Saturday, October 31, 2009

Pumpkin carving

The sacrifice of not carving pumpkins did not seem too big to me. Other years I have taken the girls to the pumpkin patch or chosen the perfect pumpkin from Walmarts offerings. But this year I just decided that pumpkins were not in our reduced budget. I didn't think it would be a big deal.

Ali did though. She insisted that we carve pumpkins and that Friday I did what I could to oblige her. I called each and every store in the mountains... but they were already sold out or had decided not to carry the pumpkins this year. So what was left were the two small pumpkins the size of a baseball and softball to carve. The girls loved it and I think they turned out so cute! I will try to grow bigger pumpkins next year.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A time to Dance

Two layoffs in the past week and a bad attitude were looming over us and dooming our trip. An empty bank account threatened to destroy it. But the tickets were a gift, the hotel was paid for with time-share points his parents had, and even our food was brought along or promised to be paid for by others. I have never been on a free vacation and I felt it would be unlikely to really occur. Our bags were packed and everything was waiting. I was a little nervous about leaving my baby for two days. I wanted to feel excitement but I didn't feel anything.

The big grey truck arrived to ferry us to the concert. We drove off playing No Line on the Horizon. We enjoyed listening to the newest U2 CD and used our cell phones for those last minute details as we left the San Bernardino valley behind us. While we were going up the Cajon Pass I noticed the stress release a little in Cameron. There was a hint of an honest smile and his eyes did not look so weary. As we pulled into Victorville it seemed a little more clear. I could visibly see the stress leave his face as each new song was played. And the stress was replaced with something less tangible. His smile seemed real, his attitude became carefree, his words were friendly and fun. The small creaselines by his eyes disappeared and even the gray in his hair became less pronounced. By the time we hit Baker I could not feel the tension in the air around Cameron anymore. Cameron played through 6 or 7 U2 cd's and explained which songs he thought they would play that night for us.

I still was stressed. My back ached, my stomache hurt a little and I wondered what this weekend would bring. I enjoyed the music but I couldn't let myself release the stress even if the weekend would be worry free. My favorite part of that drive was watching my husband unwind and seeing the man I loved emerge from the stress shell.

The condo was beautiful and the temperature was amazing. Las Vegas is always beautiful in the fall. We enjoyed a great couple of hours hanging out with Wade and Melissa. We checked out the pool, planned our dinner and clothing choices and at last sat down to a Cafe Rio dinner. After dinner we put on the final touches and headed out to the stadium. In the car I felt sick. Sick like I might die and they would have to bury me between the bleachers of the stadium seating. But by the time we got to the concert I was feeling a little better.

The set for the concert was amazing. Cameron wants that stereo system for our living room. We found our seats were blocked a little by the leg of their space ship but I was okay with that. When the opening act, "The Black eyed Peas" came on the sound caused our seats to vibrate. I didn't expect to like the opening act but it was actually quite a fun show and I enjoyed dancing to a couple of their songs. The last song they played was "Tonight is going to be a good night." And then the stress left me. I forgot about unpaid bills, grocery shopping, empty bank accounts and possible layoffs and I just danced to the music. I have never felt stress leave me so quickly and be replaced with a carefree attitude but it felt wonderful.

U2 was amazing. We saw them before in Salt Lake but it was not like this. The sound in the stadium was great where the sound in the Delta Center had been poor at best. They played every song I wanted them to play and more. We danced and sang and enjoyed ourselves all evening. I held my husbands hand and wrapped my arm around him and he sang the words to me like he always does.

The rest of the weekend was relaxing. Cameron made us breakfast, we sat by the pool, swam in the pool, sat in the hot tub, ate at a buffet, ate a delicious breakfast prepared for by Wade and Melissa, and enjoyed time without the kids. Thanks Bonnie, Erin, Shane, Chalon, Todd, Wade, Melissa, Mike and Sue for knowing that even though it is a time to cut back and a time to conserve there is also a time to sing and a time to dance.

