Would you like to translate this into another language?

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Another Person of the Year

When I wrote this post, I neglected to add Yamauchi Kyoudai.

This man was so amazing.  He shared how he and a woman in his ward in Furukawa, the day after the tsunami, were under peoples' homes working to clean out raw sewage and sewer systems.  It was snowing and cold.  He shared how they shivered as they worked and as they ate their lunch.  He told us that the woman became ill after a few days and couldn't continue, but he kept going.

I wrote this about him also in 2011.

What a great person!  It's been a privilege this past year to rub shoulders with so many inspirational individuals.  My life has been truly blessed!

2012: The Year of the Upward Spiral

I've gone into new years with resolutions but never a theme.  2012 is the beginning of something new!

After writing this post, the concepts haven't left my mind.

I wrote it on the weekend when the Warden and I ran away for an overnight.  We went to dinner that night and sat in a restaurant whose front window looked out at an establishment that boasted an "all-nude revue."  My thoughts as I looked at it, "How does someone spiral to that point?"

The next morning, we caught the train to head back home and saw a homeless man digging quarters out of the ticket machine.  Again, the thought, "When and how did his spiral begin?"

These things have come back home to me....Am I spiraling?  If so, in what ways?

Spiraling, like erosion, just happens.  It's just like nature--all things deteriorate.  The only way to stop the deterioration, the erosion, is to actively do something that counteracts it.  It's time to stop being passive.  To do nothing will only result in continued downward spiraling.

So, for 2012, I have some goals that need setting.

I'm turning to the ideas of Thomas S. Monson.  He shared the ideas of searching inward, reaching outward and looking upward (although, he said "heavenward," I'm using "upward" to match the idea of the upward spiral).  Another thing he shared were the ABCs of an abundant life:

A:  Attitude
B:  Belief
C:  Courage

As I look forward to 2012, there is no doubt that these things will come into play.  Monson encourages us to have a positive attitude; a belief in ourselves, others and God; and courage to do what we need to do and particularly the courage to try again if we fail the first time.

One of the first things that will come up in 2012 will be the American Mothers Gala in February in which they name the Mother of the Year for 2012.  I don't mind saying I'm a bit freaked out by this.  It will definitely take all three of these things to continue on the path I'm currently taking.

Graduation will come next.

After that will come #1's graduation and getting ready to send her off to school.

Yes, 2012 holds a lot of things that will be new, different, challenging and exciting.  In order to be successful, I know I'm going to need these principles. 

2012 - The Year of the Upward Spiral 

I hope you'll join me and search inward for those things that need to be changed; reach outward to others who need us; look upward to God for the help we need as we work to keep a positive attitude about everything that happens (trying to see the bigger picture); believe in ourselves, others and God; and have courage to face whatever lies ahead.

Here's to a WONDERFUL 2012!  Happy New Year!!!

Drama. Drama. Drama!

Took the girls out to run errands yesterday.

Like the one on the right
We ended up at the mall. I found a shirt and some pants for #7 on clearance at Old Navy for $2 and $3. We used one of those carts that has a seat for a child on the front and then a mesh bag on the back. It also has a pouch for a purse, so I put my purse in the pouch, but I knew upon doing so that I would forget my purse (ooh...sense the subtle foreshadowing here). I put it in there anyway. We shopped and bought a few things. I put my cash back into the cash carrier, handed #1 the change (kind of as a joke), and we left.

So, we left there and went to our favorite store in the mall--$20 Below. Sad thing was, as we approached the store, we saw that there was a "going out of business" sign just outside. Yes, our favorite store is done for. SAD!

We walked around. The girls chose a number of things to try on in the dressing room. As they did so, #7 took off her shoes and went running around the store. It was at about this time that I realized I wasn't lugging my purse around. I asked #1 and #3 if they happened to have it. Neither did.

#1 changed quickly back into her clothes, handed me the things she wanted, and went back up to Old Navy to see if she could find the purse. She came back empty-handed after a little while.

We all left $20 Below and headed to Old Navy. I sent #1 and #7 to the car. #3 and I walked into Old Navy and found a cart similar to ours but no purse. The girl working there said they only had about three carts like that in the store. We searched but found no others. We headed back down to $20 Below.

Before we'd left the first time, I'd handed the girl that worked there the clothes we were interested in and shared what had happened. I told her that hopefully I'd be able to pay with them soon.

Let me tell you, I was praying in my heart so hard at this point.

The women at $20 Below offered to call mall security for me to see if something had been turned in. They did and within a few minutes, the phone rang, but at the same time #3 came back into the store carrying my purse, but the first words from her mouth as she handed it to me were, "Didn't you have your wallet too?"

Sure enough, the wallet was missing. Good thing was that my debit card and cash were all in the cash holder, which looks nothing like a wallet, so the only things I was missing that I felt bad about were my temple recommend and my driver's license.

I sent #3 back up to Old Navy to look further for the wallet. Oh, by the way, the purse was found in the cart near the back of the store. One of the Old Navy workers brought it to the front.

