Welcome visitors!

Thank you for visiting our Christmas Service Blog. We welcome comments from visitors.
We would love to hear if you decide to implement this idea in your family.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

General thoughts on our blog

Okay, I love our blog! It is so much fun. I just clicked on the link saying, "to Ashley, love ???" and it was HILARIOUS! I was a total bah humbug! Great blog creating Chuck and helpers.

Hey, I love the Bodell tree of baby blankets! Can we use that as a side background picture?

If Amy already commented this, IT WAS TOTALLY MY IDEA! We were racing to get it suggested. I think I lost, but it would be a beautiful reminder of all the blessings our family has given us.

Merry Christmas Amy - 2010 Elder Gates

Well, another year has come for us all to post our Christmas present for whose name we were given. Six months ago I was given the call to serve as a Missionary and I finally landed in a place that has become one great big Service project, so I have decided to a post some of the things where I have done service. Many times, I have thought of the person's whose name I have. She is one of the busiest girls I know... and now I am extremely busy serving. In my mind, I have had thrill getting closer to her and thinking just a lot more in depth of what she is doing and what she has become, as I have dedicated my life to serving others. As I have been involved in doing the many service projects, I have thought many times of how I could fit a project to this person that I am doing my Christmas project for.

I will start with our Helping Hands project with one of our branches. We went to the prision (French for prison) and spent the day cleaning weeds and junk out of what we hope will some day be class rooms for those in prision who want to learn and can attend classes. We also cleaned out all of the cell's which were very small. I was asked by our Branch Pres if I would donate 2 bags of rice and cooking oil for the prision. They don't get much food there. So, Dear Amy... as to my knowledge you haven't been in prison yet, so I tried to figure out a different way to fit this first major project into your life. I decided that it reminded me of what a special little worker you were, and you always cheerfully supported our spring garden weeding and planting.

We have moved every set of our elders since we have been here. This project fits you, because of the trauma you have had in moving so much in the past year or so. I am so very proud of you that you have made it a fun adventure for your family, instead of a burden. Some, or should I say two, of the elders are a great help. Here we are moving this huge piece of furniture in.
I will not get another 2nd floor apartment if I can avoid it. I did not chose this one but spent a lot of time fixing things here. We found a much better apartment for these elders, so 2 weeks ago we moved the furniture "beast" out.

As we worked at the maternity hospital, I thought of your 4 beautiful children that you have and now we realize how blessed we are that you were able to receive them.
The last one that I will mention is how proud I am of you for all your service at church through the years. I decided that this was my main service to you. You have thrown yourself into many church activities, including dinners and major productions. I decided to help make sure that the sisters in our branch, who were called to be the Relief Society Presidency last Sunday, were able to provide dinner for over 200 people the following Saturday, which was Christmas day. I dedicated my Christmas Eve and most of Christmas Day, (After our white Christmas baptism) to helping them to their food, prepare it and transport it to the church, because they don't have cars. They would have had to do it all in taxis. We had 17 people plus the food, when we finally drove them to the church.

These are a few photos of what my day went like.
This is cooking chicken African Style. By the way, I baptized this Sister about 3 months ago. She is now the Secretary of our Relief Society.

The reason I have gone into these details is that I know how busy you are... but you are still always trying to help. You would jump on a plane and fly across the country, all night, just to help your sister by transporting kids back across the country... so she could go and enjoy a vacation with her husband. You are one in a million and continually give your time unselfishly. I am so very proud of you and I love you very much for developing that trait.

Love, Dad

The View is Electric!!!!!

When I read that I had Wayne. I immediately thought of volunteering at a fish hatchery because Wayne loves taking Dillon fishing. Then our Christmas plans changed to include traveling to Seattle to visit the Dittbrenners. I was excited, however, I could not figure out if this made it harder or easier for my service. Once we arrived, Charise and I were privileged to spend Christmas at such a beautiful house with a Thomas Kinkaid view. Yes….talk about your WOW factor! Well, after I came back to reality, I still didn’t know what to do for my service project. I looked up a fish hatchery not far from Wayne’s house. They were sort of closed for the winter, but did self tours and didn’t need any help.

I kept trying to invent some ideas during our relaxing days and excellent host and hostess’ tours. I noticed that the outlets didn’t work right. You would put a plug in and it would fall right out. For the first two days, I struggled with plugging things in and realizing that they had no juice. One day it took me about fifteen minutes to get a Christmas decoration to stay on. Then a couple days before Christmas Wayne and I were driving around town and passed a Home Depot…….Hey…….That is it……..OF COURSE!!!! I told Wayne I had to go to Home Depot to get some stuff.

I bought a ten pack of outlets, some tools, light bulbs, and a dimmer switch. When we got back, I told Amy to put blue tape on ten outlets that she wanted fixed. So during the past two days, I fixed the dining room dimmer, replaced some burned out bulbs, installed a door stop on the front door, and replaced the outlets. I am sure you are thinking… I thought this was Wayne’s service project. It is,…Wayne has been busy trying to close a couple of jobs and has not had time to fix them. And like Charise says, I cannot just “relax.” So I was totally stoked to have something to do. It was enjoyable for me to do. I did it in between all the fun stuff that Amy and Charise had planned. Wayne no longer has to worry about fixing them.

So I want to thank you for a great Christmas vacation Wayne. Your house is beautiful and provided a great bedroom view. Thank you for letting me do something fun on my vacation.

