Monday, September 30, 2013

Liberty and Grace

Having been familiar with the Plan of Salvation and the war in heaven virtually my entire life, its always been hard for me to understand why any of our Father's children--let alone so many of them--would choose what was so obviously a bad idea, if not an impossible one, over a possibility of exaltation.

If you're not familiar, a quick recap:  LDS theology teaches that before man was created on earth, there was a grand council in Heaven, in which our Father presented his plan for us: we (at this point only spirits without flesh and bone) would receive physical bodies and come to earth, to learn and grow and progress, and then we would be judged according to the deeds we did during our time on earth, and receive a reward commensurate with our obedience and virtue.  Realizing that we were unperfected spirits, our Father knew that we would make many mistakes and missteps--particularly given the fact that, in order to learn by faith and prove ourselves, it would be necessary to place a veil of forgetfulness over our minds when we came to earth--and that we would be incapable of meeting the demands of eternal justice on our own, and would thus require a savior: a perfect, unblemished soul who could and would bear the burdens of us all, that we might, with obedience and repentance, return home and gain what our Father wanted each of us to have: an eternal joy and glory.  Jesus, the eldest of our Father's spirit children, stepped forward and volunteered to pay that price for us.

There was another who stepped forward, as well, and presented another plan.  Lucifer offered a guarantee of "success", as he defined it.  Through compulsion, without the ability to make our own decisions, we would all do what was necessary to receive a guarantee for some pittance of reward, but no one would be lost--no one would be cast out, as we would lack the opportunity to choose those things which might cause us to be cast out.  But neither would we ever attain Celestial glory.  Much like a parent who, for his own selfish indulgence, infantilizes his children, who are then incapable of doing much of what is considered "normal" adult things: doing productive work, raising a family, supporting a community, etc.  For this plan--compulsion and a tiny ration of our Father's lower kingdoms, with no opportunity to learn and grow--he expected worship and glory.  Heavenly Father rejected his plan, knowing that we could never develop the understanding and abilities necessary to become like Him if we were denied the opportunity to make our own decisions and accept responsibility for them.  Lucifer, full of foolish pride, rebelled.  He fought the Father, and those who had accepted the Savior's plan.  And--this is the part that always astonishes me--one third of all the hosts of heaven, a third of all of our Heavenly Father's spirit children, rebelled with and followed Lucifer.  They were forever cast out, losing all opportunity to ever progress, to ever receive a body.

As a child, I found it nearly impossible to understand how so many souls could be that foolish, that proud, that power hungry.  As I've gotten older, I've come to realize that, even among those souls who chose the Lord's way, there are many who would seemingly rather rely on a guaranteed ration, tiny but enough to survive on, than take responsibility for themselves, for their own decisions and future.  So many of us prefer a guarantee of a loaf of bread over the possibility of a feast, and, as many people find out the hard way, when you live that way it turns out that there's not really any guarantee you'll even get the loaf of bread.  You may stand on line all day only to go away empty handed.

Freedom is a bit scary.  Its messy, unpredictable, and failure is not only possible, but more or less inevitable.  It happens all the time.  Many people are so afraid of the idea of failure that they won't take enough responsibility for their lives to even attempt success.

I don't want to turn this into an economic diatribe, but there are certainly parallels.  I'm no free-market ideologue, but I do believe it to be the best system we can have in a fallen world, because, of all the systems that have been tried in human history, it provides the greatest amount of personal freedom and responsibility for the largest number of people, and because I believe in the law of the harvest: you reap what you sow.  I believe this to be true existentially, so why shouldn't it be true in regard to property and wealth?  I realize that the law of the harvest doesn't apply perfectly because of the frailties of men, as well as our poor prioritizing, but it comes by far the closest of any economic system we know.

Due to the environments I've lived in, I've had plenty of opportunity to watch people accept their small ration--demand their ration even--while making no visible efforts to improve their life or their station:  many seem to have little interest in doing anything other than securing that little ration and indulging the natural man, with little concern for the consequences.

