Sunday, December 28, 2008

Another Sunday

Another Sunday after church
Talking with family
Doing computer stuff



Next week church starts at 9:00 a.m. Hurray!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Today we went cross country skiing. It was about zero at home when we left. It was 32 up in the mountains. It was perfect!
Below are pictures of the apartment. it is finished except for furnishings and filling nail holes in the trim.

Window coverings

Kitchen sink


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Things I Remember About Christmas

Here are some of the things I remember about my Christmases as a child:

1) My Mom and Dad were there to open presents, but Mom always had to go to work at 3:00 p.m.

2) There were non stop Christmas specials on television during the month of December. We really enjoyed watching them.

3) We would get out of school early on the day of our Christmas program. I don't remember my parents coming to a program because they always had to work. I never felt resentful. It was just the way things were. I was just thrilled to get out of school early.

4) In Jr. High and High School I had Christmas Band Concerts. (We didn't have to call them "Winter" concerts then.) My Dad always came.

5) On Christmas Eve my family didn't do anything but watch TV. We never played games together, read the Christmas story, or talked. It was very lonely. I always yearned to have some family gathering. That is why I started having Christmas Eve parties when I had kids.

6) My Grandma was a Jehovah's Witness. We never bought her presents, received presents from her, or celebrated anything with her but her 50th wedding anniversary.

7) I had a beautiful gold and green formal that I made to sing in the High School Philharmonic Choir. We got out of school a ton to sing during the Christmas season. I LOVED it!

8) The Christmas of 1968 it snowed. and snowed, and snowed. There was about three feet of snow. The snow piled up in the middle of the street. When driving, there was a wall down the middle of the street and you could not see the other lane. Then, the temperature plunged to well below zero and stayed there until March. We still bundled up and took our toboggan down the hills behind our house. We could only make about two runs down the hill before we were frozen stiff. I went sledding with a neighbor friend, Karen Hooper.

9) When I was about four, I had scarlet fever during Christmas and slept in the front room. I guess I was in quarantine. I got a sled for Christmas that year, but there was no snow.

10) My parents always told me there was no Santa Claus, but I believed anyway. My Mom set me straight on this point again when I was four. I was so bummed.

11) The Christmases I liked best were the ones I had after I married Dad and we had our own family.

12) The Christmas after I married Dad, I was so sick of opening presents from our reception that opening Christmas presents was a chore!

These are the best times. Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Tail of Burning

Thursday afternoon found me scrubbing pepper spray off the walls of an outhouse at the fairgrounds.

It all began my when delightful friend Charmaine decided last week’s hike should be an urban hike. Eloise, Charmaine, and I decided to walk from her upper west side home to the fairgrounds. Our walk took us to Spring Meadow Lake, across the golf course of a private country club, down a railroad bed, and across a field, and through a hole in a chain link fence. Yes, three over-fifty women army crawling through a ground level hole in a chain link fence. The worst part of the fence was that the deer crawl through it too, so there was deer hair all around the fence and on the ground. Yuck.

So after four miles of walking, crawling, and adventuring, it is only natural that an outhouse offers a welcome respite. And why should I remove my back pack? I can use an outhouse while wearing a back pack. Or, I thought I could until I discovered the safety had bounced off my pepper spray. AGAIN! I heard an unusual sound and turned to see: pepper spray all over the toilet lid, and the wall. Having previous experience with pepper spray, I didn’t even wait to get my pants all the way up before I burst out of the outhouse door and ran for it. I made Flash Gordon look like an ADA candidate. We all backed off and waited for the noxious vapor to dissipate. Then, Eloise ventured inside to use a baby wipe to clean off the toilet lid, but there was nothing that could be done with the wall.

We propped the outhouse door open with a garbage can and resumed our urban hike. But the worst was yet to come. Eloise began to have burning under her fingernails. I soon noticed a burning cheeks. The BIG cheeks. Evidently microscopic particles of pepper spray had infiltrated my underwear. Even though it was only 20 degrees, I was reaching for snow and packing my rear end with it as we walked along. Thank heaven, we came to the bathroom at the other end of the fairgrounds with running water. I had to take soap and water sponge bath and Eloise needed a hand wash.

Lucky for us, the walk back was only about three miles and the weather was cold, but just what the hiker ordered for a peppered behind. At Charmaine’s I had to wash and dry my under wear, so that I could stay there. We had planned to make some Christmas candy.