Side note; Thank you Tiffany for the very heart felt comments. I know a lot of people that I think deserve that title more than me. But I am definitely flattered that people observe me as offering that much service. I hope I can live up to the title..THE PRESSURE!!!!!

Merry Christmas Wayne

Saturday, December 25, 2010

My darling little sister Ashley, I ADORE you!!

Note: A sibling sitting next to me while I am typing this says I am way too long winded... so for those of you who want, just skip to the end.

Oh my darling little sister Ashley,

I honestly believe you are one of the greatest blessings in my life. The gifts of joy and womanhood are things that I will always honor and cherish about you. I remember the first time I met you, thinking what an amazing girl you were. Now that you are a mother, and a wife to my little brother... well, I just really struggle to describe the honor it is to have a relationship with you.

When I was given your name, I was thrilled. I knew that my gift of service was going to be to try to become more like you. I felt like by trying to live more like you, that I might be able to have my life serve others as yours does every day.

The first few steps were easy. First off, I had already made a goal to use ONLY (and I do mean ONLY) the recycled shopping bags from now on. I loved how you did it, and made it seem like such an easy thing to do. You acted as if, "Well duh, if it is better for the planet, better for others, why would I not do it." You gave it a selfish/unselfish type of feel. Like... if you try to do this one little thing, well that is a very small, unselfish change you could make in your life. I am happy to report that I have been GREAT at this. I would give myself a 95%. I will go into more details on this on my personal blog.

Next, I wanted to serve my children by taking the time to learn to cook healthier. I loved visiting you and having you make us such yummy meals that were REALLY healthy, but also DELICIOUS!

These might seem like dumb, well duh, thoughts... but I never realized how simple and easy it would be to take the time to plan, prep and cook healthier meals. I now serve only the high protein, whole grain pasta. It is yum and although it costs a little more, it is so much better for my family. I have added a lot of fresh vegetables to my meals. I used to use a lot of canned, easy foods, but now I have really learned to enjoy preparing fresher, healthier alternatives. (Grilled baby bell peppers... who would have thought how delicious, healthy and easy they are!)

I had noticed that a couple of my girlfriends were really starting to be catty about others. In thinking of you, I thought, I wonder how Ashley handles this? I have gone back to what I learned back when I was in Young Woman's. When one starts to "talk"about another girlfriend, I just try to point out that other friend's good points. It just makes me feel like I am trying to be a better friend.

I wanted to do a true "gift" to someone. Something "blog worthy". I feel like in changing my way of thinking, I have, in a small start, changed the person I want to be. But what is really "blog worthy" about that?

I sent out an email to all the mom's in my ward that have kids in primary. I told them I was newer to the ward, but that I would love to be their "drop off spot" for their kids when they go to the temple. I have teasingly done a couple of reminders, but I still have not gotten any takers. (I know!!! I would totally take advantage of the offer if someone gave it to me!) However, in truly trying to do this, I have had three moms email me and ask if there was any way I could help them with their kids, even though they were not going to the temple.

One was a mom that needed help the first couple of days, while she went back to work and was figuring out a childcare arrangement. The next was a mom that is brand new to our ward, and was just put on bed rest at the 6 month mark of her pregnancy. Her 3 year old Sophie was really wanting to play so she emailed me to ask if I could help one day. I immediately called her and said, "Yes! I am totally open the next two weeks. We will pick her up at 8am and you can tell us what time each night to bring her home.

The third is another new mom who I ADORE! She just had her fourth baby in October, and her oldest is 6. They moved here in September and her husband works two weeks out of the month on the East Coast, so she is alone with these kids a lot!

The yucky flu with high fevers and upchuck has been going through her family for the past month. It keeps dragging on. I have called her every time I have been to the grocery store in the past month and a half, and I always ask her what I can get for her. She always says nothing... so I have changed what I ask. Now I just call her and say, I am getting milk for you... Non-fat or whole? Bread, Wheat or White? Candy or fruits and veggies? What are you in the mood for?"

She used to say nothing, but after a couple of deliveries of what I like best, and I keep telling her, "I'm bringing it over to you anyway... Do you want me to choose for you, or do you want to give requests?" So now she sweetly tells me what might help her out in her life. She is a joy to serve.

Okay, so I am totally bawling while typing this. I think that is why I have procrastinated all day. I knew that I would feel your sweet spirit while thinking of you and in trying to tell you how much I love you. I know my sisters tease me about "Ashley Whoo Hoo" but seriously, you are Ashley Whoo Hoo to me. If I haven't said it five times already, Ashley, I adore you!

I remember the day you were sealed to Chuck in the temple. It was a CRAZY day... and I just remember thinking, "This girl is amazing, and she deserves ALL the blessings of heaven. I hope Heavenly Father has some wonderful blessings ahead of her in her life." I often wonder what makes you the woman you are. Is it your parents? Your upbringing?

Oh Ashley, my sweet little sister. I am so in love with you. It is an honor and a joy to be your big sister. You make me want to be a better mother, a better sister, a better friend. But most of all, a better daughter of God, because then I might truly be more like you in all ways.

