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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Nathan's costume for work

Nathan let me paint his face for the company costume contest this week. I don't usually paint scary stuff, but we had the idea of doing a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde thing. We haven't seen the recent Batman movies but we've been informed by many people that it also looks like Two Face.

It took an hour to paint his head. He leaves for work at 6:30 every morning, so we were up at 5:00am to get him ready. It was so fun! I rarely have opportunities to paint a detailed image like this. It's so much more fun to paint adults than children since adults aren't twitchy. I really enjoyed this. This is the first time I've painted something like this. I've never attempted an illusion like this before.

All day long people came up to Nathan to tell him that they voted for him. He felt like a celebrity. He shaved off half of his beard for the occasion. It made the contrast between the the two halves more stark. He went to work the next day with the half beard and got a lot more laughs.

This was an old suit. It has been patched upon patches and was replaced a year ago. Rather than throwing it away- we shredded it and now it will live on in our costume box.

The voting hasn't been announced yet but it looks like he will win the contest. There is a $50 prize. If we do win we are thinking of going on a date to the ballet or something.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Interesting Medical stories from history

 I finished reading "The Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt" today.  I've looked forward to picking it up each day when I've had some spare time. His life was incredible and full of miracles, courage, and diligence. I'm am SO thankful for the powerful examples history blesses us with! I always left my moments of reading his work feeling strengthened and determined to lengthen my stride. I discovered today that the entirety of his book is available online for free at I recommend perusing it next time you're bored. I assure you it's much more worth your time than surfing Youtube, watching pranks or celebrity news.

One chapter near the end of the book discusses the fates of a few Missouri mob men that tormented early LDS church members. I thought it was very interesting.

 ****Warning! This is not for those who have a weak stomach or are eating right now! Come back later! You'll thank me!****

The following paragraphs are excepted from Parley's book. For a bit of background, the Captain Lawn mentioned was one of Joseph Smith's guards from the Illinois militia that accompanied him to Carthage jail. Governor Ford dismissed Captain Lawn and his troops to return home, leaving Carthage Jail in the care of the Carthage Greys militia. This is where the story begins:

"Captain Lawn and his troops had marched about twelve miles towards home when the news reached them of the martyrdom! At this he exclaimed: "O that I had known of this massacre, so soon to transpire! I would have remained, and, when the first ball was fired at the Smiths, I would have fired the second through the body of the villain who fired it or died in the attempt." A man named Townsend, living in Iowa, near Fort Madison, was one of the mob who assaulted and forced in the jail door. The pistol discharged by Joseph Smith wounded him in the arm, near the shoulder, and it continued to rot without healing until it was taken off and even then it would not heal.

About six months after he was shot Mrs. Lawn saw his arm and dressed it. He was then gradually rotting and dying with the wound. He stayed over night with Mrs. Lawn’s father, and groaned through the night without sleeping. He asked the old gentleman what he thought of Joseph Smith being a Prophet? He replied that he did not know. "Well," said Townsend, "I know he was a Prophet of God! And, oh, that I had stayed at home and minded my own business, and then I would not have lost my life and been tormented with a guilty conscience, and with this dreadful wound, which none can heal!" He died two or three months afterwards, having literally rotted alive!

James Head, of McComb, was also one of the murderers at the Carthage Jail; he was heard by Captain Lawn and others to boast of it afterwards, and Captain Lawn drew a pistol and chased him; but he ran away. He was always gloomy and troubled from the time he helped to murder the Smiths, and frequently declared that he saw the two martyrs always before him! He had no peace.

A colonel of the Missouri mob, who helped to drive, plunder and murder the Mormons, died in the hospital at Sacramento, 1849. Beckwith had the care of him; he was eaten with worms a large black headed kind of maggot–which passed through him by myriads, seemingly a half pint at a time! Before he died these maggots were crawling out of his mouth and nose! He literally rotted alive! Even the flesh on his legs burst open and fell from the bones! They gathered up the rotten mass in a blanket and buried him, without awaiting a coffin!

A Mr. (unreadable name in manuscript), one of Missouri mob, died in the same hospital about the same time, and under the care of Mr. Beckwith. His face and jaw on one side literally rotted, and half of his face actually fell off! One eye rotted out, and half of his nose, mouth and jaw fell from the bones! The doctor scraped the bones, and unlocked and took out his jaw from the joint round to the center of the chin. The rot and maggots continued to eat till they ate through the large or jugular vein of his neck, and he bled to death! He, as well as Townsend, stank so previous to their death that they had to be placed in rooms by themselves, and it was almost impossible to endure their presence, and the flies could not be kept from blowing them while alive!"

