{7QuickTakes} Weekly mishmash: Vacation recap edition

 

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Redfish Lake, Idaho

Well, hello again!  We recently got back from our summer trip.  The house is still a mess disaster with piles of laundry and camping stuff in my living room waiting to be cleaned.  Sometimes I wish going on vacation wasn’t so much work!  But it was a good time.  Here are some highlights:

  1.  SHOSHONE FALLS  img_1722

We’ve called southern Idaho home for about 15 years and have never been to visit this phenomenal natural wonder.  It is near Twin Falls, Idaho, and is a natural falls on the Snake River.  This is from Wikipedia : “Sometimes called the “Niagara of the West,” Shoshone Falls is 212 feet high—45 feet higher than Niagara Falls—and flows over a rim nearly 1,000 feet wide.”  Pretty incredible!  And very loud!

2.    BOISE

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Me and the kids getting cozy with Idaho.

So, all my photos turned out really blurry.  I think because my lens had fingerprints or something.  Most likely of a child-size nature.  But you get the general (blurry) idea.  We headed to our state’s capital for a few days, to cycle around their lovely Greenbelt and attend a family showing of Macbeth at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival.  Bellie recently won a really snazzy new mountain bike from her school in a bike challenge – and was really excited to be able to test it out on our trip.

loved Macbeth.  I realized that I had never actually seen a Shakespeare play professionally performed before.  (Even though I of course studied them in school and was able to see snippets performed at Shakespeare’s hometown of Stratford-Upon-Avon last summer!)  I had prepped the kids before time that the play *might be a little scary* and the *witches were just ladies like Mommy all dressed up to look freaky*.  We also got children’s editions of Macbeth from the library so they would be familiar with the story.  Verdict: My kids were entertained and really enjoyed the play!  My 3-year-old was telling people afterwards that the “witches were not scary, they were like crows” (there was some cool bird-like choreography going on with them) and kept repeating, “Macbeth!  Macbeth!” ominously to her siblings.  My boys loved the swordplay.

 

 

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Bellie and me before the show.  They let people purchase seats onstage just like in Shakespeare’s day.

 

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View of the stage after the show.  It was such a lovely evening!

3.  THE BUTT TREE

My kids discovered this.  I think this photo is pretty self-explanatory.

 

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You, lucky reader, can find this tree yourself in Boise’s lovely Julia Davis park near the Rose Garden!!

 

4.    IDAHO CITY

Idaho City is about an hour northeast of Boise.  It is an old gold-rush town and still has lots of old buildings from the 1860s.  I could have probably spent all day there, but the rest of my family is not as fascinated by history as I am so I just made them tour the old cemetery with me.  The brochure said that only about 30 of the 200 identified graves from the early days contained people who died of natural causes.

We came across several 19th Century children’s graves, which prompted a great discussion with the kids about the benefits of childhood immunizations.  (as in, “Aren’t you glad Mommy and Daddy tortured you by making you get your shots?  These five siblings died when the diphtheria epidemic of 1888 swept through town.  And now we have an inoculation for that so it won’t happen to you.”)  A little morbid, I know…but the kids can do the math and they ask.  Big eyes from the kids, but I think it brought home to them how lucky they are in this day and age with our medical advances.

5.   STANLEY, REDFISH LAKE, and the SAWTOOTH MOUNTAINS

This area gets really busy in the summer, but when we went it was still “shoulder season”.  The campground was pretty quiet, but still full.  The water was c-c-c-c-cold.  For reasons unknown to me, that didn’t deter the children from attempting to swim.  Silly kids.  Anyhow, it was gorgeous.  We rode bikes, fished, hiked, and rode horses.  At the end of the week I really needed a shower.  And we had extremely tame little chipmunk friends who lived at our campsite (which we admired from a distance and kept our food away from because plague is going around in Idaho and is carried by those types of rodents!)

 

6.  SUN VALLEY/KETCHUM

Basically, by the time we got to Sun Valley we were ready to stay in a hotel.  And I am pretty sure the highlight of the trip for the kids was watching tv and swimming at the hotel. (It is so extremely HARD to go without electronic devices for a week.  I mean, we really tortured those children).  We just relaxed and ate at some fun restaurants (KB’s – yummiest burritos ever!).  I went to my favorite Sun Valley area bookstore, Iconoclast Books & Gifts and also visited the Gold Mine thrift shop in Ketchum (resort communities have the most luxurious thrift stores!!  I scored big with the name brands!)

I was in the middle of reading The Paris Wife by Paula McLain and got really intrigued by Ernest Hemingway and wanted to do the whole Hemingway pilgrimage in Ketchum but ran out of time.  Oh well, maybe next time.

The Paris Wife

7.    This is not related to our travels, but I take my first Teaching Certification test on Friday!!!  I am scared.  But I feel prepared.  So, we shall see.  I will let you know how it goes!  Send me good thoughts!

