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It’s a Piece of Cake

We’re almost at the nine-week mark of this school year. Nine weeks into my second year of teaching FACS. I thought this year would be so much easier, and in a way it is, but I still get just as nervous whenever we start a new project. What if I can’t explain it right? What will I do if the girls just can do it? What if they don’t even like this project? Yes, those are the questions that keep me awake at night.

We started the year with sewing pillowcase dresses for orphans. This year the dresses will be going to Africa in the spring. Most of the class started with little or no sewing experience, but they learned quickly and soon had the required three dresses made. For the most part they enjoyed sewing, but the next project is making a bag and it isn’t easy. So, I thought we’d take a little break and learn to decorate cakes. Why was I losing sleep over this one? These girls were AMAZING. My favorite part is when they hold them up for a picture and I don’t even have to say smile. The pride in their face is so fun to see. It’s those moments when I know why I love my job!

Here are a few of the pictures:

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Amazing! Right? This is just a few. Look at that basket weave. I couldn’t believe she was tackling that!

Have a great weekend,



I just discovered Amigurumi

Just recently I discovered “amigurumi”. My fellow yarners may be wondering what rock did I crawl out from beneath. Apparently, this trend has really caught on over the past five years and I just found out. Thank you, Pinterest.

There are many definitions of amigurumi online but basically it is a Japanese word used to describe the art of knitting or crocheting stuffed animals or inanimate objects. The word is derived from a combination of the Japanese words ami, meaning crocheted or knitted, and nuigurumi, meaning stuffed doll.

My son is really into the solar system so he asked me to crochet Saturn. While I couldn’t find such a pattern, I did discover a crochet pattern for amigurumi spheres and added rings. Here we have the sixth planet from the sun!


A cousin just had a baby shower on Sunday. The baby’s room will be decorated with a pond theme (frogs, ducks and turtles) so I thought I would try Felix the Frog. (See pattern here:


It’s been fun learning how to create amigurumi stuffed toys. I think I’m “hooked.

Cherie GagnonCherie


Am I the only one to just have learned about amigurumi?

There..Now can I go see Daddy?

I’m not particularly proud of this story–but there are times when  motherhood stoops to bribery.

Because of the hours hubby worked–24 hours on/24 hours off–there were  a LOT of times he missed the kids’ activities. They rolled with it better than I did, at times, and often a visit to the firehouse was both a reward and a treat, and my way of coping.

It was the church Christmas program he missed this year. Our oldest son (the third child) was 4 and had the Welcome speech for the program. Perhaps not the wisest decision to have a child open the evening, but after all…church Christmas programs take two avenues–Cantata or kids.  Right?

The problem with this scenario–oldest son did NOT want to say Welcome, Welcome, everyone. And because his daddy hated the thought of speaking in public, son #1 was not encouraged (or threatened).

Overhead lights went out, sanctuary was beautifully lit by Christmas decorations, microphone adjusted to four-year-old height—and son scooted closer to me, folded his arms across his chest, stuck out his chin and shook his head “no”. Teacher smiled and encouraged. I, on the other hand did what every proud, embarrassed mother would do (someone out there please tell me you would have followed my lead)…I whispered to him that if he didn’t say his part we couldn’t go see Daddy after the program.

Now, one of the real treats at the firehouse was strawberry pop in a bottle!!  I was certain this threat would work. Our two daughters begged and pleaded (in whispers of course) because they didn’t want to miss a chance to go see their daddy OR the bottle of pop they would share.

But nope–I underestimated the strong will of this child. And eventually, the program went on, and no one was Welcomed!!

Closing prayer. Eyes closed. Amen. Open eyes–and there in front of the microphone, arms still folded across his chest was son #1 , who–in a VERY important manner–Welcome, Welcomed, Everyone. Then added this little epilogue as he nodded my direction.

“There–now can I go so Daddy?”

We did!!

Mother’s pride OFTEN went before  humiliation in this family!!

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Like Minded

There is a special kind of bond that defines the firehouse. It’s more than just men working together–they live together 24 hours at a time. From the time they punch in on their shift, until they punch out again 24 hours later they’ve spent that entire time within the confines of a station house, sans fire calls or the other routine jobs that occur: i.e., fire inspection, hydrant testing, engine checking/cleaning, and yes–grocery shopping. They eat together, do dishes together, watch TV together, and sleep…well, NOT together in the sense you might think–but they do share a bedroom.