Yeah, I don't really have a picture that goes along with this post... but this random shot is of me trying to make memories being a good mom. Amy says we have to have a picture with our post. Is that part of the rules? :)

To Lani From Wayne

A couple in our new ward has a 3 year old, a one year old and just had twins girls 4 months old named the Reynolds. This past month, the Dads father passed away suddenly. We had already bonded with the Reynolds by having them over for dinner and a Halloween FHE. See Darcy's blog for more info about her service to them. During the time that he was in Utah for While they were away for the funeral we had a storm where trees fell down power was out large and small branches were everywhere, pine needles blanketed the ground. Brother Reynolds hadn't cleaned the pine needles because of the craziness with having twins and two other kids. The drive way had over 2 inches of pine needles on the steep driveway. I waited for an opportunity for the weather to break but it never came. Finally, the night before they came home I gave up waiting and went over in the rain. I cleaned the yard, driveway, and porch in the rain Dillon helped with the lights to help me see where to go and what to clean. Sorry the is no pictures but with the darkness and rain you wouldn't be able to see it anyway. I love you, Merry Christmas Lani!

To Grammy from Darcy

From Darcy

So this year i wanted to do my family service blog but i was told that this was a special way to show love for a brother and sister. I still love you all and wanted to show you .My mom said that grammy and papa didn't get anyone because they were on a mission but Mitt has her so i still did one any way. I didn't find out till this morning.So here we go

Dear Grammy,
So what I did for you was there is 2 families within 3 miles of my house that needed babysitting the first are the Crosby's and they have Sawyer 11, Macie 9,Asher 8,
and Leiam (2 days older than savvy). sorry couldn't find pic.
And I baby sat for free for 4 hours while she shopped cleaned or went on date night.

The other family is the Reynolds and they have Matt 4, grant 1, and Sydney and Mary 5 months twins and I baby sat for them for 1-2 hours a day for 2 weeks after school. Now I babysit for her 2 times a week for $15 dollars a week 2 hours on thurs. to shop and 1 hour wed. to clean! Sorry no pictures!

Merry Christmas Grammy I love you!

Love you my talented sister, Tiffany!

When I found out that I had Tiffany I knew exactly what I wanted to do. Alaska Airlines is a sponsor of the “Make A Wish” foundation. They grant wishes to terminally ill kids. www.wish.org About once a week there is a family that is going to Disneyland or Disneyworld that are our “Wish” families. I wanted to make plane packs for the families with family friendly snacks like oatmeal, cup o soup, crackers and summer sausage. Those are my favorite things to travel with as they don’t require refrigeration or anything other than hot water that you can find on any flight or airport. I called the Make a Wish organization and told them what I wanted to do and they said that they can’t take the liability. So I needed to find a plan “B”.

Plan “B”
There is a brother in our ward, name Brother Montgomery. He is so great. The first week that we were at our new ward he came and introduced himself and went to go and memorize all our names, including our kids. He is so great and outgoing! He reminded me of Uncle Denny but if Uncle Denny chose the path of righteous living. He is our ward music chairman and he serves our ward with such gusto! He asked us, “When are the Dittbrenner-von-trapps singing in church?” I decided that I would learn one song on the piano in honor of Tiffany and her great talent. I would get my kids to sing and I would play the piano and do it in church. The next day another gal in our ward, Rose, came and asked, “I know you played the flute, can you play for our relief society Christmas dinner? They place where we are having our program doesn’t have a piano. We need another way to have musical numbers and accompaniment. Would you be willing to play the flute?” I have not played the flute in 25 years! I told her that. She said, “I can help you. I have a master’s degree in flute performance.” Ummm…..I haven’t played since Jr. High. I figured that instead of the piano, I would try the flute as this was a need for our ward. I practiced my guts out! Some days I practiced over an hour! I found out after not playing the flute for 25 years, I have a musical talent. I am so blessed that I had Tiffany this year to recognize my talent.

Love you my talented sister, Tiffany!

To Mitzi, from your big brother!

It has been a joy giving service this year to my little sister and East Coast buddy!

My season of service for Mitzi went through three phases. After we received our assignments, I went out of my way to do a couple of items with Mitzi in mind. In November and early December, I got really busy with work, traveling, and illness, and I slacked in my service for Mitzi. But in mid-December I re-energized my efforts, prayed about opportunities to serve Mitzi, and got to work on some inspired thoughts.

1) Let's go fly a kite:

As I first thought about ideas for serving on behalf of Mitzi, I thought of some dear friends of ours that have three kids (a boy then 2 girls), just like Mitzi. I thought it might be nice to do something to give the mom a break one day.

One Saturday, our family finished some morning errands and while Ashley went home to give Charly a nap, I decided to take Lucy and Leland to go fly our kites. But first, I called to see if the father of the family wanted to join us in order to give the mother a couple of hours to herself. But the father was out with his son, volunteering at an Eagle Scout project (cool huh?), so I asked if I could take her two girls (identical ages with Leland and Lucy).

We spent 2 1/2 hours flying kites, chasing the ice cream man down the street, making a HUGE mess of ice cream, and watching a girls soccer game at the park. The mother was very grateful for the time alone to clean her house because her mother-in-law was coming to visit that next week.

2) Visit to NC:

The second thing I did in Mitzi's name isn't really a "service" per se, but rather something I did for myself and Mitzi. A few women in our ward were planning a trip from Richmond to go to the Raleigh temple and back on one Saturday. Ashley asked if I could watch the girls so she could go. After thinking about it for a day, I decided I would rather go along and see my sister!

You see, I have begun to feel poorly about how often I go out of my way to spend time with my East Coast sister. I feel like I need to make the effort to go see her for no other reason than just to visit (instead of as my hotel to stay in before I fly out of RDU to some other destination). She has done it a few times for us, and used to do it all the time for our other sisters when she lived out west.

