Sunday, October 18, 2009

Change of Plans

We had a perfect family day planned. Then, plans changed. That's alright; perfection is boring.

We had planned to go cut more wood (read the post about our wood cutting adventures). But, it stormed Saturday night and we knew the dirt roads to the wood would be pretty muddy. So, we planned on a drive up 260, with a letterbox hunt, and a hike at Becker Lake. Let's just say, our plans changed.

We did drive up 260, named one of the most scenic drives in Arizona and my absolute fave this time of year. We stopped at our letterbox location at Sunrise Lake, but there were too many people around, and one of the ethics is that you don't let people see you hunt. They may go over to the box after you leave and harm it, not knowing what it is. So, we planned to come back on our way back home.

Our next stop was Becker Lake and Wildlife Viewing Area. We had read brochures about Becker Lake ever since we moved to Arizona three years ago. We had been saving it for a special date. Saving it for when the boys were older to appreciate it. Let me just say, don't believe everything you read. It was pretty. But, it wasn't this huge wildlife viewing area. It was basically a footpath along a creekbank. The entire trail is only 1/2 mile. This for hikers from Yosemite, who are used to viewing bear, elk, and turkey and hiking (really hiking) a minimum of 4 miles.

So, there we were, done with our perfect plans by 10 am. Oh well. Plans change, right? Perfection is boring. We decided to get lost. We love getting lost. Before we had Jack and Josh, we used to get in the car and just drive. Our only requirement was that we had to use roads we had never taken before. You wouldn't believe some of the vistas, meadows, and wildlife we saw on the backroads.

We drove up highway 261 to Big Lake. Well, we were planning for Big Lake. We stopped at Crescent Lake. The boys had a blast on the dock. Then, we noticed that the dirt road (Hwy 273) from Sunrise Lake to Big Lake had finally been paved and reopened. We had tried to take this road when we first moved here, but it was closed for construction. So, we took the road instead of going to Big Lake. Plans change.

On our leisurely drive, we saw many trailheads. We had no intention of taking any of them today, but we wanted to see the maps of the trails and see their distances. Just in case we wanted to plan a hiking trip (but we all know what happens to plans). As we pulled in to one trailhead, Joe recognized an older gentleman getting ready to head out on the trail to Mount Baldy.

It turns out that this gentleman, Hugh, is retired from the Forest Service and now spends his days mapping trees. Pretty cool. His stories of the area lured us out of our van and on to the trail. We're so glad we did. Hugh taught us about the local trees and wildlife as we walked. Then, he took us off trail and showed us a small strand of trees recently overturned in the wind. If you look closely, you can see that they are 4 trees who overturned all at the same time.

At the end of the hike, the boys were exhausted and the clouds were moving in. We said our good-byes to Hugh and started to head home. We continued on highway 273, right past Sunrise Lake and our letterbox hunt. Oh well, I'll plan that for another day (but we all know what happens to plans).

Friday, October 16, 2009

My Papa

Allow me to introduce my Papa to you. Papa is a superhero.

25 years ago, my mother married my stepdad, after being a widow for 8 years. During those 8 years, life was always just my mom and me. It was always calm and quiet. Yet, I longed for a family. I longed for a daddy. I longed for a grandma and grandpa. When she got married, I got all of that. Plus more.

My first Christmas with the new family was huge in every way. I still remember so much about it. Previously, Christmas' were just mom and me in our little 15 by 15 living room, in our little apartment. But that Christmas..... was huge. And although it was all that I had ever wanted, I was overwhelmed.

There were 15 people there. 15! I don't even think our old apartment could have fit 15 people in the whole place, let alone the living room. The house was huge. There were 4 other kids running around. It was too much too fast. But Papa must have known that. He picked me up, put me on his lap, and hugged me the whole day. Papa is a superhero.

Since then, I have left Papa's lap. But, his lap is always full of children. At Christmas, you can count on finding Papa in the living room, on the couch, with at least one child on his lap. In the last 25 years, our family has grown and we now have 9 little-ones (Great-grandchildren). Papa is a superhero.

A few months before I got married, Papa was diagnosed with cancer. Skin cancer on his head. Did that stop him from attending my cousin's wedding outside, or my wedding outside? Nope. He just put on a sweet hat and looked very dapper. Superheroes wear hats.

Since that summer, seven years ago, Papa has been diagnosed with cancer time and time again. Every time in a different place. Each time a different type of cancer. This week, he has just been diagnosed with cancer for the seventh time. His attitude is one of hope, and faith, and gratefulness for each day he has had so far. Even heroes get cancer. It's their attitude that makes them super.

This Christmas, I'm gonna make sure I get my turn to sit on Papa's lap. Because Papa is a superhero.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Bounty of Peaches

We were blessed with a bounty of peaches this year. No, we don't have a tree. We do have an apple and a pear tree but they didn't produce this year due to the late freeze. But, our town has a farmer's market. Yummy!