One of my fondest memories of those early years is the Fireman’s Auxiliary. The wives. In my first years was a fireman’s wife, there were few of us working outside the home, and we looked forward to that one night a month when we could meet together. Yes, it meant some of us had to have a sitter because our husbands were ‘on duty’. But we tried hard not to miss. It was a time of learning for me–and I learned from the best!!

Things the other wives taught me:

1. Firefighters’ wives don’t chase fire trucks

2. Firefighters’ wives don’t ask questions when there are blood splatters on their husband’s clothing (they’ll explain in due time–maybe)

3. It’s not unusual to be afraid to be alone at night–or to resent attending so many events alone (or with ALL the kiddos). HOWEVER–Get used to it, and stop whining!! Be proud of what your husband does, be glad he loves what he does, and support him every way you can.

4. Yes–some of the men were better cooks than we were. (I never could replicate Corny’s tomato preserves)

5. And–this was a big one–I wasn’t the first one to become  pregnant within the first year of hubby joining the fire service.

Of course there was much, much more. But I still value those times, and those women who welcomed me. We laughed and cried together, mourned and celebrated, and even in our diversity we were one–just like the men at the firehouse.

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The First Big One!

No…I’m not going to write about the first big fire run for my hubby. Rather–our VERY FIRST paycheck from a job we knew was going to be steady. No winter layoffs. We’d get a check every two weeks..and the first one was a whopping $167.50 (gross).  His starting salary in April of 1965 was $335.00/month (gross).  With the shift being 24 hours on/24 hours off, one can assume that he worked fifteen 24 hours shifts, which would equal 360 hours a month. You do the math. But we felt rich!!

Our needs were much less at that time, though not at all different from our friends whether they were on or off the fire department. We had groceries to buy, a house payment to make, utilities, insurance and taxes to pay, and two little girls to feed and clothe. I think at that time we must have been making a car payment, too. And before anyone mentions it–yes, those dollars stretched a lot farther in those days. We were never hungry, always clothed, and never missed a payment on anything. 

NOW I’ll mention the first really big event for hubby. June, 1965. By this time I had started to settle in a bit more. I no longer needed to keep the lights on all night when he was gone, and found I could get to church on time all by  myself!!  So the morning of the BIG ONE I got my two little girls ready and we went to Bible School. I remember the skies becoming darker and darker, and I think we teachers must have even decided what we would do with the children should the tornado sirens sound. Out sanctuary was A-shaped, very high pitched ceilings, and windows lined each wall. The bathrooms were the only place we felt safe enough to scurry so many little ones.  And then the rains came.  Pouring rains…and it rained and rained and rained. Parents came after children bringing extra coverings for them so they could get back to their cars. And by the time I got home, we were all soaked.

Meanwhile–back at the FD they’d had a call to the Presbyterian Church.  Lightning had struck, they were having Bible School, too, and could smell smoke. Bob was on that call…riding on the tailboard in the storm–and they could find nothing, so they went back to their stations. It wasn’t long before they were called again–this time there was smoke in the church..there definitely was fire somewhere. And this time they did find it…high in the peaks, but they were able to extinguish it. 

By this time Sand Creek was beginning to rise and hubby was sent to station #1 (which at that time, you Newton friends (was still on 5th street) and the decision was made to move an engine to the park department building so they would have engines on both sides of the creek. They went west, and the creek rose steadily.  He remembers watching it come out of its banks and cross the park. By the time they got the engine moved to yet higher ground, they drove in water axle deep.  

The water rose quickly…and went down relatively quickly, but left a LOT of sludge in its wake. Later that night, after hubs had returned to his regular station, they got a fire call to a restaurant on the north end of Main Street–right close to the creek. Water had gotten into the building and all the interior fixtures had floated around, so that when they got there they had to climb over tables, chairs, counters, etc., to get to the fire. And it was well after midnight when they got back to the station and got their trucks cleaned from the debris they’d driven through. Those of you familiar with the fire service know that you never back a dirty engine into the bay. 