So the next afternoon, armed with a bucket of soapy water, a scrub brush, and various cleaners, I ventured back to the fairgrounds to wipe the pepper spray off the inside of the outhouse. If you ever need a long lasting wall coating, I recommend pepper spray. Nothing I did made a dent in it. Even with the door open for 24 hours with a 20 MPH wind blowing the entire time, I still coughed a little as I cleaned. But at least my rear end was a reasonable temperature.

All I have to say is, I am writing a letter to the pepper spray manufacturers. They need to come up with a better safety.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


Can you over-do Gratitude? I hope not. When it comes to family, I hit the jackpot. I am very grateful for all I am learning from you.

I am grateful:

To the Silly witch for taking time to treasure her children and putting the unimportant stuff aside.

To the Warlock for demonstrating how immersing yourself in a job that has to be done makes the job fun.

To our Angel for the privilege of knowing and loving her, even for just a little while.

To Pippi for taking time for the important things, including a salamander swimming in the dog dish, fish swimming in the lake, and horses running in the field.

To Bardo for introducing me to a fabulous confection called “berry milk” which I mistakenly thought was just grape juice.

To Prudence for improving her talents, making new friends, and living life wherever her life is.

To Flash (aka Turkey Legs) for daring to makes his goals a reality.

To Jet for making the most of every waking minute.

To Speed for not knowing the meaning of giving up.

To Mary Sunshine who enjoys the journey.

To Hermione for having the faith to make a decision, confirming it with the man upstairs, and then going for it.

To Eglantine who realized at an early age that life wasn’t worth living if you can’t have a little fun!

To Boris who knows what he wants and does it.

To Peanut who realizes a little stumble is not the end of the world.

To Orville who knows there is no use in getting all riled up. Everything will be fine.

To Eloise, who is not technically family, but who is teaching me to having compassion and kindness towards those outside my family.

And ESPECIALLY to Wilbur who models the qualities one needs to live with me: patience, tolerance, and a good sense of humor. And for having enough sense never to be fanatical about anything.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


I have many, many things that I am deeply grateful for. Last week another one appeared at sunrise.

Slowly But Surely

Slowly, but surely, Wilbur is getting the deck done. I assist him sort of like a surgical nurse assists a doctor. I figure out what he is going to need next and hand it to him. I did drill a few screws in, but he can do it so much faster.
As you can see, adding a deck to a house with a stone veneer is not easy.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Grandma Robertson

My Mom, Velma Lorene Miller Robertson, was born January 22, 1923 in Sugarville, Utah on the family farm. She was the youngest of ten children. Her father, who had emigrated from Scotland to Utah when he was five years old, was 59 at her birth. Her mother, born in Utah of Danish and Norwegian parents, was 45.

Being the youngest of ten had its challenges. Mom's next oldest sister, Delia, seemed to feel very resentful about Velma's arrival. I remember both Delia and Mom telling me they didn't know how their mother ever stood all the fighting between the girls. By the time Mom came along, her older brothers and sisters were getting married. She remembered her older brother, Ed, giving her a nickel to shine his shoes. A nickel was big bucks to a little girl in the late 1920’s.

Mom’s mother, Annie Margaret, worked as a midwife. She would help a woman deliver her baby and then stay for two weeks to help out. Mom went with her. She said she loved watching her mother give the babies a bath near the warm, wood stoves. After the baths, Grnadma Miller would dress the babies and then let Mom hold them. My mother always LOVED newborn babies.

Mom’s Dad was called to be the Bishop and he called her Mom to be the Relief Society President. This was a common practice during that time of no telephones. Sadly, I think Mom felt very pushed aside, especially by her Mom’s Relief Society President duties. She recounted feeling very angry as Grandma Miller put on a hat to go out again on church business and left Mom home for her older sisters to tend. All my life, I remember Mom feeling very hostile and angry towards the church organization and members of the church. She told me once that people would constantly call on her mother to help them when, really, the help they asked for they could much more easily do for themselves. She also told me of a Christmas Eve when her mother was so exhausted that she laid down on her bed and could not even get up to see the family light the candles on the Christmas tree. During the Christmas season, candles were only lit once on Christmas Eve, and missing out on this illustrated Grandma Miller’s exhaustion.

When Velma was still young, her father became very ill with asthma . Then, the well on their farm dried up. Her parents sold the farm and her mother began running a boarding house in Tooele (I think). This was not a very good experience for Mom because she had to protect herself from child predators. Velma said she was glad when her mother sold the boarding house. When I was young, she warned me about child predators. Often she would look at someone and have a “feeling” about them.

