Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Independence and Pioneer Day Celebrating

We went to see fireworks at Thanksgiving Point again this year for the 4th of July. Now that we're a year wiser, we picked a perfect spot to put our blanket and chairs. The kids each had a bag of popcorn and another bag of taffy. I don't know why, but Brian and I were surprised that the taffy was gone at 9:05 and we still had 55 minutes before fireworks. No cooperation. But! The kids danced and ran in circles like the crazy people they are, then two out of three thoroughly enjoyed the fireworks. (Emil: "Is this going to take so long?")
Oh, and we let them wear pajamas. 
Taffy! It was pretty much 100% better than getting taffy thrown at you during the parade.
Bridget is rocking out.
There we were.

A few months ago my Dad was asked to speak at the Pioneer Day program in Oakley, Idaho. My family lived in Oakley from 1978 to 1984, but my Grandpa Curtis Lee grew up there and my great grandparents lived there as well. Dad taught at the LDS Seminary while we lived there. I'm the luckiest because I still have a best friend from our years in Oakley, Kellie - and Kellie's parents still live in Oakley. When we found out Dad would be speaking, we decided to celebrate the 24th of July there. The first person I called was Kellie and we made a plan to take Bridget on a tour of our childhood friendship. First, though, we acquainted the boys with Nick and Max's Grandma's House.
The tiny, battery-operated four-wheeler that the kids can drive all by themselves. Which they did until the battery was dead, dead, dead. Kellie and I left with Bridget (with an errand from her Mom and Dad to buy ice cream for root beer floats) and the boys took a ride in the mule to see Dead Dog Hollow.

First stop, Kellie's old house on the hill (behind us). It was in the very spot where we're standing that I got stung by a bee. Kellie and I were on our bikes, carrying our wrap around dance skirts to her house to wear while we acted out "Summer Lovin'" which would be playing on the record player. The bee started buzzing around my head and Kellie tried to shoo it away by batting at it with her dance skirt. The bee stung me in the head and we cried the rest of the way to Kellie's house where Mandy (Kellie's older sister) removed the stinger for me. Moving on...
Sitting awkwardly in front of my old house on the poke-y grass. They've taken down the poplar trees in front of the house and painted the upper part white, but the stone still looks the same. Also, I don't think they've painted the pillars on the porch in the last 35 years.
See?! Here we are in the shade of those poplar trees in 1980? Maybe 1981. Clockwise: Sheri, Jennie, Uncle Larry, Danell, Katy, Me, Michael and David.
I closed this door on the people working in the offices so we could get this photo.
And there we are in front of the same door in 1981-ish. Can you see my Grandpa Furniss in the reflection on the door? He was using his Hasselblad camera, that's why he's looking down. I think this was during the Thanksgiving holiday and I remember going on this walk with Grandpa. At the time I thought it was weird to take photos of stuff we saw every day. Now I know it's brilliant.
The famous "Oakley Rock" near the high school. They moved it to this spot, but it's the same rock.

We had a wonderful photo of Jen we were trying to recreate and Kellie was shouting directions at Bridget and making her laugh while I took the picture (with my phone, by the way - yeah, we were 45 minutes into our trip when I realized my camera was at home), so it didn't turn out exactly like the old one.
Can you spot all the differences? :) (Hmm - biggest one so far, no window on the side of the building!)
This is the bridge just before the old grade school, which has been turned into a private residence. Pretty much everything about the sidewalk and the bridge is exactly the same. Bridget is collecting rocks to throw into the canal. Yep, also the same. :)

