After four kids, ten moves and nearly two decades, we are still blissfully in love (most of the time) and I found myself back in the state I was born and raised in. It has definitely been a journey. In fact, on our 18th anniversary we pulled the last of our stuff up over the pass and into Montana, leaving our surprise love, Idaho, behind. But Montana is a great place. The last best place according to some. And we fully intend to explore as much of it as we can! Join us on our continued adventure through life, love and other stuff that comes with it.

Friday, February 26, 2010

It's haircut day

Grace has been growing her hair out to donate to Locks of Love. It started as a sort of compromise since she decided she wanted to grow out her bangs. A good compromise that she was excited about.

Last week we measured it and she had her ten inches. Ten inches of gorgeous little girl hair. Every time I have brushed it for the last few weeks I can't help but think of a child that will be getting her beautiful hair.

Someone else needed a haircut, too. Desperately. Poor thing.

I splurged for the wash and style for Grace. I figured the extra few dollars were worth it since she was doing it for a good cause and it was also her first *real* haircut (AKA, not mom cutting it in the kitchen). She was so ready.

And she is so cute with short hair. So cute.

When we got her to school she wondered out loud if her teacher would recognize her. Made me smile. Always thinking, that little girl.

As for the other one, she was probably just as happy to get her hair cut. And they even put little bows and flowers in her ears. I must admit, she's pretty cute.

I'm happy that there is so much less hair running around this house. And I'm thrilled that my little girl is generous so easily. Makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A day at the races

On Saturday we managed to get up and out in time to go to town and see the mushers start. Let me tell you, those dogs LOVE to run! They were jumping and barking and pulling every other excited-doggie antic they could pull off. And apparently they were even more excited the day before! (The races are divided into two different days--so the 100 mile race is two days, fifty miles each day)

It was cold, a little overcast, but actually perfect for a race. And since it's obviously winter here, that's the kind of weather we expected. So, I wore my Amauti. Violet was in and out, so Calla took a couple turns.

Turns out Calla was fighting a virus that turned into a fever yesterday, so she especially loved being in there! I love that she loves it so much and I love that I can carry her in it.

The variety of racers was pretty interesting. There were quite a few from the over fifty and into the sixty crowd, a good number in their 30s and 40s. And a handful of 20-somethings. One girl I was intrigued by was seventeen, had eight dogs and had been mushing for nine years! By my math, she started when she was eight! What a great activity for a teenager. Made me wonder if she was home schooled.

The teams started two minutes apart. The longest races (100 miler) started first. These racers had up to twelve dogs.

That's a lot of dogs!

And they worked down to the juniors who raced 8 miles over two days. Juniors had up to three dogs.

To me, that's still a lot of dogs. But probably mostly because I'm thinking of how much work three dogs would be all year long. I can't even get our fuzz ball in for a proper hair cut. But I digress.

Each musher needed help at the starting line so the dogs just didn't take off before they were supposed to. And let me tell you, those dogs are EXCITED to get out there and run. And they are STRONG. You might not know that by looking at them. I was surprised at how skinny they were.

But then I realized they are endurance athletes and there is really no room for extra pounds.

I had to giggle because as one lady took off, one of the "stagers" as they are called, slapped her on the behind and hollered, "LOVE YOU!" Didn't take much to figure out that was his wife. Their son also was in the junior race. Seems that it runs in the family (no pun intended). They also had a kid in the mutt races (just hang on and I'll get to it).

I also had to giggle because there was so much to see and learn, but the kids' favorite thing? A giant pile of snow. I think every kid gravitated towards the giant pile of snow.

That is until their fingers got cold and we had to go get some hot chocolate. But they weren't complaining after the promise of hot chocolate.

By the time we got back from our warm up, along with a little sugar-up that seemed to help quite a bit, some of the racers were coming back in. Grace totally got into it.

Now for the mutt races, they hook one dog up to a sled, whether it's a "volunteer" dog and sled or your own, and kids get to run a course that's about 20 yards. It's free and fun for the kids. But this year we just watched. Dogs and kids are so great.

