Sunday, July 31, 2011


I'm sitting here at the airport.  My flight starts boarding in an hour.  #1's boards at 8pm.  She is at her gate; I'm at mine.  Why?  I'm not exactly sure why.  I guess, not being much of a flyer, I'm a bit paranoid about missing my flight.  It was quite the hike between our two gates.  I'm thinking we're probably both enjoying our alone time, and we'll have PLENTY of together time this coming week.

These were the kids in the car as we drove to the airport.  Sheer CRAZINESS!
The kids were very strange these past couple hours as we wrapped up the packing and drove to the airport.  #7 cried when we left.  She broke out in hives early this afternoon, so we put her in a warm bath with baking soda in it and gave her a bit of Benedryl.  She was doing much better when we left.  I have no doubt that the Warden'll take good care of her.  Sorry the photos are sideways.  I rotated them, but for some reason, when I uploaded them here, this is how they came up.

#3 is being very emotional.  Being left as the "only" girl with all those boys.  "Mom!  Take me with you," were her words.  

So, I switch planes in SLC.  #1 has a straight shot to L.A.

I just realized that I neglected to get a good English to Japanese dictionary for #1, so we'll definitely have to do that in Tokyo tomorrow.

So, here's how it all lays out for now....
Sit and wait for the plane to board.
   Play sudoku
Head to Salt Lake City.
Switch planes.
Head to Los Angeles.
Meet up with the Warden's cousins--these guys need some serious nicknames.  I can't keep calling them "the cousins."  Hmm.  Well, one of them has a family blog.  On their blog, he's known as "The Student."  I'm thinking we need to come up with something better than that.  Oh, and we shall, believe me.  He's the instigator of this trip, and since the Warden is "The Warden," maybe "The Student" should become "The Instigator."  There's got to be something better.

Okay, back to the list.....
In L.A., the Instigator and his sidekick brother will meet up with me, and we'll go get #1.
In the wee hours of the morning, we catch our plane for Tokyo.  From what I've heard about the Los Angeles airport, you have to hike from the domestic section to the international, so we'll be dragging our tired bottoms to the right gate.

Our flight to Japan will take 11 hours and 35 minutes.  No joke!  I told #1 I was glad she was sitting next to me so her shoulder could catch my drool as I sleep cuz that is my plan.  I plan on doing some serious snoring.

When I arrived in Tokyo last time--back in 1989, I had jet lag SOOO bad!  We took a shuttle from the international airport to the domestic airport.  The other missionaries were sitting in the seat in front and turning around and talking to me and my companion, but I honestly kept dozing off mid-sentence.  It was TERRIBLE.

So, here I have to share one of the reasons for the jet lag....

I traveled with three other female missionaries (sisters).  They sat on one side all together.  I sat in the middle section of the plane next to two Japanese women.  Yikes!  My two-month-old language skills were put to the test.

These women happened to be from Sendai.  What?!  Here I, before I got my mission call, had never heard of Sendai and here were two women from Sendai?  Crazy!  We chatted most of the flight.  I watched them slurp their noodles as we ate our in-flight meal.  Basically, I learned quite a bit about the people I was going to be spending a lot of time with for the next sixteen months of my life.  So, in an attempt not to be rude to them, I didn't sleep much.

Now for where the story gets really weird.  I know you must think I'm lying because of all the weird coincidental stories that happen in my life, but I'm telling you the honest to goodness truth.  When my second companion came to join me in Aomori, she had transferred from Sendai, one of the first things she said to me was, "??? says hi." (Sorry, I don't remember the woman's name).  Huh?  "Who?" I replied.  My companion, Sister Tazura, said, "Oh, she said she sat next to you on the plane ride to Japan.  We were teaching her.  She wanted to make sure I told you hello."

This time, I'm sitting next to one of my favorite people for more than 11 hours.  She's a captive audience; so am I, for that matter.  I plan on teaching her some Japanese and sleeping a whole lot.

There you have it.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Sometimes (too)

I loved that this blogger linked up to the Women of Noble Character blog this week.  Her post snagged at my heart.  I don't think it will let go for awhile.  Part of the reason why is that as I get ready to leave, one thing I wish I had done more of was follow what she wrote.

In response to her wonderful and very timely words, I'm sharing a moment when I did was she encouraged....To quote her,

"Sometimes you just have to kick back and smile at your children…
That sometime just recently happened to me…
I hope this brings a smile to your face…"

Friday, July 29, 2011

Holding On

There are a number of things that have become much clearer to me through the experiences of the past two weeks.  One thing I am learning goes along the lines of this quote:

“Faith in Christ is tied to, and results in, hope in Christ for our redemption and exaltation. And assurance and hope make it possible for us to [act and] walk to the edge of the light and take a few steps into the darkness—expecting and trusting the light to move and illuminate the way. The combination of assurance and hope initiates action in the present.”  --David A. Bednar

I have to admit, when I first heard this idea of walking into the darkness, I had no idea what it really meant.  My life, I know, has had these kinds of experiences, but not so in-your-face as this has been.  I know there have also been many, many of these opportunities to build my faith that I have avoided and even run from.  This one, I couldn't run from.  The first step led to the next.  It all felt very natural, but it was very apparent that this was no regular walk I was taking.

I guess what I really know now is that our Heavenly Father is in the driver's seat.  I learned this when I was pregnant with #7, but it is now even clearer.  Line upon line, right?

The other thing I have learned is, once you've commenced in the path, NEVER look back.

I had a look back experience last week.  Immediately Lot's wife popped into my head.  I looked at all the bad things that could happen.  I surrendered to the despair of doing this thing that at one point had seemed so impossible.  I sank into the impossibility of it all.  I knew what it felt like to spiritually turn to salt.  My insides felt like they had crumbled.

Thankfully, within a few minutes, I was brought back to the reality that there were far too many impossibles that had become possible to sink now.  This was happening, and it was all from taking those steps into the darkness.  But, I can also tell you that I'm afraid of the dark--at least this kind of dark.  So, I know I haven't walked this alone.  My  hand has been held the entire way.  I do not doubt that He is there.  The only thing I fear is my own ability to hold on.  I cannot afford to let go, but I fear that I will.

So, as we depart, please pray for us.  Pray that we will continue to hold on; that we will continue to follow where He leads.  I know He's led us this far for some important reasons--reasons that only He knows.  We NEED to find those, and I know the only way we will is if we keep following.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Little Preview

We played dress-up tonight as we were packing....

Get the look...
Seriously.  Can you believe this is happening?  Still quite in the surreal stage.