The phone rang at $20 Below, and I jokingly said, "Oh maybe security found my wallet." I was sure this was impossible, but sure enough, they had. I went to the office, and the woman at the front desk handed it to me. Nothing was missing. PHEW!

The way I write this makes it sound like it all happened so quickly, but the whole ordeal probably took more than an hour.

As we walked out to the car #3 shared with me the fact that she'd been praying hard the whole time. I told her that I had too.

This could have been a very disastrous experience. I'm so grateful for good people who don't take advantage of others' stupidity. Thank you to whoever returned my wallet!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Restoration (More or Less)

I'm probably overdoing the collage thing a bit, but I am so excited about this....

I made a collage similar to this about 8 years ago or so.  It hung on our wall.  Over time, the clear plastic that covered it became damaged, so it was placed on our desk.  It looked kind of neat there but water got dropped on a couple pictures.  SAD!

This morning, I decided it was time to do something about it, so instead of re-framing all of the photos, I decided to scan each photo individually and used Picasa to recreate what had been destroyed.  This is pretty much what it looked like.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Happy Birthday #4!

Twelve special things about #4:
  • He is a great soccer goalie.
  • He was due to be born on 1/1/00--Y2K.
  • He's compassionate.
  • He has remarkable eye color.
  • He has two whorls in his hair which make his hair, when it's long enough, go into a natural faux-hawk.
  • He was born 9 months after my mom passed away--he was my hope in my time of mourning.
  • He is the only of my mom's children or grandchildren that has her coloring.
  • The day he was born, when my dad walked into the hospital room and greeted us, #4 turned his head toward him. 
  • He's extremely loyal.
  • He's very creative.
  • He remembers lines to movies like no one's business.
  • He's learning to play the trombone.

    Tuesday, December 27, 2011


    Do you see that cute little boy in the front of this picture?  Yep, the one with the dangling feet.  As I scan this photo, I feel a big ol' bunch of guilt.

    I LOVE this little boy.  Let there be no mistake about that, but this little boy came around about the time a digital camera entered our home.  My husband's computer, where all of this little boy's photos were stored, died.  There are very few memories now.  It makes me so sad.

    Let this be a lesson to us all--back up your photos!

    He will turn 9 next week.  I just want it to go down, for the record, that this lack of photos in no way reflects my feelings about him.  I love his sweet personality and his many talents.  He draws great pictures; reads well; and I believe, will someday be quite a good musician.  He's good at math and good at sports.  He's a good kid.  I'm thankful to be his mom.

    Looking Forward

    2012!  For twelve years, I've been dreading 2012, and here it is staring me in the face just a few days away--the year our oldest child will leave the roost.  In many ways, though, I'm excited.  She's a good kid.  She'll do good things for this world.

    As I'm looking ahead at 2012, here are the other things that lie ahead for the Madhouse:

    Tomorrow, #4 will turn 12, so in January, he will become an Aaronic Priesthood holder and pass the sacrament at church on Sundays.
    In February, there will be the American Mothers Gala and the Mother of the Year will be named.
    In March, the Warden and I will celebrate our 20th anniversary.
    Also in March, I'm hoping for a trip to Disneyland--think I'll be able to talk the Warden into that one?
    In April, I will graduate from college and #3 will receive her Young Womanhood Recognition Award.
    In August (I think), as already mentioned, #1 will head to college.
    #3 will go to high school in September and will shortly thereafter probably get her drivers permit.
    Also in September, #6 will go to Kindergarten and #7 will go to preschool.

    Mixed in amongst these major things will be a bunch of more minor occurrences....
    Potty training, driver's licenses and lessons, an Eagle project, other scout activities, soccer, basketball, track, cross country, music lessons, church activities and responsibilities, goals to set and meet, and blog posts....lots and lots of blog posts--just to get me through it all sanely.

    What lies ahead for you in 2012?

    A Mother's Legacy

    "...Love as powerful as your mother's for you leaves its own mark.  Not a scar, no visible sign...to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever.  It is in  your very skin...." 
    (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, p. 299).

    Monday, December 26, 2011

    So, the tests are done.

    Here's how it all went down....

    It was true that I could take an 8.5" x 11" piece of paper with notes written on one side with me to the test, so I worked my tail off getting notes together.  What I ended up with was a page of paper in 5pt. font and justified .25"  margins all the way around.  Each sentence fed into the next.  It was HILARIOUS!  When the proctor saw me walk in with it, she asked me if I needed a magnifying glass because she had one in her desk she was happy to lend to me.  I refused it and felt grateful to have relatively good eyes close up still.

    The Warden and I packed our things, and he drove me to the testing center.  He sat and waited.  I took the careers test first--20 questions.  I was done in 15 minutes.  I walked back out and got the personal finance test. 

    Usually, in the course syllabus, it states how many questions and what kind of questions will appear in the final.  This class did not.  I went in blind--no quizzes or midterms to preface this final.  I hadn't a clue what to expect.