I wish I could sit and talk with the wives of that era again!! We were so new to everything, and had no scanner in the house, I had no idea this all was happening.  We lived east of the bypass–might was well have been the wrong side of the tracks–but we were nowhere close to the creek or anything that even resembled one so didn’t know it had flooded and didn’t hear the fire sirens.

Like with any occupation, there are tales to be told. And I will tell them. Right now, the best part of writing this blog, is that look in hubby’s eyes as he recalls different events.  Retired fireman are like retired fishermen–the tales get bigger with each telling, but it’s the stuff that forges the hearts of those who stationed together.

See you next week!!

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What I did this summer

Julane in the barn. Check out the windmill ceiling fan.

Julane in the barn. Check out the windmill ceiling fan.

Summer is a subjective season in adulthood. It is not determined so much by the calendar – since my work schedule is the same year round – but by a state of mind.

This year, I decided I’d take a summer. For the first time in many years, I took a whole week off work. And it wasn’t for a mission trip or a writing conference. And it was wonderful. During the week, I visited my precious Pages from Stages pals in Kansas. Sara showed us a cool barn where we talked about our lives and read from our writing and refreshed our souls. Later in the week, I celebrated my sister Tammy’s 50th birthday with her.

At the Big Daddy Weave concert.

At the Big Daddy Weave concert.

Reviving one of the best traditions from summers of my childhood, I went to Vacation Bible School, studying the Bible with kindergarten and first graders for a week. I took part in a worship service and Big Daddy Weave concert with some friends and 1,000 other believers on the lawn of St. Joseph City Hall.

Dad and I sat in lawn chairs under the shade tree and looked out over the farm. My sister Paula and I took off on a Friday night to Kansas City to pig out on barbecue. My friend Lori and I became frequent visitors to the ice cream parlor. The Fourth of July was a blast at my brother and sister-in-law’s cookout.

Here on the blog, we did a “free wheel” summer where we tossed out the schedule and just wrote about whatever we felt like. I skipped some meetings for the sole reason I didn’t want to sit under flourescent lights on a summer afternoon.

Not just one but two state fairs were on my itinerary – The Missouri State Fair with my job and the Nebraska State Fair with my sister and her family. We even rode the skyline!

My sister and I riding high over the Nebraska State Fair.

My sister and I riding high over the Nebraska State Fair.

It was a summer for big adventures and simple pleasures.

Taking time for summer has made me ready for fall and even anticipating its return.

I think I’ll take a summer every year. How about you?



In the Beginning…

It was time for a change. We’d been married seven years, bought our first home, had two little girls, and struggled from paycheck to paycheck. Hubby hated his job. Weekends were just plain awful–he so dreaded Monday mornings . And during the winter we could expect layoffs, we couldn’t afford them but we could expect them.

Then it did change.  A close friend suggested he apply at the fire department. Really? Neither of us had grown up in a city large enough to have more than a volunteer department. It was not his little-boy dream to grow up and ride in a fire engine, siren wailing, while they careened through traffic to save someone’s life–and property. But it was a job that was steady. They don’t lay firemen off during the winter. And the pay? Well, it wasn’t much–but it was steady, too.

He applied, was hired, and thus began a 32-year career. And thus began a whole new lifestyle for me.

I’d never been alone at night. I went from my bed in my parents’ home, to OUR bed in our new home, all in the twinkling of an eye and those magic words–“I DO”.  Now, I wanted to say–“I’m not sure about this”–not a life with hubby, but I did not like the idea of being alone at night. Believe  me–I got used to it.

When he first started the shifts ran 24 hours on duty/24 hours off duty. Period. If Christmas fell on those 24 hours on–you worked Christmas. Birthdays, Christmas programs, family gatherings–it didn’t matter. HOWEVER–there were four days a year that he would get an extra 24 hours off–they were called Kelly Days. (more about that in a later post).

Hubby remembers his biggest fear at the beginning was that he wouldn’t wake up if they had a call.

My biggest fear at that I’d never be able to sleep on the nights he was gone.

He learned very quickly there was no sleeping through an alarm.  I was a  much slower learner.

We both learned, this time at the same pace, that most firemen worked a second job on their days off. Thus–hubby followed the leaders. This now meant he would go to work (for example) Monday morning, come home Tuesday morning just long enough to change clothes, leave for second job and return again for supper. Then the routine would start again Wednesday morning.

