Out and About

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The summer is off and running, alleluia! Truth be told, it feels like in the last 4 weeks we've lived a lifetime of summers all at once.  There have been so many activities and so little sleep.

Mostly, it's been great.

Mostly.

This week was Duc In Altum for the older kids and suddenly Gemma is lumped into that crowd.  "Suddenly" meaning that she and her siblings have been talking about it for a year and she has actively been preparing for it for the last six months.  When the DIA schedule came out and we learned that Rapid, Piedmont and Sturgis would not be getting teams this year, skipping it altogether seemed like a viable option.  I even dared to hint about it out loud.

"But MOM!  It's Gemma's first year! Are you saying she won't get to go?!" Wide eyes from them and wet eyes from Gem.

When Gail suggested we carpool up to Belle Fourche, I was more than happy to agree.  I was happy to have a reason to spend time in the little town and explore with the two littlest ladies.

I was quickly reminded the first day I drove how much work two little ones is.  Give me seven that include helpful arms who carry and buckle and have extra eyes any day!  Then within minutes of our solo journey to the park I realized how often these little ones are hurried.  It just happens with bigger kids setting the pace, scooping up their siblings if they can't keep up.

So we went at Lu and Pen's pace.  They chased each other up and down a handicap ramp, always finding the moment they passed each other as the funniest thing they'd ever done. When they moved onto check out a statue in the park, Lu asked who the people were and if she could hold their hands so I could take a picture.  Then it was on to the swings where they spent a solid half hour before even considering if anything else seemed interesting.

After the harried few weeks we've had, it was a great reminder to pace ourselves, to enjoy what is before us, and linger over the things we really enjoy.

We also learned to be quick in a porta potty which is valuable, too.  Lessons all around!

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Children of mine,

At the moment, we are climbing the Sierras in the van with most of us sick. You have requested to listen to Hamilton at least a half a dozen times and are rolling your eyes at our California themed play list. Someday this will be the soundtrack of your memories. Someday.

It's been a little over two weeks since Papa Bill passed away and I haven't had the words or the heart to write about it. Writing makes me feel things and I have been numb. Numb with stress and worry and work and the next thing on the list. Someday you'll understand. Someday.

I want you to remember Papa. That's the hardest part of this loss for me-the fact that Lu and Penny and probably Gemma, too, won't remember him. We will share stories and laugh over photos and sing the songs he sang but they won't remember his dignified stride, his laugh, the weight of his hand on their head. I wish I could have bottled those things up to bring out and share as I willed. Life doesn't work like that though and we are given the gift of loss to savor the now. I know you don't understand that and truthfully? I don't either but God says someday we will. Someday.

Anyway, there will come a day when the memories of this trip have become fuzzy. Maybe you'll remember the bag piper or the time spent at the Wyeth's or cousin Kathy and Saboin. Maybe you'll recall the sickness or build-a-bear or any of the other things we did these last two weeks. So I want to put down Papa's eulogy I gave for us to remember. It gathers up some of the best lessons he gave and someday you will appreciate it. Someday.

Eulogy for Papa-January 7, 2017

I was voluntold that I was to read the obituary today. However, as I reflected on it I thought that it would be unnecessary to do that since it is printed in the programs. But if you'd like to have it read to you, please find me afterward because I have 4 of my children that can do that for you.

It is a daunting task to sum up the life of someone,  especially for a man who lived a life as rich and as varied as Papa Bill. I have been overwhelmed with the desire to include all of the important memories to everyone. However, that is impossible and the truth is most of you are here today because you have your own memories of Papa Bill. Thank you for coming and I ask you to treasure and cherish those memories and share them with us at the reception!

With that said, what I will share with you today is what I hope my children will know about Papa. And I know he was known by many names and titles but I hope you won't mind me calling him Papa Bill because I couldn't call him Bill even if he wanted me to.

Papa Bill was an educator through and through and he was always teaching. Every conversation was an opportunity for a lesson though it was seldom explicitly stated as such or heavy handed. And so I want to share with you some of the greatest lessons he taught us.

