flowing. They stabilized it this afternoon and now it floats just fine. Our first upcycling success!

What I really want is for the kids to learn how to swim. They haven't done well in the past with weekly swim lessons. Maybe this will motivate them to practice more. Although I'm sure that means more time in the backyard for me. :o)

June 11, 2014

Evan in Heaven Turns Seven

We release balloons every year for Evan's birthday. The kids love it and even throughout the year if they have a helium balloon, they'll send him one. Last night was the first time that Kira understood what was happening. And at first she couldn't figure out why in the world we'd just let the balloons go. Ha ha. It didn't take long for her to accept the idea.

I love lanterns with their bright lights in the dark night. They're also bring an element of excitement. Once we light them we can't put them down, otherwise they'd burn the deck. And then what if they start rising but get caught on the roof? Or drift into the neighbor's yard? That'd be terribly exciting. But physics say trapping hot air in a balloon makes it go up. And up and up. 

Part of me wonders what happens to the balloons and lanterns we send to Evan. Do they ever fall to the earth again? Or burn up in the atmosphere? Or maybe, just maybe Evan gets them and puts them with the rest of his stuff. Ha ha.

June 6, 2014

Kiki Cheeks. They're Delicious!

My sister and her family came to last week. It's been a long time since everyone's been together. We visited Deception Pass, which was beautiful and the weather was perfect. Kira poses for photos with some awesome smiles. And all I can think about is eating her cheeks. They're so good. Mmmm.

April 13, 2014


Tymon and Elliott are sunning it up in Singapore right now...because what 9 year old kid doesn't want to go to Asia? I can name a ten year old who wouldn't want to go. But not a 9 year old. They are visiting Tymon's brother, who lives there. I believe Elliott is thriving with the one on one attention from his father and loving the new experiences he's having.

They spent a few days in Bali, checking out all the places that someday I may get to see. Here they are after doing an ATV ride all over the countryside. The boots are my favorite part of the outfits. Ha ha. 

Tymon expected Spyra to die while he was away because he's the one who feeds her. Graeden got a thorough lecture about how he's going to have to remember to do it while Tymon's away. I'm happy to report that two days shy of Tymon's return and Spyra is still alive.

Her escape however was probably inevitable. Just Graeden and I were in the office when out of the corner of my eye, I saw something move near him. And by move, I mean it was a lot faster than a piece of paper floating off the desk. Of course he saw nothing. 

I shut the office door and checked the cage. Then asked Graeden where Spyra was. Ha ha. He looked at me like, what the heck? Where is she? Then she poked her head out from under the desk.

Very quickly a game of cat and mouse ensued. Except this time the cat was Graeden and Jett and the mouse was a gerbil. Ahhh, and who said having only one gerbil isn't very exciting? Graeden asked if we could get a male gerbil. He didn't think having all the babies was the same nightmare we thought it was. Ha ha ha. But he's right, my blog posts flourished during the gerbil breeding months.

Luckily it took less than 10 minutes to catch Spyra. When examined her cage lid, I realized she didn't have any water. Uh, yeah, that's a problem. Graeden filled up the water bottle and she guzzled an ounce or so. Crisis averted this time.

I fixed up the cage lid with my trusty friend Duct Tape. Not one sided like before. But two sided. That screen isn't going anywhere. I think we can breathe easy for at least a few months.

March 17, 2014

Birthday Boys

It's not every boy that shares a birthday with two cousins, but my Elliott does. Tymon's sister laid claim to March 13th first. Then Elliott snuck in on the action. And just a couple of years ago my brother's son joined the throng.

We went out to dinner to celebrate for Elliott. He wanted chicken wings and knew I could make them at home (as in heat a package of frozen ones up in the oven). At times, if I forget about the rivalry between him and Graeden, he is such a loving boy and so easy to please. We told him there was a restaurant that we could go to that makes them, too. And his ears perked up.

After dinner, we came home to cake and ice cream. I made him a bear cake - the only real requirement he cared about. Tymon suggested a popcorn cake like his mom used to make. Mine, too, for that matter. If you haven't had one of those, you should. They're fantastic. Think rice crispy treats except put in popcorn instead of cereal. And add in candy for good measure.

This was the second popcorn cake I've ever made. The first time, I put the candy in when the marshmallow was too hot and the colors melted and it looked like a mess. Lesson learned. This cake was a lot better looking. And tasted great. I'm curious to know if any of my other kids will request a popcorn cake in the future. I hope so. Especially since both of their grandmothers liked to make them for us.