Her father had asthma from working in the dust and dirt on the farm. The feeling of not being able to breathe was intolerable for him, but the only treatment available was a shot of adrenalin. The adrenalin shots ruined his heart, and he died when Velma was nine. Velma remembered singing We Are Sowing at his funeral.

Mom could never talk about the next few years of her life without becoming angry and sad. Mom, Delia, and Grandma Miller went from living with one of Mom’s brothers to another. When her brother’s wives would get tired of having them, they would go and live with another brother. This all took place in the midst of the Great Depression. Quite often her brothers were providing for their families by working for the WPA. The WPA provided low paying, government jobs for men who could get no other work. From hearing her stories, it sounded as if she and her mother and sister would just get settled in one place when they had to move to another. She related how she could see that her sisters-in-law dreaded seeing the three of them come. She told of trying to fit in at a new school and having some kids lie in wait to throw rocks at her ankles as she left for the day. All this, coupled with the death of her father, was pretty tough.

Through all these difficult circumstances, Mom told me that Grandma Miller was a very upbeat person. She did not sit around and mope or feel sorry for herself. When she would find out that one of her daughters-in-law wanted her to leave, she would say, “Oh, we’ll just go stay with (one of her other sons) for awhile.” She was a problem solver who never wasted time and energy on, “Oh, woe is me!”

Finally, Grandma Miller found employment as a housekeeper with a very old man named Heber Robertson in Spanish Fork, Utah. Mom said this was the smartest thing her mother ever did. Finally they had a home and they settled down. Her mother ended up marrying this man because of the gossip circulating about her living in the same house. People are so disgusting sometimes.

Mom’s teenage years in Spanish Fork seemed happy. She had a group of girl friends she ran around with. During the war, they would make fudge on Sunday, with every girls bringing a ½ cup sugar because of rationing. Her stepfather was kind to her, but he was very old, had been on three missions for the church and was a Seventy (each stake had Seventies before the changes were made). He seemed to believe that it was his obligation to preach to all the friends Mom brought to the house. This situation seemed to further entrench Mom’s resentment toward the church.

However, Heber Robertson was kind to my Mom and paid for her to go to nurses training. She entered a fast track nursing program created due a nursing shortage in WWII. She stayed in a dorm with other girls studying to be nurses.

During nurses training, one of Mom’s friends talked her into going to a USO dance. Consistent with family tradition, my Mom had decided she didn’t like USO dances. However, I’m glad she made an exception. At this dance she saw a tall guy with dark brown, curly hair which was wet. Sid Robertson had just come from swimming. Mom said it was love at first sight. My Dad said it was love at first sight for him too. He was stationed at Fort Douglas Utah with the army. They were married by a Justice of the Peace on September 17, 1943.

Winter Harvest Soup

This makes a ton. I half the recipe.

3 medium carrots
3/4 cup chopped celery
1 medium onion
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon butter
1 table spoon olive oil
7 cups chicken broth
3 cups cubes peeled potatoes
2 cups butternut squash ( I used hubbard squash - the kind they cut into large hunks a wrap for you in the store)
2 large tart apples (I used gala, and they were fine)
2 medium turnips, peeled and chopped
2 parsnips, peeled and sliced
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon pepper

In a large pot, cut the carrots, celery, anions, and garlic in oil until tender.
Add the broth, potatoes, squash apples, turnips, parsnips, bay leaf and spices. Simmer for 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Discard bay leaf so nobody chokes on it. Garnish with green onions.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Reminder - 2008 Christmas List

Just Thought I would post this again in case anyone tried to do one of the ideas.

Christmas Wish List for 2008
Pick one
1) During the year, notice the worthwhile qualities and attributes of others. Acknowledge them verbally if the situation permits. Acknowledge them in writing if you would rather. Write me a letter for Christmas telling how you benefited or changed or what you learned by doing this.

2) Have family scripture study for a year. Give five times a week a good shot. The church puts out funny book type scripture materials that make sense to use with kids. At the end of the year, write me a letter telling me about any good things that came of this. I’m open to hearing funny things too.

3) Hold family home evening each week. Once a month incorporate a story about one of your ancestors into the home evening to teach a principle. The ancestor doesn’t have to figure as the hero or heroine. Feel free to use an ancestor’s story about why NOT to do something too. Write me a letter telling me what you learned or what difference this made to you or your children.