He taught us to value home and where you came from. Born in 1928 in Lead, SD, he always considered it home. A number of years ago as we biked the Michelson trail. he shared with us that it was the same route he took as he rode a train away to service. He said he cried as wondered if and when he would ever see his beloved hills again. And not a trip went by that he wouldn't declare upon arriving in South Dakota that no where in the wide world -and he had seen a lot of it! -had skies as blue as SD. Loyal, he stayed in contact with his high school class through email and facebook -because he was into those sorts of technologies-and attended many reunions. When he moved to Tuolumne, it became his second home and it was love for Tuolumne County that flowed through his veins. He felt like belonged there and never forgot how the community had welcomed him and his family in when they were strangers. He did his very best to return the favor, opening up his home to others and welcoming folks into his family. And as is evident by the presence of the piper and the kilts, he was deeply proud of his Scottish heritage and closely identified with that part of himself.

He taught us that some things are worth waiting for. As a child, Papa loved to eat stale marshmallows.  Laughing, he'd tell us about taking the homemade marshmallows his grandmother made and hiding them in his underwear drawer until they were good and crunchy.  This carried over into stale peeps, a treat that my mom and I still enjoy.  His wife of 60 years was his high school sweetheart who he left at home when he joined the service.  But instead of sending a "Dear Joyce" letter home, he waited, returned and married his love, making her my nana.  And, as many of you were privileged to witness, his beloved kilt was purchased in the last years of his life, a luxury he had waited a very long time for.

He taught us that sometimes it doesn't pay to wait, either.  In the service, he dutifully fulfilled what he had promised to do, but did not stay one day longer once he had made up his mind that he was through.  He dropped out of West Point because it wasn't for him.  When he had a young bride, a baby, and a full time job, he packed everything up and headed to southern Colorado to pursue and get his masters degree because it was the right time to him.  He was unable to sit still, always moving on to the next thing, and he was known to announce when he had decided enough was enough, "My coach has turned into a pumpkin!" and that was that.

He taught us there was a right way to do things.  When he was 9, his older brother grew lax in his milk delivery route.  Papa was disgusted that it wasn't being handled in the right way and took over the responsibility, waking at 4 am to get the milk, deliver it, return the used bottles to the dairy and return home all before school. He taught us there was a right way to hold drum sticks and a right way to march.  He was very opinionated about the right way to drive and didn't hesitate to tell you if he thought you were not in fact doing it right. Papa even had a right way to wash a car and it was a big deal when I got my first car that he made a special trip down to show me how to wash it correctly.  I still feel a tinge of guilt each time I use an automated car wash.

He taught us that if something was worth doing, it was worth doing well. This fact was evident throughout his life but most especially in the many hobbies he was passionate about.  His HAMM radios, wood working, model planes, real planes, weather tracking and his Bible study were just some of his hobbies he shared with others.

He taught us that life is too good to be taken seriously.  One just needs to look at one of the dune buggies to know that this is true because they look ridiculous.  It was on those dune buggy trips, often in the midst of a particularly rough patch that one would hear him laugh.  Or around the campfire, sharing stories or songs.  I will never forget that sound for the rest of my days.  He was good at reminding me not to be so serious.  On bike rides he'd ask me how I was feeling and I would answer, I don't feel good. It was my go-to response because I was difficult.  It never failed that he would give me a squeeze and say, "You feel pretty good to me!"

He taught us it is never too late for redemption.  Papa Bill was a man who came late to Jesus.  Having avoided church for the majority of his adult life because he was afraid he'd be forced to lead the choir, he began by learning about Jesus.  Then he came to know him.  He was baptized at 86 and even in the last days of his life, he chased after the Lord, coming to Bible study as usual.  This is the most important thing - that he followed Christ.

A dear friend said to me when she heard of Papa's passing, that she couldn't imagine the world without him in it.  I agree as it just doesn't seem possible.  But here we are and the world is better for having Papa in it and we are better for having known him.

 

October has been so very lovely in the weather department.  We have been to the downtown fountains to play several times and have tried to soak up the mellowness of a lovely, lasting autumn.

