Storm System

Sam once again gathers up reality, spins it through his artist brain, and sends it back out with a few improvements:


The sky really was that spectacular. But the painting captures the feeling better than the photos do!
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Snowbird Tram

After several years of driving by and saying, "That looks fun!", I finally took the kids up to Snowbird to ride the tram. We loved it. It goes all the way up to the top of a mountain, 11,000 feet. There's been such a haze of smoke in the air lately, and even though I think it was still lingering around, we felt like we were above it all up there. The views were hazy but gorgeous.
As we rode the tram, it was so pretty to look down and see the colored leaves below---like a quilt.
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Millcreek Canyon leaves

This is the time of year when I post one million pictures of the changing leaves. These are from Millcreek Canyon. Malachi had just given a talk about Moses and the Burning Bush in Primary, and as soon as we saw this one, he yelled out, "Mommy! Look! The burning bush!"
Just as amazing in context

Rainbow landslide

And here are a few from Big Cottonwood Canyon:
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A walker, a campfire, and some lovely marshmallows

This is the walker. She is unsteady, but increasingly determined. Thank goodness, as she has gotten very heavy these past few months!
Sometimes she sits
She finds a better place to sit . . . 
and is joined by another sitter.
Sebby, King of the Mountain
Four children sitting in their "house" (this was the dining room)
She has things to say about the campfire.
She grins the fake "camera smile." I do believe this is the first time she has done this, but I know the smile itself well, having seen it on four other little monkeys.
There is some serious and important business going on, however. Serious marshmallow business.
About to pay perfectly browned dividends.
Sebby reacts to something with amazement
The walker, having dazzled everyone with her walking, begins to go through the rest of her repertoire.
The fire flares up, to general joy and astonishment
Sparks rise, and are marveled at
And finally, under the last rosy light on the mountaintops, we reluctantly head home
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Letter to Junie, age 16 months

Dear Junie,

I came into your room to say goodnight a few minutes ago. I was coming in to give Daisy and Malachi "all the kisses" (our nightly ritual), but unlike several months ago, you didn't just lie there, watching the rest of us and sucking your fingers. You consider yourself fully one of the people now, so you kicked your legs and yelled out "Amnny abbada didddaaaaa?"---with that characteristic upward inflection at the end; that squeaky, screechy question mark that tells us you're asking nicely. I don't know if you're actually saying the words "Can you give me all the kisses?", but who cares?  YOU understand you perfectly, and come to that, so do I! I fully believe that you have the entire wealth of the English language sitting there in that soft fuzzy head of yours, just waiting to emerge as soon as your lips and tongue will cooperate. After all, it was before you were even a year old that we saw the effect of your brothers' and sister's constant (and oh, Junie, it is constant!) singing around the house. We had recently watched "The Music Man" for movie night, and the other children had every word memorized. In a rare moment of quiet, I heard you holding a long, low note in your throat: "Maaaaaaaa . . . " It sounded like . . . but it couldn't be . . . but yes, ten seconds later you completed the phrase: "-rian! Madame Libraaaaaaaaa . . . -rian!" It was unmistakeably "Marian, Madame Librarian," and when you saw how much we laughed at that, you did it for us several more times. Such a smart baby! I knew then we were in for a delightful next few years watching you grow into that busy little brain of yours.
But then, it's all been delightful, this sixteen months since you came, blue and fishy, into our arms. You're such a mystery to us, as all our babies are, in their different ways. You were serene in those first moments, wise and calm as you stared into my eyes and I held you, murmuring, "So there you are! So that's who you are!" You did make us wait for a long time, you know, before coming---five days of labor; a shifting, unreal web of moments that wrapped thicker and thicker around me and made the real world grow dim. But then you finally arrived, so delicate and tiny, and your peaceful, steady gaze reassured me that we had done the right thing by not hurrying you along. "I told you it would be okay," your eyes said to me, and I breathed in your calm like air.
I see it in you still, that serenity. You are utterly untroubled by our expectations: at sixteen months, you're just barely deciding to walk, and none of our coaxing and cajoling made one bit of difference. Not that we were worried about you, developmentally---it's just that you're getting so HEAVY! Yes, you; our tiny little birdie, the one so far below the weight charts that the doctor was telling us to butter both sides of your bread---you are becoming quite a load to tote! But you wouldn't walk until you decided it was time to walk, so tote you we have. Meanwhile you have been talking up a storm---in addition to your singing. The best part of your talking is how conversational you are! You seem absolutely convinced that your gibberish-words are just as good as anybody else's in this family, and something recognizable emerges from you often enough that I'm not sure you aren't right! Certainly, when I was serving up brownies after lunch the other day, and I asked who wanted one, I heard: "I do!" "I do!" "I do!" "I do!" "I do!"---and that fifth "I do!" was YOU, little Junie, taking me quite by surprise. You yell "Hiii," and "Bye-bye!" and "Cookie" and "Blanket" and "Night-night!" at appropriate times; you call out "'kaaaay!" from upstairs when I call the family for dinner; you say "Hab goodday!" as Daddy goes out the door for work. When we went to Flaming Gorge last week, you pointed and said "There's the dam!" as we crossed over it on our tour. I guess maybe I should stop being surprised by you, but I have a feeling I never will.
You do get some funny ideas in your baby head. To you, lambs don't say a sweet little "Baa!", but a scary, growling, monster-y "BAAAAA!" Imagine that in the same voice a regular person would say "RAAAR!" and you'll have a better idea of how it sounds. It wouldn't matter so much, except there's a picture of Jesus holding a lamb at church, and every time we walk past it you let out a series of "BAAA!s" so loud and scary, they set all the other babies crying.
Speaking of crying babies, though, I wish you could tell me what sudden anxieties have entered your own tiny heart. You've always been such a sweet, friendly baby, toddling around from chair to chair in crowds and begging to be picked up and read to. But suddenly, around other people, you've started clinging to me like a baby koala to its mama, looking around warily and readying yourself to scream the moment someone else even looks like they might want to hold you. Even my poor young women at church, who have loved you and held you from practically the day you were born, are looked at with distrust, and screamed at if they dare to reach out for you. I know about stranger anxiety, but I'm surprised to find yours so sudden and strong when you've been passed around your whole life so far. It would be easier if you just wanted to stay on my lap and cuddle, but what you really want is to get down---but still be up---get down---but still be up. You squirm and slither and inch off of me bit by bit, but if I take those actions to their logical end and actually set you down on the floor, you yowl and weep big tears and look at me reproachfully as though I've just abandoned you on the doorstep of an orphanage. The only other time I've seen you so sad is when I broke the news to you that you weren't a duck (you were following some ducks into the lake, quacking, and fully confident that you'd be able to swim along beside them if you could just catch up!)
I know that stage is going to pass, though, Junie, because your sunny nature just isn't going to allow you to stay in it for long. You're too independent and resilient to stay by my side: already, if you feel safe enough, you venture out and crawl back, venture out and crawl back; just like the quintessential "securely attached" baby I read about in my Child Development classes. When we go camping, you set off like Ferdinand Magellan, or Puck, to put a girdle 'round the earth (or at least the picnic area). You crawl up into Daisy's high chair and squawk indignantly when she pulls you down again. You place yourself into drawers and cubbies, and once, to our very great dismay, we found you on THE TOP STEP of a ladder we'd carelessly left opened in the living room.
Even when getting into mischief, though, you're so agreeable and sweet! When Daddy and I catch you doing things you know you're not supposed to---pulling the pens out of Daddy's backpack, or emptying the nail polish out of our bathroom cupboard---you look up at us with clear, innocent eyes. When Daisy was your age, she would jump guiltily when we came upon her in such situations, but you just hold out the forbidden item towards us triumphantly and say "Heeeeere!" As if you were planning to hand it over to us all the time; as if, in fact, you got it out for the express purpose of handing it over to us. What a helpful little monkey you are!