I have come to believe that a great many of those souls who were lost in that first war were not so much power hungry (though I certainly believe more than a few of them were) as they were insecure souls terribly lacking in faith:  they saw many of their limits, the many risks of personal freedom, and didn't think they could do it.  A guaranteed ration, however small, seemed better than nothing, and they were convinced that without the ration, they get nothing.

In the temporal world, people who rail against free markets disparage the lack of a safety net for those who have hit hard times, and I'll concede that they have a point--far too often, too many of us are self-interested and stingy.  There is much goodness still, and I know--because I've seen it--that there are families, communities, and individuals who care about the people around them, and will step up and help when someone hits a wall.  Those who rail against the idea of leaving the responsibility to provide that help, that service, to families and communities would seem to lack faith in their fellow man.

But eternal salvation is not temporal economics.  It comes by grace.  Those rebellious souls didn't lack faith in their fellow men--they lacked faith in the Lord's redeeming love. What these insecure souls, with their tunnel vision on failure and loss, seemed not to understand, or believe, is that we all fail.   Repetitively.  We all sin and fall short of the glory of God.  But through the grace of the Savior, we do not remain spiritually indigent.  We have the opportunity to start afresh again, and again, and again.  And as we apply the lessons we learn from our mistakes, we get wiser, and we fail a little less often, or a bit less severely.  As we learn to recognize temptation better, and turn to the Savior sooner, and plead for his help more readily and humbly, we get stronger--things that once crippled us no longer even seem tempting.  Bit by bit, we improve.  It sounds counterintuitive when the Savior says, "Come unto me all ye who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. . .take my yoke upon you".  Basically,  it sounds like he says, "Hey, since you're tired from carrying a heavy burden, come over here and hitch yourself to my burden."  The reality is, the burden doesn't change much--we are still laden with weaknesses, sins, frailties and failures, but we are yoked to the Savior.  We're side by side with the most powerful companion in the eternity.  If we will just keep picking up our feet and moving forward, he'll shoulder most of the weight and supply most of the power.

Sometimes we get discouraged because we feel like we've been doing that, it started to get a little easier, and then all of the sudden the burden feels very heavy again.  Take heart: it means your share of the load is increasing a little, because your shoulders have gotten broader and your legs have gotten stronger, and the Lord sees that he can shift a little more weight your way and trust that you'll keep moving forward with everything you can muster.  Freedom is a weight: a responsibility, an opportunity.  Successfully moving forward isn't easy.  But no good thing ever is.

Don't fall for the old lie that a ration is enough--that you're too tired, too flawed, too weak.  There are celestial feasts that await you.

Hold On, Hope On

Its important to have the courage, when our stewardship requires it and the Holy Ghost prompts it, to be able to boldly instruct and admonish or testify to someone we love.

Just as important as boldness, however, is something that I think is much harder to learn:  there are times where the most effective thing we can do--perhaps sometimes the only thing we can do--is to be kind, be an example of faith and a happy giver of service, while simply patiently hoping.  Be kind, be forgiving, be an example of the Gospel in action to whatever degree you are able, and then just hope on.  Let your life be your testimony, in times when words fall on deaf ears.

Trust me, as dark as it can sometimes seem, there is always cause for hope.  So, as Elder Holland said, "Be kind, and be grateful that God is kind.  It is a happy way to live."

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Thursday, September 19, 2013


I was thinking the other night about how good my sisters, and all my siblings, really, have been to our family as we've been jumping hurdles the last couple years, and getting back on our feet.

My oldest sister, as I have often mentioned, always remembers us.  When we lived far away, she sent packages to the kids for every birthday and holiday, often filled with hand-made goodness she and her kids had crafted for us.  She still remembers every birthday, with generous presents, despite the fact that we are admittedly not as good at remembering and reciprocating.

When I was about at the lowest point I got to in the unemployment fiasco,  feeling far from my family, broke, nervous, stressed and depressed, I walked out to get the mail and found a card from my other big sister, expressing her love and concern, and a Visa gift card to use on whatever we might need.  The money was very, very much appreciated, but the thoughtfulness saved my sanity at a key moment.

