Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Old Fashioned Christmas- Depression Era

Two Saturdays before Christmas, the Wood County Park District held an Old Fashioned Christmas Open House. There were 2 locations (very close together). 
One of them was the Carter Loomis Farm Park. They just received the property and buildings as a gift and are in the process of restoring it to a working 1930's farm. So when we walked in there, there was this lovely lady dressed in a 30's style dress and high healed shoes making cut out cookies. A tree sat in the corner decorated in Depression Era style decorations with a cast iron toy stove and a toy fire wagon with horses underneath it. My kids wanted to know why we no longer had cool toys like that :)
So more about the cookies. Each of the kids got to cut a few out. They had a little nutmeg in them and were super soft when they came warm out of the oven. Maryn was really enjoying them and wanted to copy the recipe down. She commented to the woman she liked them and asked what kind they were. 
Nice lady: "You like them? They're lard cookies."
Maryn: "Whats lard?"
Me: "Maybe you should finish it before I tell you."
What I should have taken a picture of is Maryn's face when I told lard was animal fat.

As you can see from the pictures, they were really trying to use all period materials for the baking. I love how the ingredients are in those big jars.
They had old fashioned games as well. The boys (Paul especially) was fascinated with the marbles and asked for some for Christmas. The girls and I tried to master tiddlywinks with very little success. We flipped a few pretty far and had to go find them.
One of my favorite things was a story they told kind of on the side. We mentioned we had already been to the schoolhouse and she said that the lady who left them them the farm, Lucy, grew up in that home and used to go to the one room schoolhouse. She would ice skate down the ditch during the winter to get there. One day, she fell through and needed up spending the day at a neighbors house getting warm and never went to school. Her mom had no idea until the teacher stopped by to find out where Lucy had been all day.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Claw

Since the big kids were gone, Conner, Ashlyn and I decided to run to Kroger and get the Smurf Movie and some root beer and enjoy some time on my bed. Conner took with him 4 quarters.

Me: "Honey, what are you taking those for?"

Conner: "I've been watching You Tube and learning how to do claw machines. I want to win a plush."

Me: "Well, its your money and if you want to try that's fine. But understand that those things are really hard to win at. You have to be lucky and watching You Tube in order to try and win isn't really going to be helpful at all."

I stand corrected.

Manor House

So for FHE last Monday we went and visited the Manor House at Wildwood Preserve in Toledo. Every year they decorate it for Christmas and open for tours. We had never been before, but it was very cool. We all enjoyed it. Here are a few pics.
The master bath was filled with piggies! I think they called it "Oink the Halls".
So Cute!

A pig dressed up as Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer sitting on the back of a toilet. How did they know my weakness?

This was kind of creepy at first. What's with the long dark tunnel? It's called "Alternate Delivery" and the little animals are helping with the gifts. We found it was a shooting range when it was actually a house.

Trains! There were neat little village pieces in the middle that sparkled and twinkled while the trains ran round and round.

It's official...

Yes, it's true. Maryn has lost her mind. Which is probably because she has also lost her head.
 See photographic proof below:

(Actually...the real story is that she is looking at fish in the pond at 577 Foundation. We took the girls there on our little weekend of adventure!)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Best. Response. Ever.

When I dropped by the nativity festival today I was flipping through the comment cards. Each one asks how they heard about it, what they liked and what they would like to see.

To the last question, some little girl answered thus:

"A unicorn nativity made out of real crystals."

Does life get any better then that, I ask you?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

I'd like to lodge a formal complaint...

So tonight we went to our church's Nativity Festival. We went last night,  but we went again tonight because I was accompanying my friend Rachel and her mother Angela. They give a little Christmas recital as part of the festivities. They are both beautifully trained sopranos, and it was quite lovely. Afterwards, Rachel asked if I would like to go with her to use a groupon she got at a little hole in the wall pizza place downtown. I checked with the parentals and then gave the affirmative answer. I was enthusiastic. My parents were cooperative.

My kids were mad.