    It ended up being 33 questions--all multiple choice.  I'm sure I got a number of them correct but the last number of them were TOUGH!  I'm thankful that I scored well on the term project, so I'm hoping I end up with about a B.

    I walked out just glad it was over.

    Funny thing was that the testing center was closing for good that night.  My need for using it was over as well, so that worked out nicely.

    The testing center is located near a station for the light rail train system.  The Warden and I would be staying at the Marriott Hotel downtown that night for our get-away, so when I got done with the tests, we walked out, got our bags out of the car, bought tickets and boarded the train to head downtown.

    We checked in and headed down the street to the Saucebox for dinner.  We had potstickers, egg rolls, salad rolls and Korean ribs.  We spent the rest of the evening just talking and hanging out.  It was so nice.

    The next morning, I woke at 5:40.  What is up with 5:40?!  I wake at that same time EVERY morning.  Who needs an alarm clock?  I was able to eventually fall back asleep and slept until 7:30.

    We eventually packed up and boarded the train again.  We went to breakfast, did a bit of last minute Christmas shopping and headed home.

    It was an ideal way to finish off the stressful class.  Glad to have it all done.  So nice of the Warden to set this all up.  So great to have some time just with him!

    At this point, I have one final class to take.  It's a matter of writing a summary paper (and a few other things) to conclude by BYU education.  While we were gone, I tried to look it up to see how much the course would cost, but it wasn't listed in the catalog.  Could it be that they're not offering it any more?  I would absolutely love it if they were to say that I'm all done.  What are the chances?  We'll see when I call them tomorrow (they're closed today).

    Saturday, December 24, 2011

    Merry Christmas!

    At about 7:30 this morning our doorbell rang.  The Warden and I looked at each other trying to figure out who could be ringing the bell at that hour.  #6 ran to the door and answered it.  I could hear a woman's voice say, "Is your mom Julie?"  I was a bit baffled.  "Will you give these to her?"  At that point, I started scrambling for something to wear, but by the time I ran to the door with the tray #6 had run up to me, I had missed her.  It was Morgan's grandmother with an entire tray full of the most amazing warm cinnamon rolls with the words "Merry Christmas" written in red and green in the most beautiful handwriting on the foil.  
    I sat and cried.  What time must she have been up to make such wonderful rolls?!  They were still WARM!  She hadn't been to my house before.  She must have had to give herself a bit of extra time for that too.  So touched by her thoughtfulness!  They were FANTASTIC!  Thank you Vic!

    I woke all the kids threatening that if they wanted one they'd "better come now, or they might all be gone."  Such an amazing way to start the day!

    Every year in the past, we've spent Christmas Eve at the Warden's parents house.  Last year that ended, and we had a party at our house with a number of other families.  As we faced the reality of it just being us this Christmas Eve, and I have to admit, we felt just a touch of sadness.

    My family, growing up didn't do much for Christmas Eve.  I remember we all got a new pair of pajamas, and I remember my mom, many years, working hard to get them all made by that night.  That was about the extent of Christmas Eve for us, but for the Warden's family, it was HUGE.  His mom made wonderful food and hosted parties of anyone and everyone.  We were all encouraged to bring friends along.  There were always carols sung around the piano and the reading of the nativity out of Luke.  In more recent years, that reading included costumes and acting the story out.

    As dinner was just about on the table, the doorbell rang.  It was some dear friends that we don't see very often any more.  They had joined us in years past up at the Warden's house.  We were so glad to see them.  They had come by to drop of a card and some treats.  We asked them if they'd eaten.  He mentioned that they'd "just been snacking," so we invited them to join us.  They had a number of deliveries still to make, so we told them to come back after.  It worked out perfectly.  We were able to throw together a bit more food while they were gone.

    It was wonderful to spend the evening according to Hess tradition!  What a wonderful little tender mercy!  #1 played the piano, we read about the birth of Christ and enjoyed some time together.

    Now, I'm off to bed, and everything's set for the morning.  Can't wait to see the kids faces.  Breakfast is waiting in the fridge.  I'm doing this this year.  We'll have ham and funeral potatoes (see cookbook p. 18--tomorrow evening).  Tonight, we had the traditional Hess dinner (last recipe on p. 21, Caesar salad, corn, rolls, and for dessert, the bottom recipe on p. 52, which #6 referred to as "Mex in Japan" tonight.  Hmm.  That might just stick around here.)

    I hope whatever you're doing that you have a very merry Christmas!  What a wonderful time to spend with family and remember the real gift that God gave to us--his Son.  Merry Christmas to you and yours!!!

    Thursday, December 22, 2011

    Fire Lit

    I totally had plans to be finished with my studying night before last.  If I'd known then what I know now, I would have been, Here's what has me still going:

    "During the exam, you cannot use your notes, PowerPoints, textbook or teaching tools. It is OK to use a financial calculator, but all other helps are not allowed. You are allowed to use a full 8.5" by 11" sheet of paper written on one side which you will hand in with the exam."

