Chocolate memories

I just remembered a tidbit from my childhood.  I told my kids this morning and they loved it, so I thought it might be a good idea to store it here in my longterm memory banks blog.

Back when I was 11yo, I went on a babysitting job with my best friend.  She was 12 and an old pro, but I had never been allowed to babysit so I felt very grown up and privileged.

We babysat.  This was where I learned a little toddler-diapering trick that has stood me in good stead over the years.  This was also where I witnessed an adorable bit of toddler cuteness as the mom was giving us instructions before she left:

Mom: Here is Miranda’s plate with her dinner.

Miranda: Dinner!

Mom: She can watch a bit of TV after she eats.

Miranda: TV!

Mom: She can have 2 cookies for dessert.

Miranda: Cookies!

Mom: Her bedtime is at 8:00.

Miranda: Not yet!

Gina told me that the parents in this home allowed her to snack on whatever she wanted and they had given me permission as well.  I imagine my jaw hit the floor when I heard that.  In our house, I remember the menus being strictly planned.  “Don’t get into that cheese!  I need it for Thursday!  Don’t each all of the peanut butter – it has to last til next Friday.”  There was no free snacking in my childhood memories.

I peeked into the freezer and found – oh, joy! – a bag of chocolate chips!  What treaure!  What luxury!  At my coaxing, Gina and I nibbled the entire bag.

It. Was. Good.

And then the parents returned, and we went back to Gina’s home.

But the story doesn’t quite end there, on such a happy note.  Apparently the parents later discovered the missing bag of chocolate chips.  Gina told me later that they changed the rules and began setting out preplanned snacks for Gina because they feared she was not making wise choices.

I’m sorry Gina.  But it was worth it, wasn’t it?

The day I took a bath

Remember when we used to blog the old fashioned way – with a pen and paper?  Deanna found my sad, neglected little journal tonight.  It has just 3 handwritten entries.  Since it seems doomed to obscurity, I am preserving the entries here instead.  Here is the first entry, word for word.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Today I took a bath!

That was a momentous occasion – my first bath in this house, OUR house, the house we built – by God’s grace and providence, of course.  I washed laundry, rejoicing aloud in the use of my own laundering facilities.  The dryer doesn’t work, but who needs a dryer, when one has a deck and a sunny day?  I rejoiced aloud again as I hung out each load to dry!

Last night, all at once, we suddenly had a hot water heater, a washer, and a tub w/running hot and cold water.  What luxuries, coming to us now by 2’s and 3’s when before the milestones were separated by weeks or months.

Less than 2 weeks ago, when we moved here on October 30, we didn’t even have a toilet.  The next day we had a toilet but no running water in the house – we used a hose and a bucket to flush.  Our electricity came from 2 long extension cords running from the pole up through a hold in the floor.  Cooking was limited to the crock pot and a propane grill.  That was the sum total of our luxuries.

But we had a house, a home!  That’s a luxury in itself!

In brief:

Saturday, November 30: we move

Sunday: the toilet is set

Monday: we have running water to the toilet

Tuesday: the nights are approaching freezing, so Perry covers the gable walls with drywall

Wednesday: we have power to 1 or 2 outlets in each bedroom

Thursday: Sid delivers our fridge in his pickup.  We have a fridge!  Kaitlyn bloodies her nose when she runs full speed into the fridge in the middle of the living room.

Friday: we have pizza dip made in the crock pot, with chunks of bread.  Easy and fun.  Later Weasy, Carisa and Amanda come to visit.  Our first Friday night!  We play Shooters, Cribbage, Stratego, God Fish.  Perry crashes on the foam couch early with children piled on around him.

Saturday: Perry sends me to Lowe’s for a water heater while he troubleshoots the wiring in the bedrooms.  Of course he finds and fixes the problem.  That’s my guy!

Sunday: a real Sabbath (last Sunday the ox was in the toilet – er – ditch)

Monday: the guys work in earnest on the hot water plumbing and washer supply lines.  They hit a snag when they need parts.

