It's Tomato Season

Steve told me he picked lots of tomatoes while I was gone for the weekend.

I went outside on Monday morning and found a few that he missed:

Lake Tahoe Lacrosse Tournament 2009

I started playing lacrosse when I was a freshman at Utah State. I was working at the Skyroom and enjoying my all-you-can-eat lunches, or more problematic, the all-you-can-eat desserts (Irish Cream Pie, Chocolate Suicide Cake, Aggie Nut Rolls) a little too much. So when Jodi invited me to come play lacrosse, I thought it might be a good idea.

I like team sports, and it was fun. I played with the Utah State team for two years. Then I got married, had kids, and subsequently, purged my life of many of my personal hobbies. In the name of family.

Fast forward eight years. Molly invited me to play with the Face Off Lax team at the Park City Ski-Town Shootout in June. It was presented almost as a challenge, and I'm not one to turn down challenges. It was fun. And cold.

Then I got the invitation to play at the Lake Tahoe Lacrosse Tournament. I had four weeks to prepare, and had marvelous intentions of getting into shape, actually practicing with my stick, and playing pick-up games in Salt Lake before the Tahoe tournament. But intentions don't get you very far. And my life is kind of busy these days. But I'm not one to turn down invitations (or break commitments), so I went.

Little did I know that most of the players were current collegiate athletes, post-collegiate athletes, coaches, and referees. Collegiate athletes from schools like Notre Dame, Vanderbuilt, Syracuse, and St. Mary's. East Coast players who grew up holding a lacrosse stick. I felt out of place. But I got to play on a good team with a great group of girls. It was fun. And beautiful.

Rachel and Lucy came along for a girls' trip. During the games, Rachel and Lucy collected giant pine cones, took hundreds of pictures with their camera, played hangman with Jane (my lifesaver), and threw a ball back and forth with their lacrosse sticks. We swam in Lake Tahoe, played miniature golf, and stayed up late reading The Chronicles of Narnia.

And endured almost 20 hours in the car.

When I got home, I was telling Steve how incompetent I felt. . . being one of the weakest players on the field and one of the oldest players too. My good husband told me he was impressed that I even tried. Then he asked me if it made me want to play more or made me never want to play again. I think it makes me want to play more.

But, I should clarify a few things. For Molly and others: #1 I like playing lacrosse. #2 I'm aware that I'm not the best lacrosse player. #3 I don't have much time to dedicate to practicing lacrosse. #4 I like going on trips. #5 I have a hard time turning down invitations for trips. #6 I am a better player now that I was before the tournament. #7 But I really won't be offended if you don't invite me to play in future tournaments. Honestly. My husband won't be offended either.

He missed me too much.


The Never-Ending Adventures of Craft Day

I have wanted to take my kids to Minnetonka Cave for no less than three years. My husband kept telling me they were too young. I didn't listen to him, and we put it on the calendar as an official "Craft Day" field trip. Look how excited Rachel and Lucy were:

Angie, Gracie, Jake, Debra, her daughter, Ellie, and her nephew, Kaden, all came on our adventure. Everyone made it in and out of the cave safely, and more impressively, without needing to be carried up or down any of the 444 stairs. (I am glad I listened to Steve and left Adam at home. Taking him really would have been a disaster.)

We walked back to our car and saw some Malouf cousins, visiting from Alaska, sitting right in front of our car. I hadn't even known they were in Utah, and they sure didn't know it was our car. We happily accepted their invitation to join them at their family reunion on Rendevous Beach. After we got shakes at LaBeau's, of course.

Angie was a good sport, and quickly changed her plans and even talked Mike into watching Adam so we could stay at Bear Lake for some swimming, canoeing, sailing, and water skiing. (I got up for my first time ever.) The sailboat ride was almost magical. The canoe ride reminded me how badly I want another canoe.

We didn't get home until after midnight. Our adventure was declared "Best Craft Day Ever" by many, including myself.


Grandma Whitney

I spoke in church on Sunday, along with the other members of the Relief Society presidency. In my talk, I suggested three things we can do to strengthen our families: #1 Create a gospel-learning home, #2 Create a house of order, and #3 Create a house of love.

When I talked about creating a house of order, I mentioned that my husband was one of the most organized people I knew and that he had learned from his mother, who is another one of the most organized people I knew. Both of their lives exemplify what can be accomplished with proper planning and organization.

