Letter to Marigold, Age 2

Dear Goldie-locks,

When you turned two a few months ago, we got you a tiny shopping cart to push around. We knew you'd like it because you were constantly filling up other things with assorted items and pushing them around the kitchen: things like flour buckets and laundry baskets and cardboard boxes. This shopping cart, we hoped, would curb those other, unauthorized, carting activities just a bit. Abraham put the cart together for you secretly on the back porch, and then since it was too big to wrap, we draped a towel and a blanket over it and told you to find out what was inside. I love the picture of you midway through the reveal. You've got such a happy, anticipatory look on your face, but you've paused to look back at the rest of us for—what, approval? reassurance? or maybe just to make sure we're all watching?—before you get on with your task. Whatever this thing is, your face seems to say, I already know I'm going to love it, and I want to make sure you're all fully invested in loving it with me! 
It seems like such a good depiction of who you are right now: the happy, excited, headlong rush toward what's next—along with the seemingly contradictory desire to make sure you're not doing it all alone. But I don't think it is contradictory. It's part of why I love two-year-olds: for all their famed "let-ME-do-it"-ness, what they really mean is "let-me-do-it-while-YOU-watch-and-marvel." And you, especially, seem to love being part of a group; one of the kids. (Probably a good desire for a sixth child to have.) When you get out the magnetic drawing board from the Church Bag (which you aren't supposed to do, but you do it several times a day anyway)—or when you gleefully draw on some paper, any paper, with the school markers (which you aren't supposed to get out either)—you inevitably hold it up in triumph and proclaim "I drew Baymax!" —or an airplane or a penguin or some other thing you've seen the others draw.
And your pursuit of this "I'm one of the kids" ideal seems to drive many of your decisions. It's not just the markers you get out without authorization. It's…well…everything. You aren't one of those destructive two-year-olds who makes messes just for the wild joy of it, but you very definitely know what you want and where it is, and are willing to persist until you get it. One of the first phrases you learned to say was "up high"—as in, "Put those markers up high so Marigold can't get them!" You've heard that so often that you sometimes walk around the room, pointing up at things and commenting, "Scissors up high." "Birdies up high." (Malachi's ceramic birds.) "Stories up high." (The pop-up books.) And so forth. You don't seem devastated by it or anything. You seem to be just…noting it. And then, when the opportunity arises and no one is around, you'll act. How many times I've found the bathroom stools out by the bookshelves (stacked on top of each other to make them that crucial inch taller)—or a handful of tiny fingerprints in the edge of the cake—or the hair clipper attachments out of their case and lined up end-to-end in the hallway—or a bunch of little nibbling bites out of a peach or a banana or a block of cheese—I can't even count. 
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Visit to Canyonlands

Because Canyonlands National Park is near Arches National Park, and I love Arches, I've never given Canyonlands a second thought. It's sad, really. My friend Rachael even went there on her honeymoon (didn't you, Rach?) and I still assumed it was just one of…the lesser parks. But we had a free day in Southern Utah during our family reunion, and since we had the baby and no baby backpack, we wanted to do something that was less hiking, more driving. The Canyonlands "Island in the Sky" area sounded ideal for that, so off we went!

And it was stunning, of course. I should have known it would be. When we set out it was rainy and the farthest views were obscured by cloud. It was beautiful. And then the sun came out, and that was beautiful too!
We did take the short hike to Mesa Arch, which was totally worth carrying a baby to in one's arms. As we walked along the trail, people kept saying, "Be careful!" to us, which was strange as the trail wasn't steep or dangerous-seeming at all. But the drop-off right by the arch is sudden and vast, so I suppose that's what everyone was warning us about. It was a bit alarming to stand there and look over. Abe and Seb kept Goldie well away from the edge. I could barely get them to let go of her while I took this picture. You can see Abe is sort of poised for action, ready to grab her if she moves.


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Welcome to the Future

As I get older and amass more Life Experience, there are some things I've done before and like doing, and other things I've never done and hope never TO do. And until recently, this latter category included planning Family Reunions. But then, somewhat inexplicably, last year I felt that I ought to volunteer to plan one for Sam's side of the family. It just…seemed like one of those things where if you're going to do it, you might as well be in charge so you can tailor it to your tastes and delegate much of it out (which was much my feeling about being president of the Young Women's organization at church some years ago, come to think of it).

And, of course, I knew Sam would help and I flatter myself, based on other projects we've tackled jointly, that when we do something together it can't help but be a success! :)

So. Last year right after Christmas (which was really leaving it too late; I ought to have done it in the Fall) I scoured VRBO and airbnb for places not-too-far from here that would hold about 50 of us. (The official count is, I believe, 58. Thirty-three of whom are under the age of 18.) It was not a very large pool to choose from! But we found one that looked good, and booked it, and then the real planning could begin.
Sam and I brainstormed ideas during many, many walks around the neighborhood. We lean toward the laid-back in our vacation style, but we knew we had to have SOME kind of structure around which to hang ideas, or we'd never get anywhere. And as we get older, we have also gained appreciation for the intentional, spiritual side of family life: things that we may not have prioritized ten or fifteen years ago. :)

We kept coming back to the idea of what we wished for our own family: the ability to integrate current technology and the pace of modern life into the simple, fundamental values of faith and family that our parents and grandparents have taught us.

