Friday, December 30, 2011

The Bigger Picture

Our years living in Connecticut were made all the more sweet with frequent visits to Greg's parents mission - the Joseph Smith Birthplace in Sharon, Vermont.

Of all the stories and history we learned about Joseph Smith, this one is still our favorite.

Not many people know that Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack (Joseph's parents) were fairly financially comfortable when they got married. When Joseph was about 8 yrs old (shortly after his famous fever and near amputation), things went downhill. After three straight years of crop/farm failure due to terrible weather conditions, Joseph Sr. gathered his family around him and asked them all to pray. He & Lucy had decided to give it one last shot - one final year. They would put all their resources, hopes and prayers into one last crack at turning things around.

If they failed, Joseph Sr. had read of a farming community about 100 miles west in a little town called Palmyra.

It was the WORST recorded winter in the history of Vermont. (still is to date)

This story always brings about a more fervent, humble attitude in the McKinnon household prayers and worship. We work to keep in mind that even the hardest of mountains and heartache will help us get to where Heavenly Father wants us to be.

(and Greg always likes to add, "if we could just NOT pass through total financial ruin to get there, we'd really appreciate it".)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Life Questions From a 1-yr Old

Where did I come from?

What will I do with my life?

Where do I end up when it's all over?

That's my Mom.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Thanksgiving Tree

I have always wanted to do this.

This year, I finally did.

Every day of November (up until Thanksgiving) everybody added 1 leaf of gratitude to our family tree. The end result was beautiful.

We're so doing this again next year.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Pretty Girl and Tact


Pretty Girl, I'd love to talk to you when you have a nice voice.

MOM!!! Mom?

Yes, dear?

Nobody is sharing their game with me downstairs.

Did you ask them nicely?

Um....yes. (lie)

Did you try to work out a plan?

Um...I don't know.

How about asking your brothers NICELY if maybe in 5 minutes you can have a turn.

Okaaaaay (starts to run away)

Wait! Wait. Remember, you have to ask nicely if you want to get what you want.

Okay. (disappears down the stairs) Guys! You need to share with me right now!

(Me resting my forehead in my hand.)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Behind Every Successful Child... one hard-working mother.

And every hard-working mother yearns for more sleep.

Saturday, December 3, 2011


This month my wonderful father turns 64. I have so many delightful, inspiring and sweet memories with him. Here are a few of my favorites.

-When you visit places with Dad, you need to experience it in the senses. So dont be afraid to taste the Everglades water, dig up some bones at Aushwitz/Birkenau, climb up the closed-off Mayan ruin - just remember we don't have time to eat so keep moving!

-"Are you dead? Good. You're going to school."

-Dad held me back in the chapel one Sunday to listen to Brother Lorin Wheelwright play the organ. I didn't know this was the man who penned, Mother, I Love You - amongst others. Dad pointed out how great this man was and how he wouldn't be around much longer (he died 6 months later).

-Driving us (slowly) through the projects/lower-income housing in San Francisco in an effort to drill the importance of education into our brains. My brothers and I hid deep down in the back of the car, screaming at Dad to drive away, praying nobody would murder our family. There had to be a better way.

-German pancakes, made-from-scatch eggnog and homemade maple syrup.

-To the delight of two happy toddlers, Dad was always obliging in singing the instrumental portion of Mary Poppins' Feed the Birds at bedtime.

-Two words - Sally's Doughnuts.

-"No Rae. For the last time, we're not stopping to visit Wittenberg,the town where Martin Luther nailed his famous theses on the door at Castle Church. Instead, we need to get to Straubing where my first pair of skis were made." Gah!!!

-Watching Dad attempt jump kicks in the air behind Riverside Country Club.

-Many, many midnight hours stretched across our Suburban headrest, keeping Dad awake on the never-ending drives to the LDS Los Angeles Mission Home (and back) where my grandparents were taking care of Mom.

-Priesthood blessings the night before a new school year started.

-Multiple phone calls trying to work out theology, dating, life decisions and my mother's death in my head. "Dad, how would you handle this...?"

-Driving at night through the seedy streets of Paris, hopelessly lost looking for our hotel (very wrong neighborhood) when Dad suddenly shouts out "Okay everyone get their heads down and don't look out the windows!"

-Grape Nuts in a bowl with 1 yogurt poured on top. Every morning.

-Our running joke of one day opening a theatre called, "A Theatre Near You".

-"Go get a pencil. Stop using a pen for math."

-Walking home with him on the streets of London from Moorfields during Christmas when we splurged on a packet of roasting chestnuts from a sidewalk vendor. We ended up spitting them out in a Tube station 1 block later. Worst thing ever.

-Burnt-almond fudge milk shakes at the hospital snack bar.

-A warm welcomed hug after the one night I missed curfew. He was angry the next morning and I really got it. But hugs came first.

-Study, study, study. "Did you get that? Are you understanding this? Good. Let's do another one." Sigh!

-Deep snowy winters, Ernest Hemmingway, feeding the horses, fishing and bike riding in Ketchum, Idaho.

-"I think most people will be forgiven. But it's the kind of person you won't become and the people that wont be helped (and who you'll be held responsible for) if you chose otherwise."

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Hoopes Gravy

I'm not sure the origin of the Hoopes gravy. We think it started with Grandpa Hoopes' mother, Mae Eastman.

Mae's mother (Ann Harris) immigrated from Wales and settled in Brigham City. She ran a boarding house and Mae grew up cooking for all the patrons. Experts tend to agree this is where the miracle took place - although it very well could have happened with Ann back in Wales.