Tuesday: finally, the washer, dryer, water heater, and tub faucet are all ready to test, all at once!  3 out of 4 isn’t bad.  The dryer doesn’t work but it might be an easy fix, and was disposable (and dispensible) in my mind.  No big deal.

Wednesday: Sid arrives with our couches this time.  Perry tries them out, and sinks into the dark, leathery quicksand.  He does not rise again, and here I sit writing alone.  The kids are sleeping and the only sounds are the crunch of cat food and Perry’s phone beeping politely every now and then.  I tried to wire an outlet and gave up in frustration, not sure if I finished or failed.  Oh well…maybe I’ll take a bath…

Just visiting

I’m still alive, though I think my brain is rusting from all the rain. We haven’t laid eyes on the sun since we’ve been here in Oregon and I probably have moss growing in my hair, but I keep telling myself we’ll look back fondly on this weather when August in South Texas rolls around.


Deanna and I are enjoying our time with Grandma and Grandpa. Deanna brought her dress and has begin to work on it in earnest under Grandma’s expert tutelage.


On Saturday, one of my cousins came to dinner with her husband and 3 children, along with my lumberjack uncle Steve.

On Sunday, we drove south to visit my aunt and her husband, and 2 cousins with their children. One of my cousins is expecting her 3rd child just a few days before our baby is due.

On Monday, we visited with MamaK, PapaPyro, and a few visitors in their home.

Yesterday, my maid of honor came to dinner with her parents. We talked as quickly as we could, but still the evening flew past far too quickly!


Today, we had lunch with a sweet musical friend of Grandma’s, and Uncle Steve is here for dinner.

Tomorrow, Grandma’s musical friend will join us for dinner and music: Grandma and Miss Goff will play the piano and the organ in Grandma’s music room. I suspect I will be talked into playing the violin, though I haven’t picked up a musical instrument since Grandpa and Grandma were in Texas back in September.

The interviewing has gone well on the few occasions that we remembered to set up the camera and get down to business; somehow even this quiet slow week has been packed with busy-ness, and we haven’t found time to do as much as we had hoped.

But when we do it – oh, it warms my heart! I’ve heard new stories that I never heard before, and old stories that I forgot. I recorded the two of them together, reminding each other of stories to tell and gently teasing each other. Their interaction was so sweet! Grandma told me that Grandpa has said more on camera than he normally says in 6 months. Then he winked at me and said, “Well, women have a daily allowance of 50-60,000 words; men only get 5,000. We use ours up and then we’re quiet. Women never run out.”


I just have to mention what a blessing our new HandyCam has been. I haven’t moved any of the material to DVD yet so I can’t say how easy that is, but the video camera itself is so easy to use and charge, so easy to switch between still photos and video, has a remote control (!!!), fits perfectly on the tripod we already had, and there are no little cassettes to worry about. Everything is stored directly on a hard drive in the camera.

Thank you so much for all the ideas and suggestions of what to ask. We have used many of them. Kaitlyn also loaned me a 2 page questionnaire that she brought home when she and her dad went to the 2007 Father/Daughter Retreat and I found that we have covered many of the questions in there. I was worried because I didn’t make time to create a detailed plan, but it seems that it is all coming together nicely. I just hope I don’t get home and realize that I forgot to ask all the most important questions. Of course, that would mean I have to visit again very soon and finish up the job…

Remembering cheap gas

I haven’t been driving all that long – I didn’t start until after I was married at the age of 19. Nonetheless, I have seen gas prices go up quite a bit.

Way back when we had 3 children, in the mid-to-late nineties, our family car was an inexpensive little Dodge Colt just like this:


It was a hatchback with 5 seats, and we loved it dearly. It got 40 mpg. We used to drive from east central Ohio to San Antonio, Texas to visit family for $40 each way. Saving and budgeting for a trip halfway across the country required about $80 in gas.