The old fire

We drove home from our trip to Las Vegas the back way. I had not driven this way in 6 years. And I wasn't sure I ever wanted to again. But the traffic was stop and go and we wanted to go instead of stop. While we drove we talked about what had happened and Sue encouraged me to write it down. And I am still not sure I want to. I still can not think about those days with out wanting to break down and lose it. I still can not think of those days with any sort of fondness. It still for me is a big nightmare. Yet she pointed out that even though it was a nightmare we survived. Even though we thought it might destroy everything we had built up it didn't.

It all started while we were driving home from the beach. I looked up at the mountains and saw a fire burning. It wasn't burning in our mountains but I did not think that mattered much. This fire was burning in the San Garbiel mountains. I pointed the fire out to Chalon and Sue and they said it was too far away. But I knew in my stomach and in my soul that this fire was different.

A day or two later that fire was still burning. It had jumped the I15 freeway and jumped the 215 freeway and was now in our mountains although still far away. And we were loading our truck and trailer to move to Utah. As we began loading this second load we realized that we didn't have enough room for all our things. We were not too worried because we figured we would just leave the rest of the stuff with Cameron's parents. We were getting ready to say goodbye to our dogs who couldn't come. (Our apartment wouldn't accept dogs and we couldn't find any that would accept dogs.) Some friends who worked for a camp in town planned to take them.

I don't remember how we found out. Did we hear sirens? Did we call someone? I don't know if we had the technology yet to look on the internet. But we found out that a new fire had started at the bottom of Highway 330 in our mountains. At the same time we realized that we couldn't leave all our stuff in the mountains that were burning down. Cameron left quickly to procure a rental truck. I don't remember what I did. Our house was empty. Our escrow had closed and we had half our stuff sitting on the driveway. I was worried that everything would burn and we no longer had insurance for any of it.

Cameron found a truck to rent but it was late in the day and they had already blocked the mountain roads so that he couldn't come up. First he tried 330 but it was blocked. Then he tried highway 38 but they wouldn't let him up that way either. Eventually he drove through the barricades and came up 330. While this was going on the power was out and I had a 18 month old who could feel the stress. I did not handle any of it well and was scared. Looking back it seems a little naive to be so afraid. The fire was not actually going to burn me while I was there but at the time I felt like it might. The dark house, lack of an ability to cook or entertain and being cut off from the world made it hard. Cameron loaded our things into the back of the truck by headlights that night as I sat in bed with Ali at his parents house so she wouldn't be afraid.

The next morning I was anxious to go. The evacuations were still voluntary but the fire was coming and the power was still out. It was eerie to see the deep blue sky, hear the quiet half evacuated town, and see on a plume of smoke in what seemed to be the far distance. We had to load our dogs into the back of our truck unsure of what we would do with them when we arrived in Utah. We loaded everything and finally left in the middle of the day.

We couldn't leave the normal way down highway 330 because it was closed. We couldn't leave the normal back up way through highway 18 because it was closed. We couldn't travel out through highway 38 because I15 and 215 were closed. The only way to get to Utah was to drive out down the backside of Big Bear. A problem... a big problem was that we had very little gas. I did not have much gas in my subaru and Cameron did not have much gas in the truck. There was no power in Running Springs and thus no gas. We drove to Big Bear where the electricity was on and where we hoped to fill up. But they only were allowing people to buy 10.00 worth of gas. This was about 5 gallons and we were worried.

So we drove down the long windy road that goes from big bear to the lucern valley with hardly any gas. The road has steep grades and Cameron had a moving truck with a trailer that hardly fit around the corners. I worried that he was going to drive over the edge or that he was going to lose his breaks. And it took forever. He drove so slow in first to make it around the corners. Finally we arrived in Barstow and we able to fill up there. Our five gallons of gasoline had been enough and I was very thankful.