So, I used some of my saved time to take a half day off of work and we drove down on Friday afternoon. We spent two nights together and had lots of fun. I love spending time with you Mitzi!

During the visit, Mitzi made some observations about my behavior, including a habit I had developed for complaining and my tone of voice when talking to my wife (among other things). At first, I was inclined to allow myself to be put off by her comments, but on the way home, I talked to my wife and said, "I want to try to work on these things, because I know that Mitzi is mentioning these things out of love for me and for you (Ashley)." So, over the past month, I have made it a priority to be more positive and try to talk more kindly to my wife. I still have a LONG way to go, but I know of a few instances where it has really helped.

3) Scarves to homeless:

This past week, as I thought and prayed about serving on behalf of Mitzi, I became inspired to do something small to help homeless people stay warm in the cold weather. I have no idea how this relates to Mitzi, but whenever I would try to think about serving Mitzi, I felt this was something I should do. Maybe it is because we were California-raised, so the cold hits us hard.

As I was packing up our car to drive to North Carolina, I felt the inspiration again and decided I could not ignore it anymore. So, even though we were supposed to be getting on the road soon, I went in and asked Ashley to help me go through our huge container of scarves, hats, and gloves that we have accumulated over the years. (You have no idea how often warm-weather friends and family love to give scarves and hats to their cold weather family and friends).

We split the huge stash in half, put it in a bag, and took a half hour out of our trip to go into downtown Richmond to visit the "warming shelter" the city had set up. I took Leland and Lucy in with me and we delivered a bunch of scarves, two pairs of gloves, and a few hats. This was a great chance to talk to the girls about helping those who are much less fortunate then ourselves.

4) Garden boxes:

Two years ago (I think?), Mitzi started gardening and has done a great job with her raised, square-foot garden. Her successes inspired Ashley and I to try our hand at growing some herbs and vegetables.

I was inspired by a sub-irrigated garden container we saw at the farmer's market, but determined that I could create my own with some enhancements. I built three large containers and we had a very prosperous harvest this year of basil (3 types), bell peppers (2 types), chives and oregano. (Our tomatoes and zucchini were not so successful.)

I will post more specifics on my container gardens later with pictures, but they are quite similar to these (Example 1 | Example 2 | Example 3) and here is a quick peek:

Mitzi suggested that her secret service Santa plant a garden (or make the goal to do so in the spring) as part of this season of service. Well that wouldn't be anything new for us because Mitzi already inspired us last year.

However, last week, when I was at Lowe's for a Build and Grow, I saw a bunch of sturdy containers on a great sale, so I bought 10 of them to develop into sub-irrigated garden containers and give to our friends who might enjoy gardening, but can't go full out planting in their yards. I will keep you updated on my progress as I make them and give them out to friends in the next two months.

CONTEST FOR RICHMONDERS: If you have read this far you deserve a reward! So, if you live in the Richmond area, post a comment saying you want one, and you have won yourself a free sub-irrigated garden container perfect for planting herbs or a couple tomato or pepper plants!

SEMI-CONTEST FOR RALEIGH(IANS?): If you are a friend of Mitzi's living in Raleigh, post a comment and we will see what we can do to make some for y'all (but you may have to cover the cost of materials).

5) Visit on Christmas Day:

My final thing is another that is not really a "service" for Mitzi, but rather following-up on my goal to spend more time with my East Coast sister.

Ashley and I had planned on heading back to Richmond on Christmas night (Saturday night), but at the last minute decided we would stay an extra night at Ashley's father's house. When we told him, he said that he regrettably had made plans to go out of town to visit friends since his youngest daughter would be staying with her mother for Christmas night.

Ashley turned and said, "We could go ahead and go home like we planned originally, or we could go see Mitzi." I was grateful for another perfect non-reason to go see my sister.

To Hock From Ashley

Last year Hock did a great job choosing a service for me. I was excited to have him this year. A few things came to mind over the few months that I knew I would be serving Hock for Christmas.

We stopped by the Little League Museum on our way to New York in November, but since it was closed, we could not go inside. What service could I really do there anyway? But, I still wanted to take a picture, so Hock knew I was thinking about him.
Little League Baseball Museum - Williamsport, PA

I cheered for the San Francisco Giants (and even wore a Giants hat) during the World Series. I was so excited for the Hocks when they won.
Yelling at the Giants for not catching a fly ball.

I chose to really serve in 2 ways for him.

1) I signed up to be a merit badge counselor for cooking (and 2 other things I can't remember) and I had Chuck sign up, too. I actually thought this would be a great way to serve Michael even before he sent out his list with this as a suggestion. They haven't needed us yet, but I will let you know when they do.

2) I have fed and served the missionaries more often. I am trying to have them over for dinner at least once a month (we used to only feed them about once every 4 months) and have done so the last 2 months. Serving in YW, I rarely get a chance to look at the meal calendar for the missionaries, so I try to offer to feed them dinner whenever I can. On the 2 occasions these last 2 months, it was with less than 24 hours notice that they were at our house eating dinner.

Last week, the sisters missionaries needed a ride home from a P-day activity 20 miles away. They did not want to have to use their miles in order to go, so I packed up my girls and picked them up and brought them home. Since they did not have a dinner appointment that night, I dropped them off at their house at 5:45pm, ran to the grocery store, then they were at our house eating dinner at 6:45pm.
Me, Sis. Jacob, and Sis. Davis
I love the spirit that the missionaries bring into our home. It's wonderful for my girls to see those sisters serving the Lord.

