Thursday, March 31, 2016

Finding Ute Perkins

My sixth great grandfather was Ute Perkins. He moved to Illinois in the late 1830's, joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when missionaries came through his town and welcomed many of the Saints to Perkins Settlement when they were driven out of Missouri shortly after that. Ute and his wife, Sarah, were the first permanent white settlers in the area. Perkins Settlement had other names over the years including Ramus* and Macedonia. When the Saints were driven out of Illinois, the name was changed to Webster and remains so today. 

I knew Ute and Sarah were buried in Webster Cemetery and I knew that it wasn't far from Carthage (10-15 miles) so I really wanted to see if we could find his grave. The problem was, neither our GPS nor Jeff's phone knew of Webster. It was like it didn't exist. 

Fortunately, we had a map of Old Nauvoo that showed the land as it was in the 1840's. Everything was laid out in 1 mile blocks. According to the map, "Ramus" was 8 miles north and 3 miles east of Carthage. So after our Carthage tour, we started driving north. Just before we'd gone 8 miles, a road sign said "Webster" with an arrow to turn left (east). After winding around a bit, we drove right to little Webster, Illinois. 

The cemetery was tucked away amidst fields and farms. Fortunately, Webster is very small so it didn't take us long to find it. We quickly located Ute and Sarah's grave marker, took pictures, and then explored the cemetery for a few minutes before heading for home.

The bottom of the marker says, "They Led the Way."

This was a great end to our Spring Break. The drive home was beautiful with huge "Toy Story" clouds (big fluffy ones with flat bottoms) and wide open spaces. 

A cute little country church

Our Spring Break getaway was exactly what we needed.

*Some fun trivia for members of the LDS church - two revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants were received in Ramus, Illinois: Sections 130 and 131. 

Nauvoo and Carthage

The Nauvoo Temple

I'll finish off the month with a few more details of our Spring Break. The lake house we stayed at was about 30 miles away from Nauvoo, Illinois. We've visited Nauvoo in the past, but it's been a few years and neither Soren nor Sadie remembered it.

Spencer, Soren and Sterling in front of the Nauvoo Temple

On Wednesday morning (March 16), Sadie and I dropped the boys off at the Nauvoo Temple where they were able to do some baptisms for the dead for some family names that Grandma Stowell sent them. The girls strolled around town visiting the Fudge Factory (Yum!) and a cute gift shop. We picked up a few postcards for Sam then walked up to the post office for stamps so we could mail them from Nauvoo. We finally headed to the Visitors' Center and looked around at the many displays while we waited for the boys. We were able to watch a movie about Old Nauvoo and what it was like at its peak.  Sadie thought that was fun because we were the only ones in a huge auditorium.

Joseph and Hyrum's Last Ride

Once the boys were finished, we did the Nauvoo tour. There are a LOT of things to see and do in Nauvoo. Here is a list, in no particular order, of what we were able to see in about 5 or 6 hours:

Our Nauvoo Brick and "Prairie Diamond" rings

Old Nauvoo Burial Grounds

It was a busy day. The weather was perfectly mild and comfortable, and we enjoyed seeing our old favorite sites and exploring some new ones. As much as we crammed in, there is still more to see on our next trip to Nauvoo. :)

A pretty view of the Mississippi River on our drive back to the lake house. 

The next day we drove into Carthage for a quick tour of the jail before heading home. This is where Joseph and Hyrum were shot and killed. We watched a film about Joseph Smith's life and got to walk through the home/jail where he spent his last days. We walked where we had walked and felt that we were on hallowed ground. 

Statue of Joseph and Hyrum outside of Carthage Jail

This is the window that Joseph Smith jumped out of when he was shot and killed.

Carthage was a great way to end our church history tour. Just one more quick stop before we headed home, but that's a post of its own...

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Currant Bush

This little video is just what I needed today. I'm not very good at taking correction. It embarrasses me and gets my defenses up. At certain times in my life I've been better at humility and making changes when necessary, but lately it's not the norm.

The story told in this video is one I'm familiar with and have even shared with my Seminary class. I stumbled across it today and realize I needed the reminder. I hope you like it, too.

[If you're interested, I've included the full story of the currant bush below, as told by Elder Hugh B. Brown at a BYU commencement address on 31 May 1968.]

