Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Making 1400 Quarts of Apple Juice!

Put these two together...


(They really are the cutest couple.)

...add ten crates of these, donated by some very generous local farmers...


...and you have the makings of over 400 gallons of fresh-squeezed apple juice!

Now, I am no apple juice making expert, so I'm not even going to try to explain to you how this was done, exactly, but I will do my best to give you a general idea, using pictures. Here goes!

As mentioned above, you start with ten crates of these...


...then random people, including myself, put them in these...

Photobucket which they are hauled to the pulverizer (I'm just making up these names.)...


After being pulverized, they then go to the super-pulverizer...


....then to the press...


....where the juice is released into a tube, then into a bucket...


After the lids are sterilized...


...the juice is then poured in jars....

PhotobucketPhotobucket women with fancy aprons...


(apparently engrossed in intriguing conversation)

....then is transported to the steamers...


John was in charge of keeping the steamers running...


...and spent about nine hours doing this altogether.

The "timers" kept track of how long the apple juice was steamed...


....which job, according to them, was extremely important...


After being carefully timed, they are ready to be taken out and packed into crates for takin' home...


This day was so fun! There was never a shortage of snacks...


...and it was wonderful working with such beautiful people, both inside and out...


Thanks so much to those who organized this amazing event and to all who participated. This experience is one I won't soon forget. :)

PSSST! To find great deals on fun stuff to do in your area, go HERE!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I'm a Mother Who Knows

Julie Beck, the worldwide president of the woman's organization of our church, called The Relief Society, the largest women's organization in the world, gave a talk a few years ago called "Mothers Who Know".


Among some of her key points were that mothers who know are leaders, nurturers and teachers, and stand strong and immovable against the onslaught of opposition in this day and age. Her talk is probably among the top ten of any faithful Mormon woman you ask. It's certainly one of my all-time favorites.

Now, to take the title of her talk, "Mothers Who Know", more literally, I'd like to share an incident that occurred in our kitchen a few nights ago.

I had been reading the first book in THIS series to the kids as we relaxed in the living area of the kitchen. From where I sat, I could see the computer monitor, and suddenly a small avatar touting a symbol of fire popped up on the screen, accompanied by a vrooooooottt sound, following by a bee-bop sound.

I kept reading, but the 8-year-old girl turned to look at the computer and nervously asked, "Mom! What was that sound?"

"It's just Ferdinand (name has been changed to protect the innocent) signing in on Instant Messenger, then sending the 15-year-old girl a message that he wants to chat," I answered.

The 15-year-old girl, who usually has something smart to say, sat completely dumbfounded, shocked that I had learned her friend's avatar and could recognize what vroooottt and bee bop meant.

Fellow mothers, as a mom who's been around, I beg of you to be a "Mother Who Knows" and learn what your children do on your computers. Did you know that the conversation turns to sex 40 times faster if children are chatting than if they were talking face-to-face? When interfacing live, there are filters that keep teenagers from saying what they may be thinking, but during an internet or cell phone chat, those filters are removed and our children take on a more anonymous persona. For this reason, I have told my children that they are to show me their chats at any time without advanced notice. And when the 15-year-old girl's friends sign up and try to chat while I'm on the computer, I love to surprise them and begin a chat, immediately identifying myself as the 15-year-old girl's mother, just so they know that I could be looking over her shoulder at any time.

And don't get me started about pornography. I've discussed that HERE if you want to know what I think about that. Suffice it to say, pornography can have deadly consequences, literally, and we must, at all costs, protect our children from it's evil influences.

What are your thoughts? I'd really like to know.

Thanks for listening.

PSSST! To find great deals on fun stuff to do in your area, go HERE!

"See that ye do not judge wrongfully...

...for with that same judgment which ye judge ye shall also be judged."

This is a scripture written in the last book of The Book of Mormon. And as you know, I'm sure, there are many verses written in The Holy Bible just like it.

Recently I was reminded how important this teaching is and how making unrighteous judgments against our neighbors, friends and family can have unpleasant consequences.

In our ward (Mormon word for congregation) there is a beautiful sister (Mormon word for fellow female ward member), both inside and out. She is righteous, strives diligently to keep the commandments, magnifies her church assignments and is one of the most gifted school teachers I know.

I once heard another woman say unkind things about her, but thankfully, I had gotten to know her, and was able to recall the saying that there are two sides to every story. Fortunately I wasn't caught in the judgment trap.... that time. The 10-year-old boy wasn't so lucky, however, and had to learn his lesson the real-life way...


