Thursday, June 30, 2011

Mission Trip Day 6

 Before we get to today, last night I managed to stay up late enough to watch the sunset.  Prior to watching the sunset, I spent a little time watching our kids climb on hay bales.  They had so much fun figuring out different ways to get onto these giant bales.   A considerable amount of teamwork was involved.
 The sky is so big and the sunset just filled it all.  After a while, I wondered back to where the wireless Internet was accessible and corrected a few issues on the Mission Trip Day 3 post.  If you want to see a slightly more coherent version with a few new pictures, check it out.
 Back to the build for day 6, we continued with the sheeting, covering the exterior with plywood.  Suddenly the house became a heat box, so we were relieved to have the door and window openings cut open.

It kept getting hotter into the afternoon (another heat index of almost 100), but today we got humidity as rain clouds rolled in.  We are still waiting to see the rain and are told that severe thunderstorms are forecast for this evening.  Wish us luck, as we haven't seen any freak weather since we first arrived.
 In an attempt to escape the heat, we stopped work at noon and went in search of water related activities.  We heard there was tubing in nearby Valentine, Nebraska.  There was, but it was too expensive.  We heard we could swim at a specific location in the river, but the river was running high and wide and too dangerous to swim in.  Finally we were told about a different location for swimming. It turned out to be a waterfall that emptied into a vary small rocky creek.  So still no swimming, but the kids had a blast playing on and around the waterfall.
We even had an opportunity to drive past buffalo on the way home from our adventure..... that and we were fed "Casey's World Famous Eleven Cheese Mac and Cheese" for dinner and treated to a Lakota speaker after our meal.  A good night all around.  Tomorrow will be a busy last day before heading home Saturday.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Mission trip day 5. Hump Day!

Today we have reached the half way point of our trip.  The weather, which has to this point been cool and windy, turned into a blasting furnace. The heat index today was 110, no clouds in the sky, and what breeze we felt was warm.
Add to it that we reached the sheeting phase of the build, so there was constant nailing going on and no real down time. We are excited by the progress and proud of what we are getting done. We are all still in the same location, and it is so neat to get to know each other while we work.

As hard as we have been working, we have also been playing a lot of card games, especially a game called Mafia. Most days we are finishing before 3 or so, because of the great and how long it takes to get every one showered before dinner.
The food has all tasted SO good, partly because we are working so hard and partly because the Weddle/Collins cook team is amazing! I can't imagine how much food they have to fix. Last night they said it took 5 pounds of noodles and 10 pounds of meat for our spaghetti dinner, not to mention all the salad, bread, and Little Debbie snacks.

Big thanks to all our support, both here and at home!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Mission trip day 4: Interior Walls!

We have been here long enough that we are forgetting what day it is. We are also forgetting to put on make up. We are generally forgetting the formalities reserved for folks you only see on Sunday and getting to the fun of feeling like a family. We are getting to know each other.

We are also getting to see a house grow. We are getting to put up interior WALLS and the supervisor brought over the supplies for building a ROOF!

We are having dinner with the bishop and the cannon tonight....and most exciting to or hungry group, we just got the announcement that we can have 3 pieces of bead with our a spaghetti diner! SCORE!

We are having fun and we are making a difference in the life of the family who will get our house, but we are also making a coffee in our own lives.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Mission Trip Day 3: The Build Begins!

Today marks our first full day at the mission site, ironically located in a town called Mission. We arrived last night in time for a pizza dinner. After dinner, part of our evening prayer service was to play, best thing worst thing. I think we will do it every night, so now I find myself putting lots of or daily events into one of those two categories. So here are my guesses at what a few of our best things and worse things from the last 24 hours might be.

Several of our nominations for "worst things" could involve sleep, or lack of it, last night.

It was hot when we arrived and the kids all left the windows open in their dorm rooms. During the night, it got REALLY REALLY cold and windy and most of the kids were not happy this morning. There is a leak in the trailer where the older boys sleep that made things uncomfortable. The good news is that nothing was REALLY terrible, they weren't in any danger, etc. so these are the shared irritants that force some group bonding over shared war stories. Also. we will all be good and tired tonight...and hopefully wise enough to close the windows.

The "worst thing" for the morning, our habitat leader was pretty disoriented and didn't seem to know we were coming. He was expecting a group our exact size from Iowa... but they never showed up. Odd that he still didn't have a plan for a group pur size considering that while he wasn't expecting us, he WAS expecting this Iowa group. Maybe Tenesseans just can't work as well as Iowans? Either way, I suspect all our hearts sank as he said, repeatedly, that he didn't think he had much for us to do this week. He then proceeded to ask what tools we brought, when habitat told us over and over NOT to bring any! Besides, it is a little difficult to bring your skill saw and bag of hammers in your carry-on luggage!

In the "best thing" category, there ended up being plenty of hammers and plenty of work...actually the PERFECT amount of work....enough to keep busy but also enough to be able to rest often and quit early.

