Monday, September 28, 2009

amazing island park 2009

A few weeks ago we rented a cabin in Island Park with Courtney's family. We had a great time!

We arrived Thursday evening and stayed until Sunday morning. We stayed in an amazing cabin in Ashton right on the Snake river. Beautiful. The big hot tub was a favorite spot of the kids, and they could be found "swimming" there most any time of the day. We enjoyed peaceful walks, air hockey, ping pong, and card games, lots of laughs, and made more than a few good memories. Here are a few of the highlights. . .

Mesa Falls and a Grandma J devotional before heading home Sunday. . . (Kate didn't want to be in the picture).

Friday we spent the day lounging around and just plain being lazy! It was the anniversary of Sept. 11, so we watched some documentaries on that and reflected upon that day. Games were played, naps taken, and yummy food consumed. All in all, a great day.
On Saturday, we set out for Yellowstone in what we called the "Amazing Race". We split everyone up into 2 teams. Each team had a list of challenges to accomplish before returning to the cabin that evening. Among them were: find 3 "stinky pots", get pictures. . .watch old faithful erupt, eat an ice cream cone from the lodge, get pictures. . .wade into Firehole River up to the knees. Bonus points could be earned with pictures of wildlife (which held various point possibilities, depending on the kind). Also, each team could earn a bonus point for out of state license plates. 10 points were given if you had a picture of a team member with the license plate owner! Also, points were given for the first team to arrive at a challenge location, and the first back to the cabin.
The race is on. . .

It didn't take long for us to start recruiting poor strangers to pose for our out of state license plate pictures. (Turns out this is the wife of a celebrity of sorts-in the hunting world, anyway. Uncle Nate spotted her husband in the convenience store, and was thrilled to meet a guy he'd watched so many times on his hunting videos. Yip, they really do exist.)


Megan and Emmy posing at Stinky Pot #1.

More stinky pots.

Daddy, Grandma, and Grandpa waiting in line in front of Stinky Pot #2.

Grandpa exits Stinky Pot #2. Alive.

Stinky Pot #3.

Rival team members Ryenne, Madeliene, and Lauren. (Or as Uncle Courtney claims, stinky pots #4, 5, and 6.)

Aunt Shelly and I cornered these cool New Yorkian dudes and their license plate to get an extra 1o points. I think they were a little worried about our sanity. Good thing Aunt Shelly is so darn good lookin'.

This picture was taken just as Grandpa J exclaimed, "Oh my #*@! I forgot to pay for these!" (In reference to the candy bars in his hand. He had picked them up in the Old Faithful lodge and done the ol' five finger discount.)
Don't worry- he went back and paid- but not until we had all had a good laugh!

Aunt Shelly and kids o' plenty.
We got ice cream, and we've got proof!

. . And saw Old Faithful. Still as faithful as ever (give or take a few minutes).

Bridger commandeered Uncle Nate's ice cream cone.

Ymmm, gotta love ice cream hands all over your clean shirt.

Nothing that a little Spray 'n Wash won't take care of!

Wading in Firehole River.

Emmy and Megan were little troopers. They hung in to the last challenge and then finished our Amazing Race in style!
After the race, we met back at the cabin and then hooked up the camera to see everyone's picture proof and add up points. Everyone got some good laughs at the other team's "bear". (A picture taken of a bear in a movie on Darrell and Alyssa's van DVD screen. It was creative, you've gotta give them that!)
The Amazing Race turned out to be a great day!
All in all, we had a fabulous time with our family. We were bummed that the M and J families couldn't make it.
Hopefully this is a tradition in the making, because we're already looking forward to next year!

Thursday, September 24, 2009


When the girls turn 5, we let them choose an activity to participate in, along with the music classes they take from Aunt Nan. Ryenne has done ballet, Kate, gymnastics. This year was Emmy's turn to make a choice, and she had a bit of a hard time deciding. When all was said and done, however, she chose ballet. And to top it off? Her best buddy and cousin, Halle is taking ballet with her! Emmy keeps telling everyone she is in the "ducky" class (which is the dance the youngest ballet class learns at the studio).

I don't think there has ever, EVER, been two more excited ballerinas. In their minds, they are professionals. Professional duckies, that's what we have.

school days, school days. . .

Summer has come to an end (sigh), and it's back to school again. It's always hard for me to see the summer end. I just love the time we have for the girls to grow their imaginations and to just be kids! But, alas. . .I suppose we must grow our brains too.

We are so happy that the girls have fantastic teachers this year. We have always been lucky to get great teachers, and boy- do they make a difference!