It's called a mutt race for a reason I guess. This is certainly not a husky, but it was the fastest and most excited dog of the bunch.

It also ran straight, which turns out to be important when pulling a sled full of kids, as we would find out.

These are Grace and Calla's little friends, also sisters, and that dog was about my speed. Needed a little help getting started, but it did fine and went the right direction.

These are also a couple friends of ours, and this picture was snapped seconds before the dog bolted into the crowd.

The good news is, it only happened once. The other good news is, nobody was hurt. They were all smiles soon enough and happy that everyone got a prize. And it underscored the importance of going straight.

I decided this sport is a lot of work. Taking good care of dogs is a lot of work. Training and conditioning that many dogs is a lot of work. Transporting that many dogs and all the gear is a lot of work. Going out in the cold for hours on end headed for some point in the great beyond and then turning around to go back is a lot of work. It's physically demanding and even on the dangerous side I'm sure. But then again, any sport that one takes seriously and works to master, even if it's just for fun, is a lot of work and dedication and is physically demanding.

On another note, I was talking with one of the musher's helpers and asked where she got her dogs. She said that several of them she got from Alaska and several of them were rescue dogs. I started to wonder if rescue organizations weren't some sort of gold mine for mushers. These racing dogs are high energy and programmed for running. It's a wonder many of them that start out in urban homes don't end up looking for new homes withing the first few years. Seems like a good bet to me. But I also noticed that not all the dogs looked like they were the typical sled dogs. Some of them looked more like mutts picked up from somewhere and trained to pull a sled. That's pretty cool, too.

It's a beautiful sport. Next year at the local derby I'd like to catch the afternoon events. I heard the weight pull is a pretty fun one to watch. And we missed the Skijoring, a dog or two "assisting" a cross-country skier--because we had cold, tired, hungery kids. But it was a good day full of new experiences!

Monday, February 22, 2010

While mommy is away--Part VI

While mommy is away and the kids and daddy have fun, mommy is having some fun of her own. Now, if you can please forget for a moment that I'm pregnant, that would be great. And if you want to remember that I'm pregnant and forgive me anyway, that would be just as great. I'm not wreckless, I promise.

The second night the activity was luging. Now, don't freak out. But I must tell you that I'm still scarred by the elephant incident and can't pass up an opportunity to ride an elephant (or to luge) ever again.

At 8:45 pm a troop of mostly thirty and forty something mothers set out in the dark for the luge course. I had seen it in the light, and really, it wasn't scary at all. The ramp went off a roof and the course twisted down a hill about 100 yards and ended on a frozen lake. Really, not scary.

I totally had to giggle because there we all were, most of us normally responsible mother-types and we were all standing in line in the dark waiting for our turn to get pushed down a luge course.

Proof that nobody was scared:

And we did have a choice of a push or no push. Most opted for the push.

Me, I chose not to be pushed because of my condition that you have forgotten about temporarily.

And off I go!

It was a bit of a thrill. Just enough trill for this thirty something mom who is out in the middle of the night (well, 8:45 pm) with a bunch of really nice ladies.

Word to the wise, going backwards down the course in the dark is more thrilling than going forward.

I'd totally do it again. And now that's one elephant I can check off my list.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Photo of the day

This morning Grace and Calla came running into the house (I had sent them out to get in the car) all excited because they had seen a snowmobile being pulled by dogs.

That wasn't exactly what they saw, but this weekend is the local dog derby. And the course goes right behind our house. So we quickly packed up and went up the road where I knew we could see them up close.

In Washington, the daffodils are beginning to bloom. Here, the dogs are racing! Tomorrow I'm hoping we can get to town in time to see some of the teams start. I love these kinds of new experiences. Makes me all warm and fuzzy inside even if it is 14 degrees outside.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

While mommy is away--Part III

While daddy was at home bowling and folding laundry, painting and baking, I was sitting up in Sun Valley in a secluded retreat center sewing away--though I did get out and enjoy the snow and sunshine, too.

