Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Faith and Heaven's Revolving Door

Any minute now I expect to receive a telephone call telling me that a woman in our ward has given birth to two healthy baby boys. Ever since we got the news K was expecting and unexpectedly it was twins, we have been looking forward to this day. And since Michelle has been helping out with their other four children after school, and the father works with Wes, we have been particularly eager for the good news, and have already put in dibs to hold one of the babies during church.

But my excitement for this family has been dampened a bit by another call I received earlier today. "C", a good friend of my daughter Kristen and her mentor teacher last year, passed away this morning from cancer.  The disease was only recently diagnosed, giving a heartbroken husband and two children, a daughter recently married and a son preparing for a mission, barely time to adjust to the news before their dear sweet mother and wife was gone. (9/2/2011 Just heard from Kristen that the son entered the MTC the day after his mother passed away. )

Kristen was devastated. C had been her good friend and supporter all last year. Every day Kristen would go to her office to share the joys and challenges of her first year of teaching. C gave advice and provided a listening ear. She was also the friend Kristen went to excitedly to tell about meeting Peter, their first date, and their first kiss. And when I came into town and visited Kristen at school, C would come and tell me all about my wonderful daughter and how she was such an incredibly gifted teacher. So of course I liked hearing that.

But today she has left this world, much too soon and much too young.

Kristen's telephone call took me back several years to a time when a good friend of mine also passed away from cancer, after receiving several blessings promising health. I questioned for months how that could be and in my prayers I repeatedly uttered, "I don't understand." Then one day the impression came into my mind, "You don't have to understand. That is what faith is." And with those words came a rush of peace. I still don't understand, but I no longer worry about it. I am at peace with my friend's death and I pray that C's family and friends will someday find peace with her death as well.

But as I sit here at my computer still waiting to hear about the two little babies, I can't help but picture Heaven's revolving door.  As we mourn the loss of a good friend here, Heaven is celebrating her return. And as we will soon celebrate the birth of two little boys here, I am sure there are some heavy hearts in Heaven who have just said goodbye to two valiant sons.

3:20 p.m.  Just got news. They arrived about an hour ago--6 lbs 14 oz and 6 lbs 9 oz. All are doing well.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Good Reason For a Party and Yummy Cake Recipes!

This past weekend we hosted a "Thank You Party" for many of the people who helped out the night of my daughter's wedding. It was fun to bring out the table cloths again and spruce them up with some very cool flowers I found at Costco.

For dinner we served Italian--which I loved, and then for dessert I found two recipes in the Better Crocker All-Time Best Recipe magazine. One was this very delicious and decadent chocolate cake. (Recipes will be at the bottom of the post) The other was a banana tres leches, that--amazingly enough--I think I liked even more. It was cool and refreshing, especially when topped with fresh raspberries.
Following dinner we played a couple games. The first was more of a "Get to Know You" activity, since we had 22 people from all over our stake. We had everyone write down one thing they have done that they didn't think anyone else had, and then we guessed who it was. We learned some pretty interesting things. Such as . . .

1. One man was part of a song and dance group that toured Europe. (Seriously, I didn't even know he could sing!)
2. Another man was part of a clown diving act where he would do 1 and 1/2 flips off a high dive and then flop into the water. (And this was fun?:-)
3. We had a woman who won a swimming relay while wearing a cast on her arm and another woman who earned six presidential fitness awards.
4. And everyone was impressed with the ex-marine (didn't know that about him either) who shot an M-60 while strapped to an H-1 that was flying 100 yards above the ground through a canyon. (Of course he had to explain what an M-60 and and H-1 was for some of us).
5. And then there was the man who admitted to belly dancing in Morocco while dressed in a skirt and a bra. (Shameful!:-)

Who knew we were such a diverse group with so many talents?!

The second game was the candy bar game. I heard about this one from my friend Lisa who played it at Doug and Shelly Kings, but when I told my kids about it, they said they played it their entire lives at our neighbor's the Purtymuns. Obviously I was missing out!
I read several different rules but here are a couple to choose from.
Give everyone an empty brown paper bag and place double the amount of candy bars as number of guests in the middle of the room. Using two dice, (you can use more than one set if you have a larger group like we did) everyone takes turns rolling the dice. If they get doubles they can either take a candy bar or trade sacks with another person.

That is the simple version.

Another way to play is to begin with every person having one candy bar in their bag and then have different instructions for each of the double numbers. For instance if you roll double 1's you put a candy bar in the bowl in the middle. If you roll 2's you take a candy bar out, 3's you trade with the person on your right, 4's you trade with the person on your left, 5's you can take a candy bar or trade with anyone, and 6's you take the whole bowl--no matter who might have it.