We actually missed the official first day of school due to Grandpa Great's funeral. So, we took our traditional first day of school pictures on the second day instead!
Kate and Mrs. Rhees

Ryenne and Mrs. Wilkey (An interesting fact about Mrs. Wilkey is that she has 11 kids of her own!)
We're off and running toward another fantastic school year!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

my little girl?

Tonight was my turn to drive Ryenne to ballet. When I went into the studio to get her, I could see Miss Frederick wasn't quite done with them. Seizing the chance to watch my little girl dance for a minute, I huddled onto the floor next to the sliding glass door trying to get a peak through the curtains.

Though my vision was limited, I could see the black leotards. Pink tights and graceful bodies moving across the floor to the music. My, they looked beautiful! Remembering that Ryenne is in a class with girls a few years older, I kept looking beyond these girls- trying to catch a glimpse of my little girl among the older, taller dancers.

The glare of the sun was making it even harder, but my eyes focused and settled on one particular girl. She was so beautiful and moved with such grace. Just as I was ready to look beyond her to find my Ryenne, she turned. My breath caught a little when I realized.

That beautiful, tall, and graceful ballerina I had been watching was my little girl.

One more reminder that she is growing all too quickly for the likes of me. I wondered at the girl I saw through the glass. Could that really be my Ryenne Ashleigh? In my mind, I still visualize her in pigtails and chubby cheeks.

The whole way home, I watched her in my rear view mirror. Laughing and giggling with the other girls, I loved the way she was so candid. So open and honest, not trying to impress. My heart was full of admiration for a girl who is quickly coming into her own.

Although this growing up business keeps taking me by surprise, I must admit.
I like what I see, Miss Ryenne.


Some nights go well and some don't.
This one didn't.

Some nights I do well, and some times I don't.
Tonight, I didn't.

I laid in my bed discouraged. Frustrated that I'm not more patient. That I get angry. Just this morning, I vowed that I wouldn't hurry the girls so much. But the night got away from us, and there I was.

"Hurry and get your job done."

"Hurry and get your homework done".

"It's past bedtime."


I wish we didn't have to hurry so much. And maybe we don't. . .after all, they're just kids. But still, it's all gotta be done. Doesn't it?

Anyway, I didn't do it well tonight. I felt unkind and unworthy. I rushed to my room, almost in tears. I wanted to cry, but I was too mad. Mad at myself.

Instead, I decided that once my breathing returned to normal, I would go crawl in bed with Kate. I needed to tell her I was sorry.

And you know what she said? She said it was okay. And when I told her I wished I was a better mom, she asked me in the cutest, most comforting voice, "How could you be a better mom?" (Like I was the mom of the year or something.)

I told her that I wouldn't get angry. And without missing a beat, she sweetly reassured, "Now, what kind of mom could do that?. . . Nobody's perfect."

For a moment, she was the caretaker, and I the cared for. We lay there with my arms wrapped around her, but it was she who had completely enveloped me in her love. It was so unconditional, so tangible that I could feel it.

Thanks be to a Father in Heaven who loves me enough to send me children who are better than I am. In so many ways, they are the teachers- I, the student.

So glad to have an eternity with these precious little girls.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

grandpa great's big party

The morning after Grandpa Great died, we talked to the girls one at a time about his passing. They loved Grandpa Great completely.

Of course there were a few tears.

He had teased them, sang to them, shared his Cheetos and cookies, taken them on four-wheeler rides to the park, and most importantly. . .he had delighted in them. That's the best word I can think of to describe it. I've never seen anyone delight in a child quite like Grandpa did.

He seemed to get an especially big kick out of Emmy. Something about her giggle, her freckles, and spunky personality. His eyes would sparkle with laughter as the two of them bantered back and forth.

The day of the viewing, we talked with the girls about what would be happening the next two days. Emmy kept getting a little confused. Throughout the day, she kept asking me questions such as, "What time is Grandpa's reception?" Each time I would try to explain things again, but I could tell it was all a bit confusing.

You have to understand, Courtney has a very large family. Lots and lots of cousins, a few who he hadn't really visited with in years! And so, as we arrived at the viewing there was, of course, some fun visiting going on. Lots of reminiscing, catching up, and laughter.

After we had been there for an hour or so, Emmy came to me and asked me to take her to the little girl's room. We held hands as I led her in and out of people down the long hallway. Once inside the restroom, she went into the stall while I waited by the door. I could see her little feet kicking back and forth while she contemplated the meaning of life. After relating a few of her observations to me, she paused and then chirped,
"This is a pretty big party, you know."