My wonderful neighbor just happened to be stopping by the farmer's market last Friday. She noticed they were packing up as she walked up. They told her this was the last market of the season. She spied a basket of peaches and asked how much they would cost. The man (I think eager to sell his stuff) told her she could have the entire box for $6. She bought the box sight-unseen. He pulled it out and it had 34 pounds of peaches! We figured it out to be about 18 cents per pound! Wal-Mart is $1.88 per pound. That was a savings of almost $60! As soon as she saw it, she knew they couldn't eat all those peaches. So, she blessed us with half.

We ate some. I wanted to make a peach dessert. I looked up peach cobbler, but that wasn't really what I wanted. I looked up peach crisp. A little closer. Finally, peach crumble. Soooooooooooo delish! (I get all my recipes from

But, we still had a ton of peaches left (and they were very ripe). Peach Jam. I have never made jam before. I have never even seen it being made before. I was a little nervous. But, once again, I used and found a real easy freezer jam recipe that didn't need special equipment.

The boys helped me mash the peaches. They ate a few on the way to the food processor. I followed the directions and viola! Peach Jam. *A note to those who want to do this, buy the reduced sugar pectin. My neighbor bought the regular pectin and just reduced the sugar (the recipe calls for 5 cups of sugar) and it messed up the set process. I bought the reduced sugar pectin and was able to use Splenda and it set up beautifully.

So, come on over for some yummy peach jam on toast. Share in our blessing.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


I love wood. It's so earthy. We have a wonderful heater at home, but there's just something about burning wood to heat your home. Don't get me wrong, I love that I can set the program on the heater to heat the house just before we wake up. But..... wood is so earthy.

This pic was taken last year right before we went to the pumpkin patch. I love the rock wall behind the stove. It's so earthy.

As you can see, we have a humongous wood burning stove that cranks out the heat. Well, at least it does for Joe. For me, it does ok. What can I say, he's a master at this outdoors stuff. He's so earthy.

But, with a wood burning stove, you need.... wait for it.... wood! There are two ways to do this. You can buy wood from someone on the street (literally). It's convenient. They already have it chopped, split, and they deliver it. It can get pretty spendy, though. Plus, it's not very exciting. And I'm all about the excitement. I'm pretty sure that's my middle name.

The other way to get wood, is to collect it yourself. WAY more exciting! I just love the sound of the trees hitting the ground. Sometimes the ground shakes. I love the smell of fresh cut wood. I love that my boys explore and learn. I love the exercise (it's quite a workout). I love the satisfaction of a wood pile, knowing I gathered it. But I have learned to not even bother with the wood pile. Joe is fanatic about his wood piles at home. He will restack and rearrange our wood about once a month, maybe more. He has all the wood separated by type. He has the oldest wood up front. I am just grateful that Joe has the energy this year to do it. Last year, the Kidney Disease wiped him out and we only got 1/2 a cord ourselves (and we burn at least 3 cord/year).

This year, the firewood cutting area is off Porter Mountain Road. I had never driven past Porter Mountain on that road. Have you ever been back in there? It's so pretty.

Wide open spaces. Juniper. Oak. Pine. Lots of cattle grazing. Pronghorn Sheep. Natural springs. It's my kind of country.

After doing this a couple of years, we have our "jobs" all worked out. Joe picks the general spot for the day. He explores the area, looking the trees we will get that day. While he's out exploring, I set up base camp. Feed the kids. Establish boundaries. Take a few nature shots.

I also cut kindling. I'm not gonna lie to you and tell you that I cut down the big trees. I don't. I still have a fear of all things sharp. Flashbacks to pumpkin carving in 1992. Not pretty. My pinky still doesn't bend. But I digress. I can however, use the chainsaw for kindling. Overkill, but exciting!

The boys then throw the kindling in the back of the truck. The truck is so big, they have to get a running start. Too cute!

Pepper's job is to protect. We were dogsitting him this weekend, so he came along.

When Joe came back from exploring the area, Pepper didn't recognize him at first. Oooooh, attack dog! He's so cute. He will always be family.

Joe then takes the chainsaw and goes back to the trees he has marked out for the day. My job is now to bring the truck to him and the wood. Exciting.

You can see from this pic that the trees are pretty tight in here. Sure, we came in on a road, but I use the word "road" loosely here. I'm sure at one point it was a dirt trail, but with all the pine needles, you can't see the road anymore. Many times we said, "where's the road?" And with pine needles, you can't see your own tracks coming in.

Joe found the best trees uphill from base camp. This meant I had to back up the truck, uphill, on the "road", and blaze a trail to Joe. In some spots, there was barely enough clearance for the truck to make it coming downhill, going forward. Imagine going in reverse uphill. This from a woman who needs to make an 11-point turn to get this truck into a parking spot at Wal-Mart. But in the forest, it's like I'm in my element. I'm so earthy.