T Minus Four

It's been a busy day.  We finally found the boots we were looking for.  We stopped at about five different stores and called three others before we found them.  They weren't as expensive as I was thinking they would end up being.  I've had a few friends try to help me out with the boot situation.  I have a LOT of pairs of boots to return to people.  Most of them are in men's sizes, and I have a small foot for a woman, so it was kind of a tough order to fill.  I still got them in a men's size, but it's a six, so not too far off.  The men's eights and nines just didn't cut it for me--a bit too far off especially if I'm going to be living in them for a week.

I got a phone message this evening from someone who wants to talk to me about "Japan issues."  I'm thinking whoever it is is going to try to talk me out of going.  We'll see.  I figure if the missionaries can be there, we're okay.  We will be well taken care of.

Got the grocery shopping finished.  Now to finish the laundry.

Lots to do tonight.

We celebrated #5's birthday this evening.  His birthday is actually December 28th, but because it's so close to Christmas, we've given him the option to celebrate it during the summer.  This is the second year he's chosen this.  We can't do it on his half birthday because that's #7's birthday, so we hold off for a month.  Personally, I love it!

We went bowling and had pizza and cake and ice cream.  He got to invite a friend.  Every four years the kids get a big party.  This is an off year for him, so he just gets to invite one.

Things are fairly well packed.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Foreign to Us

To Americans, this is foreign territory.  We look out for ourselves so much--too much.  To the Japanese, there is a great sense of unity and being part of a bigger whole.  You take care of your neighbors as well as yourself.  You don't jump ship.  This is why, when they have a disaster like this, no one loots businesses or steals from another or takes advantage of another person in any way.

When one does "jump ship," he is dishonored, even if leaving is the only option for your safety and the safety of your family.  It is a harsh judgment these people place on each other, but it is part of who they are and how they live.

In most circumstances, it is a wonderful way to live--so tied to the good and benefit of those around you, but this is a hard situation compounded by this way of thinking.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Cookbooks Back Up

We've gotten a lot of feedback--phone calls, emails, messages--about the cookbooks.  We decided to go ahead and order the additional 100 books, so although we've pretty much met our goal for the trip, I'm putting the cookbook PayPal link back up for anyone who wants to order one.

Thank you for all of your support!

T Minus Five

Grocery shopping is the name of the game today.  I'm up to my elbows in coupons.

My goal is to make my being away so easy that I'll hardly be missed.

I have my clothes laid out on the bed for the trip, but I still need to get a suitcase.  I borrowed one for #1 yesterday, so she's upstairs packing.  My hope is that we can fit both of our clothes in that one suitcase and use the others for our equipment.  Her two suitcases will need to weigh no more than 40 pounds each.  Mine can be up to 50.

I'm contemplating taking the air mattress and a sheet to go on it.  We'd then each have to take a blanket instead of sleeping bags.  The air mattress is ten pounds.  You flip the switch and it blows itself up; it deflates itself too.  Otherwise, we'll be sleeping flat on the tatami floor in sleeping bags for the week.  The air mattress weighs 10 pounds.  The two sleeping bags together are ten pounds.  We then have to account for the weight of blankets, but we might even be able to purchase blankets there and forego that whole weight issue.  Something makes me think that's the best possible solution.  Sleeping on the floor in a sleeping bag after shoveling and working all day just doesn't sound like it's going to lend itself to good rest and a well-rested body.  I'd love some opinions on this.

Monday, July 25, 2011

T Minus Six and Counting

I'm figuring I have six days to prepare.

I haven't said much about what's going on with my family while #1 and I'll be gone to Japan, so I thought I'd start with that.  Some have asked to help with the kids, which is super nice, but the Warden is taking the week off.  He rarely takes time off, so this will be a good thing--I hope.  I don't know what his plans are with the kids, but I'm THRILLED that the kids'll get some time with their dad.

I'm already planning that the house will not be clean when I get home, but it's rarely clean when I am home.  Such is the life with seven kids.  There's always someone messing up some part of the house or other, so it's all good.

Today it all begins....the preparations.

Here are the plans for today.  As soon as I'm done blogging here (I've given myself seven minutes to do so), the deep cleaning of the house begins.  Each child chose three jobs from a list I created.  #1 is off at a choir thing, so she wasn't here to represent herself.  Poor kid. 

Today is laundry day for me.  I also get to work on the garage and cleaning the laundry room (not hard since I just streamlined it the other day).  I just need to get through a few bins in there--sewing stuff and gift wrap, and the streamlining is all done.

After I pick up #1 from her choir thing, we're heading off to find our supplies.  I have a friend who has said he may have a sleeping bag or two for us and another who might have a suitcase or two.  We're, then heading to the military supply store and maybe a thrift store or two to find what we need.  My plan, is to take two changes of clothes with me.  The apartment has a washer and dryer, so I figure I'll wash one pair and wear the other.  I will also need to take some clothes for church.  Coveralls will be vital to my existence.

I need to figure out the grocery shopping for two weeks.  My plan is to make freezer meals on Wednesday.  Has anyone ever done this?  I've doubled stuff (I guess in our case, quadrupled stuff) and frozen the extra, but I'm talking about taking an entire day and just going to town making food for the freezer?  I could really use some tips on this one.  Any pointers, links to websites, etc. would be more than appreciated.  Thanks!

I need to print Q's airline tickets today and go back over the kids' summer goals and schedules with them.  We're also going to have lunch with the Warden today, so that'll be a nice break.

We have friends coming for dinner and FHE tonight, so that means dinner's going into the crockpot here in a matter of minutes.

There, that's the day.  I'm off to clean the house.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Coins in My Shoes

I can't watch this without it grabbing my heart. This morning, the Warden played it for me, and it had a whole new meaning.

I don't have a sick wife or children without bread, but I do have a country I'm being directed to. One that, without you, I wouldn't be going to. I know that where much is given, much is required. I only hope we're up to the task that lies ahead. We will do our best to act as we're directed.

Thank you for the coins in my shoes. I am overcome with gratitude. May the greatest blessings God has be yours, my friends.

Our goal has been met.  It is truly a miracle!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Lost My Cool

Darn me!  Some things just tick me off.  You can mess with me all you want, but when you start messing with my kids, you WILL feel my wrath.

Well, you know my dear, beloved soccer coach? he hit my limit.

And, no, I didn't do anything about my prior complaints, so maybe I'm to blame for being so passively aggressive.  I come here to gripe and then do nothing?  Sorry.  I really am trying to be forgiving and turn the other cheek.  Maybe I'm just being a wimp.  Maybe it's just that sports don't matter that much to me.  Maybe I just find this so not worth my time.  I don't know.

Today, we had to be at the field at 7am.  The game started at 8am.  We were late.  We were there 40 minutes before the game.  The next game, because this was a tournament, was going to be at 11:10.  The coach kept the players over in the shade, and I went off to the car to get something done while I waited.