We actually played with a combination of the two rules, but I think you could make it up however you like.

You need to set a timer for 5, 8 or 10 minutes before you say "go" and then play until the buzzer goes off. Whatever candy bars you end up with is your prize. I set the timer for 12 minutes and it was too long. I think this game is better played for about 7 minutes. If everyone had a good time you can then dump it all in the middle and play again.

But it was a lot of fun and I appreciated all those who came. Thanks for being such great friends and for all your hours of service before, during and after the wedding!

Now for the recipes . . .
Chocolate Lover's Dream Cake
1 box Betty Crocker SuperMoist chocolate fudge cake mix.
3/4 cup chocolate milk
1/3 cup butter, melted
3 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 box (4 oz) chocolate fudge instant pudding and pie filling mix
1 12 oz bag chocolate chips (either semi-sweet or milk depending on preference)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease bundt cake pan with shortening (or cooking spray) and lightly flour.

In a large mixing bowl, mix together all ingredient except for chocolate chips for 2 minutes. Stir in chips and spoon into pan. Mix will be very thick. Bake for 55-65 minutes or until top springs back when touched lightly in center. Cool ten minutes and then turn cake upside down onto a serving plate.

Let cool completely--about 2 hours.

Ganache Glaze
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2/3 cup whipping cream (not whipped)
Place chocolate chips in a small heatproof bowl. In a 1-quart saucepan, heat whipping cream to barely simmering. Pour over chips. Let stand 5 minutes and then stir until smooth. Drizzle glaze over cake.

Drizzle caramel topping over cake and top with toffee bits, chocolate chips and a cut up snicker's bar. We decided we liked the cake better warmed in the microwave for a few seconds (each slice). I also didn't like the chocolate chips on top so left those off. Since it is very chocolaty, ice cream or milk on the side is also a must.

Banana Tres Leches Cake
1 Box Betty Crocker SuperMoist White cake mix
1 1/4 cups water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 cup mashed banana (two medium)

Place all the above ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix on medium speed for 2 minutes.
Bake at 350 degrees in a 9 by 13 inch pan for 33-38 minutes or until toothpick inserted in middle of cake comes out clean. Cool completely--about one hour.

Tres Leches
Mix together
1/2 cup coconut milk (not coconut cream)
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated)
Using a toothpick or long pronged fork, poke holes in cake about every 1/2 inch. Then pour milk evenly over the cake. Refrigerate over night (it can be ready in about 2 hours but the longer it soaks the better).
Frost cake with whipped white frosting before serving and garnish with banana slices, toasted coconut or other fresh fruit. (We loved it with fresh raspberries!)

Store leftovers in refrigerator.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Meeting Mania

For twelve years I worked in seminary, where, although it is a ton of work, most of the meetings I had to attend occurred between 6:00-7:30 in the morning. The rest of the day I could choose how to spend my time.

Then I was called to be the ward activities chairman. With that calling I attended the ward council once a month, but all other meetings (which were rare) were at my discretion.

Next I was called to be a Sunday School teacher. Okay, let's admit it. This is the easiest calling in the church. You prepare your lesson during your daily scripture study, so it requires no additional time at all and other than teaching your class, there are no more meetings to attend.

So yes, I have been spoiled. Totally. I know that. But still, imagine my shock when I was recently called to be the first counselor in our ward young women's organization.


There is presidency meeting, board meeting, meeting with a member of the bishopric, then there is mutual every week (along with the Sunday meeting) stake training meetings, firesides, more training (three times before the end of the year) youth baptisms, a youth conference, a Saturday fall activity, class presidency meetings . . . . In just nine days I will have attended SEVEN meetings!!

Truth be told, there have been times when I thought my husband was slacking on his church job by not attending a meeting or activity that I thought he should be at. Now I just look at Wes in wonder and ask, "How do you do it? How do you attend all your meetings every week and stay sane?"

I have new appreciation for everyone out there who has a church calling that requires a lot of meeting time!! You are truly amazing!!

And now when I head off to yet another meeting, Wes just looks at me and smiles.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Little Blue Bundle and Answered Prayers

He finally arrived!

Our newest little grandson (grandbaby #3 and second grandson) came into the world on Wednesday, August 10.
His birth was a rather long, traumatic ordeal and he was not at all very happy about it.
Just after being born, he was placed on his mother's tummy where he looked into her face and proceeded to tell her about his terrible experience.
It was one of the most interesting things I have ever seen. He whimpered in a funny little tone as if trying to say, "I have had the most awful day!"