When we made the decision, shortly thereafter, to move to Montana, I got an email from my sister-in-law, expressing that she understood how hard it must be to move, and what some of the challenges would be in moving back, but reminding me how much she loved me, how excited she was to see me, and what a great support system there was there.

A few days later, I got an email from my sister explaining that my sisters had wanted to make sure that my kids were included in the cousin Christmas present exchange (we always have the kids draw a cousin's name to buy a present for), but didn't want us stressing about the cost, so they'd pick up the kids one night and take them shopping for the presents so Doug and I could have a night off.

Did I mention that, on top of all that, my wonderful, brave Keilana who had been so sweet during the time that mommy and daddy were so stressed, and never asked for a thing, and never once complained about what we ate (even when it was really, really boring and really, really repetitive), and was so brave about leaving all her friends and the only home she'd known, desperately wanted an American Girl doll for Christmas that year?  Nearly all of the presents we gave the kids that year were homemade, mostly with supplies we already had or could scrounge up from friends and family.  I saw no way the doll was even a possibility.  My oldest sister's daughter had drawn Keilana's name in the present exchange, and insisted that they use some of the money they'd made at their end-of-the-summer yard sale to get Keilana the doll of the year--a little Hawaiian doll.  She loves that doll.  Nearly 2 years later, she sleeps with it every night, takes it on every trip, and its her favorite thing to play with.

When I expressed some minor annoyance that my phone breaking on the way up to Montana meant that I had no iPod, my brother brought me one.  He had two, so he cleared one and gave it to me.  When Doug finally got a job and was living away from us during the week, taking our one functioning computer with him, I asked if anyone had recommendations for a decent keyboard that would work with our iPad.  My sister just ordered one of the ones she liked from amazon and had it sent to me.

My other sister constantly spoiled my kids, often taking my little girls just to give me a break, buying Kylie leggings and giving her shoes, and sending Doug and I out on dates.

The most amazing part of all of this?  None of it was a big deal, to any of them.  They've never mentioned it and seemed genuinely glad to do it.  That's just who they are.

People have sometimes expressed a bit of amazement or disbelief that our family is close and gets along well and is kind.  And while I think there is a bit of divine providence involved in the wonderful family we have, to dismiss it all as luck would be a great disservice to my parents, and grandparents.  My siblings are those people largely because my parents are those people.

I mentioned that I needed to get a hard drive to store scans of family records/photos/letters.  Thanks to my dad and amazon, one showed up on my door step a few days later.  He's always doing things like that.  I remember when I was 20, I was home in Montana because my Grandma was dying, and I had come from warm, coastal California with my 4-month-old completely unprepared for the Montana November weather.  I mentioned, in passing, to someone else, that I needed to find a bunting or something for her.  The next day, Dad came home from some shopping with a brand new, cute little pink fuzzy bunting and said, "Is this the kind of thing you were talking about?"  Last summer, as we were getting moved, I asked if anyone knew where we could get some milk crates.  He asked what I needed them for, and I explained that I was going to stack them and lash them together to put kids' clothes in for now, rather than buy dressers.  The next day he showed up with two of the big cube organizers you can buy at Home Depot and a bunch of the fabric drawers that go in them, and said, "Will these work?"

My mom is always meeting needs before they've even occurred to me, and then some.  She's always happily serving her kids and grandkids, and its never a big deal.  She just quietly takes care of things.  Most people aren't as generous and attentive to their own parents as she has been to her mother-in-law. I'm pretty sure that she's gone on about twice as many ambulance calls as anyone else who has ever been on the crew, mostly as a volunteer--on her own time, without pay.  As an adult, its easy to look back and realize all the ways my mom made sacrifices for us.  Its a great credit to her that, growing up, unless we were really paying attention, it would've been very easy for kids, being naturally self-focused, to miss that. There was never any stress directed at us, there was never any martyrdom, she never seemed put upon.  She was just a mom, happily taking care of, and taking an interest in, her kids.  She helped my brothers buy guitars and went to our band concerts.  She paid athletic fees and tried to make it to as many football games, volleyball games and track meets, and softball games as she could.  She and Dad both took us on trips, and to museums and historical sites and anywhere else that might be interesting to us.  She did all she could nurture our interests.