    Does this sound like I can have a piece of paper to write notes on one side during the test to anyone else?  Well, that's how I had interpreted it.  Then,night before last, right before I went to bed, I read this:

    "The exam will be closed to all class materials (i.e., book, notes, Teaching Tools, and PowerPoints). I do allow one 8.5" x 11" page of notes, printed one side, which you will hand in with the exam."

    What?!  Now, that's a completely different story, don't you think?  Had I known this was what the first quote had said, I would have been working on that one page WAY back at the beginning of the class.

    Well, I called BYU first thing yesterday morning to clarify and sure enough, I get to take a page of notes in with me.

    The thing that freaks me out about this class is that there have been no quizzes, no midterms, just an enormous project that was more than daunting.  I have no  idea what a test will look like.  I'm anticipating a bunch of case studies that I have to respond to.  Somehow from that one piece of paper, I'm going to come up with the answers for "Jim and Barbara" who have overextended their credit and "Steve and Mindy" who want to use some of their money for investments, and I'm supposed to tell them if I think they're ready for that step and what the future value of their investments'll be.

    I only have one thing to say on this topic.....


    So, I have taken, so far, hundreds of pages of notes--I'm not kidding--and consolidated them down to a page.  I have about 50 pages left still and no paper left to fit them onto, but I WILL do this, I'm determined. 

    As of this afternoon, it'll all be over.  Oh, no, wait....I have four hours to take this test in, so as of tonight, it'll be all over.  Wish me luck.  Pray for me, okay?  I have no clue what I'm walking into.

    Wednesday, December 21, 2011

    Bedtime in a Basket

    This past summer, when we took the trip to Spokane, I found that my sister-in-law took a bath every night.  I am totally a bath person--love them!  But every night for me is just tough.  I have thought since how I would love to follow her example. 

    I think I've finally figured out how to make it part of my bedtime routine.  The past two nights I have done it, but one thing that's made it easier and something I anticipate is that I keep a basket with the things I need in it for my bedtime routine on a shelf in my closet.  When I get out of the bath the night before, I put a towel and a pair of pajamas in for the next night.  It sits and waits for me all that next day.  Also in the basket are candles and matches; the items I need in order to wash my face, brush my teeth, etc.; pajamas and underwear; my schedule for the next day and my scriptures.

    I like to be in bed by 9:30pm.  Rarely happens, but everyday that's what I tell myself--that bedtime will be 9:30.  As I see the basket sitting there, it invites me to use it and of course I want to--the sooner the better.

    So, around 9pm, I go in and fill the tub.  I go back in the bedroom and grab my basket.

    For some reason, those candles make the bath a real treat.  I climb in and sog for close to a half hour and spend time checking the next day's schedule and reading the scriptures to candlelight.

    It's pretty darned magical and relaxing.  A nice treat at the end of the day.

    Tuesday, December 20, 2011

    Envelope System: Month 3

    I chose not to budget the extra money this month.  I'm wondering if I'll live to regret that choice.  I have to admit that every so often I'll think of a great place to spend that extra money.  I somehow have to train myself not to do that.  I need to learn to leave it alone and forget it's there.

    I went to the dry pack today--month three.  I took #2 with me, and we had a great time.  We canned a little bit of everything--hot cocoa, refried beans, macaroni, etc.  A couple of the people there recognized me this time.  I told them that my goal is to come once a month.  They said it was wise to stock up a little at a time.  Is there any other way to do it, really?

    It's interesting how scheduled I'm becoming.  I go to Costco once a month to stock up on certain items--T.P., diapers, tortillas, tortilla chips, vitamins for the kids, etc. and then to the dry pack to stock up on others.  I figure the rest of the grocery money goes for weekly food purchases.  I'm looking forward to being a bit more diligent with coupons once school is over.

    I didn't use coupons at all last month.  I know, shame on me, and I didn't do us any favors at all.  The grocery money ran out about a week and a half before the end of the month.  I know I could have dipped into savings or drawn out of the Christmas fund or buckled and used the debit card, but I had to prove to myself that I don't have to do those things.

    It actually worked out beautifully.  We used our food storage for that last part of the month.  I opened a can of dehydrated apples--"apple chips," and the kids used these as their fruit in their lunches.  They got so they were asking for them as snacks also.  We also opened and used part of our first can of powdered milk.  I remember powdered milk as a kid, so I was very hesitant to use it, but it was actually good.  Surprising!  It had no strange flavor to it.  It just tasted like milk.  The only thing I won't purchase at the dry pack is the oatmeal.  We like old fashioned oats, and theirs are quick oats and have a funny flavor to them.  So, I buy the big Quaker box at Costco.  I also wish the dry pack had brown rice.

    Anyway, it's nice to know we don't have to dip to be full and happy.  It also helped that the Zaycon order came in.

    Still loving the envelope system.  In my opinion, mint.com is great for setting up a budget and helping figure out how much should be saved each month in order to reach certain financial goals.  I set up birthday budgets this month.  Each kid's birthday money has its own envelope, and the saving for next Christmas's budget has begun.

    Wow!  I feel so in control--scary!