 

Hope everyone has a lovely Father’s Day tomorrow!  Talk to you again soon!

 

 

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Siblings Abroad: My wild European Adventure

I have been sort-of persona non here-a this summer, sorry about that!  But I have a lot to share!  I DID take my Mommy trip (sans family but avec my littlest brother) to Europe at the beginning of August.  And it. Was. Fabulous.  I plan to write a more detailed set of posts all about it soon, but here are a few highlights:

DUBLIN, IRELAND

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This is me and my brother outside the gates of the Guinness Brewery (or, as I like to think of it,  “Disneyland for ale-drinkers”)

THE HARBOR AT COBH, IRELAND

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Most likely, if you have Irish ancestry, your forbears left from this port.

COUNTY KERRY, IRELAND

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It was a dreary, wet, rainy day but Ireland was still magnificent.

LONDON, ENGLAND

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I didn’t realize it at the time, but when we heard Big Ben chime the hour it was one of the last times it would chime for the next couple of years!  They are going to be doing extensive repairs on it through 2019 and the bell (which is the actual “Big Ben”, not the clock) will be out of commission.  It was lovely to hear!

STRATFORD-UPON-AVON

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I love these Tudor windowpanes!  This is at Shakespeare’s Schoolroom/ former town Guildhall.

WARWICK CASTLE

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I’ve been slightly obsessed with Warwick Castle and “Warwick the Kingmaker” since I saw the Starz miniseries The White Queen.  Both my brother and I really thought seeing this fabulously maintained and imposing historical structure a highlight of our trip!

PARIS, FRANCE

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This was my second trip to Paris and it is still my favorite city in the whole world!  A lot has changed since 1999, but Paris still had all of its old charm in abundance.  Je t’aime, Paris!

THE LOIRE VALLEY, FRANCE

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Chateaux country!!!  I think I may retire here…there are so many chateaux to choose from, and a dilapidated one probably wouldn’t cost too much, right?  One of my favorite things about the Loire Valley are the gorgeous gardens and flowers everywhere.  (This is the Chateau du Langeais, isn’t it delightful?)

NORMANDY

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The World War II sites at Utah and Omaha Beaches were poignant reminders that we owe so much to those brave young men (and women) who gave their lives to stop Hitler.

BELLEAU-WOOD, FRANCE

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This World War I battle site and village were of special interest to my brother and me for two reasons: our great-uncle fought here and was permanently blinded by German mustard-gas; and US Marine Corps history was made here when those men held the line and kept the enemy from advancing toward Paris.  My brother (a former Marine) was honored to see where the men who came before him fought so bravely.

More soon!!

{7QuickTakes} Spring Break Edition

The calendar finally says it’s spring!  Hooray!  Be sure to check with Kelly to see if everyone else over there is as excited about it as I am!

Here’s what has been going on here lately:

ONE.

This last week was my older children’s spring break.  Because Hubby had to work most of the week (ugh…he is on an insane schedule currently!) we were only able to take a few days away.  Our destination: Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

I am a mountain girl and I love me some Tetons.  We stayed up at the ski resort but, mainly due to the expense, did not downhill ski.  We settled for going into Grand Teton National Park and doing some cross-country skiing.  This was the first time Spike got on a pair of skis and he was a trooper!

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The couple that skiis together…is probably yelling at their kids through the course of this photo shoot because the oldest is hogging the camera, the middle two want to take pictures too, and the youngest one is trying to eat something in the snow that looks suspiciously like a chocolate egg but is more likely elk poo.

TWO.

This Lenten fast from alcohol is hard for me, not gonna lie.  Before, I enjoyed my glass of wine with dinner most nights and usually a cocktail or two on the weekends.  It was something I looked forward to.  Especially after a long day of dealing with the demands of several small (and oftimes crabby) people.  And now, I realize, maybe my alcohol consumption was tipping the scales at being a little too much.  Particularly because I miss it so much after only a few weeks of abstaining!  Yikes.  But maybe that is good.  To step back and reassess exactly how much I had been drinking.  Along with that, just to see if I can fill my craving for something more healthy (or…how about spiritual…since this is Lent, after all?).  But still it is hard.  I absolutely love wine.400px-glass_of_red_wine

THREE.

Earlier this week the two younger ones helped me clean.  I have to remember that it is the effort that counts.  Even if I have to clean up after them cleaning up.

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This is right before she ran off to do something else and slipped dramatically in her puddle of doom.

FOUR.

My framing project of a few weeks back is complete!  I ended up ordering a custom frame for the oddly-shaped oblong poster (which STILL wound up costing around $70 – AND I had to assemble it myself) and then bought a $15 poster frame at Michael’s for the other one.  The problem was this generic frame was slightly too big and I was faced with the problem of trying to make my own mat.  I had initially thought of buying matting board and cutting it to size, but ended up using a burlap ribbon I had lying around.  I glued it onto the backing and it seemed to work OK.  I was worried it was going to look goofy, but I am pretty happy with how it turned out.