For Tess's feast day I told the kids I'd take them downtown to the fountains.  We had to search high and low for suits because some girls like to wear them just for fun and some girls like to pee in them while other girls like to shirk their laundry duties.

There was some yelling.  I apologized.  We got through it.

ANYWAY . . .

I loaded up kids in their swimsuits and headed downtown only to find Oktoberfest underway in Main Street Square.

"Oooooohhhhh!" Was the disappointed sigh as we drove past.

"What about Dinosaur Park?!" I tried to sound enthusiastic though I knew darn well that I would have to carry Penny up and down the hill in my arms as I didn't have the backpack.

"Yes!!!" They all yelled. Even Lucy who has not been in her recent memory.

So up we went.

Philip obliged my request to see if someone's head would fit in the dinosaur mouth.  Everyone else was too creeped out.

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We were "those kids" who kept pushing the music button on the mechanical ride, causing the obnoxious song to be played so loudly it could be heard clearly from the top of the hill.

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They took off up the hill, opting to climb up the side walls instead of taking the steps. Ellie went up on her hands and knees, claiming she was afraid of heights.

"Um. . . you don't HAVE to walk there.  Come on the steps if that makes you feel safer."

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She didn't need to be asked twice which was good because with that crisis averted, another cropped up. Lucy stood frozen on the narrow steps. I felt her shrinking within herself and I started to sweat from more than the heat of the day.  People were coming up behind us and Lu and I were to have a confrontation, well, things could get ugly.

I played it cool.  "Hey, Lu!  What's going on?"

"That is a dragon. Right there." Fear rimmed her words.

"It's not a dragon!" Ellie hollered down to her.

"Oh!  Yeah, it's an elephant!" And with that decided, she kept climbing.

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Note to self: teach Lucy about Dinosaurs.

By the time we made it to the Stegosaurus, she was over any hesitating and went up and down the back of the dinosaur even with her slippery Salt Waters.

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Turns out hot, painted concrete and swimsuit clad bodies aren't the best mix.

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And Gemma wanted to know the dinosaurs names.

"Their names?  I don't think they have any.  Would you like to give them some names?"

"Yes!" she was eager and decisive. "This one is Isabelle." She pointed to the Tricerotops. "And thiiiiis one?" She concidered the T-Rex, "I think it's Sparkle."

Best. Name. Ever.

Penny spent her time trying to lunge out of my arms so she could explore the dinos on her own. So we tried to sit her down at Sparkle's feet, but her kicking, anxious legs wanted to dance with joy instead.  So cute.

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It was a great trip with much laughter and enjoyment. And then it ended with a full body press to get a screaming, enraged Lucy into her car seat.

Oh, the memories!

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Just over a year ago, Jac began looking into a uniformed, Catholic youth movement for Tess.  We didn't want to hitch our wagons to the cookie sellers and our girl was itching for badges to earn so we were motivated. When we found the Federation of North American Explorers and their roots that reached back to Lord Baden Powell through a Fr. Jacques  who had connections to St. Therese . . . Well, it just made sense.

We began to pray for 5 other girls Tess's age that would make us official.  We filled out paperwork, learned the lingo, made the neckers, hosted info nights and waited. Before we knew what was happening, we had 14 little girls, 5 big girls and were in the possession of a good deal of camping gear.

The camping gear was a blessing because girls would invite their friends and they'd learn some knots and at the end of the night announce they'd join, "But when are we going camping?"

I'll admit, I was taken aback.  I can't remember ever being excited to camp.  Maybe it's because we did it -OFTEN- growing up. By the time Billy and I were 6 and 8, it was our job to pitch the family tent and arrange the bedding when we dune buggied or traveled to SD.  Did I like being in the dune buggies?  Yes, as long as I could breathe.  Did I like hanging with my friends in the wild? Absolutely.  Did I enjoy raucous campfires and having everyone under one roof?  Of course!  But did I like pooping in the woods or the dirt everywhere or the cold mornings or the work before, during and after?

No.

