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Saturdays are special days. They are the only days we can all sleep in. Unfortunately my body doesn’t always cooperate. I wake up early when my blood sugar is inconveniently low. Or I wake up simply because my body is used to waking up early and it thinks it’s time. Forget how late I went to bed the night before. It’s 6:00, get up! getupgetupgetup! I do try to sleep in. Some Saturdays I actually succeed.

This was not one of those days. Everyone was up early for an annual community service project. The anticipation was killing all of us. We had no idea what to expect. Jobs range from gardening to painting to cleaning senior citizen homes to scraping gum at the high school and everything in between.

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Over 800 or 900 people signed up to help. More than half of those people were associated with Mormon Helping Hands. (the people in the yellow pinafores) The Lions Club provided breakfast. There were several types of muffins, fresh fruit, croissants, and a variety of beverage choices. I was impressed. The kids were hoping for donuts but were satisfied with the muffins.

It was a very cold morning. We were blessed with rain overnight and the winds were still blowing bitterness into our bones. The kids didn’t seem to mind. Gwen ran around on the grassy hill with a couple kids from our ward. I don’t know what they were playing but at one point I saw Zoe tackle Gwen to the ground. Gwen got up with the biggest smile on her face. Then Jack’s family came and he had to join in on the action. He was chasing Gwen and succeeded in tackling her to the ground. Again, she stood up laughing. Her feet and knees were soaked and she could not be happier to be alive.

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Assignments were kept on the down low. Even when people checked in they were given a number. Then they would go out to the gathering area and look for their bucket that were numbered numerically. Sort of. LaReen and her boys couldn’t find their bucket. It simply wasn’t there. Finally a guy brought it over and they learned they would be mulching. We weren’t given a number. We were the rovers. What that meant was anyone’s guess.

My family was all secretly hoping for a painting assignment. I had no idea what to expect. To be prepared for anything I told the kids to wear clothes they didn’t mind never seeing again. The boys were in pants that were a size too small and therefore several inches above their ankles. They looked ridiculous and I was embarrassed. We all put on ratty old t-shirts and wore sweatshirts we were willing to part with if needs be.

While a couple different people were taking turns saying basically the same thing in a different order with the mic, a young girl came by the rover pop up. She counted our family and another family. Twice. Then she said there were enough of us and she asked us to follow her. The other dad and Heath both asked her what we were doing. She wouldn’t say. I think she didn’t know but still I had to wonder what the conspiracy was all about.

We followed her to bucket #47 where we found out we too would be mulching. Gwen was disappointed we weren’t painting. Heath was grateful we weren’t painting house numbers on the curb. I was thrilled with mulching. I was a little jealous when I found out LaReen’s family would be doing fun gardening. We got to do it too!

Our team leader was a little frazzled. She had just found out that morning she was a team leader. Instructions seemed to be coming in slowly. I felt uncomfortable as I often do in public until I finally learned all I needed to know.

She took our group of 30 or 40 people over to a pile of mulch in the far end of the parking lot and told us to spread it in the flower beds. So half the people swarmed the small flower bed like locusts and started spreading the mulch in a thick layer. Because all we understood at that time was that huge pile of mulch was going to be distributed evenly in that one tiny spot. I felt like an idiot just standing there without a rake or shovel or really any idea of how to fit myself in to help.

The lady came back and told us we were spreading the mulch too thick. It was supposed to last through every island flower bed in the entire parking lot. We would have to fill large garbage cans with the mulch to move it where we needed it. So the shovels dug in between the pile and several cans and a wheelbarrow.

Heath asked specifically if we were supposed to mulch around the trees in the next island over. She said yes. Parker and I started dumping mulch by the trees. As soon as we did she told us no! Only around the flowers! Like I said, it took a minute to get all the instructions. The eager Girls Scouts scraped the mulch into their green buckets. The mistake was immediately forgotten and everyone settled into a pace of either spreading mulch or scooping it up to be moved.

Heath and Parker took a wheelbarrow across the parking lot to a flower bed. There was a dad and his two teenagers working. I joined and somehow found a rake. Finally I felt helpful. We moved from island to island spreading mulch.

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Gavin really enjoyed shoveling to fill wheelbarrows and cans. He was a hard worker. Later that evening he said service made him feel good inside. Now Gavin has a habit of saying what he knows he should say but I still hope he meant it. I think in some ways he did. He really enjoyed working next to other people “having legitimate conversations.”