4) Whenever someone irritates you or makes you downright mad decide not to take offense. Study D&C 64:8-11. As queen of offense taking, I KNOW this is really a toughie. Do the best you can. Write me a letter telling me how this went.

I love you guys!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Weekly Wanderings

Welcome to the wonderful adventures of Prairie Smoke. In this week's installment Boris and Eglantine moved to a near-by community. Monday Prairie Smoke and Wilbure helped them move. All involved got quite a shock when they saw the apartment that the slum lord, I mean landlord, said was one of the landlord's "nicer properties." I don't even want to think about what one of the less nice properties are like.

Like every week, rain, shine, sleet, hail, sub zero temperatures, sickness, or dead of night will not keep my dog from wanting to make his appointed rounds. He believes I must come along to make his appointed rounds worthwhile.

They say if you live with someone for longer than two weeks, the kind of person she really is will come to light, or dark. Hermione discovered what it is like to live with "she-who-must-not-be-named." She shared some of her experience with me. Plenty of material for a soap opera here I think.

To add to the mystery and gloom of dealing with "she who must not be named," we had three days in a row of fog this week. Rain in November is very odd.

On Thursday, the kitchen cabinets arrived for the studio apartment. It is going to be a nice place to stay.

The appliances for the apartment arrived a few weeks ago.

Wilbur and I spent quality time sealing trim for the apartment. Monday a carpenter is coming to install cupboards and trim.

Thus ends another breath taking installment in the weekly wanderings of Prairie Smoke. Stay tuned for next weeks adventures.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Deck Builder's Assistant

About a month ago, Wilbur and I decided to stain our redwood deck. This resolution lasted about 2 hours. After the first fifteen minutes stripping the old stain off, we both agreed we would rather have the Trex no maintenance deck. Trex looks like wood, but is made from recycled milk jugs and saw dust. By 2:00 that Saturday, Wilbur had two material bids from two different hardware stores. By the next week, he had all the material delivered from a third material supplier that had the best service and price.

In talking the new design over, Wilbur and I decided the adrenalin rush of seeing our grandkids stand on our current deck's built-in bench and lean over the railing could have serious implications for our cardiac health. If we decide we need more adrenalin, Wilbur can hide in the closet and jump out at me, shouting "BOO!" So, the bench is going, with some dismay, though, because I like to sit there and read magazines. Maybe we will replace it with a bench swing that can be moved.

Almost every night after work, Wilbur the deck builder removes a couple of old boards and adds a couple of new ones. As assistant, my job is to dig putty out of that nail holes of the old boards so Wilbur can unscrew them. One of my other jobs is to brace new boards with my feet as Wilbur pounds them into the new invisible fasteners. I also load the fastener holder, called a tiger claw, with fasteners so Wilbur can pound the fasteners in. All in all, I have my uses, not many uses, but a few. We are both looking forward to a new deck!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Logic of Phone Solicitors

The logic of phone solicitors is completely insane.
By harassing and lying they seek to get gain.
To avoid them we're told, "Put your phone on a list."
Still they phone every day. They never have missed.

We always ask, “Please don’t call us again.”
We’d get more response from hogs in the pen.
The diamond blade salesman ignores our request.
He rages and bickers and that is no jest.

He’ll call and insist from him we must buy.
To filch the boss’ cell number, the solicitor will lie.
He’ll say he wants work done and talk now he must.
We don't deal with liars or an ornery cuss.

We won't buy his product, so argue he will.
Does he think if he demands, we must pay the bill?
Does he think it’s good business to make us mad?
We’d much rather buy local than deal with cads.

So now here's our new rule to cope with weird nerds:
If our phone says “Unknown,” your call won't be heard.
If you call “toll free,” you will be ignored.
Feel free to leave a message. And we won’t yank the cord.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

October Snow

I harvested my garden because the weatherman promised snow and cold weather. This time, he was telling the truth. This year, I had the biggest pumpkin I have ever had. I also had beets, Kohlrabi, and cabbage to get in. I will miss eating fresh romain lettuce from my garden, but it will be good to have more time to do other things.