But these girls were giddy at the prospect.  So, we planned a maiden voyage to the lake.  We prayed things would dry out because it was a swamp and the wettest May/June on record and camping in the rain is even harder than plain camping.  (I was going to say "worse" or "crappier" but a Timber Wolf is always happy!) We loaded up the girls and the cars and set off in high spirits.

Minutes away from Spearfish and Mass, we blew a tire at 80 mph. It peeled back the metal of the wheel well and broke a coolant line.  Because we were working on Being Prepared, we had a new spare and the Witte's were able to fill our resevoir and patch the line.

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We got to the lake as dark descended.  Elizabeth and the girls struggled with the tents they had effortlessly erected days before.  I began to panic when, after an hour of trying, I could not get a fire lit.  The organization encourages all meals to be prepared over an open fire, so I was looking down the barrel of hunger and desperation while our neighbors poured gasoline on their woodpile and exclaimed over their flames.

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We ate our burned weenies in the dark. ("Wait . . . are weenies the same as hotdogs?" "My favorite part was the hotdogs.  Even though they were burned and the biscuit was doughy, it was still REALLY good.") We hustled through an abbreviated dessert and campfire. (Upon being instructed with marshmallows and chocolate and tortillas -"Oh! They're Sm'acos!" "My favorite part was singing at campfire.")  I lined them up and showed them how to brush their teeth from a cup and spit in the weeds.

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At midnight I crawled into the tent to sleep on my hump of meadow between the bags and shoes.

At 3 am the thunder and lightening woke me.  I laid still, not wanting to disturb the condensation I could see with each flash.  Drips began to fall on my face.  The thunder was so continuous that even though I yelled, "Girls!  Are you okay?" no one could hear me.  Thirty minutes in, there was a sliver of a break.  This time, we heard Elizabeth leading the big girls in a giggly version of 'Singing in the Rain.'  "That's it!  They can NOT have more fun than us!"  When they heard that, the separating flaps all unzipped and they all began to talk at once.  Then they discovered EVERYTHING was wet.  They were cold.  It was scary.  They should've cried and I wouldn't have faulted them - I would've joined in!

Instead, we rearranged.  We pulled out extra sweatshirts and covered pillows with towels.  They piled around me like puppies and we sang and played games and in the end, because God loves me, I had a book of fairy tales downloaded on my phone.  I read to them over the rain and the thunder and we slept a couple more hours.

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We woke to fog so thick we couldn't see the lake.  It was wet and cold STILL but no one complained. When the sun broke out as we made breakfast, they all rushed to put on their swim suits.  Who cared if it was only 60 degrees?  Elizabeth led the charge to brush their teeth with charcoal and after a collective "Crunch!" in the breathless silence, there was so much laughing and spitting black I can't help but giggle now.

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They played so hard and got so many sunburns and 'squito bites that at our late lunch, there was silence.  "This is SO good.  I think I was hungry!" Most of them slept on the return trip  but when they woke up, wanted to know when we would go again.

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And wouldn't you know?  I'm actually looking forward to it, too.


Jac's shirt tonight says 'LIFE' on the back.  The front says 'limitless' and together?  Well, that pretty much sums up the last 9 weeks.

Summer 2015 has been full of birthdays and Duc in Altum, weddings, visits, campouts and sleep away camps, the lake, drives back and forth, Totus Tuus, good news near and far, and loads and loads of laundry.

The AC went out in the Suburban.  (What the. . . ?)

We were gifted a trampoline. (Thank ya, Jesus!)

It's August and I feel as if we've only just begun and yet someone mentioned that it's beginning to feel like fall.

Limitless LIFE. I'll take it.  And a nap.

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For weeks now, Max has been saying a few times a day, "Mom, you should write a post about this."  or, "Mom!  You should blog about that!"

I get the hint, boy.

Alas, 'tis the season of late nights and too many projects already.  And where to begin? But if I keep putting it off, what would that look like?

So I jump in, like we have been doing all through Advent.  Little has been planned or done all at once but it's happening, no matter what.  The same can happen here, right?