Pretty soon, there was #5 at the car saying, "Mom, do you have any water or anything?"  I didn't, so I said, "Let's go get some."  He got in the car.  As I drove, I asked him if he'd asked his coach if he could go.  He said, "No, he doesn't like me.  He probably wouldn't have let me, so I asked the assistant coach if I could go find my mom.  She said okay."

We went to the store.  Got him something to eat and drink, and then we went back at least 30 minutes before the next game.

At half time, I realized that he hadn't played at all.  In the first game, he had played for about five minutes in the 1st half and then played goalie in the second half.  Nothing got past him, but they lost because of the goals scored by the other team the first half.

With about ten minutes left in the game, I saw #5 still sitting on the other side.  Just sitting.  Before that, he'd been kicking a ball.  I noticed that he was kicking it really close to his coach so that the coach would see him and remember that he was there, but the coach never put him in.  I was starting to get mad.  It's just a game, right?

I finally motioned for #5 to get up and come see me.  He did.  The coach didn't even care.  #5 said, "What are we doing?"  I said, "Leaving."  He said, "I have to go get my bag."  I said, "Okay, go get it and let your coach know we're leaving."  "Okay."

He did, and we were off, but before we left, I pulled up to the coaches car and left him a "love" note under his windshield wiper.

The Warden's gonna be so unhappy with me when he gets home.  He's at the youth conference right now.  He's such a gentle giant, and I'm such a momma bear.  Poor guy (the Warden)!  He likes this coach.  I think he's an excellent coach as far as skills go, but he's a bit too power hungry for my liking.  Anything ticks him off, and he takes it out on the kids...nothing said.

Friday, July 22, 2011

My Twenty-Second Birthday

I got out my mission journal this evening.  Wow!  I haven't even looked at this stuff since back then.  Actually, I can only remember one time when I opened it to read it.  That was within the year of coming home.

I got to glancing through it tonight, and I found this (I don't think I believed in paragraphs back then):

"We had a really interesting experience yesterday.  The cherry blossoms are out in full force, and it's beautiful!  Takahashi Sakumi Shimai made us katsudon and potato soup for lunch and the five of us went to the park next to Gokoku Jinja to eat.  There were a lot of o-sake drinking parties; that's common and quite a tradition here.  While we were in the middle of eating, about 50-60 6th grade children came to the park and were all standing behind us, staring.  Tait Shimai said, 'Don't look behind you, but you right now, you have about 100 little eyes on you.'  Olson Shimai went down to take a picture amongst them and it was like someone pulled a switch.  They swarmed to us.  Every time you pointed a camera, there they were....It was very funny.  Their teacher was really mad.  The kids were totally out of control."

I found these cherry blossoms that I collected from that day--April 13, 1990

On a Fluke

I posted this photo on my cookbooks page on facebook.  I found this photo in my mission album last week.  I remember this family fondly.  I met with them for several weeks before I transferred from Yamagata to Sendai.

Today, just on a fluke, I thought I'd look up their last name and the city they lived in.  I found a gentleman who looked remarkably like the father of this family, so I sent him a message.

This evening he responded.  At first he didn't recognize me.  I mean, it's been 20 years. I sent him this photo and asked if this was his family.  It WAS him!

What a fun reunion we've had over the internet tonight.  As we wrote a few messages to each other, he told me that his wife was looking through my photo album, and he said his four children were doing fine.  Wow!  Isn't the internet amazing?!


#6 jabbed his arm with a pencil the other day.  Don't ask me what he was doing or even thinking.  I haven't a clue.  #3 stuck a band-aid on it.

The next day, it was showing signs of infection.  The Warden poked around to make sure there was no part of the pencil lead in his arm.  #3 was in the room while he was inspecting it.  To keep #6 from crying, #3 told him to blow as if he were blowing out a candle.  Of course, she didn't tell him it was to stop the crying.

Anyway, that afternoon, I took him to the doctor.  The doctor poked around too, but nothing was found.  They X-rayed it, and again, nothing was found.

They put him on some strong antibiotics, and it's much better.

We got to talking about this in the car with #3 the other day.  The Warden also mentioned, when one of the kids (maybe the same kid) smashed his fingers, #3 told him to "grab the water" as the finger was being held under the water.  This provided two benefits.  First, it slowed the bruising of the finger with the cold water, and second, it kept the fingers loose as the hands clenched and unclenched. 

Wow!  #3 has a lot of good tricks.  Love it!  I should go to her for tips more often.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


We got ourselves safely up and back from Seattle today.  The passports are done.  We couldn't stick around for it to be delivered, so they are over-nighting them.

I think I blogged about this before, but we had a plan for #1 to earn her money, which didn't pan out completely.  That was a bit disappointing, but we are still working on things.  A number of people donated money or have sent checks these past few days saying that the funds were just for her.  That was VERY sweet, and we are grateful.  We are also open to new ideas.  She is going to be doing some work for a neighbor to earn some money.  I think we're going to get there.

Here's why I think so.....

When we got home, I started looking into flights.  I went and had a hard time finding the same flights I was going to be on from Portland to LA, so I called the airline.  The price was $300 more than I had paid.  I told the woman thank you, but we didn't have the ability to buy it at this time.  I hung up and told the Warden that she wouldn't be going.  Great sadness!

I closed the airline website and went to check my email.  After being gone all day, there was quite a bit.  The very first email was from the travel agent at Destination Japan.  Here's what it said:

"Today Delta Airline announced the best deal ever to Japan.  The round trip from Los Angeles to Haneda which are the same flight with [the cousins].  Price is $763.00 including tax and airline fuel surcharge.  You still need to figure out the between Portland and Los Angeles though."

Wow!  Really?  REALLY?!  

I looked up at the clock and found that it was 5:30pm.  For sure she'd gone home.  I don't know where she's located, but what are the chances that she'd still be in the office?  I called thinking I could leave a message, and as I dialed and listened to it ring, I read, "If you're still looking for the deal, please let me know asap before seats are gone!"  Oh, for sure they're all gone was my first thought (oh me of little faith).
The phone rang, and who should answer?  She did!  Typically, I have to dial her extension and jump through the hoops to get to her.

So, I spoke with her and she reserved a seat for #1, but I have to respond by tomorrow at 3pm.  I also had to figure out the Portland to LA connections.  I called Southwest.  Guess what.

With Delta and Southwest, her flights end up being the VERY SAME price as mine.  Wow!  Seriously, what are the chances?  She will be on entirely different airline than I am from Portland to LA and back again, but her flights leave before mine and arrive after, so I can send her off and meet up with her again.

Do you now see why I don't believe in coincidences?

So, nothing is purchased yet.  She has a good amount to still come up with, but like I said, if it's supposed to work it will.  It's just that we need to exercise our faith, and do as we're directed.  Seems like Someone's still on our side.  So grateful!