And my parents did all those things for us while very actively serving extended family and the community.  My grandparents were much the same.  My parents--talented, intelligent, and educated--chose a "small" life, one that allowed us to grow up in a way where our grandparents and extended family were part of our daily life, where community involvement was necessary to keep our small community humming along.  We saw all that.  We saw them going on ambulance calls, helping put together PTA plays, creating whole new educational programs from scratch, and the list goes on and on.  They expected us to be kind to each other, not by yelling at us when we weren't, but by teaching us to calmly solve problems and settle disputes.

My siblings and I are not all alike.  We don't all see eye to eye on everything.  All our priorities are not necessarily the same.  But my parents did a wonderful job of teaching us, by example, that nothing is more important that family, and that families are best built through generosity, both of means and of heart.  I could never possibly express enough gratitude for those lessons, but I do hope that I can improve in "paying it forward", and in teaching my children the same, so that one day they will have in each other the tremendous support system that I have in my brothers and sisters.


I know there are certain scents that are supposed to have specific effects on our psyche, but I've never had much luck with the studied aromatherapy doing much for me.

However, I had to light the pilot on our heater today (it was cold enough that I couldn't get either of the little girls to want to do anything but sit in their jammies under a blanket), and having the heater on for the first time in months was oddly calming.

Then I remembered that the scents that always make me feel like everything is going to be OK are old heaters, wood smoke, slightly damp leaves and soil, and coniferous forest.  Any of those smells, and I instantly feel at ease and comfortable in the world.

There are lots of happy, secure, contented memories with those smells hanging in the background.

I'm excited for fall.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Power and Faith

Doug and I were recently discussing the behavior of an acquaintance who has decided that he must reject good things that he has been taught, on the basis of the belief that his genetics determine who he must be.

That is an all-too-easy trap to fall into.  The natural man--however its particularities manifest in our specific combination of genes, learned behaviors and individual temptations and limitations--is a difficult thing to contend with.  Making matters more challenging, and often more confusing, is an adversary who is constantly whispering, "This is who you are.  Just give in."

A phrase that always makes me bristle a little bit, whether spoken in indignant hostility or weary resignation, is "That's just who I am."

No.  You can choose who you are.  That is not to say that you aren't born with very real, innate challenges, and that more aren't heaped on you during childhood and adolescence by the decisions of those around you, over which you have little control.  But ultimately, you decide who you are and what you do.  So high cholesterol runs in the family; that doesn't mean you sit on your backside all day, eating donuts and bacon, because its just a bad gene and there's nothing you can do about it.  No, you get up off your duff and take action--you make a smarter, healthier choice.  And you know what?  You may exercise faithfully day in, day out, and eat salads and veggies and whole wheat and very little meat or sugar and still have high cholesterol, because sometimes the frailty or weakness never goes away entirely, but if you stay dedicated to choosing something better, you could extend your life (and good health) for another 10 or 15 years.

One of the lies that the adversary falls back on most often and most effectively is the thought that you can't be anything other than the sum of your animal impulses or personal frailties.  That you are what you are, and its not only pointless, but counterproductive to fight that.  But remember that when God cast Lucifer out of the garden, he told the serpent that while he would have the power to bruise the heels of the children of Adam and Eve, we would have the power to crush his head.  Satan wants you to believe that he's more powerful than you are.  He wants you to believe that your genetics or upbringing are insurmountable--so a part of who you are that you cannot change them, and shouldn't.