More specifically Maryn was mad. Now in fairness, Rachel and I also did a Biaggi's run last night after we rehearsed. I needed chocolate. It had been a long and stressful day. I need an hour without children or work. I make no apologies for a little self care. (Okay actually I do, because it mostly feels like selfishness instead of self care, but I'm working on it. Plus the cake was amazing.)

But I sensed this wasn't really about my absence. So I asked her why she was mad. Truth be told, is was more about me going somewhere that didn't include her. And it was about me going somewhere she wanted to go and didn't get to go.

What is it about being 11 years old that makes the entire world seem unfair?

Her day had been a list of complaints.

"Why don't WE have a real tree. I want a real tree. THEY have a real tree."
"And they have 2 trees. Why can't we have 2 trees?"
"They put their stockings on the fireplace. You put them on the shelf. They're supposed to go on the fireplace. Why don't we put them on the fireplace."
"You get to go places. I never get to go places. Why do you get to go places?"
"Hannah got one of those, why can't I have one of those?"
"Why can't we have pork for dinner? They have pork for dinner. You never make pork for dinner."

Finally, I stopped her.

"Look, if you're going to continue telling me everything that just isn't working for you like this, maybe you should write it down and submit it all at once a formal complaint."

She kind of laughed.

A friend pointed out that somehow in the eyes of kids that age anything different then what they have is bad. Somehow, someone else having something you don't have (even though you may have many other wonderful things), is perceived as unfair.

Okay, not just 11 year olds. I go there sometimes too. Okay, I go there a lot.

Maybe I should just confess straight out that I live there. I've pitched a tent and hunkered down for the long haul. But so often I feel justified in my complaints, because I complain about BIG things, not pizza and cake.

And yet...

Here is a quote from the latest church magazine. Elder Eyring said:

"So to be happy and to avoid misery, we must have a grateful heart. We have seen in our lives the connection between gratitude and happiness. All of us would like to feel gratitude, yet it is not easy to be consistently grateful in all things in the trials of life. Sickness, disappointment, and the loss of people we love come at times in our lives. Our sorrows can make it hard to see our blessings and to appreciate the blessings God has in store for us in the future.
It is a challenge to count our blessings because we have a tendency to take good things for granted."
I should probably reconsider accepting, or giving, any more formal complaints.

This is what I do...

Hello, my name is Chiara Cameron and I am a Volunteer Coordinator. I really like what I do. I also happen to be pretty good at it. Most people don't know what it means to be a volunteer coordinator, so allow me explain.

Depending on which agency you work for, that means different things.

For Hannah's Socks, it means I recruit volunteers, match them with the best opportunities for them, and then try and build relationships with them so they stay. That means coming with tasks and programs. It means learning more about your volunteers and investing a piece of yourself in them so they feel important and they invest in the agency and the mission. The key word for most VC's is "engage". We engage individuals.

For United Way, I take on more of a supportive roll for other agencies.  I do a little matching of individuals to opportunities, but mostly I work with the VC's in other agencies to help them create great programs so we feel good about sending volunteers their way. Sometimes, I also help groups come up with Days of Caring. I reach out to organizations I know have things to when I am contacted by a business or other organization who want to do a service project. I also maintain key volunteer relationships. Food Pantry Network is one (pretty much all of them are volunteers and coordinate volunteers) and the Office of Service Learning at BGSU is another. I really like being part of both of both of those. Relationships are a core value for me. Anyway, last night I tapped into the relationships I have with both of these groups to do something good. BGSU wanted to have a service project in honor of the inauguration of the new university president. The OSL reached out to me and asked for help planning a food drive and then connecting the food with the right recipients.

Last night we sorted and prepared about 1000 items that we divided between 3 pantries. People give weird stuff. Soba noodles? Seaweed wraps? Foil packaged jelly fish? Tapioca thats older then I am? A #10 can of hot fudge sauce? How is that practical for anyone in rural midwest Ohio?

