Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Order of Your Children

Just yesterday I was prodded by my #1 "fan" to write another blog.  I have been super busy with canning and stuff, as well as the beginning of a new school year, that I have just simply not had time to spend with my beloved readers.  So, without further ado, here is a blog on one of my favorite subjects: The Order of Your Children, as told by Erma Bombeck.

Image result for erma bombeckIf you haven't heard about who Erma Bombeck is, she was an incredible writer for a humorist column in a big-city newspaper.  She published more than 4000 syndicated columns from 1965 until her death in 1996.  I love her insights on more subjects than I can mention, but this is one of my favorites.  If you have more than one child, you will relate to this:
Image result for siblings
"Third Child - November 5, 1981

"Someone, who has wisely remained anonymous, once said that children are like waffles.  The first one should be used to season the grill and then tossed out.

"Studies made on first children say they're not all that bad.  They are usually shy, serious and sensitive, are academically superior and are more likely to be an Einstein.

"Second children, on the other hand, are relaxed, independent, cheerful, lean toward creativity and are more likely to be a Picasso.

"No on has had the courage to find - let alone study - child No. 3 and the ones who follow, whom I call et ceteras.

"Is there life after the first two children?  What are the er ceteras like?

"I have discovered the third child has a few attributes of his own.  He has itchy feet and joins other families for three or four months, often without being noticed.  He is not intimidated by anyone, has a great sense of humor and is apt to be a game show host.

"Part of their uniqueness is that third children have no history.  There are no footprints of them in the baby book, no record of their baptism, no snapshots of their birthdays and no report cards to show they ever were.

"Their childhood diseases are uneventful, their first words fall on deaf ears, and toilet training is a lonely affair with no one to applaud their efforts.

"The third child learns early that he is odd man out and has broken the family symmetry.

"Kitchen chairs come four to a set, breakfast rolls four to a package and milk four cups to a quart.  Rides at Disneyland accommodate two to a seat, the family car carries four comfortably, and beds come in twos, not threes.

"The third child is the one who gets called the other two's names before the mother finally remembers his.  He goes through a lifetime of comparisons: 'You're not going to be as tall as your smart as your athletic as your father.'

"I personally feel there's a lot to be said for the et cetera children, who get a fast family shuffle and who thrive on neglect and somehow appear one day all grown up.

"They not only know who they are and what they are, but they've dealt very early with the two things that most children fear the most: competition and loneliness."    (This passage can be found in the book "Forever, Erma" pg.52-53)

I have three children and can agree with most every thing that was stated.  I have even told my oldest that she was my "pancake child" - thing is it took 18 years before I "threw" her out!  (Just kidding, I love her to pieces!!!)  

As she has watched me interact with her siblings, who are 12 and 14 years YOUNGER than her, she often cries about how "unfair" I have been to her!  There will be times when she is getting after her siblings for something and I walk into the room to see what is happening.  After a brief explanation from her, oftentimes I will say, "It's OK.  They can do 'such-n-such'.  They're just being kids."  Then she retorts with a "But you never let ME do that!"  Then I ever so gently respond with "But you were my pancake child, remember?"

I also have 5 siblings of my own.  I am the "middle" child or the "third" child that Erma writes about.  We have our differences, good times and bad, but somehow we all made it to adulthood without too many injuries.  I really do agree with Erma on one point though, the et cetera children.  I don't know how they did it, but somehow the children that came after me grew up to be pretty OK.  I just don't remember how or when they did!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Canning "Sunshine"!

For the past few weeks I have been slaving away in a hot kitchen for hours at a time to make jam for my family and friends.  (If you are a friend, you will most likely get a jar for Christmas!)  I have done several different fruits which include: red plum, peach, apricot/pineapple, green plum, and strawberry.  I will be making blueberry, apple, nectarine, and orange in the near future.  I tell you what, my feet and back are killing me!  I know it's worth it though cuz my family loves the homemade jams, and my baby won't even touch the store bought stuff!

Out of all the jams I have made over the years, only one type has given me pause.  I almost missed the joy of the jam because of the way it looked.  I often joke about "canning baby poop" when I do make this jam.  The first year I made it, I did all the prep work then just stared at the fruit puree.  It smelled AMAZINGLY sweet, but, well, like baby poop.  I literally stared at the stuff for about an hour often telling my sister that I just couldn't do it!  BUT, I "sucked it up" and decided to make it into jam anyway.  I was just going to do one batch of jam, but after tasting it, I ended up making three!  My sister and I joked about making "sunshine jam" cuz after all, that is what it looked like.