I have one thought for you, and I'd love to know what you think about this.  If it's a lousy idea, please don't be afraid to say so.  I still need to proofread the recipes that are going into the cookbook.  I've done about one-third of them.  What if I were to open sales back up until Saturday, with the idea of any further money going to #1, but she, in order to earn the money received from those orders, has to proofread the rest of the book?  She will also continue to be involved until they are all delivered to their rightful owners.  Is there anyone still out there that would buy one or two?  Like I said, if this is lame, please don't be shy to say so.

Thank you for sticking with me/us through all of this.  I hope it's not too much drama.  

Still Want One? Let Me Know

I am at 193 cookbooks either sold or spoken for.  My plan is to order 200.  Do you still want one?  Let me know before Friday evening. 

Here's how you do that:
If you go to the bottom of the section entitled "Living It Up In the Madhouse" (on the left-hand at the top--sheesh, I'm giving you instructions like I give my kids), you can click on "View My Complete Profile."  There, you will find my email address.  Just send me a quick note, but please do it quickly.  Friday evening will be here before you know it.

If I get 50 or more people who say they're wanting to order, I will order that extra 100 books. 

In the case that I don't get the required 50 respondents, the first seven to respond and pay will get the last remaining books in the 200; all others will just have to borrow from their friends who have one. 

I'd sure love to order 300, so just let me know.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

New Nag and a Need

A number of days ago, a feeling caught in my heart.  The idea that this experience is invaluable to my children.  It shows them that anything is possible.  I particularly thought of #1, who has only one more year under our roof.  She needs to know that the world's the limit, but that it will require effort on her part, and sometimes quite a bit of effort to see things through.

When I made the appointment with the passport office on Monday, the automated voice came to a point in which it asked how many from my household would be coming with me.  I pushed one, but immediately felt a twinge of guilt (or something like that that I have no other word for) and felt that I should have pushed two.  I called back and spoke with a real live person and asked him if it was possible to add one more to the appointment, and then if there weren't two of us, would that be okay.  He told me that was fine.

Such a strange idea.  Two?  Okay.  Whatever.

I have since, after a lot of pondering and prayer, figured out who my second person will be, but here's the tweak behind it.

I spoke with the cousin who invited me to go the other night.  He mentioned that he hadn't spoken with the other woman, whom he had told me would be going with us, since the original conversation.  She, most likely, won't be coming.  Add to that, the letter I received and read yesterday from the Helping Hands office that stated no one will be allowed to work alone.  We must each have a companion.  YIKES!  So, not only do I need equipment, I need a buddy.

I'm pretty sure there might be someone else there who would jump in, but working in a highly emotional situation like that with a complete stranger?  Okay.  Do-able, but wouldn't it be better to work with an ally?  At least with the other woman who was originally going to travel with us, I would have had a chance to bond with her through our few days of travel before arriving in Furukawa.

So, here are the feelings that are nagging me.  I need to take #1.  The one thing that bothers me about this is the fact that the cookbook money and donations were never intended to take two of us to Japan--only me.  To me, that money is absolutely a sacred trust.  The other fact is that I don't want this to be a free ride for her.  I want her to learn from the experience of funding it herself.  I want her to feel the sacrifice that will make the experience sweeter for her.

As a young woman who's about to leave home, who has always lived a rather charmed life, this will be the opportunity of a lifetime.  This will be a chance to step out of her little bubble and see life in another part of the world but also to use her talents and skills to uplift and bless others--to use some of her natural compassion as she stands as sturdy as a rock.

#1 is an unusual personality.  Anyone who knows her, I believe, would say the same.  She's easy-going.  She's loving and sweet but nothing gets her down.  In short, her personality is very close to my mom's.  She is even and level.  She takes things as they come.  If any of my children could handle this, and not only handle it, but learn some very valuable life's lessons from it, it would be #1.

So we have a plan in place.  She's ready to jump in and get it done.  We'll see how this goes, but if it was meant to be, which looking back, I believe it was, it will happen.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Where the Rubber Hits the Road

Besides the feeling to call the airlines this morning, there was one other impression that entered my mind.  It was the fact that besides physical preparation, I'm going to need to do some very serious emotional preparing for this trip.

In speaking with the gentleman in Tokyo the other day, he asked where I had served.  I was in Aomori, Yamagata and Sendai.  Here is a map to help you visualize these locations:

I also shared that I spent quite a bit of time in my last number of weeks teaching in Natori.  It's not on this map, but it's on the coast near Sendai.  We would ride our bikes out or catch a train a few times a week.  We spent some of our time with these two young ladies:

When I mentioned Natori, he said, "Oh.  Natori was nearly completely destroyed by the tsunami."  How does one wrap her brain around something like that?

I know I haven't a clue what lies ahead, but I have a willing heart, mind and body, so we'll see how this goes.

The other eye-opener was a list of supplies I am directed to bring.  I thought you might find this interesting.  It is the following:

  • Food (grab and go)
  • Change of clothes
  • Work clothes (wading boots are invaluable)
  • Towel
  • Sleepwear
  • Thick rubber gloves
  • Masks
  • Tall rubber boots (safety boots are desirable)
  • Raingear
  • Helmet (if possible)
The Sendai area is very warm, no...HOT and humid (wait, let me get this right for you HUMID) this time of year.  I am expecting a smell I've never experienced before.  They say we must wear masks because some people have contracted pneumonia by not having them.  Masks, I have.  Check that one off the list.  We can also check off change of clothes, towel and sleepwear.  I can get food to take, and I don't know if I have the right idea of what they mean by work clothes, so if you have any experience with this, please share.  I'm just assuming junky jeans and a junky shirt.

So, I have a week to build up my supplies.  Any good ideas on where one could find such things at a minimal cost?  I really would love any input you might have.

And so we reach the next step in preparation....

Tender Mercies....What a Relief!

Time passed very strangely yesterday.  Did anyone else have that sensation?  In the morning, time passed very slowly.  In the afternoon, all of a sudden it was dinner time.

First thing yesterday, I called Seattle to make the appointment with the regional passport office.  Many people have asked why I have chosen to take this trip.  Let me explain.  I first learned about this opportunity to go to Japan a week ago now.  That gave me less than three weeks to prepare to go.  A passport, if expedited, will take three weeks if the stars all align correctly, but there is no controlling the stars, so I was concerned that I wouldn't have one when it was time to leave.

A friend directed me to the regional passport office.  The closest one here, to Portland, is in Seattle.  They will give you your passport right then and there, but there are a few qualifications--you must bring the required paperwork and documents, you can't make an appointment until two weeks prior to leaving and you must bring proof of travel within that two week time period.

I made an appointment for today at 12:30pm.  I knew I was going to have to purchase my ticket yesterday if I was going to be able to make that work.  I also needed to reschedule two orthodontist appointments.