Once I got turned around, I had to blaze a new trail toward the sound of the chainsaw. When Joe goes exploring, he pays no attention to where the "road" is. In fact, the best wood is off the "road". I get to maneuver around the trees and stumps and drive hard core! Sooooo exciting!

By the time I get the truck to him, he is usually done cutting all the rounds. I then help him throw them into the truck. When all is said and done, we pack up and move out to another spot. On the way out, Joe drives. This time, he couldn't find the way out, that I had blazed in. On his route, we found more "dinosaur" bones.

I say "dinosaur" because that's what the boys thought it was. They had found dinosaur bones last week also, while Joe was cutting wood, and I was at work. They kept telling Joe they had found "dinosaur" bones.

Now, I am sitting at home, thinking I might start a fire, with our own wood, that we collected ourselves. It's so earthy.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Fire Safety Open House

October is Fire Safety Month. The town of Show Low celebrates by having a huge Fire Safety Open House. It includes all the law enforcement, medical, and fire teams in Show Low.

The first thing we saw was the Hazardous Incident Command Center. As you can see from the pic, it's an 18-wheeler, with slide-outs. We were allowed to walk inside, where they have a complete lab to test hazardous chemicals. The slide-out part by the front is where all the computers and desks are. The boys got to sit in the Commander chair. Next to this, they have the "Chemical Clean-up" station. It looked like a real big tent with showers inside.

The ambulances were next. Kids can go in the back of the ambulance and help give CPR to a dummy. Jack and Josh were not too interested in this.

Show Low Aiport Fire Department was next. They had their fire truck, but they also had a demonstration. They had a mock-plane and set it on fire. Real fire! I guess it was safe as we were literally surrounded by firefighters and fire trucks. They put out the fire with a special foam.

After the plane fire was safely put out, they set a car on fire! Two engines came roaring in, lights and sirens. The firefighters were demonstrating how to use the Jaws of Life to get people out of a car. This pic was taken after they removed the roof of the car. Look at how it looks like a pair of scissors just cut it off.

Right next to the burned up car was the helicopter. Kids were allowed to sit in the pilot's seat and wear the helmet.

After the helicopter, we walked over to Kujo. The pic above was taken this year. The pic below was taken last year.

I guess it's just always windy on the day of the Fire Safety Open House. By the way, this is the truck they use when they are fighting fires in the wilderness. Those tires are huge!
The Arizona Rangers were next to Kujo. They had their horses. Joe talked to them awhile. It wasn't my favorite exhibit.

As we were walking up the little hill, the "fire truck" train passed us. Too cute.

The boys wanted to go on the train ride too. Notice in the "before" picture that Joshua is safely sitting next to his brother. I was a little hesitant to let Josh go, but Joe said he would be fine. So, while Joe played "Dunk a Cop" with the dunk tank, I watched the train vigilantly. For awhile, they went out of view as they neared the field.

That's when I noticed something was amiss.

Notice that even Jack seems to be looking for something.... His brother. Where's Josh? Did he fall out? Did he climb out? Joshie being Joshie.

There he is. Sitting safe and sound on the lap of the very nice policeman. I asked him what had happened and he said that as they were nearing the field, Josh started to cry. So, he took him out and put him on his lap. Very nice.

After a scary clown, some yummy (free) snow cones, and fingerprint taking, the boys wanted to shoot guns.

They got to shoot the paintball guns at the bad guys. Very cool for boys who make guns out of everything. Everything. Even squash. And no, I have not taught them this. It's a boy thing.

On the field, they had demonstrations. One demonstration was with the tazer. They tazed 3 policemen. Let me just tell you. It looked quite painful. That's one experience I don't need.

They also had a propane fire demonstration. Again, I guess it was safe as there were tons of trained professionals all around.

Now for my favorite part. The k-9 officer. Have you ever seen a k-9 officer? They are so cool.

They start by having this truck "evading" the police man. The truck drives onto the field and refuses to pull over. Finally, he stops his truck and attempts to run.

The police man is shouting at him to stop. The bad guy doesn't. Then, the cop pushes a remote control button that opens the back door of his squad car automatically. The k-9 officer is out in a flash and ready to attack. Love that dog!

Since I have been attacked by a dog, I can now sympathize with this guy. I know, he's wearing a protective suit, but it has to be scary. That dog is close to your face.

The officer gets the dog off and puts her back in the squad car. Yes, the K9 officer is a female. Then, they did another demonstration.

This time, the officer is talking with a suspect. Then the suspect pulls a weapon out. Again, the police man pushed that remote control button, and watch out!

She is out in a flash and bearing down on the suspect.

All in all, it's a very fun and educational day at the Fire Department. What a perfect way to kick off Fire Safety Month.

where Glory meets my suffering