Could I tell you just a quick story out of my own experience in life? Sixty-odd years ago I was on a farm in Canada. I had purchased the farm from another who had been somewhat careless in keeping it up. I went out one morning and found a currant bush that was at least six feet high. I knew that it was going all to wood. There was no sign of blossom or of fruit. I had had some experience in pruning trees before we left Salt Lake to go to Canada, as my father had a fruit farm. So I got my pruning shears and went to work on that currant bush, and I clipped it and cut it and cut it down until there was nothing left but a little clump of stumps.
And as I looked at them, I yielded to an impulse, which I often have, to talk with inanimate things and have them talk to me. It’s a ridiculous habit. It’s one I can’t overcome. As I looked at this little clump of stumps, there seemed to be a tear on each one, and I said, “What’s the matter, currant bush? What are you crying about?”
And I thought I heard that currant bush speak. It seemed to say, “How could you do this to me? I was making such wonderful growth. I was almost as large as the fruit tree and the shade tree, and now you have cut me down. And all in the garden will look upon me with contempt and pity. How could you do it? I thought you were the gardener here.”
I thought I heard that from the currant bush. I thought it so much that I answered it.
I said, “Look, little currant bush, I am the gardener here, and I know what I want you to be. If I let you go the way you want to go, you will never amount to anything. But someday, when you are laden with fruit, you are going to think back and say, ‘Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for cutting me down, for loving me enough to hurt me.’”
Ten years passed, and I found myself in Europe. I had made some progress in the First World War in the Canadian army. In fact, I was a field officer, and there was only one man between me and the rank of general, which I had cherished in my heart for years. Then he became a casualty. And the day after, I received a telegram from London from General Turner, who was in charge of all Canadian officers. The telegram said, “Be in my office tomorrow morning at ten o’clock.”
I puffed up. I called my special servant. (We called them “batmen” over there.) I said, “Polish my boots and my buttons. Make me look like a general, because I am going up tomorrow to be appointed.”
He did the best he could with what he had to work on, and I went to London. I walked into the office of the general. I saluted him smartly, and he replied to my salute as higher officers usually do to juniors—sort of a “Get out of the way, worm.” Then he said, “Sit down, Brown.”
I was deflated. I sat down. And he said, “Brown, you are entitled to this promotion, but I cannot make it. You have qualified and passed the regulations, you have had the experience, and you are entitled to it in every way, but I cannot make this appointment.”
Just then he went into the other room to answer a phone call, and I did what most every officer and man in the army would do under those circumstances: I looked over on his desk to see what my personal history sheet showed. And I saw written on the bottom of that history sheet in large capital letters: “THIS MAN IS A MORMON.”
Now at that time we were hated heartily in Britain, and I knew why he couldn’t make the appointment. Finally he came back and said, “That’s all, Brown.”
I saluted him, less heartily than before, and went out. On my way back to Shorncliffe, 120 kilometers away, I thought every turn of the wheels that clacked across the rails was saying, “You’re a failure. You must go home and be called a coward by those who do not understand.”
And bitterness rose in my heart until I arrived, finally, in my tent, and I rather vigorously threw my cap on the cot, together with my Sam Browne belt. I clenched my fist, and I shook it at heaven, and I said, “How could you do this to me, God? I’ve done everything that I knew how to do to uphold the standards of the Church. I was making such wonderful growth, and now you’ve cut me down. How could you do it?”
And then I heard a voice. It sounded like my own voice, and the voice said, “I am the gardener here. I know what I want you to be. If I let you go the way you want to go, you will never amount to anything. And someday, when you are ripened in life, you are going to shout back across the time and say, ‘Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for cutting me down, for loving me enough to hurt me.’”
Those words—which I recognize now as my words to the currant bush and that had become God’s word to me—drove me to my knees, where I prayed for forgiveness for my arrogance and my ambition.
As I was praying there, I heard some Mormon boys in an adjoining tent singing the closing number to an M.I.A. session, which I usually attended with them. And I recognized these words, which all of you have memorized:
It may not be on the mountain height
Or over the stormy sea;
It may not be at the battle’s front
My Lord will have need of me;
But if, by a still, small voice he calls
To paths that I do not know,
I’ll answer, dear Lord, with my hand in thine:
I’ll go where you want me to go.
. . .
So trusting my all to thy tender care,
And knowing thou lovest me,
I’ll do thy will with a heart sincere;
I’ll be what you want me to be.