Taffy Pull

Taffy Pull Recipe
Taffy Pull Recipe Here is a taffy pull recipe for those who thought a taffy pull might be fun. It has some simliarities with my butter mint recipe (the mints I made for weddings):Ingredients:2-1/2 cups sugar1-1/2 cups light corn syrup4 teaspoons white vinegar1/4 teaspoon salt1/2 cup evaporated milkPreparation:Note: Use a candy thermometer for this recipe. For brown sugar candy, substitute 2 1/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar for the white sugar. Mix all ingredients except milk in heavy saucepan over low heat. Stir often until sugar is completely dissolved. Increase heat and bring mixture to boiling. VERY slowly add the evaporated milk in a thin stream so boiling does not stop. Put candy thermometer in pan; continue stirring. Cook and stir constantly until mixture reaches 248° (firm ball stage). Dip pastry brush in water and gently brush sides of pan to wash crystals from sides of pan. Do this a few times while candy is cooking. When candy has reached desired temperature, remove from heat, remove thermometer and WITHOUT scraping sides and bottom of pan, pour mixture onto large platter which has been greased with margarine. Let mixture cool (a marble slab works great to cool it off) until it is cool enough to handle. Grease your hands with margarine; take a small portion of the candy and begin pulling. Use only the tips of your fingers to pull. Candy should be white in color and no longer feel sticky when it has been pulled enough. Twist each pulled strip slightly and place on waxed paper. When all the candy is pulled, cut each strip into 1-inch pieces. Wrap each piece in waxed paper and twist ends. You can get special colored paper for this. Store in a container with a tight fitting cover.Makes about 8 dozen 1-inch pieces.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Profiles In Courage No. 1

Whenever the mood strikes me, I am going to write about courageous people, according to my definition of courage. Movies stars, fortune 500 CEOs, and prominent political figures will never appear here. There are a lot of courageous people that might never be famous and probably don’t even want to be. But they have higher qualifications than many of the rich and famous when it comes to being classified as courageous. Here is my number one courageous person:

Wilbur was born in Spokane, Washington. When Wilbur was young, the family moved around quite often. His father had very different goals than his mother. I understand his father had dreams of becoming wealthy and raising horses. The church or the gospel did not figure strongly in these goals. Periodically, Wilbur’s father would tell his mother to leave, and she would be forced to move home with her family. When Wilbur was four, his parents divorced. Wilbur says he has no recollection of his father and mother ever being together

When Wilbur was seven, his mother remarried. Before long, his stepfather began physically abusing Wilbur and his brothers, particularly his oldest brother. After a few years of this, Wilbur’s Dad took Wilbur’s two older brothers to live with him. I remember Wilbur saying he wanted to go so badly, but he was not permitted to go. He had to stay with his younger sister and brother from the first marriage and continue to endure the abuse. When he was around sixteen, he wrestled his step father off of his younger brother and put his stepfather in a headlock. He asked, “How does it feel to be on the bottom for change?” Later, Wilbur was very glad he didn’t go with his older brothers because his mother was dedicated to the gospel and he was able to attend church with her and gain a testimony. At the time, though, he was devastated.

An ordinary person might use these experiences as an excuse to beat his children, flunk out of school, become inactive, become moody and depressed, be irresponsible, or to become a failure. Not Wilbur. He was and is a wonderful father. He was kind to all his children. He played with them, laughed with them, commiserated with them, and loved them. He started his own business when he was 29 and made it successful. People in general like Wilbur. He is comfortable within his own skin. He is funny and fun. He is almost always pleasant to be around.

Wilbur was athletic. He played baseball, basketball, football, and showed some talent in distance running. His parents did not ever attend one of his games. His step father told him often that participation in sports was stupid. He stopped running distance in order to work because if he didn’t he would not have a dime to even go to the movies. As a Senior, he and another boy were told they’d made the varsity basketball team only to be cut a week or so later. The two boys got to keep the shoes the team had already outfitted them with as a condolence gift.

An ordinary person with these experiences might be bitter about sports. An ordinary person might hate sports and athletes and refuse to let his kids participate. An ordinary person might decide to use these experiences to justify why he doesn’t think he should have to go to his children’s sports, church, or school events. Not Wilbur. He said he got to play more basketball by being cut because if he had played varsity he couldn’t have participated on the church basketball team. At school, he would have sat the bench a lot of the time. At church, he was one of the best players and was in the game most of the time. He attended his children’s sports, music, school, and church events. He drove on temple trips and school music trips. He paid for sports camps, something he longed to attend when he was a kid, and music camps. His kids were in EVERYTHING, and he came to a large percentage of everything.

After high school, Wilbur decided to go on a mission, although previously he hadn’t wanted to go. He worked for Cal Wardell as a hod carrier and saved money to go. He was called to the New England Mission and served two years. But the two years were not without stress. He was so strapped for money that he was worried he might have to return home. In letters, his elderly grandparents offered help. John Wardell sent him $100 one Christmas. He was incredibly grateful to have these gifts. He made it through, and completed his mission.

