Dr. Ava

During our simulation lab trainings in nursing school, we use real equipment to take care of high-tech mannequins. The copious amounts of medical supplies that never touch a real human but end up in the trash have always made my environmentalist spine twitch. So, I took to using urine catchment cups for salad dressing in my sack lunches, and Foley catheter bags to substitute for camel backs…  Then I learned that my niece had started playing doctor after a recent hospital visit. I rescued some of the safe and clean land-fill destined medical supplies and loaded them into a small black leather handbag from a thrift-store. I can’t lie. It was her favorite birthday gift.

I may not have influenced this little girl to be a doctor instead of a Disney princess when she grows up, but I do take pride in the fact that she slings a doctor bag over her shoulder when she heads out to the ball.

Here are some pictures of us playing together over Christmas:

The above collage is from my sister’s website

Fake skin recipe:

I made some flubber out of Metamucil and water, and we pretended it was skin in order to do some surgeries. Here’s the recipe for flubber, which can be made in about 10 minutes on the stove or in the microwave:

  1. In a saucepan mix about 1/2 tablespoon of Metamucil (or generic substitute) with 1 cup water. The quantities can easily be doubled or tripled. Add food coloring. I didn’t add any coloring so it would most closely resemble skin. Remember this is totally edible, so you could add a little powdered drink mix or flavored gelatin for color and flavor.
  2. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring continuously. Reduce heat to medium-high and continue stirring until it becomes thick and rubbery and is no longer sticky. The longer you cook it, the more stiff and rubbery it will become.
  3. Carefully pour (or flop) the hot flubber onto a plate or cookie sheet to cool. For skin, use a spatula to spread it into a thin layer while it is still hot.
  4. Let it cool before playing with it. Ideally it should not be sticky at all. If it is still sticky, plop it back into the sauce pan and cook it down a little more.
  5. Now you are ready to create tumors and moles and fake skin. Let the abdominal surgeries begin!


I’m glad my mom values family memories more than time spent cleaning a gallon of soapy water off her hard wood floors.

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Our recipe of choice was: 1 gallon water + 1 cup Joy dish soap + 2 Tbs glycerin.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t cold enough to get the bubble to freeze outside. But, we did develop some pretty impressive skills with our wands made from string and straws.

Next I want to try out this recipe: 12 cups water + 1 cup dish soap + 1 cup corn starch + 2 Tbs baking powder.

Owen, WI

I am slowly making my way thought photos from Christmas in Wisconsin. Here are some from a visit to Grandma & Gramps’ in Owen. They were both born and raised in this small town of just under 1,000 people.

I went with just my sibs, Aaron and Sarah. We have a large family, so it was fun to get Gr&Gr to ourselves. If you want to see what I (or Sarah or Aaron) might look like in 60 years, take a look at these photos:

And, of course, no trip to Owen is complete without a bowl of grandma’s fresh angel food cake, home-grown berries, and a heap of Maul’s icecream. (this local dairy basically pumps milk straight from the udder into the icecream-maker. Mmm.)


And, for your viewing pleasure, I made my very first .gif files.
We tried getting our grandparents (Harold and Fern) to make funny faces.

a magical childhood.

I had a magical childhood. My family lived in a large old Victorian house, where the ballroom-sized attic and the dungeon-like basement made for wonderful play-time adventures. The house is in a small town in southern Wisconsin, a place where I still know dozens of people when I walk into the grocery store. The small-ness of Baraboo made me feel very important. A large-sized photo of me made it into the city newspaper many times each year– for attending a parade, for reading a book on the steps of the library, for setting up a lemonade stand, for participating in a basketball game or a cross country race, for going to a highschool dance…

Today I was home sick (trying to sooth way a sore throat), and started to feel a little homesick (wishing I could just walk into that old familiar grocery store and chat with people who knew me back when I was an adorable toothless toddler). So, I was grateful that google images could take me on an at-a-distance tour of some of the places and things that contributed to my magical childhood. I thought you might like to join me, so I kept a log of my google-travels.

Here’s a view of one of my favorite hikes and swims, a 3 mile drive from my house. I went here with my mom this summer, and will have to share some of those photos soon:

Baraboo’s ‘International Crane Foundation‘, where you can see all 15 species of crane on one reserve. In grade school we learned how this organization brought the Whooping Crane from near extinction to it’s current thriving population. I felt so proud. It’s a magical thing to see this bird dance and play in the water near my home.


Aldo Leopold’s Shack is the site of both the writing of ‘A Sand County Almanac‘ and a contributor to my environmental ethic. It’s a ten minute drive from my house, but it took traveling half way around the world to discover how famous both Leopold and his shack are. I’m hoping some day to name a son Leopold.


Jewel Weed, Impatiens capensis, was one of my first magic plants. I learned to identify it very quickly because the juice from its stem will instantly remove the burn and sting from poison ivy or stinging nettle. And, to top it off, the seed pods spring out in confetti-like spirals when touched just right.

Devil’s Lake State Park. These bluffs were once part of an ancient mountain range. I remember feeling so proud when I learned that the ice-age glaciers stopped and melted when they reached these rocks. I felt like, if the bluffs could stop a glacier, they could protect me from anything.

Forevertron, a random sculpture behind Delaney’s Junk Yard. I don’t know the story behind it, but I always looked for it when we drove along Hwy 12 toward Madison.

Al Ringling Theater, modeled after a theater in Versailles (palace of the French Sun King). I performed in Cinderella and Pinocchio and numerous band and choir concerts on this stage.

The Circus World Museum: Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey. In the summer months, you can hear circus music all over town. I used to dream of being a contortionist and running away with the circus. It’s a shame that never happened. But, my mom does use elephant dung to fertilize her garden each summer.