FIVE.

Evvie (at 2 years 2 months) is currently in the violent throws of the Terrible Twos.  Today she had a knock-down drag out tantrum because I refused to let her play with a colorful feminine sanitary product she found in my purse.  This morning at breakfast she was upset that she wasn’t permitted to eat off her sister’s plate. She tossed her bacon onto the floor in disgust, loudly proclaimed, “No WAY, Mom!”  After a two-second pout, she announced, “I hung-y” (toddler speak for “hungry”), climbed down off her chair and, before I could stop her, grabbed the floored bacon and put it in her mouth.  Mommy’s gray hairs are fast appearing thanks to this one!

SIX

I have been really, really craving some alone time lately.  I am an INTJ on the Briggs Meyers personality scale, and that basically means “I Need To Just be alone sometimes for my sanity”.  Just kidding.  But it does mean that I am an introvert who recharges by being by my lonesome.  Which is really hard to do when you’ve got a family that includes young and hyper-demanding children.  Whom I love very much and would not trade for the world.  Just need a break from once in a while.

In the last two weeks, I have gotten the following exciting and fun opportunities to recharge:

1) One hour sans kids at the Public Library.  This pretty much is like winning the lottery for me.  I mean, going to the library alone. Never. Happens.  It was so invigorating.  I got to look at books without a devious toddler methodically playing snowplow with the books on the bottom shelf.  I got to read the summary on the back of a novel that looked interesting without my preschooler tugging my shirt and whining that this was boooooring.  I didn’t have to be embarrassed by the stern-looking adult book section librarian when my older two decided to illustrate their maturity to the masses by kicking each other and then announcing in very-unacceptable-for-the-library voices that it’s her/his fault, not mine!  Sigh.  Heavenly.

2) Annual lady exam at the gynecologist.  Well, the exam was not the rejuvenating experience to which I refer.  It was the waiting room.  Alone.  I got to read a magazine.

I guess I need to take what I can get!

SEVEN.

It was with great sadness that I heard about the latest terrorist attack.  In London, no less, where I anticipate going later this year.  With every fresh and horrific (and need I say, senseless) tragedy of this kind that occurs around the world there is an aura that we are not safe.  There is an insidious yet persistent scuttlebutt that fuels our worries: We are not safe when we travel, we are not safe when we are at home.  There is terror and mayhem lurking everywhere.  There is evil everywhere and there is no recourse for us.

Pretty much every time there is another extremist attack, another bombing or assailant driving a truck into crowds of people, my mother contacts me in fear and disgust.  Fear generally provokes her to say how crazy it seems to her that I want to travel to Europe. (I think she would be happier if I had announced I was going to sneak into and flamboyantly wave an American flag in North Korea).  Every new terror attack seems to cement in her mind that Europe is a dangerous, unstable place teaming with evil-minded religious zealots.  And she tries to make me feel nervous and bad about my decision to travel.

The truth is: travel will always be a bit dangerous.  It is fraught with risks.  But then again, so is life.  You have the option to embrace it, and open yourself to the opportunity for growth, or you can “play it safe” and stay home.  At home, you may never put yourself in the kind of situations where you might be unsafe, but expanding your horizons is a whole lot harder when you’re standing in one place.

So, that is my operative philosophy going forward.  I definitely hope and pray that a terror attack doesn’t ever affect my daily life or that of my loved ones.  I pray for the victims and for the souls and minds of the attackers who feel murder and mayhem is the answer.  But I am not cancelling my trip because it comes with risk (sorry, Mom!).  And, like wiser people have said before me, that the best way to stand up to terrorism is to show the terrorists that we will not be cowed by attempts to make us so.

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Have a wonderful week!

 

 

{7QuickTakes} in the midst of family dance party!!!!

So, it is Friday night and Hubby just called to say he has to stay late at work…ugh.  So I sit here with a glass of vino and KidzBop playing on the iPhone while the kiddos run around like banshees.  TGIF!  Here’s some more excitement akin to the party over at Kelly’s.

ONE.

Not gonna lie, some days parenting is hard.  Sometimes the kids are running around like banshees (oops, already mentioned that…mommy brain…) and you have a sinus infection and the LAST THING you wanna do is make another friggin’ peanut butter sandwich.  But then oldest daughter has to do her reading homework and decides it is a good idea to read to younger brother while channeling her first-grade teacher at storytime.  I had to smile.  So cute.

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TWO

I am not the most confident person in the world.  Luckily, as an adult I have been nowhere near where I was in that regard in high school!  However, I have been going through a rough patch lately.  I am just feeling…I don’t know….frumpy and uncool.  I think it has to do with it being February.  Not a fan of this month.  We’ve all been sick and stir-crazy and I am ready for spring!  But I think that since I’ve been fighting negativity on that front it has come over to bite me on the confidence front as well.  Nothing specific, just an overwhelming feeling of disliking myself.  This, too, shall pass, I know.