I got right on it and started calling travel agents.  After searching a bit, I spoke with the Warden and he admitted that he was a bit fearful if I didn't catch the flight in LA with the cousins, that I would be wandering Tokyo by myself.  He didn't like that idea.  I think he needed fear more for them than for me (my language skills are a bit rusty, and who knows what kind of scathing mistake could leave my lips).

So, to appease him, I inquired only for the flight out of LA to Haneda Airport in Tokyo.  AAA gave me a price of $1779.  Destination Japan eventually offered me $1623, and that was after a discount was applied.  My traveling buddies had each purchased theirs at around $1150-1300.  Why was mine so much higher?  I went back and forth with the agents.  AAA was very hard to reach in the afternoon.

We sat down to dinner, and the Warden asked me if I had purchased the ticket.  I looked at the clock and suddenly realized the it was 5:22pm.  Really?!  Where had the time gone?  I had been so wrapped up in airline tickets for a good part of the day that between that, the kids and the house, I had also neglected to cancel the orthodontist appointments.  Ugh!  I had really failed.  Was this my sign, finally, that I shouldn't go?  Things had all come together so smoothly before this.  What was the hang up now, and why?

AAA closes at 5:30pm--I know this from their recording while I was on hold.  It was firmly burned into my mind.  Let's just say I'd heard it over and over and over enough that in about 30 years you could ask me for their "hours of operation," and I could tell you, but "hold" is nice because you can tend to a lot of things while you're waiting.  I got another load of laundry done and the entire house straightened up with the kids' help.  Since it was 5:22, I had a few minutes...if I hurried.  I got up after taking two bites and headed to the phone, and guess what....That's right.  I got the voice mail at AAA.  I knew then that I was out of luck.

I called the automated service for the passport agency and rescheduled the appointment.  It was super easy to do.  My new appointment is early Thursday afternoon.  This will give me a chance to take care of all the cookbook issues on Wednesday and get that all wrapped up and turned into the publishing company.

I promised myself, yesterday, that I would finish typing up the recipes before I went to bed that night.  It took me until 3:30 this morning, but it's done.  Now, I can focus on the "Friends of the Madhouse" recipes that are coming in. 

This morning, when I woke up, the first thought in my head was to contact the airline directly.  I finally did that this afternoon.  What do you know?  The flight I needed will cost me $1164.  So thankful for the little whisperings.  Thankful that sometimes I actually overcome my own stubborn pride enough to listen and do what is directed.  I hate to say it, but it's a fairly rare occasion.  I am super stubborn.

I have two lay-overs on my way to Japan.  The first is in Salt Lake City.  Yeehaw!  I love that place and have friends there.  Anybody want to catch up for a few minutes?  My layover's only 52 minutes, and it's after 9pm, but I can't think of a better place to hang out for 52 minutes.

In L.A., I will meet up with the cousins, and we'll be on our way a couple hours later.

I am so thankful that things didn't work out yesterday.  I would have spent $500 I didn't have to spend of money well-wishers and friends have entrusted to me.  I was really feeling terrible about the possibility of that yesterday.

I'm also grateful for the little nudge in the right direction to check the airlines.  Because of yesterday's experiences, I knew what I was looking for and was able to choose just the right flight.  Yay for tender mercies.

Grateful that Someone's watching out for me and guiding my steps.  What would I do without Him?  Seems like I must be doing the right thing.  I figure all I can do at this point is just keep going until He tells me to stop.

One of my kids directed me to this scripture last night.  Hmm.  Another little reassurance.  Glad for the atta girl He gives me as well.  He loves me.  What a relief!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Cookbooks - the Inside Scoop

Okay, so I have to share the inside scoop on this just a bit.  As you know, when the idea of going to Japan was first presented to me, I responded with "No way."  In my mind, no money + no passport = no way.

I then prayed about it and knew this was what I was supposed to do.  I won't go into too much detail because it's very personal.  Let's just say it was clear.  After the first answer, I prayed to know what to do.

The next morning, the cookbook idea came while I was sitting in the car waiting for the kids from cross country practice.

I got home and started typing my most used recipes up.  I decided to share the news with friends via facebook just to see if it was something feasible that people would want and would buy from me.  I was shocked at the huge response, but I didn't have a concrete plan at that point.

During the discussion on facebook, a good friend mentioned a cookbook that was created for her family reunion and how economical it was and how nice they turned out.  She gave me a web address, so I went there, and we were off.

So, at this point, I have sold 100 cookbooks.  If I can sell another 100, it will take the price down by more than another two dollars per book.  So, do you know of anyone else who would like a cookbook?  Please send them my way.  I'm selling them for $15, but I'm not asking extra to ship them out to those who need me to.  That will come from the $15 too.

I have to share also that the recipes are tried and true.  There's a little bit of everything.  There will be about 200 recipes in the book.  I must say, I am not a gourmet chef.  I don't cook with fancy stuff.  The ingredients these recipes are made of are things you'd have in your cupboards on any given day--unless you're like me and put off grocery shopping with its summer vacation and the kids are home, and you don't like tag alongs while you shop.

There is a section in the book that I'm very excited about.  Another friend came up with this one, which was brilliant!  Anyone who orders can send me his/her own recipes to include in the book.  They will be placed in their own section:  "Friends of the Madhouse."

Final orders will be taken Wednesday.  That's the day after tomorrow, so if you want one, don't put it off much longer.  I don't want to order 100 extra without having orders placed for them because my husband may never forgive me if I do.  Do I sound pathetic enough?

Thank you!!!

Update: Status of Japan Trip

I tried to call Japan numerous times last night.  It was Monday morning there.  It rang and rang and rang.  No one ever answered.  I was quite nervous that they would, actually--very nervous that they wouldn't understand my Japanese.  I can type a conversation, but when writing, I can look up words or vocabulary I don't remember.  Verbal communication is kind of like improv comedy--whatever comes out comes out.  YIKES!  The pressure's on.

So, do I have a place to stay?  Not yet.  The cousins do.  I do not.

I have an appointment with the passport office in Seattle tomorrow afternoon.  YAY!!!  Perfect timing too.  I can take the kids to EFY in the morning and head with the others up north.  It'll be a fun adventure.  We'll make a day of it.  It'll be about six hours driving.

I'm working with AAA to get my travel arrangements made.  They can even do Japan rail passes.  Wow!  Who knew?

So, I would feel a whole lot better if I knew where I was staying, but doesn't it sometimes feel like you're given challenges just to push your faith that much farther? I figure I'll keep pushing forward.  Things'll work out.  They always do.

Although I have enough to purchase my airline ticket at this point, I don't have enough for my passport.  I will also need to provide my own transportation while there and my own food too.  If I can contact Japan and they have a place for me in the apartment in Furukawa, I won't need to pay for my housing.  After publishing the cookbook and putting money aside for shipping, if there is extra money to be had, I will take along things for those who are in such great need right now.  Please know that your dollars won't go to waste.