When I sat down, Lola Hutchinson, the Relief Society President, asked me if it was okay if she talked about Steve's grandma, LaRee Whitney. Of course, I said yes. I can't get enough Grandma Whitney stories, even though I can get a little emotional when listening to them. Lola shared many wonderful stories, and ultimately concluded that despite her adversities, Grandma Whitney had focused on and succeeded in strengthening her family. Steve's mother, in turn, had strengthened her family, and now Steve is doing the same thing with his. Grandma Whitney's perseverance and commitment to teach gospel principles will continue to influence countless generations.

After church, Rachel asked how Lola knew so much about Grandma Whitney. About six months ago, we figured out that Lola and LaRee had been long time friends. Rachel then, very tenderly, asked me if I would please make a book for her with all the stories I know about Grandma Whitney. I love that Rachel recognizes a special connection with the grandma she was given her middle name after.

- - - - - - - - - -

On Mother's Day, Steve and his mother had a rare opportunity to speak in church together. Steve spoke about his mother, and Gloria spoke about hers. These two women have served as amazing examples to Steve in his life. Gloria's talk was about our mission in life and how we need to go about accomplishing it. I would like to share some of Gloria's words about her mother:

In September of 1954, my Mother, LaRee Holt Whitney, at 27 years old, contracted polio. One day she was a wife and a mother, doing normal things, canning peaches, taking her kids to Lagoon, and ironing. She also played the organ and was on the Stake Primary Board. Then one day, she was gravely ill.

She was rushed to the hospital, where her clothes were taken away with a stick. She looked on, devastated, thinking she had infected her friends and family. Her fever was 104 degrees and she had muscle spasms that were so painful they had to wrap her in steaming hot towels for 20 minutes of relief. She couldn’t take any pain medication because it could affect her breathing.

She had two types of polio: spinal and spinal bulbar. She was left with total paralysis from the neck down. Polio is like having a burnt out motor in a car, it burns out the muscles in your body. The brain tells you body to move but the muscle can’t move it.

She was placed in an iron lung. An iron lung looks like a water heater laid on a bed. Her body was in that and her head left out. It was pressurized and did the breathing for her. At home there were four girls: 7 years old, 5 years old, myself at 3 years old, and a baby sister just 5 1/2 months old. After many months, through pure Danish stubbornness, she graduated from the iron lung to a rocking bed, and finally to a wheelchair.

That is the background—now I want to tell you some of the miracles, and answers to prayers that took place throughout her life.

One day while in the rocking bed, which raised her diaphragm up and down, my Dad felt he should check on Mom, instead of going duck hunting, as planned. At first glance, he knew something was wrong. It was during a shift change and he could not find help. The iron lung was left just outside the door, in case it was needed. He got her into the iron lung. Being very mechanical, he knew how it worked, however, something was wrong and he could not get it working. A nurse came in and together, with Dad doing some quick repair work, they got it working. Meanwhile, Mom’s spirit had left her body, she was watching the frantic actions of her husband and the nurse, thinking how good it felt to be out of pain. Then she thought of her children and wondered what would happen to them, she wanted to be there to raise them. At that instant she was back in her body. Dad not going hunting, that was a miracle. He loved his hunting.

After that she had some depression, which she calls the dark abyss, when she realized she was not going to get up and walk out of the hospital. She knew she had the faith to be healed and couldn’t accept that she wasn’t. Through her prayers she came to realize that some things just happen, but it was up to her to determine her attitude. She believed the scriptures and knew she would not be tested beyond her means to endure.

With help from professionals at the Mayo Clinic, she began to focus on what she could do instead of what she couldn’t. They said she would be bedridden most of the time and her life expectancy was 5 years with severe bladder and kidney problems. Her image of herself had to be redefined and her self-esteem built back up.

She realized there were others with less abilities than her and her heart and prayers went out to them. She wanted to raise her children and manage a home. Her prayers took on new meaning and her faith increased. She prayed to endure the pain, to have willing hands around her, and to cope with her limitations. Those constant prayers were answered. She also refused the prognosis and between my stubborn mother and my strong stubborn dad, they were determined to have a semi-normal life. She decided this was her time and she would accomplish her mission and reach her potential with the help of her Savior.