Now, we have 8 (soon to be 9) children. We outgrew the Colt long ago and it continued on as Hubby’s work car for many years; we outgrew the Suburban as a family vehicle 2 years ago and moved on to a well-used 15 passenger van. Now it costs us nearly $30 to drive to town and back.

The price of gas affects everyone in a great number of ways, but I can honestly say that the cost of gas has been one of the few areas where it truly does cost far more to raise a large family.

BTW, I just have to know: would you call the car above blue or green? This was an ongoing discussion for the 7 or 8 years that we drove the car and even still. One of us reminisces about the old blue colt, and the other remembers with fondness the old green colt.

Family history: what would you ask?

I mentioned that one reason I am so excited about the upcoming Sony mommy blogger event is that it will help us to accomplish another goal: a visit with my grandparents for the purpose of creating a family history.

The workshop will give me greater skills and training with my new cameras (Andrea U., is that really what you told me on the phone?  There was a lot of background noise and my own brain was screaming no way so I’m still not sure I heard correctly) – and can you believe this:  Sony has graciously agreed to buy the airline ticket for my extra little jaunt up north before sending me home!

I’m going to spend a week with Grandpa and Grandma, asking questions and interviewing them, getting videos of their childhood stories and other memories, hearing stories of my mom’s childhood, taking down their advice and wisdom and whatever else I can think of.  Hubby has also suggested taking a drive around the area to visit some or all of my old childhood homes.  We moved a lot, so that could take a while.  (umm…Grandpa?  Grandma?  Did you know my visit was going to be this much work?)

So here’s where I need help: What would you ask? There is so much to cover, I have the feeling I ought to go in with a plan.  I don’t want to forget the important stuff because we’re having too much fun just enjoying each other’s company, though I’m sure there will be plenty of that!  Help me out.  This is for our children, our grandchildren, and our great-grandchildren.  What would you want to know about your ancestors?  What would you want to hear in their own words?


Posted by: Deanna

This is me when I was really small and stupid.

My Grandmother had told me not to eat the green tomatoes.

Did I listen? No.

I thought to myself, “The only reason Grandma would say that is if the green ones were the best ones, and therefore I am missing out on something if I don’t eat the little green ones.”

So for the second time that day I bit into that obviously delicious little green one-

and regretted it.


Polar bears and blind dates

We returned home last night from 2 1/2 days at a hunting ranch south of town. We came home empty handed this year but with plenty of memories that will last far longer than a couple of deer or hogs in the freezer would have lasted.

10 most memorable events of our days down south:


1. Polar bear – Rachael was sputtering with excitement: “Mom! This is the first time I ever saw a polar bear!”  I had never seen a polar up close, so I followed her outside.  The polar bear was a little smaller than I expected.


2. Badger – The boy was wandering about and unexpectedly found himself nose-to-nose with a stuffed badger. His surprised yelp was priceless, but he and the badger have become good friends now.

3. Blind dates – I always said I didn’t believe in dating, but today I went on not one but two blind dates. I really like the guy I went with. He was nice, funny and handsome. Oh, and he’s married to me. We agreed to meet up again soon.

4. Birds – We saw Mexican eagles (or Crested Caracaras) everywhere we looked. I also saw my first real live Cedar Waxwings and Pyrrhuloxias. I have read about these since I was a child browsing animal books but never actually crossed paths with them.

5. Boots & Bullets – The four oldest fired my trusty old S&W snubnose .357 magnum and took turns actingboots.jpg nonchalant at the recoil. I fired a practice round through hubby’s big gun and tried to act nonchalant at the recoil.

A child who would probably prefer to remain anonymous learned about gun safety the hard way. She is very thankful for two things: she was only shooting a pellet gun, and she was wearing leather cowboy boots. Even so, the pellet penetrated the leather and drew blood on her toe. She felt much older and wiser 10 minutes later.
6. Deer peels – The girls watched some of the guys “peel a deer.” They declined one young man’s invitation to pop an eyeball and decided not to stay for the whole process, but they did enjoy venison burgers at the lodge later that evening. They prefer deer after the blood is gone.