As it just so happens, this woman is the 5th and 6th grade teacher at the 10-year-old boy's elementary school and he was absolutely terrified of her. He had heard the rumors for two years and he requested that I home school him again, rather than send him into her den of lions.

I told him that the 14-year-old boy had had her in 6th grade and that not only had she loved him, he loved her as well. The 10-year-old boy said that she must have changed then, because all of his friends in 5th and 6th grade couldn't be wrong.

I repeated to him that I would never even consider home schooling him when he had the opportunity to go to a Mormon-sponsored, dual-language school and that he should put that thought out of his mind immediately, and that he should give her a chance.

He remained terrified for two years... until the first day of 5th grade.

From that day until this day, some five weeks later, he has done nothing but daily talk bout how "cool" she is, how it's awesome that she lends them movies, that she is funny, and that she lets them do things the other teachers don't, like lie on the floor and tell jokes for "laughing therapy".

After his first week of school, I said, "10-year-old boy, now do you wish you hadn't've listened to all those other kids and what they said about your teacher? Didn't I tell you that she was awesome?"

"Yeah," he replied, "But it's not my fault all those people were sayin' bad stuff about 'er!"

"Yes, 10-year-old boy, it is your fault, because you listened to them and you believed them before giving her a chance. I hope this has taught you to not believe the gossip you hear and to get to know someone before you form an opinion about them."

He kind of put his head down and gave an embarrassed smile, then walked away.

And last week, eight days before her birthday, he planned a surprise party for her, made chocolate white chocolate chunk cookie dough for her, rolled it into little balls, flash froze them, then put them into a Ziploc bag. Then, this morning, the day of her birthday, he baked them so they would be nice and fresh for her party.

Just thinking about this puts a lump in my throat and makes me want to shed tears joy because he has learned something that most of us are still trying to grasp. He loves her and I'm so thankful that his heart was open enough to put aside all the things he'd heard and see the good in her.

I could learn something from the 10-year-old boy.

Thanks for listening.

PSSST! To find great deals on fun stuff to do in your area, go HERE!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Homemaker Monday: Finding Peace After My Husband's Suicide

Hey Guys, before we get started with Homemaker Monday, I just wanted to let you know that on 11th Heaven's Product Reviews, where the article entitled "Finding Peace After My Husband's Suicide" is written, there are also instructions on how YOU can win a $100 Visa Gift Card. Don't forget to give it a look.

Welcome to the 105th weekly edition of...

Thank you for joining us! If you're new to this carnival and would like to enter your post, please check HERE for the rules and regs.

YOURS: Today's "YOURS" goes to Home Ever After for her post on using up a pantry stockpile! This post caught my eye because this is something I really need to do. When I do start using up forgotten ingredients, that helps me save money on my grocery bill, which makes me feel great....


Home Ever After tells us exactly how to do it, and I'm sure you'll love her post as much as I did. It's HERE. Thanks, Home Ever After, for linking up and we'll look forward to learning more from you in the future!

MINE: This week I am honored to say that I have been chosen by BlogHer to write a paid review for the movie Secretariat, starring Diane Lane, John Malkovich, Dylan Walsh, and James Cromwell, which will be released on October 8th. In my review I compare my struggle in overcoming the suicide of my husband nearly six years ago to how Penney Chenery overcomes almost insurmountable odds as a woman entering the field of horse racing.

I would be honored if you would hop over to my review blog and read my story, HERE, which includes a $100 Visa gift card giveaway that YOU can use to help overcome something you might be struggling with in your life. I'm thinking $100 worth of gourmet chocolate. :)

OURS: Okay, let's see what all you wonderful homemakers have for us today. Thanks so much for your visit and for linking up!

I think Linky Tools might be down right now. Please, please, PLEASE come back later to leave your link!

PSSST! To find great deals on fun stuff to do in your area, go HERE!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A New Day, A New Routine

At the beginning of each school year, I'm in a bit of a different position than the year before. Either I have a new baby, or a grown kid is gone, or someone is starting school, or I am newly pregnant. Regardless of what the change is, there is always a change. Some people loathe change, and love rigid schedules and routines. Others love to live life on a whim, always changing, always spontaneous. I'm the latter type, but I love routines, too, so maybe I'm right in the middle somewhere.

For this reason, I will now share with you my daily weekday routine. Just warning you, it could be really boring, and if you want, you can leave....

