Saturday, June 29, 2013

Trek End

Saturday morning we had our best breakfast yet, oatmeal with brown sugar, raisins and apple bits!

It gave us lots of energy to start what we knew best, pulling and pushing the handcart.

We had time to reflect on the blessings we had received, which included great weather, marred only by a short afternoon shower each day. We had beautiful scenery, no mosquitoes, and best of all a wonderful group of kids to be our own for 4 days. We're going to miss them.

Our last challenge was a little walk through the river just to get a taste of pioneer life. After that it was a short hop back to Camp Liahona, our starting point. There the kids met up with their families and we were able to meet their real parents, the ones that had raised such great kids that made our pioneer trek such a wonderful experience.

We made it safely home and immediately washed off four days of dirt. It took a lot of suds! Then, we went out to eat at J&P Pizza where we made up for any calories we may have missed while living like a pioneer. Ed decided not to shave yet. He wants to proudly wear his four day beard to church to commemorate our trek experience. It was the best!

Trekkin' Friday

Friday we painted rocks and did a service project. Somewhere we had time to hand out harmonicas we had bought for the kids. Even adopted Bush kids need to play an instrument! I taught them to play Come, Come Ye Saints on the harmonica. You can see that Marissa (in the back) is taking a break from painting here to play songs from my Handcarts, Hymns and Harmonicas book.

Cole proudly displays one of the laundry bags we painted to donate to a women's shelter.

After lunch we took the kids to church with us. We marched them down in order of age, Thomas, K., Austin, Raffi, Jenesis, Erin, Ruben, Becky, Kendall, Marissa and Cole. Our oldest, Cole has already received his mission call and will be going to the MTC in the end of July to serve a mission in South Korea!

After Sunday School and Relief Society, the kids went off for a 3 hour solo experience in the woods. Ed and I went up to the tent and cleaned up a bit. Ed made a nice sign to welcome the kids home again. I practiced the guitar, as Helen was coming up to play her viola with me at the evening fireside. We did a medley of Ashokan Farewell, A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief and Come, Come, Ye Saints. 

Despite a shower before dinner, we were able to get a fire going to make chili and scones for dinner. The evening fireside was a testimony meeting and didn't wind up until well after dark. We spent  some time with the kids talking about our feelings about trek and the parallels with life. We were constantly amazed at their maturity and expressiveness. Ed says the future of the LDS church is in good hands!

Trekin' Thursday

We started Thursday morning with a bowl of cornmeal mush for breakfast. It wasn't the tastiest, but it stuck to your ribs. We were happy to find out that our adopted children had some terrific skills, which included fire building and cooking! Ed and I watched in amazement as they made breakfast for us. I have to say I am reconsidering my opinion of the value of Boy Scouts in a boy's life!

We took to the road, happily, knowing we would not be walking as long as we had the day before. By day two, the kids had it down to a science, taking turns pulling and pushing.

They went over a few logs and even straddled a giant rock.
The hardest part of the trail was weaving our way through a narrow trail where the wheel hubs and the yoke had to be angled through the trees in order to get through.

By early afternoon we arrived at our next camp site, and we had time for some fun, getting our hair washed, making leather bracelets, and cooking tasty little strips of buffalo meat.
Our thoughts revolved around food, and we were anxious to get the dinner stew cooking. Jenesis could really get the flame roaring by fanning it with the top of our plastic food bin!
We also had homemade bread, which turned out delicious in the dutch oven. The girls used one of Mama Smurf's patented cooking techniques-"Burned on the Bottom." The inside, luckily was just right, and with a little homemade butter and honey, tasted like dessert!

After dinner we enjoyed a square dance. The caller did a great job, and Ed and I enjoyed dancing along with the kids. We had so much fun we didn't realize we were the only couple over 18 dancing. We suddenly realized we were bone tired and decided to sit out the rest of the dance.

Our new campsite wasn't quite as nice as the first one. We were cheek to jowl with our neighbors, and were forced to build our fires in the walking pathways. It looked more like a Gypsy encampment than a Mormon Pioneer trek. But, we adapted, and nothing kept us from dropping into our sleeping bags at night and sleeping soundly till morning.