I could just hear Grandpa laughing.

giant among men

Last Thursday evening we received a phone call at 3:00 am. The minute the phone rang, I knew.

Grandpa Great had gone to Heaven.

Courtney and I called my mom to come stay with the girls, and we rushed to the hospital. As we gathered in the emergency room with Grandma Great, Grandma J, and other family members, we couldn't help but feel the spirit that filled the entire room. A spirit of love. Peace. Sorrow. And gratitude. Gratitude for having known such an amazing man.

That night was a spiritual experience for me, so I won't write too much about it, other than to say I was so touched by the fact that even in death (perhaps especially in death) Grandpa made a statement about what mattered the most. He loved his family. And even though his departure came unexpectedly, in the middle of the night, we watched the room quickly fill with grandchildren, some driving as far as an hour away in the middle of the night, just to be there. One after another, we all came to say goodbye. Because in our hearts, we knew he loved us the most.

More than anything else, he loved us the most.

Thank you Grandpa Great. Thank you for all that you taught us. For the expressions of love, laughter, praise, and encouragement. For always making us feel like we were the most important thing in the world. Like there wasn't anyone else. Any thing else.

At Grandpa's funeral, this common statement of Grandpa's was remembered often. "If I had a million bucks and I didn't have my family, I wouldn't have anything". He was always saying things like that. He loved his family so fully, so completely, that he was a wealthy man after all. And to be sure, no man was ever more loved.

That night I witnessed the truth of what he had been trying to tell us.

You had it all, Grandpa. You had it all.
We love you.

ryenne hits the red carpet

This is our first year in 4H, and I'm already a big fan!

Last year, Ryenne started sewing. We are lucky enough to have her former kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Breagger to teach her. She is an amazing mother, incredible teacher, and talented seamstress! She and Ryenne worked throughout last spring and summer making quilt blocks for a quilt. It turned out darling and Ryenne uses it daily! This summer, they and another friend Madi worked hard to sew cute skirts. It was a fun process for Ryenne to pick out the fabric and watch it come together.

To complete the project, Mrs. Breagger (Robyn) helped the girls participate in the Fashion Revue, where the girls have the opportunity to model the skirt for a panel of judges and participate in an interview. Then, later that evening, a fashion show is held for all of the girls entered in 4H throughout the county to show off their hard work. It was such a fun chance for Ryenne to practice interview skills, public speaking, and poise. The leaders did such a great job at making it a positive, rewarding experience for the girls. Ryenne was thrilled to be awarded the "Top Model" award for her age group.

Following the revue, the girls entered their skirts in the fair, where they both earned blue ribbons for all of their hard work. And the best part is, Ryenne now has a darling skirt to wear to church!

Hip Hip Hooray for Ryenne! And three cheers for the 4H program too!

Monday, September 7, 2009

kate and lily

Kate loves walking lambs. This summer we traveled to Grandma and Grandpa J's house most mornings to walk Ryenne's lamb, Flufflebugs. Because Kate is not old enough to participate in 4H, she didn't have her own lamb to walk. Instead, Grandma and Grandpa arranged for her to walk Evil Tim, her cousin Kylee's lamb. So it went. Flufflebugs and Evil Tim became walking buddies.

As fair time loomed closer, Grandma J had a great idea that would allow Kate to be involved after all. The PeeWee Lead. This is a show and little parade that allows up-and-coming 4H'ers to still get into the action. The fun part is the kids (ages 3-7) dress up in costumes, as do the lambs. Yes, you got that right. AS DO THE LAMBS. And boy, oh boy, is it a sight.

Kate was sooooo excited at the prospect of being involved in the lamb show. During the few weeks before the show, she traded in Evil Tim for Lily. Lily is formerly known as . . . .hmmmm, I can't remember. Anyway, she was Kate's cousin Madeliene's lamb (for her county show), which Grandma and Grandpa bought back for breeding purposes, who is so gentle they allowed Kate to use her for the PeeWee lead, which is when Kate renamed her Lily.

Oh, what a tangled web we weave. . . Friday was the much anticipated day. Kate had been eagerly awaiting the lead for weeks, each day making sure her costume preparations were in order. Grandma J had given her a great theme idea, "Angels and Demons".

Friday afternoon, Kate and Daddy set about washing and currying to make Lily beautiful for the big event.
And when it came time to don the costumes, Kate looked cute as a button.

I'm not sure Lily was too thrilled.
You should have seen the costumes. I was completely taken away by the work that went into this. I bet over 40 kids participated. Some moms must have spent weeks on these costumes! (My mom assured me it must have been thier first child!) I wish I had gotten better pictures of some of the best ones. . .