Its funny because reading this just doesn't do it justice. Maybe it was my youth or inexperience in life. Maybe it was the fear of the unknown or the stress that is always associated with selling your first house and moving. Maybe it was the stress of wondering if we were really doing the right thing. But the way I felt then when I was so helpless to prevent what was happening was one of the scariest things I can imagine.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Annika is 9 months

Annika is now nine months old. She is learning a lot everyday. She says ma ma, da da, A.... for the girls, dog-dog-dog, and ba ba. She loves music.... she dances to it whenever she hears it. She loves to play the piano and "jam". She is just learning to crawl the right way. She does not like the kids to pick her up and move her and really complains when they take her away from something she likes. She loves to play with the little people and can entertain herself forever with a string or a cord. She loves Baby Einsteins and watches it in her swing. She loves going on hikes in the backpack carrier but does not like it when the backpack carrier is put on the ground. She gives kisses to me and crawls over. She is standing up on everything and very proud of it.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Relief Society ideas....

I went shopping yesterday and got lots of stuff and it cost nothing! Our Relief Society had a meeting and called it a swap meet. Everyone brought the stuff they no longer used and then we drew names to decide who would get to pick first. We all got our one favorite item and then it was a free for all. I picked up some extra dishes that I needed, a camp chair, shoes for Annika when she is a little older, some boy toys that will make perfect Christmas presents for my girls (I don't want to say more in case my reading child sees this,) a nice work shirt for Cameron and some silicone cookware. I loved it. It was the one time this year where I went shopping and did not feel guilty for what I "bought". I think this activity should be duplicated in every ward.

On another note a dear friend dropped the cutest winter jacket off for Ashling. Her daughter has outgrown it and so she decided that she would give it to Ashling. It is a better jacket than I could have ever imagined buying and we are so lucky to have it. The jacket is a great blessing as I know that Ashling will now be warm enough whether she is skiing or playing in the snow! Thanks for the great gift.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Calling

I don't know if I have mentioned that I am the primary chorister in our branch. (For those of you who do not belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints this means that I teach the young children from 3-12 how to sing songs during church time.) I would check my posts but that would take too long and I'm not sure if I care that it has been mentioned before. It isn't a calling I ever imagined having. It is a calling I was sure I would turn down if I was asked to do it. It is a calling that has caused me to cry in front of my entire branch no less that 3 times. It is also a calling that I was starting to love. I enjoy playing games with the kids and try not to mind that one of the older girls was better at keeping the beat than me. I enjoyed the hugs whenever I walked on campus at the elementary school and the things the kids share when they know you.

I am a teacher at heart. I love to get in a room full of children and teach them something. I like to say things like, "all eyes on me," "please pay attention," and "you guys are so smart." It is enticing to me to find creative and new ways to teach things. I enjoy watching children learn. I like to feel the accomplishment that comes with a classroom of kids who can all pass the test.

I like being a teacher but I am not a singer. The last time I successfully sang in front of anyone I was four years old. Then my voice was sweet and cute. I was probably the only small child who would sing in front of people. I would never do that today. I can't carry a tune and can't keep the beat. I can only clap to the tune if there is someone else to follow. I can read music but I can't figure out what notes I would need to sing when I reading music.

None the less I was issued a "call" to teach the primary music about 14 months ago. I laughed. And then I laughed some more. And I thought that they must be joking. And they weren't. Because I had laughed so much and was a little embarrassed I figured I should say, "yes." I knew they would release me soon enough. But it hasn't happened yet. I have not been released.

Last Sunday was an especially trying day. I would be fine if it were just me and a room full of children but the other teachers and leaders intimidate me. Without meaning to (I sure hope it was without meaning to as this is a volunteer position that I don't get paid for,) another woman made me feel completely inadequate and useless as a primary chorister.

I decided that I had it. I was done. I walked upstairs nearly in tears and went straight the branch presidents office. I asked him to release me. I cried and told him why I was inadequate and questioned why I would be given this calling. I begged and pleaded. He didn't release me. The wise man (he has become since he accepted a calling I am sure he never wanted,) told me that he felt for me, he understood my reasoning but he felt differently. He told me that when I was called he had felt strongly that the calling was from God and that my time was not done yet. And then he told me he would think and pray about it. In his presence I was okay with that because at least I could know that in one way I am doing exactly what God wants me to do- even if I am not very good at that job. I guess that is what I wanted to say. I am willing to do whatever it is that God wants me to do even if I know there are a hundred other people who can do a better job at it.