After all I have learned about food pantries, here is my little bit of advice; whenever you give for a food drive, give food you would eat. Don't reach into your cupboard and just give them whatever you aren't using. Don't give stuff thats older then you kids. You are giving this food to people, not pigs. It will not help them if they will not eat it.

Okay, now the soapbox is officially tipped over and I am moving on :)

Anyway, another thing I do and love doing presentations and training. I love planning just the right thing. I love coming up with activities that have meaning and then leading the group through the processing and seeing their faces as the pieces come together and they reach their own conclusion. I love interacting with people. I love researching and learning more about the topic and subject. Did I mention that I love it?

I get to do a presentation next week on creating positive organizational cultures that support and maximize volunteers within that culture. Sounds riveting doesn't it? And yet I'm excited. The process of bringing it together was tedious but rewarding. I'll have to let you know how it turns out :)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


I was cleaning out my folder, and found these notes.

This one is from Conner. He gave it to me at church a few weeks ago. Allow me to rewrite (Conner spelling will prevail), translate when necessary, and comment whenever I feel like it.

Top 5 things I like.
1. Pokemon.
2. Angry birds.
3. my big bother. 
(My big brother)
4. school.
5. church!!!

top 5 things I don't like.
1. Ashlen (Ashlyn. Really?)
2. Divishen (division)
3. being rich! 
(whose kid is this anyway?)
4. being hurt.
5. not loved.
 (These last 2 I totally get. Pretty profound)

Top 1 licke the most of all
1. my mom!
(He was not paid for this statement. It was offered without coercion)

I got this from Maryn's language arts teacher in the mail. This is a happy note.

On a side note...a really far side note...I was listening to Ashlyn interact with our puppy Oogie. She keeps calling him "a little ramp" and "you little rampster". I asked if she meant "scamp". She said no. She meant "ramp". Weird.  Then tonight he picked up a raw potato piece off the floor where I dropped it accidentally. She starts patting his ears and saying in her "puppy voice"; "You little raw monster."

Don't even ask. I have no idea.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


I love metaphors. Honestly. There really isn't a day that goes by that I don't find a metaphor about something in my world that feels applicable to my own thoughts and processes. This metaphor was in some reading material I was given. I liked it.

When we’re stuck in quicksand, the immediate impulse is to struggle and fight to get out.  But that’s exactly what you mustn’t do in quicksand – because as you put weight down on one part of your body (your foot), it goes deeper.  So the more you struggle, the deeper you sink – and the more you struggle.  Very much a no-win situation.  With quicksand, there’s only one option for survival.  Spread the weight of your body over a large surface area – lay down.  It goes against all our instincts to lay down and really be with the quicksand, but that’s exactly what we have to do.  So it is with distress.  We struggle and fight against it, but we’ve perhaps never considered just letting it be, and being with the distressing thoughts and feelings, but if we did, we’d find that we get through it and survive – more effectively than if we’d fought and struggled.  

I can completely see how this is applicable. The book talks about how life is full of pain, but it doesn't have to be full of suffering. 

The whole time I'm reading this book and the concept of acceptance, the thought that kept passing through my head was what is quite possibly the only serious quote in Princess Bride:

"Life is pain highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something."

Isn't that true? Aren't there forces all around us constantly trying to sell us this idea that we deserve to not be in pain? That a life void of discomfort of any kind is indicative of a successful life?  

Its a simple line, but the salesmen (who is usually crafty and convincing because he's, well, he's the devil and that's his forte) is pretty darn good. We believe his story without really giving it a second thought. Mostly because we want to believe it. No one wants to hurt. Its actually instinctual to avoid things that our guts tell us will make us uncomfortable. We have found clever ways to try and stop feeling bad. And the salesman who sold us the story that pain is not part of a happy and productive life, also seems to have the cure. 

Isn't that convenient. 

I know how he works, because he's sold me the same elixir. I've seen him sell it to friends. And he's so good, that he mixes that elixir and adds the exact flavor he knows we want. Its an easy sell. 

"You don't deserve to feel sad that you're single and alone. Have a piece of cake. Or two. Possibly three."

