t h e m a y f i l e s is foremost a family blog, chronicling everyday life. Life including natural, healthy eating (with recipes thrown in at random), home educating (with ideas popping up sporadically), an attempt to homestead on .2 acres (with very meager yields), raising 3 of 4 children with a rare genetic disorder, and lots of highly personal family triumphs and failures. You may also find an eclectic array of musings on politics, exercise, sewing, emergency preparedness, backyard chickens, and religion. This blog isn't a campaign to glorify anyone or anything. Just simply a record.


Sunday Insights: A Softer Approach

This week I was taught to soften my approach,
and to refrain from undeservedly qualifying my views of "good."

The Cascade Literary Guild on the Orchards

This week marked the last Thursday of the month, and as such, the meeting of the Cascade Literary Guild on the Orchards (I admit, a fancy name for our book club). I look forward to this each month. I think one of my favorite things about this club is I am 25 years the junior of all other members. For the last 5 years this has allowed me a unique and refreshing insight into the minds of women, in completely different stages of life. These Grandmothers and Great Grandmothers offer a worldview unique and invaluable to me, as I strive to keep perspective in my little world of raising babies.

Three Cups of Tea

Our book this month was Three Cups of Tea. It is an inspiring account of the humanitarian efforts of Greg Mortenson in Pakistan and Afghanistan. His work stands as a testament of the power one individual has to change lives. As we discussed the good of this man and the wonderful Muslim people with whom he works, our discussion broadened to the invaluable contribution of all God-fearing people. While heterogeneous in age, profession and many other things, our Guild is homogenous in religious devotions. We were organized (but currently are not affiliated) as an outgrowth of the women's organization of our church, The Relief Society. I was able to share some of my experiences from being in the Holy Land. I gained a love for the Arab people (most of whom were Muslim) with whom I met and interacted. We had Islamic Clerics teach us of the 7 pillars of Islam. I left with a deep respect for a misunderstood religion and people.

Cultural Nutshell

It has been a unique experience to spend my adult life in an area predominantly of those of my religion. While the religion is never an issue, the culture of the area sometimes has been difficult to adjust to. I grew up in Iowa, Illinois, Michigan and Colorado. I became accustomed to being one of a very few who shared my beliefs. Some culture perceptions and colloquialisms often become thought of as doctrinal, but in fact are not. One colloquialism brought up was "They are such a wonderful person. And they aren't even Mormon!"

If You're Mormon You're Good

The danger in this phrase comes with the underlying assertion that you are automatically a "good" person if you are a Mormon, and if you aren't Mormon, you have to somehow prove you are "good." Clearly in no way is this the doctrine. I have met many of my faith, who are not pillars of goodness, and many outside of my faith who live

The Only True Church

One of the women in our club pointed out that we no longer preach "We are the only true church on the earth." With that statement I had to disagree. I feel this is a fundamental principle of our church. If it were not so, why would we proselyte? What need would there be for our church? We clarified as a group. What the women were trying to help me understand was the sensitivity now in which we present ourselves has increased. A better way to describe the doctrine, more consistent with the approach now taken, is that we are the only church which claims to have the authority to act in the name of God through his holy priesthood. Therefore, we have the fulness of the truth, an indispensable piece of the puzzle. We can add to the truth that so many other wonderful religions possess. Truth is out there in so many places and with so many people.

The Second Coming of Christ and the Millennium

Today Brent taught a lesson at church on the Millennium. He has beens studying it in depth for the last month or so. I have piggy-backed his journey a bit as well. It was amazing how many misconceptions I have grown up with concerning this period. I found I had fallen again into a sort of religious centrism. Here are some of my misconceptions...and I am just scratching the surface, I bet I have hundreds more!

A Few Misconceptions

1-At the second coming of the Savior "every knee shall bow and tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ." This always meant to me, everyone would accept the fulness of the gospel and join in my faith. How wrong I was. Joseph Smith and Brigham Young both taught extensively about how other religions will still exist after the advent of his coming and during the millennium. All those who are truly seeking to be good people will be saved from the burning.

2-Parable of the 10 Virgins. I have always understood this parable to be directed at those who have received the fulness of his gospel. Only half of them will be prepared to meet the Lord at his Second Coming. Again, here came the blinders for me. I thought this meant those who will escape the calamities are only 1/2 of the members of my faith. That would be a very small lot. (I have to say this is a bit embarrassing to write about, as I realize how shallow and closed-minded these views were. But I actually think they are quite prevalent.)