Michael, thanks for being a wonderful example of service to the scouts and to the missionaries. Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas Bill! Love Tiff

As I opened the email from Carrie this year, and read that I had Bill, I thought to myself, "Oh no, what am I going to do for this man who is constantly serving?!?!" I really had no idea what do. I felt like I could basically do anything helping another person because Bill is always serving others everywhere. When we read mom's post about the babies in Africa going home in blankets and pillow cases, I thought of little baby Brighto, baby Cole, and baby Savannah going home in a towel and a tiny pillow case. I know that if Bill could (which he did), he would do anything to give those 3 wonderful kids a warm, soft blanket to come home in. I know that if he could, he would give every child coming home from that hospital in Africa a blanket!!! So I knew right then, that is how I would be serving my brother! I also served him in 3 different ways. Each way is something that Bill has done over and over again for other people.

1) Serving in the Church and in my Stake
2) Serving the young children in Africa
3) Serving and helping others by teaching them new skills

1) Serving those in Africa by serving in the Stake- I quickly got on my computer and typed up an email to our Relief Society President asking her if there was any money in the budget this year, and time, to quickly put together a humanitarian project within the Stake. After talking and emailing back and forth over a couple of weeks, we have decided that this next year, I will be planning and carrying out a Humanitarian Stake Relief Society Night where we will be making more blankets to send over to Africa.

2) Serving those over in Africa- Over Thanksgiving weekend (and the same day that all the people in Utah were doing their blankets at Aunt Jimae's house), I shopped, bought, cut, ironed, and sewed 10 blankets!

Here we are shopping for the fabric. Brooklyn was a big help also!

Ironing and sewing (thanks mom for the use of your wonderful sewing machine! It is getting a lot of great use!)
Here are the helpers. Uncle Hock (after cutting his fabric) gave them very festive headpieces.... Utah Ute fabric (in honor of the Utes' win that afternoon).

3) Helping others- Hock and I were side by side throughout the entire process of this project. He did an AWESOME job making 5 blankets for the African children! I helped him know how much to cut at the store, taught him how to cut his blankets, how to iron the corners double over, and what to do for the sewing. He did already know a little bit since he took Sewing in high school. He got an award from that class... ask him sometime about it! :)

We had a great time together creating and sewing these beautiful and wonderful blankets. We felt very proud of our work and very happy to be giving these children something they will probably cherish with them forever. Bill, Merry Christmas. You are always a wonderful example to me of serving others. Thank you for always being there for my little family, my whole family, and for anyone else who needs a helping hand. You are an amazing man! Love you big brother!

Love Tiff

MERRY CHRISTMAS (Sort of Canadian Style)!!!

Dear Mike.... I tried to think of what I could do for such a brilliant guy and it ended up being one of our favorite service projects of the mission.

We went to visit a library out in a village about 40 minutes out of town.
The library proprietor was a professor.
After he retired he decided he wanted to help the members of his home village have the opportunity to learn.
He and his wife moved back to the village and built this little library and school. We visited with them and he gave us a little tour. The library itself is one room filled with shelves and stacks of all kinds of books.
Many are text books, but many are a collection of wonderful books.
Most all of them are in French, but there are a few in English. He also has 5 pads of cement with a "roof" covering, which act as classrooms, where he teaches school.
Even the outhouse was cool.
The grounds around it are beautiful and spotlessly clean. It was amazing!

We asked if we could return for a service project in 4 weeks, and asked what we could do to help. He said that all the books needed dusting... thousands and thousands of books. The purpose was to separate each book and wipe off the dust... and the moisture which would shorten the life of the books. We also offered to paint the posts of the "classrooms". He asked if we could donate some mice poisoning, because there are some mice who have moved in and are eating the books!

I explained to him that we had a Canadian son-in-law that loves reading and learning. I told him we would like to do the project and dedicated it you.

On the day of the project, after we arrived, they fed us a beautiful African meal,
and the we went to work.

You would have been proud of the elders... but mostly proud of this wonderful couple who have dedicated their lives to the love of reading and learning. We are proud of you and your search for knowledge. Thanks for being such a wonderful husband and Dad. I was proud to wear this shirt.

Love, "Other Mother"-Kriss

Here's One for Chuck... and the Nation!

When I found out I received Chuck’s name I was delighted. I knew exactly what I was going to do. I know that Chuck loves politics and people who know me know that I can't stand it. I figured this would be a great way to serve Chuck by participating in my community, not only by voting in the 2010 General Election, but by researching the candidates and propositions for myself.

Voting for Dummies???

Then one Sunday during priesthood opening exercises, one of the members announced that they were looking for volunteers. My ears immediately stopped listening because: one, I am just so tired on Sundays, and two, these volunteer activities usually happen on the weekends when I am working or sleeping. Then I heard that this particular activity was going to be on a Tuesday (one of my days off). I forced myself to listen and I heard that the Church was looking for members to volunteer to be Poll Workers in the upcoming General Election. At that moment, I realized that I was going to be a Poll Worker for my service this year.

I got the information that I needed to be a poll worker and signed up online. I performed the required 45 minute online training and the 45 minute hands-on training at the local registrar’s office. After filling out a few more things online, I was all set to work as a polling clerk at the Irvine Civic Center (City Hall) on Tuesday, November 2nd 2010. I had NO idea what I was getting myself into.