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Parker looks like he’s goofing off. He really worked hard too. He loved pushing the wheelbarrow back and forth. We were more than halfway through the parking lot before the dad we were working with noticed a whole other pile on the opposite end of the parking lot! There was a lot less time wasted trudging so far to deliver mulch.

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This was pretty much Gwen all day. She was all smiles and loving every minute of helping. She especially loved it when we got close to the end. Not because we were almost done but because there were a lot of tight spots. It didn’t work to spread the mulch with the rakes, so we asked all the kids to spread mulch with their buckets. Gwen got our bucket out and worked shoulder to shoulder with her idols the Girls Scouts.

The buckets were a freebie item given away at checkin. We could have had five buckets but we figured one for our family was enough. And then it came in handy later. We also got a moisture detector that the kids keep putting in my plant. They keep berating me for how low the moisture level is. Heath finally told them this morning to leave me alone because we don’t want the plant to be sopping wet. That’s how the roots go moldy. The plant is fine. They just are very vigilant.

We also got a five minute shower timer. The kids love it. I love it too because it’s amazing to me how long their showers can be. What could take a young boy so long in the shower? He doesn’t have long hair that needs to be shampooed and conditioned separately. He certainly isn’t shaving. Get out of the shower already! I did not enjoy everyone’s quick showers at the same time. Short is good. Niagara Falls cold is not. The boys claimed their showers were cold but their bathroom was all steamy. I have never felt more cold in my life. 

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It was nice when the sun came out. I almost wanted to take my jacket off. When we finished mulching the flower beds another group asked us for help. They were mulching a large area that was tricky because of the steep slope. What made matters worse was they were moving the pile sideways and uphill. It was very ineffective. Heath was pouring wheelbarrow loads at the top and I was working them down. You can see the girl in the blue Pathways t-shirt behind the tree. She was using only her bucket to spread mulch. She was significantly faster than anyone else.

As a reward for a job well done, we went home and took our freezing cold showers. That wasn’t the reward! Then we went out for pizza. That was the reward. The kids worked hard and were thrilled with a trip to Round Table Pizza for lunch.

We were supposed to meet two other couples at 2:00 to clean the church. We finished lunch and decided to go early to knock out as much as we could before anyone else got there. It was interesting to have a cleaning assignment the same day as the community service project.

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Things went extra fast since we couldn’t clean the kitchen or the gym. A wedding reception was scheduled for that night. The Primary room was being prepped for a baptism so we didn’t have to go in there either. I don’t know why Gavin has his hands over his face. Maybe he can’t believe that Gwen and Parker are actually getting along for five seconds.

It was a little awkward when the father of the bride asked me if we were going to come that night. We never got an invitation! I knew his daughter was getting married but I didn’t know it was then. I just gave him a vague maybe and we never showed up because we were super tired after putting in over four hours of service with our kids. Heath’s Fitbit said he walked well over 10,000 steps before 4:00 pm.

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To see Gwen’s energy levels you would never know we had worked all day. She helped in the church. She cleaned the Sacrament prep room. And she dusted in the chapel. The rest of the time she more or less did this. Or followed Parker around driving him crazy. Silly kids.

Service is always its own reward. But today I was thrilled to be the recipient of service. For a year now I have been the Primary secretary. It has been incredibly difficult for me because I am sacrificing my own spiritual instruction to fulfill my responsibilities. This sacrifice has come at a time when I feel I need spiritual instruction the most. I get to enjoy all of Sacrament Meeting and believe me, I do! Then I listen to partial lessons in Primary because I always have to leave early to let the classes know it’s almost time to come back into the Primary room. Primary lessons are simple because they are for young children. And I don’t even get to sit through an entire lesson. Ever.

Today was Ward Conference. The Stake Primary Presidency traditionally takes over Primary. This year they cancelled classes so the teachers could enjoy all the meetings. They also requested only one Presidency member be present. The President was out of town this weekend and the remaining three of us volunteered to help the Stake leaders.

Apparently high councilmen and missionaries were asked to sit with the children to help maintain reverence. I was told I could go. Dumbfounded, I argued a little. “Are you sure you don’t need my help?” The answer was yes. That the Stake leaders do this so we can enjoy the rest of the meetings. Well you don’t have to ask me twice. I took her up on her offer and I found my husband. We sat through the Sunday School portion together with his arm around me. Then I went to Relief Society where I was surrounded by friends. It was a glorious day. I have never been more appreciative of the opportunity to be at church sitting through full lessons.

I didn’t serve all day yesterday for any reward. I do feel richly blessed and rewarded to have been asked to leave Primary today! It was the best.

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