What I now realize is "where much is given much is required." There will be a lot more simple, faithful people living in rural Afghanistan and China that will be saved than members of my own faith. It is ME who'd better be worried. Not them! "Approaching Zion" warns of this in large measure. It is much more difficult to keep ourselves out of Babylon when we are surrounded by money and media, than if we are trying to eek by to survive against the elements and keep our families alive and fed.

3-Satan is Bound During the Millennium. But...there is still agency. All people will be living righteous lives, but as God's plan will not be frustrated, all must still chose to follow him and the degree to which they will accept his truth. Again, there will be good people of all faiths. It will be a glorious time to arrive. In God's magnificent plan only the wicked are punished. All people who live virtuous lives will be rewarded. The key, however to the fulness of glory and happiness, of living together as families forever, is only through the church with His priesthood and authority on earth.

It really makes so much more sense. When Christ is King, and we have a true one-world order, not the false one so many seek to establish today, it will be a 1000 year season of peace and love for all those who are truly righteous and kind, and keep themselves out of the modern Babylon.

Lesson Learned and Applied

"Good" comes in so many colors and faces and religions. We can find it everywhere we go, if we are looking with a softened heart. I am grateful this week to have been taught by the wonderful ladies in the Cascade Literary Guild on the Orchards, the good word of God and his prophets, and my sweet husband. Hopefully I can become a more Christlike person because of it. And I just better watch out, because it is people like me who are in greatest danger of burning! (Well me, and the really obviously wicked.)

P.S. I know I give zero references for things, again this is more like a personal journal and I want my own family to search the answers for themselves, maybe I can give them food for thought and a springboard to start from.


Ellery February Recital

Ellery participated in her second recital this afternoon. She has now been studying the piano for 9 months. She played Ode to Joy by Beethoven.

Note to self: Fore go the sparkly shoes at the next recital. They only draw attention to the feet. Clearly, the tendency for bouncing feet has not yet been outgrown!

Ellery with her fantastic teacher Carol Cherry. This has to be the most positive and motivating woman I have ever met. I love listening and learning at the lessons. The way she interacts with Ellery is amazing.
Grandma and Grandpa weren't snowed out this time! They took little Mark and Noelle home. We will miss them.


All in the Family

My fabulous big sister Charlotte had a baby number six a week ago Monday night. We were lucky enough to have Grandma and Grandpa drive Mark (5) and Noelle (3) down on Emmetts birthday to spend this week with us.

I only locked all the children in the chicken run once...

And I didn't force Markie to vacuum all day...

We have had a fabulous, very busy week with these two delightful little cousins. They were sweet and as easy as pie for six days. We will miss them so much when they leave tomorrow. But I know their Mom misses them lots more! Thanks for sharing with us Char.


Handmade Receiving Blankets

Callista is doing it all here! Pressing the presser foot and guiding the material.

In anticipation of an upcoming family vacation, we decided to take advantage of the "Give a Day. Get a Disney Day." All members of your family, six and over, can sign up to participate in a local service opportunity and receive a free pass. We decided to help out the local United Way chapter by making 9 receiving blankets.

The children had a wonderful time choosing fabric at the fabric stores, and then picking a decorative stitch, and thread colors of their choice to sew on the blankets, after I finished the edge. Even 5 year-old cousin Mark was enthralled for 30 minutes while we worked on his blanket.

They pushed the down on the "foot" and guided the fabric. It was a perfect opportunity for a first experience using the machine. They really couldn't go wrong with no seams and straight stitching. They developed confidence and had a great sense of accomplishment. This was a wonderful experience for the children in skill building and service. Great idea by Disney. (Not to mention it will save us some money.)

Noelle, Callista, Markie, and Ellery holding their blankets.

We actually ended up making 10 blankets. Mark made an extra for his brand new baby brother. He was beaming. So proud! This is Mark's blanket. All the children's turned out equally as precious.

By the way, here is a sewing tip for any budding seamstresses...

I have this fabulous presser foot called a Shell Hemmer. If you have a Bernina it is #69. It is absolutely the best foot I have. I love it and use it constantly. It saves me huge amounts of time ironing and measuring and hemming. In one swoop it turns the fabric under and finishes the edge. It does require practice to perfect, but once you figure it out, priceless!


Naturally Sweetened Oatmeal Cake

Emmett's Birthday Cake (in the sort-of shape of a car)

This recipe for Oatmeal Cake was always a favorite at our house growing up. With a few alterations, the nutritional value is vastly improved. When I first got married, I struggled with recipes to make for Brent and I. My sweet Grandmother sent me about 15 handwritten recipes. They are treasures to me in so many ways. Although many of them don't fit our current diet (think crab casserole, melted cheese casserole...) she was always so sensitive to my vegetarian lifestyle.