An ordinary person might decide that he would give his children serving missions the same amount of monetary support that he received. Not Wilbur. He wanted to help his missionaries serve. He cheerfully earned the money and supported his children on missions. He was filled gratitude that he could pay. Unbeknownst to other people until now, he contributed to the ward mission fund for another missionary whose family had an emergency and couldn’t pay.

Wilbur continues to be courageous as he deals with a bulging disk that is causing him to limp but goes to work every day. He is courageous in many other ways, but a blog can only be so long. I need to mention Wilbur’s wife. She is nobody’s fool when it comes to choosing husbands. She was darn smart in choosing him.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Lying Son of a Map

There is a fallacy in the recreational world that a forest service map will always bear some slight resemblance to the area in which you are located. Sooner or later the unsuspecting recreator discovers this truth: Maybe the roads drawn on the map are there. Maybe they aren’t. Friday we ran into the “maybe they aren’t” map.
Wilbur, Jose', and I four-wheeled back into them thar hills. Jose and Wilbur were in search of elk. I was in search of fun. Getting home for dinner in a timely manner was a top priority because Sophia was cooking steak. Around 4:00 we decided we would take roads, shown clearly on the map, which emptied into the main road instead of back tracking. This route was quicker than back tracking. So we went in search of the connecting back roads. Road number one led to a water trough and became a dead end. Another led to a deep draw and became a dead end. The third led to another deep draw and, you guessed it, another dead end. One of the roads actually did lead to some elk and Jose' and Wilbur got out their bows for a few minutes. And then the road vanished into yet another dead end. So we followed the only road left. Surely this must lead us to the main road!

The last road did indeed lead us to a main road. Unfortunately the road was four miles south of Whitehall about 30 miles away from where we were camped.
Truth number two: four-wheelers are a horrible ride on pavement. We had to ride ten miles on pavement before we came to the main dirt road that would lead us to steak, I mean to camp. All the way back, we searched the main road for the legendary roads that connected to it from the hills. Legendary is the correct adjective. There was not one main-road to back-road connection.

Shortly after 7:00 p.m. we pulled into our camp. Luckily, Sophia is used to Jose’s meanderings and did not boycott cooking for a bunch of lost souls that can’t get to dinner at a reasonable time. The moral of this story is: Watch out for people and documents of questionable veracity. You might run into a lying son of a map.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

On Parenting

Someone was asking me some questions about how I did things as a parent. The questions started me thinking about raising children. So, not having any other bright ideas, I decided to post a few things that I believe and a few things that worked for me. The risk with this post is being viewed as a total hypocrite. I did not always behave like I thought a good parent should. I didn’t even approach perfect. I still mess up with my adult kids. My kids did not and do not always think I’m the cat’s meow. If I had a buck for every mistake I made, I would be fabulously wealthy and wouldn’t be worried about my retirement now. Still, here’s what I tried to do, what I believe, and what I learned:

1) Love covers a multitude of sins. If you love your kids, you are their champion and cheerleader, you have their best interests at heart, they will forgive a lot of your mistakes. It really is true that they don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

2) You don’t have to be right all the time. When you are wrong, promptly admit it. You will be wrong a lot. Once when I was in the ER when Eglantine dropped a forty pound weight on her toe, the ER doctor said, “You seem to have such a good relationship with your daughter. I had a terrible relationship with my parents. How do you have such a good relationship?” Caught off guard, I didn’t know what to say. I wish I could get a hold of that guy now and say, “Practice these sentences: I am sorry. I have made a mistake. I was wrong. Please forgive me. I will try to do better in the future.” Admit your errors and try to do better. Even small kids can understand that you are not all knowing, all powerful, and all perfect. They also learn how to correct their mistakes by watching you correct yours. They will have a lot more respect for you if you admit it when you are wrong.

3) Forgive them when they mess up. I remember giving Prudence a tongue lashing when she about six years old and messed up. Her mistake was so supremely important I can’t even remember what she did. She turned to me and said, “Can’t a person even make a mistake around here?” Earth to Prairie Smoke: people make mistakes. Six year olds goof up. Two year olds good up. Sixteen year olds goof up. Sixty year olds goof up. When people goof up that doesn’t mean you can never trust them again. That doesn’t mean they are basically flawed. That doesn’t mean you’ve failed as a parent. People make mistakes. It’s part of the plan.