And then it dawned on us that it was 2015. 2015! The "Future" visited by Marty McFly and Co. in the Back to the Future movies! And so our theme became obvious. "Welcome to the Future."
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Wildflower Hike

We've only been hiking the Albion Basin in summer for maybe four years now, and I already feel like I've run out of superlatives to describe it. I love the wildflowers so much I almost get overcome with it, tears coming to my eyes as we walk through those meadows and I keep saying, "Look at that! Look at that!" It was nice to come home from the beauty of Montreal to my own beloved mountains in all their summer finery. "Glory be to God for dappled things;" these comforting mountains; sun and shadow, sprinkles of color and oceans of rock; this place full of beauty that He made for us.

This is the first time Sam has gotten to go with us on this hike, and it was so nice! He carried Theo and all I had to do was hold Goldie's hand. She was a great little hiker, too—not a word of complaint, except when I tried to get her to stop picking up little rocks to carry. I finally let her get one to hold in her other hand, and she carried it happily most of the way up.
I'm not sure why I like pictures of my little people hiking together so much. I suppose because it makes me think sentimental thoughts of how They Must All Help Each Other Along on the Uphill Trails of Life, or some such drivel. Ha! It does seem so sweet, though. To watch them hike along next to each other, talking and laughing, or just plowing along together up the hills.

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Montreal Trip part VI: the Lac

If one is fortunate enough to have a lake in one's backyard, the least one can do is photograph it in every conceivable sort of light. I just couldn't help myself. I would be sitting and reading, or feeding Theo, inside, and suddenly the light would change and I would go charging off to look at it. As I sat on the dock watching the water move under the sky, listening to the birds and the wind, I felt like I might just dissolve and float away on that calm, inexorable current. I don't know when I've last felt so peaceful.

And that light!
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Montreal Trip Part V: Swimming

By far the thing we did most was play in the lake and in the backyard. The water was very mild so it felt good even when the day wasn't scorching hot. My swimming suit, of course, was in the lost suitcase (grr!) but I waded around and dangled my feet off the dock and enjoyed watching the boys swim and splash. As I think I already mentioned, the clouds over the lake seemed to move so fast. You could watch a little patch of dark clouds coming closer, and then it would drop a little rain, and then you'd see blue sky in the distance, and in a few minutes the clouds would be moving off the other way and the day would be sunny again.
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Montreal Trip Part IV: Oot and Aboot

On this trip we didn't spend a lot of time away from the house in Sainte-Julienne, but we did go to the grocery store and on a few other errands with Thierry. (This would be the environs on a map labeled "Montreal and environs.") My brother Karl served an LDS Church mission in "Montreal and environs," in fact. And he had one mission companion who…well, I shouldn't tell his mission stories for him. But suffice it to say that the title of this post pays homage to that dear Elder.

At any rate, it was all gorgeous. I just love those forests crowding up to the edge of the vast green fields. Thierry told us that this is a big spot for maple syrup production—"Come back in March and you can visit the sugaring houses and eat the fresh maple candy made when they pour syrup on the snow," he said. What??! Sign me up. I read Miracles on Maple Hill when I was young and have dreamed of syrup-making ever since.
Huge skies. Huge clouds.
Thierry took us to buy beef for dinner, from his friend who raises Highland cows (that was the beef we ate, and boy was it tasty) and also these beautiful little deer—which both Thierry and his friend referred to as "Bambi"s. Haha. (We didn't eat any of them, but we could have.) They were so gentle and nice. The boys fed them grass and carrots. Even their antlers were covered with velvety fur.
I like this picture of Abe smiling at the deer and the deer smiling back.

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Montreal Trip Part III: In which I conduit my children with amour

Oh, ho! You thought I had posted all my pictures of Montreal, but you were just telling yourself what you wanted to hear. No, and this is not the final installment, either. While Sam was teaching everyday, the boys and I were left to amuse ourselves. We didn't have a car, so we set off to explore the neighborhood on foot. Of course it was breathtakingly beautiful. The houses were all nestled back away from the road among the trees, and you could see the lake peeking through every now and then. And even the roadside flowers were pretty and charming!
After a little ways the gravel road turned to paved road, but it was still quiet and secluded, with hardly any traffic.
One of the things that most surprised me about being in Quebec was how much of a foreign country it was! I had seen the bilingual signs in other parts of Canada, so I expected more of the same, but all the places we went in Quebec didn't bother with English at all, only French. And everyone we met was clearly a native French-speaker, with only bits of English to get along with! And everything just felt…foreign.
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Montreal Trip Part II: In which I realize a life-long dream

After we got picked up from the airport in Montreal, it was about an hour drive to the house we were staying at, in Sainte-Julienne. As we drove it got prettier and prettier (big green cornfields, rolling leafy hills, silos and dairy farms, maple forests) and we marveled at everything, as we desert-dwellers always do upon encountering the Edenic East Coast.