THREE.

But…but…something wonderful has happened to my sweet younger sis!  She is engaged!  Yay!  So happy for her and her young man.  We are looking forward to a fall wedding.

FOUR.

Since I suffer from depression, I have always been worried about my children ending up suffering from those sort of things as well.  My oldest, Junior, has always been extremely sensitive and intense.  This year he has been suffering from panic attacks and seems to experience anxiety that is really hard to get a handle on.  We have been in communication with his school counselor and she has been really great about teaching him relaxation techniques and just being available for him to visit with about his concerns.  However, it is scary when he gets so worked up that he can’t calm himself down.  He has especially been stressed-out this week about his upcoming karate testing and a school program where he has to memorize a speech.  It is really hard for me, as a parent, trying to help him through dealing with this anxiety, especially since he is only in 4th grade!  It seems too young to have the weight of the world on your shoulders.

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My favorite stress relief: the sunset out my back porch:-)

FIVE.

Bellie sat and watched the entire 3-episode special of Rick Steves’ Travel Skills television shows with me.  At first she was irritated that I wanted to watch that while I folded laundry (folding, which I hate…sometimes the only thing that gets me through is Rick Steves and wine), but then she was kind-of interested in the lovely locales Rick was visiting.  I think she was most impressed with the tiny Swiss alpine villages.  (I hope we can take the kids over there some day!)

SIX.

Oh the Trolls soundrack.  We have moved on from KidzBop.  Which I have something of an affinity for…I now have small ballerinas dancing to Anna Kendrick’s version of The Sound of Silence.

SEVEN.

I made a promise last weekend that I had to keep.  It was hard.

I let my kids do painting.

It was stressful.  It was messy.  Spike dumped an entire water cup of green-tinted water on the floor but did not seem concerned in the least.  I think they had fun.  And that is what motherhood is all about.

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I can’t resist making my children’s dreams come true.

Blessings for a great week ahead!

 

 

 

 

{7QuickTakes} Weekly mishmash: Vol. 15

I am feeling rather caught up in the whole “blahs of winter” right now.  It is still a little chilly, still a little wintry (although the ugly kind of winter, where the snow is partially melted and icy and dirty) and the sun plays hide and seek most days.  Add that to a severe cold…riiiiiiiiight after recovering sufficiently from the stomach flu….and I am feeling a little gloomy.

Of course it helps to remember that spring is in sight, that the blahs give away to warmer temperatures and being able to spend time outdoors without coats on.  So we soldier on…enjoy these Quick Takes and be sure to check out some more at Kelly’s !

ONE

I scored big at the Used Book Sale (referenced last week)!  Two giant piles of books for $8.00.  I am glad I brought along Junior, who helped me lug my treasures to my car.

TWO.

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Is this not the cutest Valentine ever?  I especially love the Quarter.  Not sure if the drawing is supposed to be of the Eiffel Tower or Big Ben, but I truly appreciated how the kids worked together to make this extremely thoughtful card.

THREE.

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I love this poster by Arnold Lobel

I have these really cute literary posters that I want to get framed and hang up in the kid’s “book corner”.  The problem is that they are odd sizes, and I am pretty sure I won’t be able to locate ready-made frames and will have to get them specially framed, which I hear is expensive.  I do want them framed, but wondering if there are cheaper options for odd specifications?  I am not very skilled at the whole DIY-thing so making the frames myself is probably not a great option.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FOUR.

I am thrilled to be able to bring dinner to a friend and her husband who recently adopted a baby.  They have had dreams of parenthood for years and I am so happy that their prayers have been answered!  I am so awed by how the Lord works through adoption.  Adoption has definitely proven to be a  blessing in my own (extended) family.  My little niece is so fiercely loved.  Thanks be to God!

FIVE.

Sometimes you just want to rub a corn dog on your head. #Spikesgreatideas

SIX.

I had a weird dream last night where all these people were being assassinated at our house (thanks, I think to the Kim Jong Nam assassination).  But apparently Dream Me was less concerned about people meeting their deaths at my home than that fact affecting our social life.  “Nobody’s going to want to come to our house anymore,” Dream Me told Dream Hubby.

SEVEN.

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Castle Combe, a Cotswold Village in Wiltshire. Courtesy of Saffron Blaze, via http://www.mackenzie.co

Trying to make a final decision on a mini-bus tour from London.  In the running: Warwick Castle, Oxford and Stratford-Upon-Avon; some sort of Cotswolds-centric tour; and Dover, Leeds Castle, and Canterbury.  Any suggestions?  I love the extensive history of Warwick Castle (plus what historian doesn’t find Warwick the Kingmaker fascinating – I loved his portrayal in the White Queen miniseries).  The Cotswolds, of course, are delightfully English.  And I have always wanted to see the White Cliffs of Dover.  Also, one of my best friends used to live in Canterbury and I would love to see where St. Thomas à Becket was martyred.  Hard decisions when you’ve only got one day to devote to one of these tours!