Grandma died 6 years ago. I am so thankful I have these little bits of her always with me, poking out of my disastrous recipe binder. (I especially love the reference to "oleo.")

Naturally Sweetened Oatmeal Cake

1 1/2 c boiling water
1 c rolled oats
1/2 c xylitol
3/4 c honey
1/2 c virgin coconut oil
2 eggs
1 t baking soda
1+ t cinnamon
1/2 t real salt
1 1/2 cup whole grain flour (wheat or mixture wheat/kamut/spelt)

Pour water over oatmeal and let stand for 10 minutes. Combine wet ingredients. Add dry ingredients. Mix gently. Bake at 350 degrees, in 8x12 pan, for about 45 minutes.

Broiled Coconut Frosting

a little less than 1/2 c butter
1/4 c almond or coconut milk
1 c unsweetened coconut chips
2 t vanilla

Melt butter and then add other ingredients. Spread on cake while cake is still warm. Broil in oven for 2-3 minutes.

Note: You could use 1 1/2 cups of honey or change the combination if you don't have these sweeteners on hand. Maple syrup would also be a great choice.


It's a....


We seemed doomed to uncertainty. With four failed attempts to determine the sex of Emmett we finally opted for the surprise. This little baby seems almost equally determined to thwart our "find out efforts."

The doctor thought girl. But he wasn't sure. They will check again at my next appointment.

No. That isn't a lovely orange jug of juice. It is urine. For some odd reason, I must have been extremely nervous for my doctors appt, because my blood pressure sky rocketed to 157/97 and on up. I assured them, this is not what it reads at home. I ended up at the hospital with pricks and draws and my lovely orange jug.

No news is good news. I feel this could be a blessing. If my blood pressure is up later in my pregnancy maybe they won't jump to bedrest, but give me some leeway.


Emmett Turns Two and....

...there is NOTHING terrible about it!
He tips the scales at a whopping 24 lbs. But what he lacks in bulk he makes up for in sweetness in huge proportions. He has always been a bit shrimpy. We don't hold it against him.
There was a lot I didn't know before this little one came into our life.... The surprise was a good one!
We look quite happy. I had no idea how I would change with this baby. I enjoyed every single moment with Emmett from the time he was born. He calmed and soothed me.
The third week of his life when he was hospitalized threw me for a loop. It took me a long time to get over the feeling that his time with us would be cut short. Everything about my little Emmett seemed too good to be true.
Thankfully, that feeling faded. Although his time is so short with us, I no longer feel it will be abbreviated.
He adores his Grandma and Grandpa. He can't get enough of his Mimi and Papi.
I am fully cognizant of the breeze ride this little guy is. I think he has thrown one tantrum in his entire life.
In new situations he is just timid enough to snuggle me tight and smother me with kisses. After several minutes however, he is off and running searching for "cahrs" (aka anything with wheels and presumably a motor) to show anyone and everyone.
While "no" is an integral part of his vocabulary, there is something so disarming in his defiance. I have yet to find a mean bone in this child's body. On the extremely infrequent occasion when he is overwhelmed with emotion at having to leave a car outside, he may by chance throw a little whack. In moments he is so genuinely penitent and affectionate, he has yet to be disciplined I think.
He is a ruthlessly picky eater. Now, he has even taken to avoiding hot cereal. It used to save me, I knew I could count on him eating it. His staples are smoothies, and toast. And he begs for cheese. He also has a honing device for Brent's Cliff Bars, which I begrudgingly keep around the house. Could it be the chocolate chips? He also pines for the junk jar. But that he is refused.
A special treat is "gummy" straight from Mom's mouth. I let him chew the xylitol gum for his little teeth. His animal "hide" is still precious to him. He is devoted to his sisters and unabashedly joins in playing Barbies or Polly's (as long as he is running the cahrs).
I am certain Emmett will have teenage moments. But his loving personality is so distinctive and characterizing, I know he won't stray far.
This little guy gave me "real" smiles at only one week old.
I count everyday I spend with my Emmett a blessing. Even if his life ends up throwing me for a loop, which it could, he has me smitten. His cake wasn't nearly as fancy as last year....but it tasted fabulous. (Although, he would disagree.)
I love you Emmett! Happy Birthday and looking forward to a wonderful third year together.


Sunday Insights: The Holy Ghost

(The kids were so cute in their outfits from Grandma, I had to include some snapshots!)

My studies this week have been directed towards better understanding the influence of the Holy Ghost in my life. The receipt of the Holy Ghost is one of the four essential formal acts of the priesthood required for salvation. The Holy Ghost, God the Father and Jesus Christ make up the Godhead. It seems crucial to have a clear understanding of the role of the Spirit in my life.