[“It May Not Be on the Mountain Height,” Hymns,1948, no. 75]
My young friends and brothers and sisters, will you remember that little experience that changed my whole life? Had the Gardener not taken control and done for me what was best for me, or if I had gone the way I wanted to go, I would have returned to Canada as a senior commanding officer of western Canada. I would have raised my family in a barracks. My six daughters would have had little chance to marry in the Church. I myself would probably have gone down and down. I do not know what might have happened, but this I know, and this I say to you and to Him in your presence, looking back over sixty years: “Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for cutting me down.”

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Scott Sterling is Back

I'm pretty sure everyone and their dog has seen the first Scott Sterling video where our soccer star saves the day...with his face.

Well, he's back and playing volleyball this time. It's the National Championship game, no less, between the Tarhills and the Bulldogs.

Funny stuff. :)

Sunday, March 27, 2016


Happy Easter! The Savior's Atonement is my biggest blessing. 


Friday, March 25, 2016

World's Largest Virtual #Hallelujah Chorus

Have you ever wanted to sing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir? Recently, they invited people to join them in singing the Hallelujah Chorus from The Messiah. With some specific instructions about how to submit a video of yourself singing your chosen vocal part, they put all the videos together and came up with this virtual choir. {I wish we had participated!}

King of Kings and Lord of Lords. #Hallelujah  :)

Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Lake House

We're just wrapping up our Spring Break. It was a much needed week off of school! I love how the local school district and EIU take the same week off so we're able to do fun stuff as a family.

The Lake House

This year we spent three days at a friend's lake house about 4 1/2 hours away near Canton, Missouri. It was perfect! No cell reception. No internet. It was nice to be completely disconnected and to spend time together, distraction free.

Our view from the lake house - I love the sun streams!

Not long after our arrival there was a hail storm with golf ball sized hail. Literally. I have never seen or heard anything like it! The water was shooting up off the lake as the hail pelted down. It was really something to see! It was fast and furious. Fortunately it didn't cause any noticeable damage except maybe the outer pane of a neighbor's window.

The hail was so pretty with various designs and formations.

The kids had a great time collecting the largest chunks of hail after the storm and lining them all up on the lid of the turtle sandbox.

Despite its size, the hail melted fairly quickly and the kids enjoyed playing and fishing outside until they ran out of daylight.

Spencer, our fisherman.

Our days were filled with tourist excursions (details to come) and our evenings were filled with family games (Pictionary and Fazes were our favorites), and earlier bedtimes. It was just what we needed to help us gear up for our last quarter of school.

Bring it on! ;)

Friday, March 18, 2016

Random Acts

Back in September, I posted about a show on BYUtv called Random Acts. For a while it looked like the idea had been abandoned, but we've just learned that it's happening and the first episode airs on April 4th!

At first we had the impression that the show focused on setting up situations to catch other people doing something good. Now it looks like the focus is on providing random acts of kindness for unsuspecting strangers. Either way, it sounds like a feel-good show that we're excited to watch! Here's a trailer --

If you were really paying attention (Sadie was the only one that caught it here), you might have seen Savannah near the end. It's super quick, but she makes a brief appearance right at :48.

We can't wait!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Welcome to St. Patrick, Missouri

We didn't do this on purpose. We didn't even know there was such a thing as St. Patrick, Missouri. But it just so happened that we were staying in a little community right next door and had to drive through St. Patrick to get where we were going. And it just happened to be St. Patrick's day. :) These pictures were taken yesterday (3/16) as we were heading in from Nauvoo for the evening. But we drove through again this morning as we headed to Carthage.

Kind of a fun coincidence. Happy St. Patrick's Day! :)

St. Patrick statue in the background.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Happy Pi Day

Hands down, this is my favorite pie. It's the apple pie I grew up with, the one I'd sneak into the kitchen for to steal loose bits of the yummy top crust when no one was looking. It's so yummy served warm with vanilla ice cream or cold out of the fridge for breakfast the next day.

It's the perfect pie for our Pi Day (3.14) celebration. It's super easy to make which makes it even better!

Mom's Apple Pie
1 bottom pie crust (not deep dish)
4+ large Granny Smith apples (or 7-8 smaller apples)
1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
Combine sugar and cinnamon. Peel, core, and slice apples. Place them in unbaked pie shell and sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar after each layer or so. Continue until apples are heaping in pie shell.