Trekking with the Smurf Family

Wednesday we went on the Columbia Stake Youth Handcart Trek. We were one of 12 sets of parents to serve as Ma and Pa to a brand new set of children, ages 14-18. We had a family of 6 boys and 5 girls, and were given blue bandannas. We became the Smurf Family, and Ed and I were Papa and Mama Smurf.

We left camp at noon and spent the next 11 hours pushing on to our evening destination.

Our children were terrific, taking turns pushing and pulling the handcart. In contrast with the Mormon pioneers, who pulled handcarts through the great plains, we were able to push through tall trees, which provided us with some shade in the heat of the day.

Parents were not allowed to help the children, which made us feel bad till we realized that these were very capable, hardworking kids who could do it alone. We were very proud of their ability to work as a team.

We soon learned that the braking tow rope could also be used in front of the handcart to help us when going uphill.

It was important to have the tow line in back on the downhill slopes to keep the kids in the front from getting run over.

Our handcart had some issues, one of which was a wheel with a bad bearing, which the support staff replaced after the first few hours. We were very relieved, because it was pretty unstable before then.

Then we pulled some more.

Around three they had a pull for just the women, which was extremely challenging. It lasted several hours, during which time I was brought to tears by the valiant efforts of our adopted daughters. They pulled...

And they pushed. The last half hour was a steep grade through a rocky incline. I didn't get a picture of it, because 1) It suddenly started to rain in buckets, and 2) I was forced to help the girls, who were at great risk of injury to themselves as the handcart lurched through the muddy, rocky ravine. The men decided about half-way up the hill that although they are not supposed to help during the women's pull, that they couldn't stand by and watch us anymore, as many of the girls were falling on the rocks and sliding backwards. We were so glad to see them jump into the ravine and help us out.

We continued the trek nursing some of our bruised bones and helping each other get moving again. The were completely soaked, which felt somewhat refreshing, as we were no longer overheated.

We arrived at our campsite at 11 p.m., soaking wet, and dog tired. We were each fed chicken broth and one roll. We threw up a few tarps and fell immediately to sleep.It was the hardest day ever for us and the kids, but we woke up with a feeling of bonding and unity that can't be described. No one had complained once! It was hard and we did it together. It felt good.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Gwine to Gettysburg

Ed and I are all dressed up and ready to go! As Ma and Pa of the Pioneer Handcart Trek we are about to adopt 10-12 unknown children. We are also going off the grid. It's a shame, because we're going to have 4 days chock-full of memorable experiences, which I will be unable to blog about until we get back!

If you're curious about how things are going on the trek, check the weather in Gettysburg, PA. That's very close to our camping sight. Looks like today we'll have clear weather for a few hours, but tomorrow has 80% chance of rain. Hopefully, that will make the 90 degree weather feel cooler!

See 'Ya later!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Trek Prep

Ed and I are going to be Pa and Ma for 10-12 youth on the pioneer handcart trek commemoration next week. This means we get walk for four days and camp out each night. I can't wait! We got a new tent, to be used as a clothes changing room. We have to sleep under a tarp by our handcart. The tent had poles connected to it and took all of 60 seconds to put up! It was simply amazing.

Small musical instruments are allowed, so I picked up a bunch of harmonicas in case any of our new children have any musical bend. I also put together a book with instructions on how to play 11 hymns on the harmonica.

After several days of stewing about which guitar to take, I decided none of them would do. They were too heavy and to likely to be damaged in the heat and rain. Ed was nice enough to let me buy a new Martin Backpacker guitar, something I've always thought would be a nice addition to our growing collection of musical instruments. It's so cute and compact, and sounds great. I hope we won't be too tired to get in a little fun singing in the evenings.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Gardenias in the Window Sill

I'm doing everything I can to keep my little Bansai gardenias alive. The leaves turn yellow with spots on them and drop off. The one with the broken pot on the left has been especially distressed. But, the one on the right has actually blossomed! I'm enjoying its sweet smell as I wash the dishes. I'm worried that in a few more months they will have no more leaves and will shrivel up and die, but in the meantime I'm enjoying the fact that I'll at least get to see the blossoms first!

Happy Real Birthday, Ed!

