Thursday, September 20, 2018

Canning

We have finally finished preserving our peaches.

Well, technically I'm waiting for the canner to boil so I can set the timer for a half hour to process the last four quarts of peaches so we're not quite done yet. If we're lucky, though, we'll end up with all four quarts when we're finished.

It seems like we've been dealing with fruit forever.

Last week a friend of mine posted a picture of her impeccably organized storage room with the caption, "Applesauce, strawberry jam, blueberry jam, red pepper jelly, spaghetti sauce, Saskatoon pie filling, apple pie filling, peaches and pears! It’s been a busy two days! I still have a few more batches to do."

And I about died. Because how in the world did she do all of that on her own?!

We have had four adults working on our fruit and we've managed to procure: 6 pints of spiced plum jam and 32 quarts (inshallah) of peaches. Oh, and two of our jars of peaches exploded in the canner (so we should have had 34 quarts but what can you do? (turn it into peach leather, that's what)) and I knocked a jar off the counter onto the tile floor and it shattered into a billion pieces.

Luckily my friend Jamie posted the following on Facebook: "It is currently 12:25am. We are waiting for the water in the canner to boil so we can start a 35min timer on pear sauce. Ellie will be awake in no more than 7 hours. Everything is sticky. I think we have made a terrible mistake."

And I was like, "Jamie, you are my spirit animal."

I don't know why canning feels so overwhelmingly difficult to me? Is it the fact that I always have children underfoot? Is it the fact that even when we wait to can things after bedtime the baby inevitably wakes up screaming? Do I have butterfingers? Or does everyone break a jar every now and then?

I just keep telling myself this will all be worth it in February when I'm getting anxious for the peaches to be on again. Home canned peaches are the best!

Karen has been keeping a tally of our efforts this year (which Benjamin was rather excited to see because he's learning about the tally system in school). In case you're interested, we've done:

  • 35 trays of plum leather
  • 6 pints of plum jam
  • 11 trays of pear leather
  • 60 ounces of dried peach slices (27 trays)
  • 84 trays of peach leather
  • 32 quarts of peach
And we're still waiting to can some pears and make some applesauce.

And we're exhausted. And everything is sticky.

But it will sure be yummy later on...

Monday, September 17, 2018

Wacky Weather

The first thing we did this morning when we woke up, our lungs heavy with smoke, was check the air quality index. Conditions were once again hazardous, with an AQI of around 450, so the kids caught a ride to school with a neighbour.

Very luckily for us, air doesn't usually sit stagnate in our valley and by mid-morning the winds had shifted and the smoke started to blow away from us, as if our community had collectively stood up and twirled around while chanting, "White rabbit, white rabbit, white rabbit," (which, according to childhood folklore, will chase campfire smoke away from your face).

Our AQI was only around 150 when the children were dismissed from school, which is still considered unhealthy, so I picked the kids (and our neighbour) up from school.

Since it had been a half day and the children (mostly Benjamin) were bouncing off the walls, I thought it would be a good time to make good on my promise to take them swimming because I wasn't very well going to send them outside to play in toxic air (not that our inside air is much better). The pool is in the town north of us, however, and their air has consistently been better than ours so it was lovely to escape the heat and smoke.

When we got home we found Grandpa picking peaches in the front yard.

"We're in the green!" he said happily, which meant our AQI was at or below 50, a good level.

The kids laid out their towels and stretched out in the backyard to finish drying and have been enjoying getting some outside time, though the winds are shifting again and I have a feeling we will be nearly suffocating again soon.

Yesterday our air quality was particularly good, and though there was no rain in the forecast, it rained. We had just gone to pick up some couches from a neighbour down the street (and now we have enough places for our entire family to sit!). Our neighbours had been trying to get rid of them for a couple of days. They'd left them sitting on the driveway with a "FREE" sign on them, but it's been so wildly windy that the sign kept blowing away.