1/2 c. sugar
3/4 c. flour
1/3 c. butter or margarine
With a pastry blender, combine until crumbly. Spoon over apples and pat down with hands to form the top "crust." Bake on a foil lined cookie sheet at 400° for 40-50 minutes. (My oven is on the warm side so 40 minutes is plenty. I gently place a piece of foil on top for the last 10 minutes to keep the top crust from getting too dark.)


Friday, March 11, 2016

Don't Turn Your Back

My brother sent me this picture a month or so ago with the caption, "This is what happens when I leave my kids alone for 2 seconds." I saw it again today and it made me laugh all over again.

In case you're wondering if Bowen was awake for days after this incident, Jeffrey assured me that the can was pretty much empty. Still, it's pretty funny. I guess this isn't the first time Hank has tried to "help" with the baby.

Never a dull moment! :)

Thursday, March 10, 2016

You Reap What You Sow

“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, in the end, 'Thy will be done.' All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.”  --C. S. Lewis (from The Great Divorce)

I teach an online youth religion class (Seminary) for church. For the past couple of days, the discussion has focused a lot on the consequences of our choices, pointing out that you reap what you sow. In today's Seminary lesson, the questions was asked: Why do you think Satan succeeds in luring some people to his side, even though he will ultimately lose?

In response, one of my students pointed out that Satan succeeds because his path is easier. You don't have to make a commitment. But as a result, you lose the happiness and joy that come from living righteously. 

It's true. While Satan's side is easier and there are no rules to follow, there is also no reward. What a disappointment it will be to find that the lures and "promises" were all a big lie and there is nothing for you in the end. Like C. S. Lewis pointed out, God will say to us, "Thy will be done," and we'll get exactly what we chose. Satan is cleverly deceptive and only when he has you in his chains will you realize that your freedom has been taken away.

Happiness comes when we choose to say to God, "Thy will be done," and His blessings are poured out upon us as we make ourselves eligible for an eternal reward. Rules and guidelines (commandments) are there for our peace and safety. It may initially feel like they are limiting our freedom, but we will soon find that true freedom is possible only through obedience. 

Christ's Atonement made it possible for us to return to our Father in Heaven. It's up to us to choose to make that possibility our reality!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Rebel Chicken

My mother-in-law gathered eggs for Jeff's brother's family while they were on vacation. Apparently one chicken did not like this new arrangement...

Isn't it cute? :) I believe the family has returned so all is right in the chicken world once more. 

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Before and After: A Bathroom Makeover

Last spring, we purchased a cute little two bedroom rental home. It's just down the street from us and didn't need too much fixing up. But the bathroom -- Ugh! It was so weird! It was just a really bizarre set up.

This is where I'd insert the before pictures...if we had any. Somehow we can't seem to locate the pictures we thought we took before Jeff started on this project, so let me try to explain what it looked like. (I'll add pictures if/when they turn up.)

The main part of the bathroom had a 1970's green tub and shower. The sink was okay, but was way too big for the space which put it too close to the gross toilet. There was a weird step to access the tub/sink/toilet area. The flooring was a hodgepodge of various types. The walls were a horrible yellow paneling below with something rather forgettable above. At most, the whole room is only about 8'x10', so it's pretty small. That includes three doorways. Two of them lead straight through from one bedroom to the bathroom to the other bedroom. The other leads into a closet.

Jeff tore everything out and started over. Here it is after he worked his magic...

This doorway leads into one of the bedrooms. Closet access is on the right.

This door leads to the other bedroom. The same closet access is on the left.

Doesn't it look great? It is SO much better than before and just right for the space. It feels open and spacious and bright and that funky step is gone. Jeff does great work!

The above pictures make me happy which is why this is on my blog. :) Yesterday the above "after" pictures became the "before" pictures...

Sadly, there was a fire yesterday. Here is the latest shot of the bathroom:

We've got our work cut out for us. The bathroom ceiling has a huge hole where the firefighters axed it open to cool off a hot spot. The fire burned in one of the bedrooms, but most of the home has smoke damage. Not to mention the 6 windows busted out to let the smoke escape.

The good news in all of this? No one was hurt. No one was home when the fire was discovered. Stuff can be replaced. It'll take some time, but we're still counting our blessings!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Hi, Ho, Robin Hood

We LOVED the middle school play of Hi, Ho, Robin Hood tonight. Sterling and Soren did so well in their roles of Robin Hood and Little John. Their friend above played King Richard. Everyone did such a great job! The play has several fun musical numbers and plenty of witty dialogue.

We can't wait to go again tomorrow night. :)