We celebrated Ed's real birthday on Wednesday by going out to T-Bone and More, a new restaurant in Elderburg. The stake was very good, albeit expensive! But YOLO, as I have recently learned from Amanda! (It, apparently means 'you only live once!' So if you're going to splurge, let it be on a birthday! They gave us this nice dessert afterwards, which also made us very happy!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Happy Birthday, Ed!

Amanda and I gave Ed his birthday presents and a cake yesterday. It's a few days early, but she works nights and won't see her dad on his real birthday!

We also took the opportunity to run out and do some shopping in the middle of a tornado warning. Luckily, the tornado that touched down in Eldersburg was on the other side of town!

One More Time!

The Pearl Strings did our Down on the Farm program Sunday night for our family and friends. It was fun to have one more shot at these songs that we've come to know and love. It's also fun playing just for people that know and love us!

Ed took a few pictures for us. Can you tell it was hot and muggy in the basement? Well, it was! Other than that, everything was great! We're taking the summer off. I hope we don't regress during the next three months. We've come so far. I am very proud of this band!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Honeysuckle Hunt

The honeysuckle has been so sweet and so prolific in the woods the past week. With all the rain we've had the past two days I was afraid all the blossoms would be gone. I talked Ed and Amanda into going on a honeysuckle hunt with me today.

First we found some baby geese in Miss Carol's pond.

We also found a lot of small (and sadly, bitter) strawberries in the path.

There were also some giant mushrooms growing out of rotten trees!

Happily, there was also some honeysuckle! (See the tree behind Ed.) Many of the blossoms were gone, but it was still evident all along the fire trail. And, best of all, you could still smell it. I don't know how I missed it last year, but I'm glad we got to see and smell it this year!

It was nice to have Amanda along to train Coda to walk next to us. Amanda is the true alpha dog in our family, and Coda obeys her better than anyone. We stopped at the swimming hole to try to teach Coda to swim. It turns out she can dog paddle just fine when the water is too deep for her.

But she doesn't really like it. Look what it does to her fur!

Temple in the Rain

The Washington DC temple looks just as pretty in the rain as it does on a sunny day! Ed and I went all the way to Dulles International Airport yesterday to get a special permit from Global Entry to get in a short line at passport control. It only took us 6 months to get!

Afterwards we did a temple session and later went out to eat at Thai Cuisine, on the corner of Highways 97 and 108. I'm  putting the address on my blog for the benefit of those of you who, like us, never know where to eat after a temple session. It was a small restaurant with limited seating, but fortunately, a lot of their business is takeout. The food was terrific, and I'm sure we'll be back again sometime!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

China, Here We Come!

I went to DC today to pick up our passports, stamped with our China visas. To my delight, everything went smoothly! We're now good to go! I was in such a good mood that I decided to follow the GPS home, just for the entertainment value. I ended driving right through Washington DC to get to the freeway on the other side of town. It took me an extra half hour, but I learned something very important from that experience. NEVER go home that way again!


Tuesday afternoon, I went strawberry picking with Suzanne and Amanda. It was a beautiful day to be out in the fields at Baugher's Farm.

We got some ripe, juicy berries, which Suzanne went home and made into freezer jam. Luckily, she shared some of the jam with us today! 

Yesterday I did some more pickin'--this time banjo pickin' with my friend, Karen. We've had some beautiful weather, and we enjoyed sitting out on the deck entertaining the neighbors. We did Whiskey Before Breakfast, a great tune with a funny title. I can relate to the title, because I had to make a rule in our house--no chocolate before noon! 

After we polished up our banjo song we had fun just talking...isn't music really always just a good excuse to get together?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Visa Hell

Nothing like spending an entire day applying for visas for our trip to China this summer! Ed was so nice to take the day off to drive me to Washington DC to hand in our application forms. He lived to regret that magnanimous gesture! We picked a number and sat down to wait. Our number was 240. When we arrived they were serving 180. After two hours we got up to the window only to be told we'd filled out the wrong forms and also needed our airline tickets. The website was anything but helpful in that regard! So, we went to a travel office where we printed out the tickets and filled out 6 new four page applications. By the time we got back, the windows were closed as they were out to lunch. Fortunately, we got to go first when they opened the windows and even more fortunately, they accepted our applications! If all goes smoothly, on Thursday we will return to pick up our passports with official China tourist visas in them!