"I even tried safety pinning a sign to them," our neighbour said. "But the wind even ripped that one away!"

We were lucky to have seen the posting so quickly. We've been trying to find a different couch for over a year now.

Anyway, we were just in the process of tossing our old couch cushions down the stairs when Zoë started jumping up and down and yelling, "It's raining! It's raining! It's raining!"

"Yeah," Grandpa said. "It's raining couch cushions!"

"No! It's raining rain!" she squealed.

We all ran outside to see and were delighted to find a rainbow dancing across the sky, where we've grown used to seeing nothing but plumes of smoke.

You can see how windy it's been—the trees are really being whipped around

A concert in the park (September 2)

Would you believe me if I told you I still have a list of posts to write about this summer? I'm sure I will get around to some of them. Other will probably remain unmemorialized here. 

The problem is we just keep doing things. And doing things. And doing things. 

Time just won't slow down for us!

Two Sundays ago (already!) we went to a concert in the park with my mom. It was touted as a Latin American Music Festival, but it ended up being not quite what we had expected so we didn't stay too long. We did, however, arrive with plenty of time before the concert which meant we got to watch the set up crew, which was quite comical. 

The concert was, instead of a Latin American Music Festival, more like a musical devotional in Spanish, which is totally cool if that's what you're going for (but that was not what they were going for with the way they advertised it). It was run by some sweet couple missionaries who were just doing their best to draw a crowd, I'm sure, and they all took their jobs very seriously.

The men setting up chairs were hilarious

I had packed a picnic dinner for our family (except for Zoë and Andrew, who had elected to stay behind so that Zoë could play with Riley) and so we sat down to eat it in a very roomy row. One of the men came up to me and warned me that our row was going to be an "exit" row so I'd have to move my stroller before the concert started. I happily complied and parked our stroller at the end of our row. He then told me I couldn't park our stroller there because he was going to add a few chairs to the end of our row, so I moved our stroller again. 

We watched this man (and another one) rearrange chairs and straighten rows, then do it all over again. One of them would so something and the other one would come along and undo it. They moved the rows closer together, then they moved the rows farther apart, then they took away the front row and moved it to the back, then they took away the chairs they'd added to the end of every row (including ours) and made another row in the middle (which meant that I could have left my stroller at the end of our row after all).

They were still rearranging chairs when the concert started and continued to shuffle things around through the entire first performer's ticket. 

My mom and I were beside ourselves trying to keep from laughing while watching them.

"They are worse than a group of women setting up a potluck table!" I whispered to my mom.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Alexander at 11 months

Clichés are the only words I can think of to describe how it feels to admit my sweet baby boy is eleven months old. Pick your favourite one. I'll go with, "I can't believe my baby is eleven months old!" and "Time has just flown by!"

Yet here he is, eleven months old...

Galloping through the grass, full speed ahead

Pole Creek Fire

I drove the children to school this morning. It's so incredibly smokey outside that we woke up with our lungs hurting and I didn't want the children exerting themselves too much. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

I hope she knows she's strong

My cousin's daughter's husband passed away suddenly Sunday evening. I don't know the whole story. In fact, the details I do know leave more questions than answers (what was he doing on the train tracks in the middle of nowhere at 9:45 in the evening?). I'm not particularly close with this cousin or her daughter, but still this strange event is hitting a little close to home.

They had only been married a little over a year. They have a beautiful little boy.

And now Chauncé is a widow and a single mother. She's young. Rosie's age.

This is one of my worst nightmares—having my husband die and leaving me with a bunch of young children to raise—and it's now Chauncé's reality. I don't know what to do or say to help (other than contributing to funeral expenses, which you can do at any Mountain America Credit Union under the account “Nick Torres Memorial Fund” or you can Venmo a donation to @Nicks_Memorial_Fund).

I hope, more than anything, that she knows she's strong, that she comes from good stock.