We didn't really know what to expect; when I heard "outside Montreal" I pictured something more…suburban, but this was way out among farms and small towns (I think Thierry said Sainte-Julienne only had a population of a few thousand, and it was quite spread out). And when someone had described the house as being "by a lake," I didn't realize there would be a lake in the backyard. We just couldn't believe how beautiful everything was.
When we got there the students all came out to say hi (the four of them were from Brazil and France and Norway and Maine, respectively. They all spoke good English and were really friendly). The students live downstairs and we were staying upstairs, with Thierry. After we got settled we went outside to explore. It was such a fairy-tale place for kids. For anyone, really! There was a treehouse and a little beach and two frog ponds and a firepit. And of course, beautiful Lac McGill!
I don't know if people who live with frogs all the time share our sentiment, but to us they are so novel and interesting. I know my aunt who lives in Seattle complains about how loud and insistently her frogs croak at night. We didn't hear much nocturnally from these frogs, but when we visited them as they sunned themselves on the rocks, they had the delightful habit of each making one offended "earrrrp" and leaping, one after another, back into the pond like this:
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Montreal Trip Part I: Airports and airplanes

I have many, many pictures to post of our trip to Montreal, and I thought I'd get the most boring ones out of the way first so we can all look forward to the exciting things to come! Boring if you think airports and airplanes are boring, that is. Which I don't. And my boys don't. Don't they ever!

But let me back up. When we were last in the Great White North, some of the workshop organizers were telling us about their "In-house Workshop," which is an intense 30-day class where four students go and live in a house outside of Montreal, and learn about art. (Or get "trained in the inspiring and stimulating environment of the Imaginism house," if you prefer.) We met Thierry, who lives in the house and teaches the workshop. And a few weeks later, he invited Sam to come up and be the Visiting Artist for a week sometime. And…he said Sam could bring the family! Sam didn't have classes to teach for Summer term, so he had a free July. It sounded fun, and mostly, we kept thinking about how much the boys would love riding an airplane. (They LOVE airplanes!) Even if the rest of it wasn't fun, it almost seemed like the plane rides would be worth it! :) There are too many of us to make flying feasible, normally, so we thought it might be a chance they wouldn't soon have again. It seemed a bit much to try and bring ALL of the kids, though, and my mom volunteered to watch the three girls so we could just take the boys.

So. There we were, at the Salt Lake Airport. Hooray!
It all started out nicely enough. We had our little dinner of muffins and gyoza we'd brought from home (yum) and the boys were in heaven watching the planes come and go. We occasionally drive up to the airport to watch planes, but you can't get a very good view from the road! So this was special.
Then our flight started getting delayed, and it got later and later. The sun went down. The boys explored the entire airport and rode up and down the escalators, and the moving sidewalk, which is for your traveling convenience. Please stand to the right so that others may walk past you on the left. Thank you for your courtesy.
Teddy did this to pass the time.
We finally got on the plane at 11:30 p.m. We had to fly west to L.A. first, which seems like a terrible waste, but what do I know?
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Cars, Planes, and Sunsets

The boys are obsessed with cars right now. I didn't do anything to facilitate it. I didn't particularly WANT it to happen. But, there it is. I guess there really is just some car-loving gene on the Y chromosome that gets activated every so often! So, every time we drive somewhere, I get a running commentary on what cars we are seeing—which categories they excel in (sports, racing, luxury, reliability, etc.)—which ones are rare and expensive—their top speeds—how fast they can reach 60 mph—and so forth. Sometimes, trying to include me, one of the boys will ask conversationally, "Which edition of Ferrari would you choose if you had to have one?" (they always have to phrase it this way, as I tell them a sports car would be wasted on me and I would never buy one), or "Of the luxury cars, which do you think is MOST luxurious?" Haha. Sam, who is not really a "car person," at least knows more than I do and can be counted on to give out tidbits he's learned from Top Gear to feed their insatiable car-curiosity. There's SO much talk about cars that even little Goldie will chirp out, "Look! A BMW!" or "Guys! A Tesla!" as we drive along. (What does she know? Nothing!)

Anyway, the boys begged to go to the Classic Car show at Soda Row in Daybreak, and we didn't really see how we could refuse! The Ferrari and Lamborghini were the biggest hits, of course, but they liked the old cars too. They took photo after photo of all the beautiful engines and hood ornaments and so forth, but I mostly liked taking pictures of them, looking at the cars. They are so eager and absorbed. 
Even Theo got into it. I liked this picture of Sam and him making a minute examination of something or other, with those pretty mountains behind. :) 
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