She knew she couldn’t go home in an iron lung or a rocking bed. She needed to go home. After 14 months in the hospital she came home in a wheelchair using an orthopedic corset to support the diaphragm so she could breathe sitting up. She came home! A tender mercy! We had our Mom back!

Her patience seemed endless. I did not know she was in constant pain until I was an adult. She did not let it show. My Dad got her up at 5:30 am before he left for work most days. Every morning he called down the stairs, "Up and at 'em." Those words still ring in my ears especially when I am struggling with something. Their philosophy was just get to work and get it done.

We got up and got ourselves ready for school, fixed our breakfast and fed her breakfast, then cleaned up the kitchen. We got her ready for the day, laid out books she could read, cut up some snacks for lunch, put in a batch of laundry, and went off to school. The first one home from school hung out the clothes, before the days of dryers.

She had the use of one muscle in her neck that was not paralyzed. She used a mouth stick to turn pages, and later, with the help of arm slings my Dad created, she could type with one finger which had been fused for support and she could twitch it a little to pinch small things between her two fingers. She used her neck muscle to move her arms, in a swinging motion. This was a great accomplishment, and gave her years of feeling productive doing genealogy, typing letters, and later on, typing all her own papers, as she finished college.

There was a lot of humor involved too. Sometimes I would come home and the apples would be on the ground and her book stuck and she hadn’t been able to type and she was so frustrated, and we would laugh. Often a neighbor or her sister would come over, just in time to set things right again.

At first, she was a little hesitant about being in public, but Dad took her out to dinners, they socialized and had friends over for neighborhood parties.

As children, we baked every Saturday. Thus, the neighborhood children came over to help do the work, knowing there was hot bread, cakes, or cookies for rewards. Mom always told the boys she needed some strong muscles for some jobs, they loved to help after that. She was always in the middle supervising the job, encouraging, and praising.

We held scrub-the-sink contests, and played word games on the blackboard while we worked. We hung out laundry in creative ways, making doors & windows in our pretend house. She was very tolerant, and I know she had to lower her standards somewhat. She said if it got done she was grateful. There were dimes for buckets of dandelions, lots of popsicles in the summer, and a fair price for extra jobs. The kids told us their parents wouldn’t let them help, which seemed strange to us. For us it was always work first, play later. We learned to work fast and with recruits, we could get a lot done.

Much of the baking was taken to new neighbors, and to the sick or elderly. That was my favorite part. The joy was overwhelming as they would express their love for my Mom and how they appreciated our work, and her concern for them. We learned the joy of service very young.

Through her illness, she taught Relief Society for 20 years, first Social Relation, then Spiritual Living. Mom was so grateful that they let her serve. She was a visiting teacher forever. Her partner bundled her up in the winter, and they would go to the sisters houses and they would bundle up and come out to visit. She couldn’t get into the homes, but they loved her to come. Later on, when her health was more fragile she had a scheduled day that all her sisters come to her house for visiting teaching. Some of the other neighbors found out and they asked if they could come too. We all got a chuckle out of that.

So you see, her prayer for willing hands was answered day after day, year after year.

Mom developed a habit that has become a family standard. It is when adversity strikes, think about the good things that come from it. Sometimes it has to be after the crisis, but I found it always works, and it helps you gain strength, seeing that you survived and gained more faith or patience or humility. You can see God's hand in your life and feel deep gratitude. It is a wonderful habit.

Another miracle was when Mom was in intensive care for 3 months after an automobile accident in 1980. She had a broken rib that punctured her lung, a crushed pelvis, and a broken ankle. She had emergency surgery to remove her spleen. The biggest problem was with her lungs that were already weakened by the polio. She only had a breathing capacity of 50 percent of normal. The damage now could not be repaired. It was a life and death situation from day to day.

After the first few frantic days, she knew she would survive and she had us start keeping a journal. It was like, here we go again. We wrote down the meds, each new crisis, the doctors names, the nurses, and the people she met, the visitors, and the gifts.

She also wanted to send thank you notes. She was on a respirator now and had to mouth the words to us to write the notes. I told her she didn’t need to send notes, but then I realized, maybe she did. Maybe that is how she copes, by losing herself in the love and service of her fellowmen, and by doing so, is serving her God. One day she asked me, “Why am I still here? I am ready to go!” I couldn’t answer right away, saying I don’t know. Then I read a note from a dear friend of hers and I said, "I think I know." I read her the note that thanked her for being such a great example of courage, for always being so strong and cheerful. I said, "I think the Father has more work for you to do?" We agreed. And as always, she carried on.