Welcome to City Hall!

My Poll Worker Experience

I arrived promptly at City Hall at 6:00am with Poll Worker Handbook in hand. Ed, my elderly poll inspector, was there starting to get set up. I helped him get the supplies out of his car and bring them into the polling room. At this point there was only Ed, a Chinese woman named Fanny and myself. There were a total of 4 other workers that showed up at some point during the day. You’ve probably heard of the movie Grumpy Old Men. Well, I caught the live show that morning. We started to help Ed get everything unpacked when a semi-elderly man named Frank came into the room who announced himself as the Area Lead. He was very intent on talking to Ed alone and invited him into the hallway when Ed replied, “NO, I don’t want to talk to you! I’ve worked at this polling place before and this isn’t how I want it set up and I’m in charge here!” Apparently these guys had talked to each other before and it didn’t go well. After several attempts to get Ed to talk to him in the hall Frank warned him that if he didn’t cooperate that he would be sent home. Since Ed wouldn’t comply, Frank exclaimed, “Ed… You’re FIRED!” Ed replied, “GOOD, You’re doing me a favor!” and took off. All of a sudden, we were left without an Inspector!

aka: Irvine Civic Center

There was another man named Frank (yeah I know it’s confusing) who was the assistant to the other Frank. He was there to help us get everything set up in the little time that we had before the Polls opened as well as fill in as our inspector until we could get a new one. I was glad that I could remember a lot of my training because I was going to have to use it, A LOT. We got everything set up and there were about 10 people in line when the polls opened and no one knew how to do their job. I started teaching everyone how to do their job while Frank worked the electronic machine and we were on our way.

Right off the bat we started to have some complicated situations. The first few voters were not on the list and were complaining to us that they should be because they were on the list 2 years ago. We ended up figuring out that the precincts had been redrawn and a lot of the people that were on the list two years ago were now at a different polling place. There were a lot of complications like this throughout the day.

The Polling Place (I'm helping the guy in the red shirt)

Frank needed to leave to check on some other polling places just as our new inspector arrived. After Frank was gone I started to ask the new “inspector” some questions about different procedures and such and she kind of just gave me a blank stare. That’s when I realized that I would pretty much be taking over as inspector. For about the first 3-4 hours our inspector just handed out “I voted” stickers. I continued to help everyone with their jobs while explaining to voters why their names weren’t on the list and helping them find out where to go or how to fill out a provisional voter envelope. During the slow periods I scrambled to read the handbook to find out how to run the place.


Throughout the day the workers would take their lunch break and the inspector would take over for them while they were gone. I found out at one point that she was processing voters incorrectly and had to teach her, "The Inspector", how to do her job. Part of the job of inspector included checking all of the machines to make sure they weren’t tampered with. I was the clerk in charge of double checking the machines. I notice that she forgot one and called her over to check it when she tripped over the power cord connected to the polling machines, and everything went dead! We had to restart everything! And all the people in the booths were saying things like, “Hey, what happened!” “Oh no, is all my stuff gone?!” “Am I going to have to start all over?” It was crazy! Luckily assistant lead Frank was there to help us out of that Jam, but we had to pull everyone off the machines and it was a mess. We duct taped down the cords so that it wouldn’t happen again.

Me helping this gentleman fine his precinct and polling place.

We got through the rest of the day without any more major incidents but it got really busy from about 6:00pm until 8:00pm when the polls closed. When it was busy I would walk through the check-in line and ask to see if anyone had any questions so that I could find the people that needed to fill out paper work or go to another polling place. After the polls closed we had to clean everything up in a very organized manor and count all of the ballots before packaging them back up. We put away all of the e-booths and cardboard booths, counted all of the extra ballots, and did some accounting of ballots and stuff like that. This process took about 2 hours after which the inspector and I had to escort the ballots to the collection site. I finally arrived home at about 10:45pm.

I am very thankful for the spirit of service which helped me through the day. I was able to step outside my comfort zone and talk to everyone coming to vote so that I could help them to have a good experience.

Chuck, I’ve sent you a commemorative pin (shown below) that I received for being a poll worker for the Orange County Statewide General Election as a memento of this service. Wear it proud!

Merry Christmas Chuck

To: Char, From: Mike

Sassafras. Even the name is delicious. Sassafras. Just say it over and over. Sounds like Jazz. Dig that sassafras. Take the root and make nectar of the gods. Root beer, beautiful liquid sweetness. Love it.

Many of you are now asking, where is he going with this? Can’t a guy just state his passion for a particular libation without being judged? Well, you are on to me now. Isn’t it obvious?

Ok, so it isn’t so obvious. A few years ago, my sister-in-law, in order to live a healthier lifestyle, gave up a few of her favorite things and we are not talking about raindrops on roses or whiskers on kittens. She had to give up some of her favorite foods.

As I thought about Char, I thought how difficult this must have been and I thought, what could I do that could at all relate to this. Thus my ode to Root beer. I gave up one of my favorite things as a sort of Lent-like sacrifice for the month of November.

It was a trial, my own Mount Everest, but I conquered. Six times that month, we had pizza for dinner. Pizza without Root beer? Are you kidding me? Sonny without Cher? Simon without Garfunkel? U2 without Bono.