We had a lesson on family history work in Relief Society this past Sunday and as luck would have it I've also been feverishly working to finish up a little family history book for my children to flip through so the stories of our ancestors have been fresh on my mind. The point was brought up (she said, using passive voice, even though she herself made the comment (but then someone else brought it up again later so it wasn't just me, okay?)) that knowing one's family history increases resilience.

As I've been looking through the histories of our ancestors I've noticed that they've all gone through some pretty gut-wrenching tragedies.

Milky milestone

When I input this evening's pumping session to my spreadsheet I realized that I hit a milestone of sorts—6912 ounces! That's 54 gallons of milk. 

My original goal was to hit about 72 gallons of milk (since that's approximately how much a baby might consume in the first year of life), but I honestly don't know that we'll get there considering I quit my morning pumping session mid-June. It was just getting too crazy trying to squeeze that in every morning with all the kids home from school and Alexander getting mobile.

I mean, when it was just me, Zoë, and Alexander in the mornings and all Alexander ever did was this:


...pumping in the mornings was relatively easy. Once he got mobile it was...not so easy.

Miriam's first day at college (kind of)

Benjamin and I are slowly making our way through Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban together and I have to say, I'm feeling a little bit like Hermione lately, especially on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Everything seems to fall on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Andrew teaches his classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays this semester, Benjamin and Rachel both have soccer on Tuesdays and Thursdays this month and Miriam, who chose not to continue with soccer, started an organ class at BYU that meets on...Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The kids' soccer schedule changes from week to week, as far as what time their games are at, so some days are more hectic than others. Today certainly ranked up there. This Thursday will probably be worse.
Thursday's schedule (with the time/place blocked out)

Monday, September 10, 2018

Topaz Internment Camps

When Andrew was in grade four, studying Utah history, he learned about the Topaz War Relocation Center and has wanted to visit ever since, so it's been on our bucket list for years. We figured it would make a good family outing because Miriam should be learning about it this year and Benjamin is obsessed with having "history time." The rest of us enjoy history, too, so it was a win for everyone.

I was rather impressed with the museum. It far exceeded my expectations and was really quite beautifully done. We first watched a few introductory movies, one of which was largely illicit home video footage taken by Dave Tatsuno, an internee at the camp, on a smuggled camera. It's one of two home videos to be accepted into the Library of Congress. Both films were interesting. 


We enjoyed wandering around the museum for a bit until we were interrupted by an employee, who asked us if we were planning on visiting the actual site because Jane Beckwith, who has been pushing for recognition of Topaz since the mid-80s and who helped found the museum, was currently giving a tour over at block 22. So we paused our museum experience and headed over to Topaz for a tour.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

An interview with Zoë

After we told the tale of Zoë's disappearance to Andrew he asked her what she was thinking, which she didn't have an answer for, so he tried a different version of the same question (you'd be surprised at how rewording the very same question can elicit a very different response).

"What was your plan?" he asked her.

"My plan," she said confidently, "Was to look both ways!"

She hadn't even made it to the intersection before she was picked up, but she was heading to the crosswalk and was intent on going home (as safely as possible, looking both ways before crossing the street). I'm sure she wasn't lost because she has walked that route so many times (at least 180 (because that's about how many times we picked Benjamin up from school last year) but in reality many more times than that) so I was wondering why she was crying.

As far I've been able to decipher, she was upset when Rachel told her she couldn't go home when she wanted to but had resigned herself to waiting. She went over to play at what my kids call "The Pirate Ship," but then she grew bored and decided she wanted someone to play with her. Rachel was busy with Alexander and Benjamin wouldn't even stop running around so she could ask him and Miriam was in a bit a bad mood and told her no quite rudely.

This was the last straw for Zoë.

She was trying to be happy and obedient by staying at the park to play but no one would play with her, so she stormed off towards home (where she knew Riley was waiting to play with her).

And then she was abducted rescued.

It took us all weekend to tease the story out of her, but now we sort of have her point of view of the whole ordeal.