This is possibly THE worst way to die.

This reminded me of the death of King Herod, quoting from the writings of Josephus.

"But now Herod's distemper greatly increased upon him after a severe manner, and this by God's judgment upon him for his sins; for a fire glowed in him slowly, which did not so much appear to the touch outwardly, as it augmented his pains inwardly; for it brought upon him a vehement appetite to eating, which he could not avoid to supply with one sort of food or other. His entrails were also ex-ulcerated, and the chief violence of his pain lay on his colon; an aqueous and transparent liquor also had settled itself about his feet, and a like matter afflicted him at the bottom of his belly. Nay, further, his privy-member was putrefied, and produced worms; and when he sat upright, he had a difficulty of breathing, which was very loathsome, on account of the stench of his breath, and the quickness of its returns; he had also convulsions in all parts of his body, which increased his strength to an insufferable degree."

I think it's interesting to observe the repetition of afflictions here. In my Microbiology class, I've been assigned to give a lengthy presentation on flesh-eating bacteria, or necrotizing fasciitis. It's one of the least curable illnesses (the only hope for cure is to simply REMOVE any afflicted body parts, and hope it doesn't spread further.) and one of the most detestable illnesses. The symptoms of this are present in most of these stories. I really pity those men who died such a death. It makes me ponder on manifestations of divine justice.

I will decline to offer whether or not these instances were God-given punishments, since we can not ever presume to know His plans or timetable for justice. I still think it's very intersting that the man who tried to kill Jesus died very similarly to the men who tormented our prohpet Joseph Smith. I think there is a 'bigger picture' here.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Random thoughts-

I always feel like I should only blog when there is a particular story to share.  I'm changing that for now. I just want to write.  Here's what's in my mind:

1- I really like nibbling on Emmentaler cheese with a home made roll when I study. I also like nibbling jerky late at night.

2- Daniel had his first day of keeping himself completely dry! He wore a pull-up today and kept it clean all day! Wahoo! There's light at the end of the tunnel!

3- Nathan and I recently acquired a free chicken coop from a neighbor and we renovated it for our flock. We carried this massive wooden THING across two streets to our house. We received some strange looks on the way. We found cheap cabinet doors at a Habitat for Humanity Restore location. We installed the cabinet doors to use for collecting eggs. It was a fun project.

4- Even with a new water-proof, warm home, half of our chickens still prefer to roost in our peach tree and wisteria vines and sleep in the rain. Go figure.

5- We recently did family pictures. We hadn't done them since Matthew was a baby, so Daniel wasn't even around in those. We were long overdue. Thankfully, we caught a bunch of decent pictures, and I can feel like it was worth the $125 photographer fee.

6- We did the pictures in a 100-acre pecan orchard that is over 100 years old. We love to go camping and picnicking there as a family. If you ever visit (if anyone ever reads this....) then we'll take you there. It's so breathtakingly beautiful and peaceful. I get a spiritual boost from being around big trees.

7- I feel like I type all these posts and no one reads them but me. I've seen that T-shirt that says, "More people have read this shirt than read your blog." I agree. I don't mind much, I'm more of an introvert anyway. Still, it would be nice to know anyone is interested.

8- I started a book club a few months ago. This month we read "The Screwtape Letters" by CS Lewis. It's definitely a book to read with a pencil, because you'll fill all the margins with notes and insights. If you could only read a dozen books in life, I think this should be one of them.

9- The next book we're reading is "Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything your American History Textbook got Wrong". It's amazing. You'll never look at history the same, and it will open lots of new horizons for you. It did for me. It made me much more proactive in teaching history to my own children rather than rely on something else. It was amazing what I learned. The most important thing I learned was to rely on primary sources, like journals of the people from events.

10- I've been very busy with studying and tests. I'm tired of memorizing pharmacology drugs and side effects. Rote memorization isn't valuable and I feel like I'm wasting my time.

11- I write my class notes on 3x5 cards and take them with me everywhere in my purse. I memorize while I'm waiting in the line of cars to pick up my kids from school.

12- I'm running a Math Pentathlon club for Kindergarteners and First graders at the school. We learn math games every Thursday. The National Competition is in Austin this year, so we won't have to travel if Sarah and Matthew care to compete. Nice.

13- I hate competition. I hate the way public school compares all the kids and declares 'winners' and 'losers'. It's not healthy for anyone. The winners get arrogant and the losers feel worthless. I don't like it.

14- I'm so thankful for church members who share their talents. I really appreciate it when musicians share their skills in Sacrament Meeting. It's such a powerful way to lift our souls and invite the Spirit. We have our first musical number this Sunday...the first EVER for our ward. I'm so excited!