Step 1: wash well

This jam comes from an incredibly rare plum that comes all the way from England.  It is a tiny green plum that doesn't get much bigger than a golf ball.  It is green even when ripe, so if you don't taste or give it a tiny squeeze, you might just have all your fruit fall on the ground and miss out.  This plum is call a Green Gage Plum and has sort of a honey, sweet taste.

Without any further ado, here is how you make said "Sunshine Jam".  Let me know what you think....

Green Gage Plum Jam
6 cups fruit puree
2 TB lemon juice
4 TB low sugar pectin
4 1/2 cups sugar
(This recipe will make Pints: 4 - 4 1/2 OR 1/2 pints: 8 - 9)

Preparation:  Place your jars and lid & rings into pans to boil.  This sanitizes your jars and makes everything seal better.  BE CAREFUL AS YOU WILL BE WORKING WITH HOT STUFF THROUGH THIS ENTIRE PROCESS!!  YOU DON'T WANT TO GET BURNED!

Step 1:  After picking your fruit off the tree, you will need to wash well in water.

Step 2: remove pits
Step 2:  Slice the plums in half and take the pit out.  This is tricky cuz the pit likes to stick.  I used a strawberry stemmer to remove the pits.  This is also a very tedious job cuz the little buggers are soooo small!  Don't give up though....the work is worth it!!

Step 3: simmer til mushy
Step 3:  Put the plums in a pan and add some water to the pan.  Only add about 1/4 of the pan of water, just enough to get the plums to simmer.  As the plums simmer, they will turn from a green color to a yellow-green color.  Simmer the plums til they are super mushy.

Step 4: run through Victorio
Step 4:  Put plums through the Victorio Strainer.  This will take the peelings off.  (I did try to blend the peelings last year cuz that is what I do with my apricots and red plums.  HOWEVER the Green Gage plum has a tougher skin and WILL NOT blend.  It will just make it look like chunky poop.)

Step 5:  Measure 6 cups of fruit puree into a large pot.  Add 2 TB lemon juice to puree to keep it from turning brown and to help it "set up" properly.
Step 5: measure 6 cups
Step 5: put in large pot

Step 6:  Measure 4 1/2 cups sugar into a large bowl.  Take out 1/4 cup of the sugar and put into a smaller bowl.  Mix in 4 TB low sugar pectin into smaller bowl of sugar.
Step 6: measure sugar & pectin
Steps 7&8: stir in pectin bring to a boil

Step 7:  Mix small bowl of pectin/sugar into the fruit puree.

Step 8:  Cook on HIGH and bring to a boil that can't be stirred down.

Step 9: add remaining sugar
bring back to boil BOIL 1 MINUTE
Step 9:  Add remaining sugar and stir well.  Stirring constantly, bring back to a boil.  Boil for 1 minute.  DO NOT BOIL FOR LONGER THAN 1 MINUTE!!  Turn off heat.

Step 10: put in jars
Step 10:   Pour into prepared jars using a plastic funnel and a measuring cup (I use a 1 cup measurer) (I use 1/2 pint jars for this jam, but I use pint jars for all the other types I make.  It all depends on how fast you go through your jams and how well you like this type of jam).  Be sure to use a plastic funnel, cuz things are HOT and metal transfers heat REALLY well.  Fill jars about 1/4 inches up the "neck" of the jar.

Step 11: clean off "lip" of jar
Step 11:  When jars are full, carefully wipe off "lip" or "edge" of the jar.  This insures a clean surface so the lid can seal properly.

Step 12:   Using a set of tongs, put heated lids and rings onto jars.  Using the "ommer" (aka, the bottle gripper"), tighten down the lids.
Step 12: put on lids & rings
use the "ommer" to tighten rings

Step 13:  Place jars into a black canning kettle and cover bottles with hot water.  Bring to a boil and turn down heat just enough to keep the water boiling.  Boil jars for 10 minutes.

Step 14:  When jars are finished boiling, turn off heat and remove jars using a jar lifter from the water bath onto a clean towel.  You will want to put the towel in a place close to the kettle, but not too close to a place that the jars will get bumped.  Leave the jars alone at least overnight so you don't risk messing up the sealing process.  My favorite thing to do is listen to the lids "pop" as they seal.  We call this "happy sounds"!