    Monday, December 19, 2011

    Day 29- In this Past Month, What I Have Learned

    I have learned:

    to worry more about how you feel about others than how they feel about you.  You can control your feelings and what you do, but you can't control their feelings or what they do.

    more about budgeting and feel like we're really getting on top of our finances.

    that you can't ask your kids to do something you're not doing, and you can't ask your kids to not do something you are doing.  (This wasn't really something I learned but something I had reconfirmed).

    how to cook with dehydrated refried beans.

    that I can do hard things.

    that reading the Book of Mormon and praying everyday keeps me even.  When I'm down, it makes me happy.  It creates a foundation, so I'm "driven on the waves and tossed."

    a lot about what I want to do for a job in the future and how to get a job once I want or need one.

    to act on any generous impulse I might have.

    I think what would be interesting would be to answer this question here in a few months--after school is over.  I wonder what the contrast will be like between the student life and the non-student life.

    Sunday, December 18, 2011

    The Best Time to Plant a Tree

    I love Amulek!  I mean LOVE!!!

    He is me--over and over again.

    Amulek's just a guy.  He's just a guy like everybody else.

    This morning, I sat on the bathroom floor and read from Alma.  I didn't want to wake anyone with the glare of the computer--and #6, at some point, crept into our bed...again.  Since he's had his room to himself--that'll be another post, explaining that--he comes into our room and sleeps with us more and more often.  I'm so dead tired, I don't even realize he's there until his knee has made contact with my nose.

    As I'm reading, I'm thinking I'd better get ready for the day.  #1's performing this morning, so I'm assuming I get to go along--always a joy!

    I start brushing my teeth and read as I do so.  As I brush, I start thinking about how teeth are like what I'm reading.

    When your teeth start falling out of your head, is that when you start brushing your teeth?  Well, if you haven't brushed your teeth before, and you think it might stop the progression of gum disease and instantaneous tooth extraction, yah.  You do.

    That reminded me of the quote from the funeral I blogged about a few weeks ago--The best time to plant a tree was 25 years ago.  The second best time is now.

    Amulek is this kind of guy.  He isn't a bad guy.  He just isn't living up to his full potential.  He's following the crowd.  He ignores the promptings he's receiving.

    One day, he receives a prompting.  He could continue the way he's going so easily, but he, for some reason, decides, "What the heck.  What do I have to lose?"  So he follows it and does what he is directed.  It's easy--open your door to the guy who's walking down the street.  He's hungry.  Give him something to eat.  Simple, right?  It requires some effort, but it's not that he's being asked to jump off a bridge. 

    So Amulek does just that.  He takes a baby step in the right direction.  He takes his hardening heart and opens it just a little bit of the way, and God does the rest.  Within days, he's doing all kinds of things he would never have done otherwise. 

    As I'm reading, I'm thinking what can I do today that'll be a baby step in the right direction?  What can I do that will bring me closer to the Savior?--even if it's just a matter of a tiny baby step.  What can I do to show Him I'm willing?  How can I have an Amulek moment?  An Amulek day?  An Amulek life?

    Yes, I love Amulek cuz he's just a regular Joe on the street who for just a minute listened and had miracles take over his life.  He became what God wanted him to be because he took baby steps.

    Now is the time to plant the tree.

    What I'm Reading

    So, I'm moving my way along....

    I got to Alma 8:20 this morning, so far.

    I have to say that I'm impressed with Alma and his lack of thinking of himself.  His only desire is to help people find the Savior.  He is very bitterly disrespected and rejected, and as he walks away from the situation, his only feeling is sorrow for the people and what they are becoming.

    I'm also impressed by the idea of what the gospel does for people--it civilizes them.  Without Christ, we become increasingly animal-like and barbaric.  With it, we rise above these things and become more kind, loving and respectful of others.

    There were two things that caught me in verse 20.  First the fact that God is aware of us and knows just how to relieve us in our times of distress--particularly if we're trying to follow Him and do His will.  But the second thing was the note I had written under this verse.  Normally, I would have probably written the words "tender mercy" under this kind of experience, but I had written "A breath of fresh air."  That's EXACTLY what a tender mercy is to me--kind of a breath of heavenly air.

    Just thought I'd share.  Enjoy your day!  I hope you have many breaths of fresh air.

    Saturday, December 17, 2011

    Favorite Things of 2011

    I was sitting in the doctor's office waiting room early the other morning.  I found "O" magazine on the table next to me.  I didn't even get the chance to open it because the cover gave me a post idea.  Oprah had favorite things, so I thought I must too.  I got busy jotting down my faves.

    Like my "People of the Year," I came up with twelve.  Here they are (minus the cleavage):

    Kitchen Aid mixer - LOVE it!  Got it in April.  Now can't figure out how I ever baked without it.
    Pink Old Navy overcoat/trench-type thingy (I just found out it's called a "car coat") - My favorite thing in my wardrobe.  Can't tell you why.  I just like how it looks.  During the Spokane trip, this bright pink color was kind of a theme.  I bought Gerber daisies for the graves I went and visited.
    Ikea pillow - I bought one for the Warden originally, and he LOVES it, so I went back and bought me one.  I can't even tell you what I love about it.  I just do.  Super pliable and comfy.

