Saturday, September 30, 2017

Cry Me A River

Ever had one of those "poor me" weeks? I guess mine started last week really and so I have had a bit of time to ponder. Last week I was driving our van around picking up and dropping off kids when I noticed it wasn't shifting great. Three years ago we put in a new transmission (2007 Toyota Sienna) and so I recognized the symptoms of transmission problems. After taking the van into the shop we find that we are going to need to replace the 4th and 5th gears which will cost an arm and leg. Two days later Tyler got an ultra-flat tire in his car and with Birch and Tyler both out-of-town for the day (and no cell reception) I had to figure out what to do on my own (and yes, the spare tire was flat too). Later I thought I would make a nice crockpot of dinner for my family and then come in a few hours later into the kitchen and found the ceramic insert had totally split and broth was pouring all over the counter. Then I go to drive the riding lawn mower and I am reminded that it too is on its' last leg. The transmission is also on it's way out and so each time we mow we know we are blessed when it makes it through one more mowing. Then I go to pay for a printing job and find that someone has paid me previously in a fake $5 bill (first time experience for me) and so I am out another $5 (and a little bit of embarrassment too). Lastly, I've been driving Birch's car for the week while the van is in the shop and the "check engine" light pops on. Today we go outside in the backyard and find that one of our large trees has split in half and fallen over without even any crazy winds.
Well, you'd think that would be enough to throw anyone into throwing an all-nighter pity party. I have entertained the thought a bit. In fact, I may have uttered a few times "I thought you were supposed to be blessed when you have a missionary out serving." Then my mind is sent into a frenzy realizing how much I am blessed. First of all, there is no place I'd rather Elder Alex Ditto be right now. Sure we miss him but I LOVE what he is learning and how much he is growing from all his Romanian experiences.
Almost exactly a year ago our hot water heater blew up. The emergency valve blew out at 11:30 pm. The entire house ended up having to drain through that little one inch hole and so I spent several hours squatted on a upside down bucket holding a hose trying to help direct the gushing water from totally flooding the basement. Shortly after I was chatting (possibly whining a tad about missions and blessing, etc... and this looming $5000 bill in putting in a new water heater) with a friend. Being a wise woman she shared that when her seven children were serving missions she was extremely blessed. She shared that instead of the car getting a flat tire miles away from home it happened in their driveway, etc...
And so I have spent the week thinking of how each annoyance has been a tender mercy.
1- the van ran smoothly while we traveled the previously weekend to Utah for my brother's wedding
2- we got a $400 discount on the new transmission (granite this doesn't feel like much when the previous one only lasted three years and the warranty just ended) but it is something
3- while I was frustrated that Birch was out-of-town for helping with Tyler's flat tire and the roadside assistance we were paying for wasn't super convenient and the spare tire was flat -- I was blessed with our Bishop and his wife spending a couple of hours of their precious Saturday to help me get the tire fixed.
4- the whole fake money thing was a bit comical and lame but really I was blessed that it was only $5 and that I wasn't arrested for trying to use fake money.
5- I was able to buy a new insert for my crockpot and really reflect on how many meals I have been able to make for my family and many others over the years in my trusty crockpot.
6- While we know we will have to buy a new riding mower next year, I have been able to feel gratitude each week when I mow and I am able to complete the job (yes, it takes four times longer than it used to). If it can just hold out another month!!!
7- I took Birch's car in to have them check out why the "check engine" light went on. I have only driven his car a few times since we bought it last year. Since I knew I was going to be driving it a bunch this week I filled it up with gas on Monday. Turns out when you don't turn the gas cap until it clicks the "check engine" light comes on when you reach 3/4 a tank. So...the car was totally fine...I was just dumb. Tender mercy was that the car was fine AND they didn't charge me for figuring out the issue (bonus blessing: they washed the car for free).
8- The tree....hum, the tender mercy (meaning the divine signature of God's hand) is that Alysee is babysitting a family of three little girls at the house right now. They had all been playing outside on the playground having a great time but decided to come in for a snack. Somewhere in that short amount of time the tree decided to come crashing down. I am SO thankful that no one was hurt. And as a bonus I'm thankful that our fence seems to still be standing!
While you might still find me with a stray tear every once-in-a-while this week -- I have mostly been able to laugh about it all and remember how blessed I really am. Perhaps this week we shall replace the split tree and plant a money tree instead  But honestly, I feel the touch of God's hand in my life. I feel blessed to have a son spreading joy and God's love in Romania. I feel blessed to have an able bodied husband that can borrow a chain saw (anyone have one?) and chop up that tree next week. I feel blessed to have my family gather around the dinner table each night. I am blessed.
(And if you are still reading this I am impressed. I had to hurry and get my thoughts down before I have a change of heart and curl up in bed with an episode of "Highway to Heaven."