Step 15:  The next day, check to make sure all your jars sealed.  To do this, press down lightly on the top of the lid.  If it makes a popping sound, it didn't seal properly.  You will want to eat that jar first.  If there is no popping sound, the jar is sealed and you can REMOVE the ring, WASH the jar to get any stickiness off, LABEL the jar with what is in the jar, and STORE it on your shelf.

Now, sit back and relax........JUST KIDDING!!  After all, you are probably a busy mamma just like me that not only made jam, but you also washed two loads of laundry, made bread, washed the dishes and helped children with homework.  What can I say, life if GREAT at my house!  I hope you all enjoy this jam as much as my family does.  Peach and Strawberry are still our favorites, but this is  a close second.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Faith Is Like a Seed....Plant It!

        With canning season in full swing I am reminded of the end of canning season last fall.  Everything had been put away with feelings of a fruitful season completed.   I felt really good about the work that I had done to prepare my food storage for the coming winter months.  I had the kitchen cleaned and the food neatly stacked on shelves where they looked tempting to the hungry belly.  However, as with most projects, not everything made it to the storage areas.  There were a couple of empty jars that had remained on the counter and hadn't quite made to the shelves in preparation for the next year.  Noticing this, my young children latched onto the example that was given them by me.  They proceeded to "can" what was important to them.  The result was "canned" hot wheels.
        This really got me pondering about what I consider important.  Amongst all the hundred bottles of fruit and jam that were sitting prettily on my shelves at the end of the season, did I "can" the things that were truly important to me?  This started to make me ponder what is important in my life.  My family, friends, the gospel, the scriptures, but most important, my faith that all things are done in the Lord's time and that things have a way of working out for my benefit as long as I  put my faith in Him.  So, this leads me to ask, what is important to add to our Spiritual "food storage"? 
        One very important item we must all focus on is storing up our Faith.  Even if we don't feel we have a strong faith now, we can be at peace knowing that we don't need to know all the answers now to have faith.  Even the great humanitarian Mother Teresa expressed her concerns about the strength of her faith in a letter written to her superior:
Image result for mother teresa on faith        “Please pray specially for me that I may not spoil His work and that Our Lord may show Himself—for there is such terrible darkness within me, as if everything was dead. It has been like this more or less from the time I started ‘the work.’ Ask Our Lord to give me courage.”
       Archbishop PĂ©rier responded: “God guides you, dear Mother; you are not so much in the dark as you think. The path to be followed may not always be clear at once. Pray for light; do not decide too quickly, listen to what others have to say, consider their reasons. You will always find something to help you. … Guided by faith, by prayer, and by reason with a right intention, you have enough.”
       In Mosiah we are instructed to "Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things … ; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend."
        So, what is faith?  This is an age old question that has a beautiful answer.  Elder Neil L. Andersen  tells us that "faith in Jesus Christ is a gift from heaven that comes as we choose to believe and as we seek it and hold on to it."   In Alma 32 we learn that faith is compared to a small seed.  Faith usually begins as a small thing. Sometimes it begins with only the desire to believe. Like the seed, it has within it the ability to grow in strength and power. To grow, it needs to be planted and taken care of. Image result for seedling
     The seed of faith is planted in our hearts. As we take care of it and it begins to grow, our faith fills our lives with blessings, and we find miracles happening in our lives. These may not be miracles like the moving of a mountain, but we will notice changes taking place in ourselves and those around us that we thought would never happen. We will feel the blessings of Heavenly Father in our lives and have reason to rejoice. We will have the confidence and strength to hold on to the iron rod until we reach eternal life.
        I have witnessed miracles in my own personal family when I have had faith.  As many of you know, we have three beautiful children.  These children are 18, 6 & 4.  We did  not plan for the large spacing between our 1st and 2nd children.  We often joke about how we really wanted to ensure that we had a babysitter before we had more children.  We even went so far as to say we were "saving up" so we could afford to have more children.  These excuses were of course false. 