Another best thing is that we built a HOUSE (our a significant part of one) together as a team. We had been told that we would be split among several sites, but our entire group is currently working in the same place.

Also, that same place we are all working is only a few steps from where we are all staying. We thought we would have to drive 20 minutes to the work site. Not a big deal either way, but it was nice to be able to walk "home" to grab a sweat shirt or more sunscreen, or both as the weather changes quickly.
Lets make the whole "needing a sweat shirt and sunscreen" a split decision between best and worst. It was windy and cold and a little hard to take at points. However, the wind also made it pleasant while you we working hard slinging a hammer, so no one got too hot. Then again, it was so pleasant, that many of us didn't consider that that big yellow ball that was keeping us from getting too cold wasbeaming down on us and burning our skin. At the same time, what the sun didn't burn the wind probably did. Being in a Native American community halfway into the summer, means that the stores aren't really stocking up on sunscreen for a community that either already bought sunscreen (at the start of te season) or has naturally burn resistant skin. Hopefully our couple of bottles last us!

The sky is so BIG, so open, so amazing. Today it has been full of clowds and you can just see them moving for miles in every direction.  It is already on my best list and I hear it gets even better at sunset.

Back to the build. Best, best, best..we started the day with a 3 wall structure and we built and put up the entire 4th wall...and the window supports...and the door supports today. We also met Harlee, whose family is going to live in the house we are building.

I am smelling dinner cooking and based on what my nose tells me, it will also end up in the best column. Also, Paul, our team member who drove from Tennessee to South Dakota....all night....straight through, arrived a short time ago and tonight Father Charles will arrive. Having the whole group safely together will certainly be a best for today.

We have begun the process of showering (a slow process due to a combination of old plumbing and lots of sweaty workers).  Soon our group will all be clean, well fed, and tired from a day of helping provide shelter.   I can't think of much better "best thing" than that....but then again Jonathon is getting a  fancy new french braid hairstyle at this very moment, so maybe I should reserve that designation for a little bit longer!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Mission Trip Day 2

Today was travel and sight seeing day. We drove to Mount Rushmore and then to the Crazy Horse Monument. Seeing how, in both of these monuments, man can literally move mountains was amazing! I can't wait until Lydia is older and we can load the family up in the station wagon and drive off to experience the wonders of the US. For now, I can't wait to share all the pictures I have on my camera and on my computer.

So, here is the recap. Mount Rushmore was amazing....but I kind of knew it would be! I took tons of pictures and felt very patriotic.  Seeing Rushmore was the thing I was most excited about prior to coming on this trip.  I was kind of like a kid in a candy store at the monument. 

I squealed with delight and started snapping pictures at the first sighting... from the road! 

I knew the sculptures on Mount Rushmore would be impressive, but I was unaware of how beautiful the surrounding area would be designed.

You enter through these massive columned entries that reminded me of both a modern version of Neoclassical architecture (the style used in our capital building, Supreme Court, etc.) and Egyptian architecture... both timeless, strong, and modern.  Good Job Parks and Recreation department!

Inside were all these state flags and patriotic banners.  So great for framing your photographs.  Again, impressive in almost every detail..... but again I kind of expected that!

PS. Did you know Mount Rushmore was unfinished?  Here is the artist's scale model of what he intended it to look like.  Unfortunately,the sculptor passed away and the start of WW2 halted the project as we see it today.  Still impressive... but again you kind of expect that.

However, the monument we visited next caught me completely off guard.  I was really blown away with the Crazy Horse memorial. It is also being carved into a mountain, but is still a work in progress.  Unlike Mount Rushmore, they are actually still making progress so you could really see how it and Mount Rushmore were made.  Below you can see the artist's model set against the current view of the mountain.

The man who was hired by the tribe elders worked for years, probably decades, alone with very low tech low expense tools. Eventually his family members joined in (he had 10 kids)and now that he has passed away, his wife and kids continue the work of making what will become the largest carved statue. Only the face is finished today, but eventually the entire mountain will become his body and his horse. The hole goes under his arm, which is resting on a horse and pointing to his people's lands.  You can just make out the white line marking the face of the horse. 

Today there was a HUGE banner wishing Ruth a happy birthday. She is apparently the widow of the sculptor and mom to the kids who have taken over their dad's work. This monument is truly a labor of love for the native Americans and for this family.  They have all invested heavily in the project and have refused to take any federal funds to complete it.

Our last  sight seeing stop of the day was Wall Drug in Wall South Dakota. We knew we were nearing Wall because they have TONS of billboards for miles and miles advertising the home baked doughnuts, the 5 cent coffee, and the free ice cold water. Apparently the owners were a young couple in the 1930's trying to build their business. Nothing seemed to help them gain any customers, until the wife got the idea to give  the hot tired drivers who had just crossed the badlands as much free ice cold water as they requested. Within 6 months they had to hire 8 extra workers.