I hated it. I hated his evenings at home being spent studying streets and hydrants. Even if we ventured out of an evening (those first months) to go to the DQ, I couldn’t talk because he was still studying names of streets, and where the hydrants were located. Up and down streets we’d drive, the girls licking their ice cream and giggling in the back seat…with me licking my shallow feelings sitting beside hubby and feeling totally ignored.

I had a whole lot of growing up to do. He was happy. For the first time in all our married life, he looked forward to going to work.

And that’s what mattered most–


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And then it’s…Wednesday!!

You would think, after two years, I would have it down pat. I’d know when I finished the blog for one week, that in seven days I would need to come up with something again. While I fancy myself fairly dependable–blogging is not on my list of achievements.

I’ve noticed that the really successful bloggers have a theme–be it recipes, fashions, devotionals, or whatever. And we’ve tried that…having one topic a week that we all (the five of us who contribute to this blog) use as our topic. Then we’d throw in a ‘free wheel’ week, ever so often. Now, I’ve lost track–sorry guys–but free wheeling seems to be the theme right now.

So this is what I’ve decided to do. Because we are all at such different stages of our life (thus pages from stages, duh), and they say one should write what one knows, I’ll write about my life as a fireman’s wife, the mother of two firemen, and where we are now in this ‘retirement’ stage of our lives.

Stay tuned for next week–when I begin this new venture…may also glean stories from my hubby and sons. I’ll call my portion “Tales from the Tailboard!!”  Catchy? I thought so.

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As Summer Slips Away….

I know some of the kids in the States have returned to school already and some are waiting, like us in Canada, to start on September 2nd.

(Random fact: We have Labour Day in Canada, too, but we just kept the ‘u’ in the word.)

This is the last week for me at home with my boys before we all settle into routine again. They go back to school; I return to my job. As the days count down, I’ve been reflecting on what I’m grateful for this summer. Here are my top 10 things:

  1. Beautiful weather. It was cooler than usual, but so comfortable with low humidity.
  2. Visiting family. We had a chance to travel to see relatives from around Ontario all the way to Wisconsin.
  3. Slower pace. No homework at night and no packing lunches in the morning.
  4. Swimming.
  5. Bike rides.
  6. Gardening.
  7. Reading books with my boys. Every summer I pick a book or two to read aloud to my sons. Admittedly, I enjoy it more than they do, but I hope one day they will look back and remember the stories with fondness—or at least our time together.
  8. Family walks in local parks. (My youngest son, however, informed us that his legs have a pathological fear of family walks. He can prove it because he has a note from his brain. But once we get to the park, he really does enjoy it!)
  9. Birthday parties for my youngest. Why do the babies of families always seem to have more than one party?
  10. Celebrating my wedding anniversary. On Saturday, it will be 17 years since my husband and I said, “I do”.

image– Cherie

What did you enjoy the most this summer?

What Happened to Summer?

I’m not sure where the months of June and July went, but August came way too soon. I have now been back to school for a week and I’m still trying to decide if I got enough done over the summer to satisfy until next May.

I always have big plans and long lists…doesn’t mean they all get done! Here are a few pictures of what I did get done.

After twelve years in this house it was time to paint the kitchen/dining room. The chairs also needed to be recovered in matching fabric.

After twelve years in this house it was time to paint the kitchen/dining room. The chairs also needed to be recovered in matching fabric.

New curtains above sink

New curtains above sink

New art work. With the encouragement of a dear friend, I painted my own field of poppies. I'm not Monet, but I'm pretty pleased with the results!

New art work. With the encouragement of a dear friend, I painted my own field of poppies. I’m not Monet, but I’m pretty pleased with the results!

The final item on my list was to work on my story. It’s been a struggle because there are so many other things filling my brain. I know, it’s an excuse and one that anyone who wants to write understands. Mark wanted to take the boys to Colorado to ride 4-wheelers before school started and I was unsure if I wanted to go. In four days at home alone, I can get a lot done! But Mark suggested I go with them and use the time to write. So for two days, this was my office.

Beautiful view!

Beautiful view!

Not a bad view and I did get a little writing done. Enough to return to school without feeling let down.

Enjoy your last few days of summer!