Monday, July 20, 2015

Tender Mercies

I am currently serving as a Sunday School teacher for some of the youth in my church (13-14 year olds) and I have recently been harping on them about keeping a journal.  We've talked about the importance of remembering Christ not just on Sunday but every day.  One way to do that is to write in a journal daily and reflect upon the tender mercies that God grants you each day.  It's easy to overlook these tender mercies unless we sit and really take time to think about them.  I have been a little hypocritical because I haven't been doing the very thing that I keep telling them is so important to do.  If I don't even do it, how can I expect them to?  So here I've decided to keep track of some of the blessings in my life that would so easily be forgotten or go unnoticed unless I had written them down.  Maybe taking a few moments to write the small things will even get me to write the longer stories while I'm at it.  Since I'm on here now I feel like writing the whole cousin camp story but I'm going to skip that momentarily, especially since no photos have been down loaded yet, and get to that later.

1. Today Brooklyn remembered that there was a fireside that she wanted to go to at church.  When it was over, she called for a ride home, but nobody answered the phone.  I was talking to my dad because it was his 70th birthday and I didn't recognize her number on caller ID so I ignored it.  (It's a fairly new phone.)  She called all 4 cell phones twice, and the home home phone 3 times, and nobody answered even though we were all home.  After the conversation I was having with my dad was interrupted for the 3rd time,  I realized who that might be beeping in, and felt bad for keeping her waiting at the church for so long.  I quickly sent John off to go pick her up.  Because the 4 Runner decided to stop working today and the Sequoia was hooked up to a trailer, John hopped into the Mini Cooper and went to the church which is a 7 minute ride there and back.  Some time within those 14 minutes of being gone,  the rope that has held our canoe up on the ceiling of the garage over our Mini Cooper for 6 years, snapped, and the canoe came crashing down. The timing couldn't have been more perfect.  The impact of the heavy canoe would have crushed our little Mini that we have grown to adore.  

2. We had cousin camp last weekend and John and I prepared a 3 day get away for 30 family members. We brought up all the food ourselves.  On the 2nd day we realized we were completely out of forks and almost out of spoons and there were no stores around for miles.  This was a problem because our next 2 meals were going to be spaghetti and oatmeal.  I kept waiting for some sort of tender mercy to get us out of the pickle we were in.  I just knew I'd miraculously find utensils in our trailer that we had brought with us.  I looked and there were none.  I looked through all the drawers and cabinets in the kitchen of the lodge we were staying in, twice over, and was disappointed when I found nothing. We toyed with the idea of eating it with our hands and making it a fun memory but with no showers and 15+ kids it was really a terrible option.  We decided to go dumpster diving for previous forks we had used as a last resort.  Gross.  I know.  But we were desperate.  John's brother Sterling was sympathetic to our dilemma and volunteered willingly to do the deed.  I felt terrible that he had to do this but he took it like a man.  I got back to the lodge minutes before him and he walked in with 3 bags of brand new plastic utensils.  I still am unclear about where he found them.  But he said he saw a little hut with a flag on it and wondered if maybe he could get them there.  I have no idea where he found it or how he thought to go there but there was my (and his, since he got out of going through the trash) tender mercy that I'd been waiting for.

3. We took our dog with us during cousin camp and brought him on a 4 mile round trip hike to a really neat water fall.  He's had trouble with his knees in the past and the fact that he could walk this hike was a tender mercy in itself.  The kids all like to hold the leash and they got ahead of me a ways so that I couldn't see them.  When I rounded the corner I saw him in the creek below with a man that we didn't know.  Captain, water dog that he is, had gotten away from the cousin who had been holding him and ran down to the creek.  Going in was one thing but getting back up on those slippery rocks with those imperfect knees was another.  There happened to be a bystander there who had such a tender heart for animals that he worked in an animal shelter. He jumped into the creek after him, soaking his pants in the process and helped him back out.  