But you are child of God.  You have been lovingly created by an all-powerful Father, in His image, with the potential and capacity to become all that he is.  That is real power.  Remember, when Satan tries to get you to misuse the gift that is your body that he is doing so because he forfeited that gift when he rebelled.  All beings who have bodies have power of those who don't.  Remember that.  When you've landed flat on your back and you feel broken and stuck, remember that you are a child of God with the power to choose who and what you will be.  Seek God's grace to lift you from the ground, and then get up and walk forward, even if you have to limp for a while.  You'll get there.  He'll make up the difference.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Your body is a temple, pt 1

One of the silliest ideas out there is protesting "blaming the victim" of sexual assaults by parading around dressed like floozies.

There is never, ever, ever, ever a justification for sexually assaulting another human being.  It is by far one of the most despicable, contemptible things that one person can do to another.  Often, the victims fit a very narrow type due to some particular pathology of the perpetrator.  All too often, victims are chosen for their proximity--far too frequently, girls and women are sexually abused or assaulted by family members.  But, unless we want our daughters to be victims, we need them to know that many victims are simply chosen randomly, based on whatever opportunities present themselves to the predators.

We tell our girls to be strong and smart, but then we teach them how to be victims.  We teach them that flaunting their sexuality in front of every Tom, Dick and Harry empowers them.  Sure, it gives them lots of attention--but mostly from Dicks.  The feeling of power that one gets from attention is mostly an illusion.  We don't need to have our girls shrouded in hijabs to protect their innocence, but we are doing them a disservice when we fail to teach them that, though showing a lot of cleavage or wearing shorts with a 2-inch inseam will get them noticed, it gets them noticed mostly by pigs.  Teach your girls that a man who only notices you in a short skirt and a low-cut shirt is a man whose attention is not worth having.

If you dress as though your body is free for the world to enjoy, there are sick jerks who will take the implication quite seriously.  Don't wear a short, tight, low-cut dress and then complain that no one is listening to you or taking you seriously.  When you see a guy parading around in a Speedo, are you thinking to yourself, "That looks like an intelligent guy who has interesting things to say."?  If you hang out in seedy bars, its likely that most of the men you come across will be seedy characters.  If you go to a lot of drunken parties, most of the men around you are likely to be drunk, and less in control of their thoughts and their hands.  If you're drinking, you are not responsible for someone assaulting you, but you are responsible for the poor decisions that might put you in a more vulnerable position.  Teaching our daughters that there are certain behaviors, manners of dress, or places where they are more likely to be victimized is not "slut shaming":  its facing reality and teaching them to take control of their lives in a responsible way, thus making them less likely to be in a situation where a predator even has the opportunity to make them a victim.

Teach your daughters that their bodies are temples: beautiful, tremendously powerful, and sacred. We don't shield the things of the temple from the world because we are ashamed of them, we shield them because they are too precious and important to give away like old pennies.  When we expose the sacred to the world, it loses virtue, and thus power.  You can be beautiful and feminine and strong without making yourself a sexual object.  Teach your daughters how much joy there is in being healthy and active and strong.

But also teach your daughters that they are more than their bodies--that they are eternal souls with infinite, eternal worth.  Teach them they are loved unconditionally for who they are, regardless of what they look like.  They don't need their appearance validated by men (or other women, for that matter) to be beautiful or powerful.  We shudder at Chinese foot-binding, but shrug at women paying thousands of dollars to have a man slice their flesh, removing things they deem unperfect, or inserting things they think will make them more perfect.  We shake our heads condescendingly at tribal women enduring great pain to gradually elongate their necks with braces, but think nothing of women (and men) injecting toxins into their faces to smooth out small wrinkles, or having surgeons slice, drill and grind away bits of bone, cartilage and flesh that they don't find to their liking.

Stop teaching girls to be owned by their bodies. As C.S. Lewis said, "You don't have a soul, you are a soul; you have a body."  Make sure they know that.  They are children of God, who has blessed them with a remarkable body with which to navigate this mortal sphere.  To show gratitude for this marvelous gift, they ought to care for it wisely, and not cast their pearls before swine.  After all, the swine will just gobble up and destroy the pearls, never knowing what they had.  But the loss of those pearls to the one who had possessed them is quite devastating.

Should've written that down. . .

I have noticed that there are quite a few people in my classes who never take notes: they take photos of the Smartboard or projector image, but they never write anything down.