Wishing you a blessed week!

 

{7QuickTakes}Weekly mishmash: Vol.13

Good day to you!  I am sitting at a local coffeeshop – by myself (doesn’t that sound scandalous?) – and I am happy to get my 7QTs in today!  See more at Kelly’s!

ONE

Hubby got back from a business trip yesterday.  I was really happy to get him back.  So were the kids.  He was only gone 5 days, but it was a LOOOONNNNNGGGG 5 days.  (See below Quick Take)

TWO

Stomach bugs while (temporarily) single parenting suck.  Stomach bugs while single parenting especially suck when they only hit said temporarily single parent while the children being parented are their own boisterous, exuberant, curious, and healthy selves.  I am glad that I was not having to parent sick kids while being sick myself, but….still.  I’m a complainer.  Edit: Bellie came home from school sick today….so….this might be the beginning of a fun weekend.  At least Hubby is home!

THREE

Six months to EUROPE!!!!!!!  I am feeling like everything is falling into place and can barely contain my excitement.  I need to work on the guilt feelings, though.  I mean, I can hardly sneak off to a coffee shop by myself on a Friday morning for an hour leaving Hubby with the two little ones without feeling like a complete worthless human being who is shirking her family responsibilities!  I will have to explore this idea more in future posts.

FOUR

Loving Victoria on Masterpiece.  I do think Jenna Coleman is a bit too pretty to play the illustrious queen, but oh well.  I am slightly obsessed with the Victorian Era, so the costumes and the hairstyles are completely thrilling to me.  Plus I think Victoria (who interestingly enough, was against women’s suffrage) was one of the most influential and fascinating women in the history of our modern world.

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Jenna Coleman as Queen Victoria at her coronation.  (Courtesy pbs.org)

FIVE

My mom is doing better.  She came through her surgery (to repair her leg) just fine, and is currently on the mend.  Talking to her on the phone nowadays she seems to be back to her old self.  It will still be weeks before she is permitted to put weight on her leg, but she seems to be wheeling herself around her house just fine, and other than being confined to the ground floor of her home, is doing well.  I have taken the suggestion to call her often – and I have been touching base with her via text daily, calling every other day.  If nothing else, I hope that this whole experience has convinced her that her children really do care about her.  We were all forced to break out of our mental business to actually reach out and make an effort to keep in touch.

SIX

I’ve got a dear friend who is going through a divorce.

There has been a group of us who have been friends for a long time.  We did a Bible study about Catholic Apologetics several years back together; it was so enlightening and educational for us, plus it brought us closer together as friends.  It definitely ranks as one of the best experiences I’ve had, and I have always felt that those of us who participated share a special bond.

Our families have hung out often, our husbands have gone out for beers together and helped each other with home improvement projects.  Each year we go to Bear Lake, Utah camping as a group and traditionally spent Super Bowl Sunday together.  Our kids are all friends.

Over Christmas, one of the couples split up under tense circumstances.  We are friends with both of them.  We like and respect both of them and want what is best for their kids, and their family as a whole.    But my friends and I are having a hard time wishing them a DIVORCE.  Especially in light of Catholic teaching, which we studied together in detail all those years ago.  We are not privy to all the information about the circumstances of their separation, of course.  There seem to be some seemingly insurmountable obstacles for them to stay together.  But….still……ugh.

It’s a sad situation all around.  We have tried to be supportive of our friend without bashing her husband.  We have been praying for them.  A lot.  And I truly believe that God has a plan for their family.

Still, anyone have any words of wisdom about supporting a friend (couple?) who is going through a divorce?  What are our duties as Christian/ Catholic friends?  Friends who believe in and confess the sanctity of marriage, especially when both parties in a divorce proceeding are convinced there is no hope for their marriage?  I am struggling here!

SEVEN

Well, as I type this, I can’t avoid the obvious:  my cuticles are a horror.  Winter wreaks havoc on my hands!  The air is so dry here in Idaho that dry skin is a matter of fact, but in winter it takes it up a notch!  My poor kids have inherited my problem; Bellie’s hands are dry and red ALL WINTER LONG unless she remembers to always always wear gloves when she goes outside (which doesn’t usually happen).   All of my kids seem to suffer from excema (particularly on their cheeks) during the winter.  My solution: Eucerin is my friend.  I buy an industrial size of the tub at the beginning of the winter.

 

 

I hope all of you are keeping warm and protecting your skin this winter!  Have a delightful weekend!

Explorations great and small

The whole idea of the “one word” for the year as your overarching New Year’s resolution has intrigued me.  Not because I intentionally eschew resolutions, but because it does seem a simple way of creating a theme, or focus, maybe even a “mission statement” for the year ahead.

This year, my word is EXPLORE.