        We tried desperately for years to have more children when our oldest was younger.  I had several sessions on my knees in earnest prayer in which I plead with Heavenly Father to bless our family to grow.  After several years of pleading, I was given the sweet answer to my prayer.  It was not in the form of another child, but in the sweet peace that Heavenly Father had already given me one beautiful child and that I needed to be thankful for the blessing that He had already given me. 
        It was from that point on that I was determined to enjoy every minute I could with my daughter.  I rejoiced in the blessing that I had been given and I had faith that Heavenly Father would see fit to complete our family in His time.
        My mother-in-law had other concerns about our lack of children and said that we needed to do more medically to improve our chances of having more children.  I remember clearly the day that I had the faith enough to tell her that if the Lord saw fit to give us more children, medicine would not be involved.  It wasn't too long after the conviction of my faith that I found I was indeed expecting our son.   
        This leads us to ponder, how can we help our faith in Christ grow?  One way is to pray to Heavenly Father and ask him to help our faith to grow. 
        Elder Anderson explains that "faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is not something ethereal, floating loosely in the air. Faith does not fall upon us by chance or stay with us by birthright. It is, as the scriptures say, “substance …, the evidence of things not seen.” Faith emits a spiritual light, and that light is discernible.  Faith in Jesus Christ is a gift from heaven that comes as we choose to believe and as we seek it and hold on to it. Your faith is either growing stronger or becoming weaker. Faith is a principle of power, important not only in this life but also in our progression beyond the veil.  By the grace of Christ, we will one day be saved through faith on His name.  The future of your faith is not by chance, but by choice."
        There may be a time when you have drifted so far off the correct path that you may not feel worthy of the Savior's love or guidance.  You may feel that you don't deserve the grace that he so desperately wants to give you.  You may feel that no matter how hard you try, you will never gain the love of our Heavenly Father again.  I'm here to add my testimony to that of President J. Reuben Clark when he stated in 1939:
        “It is my hope and my belief that the Lord never permits the light of faith wholly to be extinguished in any human heart, however faint the light may glow. The Lord has provided that there shall still be there a spark which, with teaching, with the spirit of righteousness, with love, with tenderness, with example, with living the Gospel, shall brighten and glow again, however darkened the mind may have been."
        President Clark pictured the spark nearly hidden, almost smothered by the ashes of transgression. It may be so small that the person can’t feel its warmth. The heart may be hardened. Even the Holy Spirit may have been forced to withdraw. But the spark still lives, and glows, and may be fanned to flame.  What a great promise!  We only need to have a hope and desire that things will work out.
        Growing our faith isn't a simple task, we do have to put effort into it.  In my earlier example of canning fruit and jam, they didn’t put themselves into the jars.  I had to put in several woman-hours in by picking the fruit, sometimes in cold and rainy weather, then spend many more hours in a hot kitchen with tired sore feet and back to accomplish my goal of food in the winter for my family.  In turn, how we live our lives increases or diminishes our faith. Prayer, obedience, honesty, purity of thought and deed, and unselfishness increase faith. Without these, faith diminishes. Why did the Savior say to Peter, “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not”?   Because there is an adversary who delights in destroying our faith! Be relentless in protecting your faith.
        "Faith never demands an answer to every question but seeks the assurance and courage to move forward, sometimes acknowledging, “I don’t know everything, but I do know enough to continue on the path of discipleship.”
       " your faith did not begin at birth, and it will not end at death. Faith is a choice. Strengthen your faith."
I pray that we can follow the council given by Elder Russell M. Nelson who encourages us to "Day after day, on your path toward your eternal destiny, increase your faith. Proclaim your faith! Let your faith show!"