My new personal insight this week:

If we always have the Spirit to be with us, we are forever expanding and opening our minds to the things of God.

Here's how I got there...

One of the covenants I made at baptism and renew with the sacrament every Sunday is to "always have the Spirit to be with me." Sometimes I feel it may be a little difficult to discern whether or not I am keeping this covenant. Clearly, in times of complete selfish break down, the Holy Ghost has left me. But what about the day to day, average times? How do I know?

I think my gauge has always been a general question of "Do I feel like I am on the right track? Am I at peace with what I am doing?" While these are good starting points, I decided it is, and should be so much more.

The Burning...

It seems often when we teach our children about recognizing the influence of the Holy Ghost we speak of the warm and peaceful feeling in our hearts, "the burning in our bosom." While this is scripturally founded, and one way we may feel the spirit, a closer study has led me to have a deeper understanding. I like how Joseph Smith describes it:

"This first Comforter or Holy Ghost has no other effect than pure intelligence. It [most] powerful in expanding the mind, enlightening the understanding, and storing intellect with present knowledge."

(Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 149 as quoted in Approaching Zion, Hugh Nibley)

As I read this description of the Holy Ghost last week it spurred me to want to understand what this meant. I looked up every reference in the the Old and New Testament, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, and other reference books, which I could find speaking of the Holy Ghost. It was amazing.

Roles of the Holy Ghost

The Holy Ghost has several roles: Comforts. Testifies. Sanctifies. Directs.

The Comforter "knows all things." A visitation brings enlightenment. Gaining new knowledge. Sometimes this knowledge comforts us, gives us hope and faith with our greater understanding of the challenges we are facing.

Other times the Spirit teaches us. It testifies of truth, by opening our understanding and clearly revealing truth. Manifesting of Christ. Helping us see His life, and understand his doctrine.

Sanctification. At first I wondered how does this have to do with teaching us the things of God. But I realized we are sanctified as it is revealed to us our weaknesses and shortcomings. Once we recognize them, we are then tutored in how to overcome them. All this has to do with knowledge revealed through the Spirit of God. When we have a true understanding of how the pure love of Christ we are truly sanctified, having no desire to do evil.

Finally direction. Clearly this is a revelation of knowledge in the way to move forward. This can be the "still small voice" we speak of, or the quiet impressions and thoughts. But these thoughts and voices are directing us to build up the kingdom of God. Sometimes by preserving our safety or serving others and answering their prayers.

It is when I am not learning and feeling the pure intelligence flow through me I have lost the spirit. I have to use each moment, and try to study and pray and allow myself to be taught about the Kingdom of God.

Quoting Elder Richard G Scott from the October General Conference:

"President John Taylor wrote: 'Joseph Smith, upwards of forty years ago, said to me 'Br. Taylor, you have received the Holy Ghost. Now follow the influence of that Spirit, and it will lead you into all truth, until by and by, it will become in you a principle of revelation.' Then he told me never to arise in the morning without bowing before the Lord, and dedicating myself to him during that day.' . . . I [Elder Scott] witness that as you gain experience and success in being guided by the Spirit, your confidence in the impressions you feel can become more certain than your dependence on what you see or hear. Spirituality yields two fruits. The first is inspiration to know what to do. The second is the power or capacity to do it."

Going Forward

This deepened understanding of who the Holy Ghost is, his roles in my life, and how he provides personal revelation to me, are blessing me already. I feel more capable of keeping my covenant to always have his Spirit to be with me. However, it is not something that is done without effort on my part. Only through searching the scriptures, serving my family, praying, humbling myself, keeping my life free of clutter...can I have the time and ability to constantly be taught by the Spirit. A worthy challenge and goal.


Let's Play "Dimbo"

Ellery: Dad watch! Me and Callista are going to play Dimbo!

Brent: Dimbo?

Oh.....I see :)

It is clear, Brent was enthralled by this game! He actually did coach the girls on the finer points of limbo before returning to his book. We are reading Three Cups of Tea. Love it!


Vegan Pecan Lettuce Wraps

Here is my take on a tofu-free, vegan lettuce wrap. I do have to say, my girls are too afraid to eat these still...but I am working on them. Brent and I love them.