I would be curious to know how they do on quizzes and tests, because I'm quite certain that that wouldn't go well for me.  Half of my "absorbing the material" happens in the physical and mental act of writing down the important stuff.  I pay better attention to what's being said when I have to take good notes, but its more than that: with anything, be it a thought of my own or something I've gotten from a lecture or textbook, or an experience I've had, if I write it down I am about 10 times more likely to remember it, even if I then lose that record, than I am if I simply heard or read or even experienced it.  Writing helps seal it in to my memory.

I think that's one of the reasons that LDS leaders are constantly admonishing us to keep a journal.  There are lots of reasons for that: in the mental processes that we engage while writing, we are likely to discover insights and lessons that we missed in the initial thought or experience; it is much easier for us to learn lessons if we have a record there to go back to (even the strongest human memory is fallible); those who come after us can learn much about us, about spiritual lessons we learned, or simply about the world at the time we were in it from our records.  But I think part of it is in the discipline of making ourselves "write that down", things are imprinted more thoroughly on our memory, and we are more likely to remember and be able to draw on those things, even if we sadly never return to the record.

We're studying algebra and human physiology--if not everyone in the class remembers everything they want to, cest la vie.  But when it comes to the marvelous and challenging experiences of raising children, building an eternal marriage, leaping personal hurdles, and building meaningful relationships with the important people in your life, write it down.  It takes time and discipline, but you'll be grateful that you did.  Its amazing how much we forget, and how quickly, if we don't make a record for ourselves.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Kylie's First Day

Kylie started school yesterday.
She was the one I was most nervous about:
though she acts with confidence in familiar places,
she still tends to have a real strong shy, scared streak
(remember, this is the child that, 
from 8 weeks old
until about 18 months old
cried any time I left.
The whole time I was gone).
But she was ready:
She had met her teachers
(there are two of them, in a classroom of 20 kids)
a few weeks earlier,
at home,
and then had been to her classroom
for intake screenings
and parent meetings.

She's not real concerned with what she'll be 
when she grows up;
she's pretty content to just be, now.
She loves to build with blocks,
and loves, loves, loves
to draw and cut.
She is nimble with scissors
(she can cut zig-zags and small circles)
and she draws houses
and people and tries animals.
She's fascinated by nearly everything,
as many 4-year-olds are,
but she probably loves dance
more than anything else.
She dances ballet
(and is surprisingly agile and coordinated),
imitating with great accuracy
anything she can pick up from 
Angelina Ballerina,
or YouTube videos of ballet.
But she just loves to move her body,
and will make up her own dances
for just about any music.

Can you tell its particularly hard to let this one go?
She's my little buddy.
She chats with me during the day,
tells me jokes,
snuggles with me,
colors with me and reads with me.
When her older siblings aren't around,
she's pretty low key,
and she's a great helper.
She loves to have jobs
and help with chores.
She's pretty independent.

I tried to get a picture of the little girls together,
but Keira was pouting by then:
She picked out her own outfit,
except I wouldn't let her take off the leggings
(it was a bit chilly)
and she was really, really annoyed about it.
She always lets us know
when she's annoyed about anything. 
Fortunately, she's just as quick
to let us know when she's happy about something.

Kylie only missed the Kindergarten cut off
by about 2 months.
Hopefully her Head Start teachers
can keep her busy.
She can write her own name
(though she still gets self-conscious and refuses
if anyone is paying too close attention).
She can count pretty high,
and has started doing addition lately
(only up to 5+5--she has to stop when she runs out of fingers).

And socially and verbally,
she's pretty mature.
She's independent,
a wonderful sharer and turn-taker,
usually quite generous and patient,
playful, clever and affectionate.

I hope they appreciate having her, 
because I'm going to miss her.
Even if it is only for 16 hours a week.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

First Day of School!

Its that time of year!
Kylie doesn't start preschool until next week,
but these two were off to school this morning:

 Keilana is in 4th grade this year:
She wants to be a vet.
She believes she's a cowgirl.
She's happiest when she's surrounded by friends.
Talkative, friendly and sensitive,
she loves to draw and write and read,
but usually loves to be outside,
or on an adventure,
more than anything.
She loves new and exciting.