Was her prayer answered about coping – enduring? Yes it was!

She had gone back to college at the age of 51, and because of the accident she was worried about her classes. The college president came to visit her in the hospital and assured her that her grades were secure, and he would notify her professors. The intensive care staff threw her a going home party, which they said was a first.

She came home from that hospital trip with a permanent tracheotomy. She needed to be on a respirator part of each day and through the night. But she was grateful she could still talk when she was off. The insurance would not pay for the respirator and suction equipment unless she had registered nurses care for her. Thus, next came the nurses. Dad took care of her at night. My older sister and I took weekends and any additional needed time. My other two sisters lived out of state, but helped when they came to visit. She lost some of her independence, she could not be left alone. A new trial.

When Dad passed away in 1993, we faced another dilemma. We were shocked and truly blessed when the insurance company notified us they would cover the cost of round-the-clock nursing. It had been a fight with the insurance for many other things, but Mom was in no condition to fight. The Lord was watching out for her, and listening to her prayers.

Some of her other accomplishments include, painting pictures with a mouth stick, graduating from college as an English Major and History Minor Cum Laude, being a member of the Phi Kappa Honor Society and Lama Iota Tau Honor Society, and graduating from Institute. She was awarded the Crystal Crest at Weber State College and was the Handicapped Mother of the Year twice. She tutored students in English and completed a lot of genealogy and temple work. She was a missionary in many ways. One of her nurses joined the church and went through the temple because of her example of faith and her testimony. She taught everyone about gardening and always had a beautiful yard full of vegetables and flowers. She sold greeting cards, Avon, Beauty Counselor, and Shaklee, to help financially and volunteered for the PTA, March of Dimes, and Brownie Scouts.

My children will never forget the visits they had with her, the chores, the lists they made for her as soon as they could write the alphabet, the shopping trips, and the summer week long stays to earn money. The I’m thinking of an animal game, the notes of encouragement she sent them, and the backpack she bought them all as they were off to college.

There were many more miracles and trials in her later years. She had wayward children, the death of an adult child, financial trials, illnesses, and frustrations just like we all do. She was just determined to make it through. She always told me that everyone has their own trials, mine just show more, don’t try to compare yours with mine. They are just different. Each person has to find their own way to accomplish their mission.

My Mom passed away in 2002 at the age of 75, a little longer than the doctors predicted. She was on a respirator for 20 years. She did not experience the normal bedsores, lung infections, bladder or kidney trouble associated with this disease. Another miracle!

I am truly blessed to have been able to meet and spend time with Grandma Whitney before she passed away. I am truly blessed by the decisions she made. I am truly blessed to have her daughter as a mother-in-law. And I am truly blessed to have her grandson as a husband.


Caramel Popcorn at the Fireworks

I made caramel popcorn to take with us to the firework show at Weber State University last night. It's not the best caramel popcorn I've ever had, but is the fastest, easiest recipe in the world (and still super tasty), so I thought I would share.

1 1/2 bags microwave popcorn (use healthy pop or smart pop variety or it will end up a little salty)
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda

Pop popcorn and empty into a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, add all of the other ingredients and microwave for 90 seconds.
Take it out of the microwave, stir, and microwave again for 90 seconds.
Stir caramel and pour over the popcorn, stirring very gently. Microwave for 90 seconds.
Gently stir again and pour onto wax paper to cool.

I was so tired when we got home that I fell asleep on top of my bed with my clothes on.

We had a busy weekend packed full of things like bowling, haircuts, picking produce, riding the Jupiter Express, a visit from my brother, selling salsa at the farmers market, a cooking class at Sonora Grill, a wedding in Logan, and speaking in church on Sunday.

(Now you know why I'm a fan of the quick and easy version of caramel popcorn.)


The Foamerator

Looking for something fun to do with your kids?

You need The Foamerator!

Get some scissors, plastic water bottles, rubber bands, an old towel, dish soap, and a shallow bowl.

1. Cut the bottom off a plastic water bottle.

2. Cover the open end with a circular piece of towel that's a few inches wider than the bottle. Secure the towel with a rubber band.

3. Dampen the towel with water, then dip it into a shallow bowl of dish soap. Blow gently through the mouth of the bottle to create snakes of tiny bubbles.