Twice that month I had the opportunity to take advantage of some home-made Root beer. Twice, I stood up to the temptation. Three times, while eating out, I had the opportunity to push that silver lever dangling from the Root beer nozzle. Three times I opted for a mix of lemonade and sprite. Grueling? Yes. Worth it? Every penny.

And thus comes the service. I made a sort of root beer fast offering. Any money I saved by not spending it on Root beer went to the Ronald McDonald house, a favorite charity of Char’s. Ok, so I am not quite that cheap, it was a generous offering.

Our Stake here in Cary holds an annual Crèche exhibit. It is very well attended by the community and a nice missionary opportunity. Here is the thing, personality wise, I am blue, very blue (or whatever color that is not social) (Editorial note... he means white).

Char, she is as yellow as the sun. So when the Stake calls for volunteers to help host, well Char is kind of like Monica, she would make a great host. Me? Not so much. But the service guilt kicked in and Crèche host I was. Several years ago, we had the opportunity to host (hey look at that, I have hosted before) Char and Bill and their children in our home in Las Vegas. I saw something special that I have not forgotten. And when I drew Char’s name, I thought about what I saw several years ago.

Each night I was amazed at the routine they had to go through to put Cole to bed. Each night, I was impressed by the patience, love and tenderness they manifested when feeding Cole and giving him his meds.

Recently, I have not been patient with my own children. It is sometimes difficult after a long day at work to put aside my own comforts and make sure my children get the father time they need and deserve. I rush them to brush their teeth, I rush them to get into their pajamas, I occasionally get angry with them when their timeline does not mesh with mine.

I am so grateful I drew Char’s name. Thinking about the way she was with her children several years ago gave me perspective that I was lacking. Over the last two months, I committed to serve my children. I committed to be more patient, more loving, to give them the time that they need. For me personally, it has made a big difference. I am a better father because of Char and Bill’s example and because of this opportunity to think about serving others.

A couple of weeks ago, the Elders Quorum sent out a notice for a service opportunity with the Town of Cary cleaning up a park. I thought I could ignore it. I thought the nagging feeling would go away. But then Char appears in my head like the ghost of Jacob Marley and rattling her chains says “Goooo, dooo service.” So I went. I am no longer haunted.

Merry Christmas.

To: Mom, From: Mitzi


As you know, I have always been your baby-hungry child.

When you wrote the post on your blog about the African Maternity hospital, it really hit me.

I thought of a few different ideas of what I could do. I almost did my own little KAM group for the season. But the post about the Maternity ward kept nagging at me. So I wrote a letter to some ladies in my ward:

Hello Ladies,

I am writing because I need some help . Last year our family started a new tradition. With funds being tight for many of my family members, we decided to try something that didn't cost money. We each drew a name and we did service in the name of that person. I started a blog (feel free to click on the link and see what I am talking about) that we all posted our service projects on. So on Christmas morning, we woke up and got to read about all the service that was done on behalf of everyone else. It was such an amazing experience that we decided to make it a tradition. This year I have my mother. She is currently serving a mission in the
Republic of Congo in Africa with my father.

As the Sr. Missionary couple in the area, my mom is in charge of finding service projects for the elders to do. One of the service projects that she set up was at the Maternity hospital. She mentioned that they usually take their babies home in a pillow case or towel (only hours after giving birth) b/c they don't have blankets. Most of these babies will sleep in a cardboard box in a one room house. She mentioned the need for receiving blankets. (feel free to read the details of their service in the links provided above.)

So this is where you come into the picture...

I thought it would be great for my service in behalf of my mother to make a few blankets myself to send. But I thought it would be even better if I could get some women together to make more then a few to send. I will be having 2 receiving blanket making parties. The first will be on Tuesday, December 21st from
9:30-3:30. The second will be a date in January for those of you that would love to help and serve but if this time of year is just too darn crazy! Children are welcome to come and play with my 2 girls while we sew and cut. If you don't know how to sew, don't be scared, there will be cutting and other things to do. I will have some munchies so we don't starve. If you have a sewing machine or serger, please bring it with you. If you have any flannel that you would like to donate, I would be more then happy to come and pick it up from you.

So...let me know if you are interested. I would love any and all help . I am not expecting people to come the whole time so feel free to pop in and out as needed.

Thanks so much,
Mitzi McBride

That was the email that I sent out to my ward Google group list. I am happy to say that I had 6 ladies show up to help me out. I had others that donated gently used blankets and some that donated fabric for the blankets. On our first work day, we made 31 blankets and received donations of another 9 that were gently used.

So, I have 40 blankets that are ready to ship.

Now in addition to the 40 blankets that I collected from my ward, Ashley gave me 2 that she sewed about a month or two ago. As you know, Pam put together a Bodell sewing day. Between the ones they made and the ones made by Tiffany, Hock and Katherine Kenny that were given to Pam to ship, she has an additional 50 blankets to ship.

For a grand total of
90 Blankets
for the African Maternity hospital!!

Mom and dad, we love you so much and we are so grateful for the example you are setting for us all. I am grateful for this opportunity we have created for ourselves to feel the true meaning of Christmas. I love you all!

Love, Mitzi

Friday, December 24, 2010

This one's for Africa... well... and the dead

To my favorite dad (and Anne Marta Erikstadder, Ellen Perrott, and dozens of others)-

When I was a kid, I remember overhearing mom talk to people about dad working at the temple. I remember noticing the pride she exuded when talking about how early he woke up every week to go and serve in the temple.