7:00 AM: Get up, take my thyroid pill, get dressed

7:10 AM: Change three diapers

7:15 AM: Put Baby Hippo in his play toy, then fix the twins breakfast, and put them in their high chairs to eat it

7:20 AM: Unload the dishwasher, then take the 10-year-old boy to band (He will have gotten ready for school and eaten breakfast on his own.)

7:35 AM: Return home and make my breakfast, which consists of a Medifast Chocolate Mint bar and half of a peanut butter and honey sandwich on whole wheat, with a glass of water (Yes, it's the same every day.)

7:45 AM: Take the 15- and 14-year-old kids to school, picking up a friend and a cousin along the way

8:00 AM: Clean up the high chairs, continue cleaning the kitchen, help the 8-year-old girl fix her hair, then after a few minutes, take her to school

8:20 AM: Suggest to the 4-year-old boy and the twins that they should go play upstairs while I feed Baby Hippo his rice cereal, then clean him up and continue to work on the kitchen and other areas of the house while the baby sits and plays with toys

9:00 AM: Pick out an outfit for the 4-year-old boy and have him get dressed, brush his teeth and hair, have him pack his backpack with a bottle of water, then off to preschool

9:30 AM: Return home, change the twins diapers, tell the twins it's movie time and turn on their fave movie, which happens to be Monster Vs. Aliens (I feel guilty about this part of my day, but I haven't figured out how to get around it. There is so much I have to get done and it's just so convenient that the kids will sit still and not topple over Baby Hippo or make messes or bite each other when their movie is on. Any other ideas?)

9:40 AM: Change Baby Hippo, then nurse him and put him down for a nap

10:00 AM: Put on my makeup, then the serious housework begins, sweeping, laundry, etc. Sometimes if I don't want to do this, I will photograph things I'm selling on Ebay in a effort to earn money and declutter my home. It's too fun.

11:00 AM: Baby Hippo is usually awake by this time, so I nurse him again, then sit him on his blanket with some toys and begin lunch preparation

A little before noon: Leave the house to pick up the 4-, 8-, and 10-year-olds from school

12:10 PM: Assign baby and twin babysitters and continue with lunch prep

12:25 PM (when the 14- and 15-year-olds return home for lunch, and thank goodness the afore-mentioned cousin's mother drives them!): Eat lunch together

A little before one: Take the 8- and 10-year-olds back to school, then return home to finish lunch clean up with older kids

A little after one: See the 14- and 15-year-olds off to school (and again, sister-in-law drives, thanks be to heaven)

1:20 PM: Change 3 diapers, tell the twins we are racing to bed, race them down the hall as I carry Baby Hippo, scoot them into bed, sit Baby Hippo in Twin A's crib, give them water, read them a story, turn out the lights, tuck them in, hold each twins' hand while I say a prayer, get two kisses on each hand from each twin (and yes, it's always two kisses each)

1:30 PM: Nurse Baby Hippo (Wait didn't we just do this? Oh yes, we did.) and put him to bed

1:50 PM: Let the 4-year-old boy pick a movie (again, some mom-guilt here), then..... Ahhhh, quiet.... :)

1:55 PM: Pick out the skirt and blouse I'll wear to play the piano for the chorus at the Academy and put them in the dryer with other wet clothes so I won't have to iron them

2:00 PM: Make my lunch, take it to my room, and eat it while I read my current novel, which is the series I mentioned in yesterday's post, which is, by the way, one of my all-time favorite things to do, in the world, ever

2:35 PM: Take my clothes out of the dryer and hang them up, get out of my housework clothes, and take a 20-minute power nap

3:00 PM: Alarm goes off, then I get dressed and greet the babysitter at the door as I'm walking out. But first I grab my music folder, a glass of ice water and another Medi-fast Bar

3:10 PM: Arrive at the school and accompany the choir for an hour

4:00 PM: Pick up the 8-, 10- and 15-year-olds from school and leave the the 14-year-old at the Academy for football practice

4:10 PM: Arrive home and encourage the kids to make their after-school snacks, then start on homework and/or chores

4:30 PM: Today I gave piano lessons, but on any other day, depending on who didn't have any homework, I would choose that person to babysit for 30 minutes while I do laundry

5:00 PM: Today I was fortunate enough to get a visit from my Visiting Teachers (If you don't know what those are, go HERE.) It was an awesome break in a hectic day.