My nephew celebrated his second birthday at Chuck E Cheese's on Saturday. That place has really got the birthday party gig down to a science. From the games to the shared party room and the oversized mouse who makes a rock star appearance. My kids, like most every kid (except my other nephew who Chuck E scared one afternoon by popping out next to him) love it there. Watching my nephew dance with Chuck E was one of the cutest things I've ever seen. He was so happy and innocent.

Moments like this don't happen everyday. 
I made a mental note to remember 
The smile on his face 
And light in his eyes.

In that noisy room 
Full of energy 
And boisterous children,

I say happy, 
You say birthday. 

When it wouldn't seem possible 
To be anywhere but in the present, 
My mind raced to another birthday boy 
I made a mental note never to forget,
A boy who only got one very memorable party. 
Evan didn't blow out his candle. 
He put it in his mouth. 
Yes, it was awesome. 
And we got it on video
So we can watch it 
Again and again
In real time.

I'm at peace with having lost a son. 
Most days I see his picture on the wall 
And think of him
With no change 
In my emotions. 
Just a smile of remembering
A time long ago.

I come across other children 
The same age I remember Evan
Or sharing his same name 
And I can appreciate them
For who they are.

I see people who came into my life
During that traumatic period
When Evan died
And my heart fills with love.

I go to places we went with Evan
And remember him 
With a smile.

It wasn't always like that,
But it is now. 

So when Grief
Sneaks up
To steal the show
He catches me off guard.

I didn't cry at the party. 
The tears welled up 
Sitting at the surface.
But they didn't fall. 

I've learned
How to ignore Grief
Especially when it's socially awkward
To be a blubbering mess.

But Grief is selfish
Not content to be left hanging.
 He comes back
Eating at my subconscious
Robbing me of sleep
Until I face Him
With tear stained cheeks
And give way to
The other part of me.

The me who is 
For another reality,
One that isn't 

And yet I wouldn't trade
My life
Or who I've become.
I love Evan.
As for Grief?
It's complicated.

March 5, 2014

Flour, Water, Salt - It's Really That Simple

So, my fermentation exploits have branched out. I've done 3 batches of sauerkraut now, one of pickles, and now I'm into sourdough. I've been thinking about it for a while, but have never really associated sourdough with fermentation. Uh yeah. It is. So what you see below is my first attempt at sourdough bread. I made my starter with rye flour. After about ten days with daily feeding, I used my starter to make sandwich bread.

The only set back was that it took 12 hours to rise. Two days later, I made my second loaf. After about 26 hours, it still hadn't risen so into the oven it went. So check out this loaf below. All of the rise came from the baking. Weird, huh? I didn't do the sponge waiting period that I did for the first loaf, but still I thought it'd behave somewhat similar.

Ahhhh, there's so much to learn about bread. I do like capturing my own wild yeasts, though. To think I can make a loaf of bread with just flour, water and salt is pretty amazing to me. And a bonus is the kids like it. Or rather, they didn't whine about it like one of the boys in my cub scout den this evening (we did a nutrition requirement and talked about healthy snacks). Another boy absolutely loved it. I gave him the hunk I had left over.

When I've perfected a recipe (that hopefully doesn't have an overnight rise) I'll post a recipe. Also, I used white flour (besides the rye flour starter) so I would know how much it should rise. I want my final recipe to be whole grain, so I'll continue experimenting until I can replicate a recipe I like.

February 19, 2014

CPS - Unchecked Power

I'm reposting this article Matt Walsh wrote about the horrors of CPS because I still have a bad taste in my mouth from our own CPS nightmare. At the start of every school year for the past three years we've had social workers coming to see us. It's always unfounded. But the threat of ripping our family apart still makes me uneasy. I never thought any of this would ever happen to me.

The Matt Walsh Blog
Land of the Free: where the government can kidnap your child and lock her in a psych ward for a year

How can we, the people, fight the government on this unchecked power to rip kids out of their homes? 

One thought is that parents should have to be charged with a crime and convicted before children are taken away from them. This will prevent so much pain and anguish for the thousands of families who are falsely accused.

When parents are rightly accused, charged and convicted, their children should be placed with family members, good neighbors or friends instead of going into foster care. Parents should still have choice in the placement of their children! 

For repeat offenders, a "three strikes and you're out" rule would stop the revolving door of foster care that can sometimes go for years on end. A parent convicted three times of child abuse (or neglect if they were on drugs) would prompt the State to terminate parental rights. The abused children would then get a shot at adoption.