The most obvious incarnation of this word in my year ahead will be to travel parts of the world I have never explored before.  But the word also means “explore” in a more general sense: to see the familiar with new eyes.  To make a more thorough examination of my surroundings; to recreate the experience of being a tourist in my own town and region.

It struck me, one time when I was traveling to a distant area of our own country, that the people in this quaint, fascinating, and beautiful place actually got to live here all the time.  How cool, and how lucky for them!  I doubted they ever got sick of their adorable town, never took for granted the history that made up their communal understanding of who they were, never felt bored whenever they drove across town to Walmart, or longed to visit anywhere else.

But the truth is, familiarity gets the better of all of us.  No matter what fabulous location you may inhabit, or what lovely views you have out of your window every day, the vast majority of us eventually take it for granted.  It is human nature.  It’s easy to look past the sights you see each day amidst the routine of daily life.

Travel can help.  Every time I return from a trip, I am struck anew with how much I love where I live.  After having been a tourist for a few days or a week, I am still stuck in “tourist mode” and it seems that mentality transfers over for the next few days.  I think, “What do visitors find interesting about my town?”  and, “What would I write about in a guidebook to this place?”.  It helps me to refocus on the wonder and pleasure of my own “place I call home”.

Those of us who lack the means or time to travel can still experience this.  It takes a little more imagination, but trying to see things differently is the name of the game.  Is there some restaurant you’ve been dying to try?  A museum exhibit that you haven’t seen yet?  Maybe visit a new park and try to write a review in your mind of its best features and how you might recommend it to a friend?  Any places outside the city limits but within a short drive that might offer a great picnic spot or opportunity for a vigorous easy hike (hey, I’ve got energetic, yet easily tired – go figure – youngsters!)  What sites might you encourage out-of-town friends or relatives to visit?  Which places in town would rank as your “Must See” sights?  Blogger Shauna Fontaine at Days to Come has this great post that also has some great tips to get you thinking about that!

Another aspect of “explore” for me is also to spend a little more quality time with myself this year.  Through prayer/meditation I really would like to become a little more centered, a little more OK with myself, get a little better understanding of who it is God wants me to be.  Getting time to explore one’s own psyche is pretty difficult when chasing one’s kiddos around all day long, but I want to try to make it a priority this year.

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{7QuickTakes} Weekly mishmash: Vol 12

Lately it has been sort-of hit or miss with {7QT} but I’m here today!  Check out other more motivated bloggers at Kelly’s!

ONE.

Happy Inauguration Day!  There are Americans who are happy, Americans who are sad, Americans who are angry, and Americans who are resigned today.  But the point is, this is how democracy works.  This is how America works.  And I still think we have the greatest political system in the world.  Sometimes we don’t like the outcome of elections, or Congressional votes, or laws that are made.  And that’s OK.  Because we are able to disagree civilly, and work together to come to a compromise.  We can air our grievances, and work to change things we don’t like.  We are free to speak out.  And that’s pretty awesome because there are countries in the world who do not have that option.

At any rate, one of the paramount aspects of our political system is a peaceful transition of power (another thing many countries in the world do not have – hello Gambia).  So, like him or hate him, ecstatic or morose (or, I guess, the negligible percentage of Americans who just plain don’t care one way or the other about him according to the media), President Trump is the newest leader of this great nation and the amazing people within.

TWO.

I got a new phone.  I didn’t want to, my Samsung Galaxy III was working just fine, thank you.  Except for that I couldn’t get picture messages and it deleted all my contacts on me.  Hubby wanted to graduate from a 2000’s-era flip phone to something a little more sophisticated, for work, you know.  And since we were on different carriers, two different bills, two different kinds of coverage, we decided to simplify the matter by just getting matching phones.  Which is our romantic way of celebrating Valentine’s Day early.  (Isn’t that how the Millenials do it anyhow?  Skip the flowers & chocolates, opt for Apple products?)

THREE.

My baby turned 2 earlier this month.  Supposedly, she is our last one (according to Hubby, but I could easily be talked into another!) so I am going through the whole gamut of emotions relating to that and all my babies getting older.  Of course, kids growing older comes with its benefits obviously: they can strap themselves in the car, put on their own clothes, and can generally follow directions.  But, baby-lover that I am, I miss those days of little bundles sleeping all day and cuddling while breastfeeding.   I am getting more sleep these days, which is a plus.  But….still.  Sigh.

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Princess Evvie turned 2!

FOUR.

………….I am whisper-typing this, in case the Universe decides to play a trick on me….but I *think* I can claim victory on the Spike Potty Training journey.  He has been a trooper since Christmas, with accidents few and far between.  He really does excellent when we are out and about in town, it’s mainly when he is at home and distracted by tv or a complicated Lego creation that he sometimes forgets to go until it’s too late.  Yay!

FIVE

In just a few short weeks it will be….SIX MONTHS TO EUROPE!!!  More on that later.  So excited!!  It is really feeling more real now that everything is coming together, tickets have been purchased, reservations have been made.

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Coming soon!