Below is Camille and Camden, both looking a little happier.
Camille became one of my heroes that day.
Her first delivery resulted in an emergency c-section so she desperately wanted to have this baby all natural to reduce the chances of ending up in surgery once again.
She knew it would be difficult but she and her sweet husband, Dave, did all they could to prepare.
Even so, Camille said it was a hundred times worse than she ever imagined.

Her contractions began the minute her water broke and continued pretty much nonstop for nearly 13 hours until the baby was born.
She was making slow progress, but at least there was some progress until she reached 9 1/2 centimeters and then it stopped.
For almost two hours (5:00-7:00) she dealt with transition contractions with no relief.
Finally the doctor arrived and helped out.

And then the pushing began.

Another two hour ordeal.

One of the people critical to her being able to do this was her doula, Dawn. Dawn was wonderful!! She massaged Camille's legs and feet during active labor, spent a couple hours helping Camille stay focused on breathing during transition, helped her change positions to get more comfortable, and during pushing earned a bruised hand.

Dave was also critical to the process. Camille never let go of his hand for pretty much the entire day. His love and support were essential to her staying focused and able to get through the long hours of labor.

I too was glad to be there.
Although Camille was a little reluctant to have me there.
After all, giving birth is a very personal thing,
so I was happy to accept her wishes and not be in attendance.
After all, her comfort was what was the most important to all of us.

But in the end she decided she could use her mom.

And so I was able to witness his birth.
The first birth I have seen of my three grandchildren.

And it was very hard for me.
I cried a lot.

It was so hard to see Camille suffer the way she did.
It gave me new appreciation for our Heavenly Father and what He must feel watching our pain and suffering in life.

We were so relieved when the baby finally made his appearance.
We joyfully celebrated his arrival.

And then my tears began to flow again as the doctor explained that the birth had caused some complications for Camille and she would have to be taken to the operating room and given general anesthesia while they corrected the problems.

She made it all the way through the birth without any outside interference or medication,
only to end up in the operating room for over an hour in surgery.

My heart ached for her.

The good news is that she is on the mend.
She is home from the hospital, and although it will be a while before she is back to normal, she has a great husband to help out.

We love them all!!

Post Script.
Before the birth I was getting so frustrated that it was taking so long for Camille to go into labor. I knew my prayers were being heard, but I wasn't sure they would be answered how I wanted them to.

But they were.
Not according to my time frame, but all our prayers were answered.
Camille was able to have a successful delivery following a c-section and she gave birth to a healthy little boy. She did not need any outside intervention for her labor to progress (i.e. pitocin), and before the baby came I was able to spend a week with my little granddaughter, (a big treat since I only get to see her a couple times a year).
Plus I had some fun times with Camille going to lunch, shopping in Denver, taking Carly to the park etc.

Dawn was also an answer to a prayer as she helped Camille a lot through the most difficult part.
While watching the two of them conquer the pain, the thought occurred to me that I had been wondering if my prayers were being answered, and yet, my meeting Dawn a couple years ago was the answer to a prayer (Camille getting through the labor) that hadn't even been offered yet.

Yes, God is very much aware of us and our troubles.
And He does hear and answer our prayers.
Sometimes in different ways than we would like,
And sometimes before we even have spoken the prayer.

And that thought brings great . . . joy to my journey.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Still Waiting For The Baby . . .

They say a watched pot never boils . . . and apparently a watched tummy doesn't contract. At least in labor.

We have tried every idea to start labor we know of, and walked all over Hobby Lobby (twice) Walmart (twice) Ikea (once, but it is a HUGE store!) Target, and out on the street. We have eaten Indian Food (just gave her indigestion, but no labor) Italian and Mexican.

We have grocery shopped for two weeks worth of food, cleaned the house and done the laundry.

And I finished reading my book.

So there isn't a lot left to do but sit and wait and wait and wait . . .

She is having a lot of contractions and they are fairly regular . . . until she lies down. And then it comes to a complete stop.

I was supposed to go home on Thursday but I changed my flight to Saturday, and then I have to go home baby or no baby. But not getting to hold this little boy and spend time helping Camille would really make me sad.

I have said more prayers than I can count and tomorrow is fast Sunday so you can just imagine what I will be fasting for. I sure hope and pray this baby comes soon, and both mother and baby are healthy and strong.

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