Thank you SO MUCH for helping with the funding of this trip.  It touches me to the core.  I know I am very indebted to many.  These are hard financial times, so I take the purchases of the book and the donations as great sacrifices.  Thank you!  If you haven't purchased yet or would like to donate, please do; don't wait until the last minute (Wednesday).  Any donation would help.  Even if it's just a couple dollars.  If you have a blog or a facebook page, would you please share a link so others can get involved too?  Thank you!  Everything helps.

My hope is that when I arrive, I will find a place that has internet so I can blog what happens each day.   I want to make this real for you who've helped me.  I wish I could express the gratitude I feel.

Thank you!  Thank  you!  Thank you!...from the bottom of my heart.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Go Ahead. Everybody's Doin' It

See that button, all the way up there?
Go ahead, push it.  Help me out.  I'm getting closer.  Thanks to all who've helped so far.

Basic Japanese Writing

A friend commented on the last post about what was said on the shirt.  My response became kind of lengthy, and I don't know if you find languages fascinating like I do, but just in case, here's my response to the question:

The top of the shirt says, literally:  "Morumon herupingu hanzu" (Mormon Helping Hands).  The bottom is "Matsu Jitsu Seito Iesu Kirisuto Kyoukai"--The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Japanese has three writing styles.  The top writing is written in katakana.  It's used for words adopted from other languages.  That's why it's so easily understood once you know what the characters say--they're all syllabic.  It's kind of like a secret code.
The katakana "alphabet"

Hiragana is the same way as far as being syllabic goes, but it's not quite as pointy as katakana.  It's used for Japanese words and is much more easily read than the Chinese kanji characters.  There aren't any hiragana characters found on this shirt.

The hiragana "alphabet"
The church's name is written part in katakana--Iesu Kirisuto (Jesus Christ)--those large characters in the middle; and kanji for the rest (the Chinese characters on the top and bottom).  Kanji represents different meanings; each kanji has its own meaning, but it's pronounced as a syllable or a couple syllables.  Putting different kanji together creates different words  and meanings.

A few words in Japanese kanji

I don't know much, so there's probably someone out there who knows a lot more than I do about this kind of stuff, but there you go, a basic lesson on Japanese.


When I first heard of going to help with "Mormon Helping Hands" in Sendai, it was here when the Warden's cousin sent it to me via facebook.  If you go to their site, you can see that the organization is having people come for a day to work.  These are people that are already in Japan or find themselves there for a day or so.  This is not our case.  We are not going with a day tour.  It's not cost effective nor am I going to just "find" myself in Japan for a day.  Wouldn't that be wonderful, though, to be able to transport yourself someplace on a whim?

We have opted to go for a week.  With this, comes the fact that we will be "on our own" for the most part.  Unlike the day-long trips, we have the responsibility to cover our own food and transportation.  We are, however, being provided an apartment.

The Church is not begging for helpers to come and "sell the farm" to get there, so please don't panic and do that.  This is something we, the Warden's cousins and I, are opting to do.  I just read the following on the Japan Sendai Mission website (this is directed to the web master):

"This summer, from the week of July 18th through the last week of August (for 2-day trips) and the end of September (for 1-day trips), the Church will sponsor Helping Hands Volunteer Tours for individuals, families, or small groups who wish to serve in Tohoku. The Church has contracted with a travel agency to run three bus tours weekly from Tokyo to affected areas in Tohoku. The bus fares, lodging, and some meals will be paid by the Church. Registration started on July 4. Volunteers from Japan and overseas can participate in these tours. Furthermore, if accompanied by a Church member, investigators or non-member friends may also participate.

"We would like to let all returned missionaries know about this opportunity. Would you be kind to post this information on your website and possibly distribute this information to all registered returned missionaries? Our desire is to invite as many people as possible to serve as volunteer in Tohoku area. If returned missionaries have Facebook or other social media tools, I would like them to share this information with their friends who are thinking about coming to Japan this summer."

From what I understand, this is NOT a cry for help.  It is, however, an invitation to come if you'd like.

At this point, I have a message to the Mormon Helping Hands office awaiting a response about whether they even have room for me.  I wanted to make sure I had some funds behind me (thank you so much!) before I made concrete plans.

Needless to say, I pulled out my old Japanese textbooks this morning.  If I'm going to be on my own, I'd better be able to do a little conversing.

One thing I learned this morning, from my study, was the fact that in Japanese, the verb is THE most important part of speech.  It effects every other part of the sentence.  Yes, it fits.  The Japanese are a people of action.  I can only hope that some of my actions will be of help to them.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


As I'm going through recipes to include in the cookbook, I have put a number of my mom's recipes in with the thought that if my mom were still alive, she'd support this effort any way she could.  She was amazing like that.

Another person who would support this effort was Carlene Okimoto, my first companion (for more on her, click her name).  She was Hawaiian.  The home she lived in growing up was directly across the street from the Laie Temple.

What would it be like to wake up every morning and see this outside your window?

One thing Okimoto Shimai was known for was her "island love," as they called it.  I quickly learned what they meant.

She, nearly every morning when we had a discussion that day, would get up bright and early (and for a missionary, that means SUPER early), and make a large cake for those we were teaching.  I remember she would put different things on top--sometimes a cinnamon and sugar mixture, like coffee cake, but much of the time pineapple; to be expected from a Hawaiian, don't you think?

She would cut the cake into fourths, wrap it in plastic wrap and carefully place it in her pack, so she could gift it to them upon our meeting.

I found her cake recipe today.  It's going into the book.  I love the memories this endeavor is bringing back.  Life is good!  So grateful for a life full of good people!

Miracles in Japan

I haven't read all of these yet, so I guess I'm putting them here as a reminder to myself to read them.  I wondered if there might be someone else who'd be interested too.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Tissues Please

I'm sitting here just hoping my kids don't walk in the room right now. Tears are rolling down my cheeks, and I can't do anything to stop them. My kids think I don't cry--EVER. Oh how wrong they are! Actually, in my first area in Japan, the night before I transferred to Yamagata, I was given the name "Nakimushi" by the ward members, which means, "Cries easily." I tried to be tough, but when something touches me deeply, it grabs my throat and the tears just flow. I can't help it. Believe me, I've tried.  I'm not a loud crier, I just get a little wet around the face, that's all.

Today, if payments are made, I will have sold 100 cookbooks. I honestly can't believe this.

This is all just an exercise of faith. Three nights ago, I told the Warden's cousin that there was no way I could go with them. "No way!" Those were my very words. Now, here I am looking as money comes in from some very generous, kind people--my friends. Wow! I can't express my feelings here.

I'm not a for sure deal; there is really so much to be done. One bad move, and I'm out of luck. I just have to keep pushing on.