7. The one that got away – Hubby went on a late night varmint hunt with Deanna and Kaitlyn, and they found themselves being stalked by a bobcat as soon as they climbed out of the van. The guide’s Distressed Rabbit Call brought him in close enough for an easy shot but the comedy of errors that followed left a blind full of laughing, flustered hunters and one very lucky cat.

8. The other one that got away – I went on a third hunt w/o hubby and thought I was finally going to bag my first deer. After a long wait, a couple of very nice prospects were finally heading out into the open well within range, but one of the four people in the blind may or may not have dozed off and spooked them. I won’t mention names or assign blame, but the guilty party who staunchly maintained that he wasn’t sleeping and doesn’t snore was slouching with his eyes closed and making snuffly snorty noisy as he took long, slow rhythmic breaths. Not snoring, mind you. And maybe he even drew the deer in, since he sounded vaguely like a buck. Maybe we should let him keep snoring breathing noisily with his eyes closed.

9. The one that didn’t get away – But it wasn’t ours. A good friend of hubby’s managed to bag a beautiful bobcat. A thundering herd of wild children stampeded out the door to see the carcass and even The Boy hitched a ride out to the show. He’s been demonstrating the fate and exact position of the bobcat ever since. In garbled words, he tells me that the [something] got shot like bang and it died like this: [he carefully lowers himself to the floor, rolls over onto his back and exhales].

10. Our INS adventure – Fortunately we have a better sense of humor than the INS agent. Of course, any sense of humor is better than none at all, so we could hardly lose that contest.

Encouraging sons to be men

I have spoken highly of the Botkin family in the past. One of the many ways that they have impacted my thinking is the daughters’ dedication to encouraging their younger brothers to think and behave as young men.

The oldest boy in my family was 8 years younger than I was, and he already had 4 older sisters when he was born. The poor guy was surrounded by women of all sizes, with more to come. By the time I was married, there were 10 girls and just 2 boys.

We fawned over our brother as much as he would allow while he was very small, but he was determined to be a man-child, not a doll.

So we laughed at him instead. He was 2yo and thought he could tell us what to do. Comic relief!

When he was 4 or 5yo, he started telling us about his dreams: dreams of daring rescues and grand adventures. In his dreams, he saved us girls from dragons and bad guys and fires and a multitude of other dangers. Like Joseph’s brothers, we laughed at his illusions of grandeur. As if we would need aid from a 5yo, even in his dream world!

He carried on nonetheless, determined to be a man in the face of our cackling and ridicule. He grew into a fine young man, and now has a wife and 3 children. He often helps me and the children when Hubby is unavailable. I don’t laugh now at his offers of help. Instead, he laughs at me for struggling with a flat tire when I could have just called him.

But I have gained a little wisdom over the years, and I regret all the times I mocked him for trying to be a man when he was little. I realized this acutely while listening to and talking with Anna Sophia and Elizabeth, and my husband and I are making a self-conscious effort to do things differently.att00164.jpg

Our boy is being encouraged right from the start to act as a young man. At 17mos, he opens doors for his sisters (even though they can do it more quickly and easily for themselves), he squishes scary bugs for them with his manly little boots, he carries “heavy” items for me (like his diaper bag), and helps with other chores. He is learning that he is never, ever to hit a girl, even if she is twice his size and 4 times his age, and makes him mad or hits him first.

As a future patriarch (cough, cough) he is learning more than how to boss his wife around. He is learning to be strong and courageous, to take care of the women in his family, to love them and give himself in service for them. He doesn’t have a wife yet, but he can certainly practice much of this on his sisters and mother, developing habits of protection, provision and nurturing that will later aid him as a husband, father and head of household.

His sisters are also learning from my own mistakes with my brother. They have heard me repent of how I treated him, and they think differently than I did at their age. They delight to see their little brother act like a man, and they do everything they can to encourage him in his role.

We’re new parents all over again when it comes to raising a son, but by God’s grace we can glean wisdom from Scripture, friends and family, and our own past mistakes.