(As a side note The Branch President did find a solution without releasing me and I know that everything will work out better with what he has decided.)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Last night for family home evening we made applesauce. The girls were excited and helped by washing the apples. They fought over it. They fought over who got to turn the crank on the applesauce maker and who got to mash the apples down into the crank. They wanted to help with each and every step and it was exciting to them. I thought I needed to do the apples when it was family home evening because I needed Cameron's help and I discovered that the girls are so big now that they are wonderful help. I didn't participate much in the actual mashing or turning of the apples. I didn't even have to wash very many apples. I added the sugar and tasted. I filled the jars and pulled them out of the canner when they were done and I cleaned up. But my girls are so big that they helped a lot. And my husband helped a lot too!

When the applesauce was cooking I taught the lesson. I taught my girls that we must use our money wisely. That these apples were free and that the jars were saved and reused again and again. That we didn't even buy the red hots that might make the applesauce taste better and I was very stingy with the sugar. I taught my daughters that Heavenly Father intends us to learn to provide for ourselves and that we did by picking the apples for free and making them for free at home. I taught my daughters that when they grow up they should make applesauce for free in their homes. Because they can and there might come a time when they have to.

When it was all done we made 13 quarts and 9 pints of applesauce. There are as many more apples in the garage and they are just waiting for more jars and lids. I used every jar but 4 that I had and all the lids.

The Depression

In all honesty I am not sure I should post this post. But this is the only journal I have and I want to write this down for posterity. You are welcome not to read because it might be a little depressing and a little too much information. I am not complaining because I expect anyone to do anything or help me but just because I want to remember it so I can be better prepared next time.

I used to make a little fun of my grandparents for saving everything. I knew why they were that way... they were from the depression era. But really... do we need to re-wash our plastic disposable plates or save the aluminum foil for another use? I thought the pieces of plastic that covered my grandmother's windows in the winter were unnecessary and got in the way of the view. I didn't understand why you would keep the same old pieces of furniture or why you would wear clothes that were 20 years old. I didn't understand what would compel someone to mend old nylons or why you must be certain to turn off every light before you leave the room.

And secretly I wondered what that must have been like? When no one had work and they lost their money in the banks. I wondered what it would be like to realize that you had lost your job and then not be able to find another one. I wondered what it would be like to all live together in the big house because no one had enough money for their own house. Secretly when I was a teenager enthralled with history, I thought it would be interesting to experience. I thought that it would be exciting to conserve and do without and yet make it all work out.

I remember studying the 20's in school-barely. They were not interesting because everyone had money. I skipped over the 20's in my mind only enthralled with the down time.The Great Gatsby didn't interest me and I didn't understand the significance. I didn't understand that America had lived with more and then had to live with less. I didn't understand how hard it was to not be able to afford the luxeries that they had easily had before. I wish I would have understood. I wished I would have understood that the time of prosperity was a preperation for the time of famine.

I don't think I took the story in the Bible to heart enough. I didn't understand that there were 7 years of plenty in Egypt where everyone was rich and then there were 7 years of famine. I didn't understand how long 7 years is and how hard it really would be to save for those years of famine and have enough. I didn't understand what a blessing Joseph really was to Egypt and how he saved them from certain destruction because 7 years is a very long time.

This recession is really hard. It is different than I imagined. I didn't realize that in the depression they had to have less and less. I didn't realize how it would feel to realize that you can't afford the things you thought were necessary before. I didn't realize that they probably still had car, refrigerator and other payments to make with much less money to make them with. I didn't realize how it would feel to worry about whether you would have a job tomorrow or whether there would be work to do when you arrived at work. I didn't realize that even if you were a hard worker and the best at your job it might not be enough. I didn't realize how that worry would feel. I didn't realize that you might not be starving but still not want or know how to cook the food you could afford to buy. I didn't understand how it would feel to not have a coat for your daughter and to wonder how you were going to buy one. I didn't realize how it would feel to know that you need to cut more from your budget when you have already cut things you couldn't live without a year ago.