6:00 PM: Today I ran the 15-year-old girl and her friend to school again, but normally I would continue trying to keep the house clean and the kids alive

6:30 PM: Remind the 15-year-old girl that it's her turn to make dinner, then pick up the 14-year-old boy and said cousin from football. Even with the windows rolled down, the stench is something to behold (Acutally today sister-in-law picked up the boys while I gave the 8-year-old girl her piano lesson.)

7:00 PM: After the 14-year-old boy showers, eat dinner as a family, then encourage the kids to do their dinner chores

(All of the afore-mentioned activities are usually done with 21-pound Baby Hippo on my hip.)

7:45 PM: Give Baby Hippo a bath (and I know I nursed him more times than were mentioned, but it happened so often it was too difficult to account), then dress him in his sleeper

8:00 PM: Ask the 14- and 15-year-olds to each pick a twin and change his diaper and brush his teeth, then Nurse Baby Hippo to sleep

8:20 PM: Do scripture study, then put the twins and 4-year-old to bed, using the previously explained method

8:30 PM: Go to the seating area in the kitchen, call the older kids in who want to listen, and read the series I mentioned yesterday for twenty minutes

9:00 PM: Encourage the 8- and 10-year-olds to go to bed, then sit with the 14- and 15-year-olds as they work on the computer or do their homework in work books. It is then that I will usually begin my blog post, intermittently stopping to help the 14-year-old boy with math or listen to a new song the 15-year-old girl wants to learn on the piano

10:00 PM: Hopefully by this time all of the kids are done with homework and can go to bed, so I can shut down the computers. If so, I usually fix a Medi-fast chocolate shake, go back to my bedroom, read my scriptures while I floss my teeth, finish blogging, then read my book until I can't keep my eyes open anymore....

Between 12:00 and 1:00 AM: Fall into bed

2:00 and/or 3:30 and/or 4:20 and/or 5:45 AM: Nurse Baby Hippo

7:00 AM: Repeat

And why didn't I mention Dear John in this post? He is usually out of town.

Thanks for listening.

PSSST! To find great deals on fun stuff to do in your area, go HERE!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Opting out of TV, Reading to the Children Instead...

We've been without TV for nearly two years now. It all started when our dish satellite went out and I asked the then 16-year-old boy to call a brother in our ward and ask if he could fix it for us. He said he didn't want to, and I don't know if it was out of pride, embarrassment or laziness, but he never did. A few weeks later he asked me when we were going to get our satellite fixed. I told him we would as soon as he called the good brother. That was two years ago.

I think I won in two ways. First, I followed through on my word as far as what it would take to get satellite. Second, we've gone without TV for nearly two years. Sometimes I am tempted to reinstall our dish, but when I visit my mother and see how quickly the children become addicted to the TV, and I am reminded of all the filth that is pumped into homes, I feel a renewed sense that this is the right decision for our family.

As most of you know, our family life is hectic, stressful, noisy, and there never seems to be the time to accomplish what we need to. Even so, I have decided to do something I've always wanted to do, but could never figure out how I would implement it.

Recently I started reading an amazing book series by Chris Stewart called "The Great and The Terrible". This series chronicles a family's story from before they were born when they lived with God, through their lives on earth, and I can only guess, since I haven't gotten there yet, into the next life.

(As I'm writing, I'm wondering something. So Mormons believe that we lived in a pre-mortal existence before coming to earth, that we were spirit children of our Heavenly Father and that we lived with Him, and even knew our family and some close friends during this time, that we may have even chosen to be together as families here. So what I'm wondering is, do other religions believe this? That we lived with God, our Father, before coming to this world? I would assume so, because I hear many people refer to dying as "going home". Surely "home" wouldn't be somewhere you've never been. Any comments on this matter from those of other faiths would be appreciated. Thanks!)

As I've read this series, I've been so impressed at the change in my way of thinking as I imagine that we are truly sons and daughters of a King, and that our time on this earth is like a drop of dew that quickly evaporates as the sun rises. It's such a short period, a test, and if we succeed, we can meet The Lord at his throne and can speak of how we "fought the good fight".

Not only is this series inspirational, but it's immensely entertaining, and I would highly recommend it, to Mormons and non-Mormons alike.

About three years ago, just on a whim, I purchased an audio copy of "War of the Worlds". As we traveled to and from our small town in Mexico, I would play it for the kids in the van's CD player, and to my surprise, that absolutely devoured it. They begged to listen to it, they drew pictures of what they were hearing, and they talked about it for weeks, even years.