4. The weather was absolutely beautiful for cousin camp.  

5. Because Bryton has had to miss work (at the golf course) for various reasons, he wanted to come  separate to the lodge, which was about an hour from our house, in the 4Runner.  He got up there with no problems and then he took Sydney and his cousin Morgan to our regional youth dance in Laramie the next night.  Around 11:00 we started to get worried because we expected them back by 10:30.  We had no way to reach them because there was no cell service where we were.  John got up out of bed to go looking for them just as we saw, with great relief, headlights coming down the hill toward the lodge, much faster than we would have condoned.  The next day, we returned home long enough to unload the trailer, get ready for church and have lunch with Brandon and April (John's siblings) and their families.  Since the Sequoia was hooked up to the trailer and the Mini was too small to accomodate us, we decided to squeeze into the 4Runner and take it to church.  We hadn't even made it out of our neighborhood when the clutch went kaput and stopped working.  It made it all the way to Curt Gowdy in Wyoming, to the regional dance in Laramie and back, and all the way home and then it was done.  Thank you, 4Runner, for waiting to get Bryton home safely before you gave out. And also, thank you for giving out so our little Mini could be protected. 

6.  John's brother Brandon just recently lost his job.  Which sucks really, really, really bad.  The tender mercy here is that just before cousin camp, John's dad went into the hospital because he was having heart issues.  He's never been to the hospital in the 18 years that I've known him.  Since Brandon came out for cousin camp and doesn't need to go back for work, he's able to stay with John's parents for a week to help out as they go through this difficult bump in the road.

7. Lastly, I just wanted to give a shout out to Sydney for following a prompting and providing a tender mercy for us while we were on our waterfall hike. One of the cool things about the hike was that some of us got to ride in a canoe for part of it.  It came as a relief especially to some of the younger kids on the way back.  The group that was ahead got to the canoes first and paddled back to the cars leaving behind just one for a few of us to take back. As the rest of us trudged on, we spotted Sydney in a canoe coming toward us by herself.  We waved her over and we loaded the canoe up with young, weary hikers.  She even gave up her own spot and jogged back to the car without complaining.  When we got back we found out that the group she had been with had thought she was crazy for even trying to go back out and find us.  They had returned to the lodge without her.  Kudos to her for following a prompting and providing relief to her cousins. 

I want to point out that I didn't even think of most of these things until after I decided to write tonight. So many things would have gone unnoticed if I hadn't taken the time to sit and ponder.  Yes, things definitely go wrong in our lives.  The canoe came crashing down, our dog almost drown, our car broke down, we didn't bring enough utensils, Brandon lost his job, and Sydney went canoeing by herself. But it would be short sighted to notice these things and stop there.  I picture angels all around us busting their backs to make our lives just a little easier.  Things go wrong, but much more often, they go right.  We just need to take a moment each day out of our distracted lives to notice and thank God for all of life's little miracles.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Birthday Bash

As a mother of four I have lost a lot of my enthusiasm for birthday parties. Somehow, Whitney just keeps lucking out. Last year, Disney Cruise/Pirate Night. This year, petting zoo brought to the backyard and a horse and carriage. All for the low, low price of $97. Thank you Colorado Carriage. You make me seem like an awesome mom. Here are some pictures from the shin dig. Since her birthday fell on the day after school got out for summer break, we had the party as soon as school got out at 11:30. This made it so that her friends in the district whose schools let out later weren't able to come but it was fun celebrating with mostly just her Liberty friends.
Captain was way too interested in the rabbit as they were setting up.