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Is It OK To Judge?.....NEVER!!!

Today Funny Minions pictures (03:00:33 AM, Wednesday 10, June 2015 PDT) – 10…:

Ahh!  At last!  A peaceful moment to myself!  The hubby has taken the kids and has given me a free night to do as I wish.  I could be doing ANYTHING....watching a movie, painting my toe-nails, scrubbing floors, visiting a friend....I tell you ANYTHING!  What I really want to do is share my thoughts with you, my reader.  

I feel honored that you would take a moment of your precious time that you could be doing anything you want, to read the thoughts that I choose to write in this post.  I hope that they are insightful and that you feel you can share them.  I also hope that you will be able to think about the things that I write and, in your own small way, take these words and help make your small part of the world a better place.  A place where others can feel the love that our Heavenly Father has for all his children.

I recently heard a woman tell of an experience that she is placed in day after day.  I will name this woman Joan (yes, the name has been changed to protect feelings etc.)  Through no fault of her own, Joan is still single after a lifetime of kindness and love for others.  Joan told of how her boss is "model gorgeous" and how men will run to open the door for her, or flirt with her, or even notice her.  But when it comes to Joan, the men look the other way because, in their minds, she isn't "pretty".  She has had men slam doors in her face because they didn't think her worth the time or effort for them to be a gentleman.  True she is very "plain" as the world standards go, she is very tall, has a stoop, walks with a limp, and she is older.  She said "I could be wearing a dress and have a flat tire and still people would drive right by."  She went on to say, "why can't people look at me and see what is in my heart?"

People, this breaks my heart!!!  Are we not all daughters of our Heavenly Father?  Shouldn't we be treated like the princesses we have been created to be and not some trophy for a man to show off?

There is a music video that I just watched that defines what a "real" woman is.  It isn't the profession she has chosen.  It isn't how she looks or what she wears.  It isn't what she watches or reads.  It isn't who her friends are.

Woman is God's greatest creation!  Woman was created last because God wanted the world to be absolutely perfect and it wasn't complete until woman was placed on this earth.  God made woman beautiful.  No matter what you look like - if you are a woman, YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL!!!

Please take a minute to watch this video and remember what makes YOU beautiful:
Image result for beautiful mother
Click here to play video 

Back to Joan.  I have seen her do amazing things for children.  She teaches the young children in my church and she is, in a word, AMAZING!  She has the ability to calm a troubled child with just the sound of her voice.  She has the ability to reach out to a rambunctious little boy and teach him about Jesus.  She also has the ability to care for her aging mother.  She has served this country in missions that can't be talked about.  She faces daily life alone, without a man by her side, and she does it cheerfully.  I cannot lie - I admire the strength of this woman.  I know her reward in Heaven will be great.  I only hope to be just a smidgen like her.

Thinking of her situation, I have been reminded of the many times that I "judge" or "criticize" others for being "different" or just plain not like me.  My thinking has been wrong for a long time and I am starting to change.  We have no right to judge or criticize others cuz we don't know what they are going through.

Something to think about:  

What do you think when you see someone sitting alone across the room making no eye contact or even making an effort to converse with the other people?  This person could be dressed "to the nines" and look so prim and proper.  Do you think of this person as stuck-up or "too good" for everybody else?  If this is what you thought, maybe you should stop yourself right there and ask the question "Do I really know who that person is?  Does that person need a friend?"

Truth is, you don't know what has happened to that person.  

Maybe they just lost a loved one and they are trying really hard to cope with such a difficult loss.  They may feel that anything they say will trigger an unexplainable emotion.  Maybe they are afraid that someone might say or do something that is hard to take in at this particular time.

Maybe that person is new to the area and doesn't know a single living soul there.  They are looking for a friend, but are too shy to reach out and say "Hi.  I'm so-and-so.  Will you be my friend?"

Maybe that person might be feeling inadequate in all that they have ever done in their life and they have never been given the encouragement on the things they have done well.  They may have lost the desire to even try anymore.

 : Maybe that person has been relied on so much and looked at as "the strong one" in all situations in life (especially if that situation included extended family) that they haven't been "allowed" to grieve when needed.  This person needed to hold everyone else up in times of trial, but in truth, this person is just looking for someone to hold their hand for a change and say "Don't worry.  Things will be OK.  I'm here if you need me."

This makes you think doesn't it?  What type of person do you want to be?  The type that will judge on sight or the person that will reach out and extend the hand of friendship?  Will you be the person who gives a smile to a struggling mamma in the grocery store?  Will you be the person who really notices a special needs person as the child of God they truly are?  Or will you be the one to turn your head and walk away from an opportunity to lift someone up?

These are some beautiful quotes to read when you are depressed, sad or just need a little bit of motivation! Love yourself, read them, raise and shine!: I'm not perfect.  I never have been and I know that I never will be.  BUT, I know that I can work on changing how I look at others.  It is difficult, I know, but I also know that when we look at others as children of Heavenly Father, the world becomes a little bit better for everyone.

May you find it in your heart to stop yourself from judging and criticizing others.  Take a moment to remember that you don't know them well enough to make that call.  There is only one person who truly knows what is going on in the life of others, and the one who truly knows is NOT you.  Put your faith and trust in Him to right the wrongs and lift your thoughts and actions in kindness to others.

My thanks to an amazing author  +Melanie Mason for sharing the video link.  Thank you for opening my eyes!  Also, thank you for being an amazing sister-in -law!