I remember taking on a similar pride as a friend asked why my dad was all dressed up and I proudly responded what I had overheard my mom say many times, "He works at our temple. He is a 'bell' worker" to which she responded "So he like rings the bells at your church?" I paused thinking of images of Quazimoto ringing bells in a high tower, I've actually never seen bells at the temple, and I'm kind of surprised that my not-so-musical dad received a call to serve ringing bells. I was stumped, not knowing what really went on in the temple besides weddings.

So I went to mom later that week to ask what exactly dad did in the temple. She responded with, "He is a veil worker". Oh, goodness... I felt like a MORON! How was I going to tell my friend I was wrong? A VEIL worker- not a BELL worker! Now I totally got it! So I went back to my friend and said, "Hey, I'm a nerd, I'm so embarrassed. He doesn't ring the bells! I was WAY wrong! He is the one that lifts the brides' veil after the ceremony is done and before they kiss their husbands" ... true story :)

I then remember thinking, "Wow, Dad wakes up REALLY early, and goes a LOT just to do that! He must care a LOT about that for some reason." As I grew older I learned more and more about what dad was really doing and it had such a deeper meaning knowing how much it meant to dad. To know the time, sleep, and other things he was sacrificing to go and serve and make special ordinances possible for those living and those who had passed on.

While visiting Ghana as a young adult, I saw that passion and love of temple work in a similar way. I met Saints and heard stories of those who had wanted for decades to receive these special ordinances, and do them for others and were so excited when the Ghana temple was finally finished. It breaks my heart hearing about the Saints in the Congo who want so much to attend the temple but can't due to long distance and monetary needs.

I know this might sound crazy, but a little piece of me has always felt comfort knowing that dad was going to the temple EVERY month. Sometimes I would sit in a close to empty temple session and think the words that we have heard mom (as well as the man himself:) repeat many times, "They broke the mold after they made Eddie". It recently donned on me that Dad and mom weren't going every week or month any more to the temple. A part of me felt like the entire numbers of temple work had decreased because of this great loss.

So, slowly my service for dad came to light. I decided to step in and help fill that void of temple attendance as much as I could. I was going to attend the temple every week for a month (some of you may already do this, but I am sad to say I was not).

Now, going to the temple one night a week did not seem like a service, but instead something I really would love to do and would not be at all difficult... so how could I make it a little more "Eddie" like that would be a little more out of my comfort zone. And then it came to me...
Yep! If I was going to truly fill dad's vacancy in the temple, I would have to do it on Eddie time. So, each week I would wake up early to make sure I was in the first session. This way it was not only doing it Eddie style, but it was also not causing any inconvenience for anyone else by having Houston have to go to a babysitter. Instead I would make it home before, or close to, him waking up. That first 4:15 a.m. really started to feel like a service, but I never felt burdened because I knew that dad had done it weekly for so long and had worked much harder days before and after than I ever have!

Each week it would brighten my spirits (and awaken my tired eyes) as I pulled off the freeway and found not only the gorgeous temple, but the Christmas spirit as well.
So dad, in honor of you, I upped my temple attendance and served Anne Marta Erikstadder (1812), Ellen Perrott (1836), and dozens of others via baptisms, initiatories, and sealings.
The last morning I went, I did sealings. It was just me and 5 cute old men temple workers. They were very grateful and a jolly bunch. They kept telling me how grateful they were that I was there, but I couldn't help thinking the same about them knowing what they, and their family members, go through to make it there early each week. It made me wonder what you must have done for those many hours in the temple and the people who were grateful for you that maybe never had a chance to voice it. It was a wonderful and extremely enjoyable service.

The only regret I have is that we all know... it's not a big secret... Lani likes her sleep! and maybe doesn't function on all cylinders when I don't have as much sleep. So... the last day I went was this past Thursday. Upon coming home, it was the first time that Michael and Houston had been up for a while and Michael noticed how pregnant I looked. We joked about it for a bit and went on with our day. A few hours later I happened to notice that Mom and Dad logged onto Skype. So I gave them a little ring. In our short 8 minute conversation, somehow it went from talking about being flexible to... WOOOPS... the gender of the baby slipped out and it took seconds to realize why dad was giving me THE SCOWL! "I knew I shouldn't have answered this call!" he exclaimed! I felt SO BAD! I had done so well for so long! So now I guess Chuck and Ashley are the only people who don't know... which I hear is ironic seeing as how Chuck hasn't done real well in the secret keeping department lately (Just teasing Chuck- OBVIOUSLY I am not one to talk)! So dad, I am so sorry I spilled the beans, my mind was running on very little sleep!

Dad, Merry Christmas! Thank you so much for your wonderful example of service and love of the Gospel. Tonight we sat around reading the Christmas story and singing Carols. I looked out the window and found myself thinking of the many times I had done this Christmas Eve tradition, then thinking about how many people were doing similar in the community, then US, then living rooms- big or small- around the world. Within seconds my mind pictured you and mom, sitting in your humble African home, reading the Christmas story and singing the carols together. Tears filled my eyes and heart as I realized just how much I missed you! I do not think I missed you that much in my entire mission, as I hope you do not miss us on yours because you are so busy. We are all so proud of you both! I am so grateful that Heavenly Father sent me to your house to learn of Him and His Son. I truly have been born of goodly parents. I am so grateful to you daddy!

I love you! Love, Lani

Now the only question is, when does your veil worker calling fit into the timeline of things... I suppose it was after you became righteous, eh?