We got home from our tour and we had forgotten the ice cream. We had one job! Oh, well. I'm pretty sure the kids had had their lifetime quota of sugar between the car ride and Grandma Strauss's house. We visited and played for a little longer, then went to Burley to stay the night in a hotel. The next morning, the kids stayed at Strauss's with Marva while Neil, Mike, Kellie, Brian and I went to the LDS stake center for the program. They honored some wonderful pioneers, had an amazing musical number (Come, Come Ye Saints sung by Archibald women), then Dad spoke. His talk was about turning our hearts to our ancestors. The highlights were excerpts from his journals that he kept while we lived in Oakley. Big laughs, big cries, all wonderful. When we came back to get the kids for the barbeque lunch, this is what we found:
Living large! Emil and Colin's clothes were draped over furniture and on the floor in four different rooms inside the house. They'd been going from the hot tub to the four-wheeler and back to the hot tub while were gone. :) Hahahahaha! I love it. Emil had started calling Marva, "Grandma." It's a good thing we left when we did.
At the lunch we ran into another grade school friend, Cara. Kellie, Cara, Annalee, and I all have birthdays in late December. When we were young, our moms had us celebrate together sometimes. One year they took us to the Nutcracker Ballet in Burley. Afterward Cara asked her parents why they'd taken us to a "rated R ballet." Men in ballet tights was too much information for 9 year-old girls, I guess. :) Annalee still lives in Oakley, but she wasn't at the lunch for our impromptu reunion.
It was hard for Grandma Peggy to catch our boys, but she needed kisses!
There's my Dad, the man of the hour. 
One last flashback photo. My parents are asleep on their feet! This is inside our house in Oakley on the orange couch in the front room with the orange carpet. Orange. That poor, poor couch. 

There you go! Lots of nostalgia for a little more than 24 hours in Oakley. :)

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

June 2015 Book Report

I know. We're halfway through July and I'm just getting to this. My children are with me all the time. No, really. All the time. Every night I fall asleep as I'm getting into bed and all my chores are accompanied by their questions instead of an Audible book. I need to try harder, but not yet. So, this report is late and also incomplete since I only read two books in June. 

1. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
It's my classic for last month. After failing with The Brothers Karamozov, I had to have something I knew I would love. Anne Shirley is all optimism. Her imagination is so rich that she can find a way to be happy no matter what. That's why you can't help but love her - she is happy. 

Montgomery's characterizations are clever. We know exactly what kind of person Mrs. Rachel Lynde is based on Anne quoting her. Now we know that Mrs. Lynde is saying all these things to or in front of Anne, which means Mrs. Lynde is talking all the time. Hilarious! And Marilla and Matthew stretching into new selves at the end of their lives because they have a child to take care of. Marilla worries constantly about spoiling Anne and teaching her the right way while Matthew wants to make sure Anne knows how much he cares about her and his confidence in her. Children do change everything, don't they.

The humor in Anne of Green Gables is so sweet. "Now you see why I can't be perfectly happy. Nobody could who had red hair." "You'd find it easier to be bad than good if you had red hair. People who haven't red hair don't know what trouble is." :) I'm always with Marilla when she tells Anne to hold her tongue for a minute or to stop being a drama queen (not Marilla's words). But that imagination of Anne's is so winning! "Oh, Marilla, looking forward to things is half the pleasure of them." One of my favorite lines in the book is Rachel Lynde's description of Anne after she'd lived at Green Gables for three years. "She makes them [the other girls at school] look kind of common and overdone - something like them white June lilies she calls narcissus alongside of the big, red peonies, that's what." 

And toward the end of the book Anne is waiting to hear if she won a scholarship and talking to her friends about it. "Next to trying and winning, the best thing is trying and failing." For real, right? The book had me teary many times. Mostly because of Matthew. If you've only watched the fabulous mini-series of Anne of Green Gables, the book is definitely worth your time.

2. All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot
I listened to this one narrated by Christopher Timothy. Herriot's story-telling style is delightful and the narration was superb, but the stories themselves kind of got old after several chapters. It's all about Herriot's real-life experiences as a country veterinarian in northern England in the 1920s (I think). He loves his work, he loves animals, he loves the countryside. It's all very soothing.

I think Herriot was at his best when he described dogs. He gets them. My favorite patient of his was a pampered dog name Tricky. Tricky writes to his "Uncle Herriot" and sends him packages and invitations to parties. It's perfect. 