The "Escape Goat" Milk Chocolate. MC for short. He kept jumping over the fence and trying to eat our tomato plants. He also jumped onto our hot tub and then onto our patio table looking for food.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Thomas Russell Schuck 1913-1991

My grandfather, Thomas Russell Schuck would have been 100 years old last October.  When that fact was first brought to my attention it didn’t sound right to me.  But after some figuring I did in my brain I had to accept the fact that I had a close relative that was over a century old.   That doesn’t really bode too well for my own mortality but I am no worse off now than I was before I found out so I won’t dwell on it.  I think that anyone that was born 100 years ago deserves some  recognition, weather deceased or living.  So, though I may not have known him as well as others of his friends and family, I’m going to write some of the things that I do remember about him.  Some of these things may only be my own interpretation of him seen through the eyes of a child.  Others may have seen him completely differently.  If that’s the case then they can write their own personal tribute to him and maybe we can compare notes.  If enough people were to write their perspectives on his life, maybe we could compile them together and write a book.  That would be the ultimate tribute.

When I think of my grandfather I think of a loud man who liked to watch TV while drinking wine with his shirt off.  It’s too bad I couldn’t just leave it at “he liked to drink wine”.  That might make him seem refined.  However, I do think that his missing shirt and over audible orator skills add an interesting twist to his story. Throw in a belly that looked like it was about 9 months pregnant and hair that was slicked back with baby oil and then I really think we’ve got something started.  No doubt there was a lot more to him than these attributes but these are the first things that pop into my head when I think about him.  I believe this memory comes post retirement and carries the message that he had worked hard his whole life and by that time was done caring about what other people thought.   Of course he wore a shirt and quieted down when he went out.  But in his castle, cultural etiquette was not going to stand in his way of doing exactly as he pleased.  You go grandpa!  I mentioned he was loud.  To me, back then, he was yelling.   But now I really think he was just loud.  He wore a hearing aid, and now that I’m an adult I can put two and two together and figure out that his yelling was probably less that he was yelling and more that he was trying to hear himself talk.  I’m not saying that he was never yelling.  Just that he probably wasn’t yelling as much as I thought.   I spent many days at his house quietly observing him while drawing on the scrap pieces of paper my grandmother would pass out to entertain my brother and me.  I could sit at their house and draw for what seemed like hours.  My brother and I would send countless picture messages back and forth to each other.   I don’t know why this trick worked so well at my grandparents’ house.  If my mom had handed me a paper and pencil to entertain myself at home I would have looked at her like she was crazy.  Grandparents get away with stuff that parents can’t get away with.  Anyway, as I said before, while I was over there I would mostly just draw and watch him from afar until it was time to go home.  At this point he would call my brother and I over and plant a sloppy kiss on each of us right on the mouth.  I never looked forward to leaving for this reason.  However, he loved his grand kids and those kisses were the tools he used to express it.  

Since I want to be as accurate as I can I need to mention that he could be benignly cantankerous.  I say benignly because it seemed like most of his outbursts were directed at the television.  Not all of them, but most of them. I don’t blame him for being angry at the TV either.  This is before you had the option of TiVo.  Since television was usually his past time of choice, that meant he had to sit through a lot of stupid commercials.  They irritate me too – must be genetic- but I choose to handle them differently.  I turn the radio/TV off and find something different to busy myself with.  Like most men, turning it off was not a viable option for him so he released his frustrations by yelling back at them.  If they told him he should buy a power tool, he might respond by telling them where they could stick that power tool.  If they wanted him to start a weight loss program he might tell them to go to hell.  He always had the perfect come back.  Interestingly, if you could tear him away from that little square box you could potentially turn that lion’s roar into a kitten’s meow.  I remember as a kid I had been going through one of those sicknesses that it seems like kids are destined to acquire.  I guess it’s all part of building up that old  immune system.  Anyway, I had a temperature of 104°.  My head ached ferociously and I wasn’t eating.  I got up only to use the restroom, which was not something I looked forward to doing.  My parents, having been doctoring me for days were out by the pool, coming in to check on me intermittently.  My grandma and grandpa came over for a visit in the middle of this scenario and while the adults were out by the pool, my grandfather came in, kneeled by my side, took an icepack and started massaging my head with it while he spoke soothing words to me.  He stayed for a long time and as long as he was there, I felt better.  I didn’t want him to leave. 