Tree hunt 2014 occurred a week later than anticipated due to cold weather and a dead Suburban.  Even then, we took the busty van out to our usual spot on a warmish sort of day.

The popcorn and cranberry string garlands were replaced by cheerios (easier to string and I didn't have time to pop the corn) and cranberries and strung together on the way.  Hurray!  No one got car sick in the process!  We carried those with some dried oranges to decorate the tree for the 'aminals' along with Lu on Jac's back, a hatchet and a saw.

We started out and somehow I brought up the rear with Monday on the leash, a tentative Ellie and a fiercely independent Gemma.  "Gem, can I help you?"  "No, I dot it, Mama.  I dot it."  Aaaaand repeat.  She made it down the hill, over the creek (a Christmas Miracle that there was a frozen patch and we didn't have to toss anyone or balance on a log!), but ran out of gas when we hit the woods.  From then on I carried her "free style" while pulling Ellie along at the same time. Oh, what fun!

The boys - and dog - took off in search of a tree to cut while we ladies found a tree to trim.  They worked quickly and carefully and took just a moment to admire their work before they went in search of the guys.  On our trek, we noticed a little tree with two blackened pine cones and recognized them as the remainders of the 'aminal' tree, 2013. I got teary at the hardiness of tradition.

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I take full credit for the finding of this year's tree, which it must be admitted is a beaut.  "The best one yet!" Jac declared.  High five, me.  Too bad we walked a long ways dooooown a path to find the boy's choices only to walk all the way back UP to where I saw the winner.  And up some more through some brambles.

By then, folks started to fall apart.  Gemma and Ellie were cold.  Lu decided the backpack was torture and Philip got his feelings hurt but the real fun happened when Tess accidentally broke the saw blade.  Oh, the waterworks!  To be fair, her brothers had shown her to do whatever it was she was doing when the blade broke and us laughing over it only made matters worse.  It couldn't be helped as Jac had spent the morning telling me how great the blade was and "Who cares that it only cost $2?"  It seemed so funny to me in the midst of all the crying.

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Luckily, Max had the hatchet and everyone got to take a swing or 20.  Turns out being a lumberjack is harder than it looks!  Gemma will tell you that she was the one that "hit the tree down with Daddy" because she was.  So then it was time to get grouchy kids AND the tree AND the Aspen branches I requested (that were larger than the tree. . . ) down and across and back up.

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We made good time.

Up the tree went onto the van and we managed to lash it down amid the bickering and complaining.  That all stopped right quick, though, when we couldn't get the van back onto the road.  There were some tense and exciting minutes but Jac sweet talked the sickly vehicle into compliance and we were on our way without any more tears.

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Ellie and Lu slept all the way home while Tess kept Gemma entertained.  We got the tree in place and relatively straight very easily and it's doing great.  We were all plenty sore the next day but this lovely tree was worth it.

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It's cold here.  Like freeze your snot cold.  It snowed Monday and our sidewalk has yet to be shoveled because the subzero temps make it hard to breathe and are a danger to your skin.  And after 4 housebound days the crew has caught a nasty case of cabin fever.

Yaaaay, winter.

It makes me pine for warmer days and better times.  Oh, take me back . . .

Sometime in the spring I ran across an ad on Facebook (yes I did.  Ain't no shame.) hawking Rapid Pursuit, an urban adventure race.  It said it was a team competition, family friendly, and could be done running, on bikes or meandering.  It had me at meandering!  There was also mention of challenges that required wit.  What was not to love?!

I sent out a jovial message to the college ladies along the lines of "Wouldn't this be fun?!" wink, wink, nudge, nudge, chortle, chortle.

Let me tell you, I was NOT chortling when Lace called my bluff and wanted to know who was in.  Maybe no one else was available . . . But then Chrisa was available and so was Lace and I had no real excuse so I had to say yes.  HAD to.  Then Chrisa went and registered us and it was official.

I started to sweat about 4 days before the race. My nightmares were haunting.  I'm not exaggerating - I dreamed that one of the challenges required us to hit a baseball and we couldn't move on until we did.  I woke up with my heart racing and wishing I had actually tried in middle school P.E..