All in all, it was a successful showing for Kate, who captured our hearts with her enthusiasm and excitement!

Kate and Lily . . .you stole the show!

blue ribbon fun

We survived the county fair, and had a lot of fun in the process! Ryenne and her lamb (Flufflebugs) came out in blue ribbon fashion!
There was no end to the currying, cleaning, and shearing that went on. These lambs are pretty picky in the beauty parlor!

We waited on the edges of our seats with anticipation. . .

If this is new to you (like it was for me) I'll explain how this goes. . .
First, early Wednesday morning, you take the lamb to the fairgrounds to weigh them in. This follows a hectic morning herding kids, losing your temper, and getting pulled over on the way. Lucky for you, when Mr. Policeman asks you why you were driving so fast, you can tell them you have a lamb waiting and you are running late. Works every time around these parts.

As for the weigh-in, the lamb can't be too skinny, nor too fat. Ryenne's weighed in at 139 lb., which Grandma J tells us is perfect for her lamb. I'll trust her on that.

From now on, Flufflebugs is an official resident of the County Fair. That means chores need to be done each morning and evening. In other words, between the chores, weigh-in, lamb show, and the sale, YOU (the owner) are also an official resident of the County Fair.

Thursday, the lamb show, is the BIG day. If you are lucky enough to be Ryenne, this means Dad wakes you up early to go do chores and take you out for breakfast. Then, you get all dressed up in your best duds, which in 4-H terms, means dark pants, white, collared, button up shirt, and 4-H patch on the right shoulder. (If you want to look extra cute for the judge, you should wear a matching green ribbon in your pony tail.)

Next, you wait. And wait, and wait. And if you are Ryenne and your lamb is in the 14th class, watch an awful lot of lambs being shown while you wait. The lambs are placed in classes according to weight, lightest lambs first. Because Ryenne's lamb was on the heavy end, it was placed in one of the last classes.

Now, it's time for the big moment. The one we have been walking this fluffy little guy toward all summer long (literally). You see, these people know just what they are looking for in a lamb. And for a newcomer like me, it's a lot to remember. The pros (like my in-laws) are scoping out the competition, with fancy terminology such as "finish", "twist", and "butt wool". Yip, you heard that last one right. What you want on your lamb (if I learned anything at all) is a lot of muscle and the right amount of finish. This was described by Courtney to me as this: "If your lamb has too much finish, he shouldn't have eaten that last dessert". All of this is the reason we walked the lamb all summer long. If not, Flufflebugs would have been much too fat.

You may notice the way the lambs are standing. Besides walking her lamb almost every day, Ryenne also worked with Flufflebugs in "showmanship". It's a science. From what they tell me, you want to hold the lamb's neck up high, and "brace" or push into the lamb with all of your weight. This will force him to push his hind legs back, thus showing off all of that fine muscle.
I told you there's a lot to this.

There was also a lot of leading Flufflebugs about by his head. He doesn't like this, but was a pretty good sport.

Ryenne was too, and did a great job. She made her daddy proud with the way she handled her lamb. She ended up with a blue ribbon, and even better. . .won "star choice" in her class. This means she and Flufflebugs were one of a few out her class to be chosen to return for Grand Champion.

Look at that showmanship. . .

The judge talking to Ryenne. Out of 44 lambs in the star choice class, Ryenne and Flufflebugs placed 24. This is pretty good, because there were 321 lambs in the show. It all makes for a long day, and we go home dirty, sweaty, stinky, and tired. (And happy. It was a fun day.)

Finally, on Saturday morning, it is time for the sale. Another big day. The auction starts with Grand Champion first, and sells for a whopping $3200. (It pays to be grand). Ryenne's lamb is the 24th to be sold. When the auctioneer calls out "SOLD!", we are surprised to hear that Aunt Kelsey's salon is the buyer. She and Uncle Shawn have big hearts. He made a nice little contribution to Ryenne's college fund. Following the auction, Shawn can choose to either keep the lamb, or turn it back to the market, which will slaughter it (I know it sounds heartless).

Shawn chooses heartless.

Upon this realization later that evening, Ryenne sheds a few tears and her and Daddy have a good talk while she goes to sleep. According to he and the experts, Flufflebugs has filled the measure of his creation. Or something like that.

And now? Grandma and Grandpa J are still talking about how Flufflebugs was one of the best lambs in the show. That judge. . .


You will be happy to know that right this very moment, Flufflebugs parents are shacked up together in an effort to produce another blue ribbon junior. Grandma and Grandpa's little operation produces a lot of good lambs. And it's a science I tell you. A science.

So, until next year. Happy lambing.