While we had a typical California style back yard equipped with a pool, my grandparents had a large back yard equipped with adventure.  It was quite large and the view to any back neighbors they had was completely obstructed by a hedge of thick oleanders that my cousins, brother and I used to like to play in.  To us, it was like a jungle and we would never tire of exploring in the oleanders.  We once heard a catfight somewhere in the hedges and we ran inside and told our parents that there was an angry mountain lion creeping around back there.  We really thought that.  Besides the oleanders, there was a b-b-q grill that my grandmother had converted to a planter.  At the right time of year you could wander back there, open up the grill and pick fresh strawberries.  Does life get better?  They also had some interesting pets at times.  I remember they had a dog for a while.  A very short while.  Presently, I’m really interested in what happened to that dog.  It just kind of disappeared and I guess as a kid I just rolled with it and didn’t ask questions.  Not asking questions doesn’t really sound like me as a kid though so more likely I’ve just forgotten.  That sounds a lot like me.  I remember teaching the dog the trick of jumping up on me.  I proudly showed my grandmother my accomplishment and she just looked at my mom and rolled her eyes.  Too proud for words, I guess.   The dog was short lived so I’ll move on to the duck.   I remember going to my grandparents house one day and my grandmother rather nonchalantly informed my father that they had a duck.  We ran to the back yard and sure enough, there was a duck.  He was waddling around the back yard like he owned the place.  He wasn’t fenced in so I know that the back yard was chosen by him because there was nothing binding him to it.  I’m not sure what drew him to that yard but since he chose it, my grandmother was hospitable to it and fed him.  That lasted maybe a few weeks until the neighbor’s dog got out.  That’s when the duck ended up becoming the benefactor rather than the beneficiary.  
All said and done about the dog and the duck, we move on to my grandpa’s cat, “Meow”.  My brother and I liked animals.  We still do.  And when we were taken to my grandparents’ house, besides sitting and drawing, we often busied ourselves with trying to catch, touch or even take a glimpse of my grandpa’s cat.  It did everything in its power to avoid us.  It was elusive.  I remember one day I actually cornered it in a bedroom.  It was trapped between the bed and the dresser and nothing was going to stand between me and snatching up that cat.  That’s when it hissed at me with glowing eyes like the devil’s spawn to let me know that if I so much as touched him he would shoot darts out of his eyes and turn me into a garden gnome.  Gradually I backed away, realizing that any future attempts at catching him would be futile.  I gave up on my game of “catch the cat”.  It would drive me crazy when I saw my grandfather sitting with it curled up in his lap.  All he had to do was pat the chair and it would jump up in his lap, do a few circles and lay down contentedly for as long as my grandfather allowed.  What did my grandfather have to offer that I didn’t?  As I mentioned earlier, he secretly spoke kitten.

He often used to tell me in his “kittenese” that he only cared to live long enough to see his grandkids graduate from high school.   I guess he felt like once that happened, he could rest knowing that he wouldn’t need to worry about us anymore.   He was fortunate to be around for the graduations of two of his 4 grand kids.  And I’m sure that by the time he passed away he was comforted knowing that the other two were trending in the same direction. 

By the time he reached his 70’s, he rarely left the house.  I read something recently that talked about how introverts have to spend energy to be social while extroverts have the advantage of gaining energy when they are social.  Having acquired emphysema caused by too many years of smoking cigarettes, I doubt he had a lot of energy to expend.  