SIX

One of the hardest things about living so far away from family is that you are not available to help in times of need.  Two days after Christmas, my mother fell and broke her leg really badly.  She is extremely independent and lives on her own, so this has caused her to completely reorder her life (including her willingness to ask for and receive help).  She is now recovering from a successful surgery but will be unable to bear weight on the offending limb for a few months.  In the meantime, my geographically-closer siblings have really stepped up to the plate and helped her with transport and shopping and stopping by to check on her morning and night.  My sister has taken on the bulk of this, for which I am really appreciative, because it is next to impossible for me to drop everything here and go there, what with kids in school, a husband on back-to-back business trips, as well as financial concerns.  It is hard feeling so impotent when it comes to helping out.  Anyone have any experience with this?  When you are unable to physically be there for someone, how can you Be There for someone?  Aside from sending money, what are some things I could do, both for my mother and my siblings who are taking on the responsibility for caring for her?

SEVEN.

Listening to Arianna Huffington’s Thrive on audiobook.

41a2znogcclIt is forcing me to think differently about our society’s definition of “success” as well as how to take better care of myself.  Huffington’s main mantra: Get enough sleep.  So I am trying.  The goal is to go to bed earlier so I can get up at 6 with the kids before school after getting a healthy 8 hours of sleep.  So far, so good.  I am hoping that in the long run I have more energy and am more focused.  Generally, I stay up late at night to “get stuff done”(which, incidentally, is what my mother always did growing up – and subsequently was a zombie all day) and then proceed to hit a slump shortly after lunch, where the world looks bleak and I am too tired to function.  Yesterday after 8 hours of sleep I didn’t feel that slump, which was awesome!  Hoping that will continue.  I will keep you posted.

Have a delightful week!  We’ll chat again soon!

 

 

 

 

{7QuickTakes}Weekly mishmash: New Year’s edition and 2016 catch-up

Happy New Year!  And happy Epiphany, or Twelfth Night, if you will.  Here’s a long-awaited update about what’s been going on around here:

One

Six weeks ago Junior and I traveled to Washington, D.C. to celebrate my sister’s graduation from a prestigious law enforcement academy.  We had a great time.  It was so fun to spend time with my oldest son while showing him important places in America’s heritage.  We visited George Washington’s plantation home, Mount Vernon; went to dinner at a happenin’ farm-to-table restaurant called Founding Farmers; had a tour of the Capitol building; saw aviation history at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum; practiced our espionage skills at the International Spy Museum; and attended a delightful performance of A Christmas Carol at Ford’s Theatre.  Junior and I got to spend time with his grandmother who we don’t see very often, and my awesome sister who I miss being away from very much!  It was a great long weekend.

Two

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Spike channeled Garth on Thanksgiving.

Three

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For my birthday, Hubby got me a new chandelier for our two-story stairwell.  Before it was a flush mount (read: boring) light fixture that I didn’t feel did the space any favors.  We got this chandelier at a really great Black Friday weekend sale and Hubby put it up before my early- December birthday.  I love it.  It really adds a new level of style to the steps!

Four

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Bellie performed in her 3rd annual Nutcracker.  It is a lot of rehearsals and late nights, but I really love being able to watch her and relive my glory days as an amateur ballerina!

Five

We had a lovely and relaxing Christmas.  Of course I entertained all sorts of ideas about crafts to do and cookies to make, but I only really got around to making a gingerbread house with the kids.  And I guess that’s enough!

Six

We spent the new year at dear friends of ours’s cabin up near Yellowstone National Park.  It was lovely.  The snow made it just like a wonderland.  We spent our time cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, drinking hot cocoa, and just enjoying each other’s company.

Seven

New Year’s Resolution:  Become an Ultimate Book Nerd.  Our library sponsors the challenge: read 50 books in 50 weeks.  My friends and I are doing it together!  I am pumped!  I am hoping I can do it!  I will keep you appraised of my progress.

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Hope everyone is settling into the New Year in a lovely fashion!  Check in with Kelly to see what more awesome people are resolving to do this year!  Cheers!

 

 

 

 

{7 Quick Takes} Bison, bears, and bathrooms in Yellowstone

A couple of days behind on this one, but better late than never right?  Linking up with the lovely Kelly at This Ain’t the Lyceum and the gang…

ONE

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    Even if they are just walking through the parking lot, it is still never a good idea to pet a bison.

Last weekend we took advantage of the post-Labor Day crowds and took the family to Yellowstone National Park to camp.  We are so lucky to live a short drive away from the park, so weekend mini-vacations there are easy.  We have friends who are storing an RV trailer in our yard that they are graciously allowing us to use, and we took that when we went.  Otherwise we would have had to bring tents to augment our itsy-bitsy slide-in pickup camper.  And no offense to tent-campers out there, but I am not brave enough to risk sleeping in a tent with four kids who smell like hot dogs and marshmallows  in Bear Country.

