20 September 2020

Yard Work Weekend


It's a good week when you start with Master Shifu noodle moustaches at dinner on Sunday and end with yardwork on Saturday. The kids have made noodle 'staches for years now, it's still funny. Justin mandated Sunday as my day of rest from dinner dish duty...it's about time. I'm quite enjoying the break from dishes, seems like I was put on dish duty shortly after I turned 8. This week the skies were filled with dreary smoke from all the fires on the west coast. It's hard not to equate half of California burning with the judgements of God. Thankfully, there are still God-fearing people who live there or that state might drop off the earth. 

Last week we finished our unit on Call it Courage. The boys worked on vocabulary, spelling, geography, and writing a few moments each day last week. I am very excited to start our new literary journey this week with Chronicles of Narnia. The plan is for the boys to put together a lapbook page for each chapter we read of the first book. Grandma Jean said she is reading the series again after many years, she was part of the inspiration. The boys were quite consumed with a new game, Night Zookeeper, I think they played about an hour each day. I quite don't mind them working on spelling, grammar, vocab, etc. Our homeroom resources are slowly trickling in, like usual I went overboard and ordered too many resources. It is nice to figure out what works best for each kid. Evelyn had several dynamite tantrums this week over school and cleaning up her messes. It is exhausting! She doesn't like to work on reading, writing, or math. She did read Hop on Pop and Go! Dogs Go! this week so that was a step forward. I got her test results from the disastrous IRI test last week. She scored dismally, like in the lower 10% in most areas except for letter identification and vocabulary. At least now we know how random that test is, she will improve drastically just reading every day. I joined a trial run of A-Z books and was able to save 40 new decodable books for free. That is enough material for a few months. I keep hoping the library will open for business. 

Monday Evelyn was having a very hard morning. Justin suggested we have a family lunch at Jimmy John's! That cured her funk! Before we left I noticed our new "Nugget" couch was on our porch. It is a very cool piece of furniture with 1 firm base layer, 1 soft layer, and two triangle pillows. The kids can use it to lounge about in our school room, for gymnastics, making forts, and imaginative play. They quite enjoyed playing with it the rest of Monday. The neighbor kids came over for some extra fun. Sunday night the kids were playing some version of four-square with a sword and spells. We are so grateful for the Ostlers. One our way home from lunch we stopped at a kid's consignment store for new church shirts for the boys and possible Halloween costumes. Instead we came home with new rainboots for the kids (except Phillip and his chonky dogs), bath robes for the boys, and stylish vests for Phillip. Everyone is in love with their new rainboots, at least the price was decent at $12 a pair. I assembled two more metal shelves for the garage that were taking up space. They are now between the 2nd and 3rd garage bays to hold the stuff that piles up there like bike helmets, coolers, and other garage extras. I smashed my thumb right on the scar Everett made all those years ago, the scar tissue exploded open again. That hurt! Amelia helped me set up for a newborn session, she earned some school points for her photography class. 

Tuesday was an extra busy day for me. I photographed baby Laney in the morning. I met Sister Potter at the park a few months ago and solicited her business! No shame here! I am so happy she said yes to the session. Laney was a perfect little model, she was super sleepy and poseable. I tried hard to ensure the kids had enough work to keep busy while I was away from the school room. Sarah Ostler took the little girls to gymnastics for me. Justin and I had a counseling session at the same time as gymnastics. I am needing therapy again for issues stemming from childhood sexual abuse when I was between the ages of 8-11. I hate how my issues still leak outside of my control. It's a good idea to seek tune ups from a professional after almost 16 years together. That was of course emotionally draining. I am going to start EMDR  (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) next week. Let's hope I make progress! Justin took Mia and the girls to Choir after dinner. I hear the little girls got treats at DQ while they waited. I photographed an engagement session with one of Jana's friends, Sarah and her fiancĂ©, Brent. The evening was smoky! I got home with time to clean the kitchen and teach the boys their piano lessons. One funny note about Everett. He wore his new bathrobe most of the day...just the bathrobe and undies. I am happy to report he added shorts before going to play with Kyran...still in his bathrobe. 