First project was this thing. An Amauti--a traditional Inuit babywearing coat.

Absolutely amazing, minus the camouflage. I just can't do camo. So, before I left I took the whole thing apart, got the seam ripper out and ripped the camo off, washed it all and packed it away to take as my first priority. Needless to say, I was nervous.

Two days later--after putting each piece on and then ripping it off at least once and sometimes as many as three times, it was done. I think I may have stayed up until midnight that night working on it. Really, I had no idea what I was doing because I had never tackled anything like it before. But, I persevered and I am beyond thrilled with how it turned out. Beyond thrilled.

Second project I had packed just in case I decided I didn't want to do anything else. Actually, every project after the Amauti was packed as a very distant priority depending on my mood and what kind of time I had left. I had a quilt, a possible quilt, and this pattern for skirts for the girls. The two older ones had chosen some fabric about a year ago for a project I don't recall anymore, so I grabbed that fabric thinking it might be enough for that project. And I rummaged around and found some fabric that would work for Violet.

After the Amauti was done, those skirts were what was calling my name. After all it was Valentines Day and I hadn't even thought of anything to do for them. And my girls are dress girls, so I set to work. By the end of the evening, I had three skirts and I was bursting with excitement because they turned out so great. I had altered Violet's some, because Violet really has no business twirling too much and I was tired of gathering. And I was tired and wanted to go to bed.

I was so happy to have something for the girls. And they just had to put them on (over their clothes) to try them out.

And Calla told me that she was going to wear hers to school EVERY DAY!

So far, she's worn it two of the two days back since she got it.

Violet on the other hand, had fallen asleep on the way to pick me up (no nap) and couldn't quite fugue out what was going on.

In fact, I think she was wondering if mommy was just a dream, because she just kept looking at me like she couldn't believe it was really mommy after so long without her. And then she just went back to sleep.

But the other two twirled and twirled and twirled. Then we had dinner and they went to bed, dreaming of wearing their new twirly skirt to school the next day.

It did my heart good to have such a great present for them. And if all goes well, those skirts should fit them for a few years.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

While mommy is away--Part II

While mommy is away, daddy is in charge. Not that he isn't in charge when I'm not away, but when I'm four hours away and I have no Internet or cell service, he's really in charge.

First thing they did was watch a movie. Then they really got down to business--they made a list:

This is the list:

-Clean the whole house and laundry
-Read books
-Tell Stories
-Clean out car
-Cook Food
-Valentine for Mom
-Go to Church
-Water Calla’s Plant
-Take a Bath
-Go outside
-Dot to Dot
-Watch movies with popcorn
-Play Games
-Hang Pictures

There was a line through the cleaning out the car item and it was replaced with bowling. They apparently had a great time--and don't tell Grace, but Violet won. They also didn't get to hanging pictures, but they did hang a rather large picture on the livingroom wall.

It was this big:

And it involved over several days a lot of paint (followed by baths) . . .

And more paint . . .

Some serious concentration by a 19 month old . . .

Glitter stickers . . .

And finally, the finishing touches and LOTS of tape . . .

And some very excited children who kept the secret all the way home even though they were so excited they nearly burst.

They made me close my eyes and everything. Needless to say, I was very surprised.

I love my kids, and my husband. They know how to make a mommy feel loved, even if she does abandon them for a long weekend.

Coming tomorrow: how a mommy makes three little girls spin in glee! (I was nearly spinning in glee just thinking about it.)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

While mommy is away--Part I

This last weekend, a LONG weekend, I escaped. I escaped for four days and three nights to a crafting retreat and left daddy (the very capable daddy) home with three children and instructions only to keep them alive. Grace, who is 6, was instructed to help daddy. I figured they would be fine. Then I found out that where we were going, there was no cell service. So I said a prayer that they would be fine.

I returned yesterday evening and they were all alive and appeared to be fine. In fact, the laundry was done, they had a fabulous surprise for me, and they all seemed happy and well taken care of. Even daddy didn't look too worse for wear. I knew I married a good one and he proves it over and over.