4) Don’t take any more power than you absolutely have to have. Give your children as much use of their agency as you can. Obviously you can’t let your two year old drink the Drano he found in the utility closet. You can’t let your five your old ride her bike on I-15. You have to overrule their agency in a big way sometimes. But letting you six year old be Dracula for Halloween instead of insisting on the Fairy Princess costume you like - why not let her exercise her choice? So maybe your two year old appears at the church social wearing the hoop earrings she found in the play jewelry and ballet slippers. You might feel a little sheepish. But really, what is it going to hurt? You’ll survive. Just tell everyone who looks at her strangely that the earrings and ballet shoes prove she has a future in fashion design. And remember to take a picture.

5) Let them suffer appropriate consequences. You refuse to wear your coat when you go outside. You get cold. Mistake – consequence. You ride your bike in the street after being told you must not ride it there. You lose bicycle privileges for a day. Mistake – consequence. The consequence should be logical to the mistake. You stick your tongue out at your sister. You lose bicycle privileges. So where’s the connection? Kids should always be given one warning, so if you have to punish them, they saw it coming. Never blind side them with something they had no idea would happen if they did or didn’t do something. Your kids will not respect you if you are not fair. They will just think you’re an ornery turd. And, yes, kids do have logic, and they learn logic from you.

6) Give up on being a “look good” kind of family. There was a family in our ward that I admired greatly when I first married. They seemed picture perfect. Mom and Dad were slim and attractive. Dad made a wonderful living as an executive with a prestigious company. The children were very attractive and did well in school. The Dad and Mom had leadership callings at church. Everyone held them up as a model family. While some of the children were outstanding, I later discovered some of the children had serious problems with life threatening addictions. Don't let others elect your family to be a "model" family. Laugh and tell them about some of the crazy things that happen on a typical day at your house. Share some of your struggles. Don't let yourself become so preoccupied with your family's image that you spend all your time and energy maintaining a facade. It’s more important that you are trying to BE good rather than LOOK good. “Try” is the key word here. Being human, you’re not going to be good all the time. Admit it. Don’t even try to look perfect. And know that you are not going to always BE perfect either. Don’t even care what the rest of the ward thinks of your family. Have the courage to be your imperfect self, and own that you are imperfect. Everybody looks good at church. Your children will love and respect your for trying to BE good. Kids will not admire you for trying only to LOOK good. No one like the self righteous. Kids really hate phonies. Christ doesn’t like them much either. Remember the Pharisees?

7) Laugh and have fun. You will be planning wedding receptions before you know it. Take time to enjoy your kids. I wish I had put aside housework more and just enjoyed my kids more. Laugh at the funny things they do. Tell them how weird they were when they were two. Every household disaster has a humorous side. Find it. Keep a journal and read it back to them sometimes. Laugh and tell stories at dinner. Laugh at yourself as you try new things and find out you really stink at doing them. Everything worth doing is NOT worth doing well. Have popcorn when you listen to Mozart. Have traditions. Go fishing. Go skating. Watch movies together. You’re children will never be this age again.

8) Don’t make a checklist. Some people have a “good parent” checklist. Your child must get their primary award, Eagle Scout or YW award, go on a mission, and get married in the temple. All of these checked off? Congratulations, you are a good parent. Some pretty horrendous parents have kids that meet that checklist. Some wonderful parents have kids that don’t do all those things. There are returned missionaries I would never want my son or daughter to marry. There are Eagle Scouts that I thank heaven every day I didn’t marry. Don’t make your kids think that your self worth hinges on whether or not they get a dumb award. They should decide what awards they want and work for them. How much does an award really mean if they only earn it so that you will let them get their driver’s license?

9) Teach them. Many people take their kids to church. Many people teach their kids the basic commandments. But what do those commandments mean to you? What experiences have you had with being dishonest? What consequences did you suffer? How much did it hurt? Tell them why you value working with honest people. Tell them about the dishonest people you’ve dealt with and what you thought of them when you discovered the dishonesty. Tell them of the person who had a baby out of wedlock. Tell them how awful it was for the mother, and especially the baby. Talk about chastity. Talk about selfishness. Talk and do. Turn off the TV when it’s vulgar. Read only the best books. Try to do what you believe. But don't be a fanatic.

10) Don’t make a mountain out of a mole hill. A clean room would be lovely, but what is more important a clean room or a decent relationship with your teenager? There are very few things that are important enough to blow up into a big issue.