Friday, September 29, 2017

A Tender Visit with Grandma

About three weeks ago, my Grandma suffered a terrible stroke and brain bleed.  She had just been in New Hampshire with my parents gallivanting around Rattlesnake Mountain, canoeing, and just having a wonderful time.  Days after returning home she was found on the ground of her home having suffered a devastating stroke.  In the past three weeks I feel like my heart has had a roller coaster of emotions...thinking she was going to pass away, then bouncing back a bit, a move from the hospital to a care facility, and then this week an opportunity for Emily and I to go visit Grandma.

Shortly after Grandma's stroke I was able to facetime with Grandma.
 Just days before the stroke in New Hampshire:

My brother Matt was recently able to see Grandma for a bit on his way to a business trip.
Grandma and Matt at Heartstone Care Center
Emily and I were able to ride up with a friend to Seattle on Friday to visit with Grandma for the day.  What a special day it was for Emily and I to spend with Grandma!  

When we got to Heartstone we went up to Grandma's floor and she was waiting right at the front entrance.  We had called previously in the morning to let the staff know we were coming just in case it made a difference with therapy.  The staff was SO kind.  Although I have seen pictures of Grandma and "talked" with her via facetime it still made Emily and my hearts heavy a bit at first with how much Grandma has aged and reminds me of other elderly people that I visit in care homes.  Honestly, for the first bit I couldn't tell if Grandma knew who Emily or I were.  We had very little response to things we said.  We then wheeled her into her room so we could have some privacy.  Both Emily and I had printed off lots of pictures (and Judy had mailed some as well) so we started going through the photo albums and pointed at people and describing each picture.  At first it seemed like Grandma enjoyed this and then after probably ten minutes she started closing her eyes and zoning out.  So perhaps all the pictures were overwhelming?  Or maybe the experience was just causing her brain to dig too much?

We went and told the caregivers that she wanted to have a nap (Grandma nodded her head "yes" that she wanted a nap when she started to close her eyes).  The caregivers knew that we had brought supplies (it looked like we were moving in) to do a spa day and they encouraged us to continue on with our plans and not have her take a nap.  They said that once she is in bed she is there basically until they make her get up.  One of the medical assistants was particularly loving with Grandma and had given her a haircut the previous day and had even painted her toe nails.  Grandma needs her toenails clipped but the medical assistant explained that she is not licensed to clip toe nails.  I also decided to not clip them as it is hard to tell where the flesh starts and stops.  The assistant told me that she has put a request in to have her toe nails clipped. 

Once Emily and I started to physically give Grandma the extra attention (brushing her hair, putting in curls, hand massage, clipping finger nails, foot spa bath, foot rub. and face wash) she perked right up and didn't seem tired at all.  This makes me feel that the act of closing her eyes when we were showing her all the pictures was either a polite way of saying "you're boring me" or "this is too much for me" instead of "I'm tired."  
I've had a cough for a few weeks and wanted to make sure that I didn't pass along any germs so I wore a mask the whole time.

Foot massage

We brought lots of pictures to show Grandma and also read her her mail.

Grandma LOVED her foot spa bath!!  It was a treat to make her feel like a queen for the day.

The visit started out with Emily and I not being sure if she knew who we were and by the time we left I felt like she did know us.  At least I am positive she knew that we both love her.

We missed Grandma's initial expression when we showed her the mirror-- it was wonderful to see her with a smile.

By the end of the visit Grandma was reaching out with her good arm to my hair and caressing it.  While I have never felt Grandma was a particularly "physical" Grandma, I could tell she was telling me she loved me. When she could no longer tell me those words she was trying to show me.  I'll never forget it.