I found on the camera a record of what they did over the weekend. Oh were they busy and they had a lot of fun. One of the activities, which isn't something really too rare, is they played doctor.

Now, this mommy is pregnant and last week they did an ultrasound to get some dates. I brought this home and the girls were very excited.

It also made the doctor game transform from broken bones and animals in their ears to them having babies. Grace is a fabulous midwife.

Here she's visiting with Calla. Calla is going to have a baby. See that lump in her shirt?

They did an ultrasound.

It's a kitten.

And Violet just had a flamingo.

I'm sure glad we know this baby is a baby.

Friday, February 5, 2010

I'm so proud of my little Grace

Three years ago my Grace was a painfully shy child. She woudln't talk to people unless they were her parents, grandparents, or in some other way a part of her nearly-everyday life.

Today I took the girls down to Kids' Gym. One of the local moms started a weekly activity at the community center for little kids to come run and play in a big space. One of the moms there I hadn't met before and when we were introduced it was revealed that I live out by her sister. Grace is in the same class and rides the bus with her neice, T. And in December Grace went to T's birthday party.

At the birthday party T's grandpa had his big draft horses hooked up to sleds and the girls got to ride the sleds around and they had a ball. Grace had a ball anyway. But what I'm proud of is the fact that this mom I met told me that of all the girls there, my little Grace was the first one to jump on those sleds and she talked to everyone and was really quite pleasant and fun. That made me happy.

And on Tuesday I went to school to help in Grace's classroom and witnessed Grace helping her classmates zip their coats when they were all getting ready to go outside.

She's helpful, she talks to everyone, and she is doing a great job of making friends. I couldn't be more proud of my little girl. She's come a long way!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The problem with women--another general observation

A while back I blogged about the problem with women. Basically, girls grow up not realizing that maybe what they will have the desire to do more than anything when they actually reach adulthood is to be a wife and mother. And then they become a wife and mother and suddenly they are torn between what they "always" wanted to be and what they now want to be exclusively.

It is an odd thing. I sometimes wonder if it deserves more attention than raising children outside gender boundaries. And not to be judgemental, but that just seems odd to me.

Anyway, back to my point. Grace is Star of the Week this week at school. I was to send a few photos of her in and she needed to fill out a questionnaire. It was harmless enough and really pretty cute. Name, age, height weight, number of brothers, number of sisters, favorite thing to do at school and at home, and what she wants to be when she grows up.

I was helping that day in her class and her teacher (who I love) was sweet enough to swap a couple things around so I could see Grace do her little presentation. And Grace did a good job. It made me smile.

She wants to be a "ballet teacher" when she grows up. Never mind that she's not even in ballet right now, that's what she wants to do.

I came home and was thinking about the whole thing. I'm not anti-public education or anti-education or anti-let's-give-our-kids-dreams-and-goals. But it bugs me.

When I was in high school I had one friend who wanted to graduate, get married and have children. That was her plan. She didn't know who she was going to marry, but she was going to college to find him. And she would sit in Physics and do her cross stitch. No, she wasn't weird. She is possibly one of the nicest human beings I've known. And she was beautiful and intelligent, kind and compassionate.

But she was going against everything we were there to learn. And now I think she's the one who had the right idea. She KNEW what she wanted to do. She knew what she was made to do. I don't think she ever declared a major in college because she got married one year after we graduated.

Now if Grace had put on her little form in Kindergarten that she wanted to grow up and be a mom, that would have been fine. But she didn't. And if she did that in the seventh grade, she'd probably get funny looks and people would wonder what on earth I'm grooming her to be.

Why isn't it okay for our girls to want to be wives and mothers? Why do they have to discover it later in life that really it's not a bad job? I know those are complicated questions that require the psycho-analysis of an entire culture and its history, but in truth, it's a simple question.

And in truth, the answer should be a simple answer. The answer should be that they can grow up wanting to be wives and mothers. But really, don't tell too many people! You'll scare them and they'll think your mother is a nut case and your father was an abusive control freak.