Today, I have to continue typing in recipes (I'm hoping to be done within the next 48 hours).  I also need to go to the county seat and get a copy of my marriage certificate. After that, I'm taking a bit of a jaunt over to Costco to get my photos taken for a passport.

I have to wait until Sunday or Monday to use the automated system at the regional passport service to make an appointment to go get a passport--you have to be two weeks away from travel. It will mean a day trip to Seattle--3 hours away--one of these days soon. It also means I have to pay for my flight before my appointment; I have to be able to show proof of travel within fourteen days once I arrive for my appointment.

I'm living on the edge here. So much is at stake. Here, all these people are putting their trust in me. The timeline is tight.  Just trusting God.  If this is what He wants me to do, it will happen.

Really. Whose life is this really?  I'm in complete shock.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Planning Day

This was an old post that I started yet never published a long time ago. Here it is, months later, finally posted:

Do you ever blame everything that is going wrong in your life on one thing?  It seems like lately school has become my excuse for everything.  Well, I've decided that it's time to get back on board.

I started out today with a roast in the crockpot.  I stirred 1/2 C. of soy sauce and sugar along with two 8 oz. cans of tomato sauce and 2 tsp. of dry mustard together and poured them over the meat.  It cooked on high for 3-ish hours.

My sister makes these crescent rolls that are TO DIE for!  She shared the recipe with my mom, so my mom used to make them for us kids.  I mixed up a batch and made them to go with the meat.

So, there you have it.  Voila!  Dinner.  I think my kids had forgotten what it was like to have mom cook and cook something yummy.

On Sunday's we have dinner for lunch.  It was that way at my house growing up.  In the evening, we'd have a simple snack of some kind as our meal, at least that how it was growing up.  Now, in my own home, we have more than a snack.  The Warden usually makes these huge omelets.  They're AMAZING!  It's become a fun tradition. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Would You Buy a Cookbook?

As you know, I'm trying to find a creative way to get myself to Japan to help with disaster clean up. There is so much to think about and plan that it just might not happen, but I'm trying to exercise some faith here and see if it will all work out. It will take some kind of miracle to get me there, but I'm willing to try it out.

I thought if I created a cookbook and sold it, I could finance the trip, so I started in today and found a place that will publish the book for me. I'm selling the books for $15 each. My goal is to sell 150 of them.

If you are interested in one, please contact me. You can either contact me here, message me on my facebook page, or email me at jolierufus(at)gmail(dot)com.

Next Adventure?

A few days ago, I received information on groups of people who are heading over to Japan to help with the clean up of the Sendai area.  It came from one of the Warden's cousins, who served a mission in Japan and taught English there.

He called last night and said that he'd gotten all of the funding he needed and had purchased his ticket.  He wondered if I wanted to go along.

Oh WOW!!!  Do I?!  You'd better believe it!

They're leaving at the end of the month and will return on August 8th.

First thing I have to worry about is a passport then it's a matter of money.  According to the Warden's cousin, it'll cost about $1600 total, but I just found out a flight from Portland is more than $1100, so I'm guessing it'll be a bit more than that.

I don't really want to beg and plead, especially in this economy, so I'm trying to find a way to earn the money needed.  I have just more than two weeks to do so.  Anyone have any good ideas?  Do you want to donate some fundage to my cause?

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Last of the Spokane Trip

We arrived home to Portland late Thursday night.  The plane was delayed by a couple of hours because of mechanical difficulties.  That always makes you a little nervous, doesn't it?

The original plan of being home before nine became 11pm.  Needless to say, after dropping my sister-in-law off at her house, I went home and dropped into bed.

The next morning, I unpacked and placed my camera on my bed to start the final blog post.  By the time breakfast was over, my camera was nowhere to be found.  Thus, the reason for this late post.  The camera was found this morning.  YAY!!!

By Thursday, everyone had left Spokane, so my sister-in-law and I had a chance to run around and do some personal things--looking for the homes my mom and dad lived in in their teen years, going to the Spokane library to do some research in their Northwest Room (complete failure) and going to the Museum of Arts and Culture to research what they have.  We'd been told that they probably had some things from my grandfather's museum there but no one had been able to find it.  Since I am his granddaughter, I was told I might be able to recover things that no one else had.  I was hopeful.  Those were our plans before we left town.

We packed up our stuff and checked out of our hotel, which was lovely, by the way.  I found an amazing deal on  I don't usually use expedia, but I have to say it was a very positive experience.  Here are a few photos of where we stayed:

 We went to breakfast and headed to the library.  We found very little there, but we did find the address of the place where my mom and dad met--see last week's "Wordless Wednesday" post.

A little background on that....I had called my dad shortly after we'd arrived in Spokane and asked for some addresses of places of family significance including the candy factory where he and mom had met.  He explained that although it was a candy factory, it was called the "Loose-Wiles Biscuit Company" and he didn't think it existed any more because he had been back to look for it and had never been able to find it.  When he told me a little about the location--off of Sprague and near an overpass--I knew we were close with our hotel.  The hotel was on Sprague and we had gone under an overpass to get there.

While at the library, I found a phone directory from 1940.  I looked up the name of the company and found it was at 104 S. Division.  On our way out of town, we took a minute to search it out, and there it was.  It's now a storage company, but the old building is still there.

After the library we went to the M.A.C.--Museum of Art and Culture and went over to the archives building.  I filled out the research form and was directed to the files where I found three files on my grandfather.  One file contained the original manuscripts from his newspaper articles.  They looked like this:

I think there were about 100 pages.  I photographed each.

I also sent the woman who was helping me on a wild goose chase looking for artifacts from my grandfather's museum.  She asked when they had been donated.  I told her he had passed away in 1961 and that was all I knew.  It ended up that part of that mystery was solved.  She found that they had been donated by his wife in 1964, but the sad news was that at that time, donations weren't very well documented.  She found a list of about four things--two fishing poles, sinkers, and a couple other items.  Funny, but they were antiques of some significance, I assume.

A corner of Howard Stegner's Echoes of Yesterday Museum, Spokane, WA (circa 1960).

She told me that in order to see them I'd have to make an appointment, but it had to be more than 24 hours in advance.  **sigh**  Regardless, it was good to know that they did have some of his things.  I will make an appointment next time I'm in town.

From there, we went to the Loose-Wiles location, to dinner, and to the airport.

It was a WONDERFUL trip. I wanted to return home with no regrets, and I did. My sister-in-law was an amazing traveling companion. I'm sure I made her endure a LOT of stuff she found just plain boring, but she never so much as sighed or paced. She was the only driver for the rental car, and she drove us around everywhere. She has a remarkable sense of direction. We were never lost--except when the GPS was in my hands.

So grateful to the cousins that came. It's wonderful to have family!