Phillip had a nerd moment. We were sitting about ready to start our evening devotional. He was dressed with his bathrobe and covered with a blanket. He plopped a toy on his head, declared, "I like Gameshows!" I don't think he's ever seen a gameshow before. So random and funny. We all had a round of laughs and giggles. Next day both boys were seen in their bathrobes (now wizard robes) playing in the yard with Kyran. I'm glad those robes are getting mileage. Phillip had medication review with Dr Aldous. We decided to up his dosage to 2 pills in the morning and if needed one at lunch (for gymnastics and piano lesson days).  

Amelia noticed on Monday that her fitness tracker was not picking up all her steps because she holds onto the treadmill. Next day she tied her watch onto her ankle, did it work? Yep! It picked an extra 5,500 steps! Smart girl. Phillip is going to the gym with us on Tuesday and Thursday when Justin is home working. Phillip had some funky moves on the treadmill...I had to step in and remind him the equipment is not for playing on. We didn't swim this week, it was too busy. 

Friday the kid's Jr Ranger badges came in the mail! Yay! We worked hard to finish the packets, watch the videos, and talk about Yellowstone for a week to earn the badges. The kids wrote part of the email sent to the forest rangers. I love how the Yellowstone badges are embroidered instead of the usual plastic pins we get. Josie had a playdate last week with her new friend Chloe. Evelyn has made several new friends, Scarlett and Grace so was off playing on Thursday. Josie was completely bored. I did a red-neck thing: set up the plastic pool on the sidewalk for her to splash about it. It was quite the attraction for several days. Justin was impressed with the level of nerd in my idea. Josie was happy, me too because she wasn't whining. Clare came over Friday afternoon. I finally got log-ins for educational minecraft this week. Amelia and Clare were totally geeking out the afternoon with their custom Halloween world. They programmed some very nerdy dialogue. Mia had a few set-backs with APEX this week, the curriculum used for Science. It was hard to get everything figured out. All the tests on her end were locked so she missed getting her assignment completed before the weekend. 

Saturday Justin had us all outside working on the yard. It was so pleasant outside. Amelia and I worked on the front yard. We pulled out the ratty carnations and daylily plants. I removed the paving stones to relocate them to the backyard for easier access to the garbage bins when barefoot. We planted over 60 spring bulbs! Josie planted several hycianths, the bulbs were purplish, she renamed the bulbs Jo-jo's Heaven. Because, of course, purple is heaven. The boys were busy in the backyard trimming branches, bushes, and pulling out the dying Oak tree. I had them rip out the ratty plants back there. Once my peony bare-roots arrive those will go along the back fence. I'm curious if raspberries will thrive in the center circle of the backyard? If not I want to plant some along the back fence. Phillip and Everett did their best to rip out the tree with their bare hands! We were busy all afternoon getting things done! We earned every blister and dirty nail. I spent a couple hours planning the education for next week. We are so happy to hear cousin Emmaline was baptized yesterday! 

13 September 2020

New-New Normal


We so enjoyed our visit with the James family. Reagan brought some make-up for the little girls enjoyment. Charity got hair, nails, and face makeovers thanks to Evelyn. The boys taught Mason how to play 5-Minute Marvel. Mason loved the game! He instigated a game before they left back for Utah. I adore when older cousins solicit their younger cousins to play! The sounds of chaos coming from the boys playing was epic. Dog Vader had a great time sniffing poor Molly's bum and playing with her. He acted like a puppy! Evelyn was super sad all day after the James family left. Lots of tears. We love when folks come and hate when they leave. 

Amelia, Everett, and I started a thing on Tuesday. We are getting up and going to the gym before school each day. I am literally rolling out of bed at 6:50 and peeling my eyes open. TOO EARLY for this mom who finally got to sleep in. It's ok, I was getting to the "way too lazy" stage. I'm glad we can start school at an earlier time with more energy. Everett is hilarious at the gym. He has to exercise next to me, which means he talks my ear off about how many miles he is running, the rate, his heart rate, what percentage, and his plans for the future. I also found a pull-up bar and climbing rope at DI this week. He's busy building those muscles! Several times I've spotted him hanging from the top branches of a tree in the backyard! Amelia and I have a goal to lose weight and better our general health. Mia is tracking her sleep, "steps" per day, and nutrition for her health class. I just want more room on my lap to hold kids! 

Tuesday the kids were really bored so we spent the afternoon swimming at the rec center. I will enjoy that aspect of our family pass. Everett swam 14 laps instead of playing with his siblings. That is one determined kid. 