Vegan Pecan Lettuce Wraps

2 1/2 c raw pecans, soaked overnight
1 head of Romaine lettuce (skip the iceberg it has zero nutritional value)
2 1/2 cups chopped shitake mushrooms
3 T fresh chopped garlic
2 T fresh chopped ginger root
red pepper flakes
tamari or braggs
real salt
peanut oil

Soak the pecans* in water for 24 hours. Rinse and change water several times. Roughly chop the pecans and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with real salt, pepper, tamari (or braggs) and red pepper flakes. Bake in oven at 170 degrees for several hours. (If you don't mind them not being raw bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.)

When the nuts are almost finished, saute ginger and garlic in a small amount of peanut oil (you can substitute, but this adds a great taste). When softened add mushrooms and a bit more salt, pepper, red pepper, and tamari to taste. Continue to cook until mushrooms are soft.

Serve in lettuce with brown rice and freshly squeezed lime.

*All nuts with a brown outer skin (think almonds, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts etc) should be soaked prior to eating them. They have enzyme inhibitors which are toxic. Soaking deactivates the inhibitors and also increases vitamin absorption and aids in digestion.


Valentine's Junk Jar

The girls were very proud of the junk jar this week. By far the biggest haul yet. I am so grateful this mix of sugar, hydrogenated oils, artificial colors and flavors are not inside their bodies. They have really caught the spirit!


Sunday Insights: Lots of Love

Happy Valentines Day and Lots of Love and Kisses to all!

My little Booey Valentine

There is certainly enough love to go around in our house!

With Callista's dress I tried to avoid the "gaping" neck which plagues Ellery's.
I tried to grab a few shots on the way to church of the dresses I did get finished! Hooray! Check that off the New Years resolutions. No one ever wants to sit still to take pictures.

Two years ago Brent gave the girls these "hot air balloons" for Valentines Day. Since then it just wouldn't be the same without them!

Unfortunately Callista's found its way into the tree. (This is fortunate for me, because actually these things last for months. I have to find ways to secretly pop them!)

Brent is monopolizing his gift to me "Approaching Zion" by Hugh Nibley. I am just a couple chapters into it but it looks to be a great book. Very provocative. It is a collection of his talks, dealing with rejecting Babylon and moving towards Zion. Basically it is about not pursuing the enticing things of the world like money and power. I like Nibley. He is a tonic to put me to sleep at night ;) with his immense scholarly complexities, and at other times a hard-hitting, wry, tell-it-like it is orator. Unafraid to speak the truth, even when it wasn't popular.


One dress down. One to go. One day left.

This didn't turn out as my favorite dress by far. I will post pictures of Ellery wearing it. It is pretty cute on her. I opted for a different style and color for Callista, because I wasn't crazy about this one.


Science Fair

Science Fair.

I let Ellery put together this project herself. It was such a positive experience. Not a huge time commitment, but a great science introduction. Building blocks for the future.

Those 2 words were the pride and bain of my teaching experience. It was a massive amount of work, but I believe it is was probably the only experience my students will really remember from the class. I was an intense teacher. It took us around 3 months. First they would turn in their question. Next hypothesis. Experimental design. Data. We would learn on how make graphs in excel during class. There was no procrastination.

Last year, I told our brand new principal I would bring the Science Fair to our elementary school. He has really been trying to bring a new degree of excellence to our school. A school which was really struggling. To his credit he has made some very positive changes in his first year and a half. We met with quite a bit of resistance on all fronts. Teachers. Parents. But we decided to push ahead, as several of us feel adamant about the positive learning experience Science Fair can afford. The Fair was tonight, and it was a resounding success. Most of the teachers stepped up and the children did a wonderful job, for the first year.

Adding 1/2 cup xylitol to the lemon water.

Common concerns are the competition element, disgruntled parents, integrity issues. We tried to alleviate some of these concerns. The judging was optional. We are not announcing the winners until tomorrow. No places, just advancers to the District level. (No comparisons by parents, which child had a medal and why theirs didn't...just a celebration of the learning.)

Only the 5th and 6th graders can advance to the District Level. They were the main focus and used the tri-fold boards. But the entire school participated. There were some interesting conclusions I was able to draw from this experience, but they are not appropriate to share on this blog because it is public. Simply put, teachers make a difference. A big difference. Especially if parents are not extremely involved with their child's education.

The three sweeteners Ellery wanted to use. Xylitol, Agave Nectar and Maple Syrup.

Ellery had a wonderful time completing her simple project investigating with natural sweetener would be the sweetest. She loved having all her friends and neighbors taste test. Agave nectar came out the clear winner. Great to keep in mind. Her class begged for her to bring lemonade so they could all try them. My favorite was actually the xylitol sweetened lemonade. None of the children cared for the maple syrup :)

We pulled our Lemonade "stand" around on the wagon, Ellery with her clipboard to keep tally.