I didn't realize how it would feel to realize that your friends have it worse. I didn't realize how it would feel to realize a neighbor might lose their house and that a friend lost their job. I didn't realize how it would feel to have a friend not have any insurance when her daughter breaks her leg. I didn't realize how it would feel to realize that you can't help those who need help. I didn't realize how helpless I could feel.

I yelled and screamed and cried at my husband who got stain on his old pants because he needed to be able to wear them more. And he scrubbed it all out with mineral spirits and I rejoiced. I contemplated applying for WIC only to find out we still don't qualify for it even with our cut income. I got in trouble because I decided to buy school pictures for Ali and we shouldn't have. Cameron comes home from work in a bad mood because he sat at his desk for 8 hours with nothing to do and he worries that he might be told not to come to work for the rest of the week.

Last night we hung a blanket by our stairs to keep the warmth downstairs and not let it escape to the upstairs. It does not look nice but I did it for warmth not aesthetics. Our Elder's Quorum is going to chop wood tonight and they are going to cut enough wood to give to every family because we all need it. No one is exempt from the need for wood to keep us warm this winter. I am keeping a fire going all day to keep us warm because I am afraid to turn on our heater. Our garden froze last week even after we covered it and it scared me because I wondered how I was going to buy those extra things at the grocery store now. I have fed my family meals this month that were entirely from food storage. I will pull the last can of vegetables from my cupboard for dinner tonight. Our freezer is almost empty of meat and for the first time in my life I wondered if I should buy a deer tag. Cameron made the comment that the squirrels and birds are better prepared than we are. I wonder if I should use more of my food storage or if I should buy more food because it might get worse.

We still have a paycheck. And I still have money to spend. We still get money every two weeks and I think it will be enough for us to get by on. I pay tithing. I pay our bills and our rent. I buy diapers and wipes. We fill up our cars with gas so Cameron can go to work and the girls can go to school. And then I go to the grocery store and try to wisely spend the money. And I get a sick feeling in my stomach as I look at the prices of apples, bananas, and other fruit. I usually don't buy much. I quickly decide against fresh lettuce and broccoli because I am afraid that it might go bad. Often I skip right over it. The cans of vegetables are so expensive that I rationalize that there might be enough at home and I don't buy them. Most of the meat is too expensive and I don't buy enough to last the whole time. I skip over this and that deciding that we don't really need it. I buy what my children can't do without (milk, bread, eggs, cheese and a few other things,) and think that perhaps there is still enough of other things to last. And then I end up at the check stand and realize that I still spent more than we should have. More than the budget allows. At home I load the food in the cupboards and it looks like less than we had last month even when it is fully stocked. When I cook dinner I realize the kids are bigger now and they need more food and I didn't make it for them. Not that we are starving or anything but that the food budget is growing bigger and bigger.

I still want to go out to eat. I still want to have times where we are reckless with our money. I want to go on a long drive and see something new. I want to go out on a date with my husband and see a movie. I want to buy a new sweater and a new coloring book. I want to buy new socks, a new computer, and a bigger car. I want to take the kids to the pumpkin patch and the fall festival and movie night at the school. I want to say yes when my girls ask for something fun at the store. I want my girls to have dance lessons, piano lessons and play sports. I want, I want, I want.