    Oregon water (I'm a water snob) - LOVE Oregon's water.  Maybe not all of Oregon, but the water that comes into my house is delish.
    Bruttles soft peanut brittle - the shop was next to our hotel in Spokane.  Everyday, the maid would leave some on the pillow on the bed.  The thing I don't like about hard peanut brittle is that it's hard and well, brittle.  This stuff practically melts in your mouth.
    Our old piano - I love it for what #1 can do with it.  It was my great-grandparents piano that came west with them.  Built in 1879.  The Warden offered to refinish it for me way back, but I just can't do it.  Maybe after I'm dead and gone someone'll get their hands on it, but for now, I'm happy with it just the way it is.
    Squeaky shoes - LOVE these.  Some people don't want their kids to make any more noise than is absolutely necessary.  Yes, if my 12-year-old was wearing these, then I'd feel the same, but I love knowing where my 2-year-old is when she's not in my sight.
    Sprinter van - What can I say?  My home away from home.  It's a great ride, and my friends all know when I'm around.  I have to be a really careful driver because I'm so darned conspicuous.
    Zaycon Foods (not so much a thing, but where I get things) - I am so stocked up on chicken and beef right now because of Zaycon.  Wonderful!
    Dry pack cannery (again...not necessarily a thing) - I now go once a month and spend about $100 on food that will last us for 30 years if needed.  Actually, that's kind of a joke.  With teenagers in the house, 30 days'd be a feat.
    Envelope system (can this one be a thing?) - This is working miracles on our finances.  I can't recommend this one enough.  Absolutely love it!  I'll give you another update here in a few days.
    Ikea Swedish meatballs with lingon berries - Ikea is #6's favorite place in the world.  When asked if he'd rather go to Disneyland or Ikea, he chooses Ikea (mind you, he's never been to Disneyland, but for now, he's saving me oodles of money).  The reasons he loves Ikea--the playland and the meatballs.  What more could a 5-year-old boy want from life?

    Friday, December 16, 2011


    Kids'll start heading home within a half hour.  YAY!!!!

    I knew a woman once who had a gorgeously spotless home.  She HATED it when her kids had a day off from school.

    I choose otherwise.  At one point in time, our house was gorgeously clean day after day, but it was only because I was freaking out about every little mess that was made.  I choose not to be that fanatical.   My home is never gorgeous or spotless--not any more, but my kids like being here, and I like having them here.

    I would love to be able to find the balance between these two things--kids and cleanliness, but so far, even when we get things clean, they don't last all that long.  The kids are good cleaners, but to be honest, they need someone to remind them to do the cleaning.  Sometimes life gets busy, and I slack on my reminder duty. 

    Someday it will be clean, but that will only be because the mess-makers no longer reside here.  That will be a sad day.

    For now, with a half hour to go, I'm counting down their return.  They'll be here with me for two weeks straight.  We're going to do some fun things.  We have two birthdays during that time and some fun traditions to uphold.  I'm excited!

    For today, I'm working on getting the house in order, so they can come into a peaceful, warm, loving place.  I'm also making them a treat...rosettes.

     My mom used to make them for us when I was a little girl.  I inherited the irons from her.
    I've found them online for around $13 if you're interested in having some.

    Here's the recipe I use if you already have the irons and want to give it a go:

    Put a bunch of shortening in a pan (the pan needs to be wide enough that the irons can fit into it) and melt it.  Once melted, the oil should be at least an inch deep.  Yes, these are deep fried.

    Add 2 tsp. sugar to 2 slightly beaten eggs.
    Add 1 C. milk.
    Mix 1 C. flour and 1/4 tsp. salt and stir into the egg mixture.
    Add 1 tsp. vanilla.

    The batter should be smooth and have the consistency of heavy cream.

    Screw the iron of your choice onto the handle and let it heat up in the melted shortening.  You want the shortening to be hot.  I've tried substitutes for this, but it has to be shortening--sorry.

    Dip the hot iron into the batter about 3/4 of the way up the side of the iron and put it in the hot shortening until  it's brown.

    Remove the rosette to paper towels on a plate.  Let them cool a bit and then dip them in powdered sugar; they should still be a bit warm when you do this.

    Eat shortly thereafter.  Enjoy!

    Thursday, December 15, 2011

    The Goal

    Every year, no matter where I am in it, I finish the Book of Mormon before the new year begins.  This year, I'm way back in Mosiah 21.  Ugh!  I've got a long way to go.  I've got a reading schedule all set up through readthescriptures.com.

    I've been fascinated by some of the things in this Conference talk.  I keep running across it and have read it over and over again.  It wasn't one of those that grabbed my attention back in October, but for some reason, I am directed to it repeatedly.