TWO

Did you know that in Yellowstone, there is this lake that straddles the Continental Divide?  Its significance is that one side of the lake drains into the Pacific Ocean and the other side into the Gulf of Mexico.  And if your son just happens to surprise you by suddenly urinating into it (which I am sure is totally legal in a national park…)his pee will likely travel both of those directions as well.  Keep an eye out for those “teachable moments”.

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This location holds a new meaning for us.

THREE

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2016 may be the year Old Faithful finally becomes female.

“Why is it called a “Guy”ser?  Where are the “girl”sers?” – Bellie gets feminist at Old Faithful.  Maybe Hillary will change that if she gets elected.

FOUR

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Looking up from the lobby fireplace.

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I love how they’ve incorporated natural logs everywhere

I love, love, love Old Faithful Inn.  Every time we go to Old Faithful, I drag the family in here to see the awesome log everything in this awesome old hotel.  I love going into the lobby and just looking up the several stories to the roof.  And that fireplace is just fantastic!  We stayed there once, and I thought I was in heaven.  It is just a fantastic piece of history and one of the biggest log cabins in the world.  We watched Old Faithful erupt for a second time from the front balcony.  Low crowds, a huckleberry mocha, the soft sounds of my kiddos fighting over a muffin.  It was lovely.

FIVE

I am so proud to announce that my oldest three are now JUNIOR RANGERS.  They worked so hard.  How, you may ask, does a child become a Junior Ranger?  Well, it involves many hours of study (i.e. completing fun activities in a workbook), going on a nature patrol (i.e. walking from the visitor center to the boardwalk by Old Faithful) and listening to a ranger’s talk (we watched a bear spray demonstration).  The kids had a lot of fun doing this.  My favorite thing was Spike’s drawing in his workbook of animals one might see in Yellowstone.  He drew two turtles and a dinosaur.

SIX

We are the champions!  We did UNCLE TOM’S TRAIL.  With kids.  With no injuries.  And we’re not even that in shape.

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The way down is easier. Across from the falls of the Yellowstone.

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The gorgeous Yellowstone Canyon.

So, I had forgotten that there were SO MANY STEPS.  I really wanted to get close to the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River and I figured Uncle Tom’s Trail was the best walk to take.  I had forgotten that it has like one million and eighty-two steps down the canyon wall (those scared of heights may want to reconsider).  Which isn’t that bad going down, but is really, really a joy going back up!  The last time we had done the trail, Bellie was a baby in the backpack (carried by Hubby) and Junior was about three.  He ended up falling on the metal grates of the stairs at the very bottom, skinning his knee awfully badly and not wanting to walk anywhere anymore.  So our friend Eric offered to carry him all the way up those million-plus steps.  Our friendship with Eric was solidified and written into the annals of friends-going-above-and-beyond history.  I am pretty sure we still owe him big time for that.  And as far as Hubby goes, babies in hiking backpacks are not a piece of cake going up and down that staircase with, either.

However, this time all went well.  No injuries, no kids losing their motivation halfway back up again.  Heck, I am super-proud of myself for not losing motivation halfway back up again.  It was tempting to stop at one of the landings and say, “that’s it, I can go no further.  Bid fond adieu to my mother for me.”  but I kept going.

The view really is to die for.  Well, not literally (there are always some really unfortunate fatalities in Yellowstone Canyon every season), but it is just gorgeous.  If you are into self-punishment (or just enjoy the stair-climb machine at the gym) Uncle Tom’s Trail is for you!  It is worth it.

SEVEN

You gotta love the worldliness of Yellowstone.  There are people there from all over.  We were following a family from France on our way up the Stairway from Hell Uncle Tom’s Trail.  There were Germans in line next to me at the restrooms.  And a very nice group of Chinese tourists wanted to join us for lunch in our camper.  They were very intrigued that there were four children.  They also found blonde-haired Evvie positively enthralling.  And she’s not even that blonde!  (On an earlier trip, we were on a trail and there was a family ahead of us with a toddler who had platinum blonde hair.  A large group of Chinese tourists surrounded the family and started touching the child’s hair and gestured that they wanted to take pictures with her.  So they began taking selfies with the little girl as though she were one of the Jolie-Pitt kids.  We felt relieved that our dishwater-blonde kids were wearing hoodies.  It would have taken us forever to get done with that walk around the hot springs!

It’s a good learning experience to be able to explain to the kids how things are different in other countries and in other cultures.  For example, the Chinese tourists were interested in the size of our family because in their country they had a one-child policy until just recently.  So families of our size are not seen there.  And blonde hair is likewise rare.  Even explaining how toilets are different (prompted by the kids seeing the following image in the restrooms in Yellowstone:)

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If there are footprints on the seat, someone probably ignored this sign.

was a good opportunity to discuss that the U.S. is not the only nation on earth and the way it is done here is not necessarily the way it is done elsewhere.  Not good or bad, either way…just different.

 

Have a fabulous week!