15- I'm thankful beyond measure for the gift of sight. I have a blind friend that I drive to church on Sundays. My heart goes out to her so much. This is the single affliction I pray that I will never have to endure. I love drinking in the sights of clouds, landscapes, my family, smiling children, etc. I can't imagine life without it.

16- I'm so thankful for my best friend, Nathan. I had a really rough day yesterday, and he knew it from the moment he walked in the door. I'm not very good at hiding emotions sometimes. He cheerfully cleaned the entire downstairs, did the dishes, took all the children grocery shopping for an hour while I read a book, then came home and gave me a wonderful foot rub. I didn't do anything do deserve it. He is such a priceless friend.

17- We started a Halloween tradition of the friendly spider. We made a purple and black spider out of glittery pipe cleaners. Someone has the spider and gets to go do a good deed for a member of the family. They leave the spider at the site, waiting to be discovered by the recipient of the service. It's like tag...if you have the spider, you are 'it' and to get rid of the spider, you must do an anonymous service. It's been really fun. Sarah made me a beautiful card and made my bed.

18- The city is building a real dam behind our house where the earthen levee used to be. Sarah and I mourned the death of the hundreds of berry bushes that used to line the edge of the lake. There used to be a path that hugged the edge of the water, and we would walk through there and harvest tubs of wild dewberries. Now it's all becoming concrete.

19- We've been playing Christmas music since August. I can't wait for December. It's so hard to resist putting up my Christmas tree now. I love the old Christmas songs, sung by the 'classics'- Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Karen Carpenter,and played by Canadian Brass. My heart just swells within me, filling me with nostalgia and wonderful feelings. I love it. I'm afraid our kids have no idea that "Christmas music" should be associated with a particular time of year.

20-I hate the monotony of laundry. It never ends. It beckons to me every day. It requires so much time for something of no long-lasting value. Erg.

21- The same can be said for washing dishes.

22- For our family Christmas exchange I have two missionaries (one boy, one girl) and a 21-year-old brother. What on earth do you give these people for Christmas? I had an idea for homemade art, but what if I don't have time to do it? Then what?

23- Nathan and I have enjoyed dates at home lately. Instead of paying a babysitter, we use that money to buy exotic cheeses, gourmet crackers, fine chocolates, or sushi (our grocery store has a sushi-counter). We put the children to bed and then watch a fun romance or comedy, or read poetry together while we enjoy the fun food. It's so much cheaper than going out to dinner, and usually the food we get at a restaurant is something Nathan can make at home anyway.  I've really loved these nights together.

24- I love watching the birds migrate at this time of year. It's such a great time to live in Texas. Almost all the birds from the entire continent migrate though Texas on their way to Mexico/Central America. It's beautiful. One night there was a flock of literally thousands of birds covering hte massive parking lot of a grocery store. They were all just singing and resting on the pavement. I slowly inched my car through them, marvelling as hundreds of brids would lift off the ground and fly over me in very close proximity. I coudln't help but grin and laugh in pure delight. I've enver seen anything like it. I stayed in that parking lot for 30 minutes with my windows rolled down so I could enjoy their music.

25- The butterflies migrate right now as well. There are butterflies of all sizes and varieties flitting around the neighborhhods. I love it! On a single two-mile drive, I counted 125 butterflies that crossed my path. That must be good luck for something, right?

26- This is the busiest time of year for my face painting business. In quick succession there are parties or festival for Back-To-school, Fall Fests, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Winter Fests, Christmas, and New Year's Eve. I've been booked almost every weekend for a while. It's been nice to have extra revenue so I could fix up our home a bit.

27- I finally replaced the ghetto blinds in our living room. You know the venetian blinds that die a horrible, twisted death whenever a child is near? Our blinds have been twisted and broken for over 2 years. I finally replaced them with solid oak blinds. Hurray! We don't look like we live in a trailer anymore!  I've wanted to replace those for years!

28- People often tell me I'm a great mom, but I often don't see what they're talking about. I think everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. They don't see how easily I get depressed or overwelmed. One of my weaknesses is in stressing out over little things. It's a quick recipe to take the fun out of an activity. Nathan is so great to be my perfect foil. He's so care-free and cheerful all the time. His laughter and enthusiasm is contagious, and I drink it up every day like a parched mouth.

29- I hate superficial interactions. I detest small talk. There is a quote from Elder Groberg that says somthing like this: "90% of conversion is meaningless. Only 10% of what people say has any real value."  If it's not important, I'd rather not talk. The problem is that you can't unify the ward without doing the obligatory small talk in order to get to know someone for the first time. It's like some sort of ritual. After talking for 10 minutes about drivel you can finally find something valuable to discuss. Erg.