I wish I could expand on his life outside the home and preretirement, but I only knew him for 20 years and I was a child for most of it.  I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to things that mattered.  I really don’t know a whole lot about his childhood or education.  I know that he was adopted as an only child.  I know almost nothing about his parents or how he was raised.  I have a feeling that life wasn’t easy for him but that’s all I can really say about it.   I know that he met my grandmother through a friend (Chuck Abbott) who was married to my grandmother’s sister (Mary) and that he worked as a butcher until he retired.  (I do need to mention that being a butcher had it's benefits.  I've never tasted beef jerky anywhere near as yummy as the jerky he used to make by laying out meat on the roof of his house in the hot Bakersfield sun.  Soooo good.)  Any more information anyone wants to share on these matters will happily be inserted here on a future date.

What I do know, is that as of today he has 13 direct descendants who are bustling about making their marks on the world and every time they make a mark, so is he.  His surname, Schuck, connected to him, has been snuffed out but his posterity will continue to flourish.  He lived a humble life but he did what needed to be done.  He got up and went to work every day to provide for his family.  He fulfilled all of the basic duties of a good husband and father and if it weren’t for him, I would not be here.  So as rough around the edges as he might have been, I owe him a debt of gratitude for doing the best that he could amid all of the unspoken trials that life threw at him. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Cute Chicks

These are pictures of our new chicks.  They are bantam blue silkies and they are adorable.  Even though we only have room for 3 we had to get 5 because they are too little to tell which are hens and which are roosters.  I guess now the boys should be motivated to get that chicken coop finished once and for all.  We ordered them thinking they wouldn't be here for a few weeks.  It only took a week for them to come in.  They are not the best laying hens but because we are doing it for the experience rather than self sustainment we decided to forgo practicality with cuteness.  They are really pretty chickens when they are adults.
Peep, peep, peep


Peep, peep.

Peepity peep

Peep peeper peep peeper peepen

Even Captain thinks they are cute.  He is probably a little too interested in them but we're trying to get him used to them and train him to leave them alone.  I am more concerned about the foxes and raccoons that roam around our yard at night than I am about Captain.  Hopefully he won't prove me wrong on that.
The first day we got them we had to leave for several hours.  We put Captain outside so that we didn't come home to the appearance of a pillow fight at a slumber party.  I had turned off the A/C so I figured the 80 degrees our house was at would keep them warm enough.  We filled a small lid with water so they could get drinks if they were thirsty.  When we came home we realized our huge mistake which was equal to putting a wading pool in a room full of babies.  They were all completely soaked and shivering having gone for several swims in their drinking water.  Bryton rushed them up to his room to get the heat lamp on them.  They all huddled under the lamp and reached their little necks as far to the light as they could get them.  I picked one of them up and turned it over so that its belly could warm up and it immediately fell asleep.  My kids kept telling me I was killing it and that I wasn't supposed to hold them upside down.  

A.  It wasn't upside down. 
B. Where they got this knowledge (unfounded) I'll never know but suddenly they are experts in all things chicken.

If I were a chick with a wet belly I would want someone to do that to me but I eventually relented to their admonitions and put it down.  It didn't take them long to warm up but they were not nearly as cute as they had been when we got them home.  Wet chicks are just not attractive.  Fortunately by the next day they were back to their cute selves.  Fresh eggs should be here by Christmas.  Maybe instead of our annual hand dipped pretzels our neighbors will be receiving eggs this year.

Friday, July 19, 2013


There is a first time for everything and this summer I seem to be checking a lot of those first times off of my list.  This week I took the camper and the girls up to the YMCA without John.  It was a little scary since I am used to letting John take care of all the outside details on the camper.  Besides some beeping and buzzing noises that had me stumped for a while and the unpleasantness of dumping the sewer, it all worked out okay and the kids had a ball.  I met a friend who was also flying solo in her RV and who also happened to have one of my daughters with her.  It was an all ladies adventure.
One of my personal favorite activities was the tricycle track

We had fun playing roller tag

They all were impressive marksmen

And courageous zip liners

I remember having a family reunion at this place several years ago but I think they've added a lot to it since then.  Right now they're working on building a summer tubing hill.  Apparently they're going to make fake snow for it.  Definitely a place worth visiting if you've got kids.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Heads Made Out Of Straw

We discovered a new way to do hair.