This was one from a friend; "You should never feel insecure or inadequate. You should have a drink. Maybe two. Maybe the whole bottle. That should make you feel better."

There's a thousand other flavors; righteous indignation, revenge, pornography...just name any addiction or compulsive behavior and you have the perfect recipe for emotional and spiritual quicksand. 

I'm trying to learn more about this concept of accepting pain as part of life. I will learn to lay down in the quicksand. I will stop struggling. I will stop suffering.

As I make progress, I'll let you know. 

Monday, November 28, 2011


This is actually just a quick note about my son.

I am proud of him. He may not be the fastest, strongest or smartest in all the things he believes others measure him for...but he is the bestest.

Here are some reasons why.

He was just called to be the first assisstant in the Priests Quorum. He's only been a priest for 6 months. He's not the oldest priest, and when he received the call, he had an enormous amount of self doubt as to whether or not he could be a leader. He wondered why someone like himself (whatever thats supposed to mean) would be asked to fill this position. A few weeks ago, I saw the reason why.

There was an old man who just recently came back to church. He is still a priest. And that week he was blessing the sacrament. Somehow, he got jumbled up, and after several tries and a little frustration, he was still saying the prayers over and again because he kept missing or adding different words. I watched my son stand next to him, smile encouragingly, help him see the small errors so he could correct them, and then lay his hand on the mans shoulder as he knelt by his side to give him support.

I knew why he had been asked to fulfill that calling.

He loves kids. He was more then happy to let his little cousins sit on his lap and explore his nook.

Tonight, he had a scrimmage (of sorts) for wrestling that I couldn't be at. But between wrestling practice and the actual meet, he called and asked for food. We sat in the van and chatted for a few minutes while he ate.

"Mom, I'm really glad we have a good relationship. I let someone else use my phone to call his mom. They were swearing at eachother, and yelling. And when he got off the phone he called her a bad name. I'm so glad we're not like that."

When I had conferences, all of his teachers, without exception, adore him. He struggles with grades, but they all told me what an amazing kid he is. He's kind, polite, respectful, and helpful.

I think that is God's great joke on you as a parent. Right about the time you actually start liking your kids and enjoying their company...
they leave you.
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Quote of the day

Conner asked me yesterday if he could have the hot dog that had been left over from a previous lunch during the week.

Mom:  " I ate it a few days ago."

Conner: "You are a menace."

Small Worlds

Okay, Okay, so I realize I have months to catch up on. I want to. I really do. But it seems like there is so much I can't even comprehend where to begin. I remember years ago when I cared about scrapbooking, that the advice they gave when facing an overwhelming amount of catching up was to start from the most recent and move back when you had momentum. Me thinks I shall take that advice.

So here we are.

We spent Thanksgiving at my dad's cousin's house; Ethan Gale and his wife Hillary. The funny thing about this cousin relationship is that Ethan is actually a year younger then me and so his kids are my kids ages. They had such a good time that we brought their two oldest, Allison and Aubrey, back up with us (along with Miciah).

So what do you do to keep 5 girls occupied for 2 days? Find cool free stuff to do!

Enter Toledo Museum of Art.

For a mere $5 for parking you can partake of a world class art museum. And on Friday nights they do super awesome activities. Thats why we went.

First, we went on a guided tour of their new exhibit, Small Worlds, a statement about space and use of space in our world. It was cool. And then, outside the exhibit, they had a free hands on activity where anyone could create their own interpretation of space in a box (for FREE!).

Hard at work

Aubrey and her "Christmas Thingy"

Maryn always has been in her own little world

Ashlyn wanted a Christmas landscape

Allison and her Christmas Living Room

Miciah and her mini craft room...which if you know Miciah, is super appropriate.
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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Art Exhibit

So I think the art teacher at my kids elementary school is amazing. She really tries to no just do projects but to teach concepts and history. And the results, to me, are amazing. Here are some of the projects they did this year. The artist is listed above each piece. :)




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Saturday, July 30, 2011

A visitor from France: All about Thibaud Real (our new French speaking friend)

So for about 3 weeks we had an extra member of our family. Thibaud Real came to stay with us on June 19th and left July 9th. He is a kind, considerate and intelligent young man. We learned a lot from him and enjoyed having him with us for those 3 weeks.