30- I've been reading the autobiography of Parley P. Pratt lately. Regretfully I can only read it in spurts here and there. I have too much homework or family obligations to meet. The book is incredible though. I have relished every page of it. I recommend it. I love reading about history's noteworthy heros. They strengthen my own determination to be great. It does not matter if I am great in the eyes of the world or my neighbors. I just want to be great in the sight of God and myself. I think it's interesting to observe that the things that make one great to God are often the things ridiculed or ignored by the world. Did I mention that I don't care much what people think about me? (Execpt Nathan.)

31- I think it's liberating to not care about people's opinions. The hype regarding fashion trends make me so frustrated.

32- A friend recently gave me 5 designer purses from her collection. I don't know what to do with them. I am still using my 5 year-old leather Fossil purse we bought when we graduated from college. The other bags were just not functional enough, and I don't care to accesorize my outfits with hip purses. It's not me.  They are all sitting in the back of my closet.

This has been therapuetic for me. I've just spent the past 3 hours cramming Pharmacology lecture notes and I really needed something to wind down my mind. This was more relaxing and fulfilling than I expected.

Emergency Evacuation

Our Stake President from church asked all the families to do a special Family Home Evening about our family emergency preparedness. Thanks to a really informative site,, I was able to pack our 72-hour kits, medical supplies, camping gear, etc long ago. I highly recommend this site for food storage guidance, emergency plans, what to pack in 72 hour kits, how to organize a first aid kit, etc. It's VERY informative!

We used to have the supplies hidden in different closets, but 6 months ago my sweet husband moved all his electronic components out of the downstairs closet and sacrificed that space for the exclusive use of our emergency supplies (and the vacuum). I loved the idea shared by other LDS moms of writing up a chart to post in the emergency closet. The chart has a list of all the important items to grab, where they are located (things like journals that aren't stored in the closet), and who is responsible for packing that item in the van. It's so organized, I love it!

For FHE I taught the children about the chart and how to read it (different colors for each family member really helps the process run smoothly). We set the timer for 5 minutes and had a staged evacuation. I was thinking that it would take 5-7 minutes for the entire family to be packed and loaded in the car. Everyone was in charge of loading their own 72-hour kit (packed in a backpack) and then they had specialized jobs to do.

Sarah was in charge of getting the first aid kit, box of medicenes from the medicene cabinet, and scriptures from the master bedroom. Matthew was in charge of loading hte sleeping bags, Bella's pack (filled with dog food), and getting Bella on a leash and preventing her from running out the open front door. Daniel's job was to collect the pillows off of every bed, then he was to buckle up in his carseat and just stay there, safely out of the way. :)

It was incredible to see how fast everyone worked. It's amazing how much can be done in a short amount of time. We were completely loaded in the car, with everyone buckled and ready to drive away in 4 MINUTES 40 SECONDS! I was so proud of everyone! Then we had the *delightful* task of unloading a full van, putting everything away, and winding down for bedtime. We rewarded everyone with ice cream sundaes. During the refreshments, Nathan asked the children what we should do if we had to evacuate while he was at work. Matthew immediately replied, "First we'll have to go save you!" Nathan asked, "What if I died?" Matthew responded, "Then I guess I'll have to cook my own food." Matthew's always thinking about food. On Mother's Day our ward made little books for all the moms. It had quotes from every child in Primary, and the quotes were the responses offered to the question, "How do I know my mother loves me?" Other kids said things like "She reads to me" or "She helps me feel better when I'm sad" or "She teaches me neat things". Matthew said "She cooks breakfast for me." Nice.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Family craft- Halloween decor

I've never purchased Halloween decor before. As the logical result, we never did a lot of decorating for October. We'd cut out paper shapes of bats to hang from the ceiling, paint some windows, carve a pumpkin, and call it good. This year we wanted something more festive, so we made a family craft. I wanted to share it because it was a fun family activity suitable for a variety of age ranges.

We purchased a variety of Halloween fabrics from a local fabric store. I bought 1/2- 3/4 yard of each fabric, and picked about 5 different fabrics with a variety of prints.  We took these home and cut them into strips about 2 inches wide and 8 inches long. I didn't measure any of this, just go ahead and eye ball it.

Sarah loved organizing the fabrics as it was being cut. It was very serious work for her, like being the banker for Monopoly! She really enjoyed being in charge of all the fabric, and was very meticulous about keeping the edges aligned on the stack of strips.

