Sunday, April 22, 2012

April Morning

Click here to vote for Sammy!

There is something about the morning light in April, the way it slants across the world, that catches me in my throat and makes me gasp for the loveliness of it all. This year is no different. We've had precious few days of morning sun in Oregon this year. No wonder Mark went out to capture a few photos first thing this morning, before church.

I wrote this poem about the April light several years ago. It's still one of my favorites. In one of the revisions I played with making it all into one long sentence, hence the title, which also works with the idea that we are sentenced to mortality without Christ.


on this early
April morning
the dew gathers itself
to dandelion leaves
that do not tremble 
with the weight,

and as I look
across the lawn, 
which is largely the dandelions, undesirables, 
they raise their yellow heads, shining like an anthem
out of weediness

and all because
the dew,
to the dandelion
now pulls this
early April
across the lawn,
until the silver
is altered,

and is fractured,
into a million promises

in April, early April
that I, even I
may be

Friday, April 20, 2012

Happy Birthday, Twinners!

Oh my goodness! Is it possible that they are 10?

Mark and I got to enjoy a little time with Sarah and Kat on their 10th birthday today. We took the ukuleles along to sing "Happy Birthday."

Hmmm...we need to do a little more practicing on that number before we create a Youtube video, but the girls seemed to like it anyway.

I scanned this photo, the first one we have of the girls, taken at 0-dark-thirty on April 20, 2002, at OHSU. The nurse placed the girls in my arms before their mama even got to hold them! (The doctors were still attending to her after the birth of twins.) The girls weighed just under 4 1/2 lb each, and I only got to enjoy them for a few minutes before they were whisked away to the NICU for the next month.
(Sarah on the left, Kat on the right)

Today we recreated the grandma-twin photo for 2012:

(Once again, Sarah on the left, Kat on the right)
Happy double-digits, Sarah and Kat!

(Haha - Ironically, Kat's tee shirt says, "Just be happy I'm not a twin.")

Remember to vote for Sammy! Click here.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Hard Things

Trillium, one of the first woodland flowers of spring.
Don't pick the blossoms! They can take up to 7 years to bloom again if they're picked.

Sometimes it's good to do hard things. Sometimes there are rewards that come into our lives no other way.

Today I was the hike leader for a group of 16 individuals (8 young women, 2 young men, 5 adults+me). We hiked 10 miles on the Riverside Trail along the Clackamas River. The weather was beautiful, and the scenery was gorgeous.

The hike was a challenge for most of us. Ten miles! That's around 21,000 steps! For several members of the group, it was their first time to hike that far. For at least a couple members of the group it was their first hike ever.

Now, I wasn't trying to kill anyone off. We were hiking a gentle, scenic river trail, not scrambling up a mountain. And there was an option to bail at 5 miles, which 3 group members did. (With no shame, I might add. Five miles is still a significant distance.)

I was so proud of the group. No one complained whined. No one had to be carried out. When one individual was struggling, others showed compassion and gave encouragement. The faster hikers willingly helped struggling hikers go the distance.

Still, there were a couple of times when I wondered if it was wise to bring novice hikers on a 10-mile hike. And while I'll bet a couple of them are right now wondering the same thing, I would gladly do this again.

Because you don't know if you can do hard things until you do them.
And there are some things you can experience no other way.
Trillium, after all, don't grow along park paths.

(Speaking of hard things makes me think of Sammy's courage and spunk. Click here to help her win a wheelchair-accessible van! You can vote once every day until May 13.)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Help a Hero

This is Sammy.
Sammy is a hero.
You can help her.

Sammy is a student at the high school where I teach. She looks like a lot of the other high school girls except for two things:
1. She is in a wheelchair, and 
2. She grins this gorgeous grin when I see her in the hallway. I LOVE seeing Sammy. She always makes my day.

You can read Sammy's story here.
When you read it, you will be inspired by her great attitude and the things she likes to do. 
100% pure Sammy. She's like that in person, too.

You can help Sammy.
Sammy is in a contest to win a wheelchair-accessible vehicle. 
Her odds of winning the vehicle improve if people vote for her. 

You can vote for her here.
Just scroll down to the bottom of the page and fill out the little form.
(Don't worry about the promo code. The people at the school used all those up this morning.)
Just click the button and vote. 
Easy peasy.

Even better? You can vote for Sammy once a day!
The voting closes on May 13 (a great birthday...)

So go ahead. Make your day. Help a hero.

Please leave a comment if you vote for Sammy!
And you can post about her on your blog or Facebook.
It would be great if you could help spread the word. 
She is such a neat kid.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Mormal

Last Saturday was the annual Mormon "prom" for the 16- and 17-year-olds.

Some of the local kids have nicknamed this extra-fancy dance the "Mormal" (Mormon + formal).

We had two couples heading to the dance from our ward. Mark and I hosted a fancy dinner for them at "Chez Laurel" before they went to the dance.