Sadly, I have wasted away my life never taking the pains to learn this excellent, mouth-watering gravy. Even more unfortunate, there's only 1 person left who knows how to make the gravy. My sweet Aunt Claudia.

(shown here with Our Sweetie, 2006)

So for this Thanksgiving dinner, I buckled in, made sure relatives could watch my kids for a few minutes, and I took careful, careful notes on this signature, nostalgic dish.

Here it is.


1st pan -
Turkey Giblets
2 bay leaves
1/2 C sliced onions
2 celery sticks sliced
2 cloves of garlic - smashed

Boil turkey giblets in chicken broth and a little water (enough to cover giblets). Strain out everything and keep the broth. The giblets will smell SO bad...

If making potatoes, reserve 1-2 cups potato water.

Take turkey drippings and simmer in roasting pan (or regular pan) on high with giblet broth and potato water. Mix up a thick paste of flour and water in a large cup (consistency of glue). Add to the drippings and create a basic white sauce. In true Hoopes fashion, you'll need to put in loads of salt.

PS - In case you ever question if you've made too much, please refer to my Grandpa's own dinner table (look at the large bowl in the center) to understand you can never make enough of this gravy. Enjoy.

(Pictured from the front of the table back left - Claudia, Katie (Mom), Richard and Virginia (Grandma))

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Where My Thoughts Have Been

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

-Dylan Thomas-

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Great Outdoors

This year's hunting excursion helped teach the boys some key survival skills.

#1 - Hiking AROUND the lake will take 4 times as long as you expect.

#2 - If you don't kill a deer, you have to kill something else.

#3 - When you're lost, mountain tops all look the same.

#4 - Real men don't need Plan A.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Intervention of Angels

Two weeks ago Pretty Girl's life was miraculously spared.

Our family was attending a local Halloween event. After unloading all the kids from the car, I rounded the back to pull out supplies. As I reached the back of the car, I realized not all the kids had stayed on the side of the road (next to the car) as we ALWAYS instruct them to do.

Pretty Girl was standing in the middle of the road, lovingly staring off across the street at the festivities. She was blissfully unaware of the car four feet behind her that had just come to a sudden halt.

I didn't sleep well most of last week. Lots of turning and self loathing and a million ways I could have prevented this. Many thoughts telling me, "You have too many children!" "How do you expect to be a good mother if you cannot watch them all?" and most prominently, "This is your fault. You should have been there. You failed."

The driver of the car turned out to be a distant neighbor. When I talked to her later, she told me in the moments before the near-crash, she felt an unknown slap come from behind her head and a direct voice that made her look to the side of the road where Pretty Girl was standing with her brothers. The voice told her to pay attention - at which point Pretty Girl walked right into the road.

I have no answers for why some children are spared and some are not. But I know our days and years are numbered from an eternal, solemn perspective. And if Pretty Girl still has more work to do and more to teach her parents, then there could also be hope of God's confidence in my abilities as a mother.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Consultant

Last year my son hired a consultant to keep him motivated while doing his homework.

This year the consultant hasn't been following the plan.

I don't think we'll be hiring him next year.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Resolution #973

Spend more afternoons like this.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Kids Best Music, Top 5

In the McKinnon household, music tastes run up and down the charts. Fortunately our family comes together over a few albums everyone agrees on. When these pieces start floating over the sound waves, the singing of little voices together is music to my ears.

#1 - The Beatles, 1

This album is our number one family album. Everyone is happy when this CD starts to play. And we all have our personal favorite song;

Dad - We Can Work It Out
Mom - Paperback Writer
Big Guy - Yellow Submarine
Sweetie - Hello Goodbye
Pretty Girl - She Loves You
Pirate - Get Back (the "Jo-Jo" song)

#2 - Michael Jackson, Thriller

Never underestimate the power of Beat It to a pair of young boys going to a soccer game. Or the dancing moves that emerge to Don't Stop Till You Get Enough. We all love this album.

#3 - Hans Zimmer & James Howard - The Dark Knight

We still don't understand how our kids are so crazy about music for a movie they have never seen. The kids unanimously request this album at least 1x a week.

#4 - Strong Bad - Strong Bad Sings

No, this isn't a joke. We just like Homestar Runner that much. And PS - we're lip syncing "Dangerous" at our next New Years Eve Party with Greg's family. All we need are some "cool, cool glasses".

#5 - Rodgers & Hammerstein - The Sound of Music

The kids aren't fans of Climb Every Mountain or the song when the Captain falls in love with Maria ("Ewwww! Mom, can you please forward this one??") - but they cheer every other song on this album.

Runners Up

Leslie Bricusse & Anthony Newley - Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory

Yep. Oompa Loompa songs make our house a happier place.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Green Thumbs

All of us experienced jaw-dropping moments this past summer while watching the flower pots change. Seriously. The boys did an amazing job.

They're already dreaming of what to grow next spring...

Sunday, October 9, 2011

This Just Feels Wrong

As previously confessed on this blog, I love playing video games with my kids. We're Wii Sport connoisseurs. I haven't met a bowling ball or racket I didn't like.

Except boxing.

Punching a computerized representation of my child just feels completely wrong. Like I'm taking my energy out in the wrong place. And then there's the whole dilemna of the child punching the parent. And what about sibling punching sibling? Is this right? Does this encourage peace within the family?

And PS - my arms are sore.