After thinking on how this series has inspired greater thinking in me, I found myself wishing that these books were on audio CD. Then the thought occurred to me, "Why couldn't I just read it to them? It's probably too advanced for the 10- and 8-year-olds to read by themselves, but if they understood Orson Wells, surely they could understand a mainstream LDS writer."

So tonight we did it. After carefully planning our evening, putting the baby, the twins and the 4-year-old boy to bed on time, we sat together and I read to my children for twenty minutes. I told that 14- and 15-year-olds that they didn't have to listen if they didn't want to, but they never did leave the room, and listened closely as they remained still.

When I was finished reading, I asked each of them if they enjoyed it, and without hesitation, they all said yes. And my kids aren't ones to lie about something like that. If they don't like something, I know about it.

So I totally felt like Laura Ingall's mother or someone wholesome and old-fashioned like that. I can definitely see us continuing this on a nightly basis, and I'm definitely looking forward to doing it in front of a crackling fire place in a few weeks.

We think we don't have time for things like this, but if we plan, ration, and commit ourselves, we can do things we feel are right for our families. As moms, we carry much guilt for what we don't do right, but if we know something will benefit our family, we can find a way to make it work and feel good about that one thing. Then do it again with something else, and feel good about that, until you just have one major feel-good party.

Thanks for listening. :)

PSSST! To find great deals on fun stuff to do in your area, go HERE!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Images from the last time we will see the 18-year-old boy for two years.....

It's hard to explain how this feels. For those of you who don't know why I will not have visual contact with the 18-year-old boy for two years, let me explain.

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, all young men, when they turn 19 years of age, or in the case of those living in Mexico, 18 years of age, are asked to serve two-year proselyting missions to share the gospel with their fellow human beings, whether it be two states away, or two continents apart. As you may know from previous reading here on my blog, the 18-year-old boy was assigned his mission in the Eugene, Oregon district.

A few months before my father died we were discussing this. My father does not share our faith. He called himself catholic, but I've never seen him attend mass or pray the Rosary, so I'm not so sure. What we do know is that he was definitely not Mormon. My father, however, was supportive of young Mormon men spending two years of their youth in service, but he did say that it would be the saddest day of my life when I had to say goodbye, knowing that I wouldn't see my son for two full years. I vehemently disagreed, saying that I had always prayed for the day my son would choose to go on a mission. Not all boys decide to go, and I knew that the 18-year-old boy, too, had his free agency. I had always hoped he would choose to go, but was never sure what was in his heart.

Obviously he did choose to go, and explained to our congregation the Sunday before he left that he had a testimony of Jesus Christ and that The Holy Spirit will confirm truth to us. I actually hope to be able to post his talk here on my blog with his permission, so as soon as he sends approval via email, I will do so. Suffice it to say, he cried when he bore testimony. Not huge tears or sobs, but his voice cracked and his chin quivered and I knew The Spirit of God was working in him. That was the third time I had seen him cry since he was nine years old, and the fourth was thirty minutes later when he was hugging his friends for the last time for two years. Words cannot say how touched I was.

As we approached the MTC to drop him off, I knew we wouldn't have much time for goodbyes, so I patted him on the knee and said, "Okay, Son, I am going to start saying good bye right now. I then proceeded to quote the two hilarious comments my grandma had made two weeks before (HERE), which lightened the mood considerably. As our van pulled up to the curb, we were greeted by several "host" missionaries and an older woman who helped the 18-year-old boy get his bags out of the van. I slung my camera strap around my neck, hugged him goodbye, didn't cry, and began taking pictures...


I never did cry. (That's my mom in the above photo, who did cry considerably.) See dad, I was right, you were wrong. When I told my sister that I hadn't cried, the 15-year-old girl said, "So, Mom, you're proud of that?" Then my brother-in-law added with a smile, "Yeah, you're proud that you don't love your son enough to be sad that you won't see him for two years?"

I laughed along with them, then tried to explain that it's just that watching him walk away as he embarks on a two-year adventure serving The Lord was one of the happiest days of my life. Yes, my stomach turns every time I think of the fact that I won't see him for two long years, that he will do so much growing outside of my influence, which isn't a bad thing, but it's a strange thing to accept. However, my prayers of many years have been heard and I know he will be blessed for serving and the lives of those to whom he takes the gospel will be blessed as well.

18-year-old boy, we miss you, love you, and will continue to pray for your success every single day....


PSSST! To find great deals on fun stuff to do in your area, go HERE!