The Ho-Chunk Nation. They treated me to my first pow-wow. Afterward, I begged my mom for fry bread so often that she taught me how to make it for myself.  (That was before I’d learned about the unfortunate and sad history of how fry-bread came to be a traditional food for Native Americans…)

Amish and Minnonites. My grandparents sold their farm to a Mennonite family, and I was lucky enough to become friends with Norma, a young girl my age. I felt sorry that Norma only went to school until she was 15, but I was also jealous of her connection to her community and the land. I still dream of moving back to be a midwife for the Minnonites…one day.

Canopied roads. I love the mountains of the west, but my soul feels most at home in a forest.

Well, thanks for joining that little journey.

1300 miles in 4 days.

This summer I had the road-trip of a lifetime with my now adult brothers who were little mysterious 10 and 12 year-olds when I moved out of the house, way-back-when. We also brought along my cousin who hadn’t been out of a big city for two years (he just returned home from an LDS mission in Korea).

In four days we saw Zion National Park, Coral Reef Sand Dunes, the Grand Canyon, Bryce, Calf Creek in Escalante, Capitol Reef, and Arches. (yeah, it was a little fast, but I’m glad my brothers could experience a little more of this amazing landscape before heading back to Wisconsin).

Thanks for the adventures Aaron, Jordan, and Craig!

Some highlights:

1. A reflection of the red rocks in the upper emerald pools, Zion.

2. An amazing sun-speckled spot to eat lunch… and feed a few mosquitos, Zion.

3. Coral Reef Sand Dunes, near Orderville.

4. Breathtaking sunrise, all to ourselves, at Imperial Point, Grand Canyon, AZ.

5. Hoodoos at Bryce Canyon National Park

6. Calf Creek, Escalante National Monument

7. Camping in Escalante, with my new car Artemis (more on her to come)…

8. Four elephants, Arches National Park

9. Delicate Arch (featured on Utah license plates), Arches.

10. And a striking full moon to guide us all the way back home!

Meet Ava.

Meet Ava. She’s a kindred spirit in the form of a 3-yr-old niece. Last time I flew out of Wisconsin, she held my hand the whole way to the airport.

Her dad just sent me this email:

“Hey sis, 

The other day we were outside enjoying the weather and Ava saw an airplane go overhead. She smiled, pointed to sky and yelled ‘Ani’s airplane!’ She considers all airplanes in the area yours since taking you to the airport.”

I love that spiral-topped girl.

…And more Christmas highlights…

I’ve slowly been sorting through my photos from Christmas. Enjoy!

Mom’s Charlie Brown Christmas tree. Her heart is always open for stray animals, wayward teenagers, and that one tree everyone else would just walk right past… For the last few years, she’s chopped her own tree from the lot of a friend who needs help thinning his forest. Thanks for your environmental consciousness and your big heart, mom.

Dad’s reading from Luke. Note how sad Peter looks. He was up at 5:00am, anxious for Christmas to start. It wasn’t until 10:30 that everyone else was up and ready. It’s hard to be the youngest. My favorite line from the Christmas reading came after dad gave some heartfelt thoughts about the humble circumstances surrounding Christ’s birth.  A brother piped in, “yeah, but wasn’t one of his first gifts gold?”

Mediterranean Theme. Years ago, after reading a ‘Christmas Around the World’ book, we decided to have themed Christmases. We took the legs off our dining room table and ate with chop sticks for our Japanese Christmas. We travelled to Utah for a new baby grandchild and ate leg of lamb and flat bread for our Bethlehem Christmas. We turned the heat down, wore night caps, and read Dickens’ Christmas Carol by candle light for our turn-of the-century Christmas. I believe it was the Czech Christmas when we piled straw under the kitchen table—turning it into a stable—and slept there Christmas eve. The year the teen-age boys demanded a turn to choose the theme, we had celebrated the holiday in a cabin, wore pajamas all day, ate microwave dinners, had a rootbeer-tasting competition with an accompanying belching competition, and decorated the indoor tree with huge outdoor lights and tin-can ornaments: “White Trash Christmas”. This year we brought back the Mediterranean theme. We like the food. Mom’s artisan bread, crackers, fruits, nuts, chicken and spinach pastries, smoked fish, hummus, gobs of delicious cheeses…

My brothers’ number one request of me when I go home is to give them massages. This year I got them all massage tools. Thanks for posing for this picture Ben.

Just before I took this next photo, Caleb picked up the back scratcher/ massage hook and asked, “What pre-historic animal am I?” *(if you’re not sure, you can find the answer at the end of this post).

The friendly squirrels. They kept us occupied for a while. This little guy is loving mom’s stale cornbread.

Sweet Ava. She was the only grandchild at Christmas this year, so she was extra spoiled.

We spent a good chunk of time playing memory with her Disney princess cards. Here she is on game three, counting up her wins.

And more games. We had a building competition to see who could construct the sturdiest structure in 30 minutes out of dried spaghetti, toothpicks, and marshmellows.

…just seconds before one of my legs broke under the weight of the CDs.

Pandemic. This was our favorite new game. In the half hour following this photo, I discovered a cure for a disease that was wreaking havoc in Southeast Asia. And, together with the help of my siblings and dear friend Kristen we saved the world from an impending pandemic.

A pregnant belly. 😉

Dad’s sisters. It’s non-stop laughter when they are around. It was great to catch up with each of them.

And a phone call with Sarah. She’s currently serving a mission in the Philippines. It was so wonderful to hear her voice. (Notice the green cell phone in the center of the table. The black phone beside that was connected to my brother and his family out in Utah). I sure miss my sister, but am so proud of the stellar work she is doing half way across the globe. Her experiences are documented here.

*ANSWER: Caleb is a raptor.