The same thing happened to me with All Creatures Great and Small as with Call the Midwife. I'm more interested in the emotional happenings in the story than I am the nuts and bolts of operations. A cow's temperature, the feel of a tumor inside a horse, etc. Nope. Not for me. And it was just a bunch of stories without a real point. As always, there doesn't need to be a point to make it a great reading experience, but it did kind of bore me. 

I read somewhere that this book and others by Herriot are very popular in England and there's a TV show based on the books. Christopher Timothy plays Herriot in the TV show. It's wholesome and feel-good stuff, if you care to check it out.


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Timpanogos Caves Conquered

After having so much fun doing the Junior Ranger Program in Yellowstone, I looked up all the national monuments and parks that have a Junior Ranger Program to see what else Bridget could do. There are a lot in Utah and Idaho and one fairly close at Timpanogos Caves. Hot dog! I called and got tickets for the hike and a tour of the caves. (It's the only way to go. You can't just wake up one morning and decide to go hike Timpanogos Caves - you have to get your tickets ahead of time.) We got there an hour before the hike started and happened upon a forest fire prevention class with a special guest appearance by Smokey the Bear. Awesome.
Just like Yellowstone, every ranger (most of them were women, btw) we came across was so enthusiastic about her job. When we asked for the junior ranger booklet, they were so proud of Bridget before she'd even done anything. It's kind of awesome. 
We heard the story of Smokey the Bear - he was a real bear. When he was a cub he was in a forest fire in New Mexico. He climbed up a tree to be safe, but he was badly burned in the fire. A fireman found him and a ranger took him home and cared for him until he'd healed. (Sounds like something my Dad's Uncle Ray would do.) When they came to the picture of Smokey grown up and in his new home at a zoo in Washington D.C., he was wearing dungarees and a hat and standing up like a man. That picture gave me the giggles, so I stared at Bridget until she laughed too. Hahahaha! A bear wearing pants.

Then it was time to start the hike. We were warned to stay on the trail, pass people single file, don't stop on the red and yellow marks on the trail because that's where the rocks fall the most, oh - and if you see a rattlesnake stay 10 feet away. DUDE! Never ruin my life by saying that to Bridget. Me: "Isn't this an amazing view?!" Bridget: "WAS THAT A RATTLESNAKE?" Sigh. Slowly the awesomeness of what we were doing won her over and she stopped being a Nervous Nellie.
She thought this was cool. Ha! Not even close to the coolest thing we saw at Timpanogos Caves.
One of the first views of the valley. That's steam rising from the ground because of THE HEAT.
Halfway - still looking pretty fresh.
Bridget spotted this lizard.
This was at the 3/4 of the way rest stop. I got up to go and Bridget held perfectly still. This is what I saw when I turned to see why she wasn't following me. The girl and the squirrel regarded each other...
Toward the top, one of the few places with a railing. Bridget and I both observed several times that this hike would be a nightmare with her brothers.

Once we'd made it to the caves (a mile and a half vertical hike), we got right into a tour with Ranger Curtis, who, in addition to being a ranger, is also a huge goofball. He reminded me of Dwight Shrute. Sometimes I wanted Ranger Curtis to pipe down and let us enjoy the caves, but he was bursting with information. My favorite was the big open area with the chocolate fountain-looking rock formation and when Ranger Curtis turned off the lights and his flashlight and we were in total darkness. I held Bridget's hand for that, but I could tell she wasn't scared and neither was I. Very cool. We came out of the cave, where it was 45 degrees, back to the 105 degree day and Bridget interviewed Ranger Curtis (one of her badge requirements). Then we filled out some other stuff in her booklet that we learned on our tour.
After the cave tour, sweaty.
This is right outside the cave exit. Amazing!
Taking the Junior Ranger Pledge. Then the ranger who did the forest fire class cheered and shouted and called attention to Bridget so that everyone there could cheer for her too. So fun. (I think there is a hairdo code for female rangers with gray hair. Or that lady's triplet sisters work in Yellowstone.)

In conclusion, Best Day Ever. For real, find a junior ranger program near you and do it with your 6 to 12 year-old kids. It's fantastic.