The bishop works at a car dealership, where he has access to a limousine. We put out the red carpet for them! You can see the limo in the background.

It was fun to turn our living room into a fancy "restaurant" setting. We moved most of the furniture out of the living room and turned it over to a lovely table setting.

 Floating candles and was so pretty!

The menu:
After their salads, we served pasta primavera from this recipe. We also skewered some honey-ginger chicken and added roasted asparagus as a side dish. Dessert was sour cream lemon pie from Shari's, with strawberry-lemon ice cream. Ooh la la! Mark and I enjoyed the same delicious meal "in the kitchen."

We put little "conversation starter" questions into Easter eggs...along with some jelly beans.

 Finished with dinner...ready to head to the dance!

 And then it was time for cleanup! Oh, my feet were tired by the end of the day!

But it was worth it. In spite of all the work of preparation and cleanup, I would definitely do this again.

Easter Treat (no calories!)

Here is a lovely Easter treat: a series of videos depicting the life of Christ.

This is the Easter video.

You can also view the videos in shorter segments with more detail, here.

These videos were recently created by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons). They are simple and beautiful, and they help to increase faith and understanding.

Here on Laurel Lane, on this Easter morning 2012, the sun is shining through clouds. I am grateful for Jesus Christ, his Atonement, and his restored gospel, which shine like the sun through the clouds in my mortal experience.

Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Miracle of the Zucchini Bread

A miracle happened in my kitchen this week.

Let me introduce Lily, 15, and Autumn, 12.

Both girls are in the Young Women program at church. Both of them want to go to YW camp this summer. And both girls needed to earn the money to pay their camp fee ($115). Autumn had a vague plan to do some babysitting. Lily didn't have any plan at all.

Even though Lily is older, she is fairly new to the YW program. Her family became involved in church activity again a little over a year ago. Last summer she wasn't interested in going to YW camp because she didn't know the girls very well, but this year is different for her. She wants to go. So, after she brought a homemade loaf of zucchini bread to a YW activity several weeks ago--a loaf she made by herself--I suggested to her that she could make some zucchini bread and sell it to earn her camp money.

We put a plan in place. I helped her create some sign-up lists. The bishop approved the project for promotion within the ward. The sign-ups weren't going well at first--in fact, they weren't happening at all--because Lily missed a couple of Sundays. But then, when she came, it was perfect. Because she came on Fast Sunday, when the ward members were fasting, like we do every month, and so...when she passed the sign-up sheets around...their tummies were rumbling! The women in Relief Society ordered 20 loaves. The hungry men in Priesthood? They ordered 42 loaves of zucchini bread!

Whoa. Way too much bread for one girl to make. And way more money (at $5/loaf) than she was going to need to earn for camp.

Enter Autumn. When I asked the other young women if anyone would like to work with Lily on this project, Autumn's hand shot in the air. A team was born.

They met together for their first go at zucchini-bread-production a week ago, in Lily's family's kitchen. They got their skills down pat with some coaching from Lily's mom. But Lily's family lives in a cramped, busy apartment, and one day of zucchini-ness was enough for that family.

Enter Sister K, one of the YW Advisors. She recently quit her job, has a big kitchen, and was happy to host the girls for their baking. Scheduled for last Tuesday. And then...

Tuesday morning my phone rang. Autumn's voice had a kind of panicky edge. "Sister Haynie?" she said. "Ummm...Sister K is in labor today."

Oh, did I mention that Sister K was also very pregnant? Apparently, she had other things "in the oven" that day besides zucchini bread!

So, we spent two days with Lily and Autumn and 40+ loaves of zucchini bread in our kitchen. What a riot. The girls were great. I helped them occasionally--donated them a missing ingredient or two, taste-tested the loaves that didn't come out quite right, etc--but for the most part, they ran the show themselves. I didn't have any big plans for the kitchen on those days anyway, and it was incredibly rewarding to watch the girls work together on their project.

 Autumn measuring

 Lily mixing

 One more batch (behind them) out of the oven)

 My kitchen smelled so good all day!

22 loaves of zucchini bread in one day!!

I met with the girls on Thursday morning for the final accounting. Each of them had some of the money from making the deliveries. I had the checks, now cashed. We still needed to reimburse Lily's mom for some of the ingredients. 

All along, I had been making mental calculations--would they earn enough for camp? Some of the ingredients were kind of expensive. Zucchini is not exactly cheap at this time of year. I worried that the girls might be coming up short.

But it all worked out. There were tender mercies along the way. Sister C donated zucchini from her freezer and most of the eggs the girls needed. Sister T donated more zucchini. Sister A donated the last few eggs, a jug of oil, and some flour. Brother L donated cans of crushed pineapple.

More tender mercies. Two sisters paid above and beyond what they were supposed to for their loaves of bread.  

So, Thursday morning. Counting the $20s, the $10s, the $5s, the $1s into two even piles. Making it come out fair for both of the girls. Their eyes got bigger.