The funniest things happened when a language barrier arose. He was only supposed to speak English, but sometimes that was hard. I can only imagine it’s not fun finding the words you really want to say when you have a limited vocabulary. But he got way better at it as the weeks passed by. He had to think less before speaking and had gained some new vocabulary (some of it compliments of our family’s usage of words like “Weird!” and “Seriously?!) But here are some fun, and funny, things we experienced while he was here. They are forever saved in our memory files, but here are ones that were fun but no one took pictures of but we hope to always remember.


So one of the first nights, Paul and Thibaud decided to download Starcraft. It was a 24 hour download. The next day, when they checked it…lo and behold they had downloaded the entire thing in Dutch, a language neither of them spoke. Nice guys. Nice. We kept joking that we should find the Dutch versions of things since they had apparently become quickly fluent in it.

Hands on

So we were told French people eat very little with their hands. It’s true. I watched him eat a sandwich wrap with a knife and fork. I mean, who wants to get their hands dirty any way? But this translated into not also wanting to get to much food on his hands. Enter buckeye candy making. You must use your hands to mix the sugary peanut buttery dough. And we let Thibaud go first. See attached picture. He took the candies home to his family.

You First

Paul and Thibaud are both nice guys. As a result they spent a lot of time trying not to be rude which sometimes ended up just silly. They would come to a door and both try and open it first to let the other go and then stand their insisting the other go for like a minute. I finally joked with them to figure it out or I’d have them count off and have them take turns. Also, Thibaud did not want to be an inconvenience and Paul was trying to let him have space, so for the first week or so they would spend their days while I was at work apart…Thibaud upstairs in his room, Paul on the computer. I can only imagine they were bored out of their skulls. I finally sat them down and pointed out it was okay to make requests (Thibaud) and offer ideas (Paul). It got much better after that.

Crazy Cakes
One of the biggest jokes were American styled decorated cakes. He always called them “crazy”. No one slathers fat and sugar on top of stuff like Americans can baby! We went to a bakery and showed him the tools of the trade and explained some of how it was done. “So its like an art form?” he asked. Yes! It really is an art form. He was surprised to find out big fancy cakes cost hundreds and even thousands of dollars. The fascination continued all the way through the visit. Hence the picture of the Meijer bakery. He forgot his camera and needed something to show the people at home.

Wheat and Huit

So we introduced him to 2 new games; Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride. We played them a lot. The first time we played settlers, there was a particular number that when rolled, half the people got wheat. They would call out the name of their prize as the die fell where they may. It was coming up a lot. And it took a few times for me to realize that everytime someone yelled “Wheat”, Thibaud was taking ore from his tile with and “8” proudly displayed in the middle. “What are you doing?” I asked. “Well, they keep saying huit.” I smiled and laughed, pointing at the grain tile. “This kind of wheat. Not the number!” It continued to be a joke throughout all the times we played.


For some reason I had the darndest time getting any pictures of him. He hated having his picture taken. Finally, at 577 Foundation he was hopelessly trapped in a hammock. Ah-ha!

Great places

Here’s what they got to do for those weeks; lunch at Chipotle (compliments of the manager!),farmer’s market, zoo, art museum (tour and dinner!), Fort Meigs, Library, 577 Foundation, Air and Space Museum, Neil Armstrong Museum, Bisseggars, Country Fest, Cars 2, Transformers, Perrysburgers, Fireworks for the 4th, Hannahs Socks Library Handout, Game night at the Yosts, Sauder Village, Cedar Point, Family Weekend and big BBQ on the 4th (With ribs and chicken and homemade root beer!), Cracker Barrel, and lots of movies at home, games at the table and dinners together.

All in all, I would say it was a great 3 weeks!

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