    This paragraph, particularly, is fascinating to me:

    "Pondering a passage of scripture can be a key to unlock revelation and the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Ghost. Scriptures can calm an agitated soul, giving peace, hope, and a restoration of confidence in one’s ability to overcome the challenges of life. They have potent power to heal emotional challenges when there is faith in the Savior. They can accelerate physical healing."

    I've experienced the things the first part of this paragraph states, but that last sentence.....That's new to me.  I'd heard things about this in the mission field, but I have to say I was a bit of a cynic.  Maybe I need to open my mind a bit further.

    Right now, I need the blessings promised of calm to an agitated soul and "restoration of confidence" in my ability to "overcome the challenges of life."  Maybe I'll never experience that "physical healing" portion, but the other is enough for me. 

    I love the Book of Mormon!

    Wednesday, December 14, 2011

    Hesses Madhouse People of the Year

    Time Magazine revealed its person of the year today, so I thought it might be fun to announce mine as well.  Here are the rules.  A person of the year cannot live in the Madhouse and he/she cannot be a person I work with directly through church.   He/she has to be someone I've met face-to-face.

    There have been so many that have influenced my life in 2011.  Here are a few:

    My cousin C.J.
    I hadn't met C.J. until this year.  I had seen pictures of her when she was a child and heard stories about her from my mom, but we'd never met until 2011.  She came from Idaho and helped organize the Stegner family reunion.  She came and lived under our roof for a few days and bonded with #6 almost immediately.  It was a JOY to meet her and spend time with her on two different occasions.  So happy to have her in my life now!

    The Asanos
    The Asanos lost everything during the tsunami in March.  They are the representatives for Mormon Helping Hands in Furukawa, Japan.  After losing all that they owned, they didn't sit around feeling sorry for themselves but immediately jumped in to serve those around them.

    Stegner cousins
    C.J. is in the photo as well, but these people came from far away just to meet up with family.  I was impressed with the bond that forged immediately when I met them.  LOVED being with them and hope this won't be the only reunion we have.

    The Holz cousins--my mom's mom's side of the family.  These people had no clue who I was, I'm sure, but they made the effort to get together for dinner.  I descend from most of the Holz' great aunt, who had only one child, my mother.  These Holz's descend from my grandmother's brothers.  Funny how family just feels like...well...family from the moment you meet them.  Special thank you to Jeff for taking the time to play tour guide as well.  So great to get to spend time with him and all of the Holz's and Stegner's.  Love you all!

    Sister-in-law Janelle
    Oh my goodness!  Not enough can be said about this WONDERFUL woman!  I LOVE her!!!  She jumped in when I said I was going to Spokane.  She was the driver of the rental car--thank goodness (I can get lost in my own backyard).  She had a brand new calling as Relief Society president in her ward but left and came with me.  She was more than patient while we sat and chatted about family and was just sweet and kind the entire time.

    Dear friend Tonya
    I look at her photo, and I just want to cry.  Tonya was my salvation more than once during 2011.  It's been an intense year.  Tonya went back to school, yet she took the time for a friend.  On more than one occasion, the phone would ring and there would be Tonya on the other end of the phone asking if I wanted to have a spontaneous girls' night out.  Thank you, Tonya, for taking the time out of your busy life to prevent me going any further insane.  I LOVE spending time with you!  You are an angel!!!

    How could I leave out Taffrin?  I have loved Tuesdays.  They have been an opportunity to look a little closer at that light at the end of the tunnel that has been school.  It has given me a glimpse of what life will be like--spending time with my children and doing things we like to do--not always sacrificing for the things their mom has to do.

    Cub Master Steve
    This man puts his ALL into his calling.  He goes above and beyond for the kids in our ward.  You'll notice the boy in the photo has a red mark on his face.  Steve makes scout rituals memorable.  I appreciate the friendship our family has with his.  Thank you for the example of service, Steve!

    Tom should probably have been on my list a couple years ago, but I didn't have a list back then.  I was happy to run across this photo of 2011.  Here, #2 is getting his Life Scout award.  His next step is Eagle.  I include Tom here because I give Tom 95% of the credit for #2 getting to this point.  Tom, who wasn't much of a scouter in his youth, fully embraced that fact and makes it possible and easier for this younger generation to achieve more.  I appreciate those who make time and the effort to help my kids out.


    I was so impressed with Jayne!  She and Chuck with the museum were wonderful to meet and spend time with while we were up in Spokane.  I had been in touch with Chuck for months before we took the trip, but I hadn't had much contact with Jayne.  She was fabulous!  Her outgoing, warm personality made her a friend immediately.  She's doing a wonderful work for the Spokane Valley and preserving its history.

    Julia is WONDERFUL!  Most of the photos you see on this blog--on the header and on the sidebars, were taken by Julia.  She also did #1's senior photos this year and made the special trip up here to Portland to take some photos of #7.  She's got some AMAZING talent.  I wish I had a photo of her taking pictures.  She's down laying on the ground, climbing on things....It's fun to watch.  She's always thinking and just views life in such an artistic way.