4. If your kids are anything like mine, it should keep them occupied for a few hours. And if you are anything like me, you better make one for yourself too.

Want to watch it in action? Click HERE.

Want a sweet deal on a one-year subscription to Family Fun magazine, where I saw this nifty craft? Click HERE. For another four bucks, you might as well sign up for Backpacker magazine too.


Real Simple

This just happens to be one of my very favorite magazines:

And right now just happens to be the best time ever to buy a one-year subscription. Click HERE.


I Love You, Stinky Face

This little book has always been a favorite in our family. But it has taken on new meaning over the last few days, now that Adam has a stinky face (or more specifically, a stinky throat, as it heals from his tonsillectomy). I wish I could find more of the inside pages as images for you to see, but you should probably just get on amazon and order a book for yourself.

Mama, what if I were a big, scary ape? Would you still love me then?

"If you were a big, scary ape, I would make your birthday cake out of bananas, and I would tell you, 'I love you, my big, scary ape.'"

But, Mama, but, Mama, what if I were a super smelly skunk, and I smelled so bad that my name was Stinky Face?

"Then I'd plunk you in a bubble bath! But if you still smelled stinky, I wouldn't mind." I'd whisper in your ear, 'I love you, Stinky Face.'"

But, Mama, but, Mama, what if I were an alligator with big, sharp teeth?

"I'd buy you a bigger toothbrush! And if your throat hurt, I'd look inside your huge mouth. I'd tell you, 'I love you, my dangerous alligator.'"

But Mama, what if I were a terrible meat-eating dinosaur?

"Then I'd make you a mountain of hamburgers to eat! I'd say, 'I love you, my sweet, terrible dinosaur!'"

"Then I would live by the swamp and take care of you always. I'd tell you, 'I love you, my slimy swamp monster!'"

"Then I would fill your lunch box with spiders and ants and the tastiest bugs you ever had! And I'd pack a note with all the bugs that said, 'I love you, little greenie. Bon appetit!'"

But, Mama, but, Mama, what if I were a one-eyed Monster?

"Then I would look right into your one eye and say, 'I love you,' and I would sing to you until your one droopy eyelid finally closed and you fell fast asleep."

I love you, Mama. "And I love you, my wonderful child."


I am a little unbalanced

when it comes to harvesting fruit. I don't know when to stop. Sometimes my husband tries to restrain me, but it doesn't work. He should know better; he married me this way. In college, my roommates told me if I could find someone who would stay up all hours of the night to dehydrate fruit with me, I should marry him fast. (I did.)

I may or may not have failed some exams at Utah State because of my problem. I found an unattended apricot tree with loads of fruit that needed to be processed immediately. Then my grandpa called me with some plums, and then I was onto peaches. I skipped my classes for two weeks straight. And, subsequently, I received a personal invitation from Mark Damen to drop his Mythology course. He told me I wasn't taking it seriously. He didn't understand my priorities.

I have planned pregnancies, vacations, and surgeries around the harvest season. (Now you understand the urgency of the tonsils.) It's my very favorite time of the year, and is also the busiest. Good busy because I love it so much, even if some of the things I do seem a little extreme to my husband. Like the year I drove over 250 miles with ornery kids to pack the car full of blackberries that were on sale for $1.00 per flat. (He did restrict me from going back for a second trip.)

So much fruit, so little time. Which is why I need to get back to my cherries.


Adam's To-Do List for the Day

New set of tubes in ears:

Tonsillectomy and Adenoidectomy:

Smile at all the nurses until they fall in love with me:

Drink 4 sippy cups of apple juice and eat 1 banana to demonstrate healthy appetite:

Plead with nurse to call doctor and request early discharge:

Out of the hospital by 3:00 pm:


The best 4th of July ever

5 darling girls in homemade outfits
+ 1 parade
+ 2 firework shows
+ 8 kids on the slip-n-slide
+ 5 tickets to play at Cherry Days
+ 3 days with an adorable little girl
+ a really good BBQ

= the best 4th of July ever.


It's What FUN Is!

Dear Grandma Gloria,

Thank you for taking us to Lagoon on Monday. It was the funnest time ever. We love going to Lagoon together. You are the best!


Rachel, Lucy, Gracie, Jake, Jack, and Sam

P.S. Our parents had a good time too.