 Dylan is in second grade this year:
He wants to be a zoologist
or a marine biologist,
and he's off to a good start.
He loves learning new facts,
especially about animals,
and he retains remarkable amounts of info
and details
in that little head of his.
He has an active, intricate imagination,
and loves involving other people in it,
but can entertain himself with his own stories
for hours on end.
The only thing he loves more than his animal books
is his Lego collection.

 Keilana doesn't need anybody to walk her in anymore,
even on the first day.
She's always been a teensy bit shy, 
but brave,
and usually just needed a little hand on the first day.
Not this year.
Hopped out at the playground,
with a wave and a happy,
"See you after school, Mom!"

 Everybody heads to their first day
of second grade
with a couple of ballerinas in tow, right?
These little girls love their brother.
And he loves them.

He found his "locker",
one of the things he was most excited about this year.

 Not only can he get across the monkey bars,
he can skip rings now.
So big.

 Keira gave one of the slides a try.
She loves slides.

This little doe hopped by the playground,
just as the majority of students got there,
and stayed close,
watching all the kids play,
and a lot of them watched back
(though deer in town are nearly as common as dogs in town here,
so a lot of kids paid no attention to her).

I guess on the first day of school,
mamas of all kinds
watch a little closer.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Saying goodbye to summer. . .

We took a little mini vacation this weekend before the kids start school tomorrow.

We decided to head up to Great Falls, 
and we took the kids to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.
and they were prepared:
We walked through the trip that the Corps of Discovery made.
The museum is really well done--
interesting for adults,
and engaging for kids.

Our little Corps of Discovery,
Dylan and Kylie modeling what they wore on the way out,
Keilana and Kylie wearing what they had on
by the time they made it home.

The kids were all very impressed by the dugout canoe.
They had to haul these 2,000 pound bad boys
up this grade
for 18 days at a stretch,
mostly bare-chested and wearing moccasins.
They were tough guys.

We went out to the actual falls, 
and enjoyed Ryan Island
(if you're in the Great Falls area, check it out--
its worth the drive out, beautiful)
I can see how these would be a pretty major hindrance
to traveling upstream in a canoe. 
They are really impressive,
even with the dam built on top of them.

After a night at a hotel
(I sometimes forget how terribly exciting
hotels are for kids--
especially kids who rarely stay in them--
and hotels with pools and slides
are the most exciting of all),
we headed up to the highline
to hop over to Glacier.

Keira and Kylie loved the phones
in the visitor's center
that played the audio. 

We made a quick stop at Hungry Horse
on the way out,
and they had a water table outside
that demonstrated how the dam worked.
Everybody thought that was pretty cool.

We headed to Yaya and Papa's house,
where we got to meet little Zayda,
and hold her lots on Sunday afternoon.

 While holding Zayda, 
I spent almost all of Sunday afternoon
just hanging out and chatting
with my mom and my sisters.
Just the four of us.
I honestly don't know when the last time that happened was.

We went up to visit Grandma, too,
of course,
and Keira has become quite fond of Grandma Elda.
Grandma was pretty thrilled that last week,
she got to be with her youngest great-grandbaby
and her oldest grandchild
at the same time.

We've done a few other fun things the last month.
There's been lots of bike riding
(in this case, home from the park)

And heading to Deer Lodge,
for the fair,
where they visited piglets,
critiqued the dairy cow showing,
and cheered on the team ropers.

And of course,
we finished up our summer activities at Grant Kohrs.
Here, Keilana dumps a little hay on Dylan
using a mini-model of the beaver slide.
After trying to work this one by herself, 
she understood why they needed a whole team of draft horses
to work the big one.

Its been a good summer.
Its going to be a busy year.
School starts tomorrow
(well, for these two monkeys, anyway--
I started last week, 
and Kylie starts next week).

Wish us luck.

We'll miss summer.