Today Wall Drug takes up most of the buildings on main street and extends across an ally and into another row of buildings behind that. It is unbelievable! Now there are numerous restaurants, specialty stores, games, statutes to pose with for pictures, and even a few dinosaurs!

While we explored, our rental cars got pelted with yet another freak hail storm! Fortunately we don't seem to have any damage and when we needed to drive it was only rain, but I hear it was crazy hail.

I was buying cowboy boots and could not be interrupted to look at the weather.  I mean....really!  Those boots are MESMERIZING!!!  Would you look at them or at a hail storm.  OK it was a freakish hail storm but keep in mind that we JUST had a different freakish hail storm the PREVIOUS night.  We hadn't seen ANYTHING like these boots! When I did go outside (after buying a very lovely pair of clearance boots.... nice but NOTHING like the $500 boots pictured above) some of the cars looked like they had a pile of snow on the wind shields!  So, that is the recap of out travel and touring day, mission trip day 2.

 We made it to Mission (the town where we stay for our mission trip) around 7, are some pizza, and we are now relaxing and preparing for bed. Wish us luck as we get to work tomorrow! Good night.

Sea Food at Lydia's "Three Under the Sea Party"

I always have a lot of fun planning food to fit the theme of a party. I usually start by searching the key words for the party in google images and click on pictures of food that I think looks good.  Most of these ideas did not originate with me, but I am so happy with how they all came together. Above is a shot showing most of the food table.  Below you can see close ups of specific ideas.
For the kids; peanut butter and jellyfish sandwiches!  Here's what I learned about making shaped sandwiches with a cookie cutter.  Make the sandwich first.  Press the cutter through the sandwich, pressing on the whole cutter with your whole hand, so there is equal pressure and a lot of it.  Twist the cutter from side to side so you can be sure everything cuts really nice and crisp.  We started out just pressing down and got torn edges and little detail.  The twist makes the difference.

 I couldn't resist throwing a few pirates into all the mermaid and fish items.  Pirates Booty was too good to pass up, I just wish they made a smaller snack sized package.
 We had to have goldfish, served in a fish tank.

This is my FAVORITE! PJ has now carved a watermelon Mad Hatter's hat, a watermelon pirate ship and now a watermelon shark! I LOVE it and I love that he is so fun and creative! Search watermelon shark on google images and you will see several that all look the same.

No need to reinvent the wheel here, but PJ did add a few new touches, like the giant googly eyes and the sea of blue jello filled with unsuspecting boats. The mouth of the shark is filled with a watermelon fruit salad.
 I put Finding Nemo fruit snacks in a smaller fish bowl.
 These apricot clown fish were so cute and not terribly difficult.  I found the full directions here.
 I saw these "pearly bites clam cookies" and knew I HAD to make them for the party.  Full directions here.
 Thank GOD I had 50 free cupcakes coming my way thanks to Cities Cupcakes. The power outages in Knoxville made baking and decorating impossible for me.  Cities Cupcakes actually lost power for a day but managed to get my order ready in time.  We got the Miami cupcake (lemon), the Key West cupcake (key lime), and some vanilla cupcakes.  I asked them to ice them all in blue and then I added sea shaped molded chocolates.  Information on how I made the chocolates can be found here.
I also made a few octopuses out of tootsie pops and gummy worms.  Full directions for the octopus cupcakes can be found here.
I hope Lydia and all of our friends enjoyed the tasting the sea party food as much as I enjoyed planning and making it!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Greetings from South Dakota (Mission Trip Day 1)

So, after a week of intense party prep, non-stop storms, no power, and perishing perishables..... I left PJ to deal with unloading all the party decorations, throwing away all of the food in our refrigerator, and repairing all that the storms damaged....while I headed to South Dakota for the Church of the Good Shepherd mission team trip to Rosebud Reservation
 Our group gathered at the airport to fly across the country in our matching red shirts.
 We ended our day in Rapids City, South Dakota.  Tomorrow we will sight see our way to the reservation, stopping at Mount Rushmore (I am SO excited) and several other locations along the way.  Tonight, we just wanted warm food and a clean bed.
 Our hotel suggested heading downtown, where we discovered cute older buildings and a FUN firehouse  themed restaurant that doubled as a brew house. PERFECT!
 They had beer bread, bear cheese soup, even beer floats and beer shakes.  Everything, including the non-beer infused food was really good.
 So was the view.......
 So was the conversation........
 And then, as if to remind us of our wet, stormy, point of departure, the sky grew dark and we were faced with severe thunder, lightening, and hail storms.  Our group made it back to the hotel fine and it looks like the worst is over, but several of us will have small bruises from the marble to ping pong sized hail that pelted us as we ran to our cars.  Hopefully we don't loose power out here too!!!
We will almost certainly loose our wireless Internet after tonight.  I may be able to post something, but it will probably come from my phone, so please forgive the numerous errors as my large fingers fight with the small buttons and the often incorrect auto correct to get something posted on the blog.