With the Stegner-Narup cousins behind the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum

Saturday, July 9, 2011

This Morning's Breakfast

Saturday's my day to cook.  I made these waffles and put chocolate chips in.  I also made peanut butter syrup.  You just put some regular maple syrup in a bowl with some peanut butter.  Microwave them and whisk them together.  SO YUMMY!

There you go!  Enjoy!

Did I ever mention I have a chocolate-peanut butter weakness?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Family Time: Keeping Teens (and Everybody Else) Close

Thank you to all who commented yesterday. You really ARE there, which makes me feel better.

It's Friday. Let me say that correctly....It's FRIDAY!!!

Friday has always been my favorite day of the week, but I have more reason now, during the summer, than ever before. Today is the day the Warden has off. Just a little extra bonus reason for the summer to be a wonderful time of the year.

As I'm pondering on the happenings of the day--the potential is endless--I thought I'd share a bit more about something I've only alluded to in the past.

Last year I found that we had reached that fateful point in life in which our kids were getting older and were out running around all the time. They were active in school, sports, church and so many other activities. People had warned me that that time would come. And it had. **heavy sigh**

We still had dinner together nearly every night, but it just felt like the oldest of the kids were gone more than they were here. This just COULDN'T happen! I wasn't going down without a fight.

So, I took a fancy bowl that we inherited from the Warden's grandmother and filled it with free or really inexpensive family activities. Once a week, during our Sunday evening family council, each person in the family would pick an idea out of the bowl and throw it on the table. They weren't allowed to read it before they put it on the table because some of our kids, even if it said "pick weeds" would be defending their own just for the sake of it being "their own."

When we created the slips of paper, we sat down and the kids threw out a bunch of ideas--just a family brainstorming session. I also found tons of resources online. This is one of my faves for the Portland area. Wherever you live, I'm sure there are resources to be found--even if it's the closest big town's chamber of commerce.

All we did was jot them down on a piece of plain paper, cut them apart, fold them up and throw them in the bowl. We now have so many that we can't put the lid on the cute thing. Although we did it so simply, you could get as fancy as you dare--typed, laminated, etc.

So, back to the plan at hand, after the kids put them on the table, we, one of the adults, opens them up and reads them off. We decide how much of a budget we have for the day and go from there. Sometimes we only do one of the activities, but sometimes, when the stars align just right, we end up doing two, three or four of them in a series. There was the day we went and played basketball as a family and went and got Jamba Juice afterward. There was the night we went to the cheap movies and got ice cream after.

In our list of things to do, we have hikes, sports, cultural activities, inside activities (board games, etc.), seasonal activities (you can only hope you pull the "water fight" slip during the summer because I know my kids'd totally be in if we pulled it in January), restaurants, etc.

Here are a couple of photos from times when I had the brains enough to bring the camera along and then got it out AND used it (these three rarely happen all in the same trip):

The carousel at Jantzen Beach

Sunday afternoon on the temple grounds.  Not sure why some are dressed down for this activity, but ah well.  There are always those who slip under the radar--truth be told.

Here's a short video of some of the craziness from our family basketball trip:

We eliminate the activities that would be inappropriate--say, the water fight in January or taking a leer jet to Paris for escargot (not really in there, but hey, if you've got the means, I would recommend it, but you have to adopt me first)--and vote on what remains. In our house, the vote has to be silent and blind--either written or eyes shut and hands raised. We usually vote three different times eliminating two or three on each round. The first round is for their top three, eliminate those with the lowest votes, and go around again voting for the top two from that list. You get the idea. We finally get down to their top one. We see if the most-voted-for activities can somehow be combined. From there, we look at the calendar, and plug it into a date and time.

Once this is on the calendar, it's sacred--not to be touched. There have been times, on really busy weeks when we've planned it, and during the planning, also chosen a plan B time just in case. I highly recommend this.

When the day and time has come as we've done this, it's been something we've all looked forward to for the entire week. We all gather together, and it's like a big family party. The feeling is indescribable.

Do you have something similar you do in your family? What do you do to keep your kids as members of the family when their lives get crazy?

If you try this, I'd love to know how it goes and what you end up doing.

We didn't have family council this past Sunday, which is pretty unheard of around here, but we were out of town, so it was easy to forget. So, we'll draw, vote and go today. Can't wait to see what we end up doing (Oh, and pray that I find my camera.  It's been lost since I returned from Spokane. **sigh**)....

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Are You Really There?

Okay, I've just got to say it....

It's bugging me.

I come here everyday.  Everyday, before I write my post, I look to see where people are reading from.  It's really fun and exciting, but I'm wondering if it's lying to me.

What do you read when you come here?  What that I write interests you?  What kind of stuff should I be including?

One of the top five posts has no comments on it.  How can it possibly be in the top five?  If no one comments, I almost wonder if really no one is really reading it.

So....Feedback, please?  If no one comments here, I'm going to know it's lying to me, and blogger is just putting random stuff on here.

Of course, you know I'm just kidding, but it does make one wonder.

Free Range Child

This is a new phrase I heard yesterday.  It makes me laugh, but I guess there's some amount of sadness to it.  This phrase was not used in regard to my children, but as I listened to the definition, I realized that one of my children could be defined this way.

As I have mentioned before, I love summer.  I LOVE having my kids home, but everyday at about 2:30pm, I have one child that needs a nap desperately but WILL NOT take one.  I know I can't force that child to sleep.  It's just not humanly possible, so as of yesterday, I started giving him choices.  He can go upstairs for a nap, or he can go outside and play.

#7's asleep during this time, but this child is just too loud inside the house.  Everyone else seems to have some ability to control him/herself and has some quiet time to him/herself each day at this time.  In the past, I've expected that the kids'd get up in the morning and just be part of the group.  We'd go run and do things together and spend the entire day together, but I realized, before summer vacation even started, that we all need to have some down time each day--some time to ourselves.  Thus, everybody gets some time alone everyday.

I kind of liken the situation with this child--my free range child--to having a spotless house.  I could have a perfectly clean house and break my back daily to keep things in order, but if my children enter the house and mess things up (we all know that never happens, right?), I'd become a raving maniac, but I choose peace over a perfectly orderly home.  My house is tidy and liveable (most of the time), but I value my relationship with my children more than being able to eat off the floors.  Similarly, I could control this child and use all the manipulative tactics I know, he's little, he'd fall for them, but I would, again, become a raving maniac and destroy any respect and love this child has for me.  I value his ability to choose for himself, so free range it is.

So, for this summer, starting around 2:30 everyday, my son will be free-range because I know for a fact he's never going to choose the nap option.  **sigh**  So glad to be in a place in life where we have a yard.  There have been other children in our family who didn't have this option at the same age.

Oh, and a friend gave me a great idea....Give him a bucket full of water and a paintbrush and let him "paint the fence" with the water.  Love it!  Going to have a very clean fence today.

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