11) If you say it, mean it. There is some behavior that is not tolerated. I could never stand fighting. ( “If you can’t be happy playing, maybe you’ll be happy working. Grab a scrub brush. There are walls that need washing.”) We couldn’t tolerate children saying and doing mean things to each other, and we meant that in a big way. If the kids wrote on the walls, they plannned on spending quality time with an abrasive and a scrub brush while they repaired the damage. Everyone sat down for dinner. If they said they weren't hungry, they still sit down and kept us company while we ate. Bed time was 9:00 p.m. Children went to bed at bedtime. Period. Of course, there was some latitude. For instance, kids could stay up on Friday and finish watching a movie. If grandma dropped by to return something she borrowed at 8:45, they got to say hello to her. Try to avoid power struggles if you can. You can never win a power struggle that involves potty training, eating, and those types of things. But you can often avoid an eating power struggle by not letting a kid fill up on junk just before dinner. Sometimes I’d ask my kids what they wanted to eat for dinner before I went grocery shopping. We’d have some of those meals. Sometimes a kid will force you into a power struggle about something important like riding his tricycle in the street. Then, you make sure you win that power struggle.

12) Do your best and turn the rest over to the care of God. Relax. Pray. Have faith. God hasn’t let you down so far. You can trust Him.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Romance at York

John Byrd (Jr.) and Ina Kincaid

Nellie Byrd

The following is an account of your great uncle, John Byrd Jr. and his wife Ina Kincaid. Ina's family was of Scottish descent and from Maine. John's father, also named John, fought for the south in the civil war . The Byrds originally came from Virginia. John's father came to Missouri as a boy. The following was written by one of Ina and John's daughters, Nellie Byrd.
"Mother, Ina Louise, was 13 when they [her family] moved there and she and Uncle Ernest went to school in York.

The main entertainment for the young people was dancing, taffy pull, horse back riding, sleigh rides in the winter. Mother was a very attractive girl - 5'7," dark complexion, large brown eyes, bright brown hair - very vivacious, full of energy and she took part in all the fun, but was not dating, although some of the boys would bring her home from dances. Daddy (John Byrd) became very interested in her and although he was somewhat older, began taking her home and claiming most of her dances. Grandfather Kincaid heard about it and said no more. So they met secretly and planned to run away and get married, which they did. Ina asked her parents if she could go by stage to visit Aunt Cora and they let her. John went into Helena by horseback earlier and met her there. They were married May 14, 1889 in Helena and then went to Toston to Aunt Cora's for their honeymoon.

Grandfather's main objection to John Byrd was that they were from the South and, of course, he was a Northerner, and the Civil war hadn't been over long enough for them to forgive and forget. Grandfather Kincaid did not speak to my mother for seven years after she married Dad - but later Daddy became his favorite son-in-law."
Comment: Some things don't change. Probably John was much more attractive to Ina after her father forbade her to see him. Whew. I bet Aunt Cora was in big trouble with the family too.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Nouns and Verbs

The ancient people who created the English language must have had a working knowledge of dogs. As I sit down to write my blog, my lab, who hasn’t had his walk today, keeps bumping my arm and whining. I am being HOUNDED. If tomorrow is a typical day, I will take the dog for a walk first thing. Then, he will want to come inside and follow me, right on my heels, as I go from room to room cleaning. If I go in the bathroom, he will be waiting immediately outside the door. My footsteps will be DOGGED until I get fed up with him and send him out.

(Max picking carrots for himself in the garden. I guess he is getting ready for the millenium???)

Anyone who has ever seen horses romping with each other on a fine spring day will understand why no HORSEPLAY is allowed at the swimming pool. And a person who has heard a donkey braying may see a marked resemblance to the church speaker who is a little full of himself. I would venture to guess that this genre of speakers was where the ancient linguists first noticed similarities between human and donkey behavior. While my sense of delicacy restrains me from mentioning the three letter word for a donkey, I regret to say that I myself have applied that noun to various and sundry acquaintances.

There is one animal name that is completely off-base. That is “deer.” Deer are definitely NOT “dear.” They leave memorabilia of their presence all over my lawn. In the spring they wiped out half of my corn crop. I diligently cultivated, weeded, and watered the remainder in the hopes that we might get a few ears of corn. It looked like we might until Friday. Thursday night one or more of the reprobates came into the corn patch and sauntered down each row taking a bite or two out of every ear. Nope. Deer are NOT “dear.”