Saturday, October 02, 2021

Garbage Caramel and Family History

It's General Conference weekend and the kids are all very excited (in large part, I think, because it means they get special snacks). Rachel stayed up late last night to make caramel sauce to dip apple slices in, but she bragged about how great she was at making caramel sauce first. 

Miriam tried making it a while back (last conference? the conference before?) but it ended up just a syrup. It was light brown, wouldn't thicken at all, and was a disappointing failure, which we told her was no big deal because caramel—while it sounds simple—is very easy to mess up. But then Rachel was like, "I'll do it!" and she did it.

So last night she was teasing Miriam about this, saying that Miriam shouldn't be the one to make the caramel because she'd just mess it up. Rachel would do it. Rachel is good at making caramel. Rachel doesn't understand how people have a hard time making caramel....

Rachel showed up in my bedroom at 10:00 last night, while I was working on the Hancock Hummer, bawling about caramel.

Side note: I have a theory that, if nothing else, grad school makes you more efficient? Because...I feel like I've put this newsletter together relatively quickly...anyway...

Rachel came into my room sobbing. Her face was red and blotching and she had tears streaming down her face. And she'd followed the directions—twice—but both times her sugar seized, recrystallized and the entire pot turned into one solid lump of sugar and she can't figure out why and now the whole kitchen is a mess and she has two pots soaking and no caramel! And she'll never understand how to make caramel or why she was successful in the past and wasn't successful in that moment and...

Fortunately family history was a welcome distraction for her. She wondered about past Hancock Hummers, like what did we say when she was born? And what did my parents say when I was born? 

The answers are, respectively, found in the October 2007 Hancock Hummer:
The most exciting thing to happen for us this summer was the birth of our baby, Rachel, on July 20th at 5:22 pm. She was 7 lbs, 7 oz and 19.5 inches long. We were both surprised that she came so fast! I worked until 1:30 at the library on campus that day and thought I was just starting labor. Little did we know we'd have our baby just 4 hours later. She is so fun to have around, but we're sad she's growing up so quickly. Her most recent development is rolling over. She's only done it a couple of times and it takes a lot of effort, but she just keeps on trying. She's so determined to get mobile--we'll soon have to baby proof our house! There are a lot of pictures and stories about Rachel on our blog:
And in the July 1985 Hancock Hummer (we only publish in April/October these days):

"Mom!" Rachel exclaimed, laughing. "You were a footnote?! They didn't even put in your a name?!"

She thought that was pretty funny. She also thought it was pretty funny that it appeared this newsletter had been typed on a typewriter. 

"They were still using typewriters when you were born?!"

So then we had to go through the entire archive to see when the switch from typewriter to word processor happened and find various issues that might have news about this, that, or the other. And then we had to look up some things in the family tree. And...

"Oh, there's Pearl's death announcement," Rachel said. "That must have been when your grandma died."

"Not so," I said. "That's Earl's death announcement. My grandma's brother..."

"Your grandma—Pearl—had a brother named...Earl?"


"They weren't twins, were they?"

"They were not. They're pretty far apart in age, actually."

15 years apart, so about the same age difference Rachel and Phoebe will have. Perhaps we should name this baby Prachel (I jest; nothing rhymes with Rachel).* 

"But Earl and Pearl?! Who even does that?!"

"In my great-grandparents' defense, they technically named her Zetta. I'm not really sure when she started going by Pearl."

"That's a good point. But 12 kids and no twins? Yikes. Look at that spread! She was having kids for, like, 26 years! I'll bet some of her kids were having kids before she was through having kids herself.** And I thought there were twins in the family."

"On my Grandpa Layton's side. He was a twin."


Soon Rachel was feeling a lot better, though she was a little miffed that neither Andrew nor I could definitively tell her what went wrong with her caramel. Because it's always a bit of a crap shoot for us to make caramel as well. But Andrew's going to help her try one more time this morning before they give up the idea of that special treat for this general conference weekend.

Anyway, since it was 10:00, it was time for my evening snack, so Rachel and I went down to the kitchen and she tidied a few things up and I prepared my snack. 

Rachel went to throw something away and then dug in the trash a bit and pulled out the lovely pot-shaped chunk of crystalized sugar she'd created so she could show me her epic failure. 

"See?!" she seethed. "Look at this!!"

"That happens," I said sympathetically. 

"Ugh," she grunted, and dropped the mess back into the garbage can...and then...because her fingers were sticky...she licked them off! 

She caught herself in the act and realizing that she was licking garbage sugar off her fingers, wailed, "Oh, ew! What? Gross!"

And pretty soon she was crying again, but this time it was from laughing so hard that her instinct to desticky-ify her fingers was so strong she would lick them even after having dug through the garbage can.

I sent her to bed. 

Andrew cleaned the kitchen for her. 

And they're currently banging around in the kitchen together. I'm sure their caramel will end up being either really good...or an epic failure...

* Actually, when it's Rachel's turn to pray, we usually say "Rachel is going to say the pray...chel," so I guess we've forced a rhyme with her name, after all. When it's Miriam's turn to pray we typically say, "Miriam is going to say the prayer-ium." When it's Benjamin's turn, it's "Benja-bear's gonna say the prayer." For Zoë, it's Zoë-um and prayer-ium (copying the Miriam format, I guess). We haven't quite figured out a silly thing to say for Alexander yet, but I'm sure we'll get there.

** In fact, yes. My grandma's oldest niece is a year younger than she is, and a year older than my grandma's younger sister, Ila June. Which, I mean, Josie is younger than Amy.'s not like it's that weird to be younger than your niece...


  1. Back in the day when the Hummer was typed and mailed--there was a page limit. So each family had one representative (of the ten children who had children to talk about) who gathered all the news and submitted. If the original child was alive then he or she was the reporter, in most cases. That is why you were a PS. Maybe I was even miffed about that--I don't remember! It was what it was.

    1. Oh, I'm not miffed about it! Grandma had a lot going on—she'd only recently had her surgery and was taking care of Grandpa and Ila June and I had the audacity to be born at the end of the month (past my due date!) so I'm sure Grandma was scrambling at the deadline just to get my birth in there at all before the deadline.

      I wouldn't be surprised if in the original transcript everything else was typed up and then Grandma wrote the PS message in by hand before submitting it. Because these—getting news places—took a little more effort waaaaaaaay back then! ;)

  2. Cute post! I love the bit about your birth being a footnote. :)

    Do you think humidity could be the issue with Rachel's caramel not doing right?

    1. I don't think so. She and Andrew made both a "dry" caramel and a "wet" caramel this morning and they both worked out just great!

    2. Maybe she was just tired. And when we are tired, mistakes happen. And then the second time, she was both tired and frustrated!! In the morning, she got a nice fresh start!