The morning of the race, I was sick to my stomach. Problem was, so was Lu.  She puked and puked and puked some more.  There was choking and dry heaves and all sorts of suffering.

I cried.

Lacey and Chrisa said it wasn't a big deal and to worry about my baby.  Jac thought she'd be fine but he wasn't around.  In the end I asked our sitter (the rest of the crew was at the lake) what she thought.  She watched Lu toss her cookies, shrugged her shoulders and cuddled Lu to her.  "We'll be fine, right Lucy?  You go do your thing and get lots of ideas for Totus Tuus.  You deserve this!"  I was torn but I also knew that Rose's dad is a doctor and if anything was off, she was in good hands at their house.

We gathered in Main Street Square with plaid shirts, bandanas and straw hats to fit our Dakota Girls team name.  But the lean bodies with their gps watches and such were all sorts of intimidating.  What had we done?!

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Lace was our team captain and received our packet with map, blindfold and clues.  Team after team ran out of the square while we worked through the clues, hoping our minds would help us out.  Then we were off.

About a block in, I wondered if I would make it out alive.  I didn't want to be the weak link but it wasn't looking good!

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We pulled a sled.  We used a punching bag (AFTER we ripped off 15 push ups but before I humiliated myself by being unable to complete a single sit up, let alone 15.). There was a boat to row around a fountain whilst blindfolded.  We had to fish out rubber duckies and thanked the Lord that Chrisa the math teacher was on our team to add up the duck numbers to get the total we needed.

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Then there was a "secret" challenge.  Everyone gathered about very excited like.  There was an assortment of condiments and a stack of cards.  Pull a card, they said, and eat whatever was on it.

I nearly quit.

Lace pulled a cricket and I got a silk worm. "Try the ranch!" the lady said.  "NOTHING will make this better." I informed her.

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In the end, I opted for chocolate frosting and tried to swallow it as whole as possible.  I only picked worm bits from my teach for a little while . . .

The day was full of fun and laughter.  We had a ball shocking the volunteers who ran the Quarters and Beer Pong stations.  How could we have gone to college and not ever played these games?! Turns out Chrisa is very talented at Quarters. I trusted the girls to lead me blindfolded thru a minefield of dog poo. It wasn't until I was through that it was revealed that it was chocolate pudding.

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And then came the basketball.  Make one basket with a water balloon shot from a sling shot.  10 tries but if we didn't make it, each of us would have to make a basket.

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We didn't make it with the balloons.

And I made shot after shot after shot.  I think I cried and if my face hadn't been sunburned and red from effort, everyone would've seen how mightily I blushed.  My nightmare was coming true.

In the end, the volunteers let us go because they felt sorry for me and my suffering team.  That and we had barely any time to make it back to the starting point.

We ran until I couldn't any more then we'd walk.  Then we'd run again.  We laughed and encouraged each other and dodged in and out of traffic.

I couldn't do it.  We showed up in the square 30 seconds too late.  It was embarrassing and heartbreaking.  I cried then for sure.  I didn't want to let the girls down but I had.

But those sisters of mine?  They hugged me and prayed over me and reminded me that I had had a baby 9 months earlier which was amazing. They really are the best kind of friends.  We laughed some more and divided our chips and vowed that, barring pregnancies or babies, we'd be back again in 2015.  We'd train a little perhaps because 10 miles unprepared is pretty brutal.

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And Lu? She fell asleep shortly after I left her, slept well and ate a large lunch, none the worse for wear.

Rapid Pursuit, it was real fun.  Hope to see you again but let's leave the edible bugs at home, hmmm?  And I'll work on my free throw.  And frisbee toss.  And my baseball skills just to be safe.

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The first ever mountain bike ride I attempted was on the Old Iron Creek road.  I was on a road bike with mountain bike tires.  It was a little big for me, I was uncomfortable on it, and, truthfully, did not want to be there.

It didn't end well.

There was blood, a mangled helmet and plentiful screaming on my part.