In case you were wondering, children are legally considered property and cannot be seized without a court order. Phew! Except social workers and judges only get their paychecks if kids are removed from homes. That means it's in their financial interest to do just that. They can always give them back later with an OOPS!stamped on the file and you the innocent parent has absolutely no recourse.

Okay, rant over. I've got to calm myself down before I move to Antarctica, where the government never steals children.

February 9, 2014

DSAA Board

This past November, at the Driving School Association of the Americas' annual convention, I was voted to the board as the Western States Vice President. Contrary to what the photo shows, I'm not the only woman. The suit next to me is. Ha ha. Just kidding. The Western Canada lady wasn't there.

My brother JC and I have been attending annual conventions since 2008, so five years, or six conventions. I took Jovana and newborn Jocelyn to my first one in Las Vegas. Since then we've made friends in the business who we've called on over the years when we have issues that they have already faced. We've been blessed to attend helpful seminars and gain insights about what other driving schools have done in their businesses that have been effective.

Before this conference, I thought my relationship with JC had been clear. We introduce ourselves as siblings. We have spouses and families. But apparently, there's been confusion. And some thought we were married to each other. This confusion hasn't happened since college when I was roommates with my brother Brett. Except back then we actually had the same last name. Ha ha.

Now, the cat's out of the bag. We introduced ourselves at the board meeting as siblings with a thriving business. We've grown every year for the last decade. We have 25 schools and 60+ instructors (not all full time - especially in the winter/slow season).

That short intro opened up more discussions with other driving school owners than we've had at any other conference. For the first time, I feel like we are giving back a little to the organization that has helped us along.

The first time I taught a driver's ed class (about 12 years ago), the students thought I was one of them until I opened my mouth. It's highly unlikely a kid would know as much as I did, or have the same confidence in front of a class.

I know I look young. That's okay. It's fun to see the shock on faces when someone new finds out how old I am...which usually happens soon after they find out how many kids I have.

At this convention, it happened when others found out how many schools we have. And then again after I taught my first DSAA seminar. That was pretty awesome. As the interaction and laughter in my session about juicing up presentations warmed up, more and more stragglers came in. At the end it was standing room only. My participation level was high and there were some extremely funny people, though they weren't trying to be, which made it all the better.

Snow Day

I'm grateful for the surprise that came late last night. 
Not much. But enough.
And that today is Sunday.
So none of our driving instructors have any appointments to cancel.
It'll most likely be gone by this afternoon.
Which is the perfect amount of time to stay.

But in the meantime,
Our church services were cancelled.
And we are staying home all day to play.
And then get warm by the fire.

I've also downloaded Picasa onto my new computer.
So the collages are back.
Now to catch up 
This online journal
With a few important events and thoughts 
Of the past several months.

February 5, 2014

Seahawks Super Bowl Victory Parade

Forget school today, we loaded the kids in the car this morning, dropped Kira off at her daycare and headed to Seattle. Tymon was going to take us to a transit center so we could take a bus. Ha ha. Traffic didn't cooperate and we ended up driving in.

We were so afraid we'd miss the parade. We got to Westlake Center about 11:10 and it started at the Seattle Center at 11am...or so we thought.

We ran into our neighbors on the street. I'm not sure what the odds of that are. Maybe slim to one? Reports are that 700,000 people lined the 2 mile parade route. I don't really know, but I think maybe 100,000 were around the Westlake Center. It was packed, which was really disappointing for my children. They couldn't see very much of anything besides people. 

So here we are feeling the bass of the music, getting to know our fellow celebrators and dancing around, thinking that any moment the Seahawks would come into view. Nope. After 45 minutes of waiting...and waiting...and waiting...I took Jocey off my shoulders. The parade started an hour late because the players were stuck in traffic. Ha ha. I hadn't even considered that. They got to us about 12:45 pm.

There was very little cell service. Occasionally I could get a text in and out. I was supposed to go to Olympia (State Capitol) this afternoon for a hearing, but didn't make it. Oops. I'll get the down low tomorrow when I go to the office.

Getting out was no problem since we didn't go to CenturyLink stadium. Only 10% of the crowd could fit in there but many seemed to stay in town. We headed home, picked up Kira and went out to lunch/dinner.
Photo stolen from Robin Nieforth Jensen (friend of a friend)

Was it worth it? I don't know for sure. But it does feel good to be a part of a whole, especially when that whole is unified. There were more people in the crowd than the entire population of the city of Seattle.
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