Take a string of white Christmas lights (or buy the orange Halloween lights...I like white because you can buy them on clearance after Christmas and use different fabrics to make several garlands: one for each major holiday!) and tie the strips of fabric around the light cord. I put 3-4 fabric strips between each light.


I taught Sarah and Matthew how to tie the fabric stips onto the cord and they really enjoyed this part. We sat around the table tying fabric onto our own sections of cord, and we chatted about our week while we worked. Daniel was too little to tie the fabric, so he enjoyed picking out the colors of fabric for me to use. It was like a game for him.

We also attempted to make homemade fuzzy spiders out of pipe cleaners. I wouldn't recommend this craft for kids. It was much harder than I thought to make the legs look even and decent. After a LOT of frustration, Matthew made one spider that he was very proud of. 

After tying on all the fabric on the string of lights, we hung the Halloween garland over our front-room window. This string of lights happened to be one of the 'twinkly' kind, so it's been very fun to have it turned on. I'm surprised how 'magical' twinkly lights make me feel....Nathan's teased me a bit in this regard. The joy and excitement just bubbles up from inside of me and I can't stop myself from giggling. It's fun to share the joy of simple things with my kids!

I'd love to hear what family traditions you have for Halloween, whether traditions from your childhood, or ones you've started recently! I'm always looking for fun ideas, so please share!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

General Conference weekend

Okay, I know this is late. Tough luck. That's the way the dice rolls when I have homework and exams :)

I LOVED the spiritual feast we were blessed with in General Conference! It was so incredible! I can't wait to print off the talks and peruse them all again.

I like the idea of having family traditions for GC weekend, so this year we started some. Nathan made crepes for breakfast on Sunday, which is a fun treat we enjoy for birthdays, so it helped make the day already feel like a holiday. The children LOVE building their own crepes and choosing their own toppings. My all-time favorite topping is a sweetened sourcream that Nathan cooks on the stove over low heat. It's light and slightly tangy and OH-SO-GOOD. I crave it often! Yummy! We also love to spread on flavored yogurt, plain yogurt drizzled with honey, Nutella (oh yum!), peanut butter sprinkled with powdered sugar, jellies of various sorts, cut up fruit (think berries and bananas), and whipped cream. You just can't have a bad day when it's been started with such delicious food!

In the GC sessions, we gave the children all Bingo cards with different gospel words/pictures that they needed to listen for. I think every LDS family has played this, and there's a reason why: it's so much fun! The kids were so excited every time they could mark off a word.

We also placed a bowl of marshmallows and M&M's on the side table. Whenever they heard the name of Jesus Christ, they could take a candy. They decided to save all the candy in a little bag so they could have a pretend party after the session.

Between the two sessions we did family activities. We recenlty found a puzzle that is made with 3 different sizes of puzzle pieces. It was made so the entire family could work together on one puzzle. Brilliant! We really loved it! We all worked together and had a great time. Sarah and Matthew were pretty good at putting pieces together, and Daniel was so proud of himslef for getting one pice put in place. Daniel's main job was to look through the box of pieces and find all the pieces with a straight edge so we could do the perimeter.  Or we'd have him look for all the pieces with a certain color, like when we were putting together a portion full of pumpkins. He'd find all the pieces with a splash of orange.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

400 pounds of bananas!

I'm allowing my husband to write this one:

  My wife is an angel. This morning she called me at work:
"Do we have any plans this evening besides FHE?" She asked.
"Not that I know of"
"How would you like to make some banana bread?", she asked.
"Sounds like fun. What's up?"
"Sister Chavez works at a local soup kitchen and they were going to throw out some overripe bananas. She said they would bring them to us.", She said.
"That's great!", We hung up the phone.
A couple hours later, Renae called again. This time her voice had more of a panicked sound to it.
"They dropped off the bananas..."
"Ok?" I replied cautiously.
"They tried to get me to take more but I stopped them after they unloaded ten cases." She said.
"Yeah- they're 40 pounds each. We have 400 pounds of overripe bananas sitting in our kitchen."
Renae was able to give away 4 cases leaving us with a mere 240 pounds of bananas. She then proceeded to peel, mash, and freeze bananas for about 6 hours, in addition to taking the kids to school, picking them up, and taking them to their art lessons.
She finally stopped when we were out of lemon juice and freezer bags and every cubic inch of our deep freezer was full of bagged bananas. We fed most of the banana peels to the chickens and I buried the rest in the compost pile. Renae then mopped the floor which was unbelievably sticky, fed the family dinner, and led us in an excellent FHE.
I fear that I may lose her any day to being translated. It's a serious concern for me.