Monday, June 29, 2015

June Birthdays and Father's Day Style

We celebrated Father's Day at the beginning of the month (it worked so well with Mother's Day) with Brian's family. When June started, it was pleasant to be outside - and it's always fun to be at Grandma and Grandpa's house with all the cousins.
Dena found a newspaper article from Harold's football days in Springville and had it printed for him. She chose this article in particular because it refers to Harold as "The Bruiser." :)
Grandpa and Bridget, kind enough to stop eating and pose together. Bridget injured herself on her scooter the day before this party.
In addition to Father's Day we were there to celebrate these two being a year older. The two most handsome birthday boy and girl in all the land.
They got what is now their traditional Caramel Cake. Grandma provided ice cream so that we actually had a piece of cake to take home for Brian and Bridget's breakfast. :)
Not only did Brian and Bridget request the cake, but Brian asked for extra frosting in the middle.
We were recently home from Yellowstone and we had to show everyone the video of the kids seeing Old Faithful. 
Janessa pitched to Bridget and Emil and sometimes Colin, when Colin wasn't busy throwing that bear (his "stuffy") and teasing Nate.

Bridget wanted some practice because she had a softball camp in June. It was two days with the local high school's girls softball team. They've been state champions for two years in a row! Bridget is trying as many things as she can so that we can find her people and her thing. You know what I mean.
Even with a friend there (Sami, right next to Bridget), this was Bridget's face for softball camp. I should have taken an after picture, though. All smiles.

Also at the beginning of June, Brian took the training wheels off Emil and Colin's bike. Emil took off, wobbling and crashing all the way down the street, but always getting up. Colin crashed once and was d-o-n-e with that nonsense. After just a few hours of practice, Emil was turning and riding up on the curb of the driveway. His grin almost came off his face, he was so proud of himself. He even went to a few neighbors' houses and told them to come out and watch him on his bike. We have kind neighbors. :)

For Brian's birthday, the kids spent the night before at Grandma's house with Nate and Abby. Brian and I went to an early movie (Avengers: Age of Ultron - you see one building blow up, you've seen them all, amIright?), then out to eat, then home to watch the Netflix DVD we've had at our house for three months (Draft Day - skip that one for sure, if you haven't already). I'm glad it's not our normal life - it used to be when we were trying to have a family for ten years - but it was kind of nice to just do that stuff without someone having a meltdown. (I did have to use the restroom during the Avengers movie. I didn't miss anything.) The next morning, Brian's birthday, I made him open his present - a new phone - then go back to sleep while it charged. We went to the temple before going back to pick up the kids from their tired grandparents.

Six days later it was Bridget's birthday. She asked for a dog and a tablet. My heart is forever hardened against getting a dog. It will not happen. I don't care how cute the kids are with a dog. She did get a tablet, though. Her brothers gave her an instruction book for doing her doll's hair and a body board. Grandma Peggy made her an apron and Annalee an apron. She got some fancy pens with feathers on the ends and two journals from her birth mother, and a jewelry box from her birth mother's parents. It was a pretty sweet haul.
We planned a pool party for the next day when the three friends she invited could all be there, so this was Bridget for most of her birthday:
Fine by me! For one day, anyway. It's been unbearably hot the last week or so and this is secretly all I feel like doing too. On Friday, though, we were definitely in the heat at the local pool. Public pools are a faithful nemesis of mine. Especially when they're crowded. More proof that I will do anything for Bridget. Except get a dog.
These four were so adorable playing in the pool. (Through the magic of cropping you can't tell how crowded it was.) They made up routines for me to judge. Then we went to Pizza Pie Cafe for dinner with Daddy and the brothers.
It was the day of the mini float parade here in town and luckily Bridget is friends with Clara and Clara's mom is up to sitting on the curb in 108 degree heat to watch a parade. We left Bridget with Clara's family to enjoy the parade while Brian, the boys and I collapsed in air conditioned comfort back at our house. The two-day celebration ended in perfect happiness for Bridget. She's nine now!