It's not just pens and lotions you like to share with your Daddy and me, but also little darting glances of either excitement or apprehension, depending on the circumstance. You read faces as earnestly as someone searching the skies to read the weather. If the rest of us are laughing, you turn your eyes toward me or your brothers delightedly, grinning that tiny grin you've recently developed, and letting your whole face shine with the joy of sharing the joke. If someone else cries, you pull your lips in until they're just a tiny rosebud in your face, and your chin trembles while you search our faces for reassurance. When we're talking about you, you send surreptitious glances over every few seconds, gauging how funny we think you are and whether or not you should pull your blanket over your head for another round of peek-a-boo.
During church last week, you were squirming off and onto our laps in that undecided way of yours, and finally Daddy set you onto the bench to sit by yourself. Naturally, the second he looked away, you lurched yourself forward and fell face-first into the bench in front.  We all sat there stupefied for a moment, and then Daddy snatched you up and went striding fast toward the door. That whole time you were sucking in a breath, probably fifteen seconds'-worth, and we all know that the time of breath-intake is directly proportional to the volume of the ensuing scream, so we sat, cringing---the whole family---just waiting to see when the noise would come. It finally did, but Daddy was in the hall by then---he's fast---so it was muffled and unspectacular. I figured you'd have to recover in the hall for a while, but just a minute later, back you came, all  sparkly eyes and smiles. Up and down you squirmed again, and predictably, you overbalanced once more, splat onto the floor. Daddy scooped you up as your cries started again; and again, you were back in less than a minute, cheerful as could be. You see why I say you are resilient? You come bouncing back from anything, Miss Juniper---from falling down the stairs (more than once), to having your lip split by your overenthusiastic sister, to getting your arms and legs stuck between the slats of your crib (practically once a week). Juniper trees aren't fragile either, you know. They survive---no, they thrive---in droughts, in deserts, in the thin mountain air. They grow, strong and evergreen, toward the sun.
You had your first ponytail the other day, and your first real steps not long before it. A few months ago I told myself that you couldn't possibly be any cuter than you were at a year old, sitting so sweetly in your yellow Easter Dress as we hunted for eggs around you.
But somehow, in your patient, confident, unruffled way, you've gone about proving me wrong---becoming daily more delightful to us. Oh, I know all parents think this of their children: they are amazing, surprising, fascinating. But undisturbed by the cliche of it all, Daddy and I still look across your head between us at the table and raise our eyebrows: "Can you believe her? Isn't she amazing? How did she get to be ours?" We love you so much, sweet Junie! What a strong, steady, beautiful little girl you are becoming!

Love,
Mommy
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