And sometimes I actually get. I do buy things and forget for a moment that we do not have the money. Sometimes I buy my kids a new shirt or the pants that they need. Sometimes I buy a dress so they have something to wear to church or I buy myself a new sweater. Sometimes I buy new tongs for my kitchen because we haven't had any in two years. And sometimes we go out to lunch or dinner even when we can't afford it. And then I feel guilty because I should be paying some other bill or saving. I feel guilty when I realize that we have come to the end of the bank account and it is nearly a week before we get paid again. And we have to borrow just to make it knowing that it will make the next paycheck even smaller. Sometimes we plan to go on trips we should go on because I forget that although we could afford these things two years ago we can't really afford them now and it is hard. It is really really hard to forget what we used to afford. It is really hard to stop having dreams of the way it used to be.

I am tired of the recession. It is not exciting. It is not fun to figure new ways to do things. It is not fun to be stressed out about every thing you purchase. I am tired and it hasn't been 7 years. It hasn't even been a year since Cameron started furloughs and it has only been a year since he has been unable to work any overtime. Only one year and I am tired and a little scared. I need to figure what else to do to make our budget stretch even further. I don't want to. I am scared it might be a lot longer before it gets better and it scares me to not know.

I understand and I see why my grandparents saved everything. They knew that it would not just happen once but that after their time of prosperity it would happen again. They understood what I could just not imagine. I know that we were counseled to save and prepare a food storage and I felt that I didn't have enough to save then. But we had far more then than we do now and I could have saved some if I had really understood what might come.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Painting the house

We have been painting the house all week. It was in very bad condition and so we have been fixing it up. It has been a lot of work. We have been working on this one side of the house for two weekends and now it is finally done! We also replaced a lot of the trim. We still have the back of the house and the entire larger other side of the house to do. The front still needs the trim painted too! But at least we are getting closer to finished!




We got up early on Saturday and went to take Ali's soccer picture. They we went out to pick apples. There are several apple trees around the mountains that do not belong to anyone and we helped ourselves to the fruit. It was fun as the girls got to help a lot because we were the first ones to pick the trees and there were plenty of apples down low. My favorite part of the day was that after Annika was hurt she was crying and she very clearly said, "Mama". It was the first time she has said that and it made my heart melt.

Ali climbed her first tree and enjoyed being high up in a tree. I claimed that I needed a boy to climb the tree and then she rose to my challenge. We were able to get 4 full bags of apples. Not as much as last year but quite a lot!

Monday, October 5, 2009


What we have been up to. I have been busy and my camera had taken a holiday and so I didn't feel much like blogging. But here is an update.

Cameron: Cameron has been busy fixing things. He has fixed the fridge, the snowblower, the washer, the dryer, replaced some plumbing, fixed the kids dresser and I am sure I am missing something. I am proud of him stepping up to fix so many things so that we don't have to pay anyone else to fix them! He is a great husband.

He has also been painting our house. We are painting the entire thing. So far we have used up 2 five gallon buckets of stain and we are still only about 50% done! Hopefully it will be warm enough to paint more this weekend.

Melissa: I sanded a chair down and painted it red for a computer chair. I have been helping paint our house. I have been doing tons of laundry, chasing Annika around the house, waking up in the middle of the night to a screaming baby, visiting the doctors, and finding new recipes to try. I have also been a taxi going to pick up the kids and drop them off at their activities.

Ali: Ali has been busy going to school. She is doing very well and consistently gets great grades on her tests. She participated in her school jog-a-thon and ran 17 laps. She loves soccer and has scored 3 goals in the games. She had a bunch of girls over for a pj party at night. They loved it and it was fun to meet and play with her friends. They are all very polite kids and it reminds me to teach my own kids their manners with much more zeal.

Ashling: Ashling has been enjoying preschool. She is learning to play the piano. She is also learning to read and to count well. Her preschool evaluation said that she is already ready for kindergarten. She loves to go out to lunch and she loves to play people with her baby sister.

Annika: Annika has been busy. She learned to click her tongue which is her favorite sound to make. She learned to pull herself up to a standing position. She loves music and loves it when Ali helps her play the piano. She dances anytime music is on and loves to hear Cameron play the piano. She is tired of baby food but has a hard time chewing any real food. Her favorite toy is a little people zoo and her favorite part of that is the monkey that goes up and down when you push on it.