Saturday, July 13, 2013


I stopped posting rather abruptly after arriving at the final destinations of our vacation.  Not surprising.  I have a tendency to leave one thing undone no matter what I am doing.  If I'm doing laundry, I leave one basket full.  If I'm cleaning bathrooms, I clean all but one.  I guess I like to see what I can get away with.  I must have reverse OCD.  I'm obsessive compulsive about making sure that I don't do everything.  Well, this time I'm going to overcome my personality glitch and finish what I started.  Here are the final pictures from the last jaunt of our vacation.

The Sacred Grove in Palmyra, New York where Joseph Smith had his first vision.

Bryton walking through the Sacred Grove the same age Joseph Smith was when he had his vision.

Standing outside a replica of Joseph Smith's log cabin he lived in.

The inside of the cabin

After the Sacred Grove we took a tour of the Peter Whitmer farm and ran into these boys from New Zealand on a church history tour.  I wanted to get a picture of them to post on my blog so I was happy when they asked us to be in their picture.  Their poses made me self conscious about what boring posers we were through out our entire vacation.

So I tried to make up for it with this one.  I don't know what those hand signs mean but I've seen them done before.  I think my fingers are spread too wide though.  I need to work on that.  My hand looks like a mutated star fish and Whitney looks like she's trying to cut her poncho off with her fingers. I've seen movies where New Zealanders stick out their tongues in ceremony before going to battle.  Along those lines I guess you could call this my, "In your face Niagara Falls!  I'm not afraid of you!" pose.  To which Niagara Falls might answer, "Whooossshhhhhhhhhh." forever and ever.

"What's with the ponchos?" you may be wondering.  Well, besides the fact that it was raining, we decided to go on a boat tour that took us about as close as we could get to the falls without drowning.  It was difficult  to look at it for all the spray jetting towards our faces.

We thought we'd spread out a little in this pose but we came off looking like The Niagara Falls Choir performing "O Canada"

Nigara Falls is where we ended our vacation but we've been anything but bored since we got home.  We got to host our biannual cousin camp over the fourth of July.  We had fun swimming, playing water volleyball, getting really sunburned and watching a fireworks show on a golf course.  After the show we decided to wait around for the traffic to clear so the kids ran around playing with their glow sticks and getting goofed up on Rice Krispy Treats.  When we got home the girls went to bed in their own private dormitory shown below while the boys slept out on the trampoline until it started raining.  That's when they came in and crashed wherever they could find a spot.  I was amazed at how soundly Aaron slept on my stair case.

Cousin camp made me remember that we have a camper so I started getting the itch to take it out.  We had been home for over a week so it seemed like time for another outing.  I'm not sure why I like being away from home so much.  I guess I'm a gypsy at heart.  More likely I just don't like the kids messing up my house.  We headed up the canyon near where the fire raged last summer.  It was crazy to see all the damage that had been done but somehow our little camp ground had been sheltered from it.  The wild flowers were amazing.

John put together this bouquet of wild flowers in a plastic water bottle.  They are being proudly displayed beside Bryton's broken machete he got at Harbor Freight for $4.00.

While camping one can never have too much cushion

While John and the kids were out exploring they found this cool lean to someone had made

You can see some of the damage from the fire through the trees.

Bryton decided to chop off dead limbs to build his own lean to.  He was bummed after it was  all complete and  John and I declared it to be more useful for firewood than shelter.  (We did have a trailer with us after all.)  He didn't complain about the s'mores though.

Today is Saturday and John just had his last vacation day.  Right now he's out in the garage finishing up the chicken coop he's been building with Bryton.  He ordered our chickens yesterday!  We'll see how long they survive with Captain around.  He's bummed to have to go back to work but he knows that he has no right to complain.  He finally got his sabbatical that he's been looking forward to since starting with this company and I don't think he would have changed much about it.