Such a special day for both Emily and myself!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Lukey and Camilla Tie the Knot!!!!

It's been a week since we celebrated Uncle Lukey getting married to the beautiful Camilla Dudley; it took about that many days to forget the loooong car drive and lightening fast trip.  Honestly, though the weekend was magical.  Some of the highlights for me was being the temple with my ENTIRE family!!, pulling off an amazing family pre-wedding dinner and reception in less than ideal weather, seeing all the cousins enjoy every minute together, and most of all witnessing Camilla and Luke (or Lucky as all his friends know him) be madly in love with each other.

Matt and Jessica hosted an amazing family dinner Friday night prior to the wedding.  Not only was the food delicious but the decorations and comfort of the home was wonderful.  The menu was huli huli chicken, coconut rice, and a mixed berry spinach salad.  Our family came together to make the food and it all turned out amazing.
Spinach salad

1 cup fresh cranberries
·     1/2 cup sugar
·     1/2 cup cider vinegar
·     1/4 cup thawed apple juice concentrate
·     1 teaspoon salt
·     1 teaspoon ground mustard
·     1 teaspoon grated onion
     1 cup canola oil

 Grilled Huli Huli Chicken

Prep time  10 mins            Cook time  20 mins           Serves: 10-12
·        4 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, chicken breasts also work
·        1 cup unsweetened pineapple juice
·        ½ cup soy sauce
·        ½ cup brown sugar
·        cup ketchup
·        ¼ cup chicken broth
·        2 teaspoons fresh ginger root, grated
·        1½ teaspoons minced garlic
·        green onions, sliced for garnish
1.      In a medium sized bowl, whisk together pineapple juice, soy sauce, brown sugar, ketchup, chicken broth, ginger and garlic. Reserve 1 cup sauce for basting. Add the chicken thighs and sauce to a ziplock bag and marinate at least 3 hours or overnight.
2.      Grill chicken, covered, over medium heat for 6-8 minutes on each side or until no longer pink. Baste occasionally with reserved marinade during the last 5 minutes. Garnish with green onions if desired
Coconut Rice
 Leah’s Coconut Rice
(about 5 servings)

2 c. white, Jasmine, or Basmati rice

1 can coconut milk

1½ c. water (or, half and half chicken broth and water)

1 tsp. Kosher salt

2-3 tsp. white sugar

½ tsp. Coconut or Vegetable oil

2 Tbs. shredded unsweetened coconut
2-3 tsp. Splash of white vinegar 
Handful of chopped green onions
fresh shredded ginger         

Garnish  (optional)
Browned coconut shreds
Chopped green onion tops
Black pepper to taste


Rinse and drain rice in cold water. Place in a saucepan with all main ingredients (plus optional ingredients as desired). Place the pot over high heat and, bring the liquid to a boil. Stir and reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting and cover the pot tightly with the lid. Continue cooking for 15 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat and let stand 10 minutes, covered. Fluff with fork and serve.

-- ALSO works in rice cooker

So fun to have Grandma Gina at the family dinner. 

It was wonderful to so many friends and family come to celebrate with Luke and Camilla.
Dapper Ryan, Geoff, and Isaac


Alysee and Rue - she is such a cutie but we all had a hard time getting her to break into a smile

I could tell how much it meant to my parents to have everyone at the temple

The little girls were all anxiously awaiting the bride and groom's departure out of the temple so they could plow them down with hugs!

Here they are!!!!

Literally the girls were knocking down Camilla.  Pretty sure they were all living their dreams!

Bride and Groom

The kids got quiet creative in their entertainment with each other while all the pictures were being taken.

The lovely Alysee and her momma

The Sherry Clan -- just missing Alex

The originals

The kids were starving and luckily Emily came to the rescue with pretzels for all of us to keep us happy and smiling.

Willie was so patient for nap and lunch time!

Leah was amazing with keeping her cool while we raided her home, ate her food, hosted the reception, and took all the pictures!


Favor - homemade Oregon blackberry jam
Seriously so beautiful... chilly but beautiful!

Sparkler send off to the joyous Luke and Camilla!!!
SO SO happy to have been able to celebrate with these two lovebirds.  This was our family's first time meeting Camilla and we all instantly fell in love.