When the boys decided this summer that they wanted to attempt this ride, I hoped for better results for them.  This was mainly because I was the only adult on said ride and I knew I would not do well with blood, lost teeth, or broken bones.

I needn't have worried.

These boys, well, they're growing up.  And as they do, I get to take part in fewer and fewer of their adventures.  This ride, this beautiful afternoon, was such a treat with them. It was an excellent way to redeem the ride and make new memories. I'm hoping for at least a few more in the years to come and I'd even be glad if a few more were on this same ride.

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I imagine that sometime down the road we will all be sitting around, nice happy family style, and we will assert that since we've all been to Yellowstone . . . and then Lucy will say, "

We've never been to Yellowstone!"

Then we will all laugh and be astounded and she will be incredulous and then mope as we prove that we have indeed all been in Yellowstone together.

We will say things like: "Yes, we did!   We went with Mama Syd and Papa Chris and pulled into Idaho late at night."photo (1)

"Yeah, and when we unpacked, Mom and Dad realized there were no sleeping bags for them!"

Cue uproarious laughter!

"Oh, man!  It was soooo coooold!  Remember?  It was snowing in Yellowstone.  In June!"

"I remember that we had the walky-talkies but ours ran out of batteries right at the entrance.  Mama Syd and Papa had Philip in the truck with them and they told us as they drove away that they were going to stop at the first potty.  We got separated and mom was getting more and more stressed out and after Max and Tess changed the walky-talky battery, dad kept saying, "Seven zero one niner, this is Yankee Bravo. Do you read me? Over."

"And they never heard us!"

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"Didn't you guys catch up to us at the Dragons Mouth or Mud Valcano or whatever it's called? We had already walked all around he trail and it stunk soo bad. I had to walk it all over again. Thanks for that."

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"That was the year Gemma fell in love with the buffalo.  'Beeyoufalo boofalo!' So cute!"

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"Mom still didn't see a bear."

"But the drive out was beautiful.  We saw that avalanche canon and so many water falls."

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"We got to Cody and unloaded in the rain.  The bathroom was so far away and we kept having to trek there in the wet!

"Papa Chris made hot dogs on the porch of the cabin."

"Dad had to work that night ordering prayer cards for Fr. Dillon."

"Fr. Dillon!  How's he doing?"

Insert tangent here.

And then by a miraculous use of technology we will pull up this post and show Lucy the pictures.

Hopefully we'll go back when it's not snowing or raining and I'll see a bear and everyone will remember it.  But in case it doesn't happen,  We love you, Lu!  

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We have spent our summer repeating many of the things we did last summer.  While the other kids have looked forward to the activities with excitement, these experiences seem brand new to Gemma and she has taken them in with fervor.

"Mama!" she yelled from her perch in the middle of the 'burb, "Dere's water right dere!" when we rounded the curve at the Lake.  The next day she discovered the slide - the same slide she was fearless of last summer - and had to relearn how to do it.  She is much more fearful and tentative this summer, thanks be to God!  The same with the outhouse and hand washing station and mud puddles and the Tootsie Roll Store.  It's been good for us all to look at each thing with her new eyes.

Such was the case the morning we went to Jessop Farms in CA to pick blueberries.  The kids felt like pros this year and they were anxious to start picking.  (All except Phil who had requested the trip but upon arrival at the farm, was so busy imagining what it would be like to have blueberry bushes at our home that he didn't pick a single berry.  Lord love him!) Gemma loved her bucket!  Gemma loved the run back to the bushes!  Gemma loved the fruit at her level!  It didn't matter how often I pointed out plump black berries to her, she'd say, "Yep, Mama!" and reach for the green ones.  It didn't matter. She'd roll her eyes heavenward in ecstasy and make her yummy noises.  I plunked berries into her bucket and set her loose.  She became our own little Winnie the Pooh, humming into her her bucket with the happiest of sounds, settling into the sand and contentedly munching away.

It was as sweet as those berries.

In the end, we ended up with 6 pounds picked by an industrious Max, Tess, and Ellie (Mama Syd and I helped a little).  They lasted just a few days - how we love our blue berries! - but enough memories to last us 'til next time.