    Vic - Morgan's grandmother
    Oh how I love this woman!  I have also been impressed by Morgan's mom, but I've never met her face-to-face, or she would  have definitely been on my list.  I have known Vic for more than twenty years.  During 2011, as they faced the ups and downs and ultimate passing of Morgan, Vic commented about how she never thought she'd ever be strong enough to handle something such as that.  I just want to assure you, Vic, that the rest of us knew you could.  You are a wonderful example of Christ-like love and service.  Thank you for the example you've set for so many of us!

    So many others should be on this list, but I have limited the list to 12--one for each month of the year.

    It has been a wonderful year!  A HUGE and special thank you to those who supported #1 and me and our trip to Japan--through donations, cookbook purchases, kind thoughts and words and especially prayers on our behalf.  Thank you to those of you who've helped get kids to and from school.  Thank you to those who've taught my children at school and church.  Thank you to those who've watched my kids so I could study or take a break.  Thank you to fellow bloggers who've shared your wisdom and experience and thus made my life just a bit easier.  Thank you MOST OF ALL to my family--fellow residents of the Madhouse-- for your patience and support as I've attempted to keep a grasp on just who I am supposed to be and have attempted to see some personal goals through to fruition this past year.  Thank you for loving me through it all.  I look forward to 2012 with you!

    Bean Dip

    I LOVE the refried beans from the dry pack.  I heard a rumor that my good friend, who is an amazing cook, only uses these when wanting to use refried beans.  Now I know why.

    They're pretty weird looking to begin with.
    Today, I was wanting some.  I mean they're that good--that I'd want to "just eat some." I thought I'd just throw some water in a bowl, heat it in the microwave and throw some beans in.  Well, I threw in too much water, but in making this mistake, I made the most wonderful bean dip.  Here's what I did....

    Dry pack refried beans (about 1/2 C.)
    1 Tbsp. dry pack onions
    Hot water (start with about a cup, but you may end up with about 1 1/2 C.)
    Just mix these together, but make sure it's pretty watery and that the beans and onions are re-hydrated.

    Heat for about two minutes in the microwave.  You want it hot enough to melt cheese.

    Add 1/2 C. grated cheese and stir in until melted
    Add 1/2 C. +/- salsa
    Add 1/4 C. +/- sour cream

    Dip tortilla chips in it.

    Tuesday, December 13, 2011

    Tuesday: Tooties wiff Taffrin

    Woke to find no eggs in the fridge this morning, but that was NOT going to stop me from keeping this tradition.

    Today we made Jam Thumbprints. To be honest, the girls weren't overly thrilled with them. They're not as sugary or gooey as they like. They're a shortbread cookie, but I put some glaze on top. Here's the recipe:

    Preheat the oven to 350^.

    In a mixing bowl, combine:
    1 C. butter
    2/3 C. sugar
    Cream together and add:
    1 tsp. vanilla
    Mix together and gradually add:
    2 C. flour
    Mix until the dough forms a ball.

    Ideally, at this point, you should refrigerate the dough so that it's easier to handle, but we didn't, and it was just fine.

    Roll dough into 1" balls and push with your finger to make a well. Put a small dollop of jam into the well.

    Bake for 14 minutes.

    While they're baking, mix together:
    1 C. powdered sugar
    a bit of water (enough to make a glaze consistency)
    1 tsp. vanilla

    Once the cookies are out of the oven, drizzle with glaze.

    We all sat down and enjoyed some hot chocolate with our cookies.


    Victory Morgan (2008-2011)

    "The Lord takes many away, even in infancy, that they may escape the envy of man, and the sorrows and evils of this present world; they were too pure, too lovely, to live on earth." - Joseph Smith

    Monday, December 12, 2011

    Day 28- A Picture of Me from Last Year and Now; How I Have Changed Since Then

    Okay, so this isn't exactly now.  It's actually six months ago, but I don't think I've changed that much.  My hair might be a bit longer.

    Both of these photos were taken before going to Japan was even a thought.  I think, more than anything, it's been the inside of me that's changed.  For the better?  I'd like to think so, but I'm working through a lot of tough things right now--a lot like nearly everyone I know, so I guess we'll see how I weather it whether it changes me for the better or not.

    I've been kind of quiet on the blogging front lately because of that.  I'm hoping to work through it quickly, but we shall see.

    Sunday, December 11, 2011

    Day 27- Why I am Doing this 30 Day Challenge

    The answer to "why" at our house right now is, "Cuz want to."

    It's funny.  #7 is my first "why" child.  "Why" is asked over and over each day.  When the table is turned, and I ask her "why," her response is "Cuz want to." 

    When she is the one asking why, each time I try to respond with a reasonable and logical answer only to be faced with another "why."  Finally, I end with "Cuz want to," and the conversation ends with "Oooh."

    So, when faced with this "why" question, my impulsive response can be found above--"Cuz want to."

    I actually looked forward to doing this challenge this year.  I enjoyed it a lot last year, so I thought it would be fun to do it again.  Next year, before I begin, I will edit some of the questions similarly to how I've been doing it as I go along this year.

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