$128.50 each.
I think I knew what it meant before they did.

"How much for tithing?" I asked.
"$12.85," said one.
"Make it an even $13," said the other.

"Ok," I said, "so what's $128.50 minus $13?"
They did some mental calculations.

Even though I hadn't been able to keep track of how the money was going to come out, obviously Heavenly Father knew. Each girl got to keep 50¢ of play money after paying tithing and her YW Camp fee. With all the ingredients to buy, ingredients donated, money to collect, extra money donated, it came out perfectly. Exactly. 

And I don't even know how to calculate the self confidence and faith the girls gained from the project. That came out immeasurable. 

And that, my friends, is the miracle of the zucchini bread.

PS - Here's their recipe:

Lily’s Zucchini Bread

Separately mix wet and dry ingredients:

Wet ingredients – Mix well
6 eggs
4 cups sugar
2 cups canola oil
3 teaspoons vanilla extract

Then add:
1 can crushed pineapple, 20 oz, drained
4 cups grated zucchini

Dry ingredients – Mix well (separate from the wet ingredients)
6 cups flour
1 ½ teaspoons nutmeg
3 teaspoons cinnamon
4 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ cups walnuts

Combine the two bowls of ingredients until just blended.
Scoop into 4 or 5 loaf pans.
Bake for 45 min – 1 hour at 350ยบ.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

New Camera!

Bad news: My camera died. Again. Take my word for it - do NOT buy a Nikon Coolpix. I have actually had two of them die on me in the last 18 months. When the first one died, we sent it back to and they refunded our money. We took the money and bought another one. Do not ask me why. Dumb. With both cameras, the gizmo that makes the lens go in and out when you turn the camera off and on stopped working. When the second Nikon Coolpix died, it was past the warranty.
Good news: Katie posted on her blog a while ago about her new camera, a Canon PowerShot. She loves it! And it only costs $79.00 on My friend Dorothy has one of these cameras, too. (Most of Dorothy's photos are taken with a nicer camera, but she does use the PowerShot for autoshoot conditions.) Mark and I talked it over. I was using our very-old-crummy-camera and trying to be frugal and not care so much about the tacky photo quality. We are living on a reduced budget this year due to education budget cuts in Oregon. But for that price, we agreed it was worth it to have a nicer camera. So we ordered a Canon PowerShot from Amazon.

Best news: My new Canon PowerShot arrived last week, on the very morning we were leaving for Polly's house. I was able to use it to take all of the photos from last week's posts at Polly's house with darling Anson and his siblings.
 I love this camera. Even on simple "auto" I can get photos like these. Sorry--bad composition to have the chandelier in the background. But look how clear the lily is anyway!

 Closeup of the lily, still on "auto." The pistil in the foreground is a little fuzzy, but everything else is so sharp and clear. Love it.

There were some roses in the bouquet, too. Still on auto. Love the depth and shading of the petals. And you can even see the little drop of water on the leaf in the background (right side of photo).

I am so happy with my new camera!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Hello, April

Some random thoughts from today...

I loved General Conference. I've been a Mormon for 40 years now, so sometimes I take it for granted.

But really...think about it. To be able to hear a real live prophet every 6 months? How awesome is that! And to live in the 21st century and have him speaking live over the internet?? Crazy!! I'll bet Moses would have loved to deliver his messages that way.

We heard the Saturday sessions yesterday at Polly's house. Today we were home, with our local grandchildren, (and their mom, stepdad, and another ward friend) here to enjoy the sessions with us. What a treasure to get to share these sessions, and the beautiful spirit that comes into our homes, with our sweet family.

The children were very dear both days.

Seth built with Lincoln logs.

This is Josh and Kat playing a "Conference Bingo" game today. Katie played a similar bingo game yesterday. Both Julia and Polly had prepared some good activities to help the children focus on the messages of conference.

Some of my favorite conference talks were:
One of the things I did while I was listening to the conference sessions was to color pictures for grandchildren that embodied some of the messages I learned from conference. I am excited to put these in the mail tomorrow for distant grandchildren!

A few more photos from our time in Polly's home and during conference today...
 Kat learned to crochet long chains of yarn. (Sarah did, too.)

Sarah enjoyed conference brunch of waffles and bacon.

This is a little random - from Friday afternoon - Katie at after-school basketball practice. I love this photo because I think it captures Katie's energy and beauty.

We loved our week with Polly, and now we love being back in our own home.

And I love love love being able to listen to inspired Church leaders that teach me how to be a better (and happier!) person.

Hooray for General Conference!

I love the first weekends in April and October because they mean GENERAL CONFERENCE!

Oh, I love love love to hear the inspired messages that touch my heart during these amazing meetings.

My daughter Katie posted a lovely description of General Conference with links on her blog this morning.

It's not too late to enjoy the last session of Conference! It will begin at 1:00 pm (PDT) today (Sunday, April 1).