My Great-Aunt Mary sent us a lovely box with two Pioneer cross-stitches she completed many years ago and an elephant per kid from her collection. The kids had more fun popping the bubble wrap. Evelyn wanted to turn the box from Uncle Mel into something special. Amelia, Evelyn, and I spent an afternoon turning the box into a doll-sized school room! We enjoyed the artsy project. This week started a new crop of piano students. I am teaching 3 of the Ostler kids and possibly another little girl from across the street. 

Friday we met other home-schooling families at the park for show-and-tell. My kids were totally psyched! Everett showed off his special monkey binky (sans binky), Phillip showed 3 Yoda things, Josie showed off a unicorn and her Lil DJ, and Evelyn showed us her make-up box. The best part was running around with lots of other kids for an hour. I spent some time this week setting up my Google Drive to organize the kids saved work in folders so I can easily do the assessments. The kids save their work to their personal Google Drives, I can access their folders and then save them to the correct subject and kid. I got through the first round of submissions in less than 30 minutes! YAY! I have to report on each kid for each subject every two weeks for the school year. It is less daunting than it sounds. The hardest part was Phillip's social studies submission, he was dragging his feet like usual. 

Saturday I spent the afternoon planning the next school week. I'm currently making a document in the kid's Google Drives with links and assignments for the entire week. After their work is done the kids can play the "fun" educational games for an hour. Evelyn took the IRI (Idaho Reading Indicator) Thursday at 3 pm. She was close to having a tantrum, tears, and picking wrong answers on purpose. I was unable to help her so sat close by with a handful of Skittles to reward each page she completed. I was frustrated because she knows the answers simply didn't want to do it. The platform the State uses was quite dorky as well. An annoying Owl leads the kids through a game/test. Just the way the test it set up makes it difficult for kids with learning disadvantages to do their best job. I did find that Evelyn needs spelling work more that I thought, I added that to her weekly work this coming week. Justin had the kids working off and on all day on the yard. I slept in then took a nap. Still felt like a sledge hammer bonked me over the head. Evelyn threw a level 9 tantrum just after I announced a family clean-up inside the house. Working together we can get it cleaned in 30 minutes. That girl screamed for an hour. She was damaging things so I locked her outside on the porch where she ripped grass, flowers, rocks, and poured water. I am at a loss, we mostly ignore her but she gets so violent sometimes she loses reason. 

Amelia is growing way too fast! She looks like a woman but acts like a girl. That must be strange for her too. I found her some cute PJs and workout clothes at the DI. I am always on the lookout for Geronimo Stilton books, this time I found over 12 books! Everett read them ALL before Saturday night. I just need to motivate Phillip to read them now. We are on to the 4th Fablehaven book. The boys and I were gripping our seats as we read the last two chapters of book 3. Riveting! 

06 September 2020

Labor Day Weekend

This week felt a little better. The kids had a goal for school and worked hard to pass things off. I also got several log-ins as the week continued, we got to try new platforms like Night Zookeeper, ABC Mouse, Quill, etc. Evelyn and Everett had zoom meetings for science and social studies. Evelyn also had speech therapy this week. However, I realized that I need to have a better daily plan so the kids have a better focus. We are ready Call it Courage which is a fun book about discovering inner strength through trials. 

Tuesday Phillip and Evelyn had well-child visits. Both kids are doing well! Once again confirmed that our kids are quite short but stout. The Dr starting questioning Phillip about his ability to read once he found out we home-schooled. He asked several probing questions like what level do you read at, can you read alone, and how long does he read each day. Phillip proudly reported he was reading Harry Potter along with Audible. The Dr told him that was not good enough and he had to learn to read boring things like textbooks and manuals. I wanted to punch him...Phillip has a hard time reading. He is doing quite well and tries hard. Phillip was crestfallen after our appointment. We talked about how we need to judge other's words against our heart and mind before we let other's rulings part of our framework. The Dr had some advice which was not the best for Phillip. We will try harder but Phillip can still listen to audible books and absolutely love them. We went to Target after school so the kids could burn their birthday money. Evelyn got a huge LOL baby in a purse. Josie was very sad about not getting one too. She returned her special owl flyer toy and spent all her allowance to get one of her own. That was an ordeal as I made a same-day trip to Target in the evening. 

The kids are loving gymnastics. Evelyn swears her muscles are stronger already! Josie joined the older class with Evelyn. She did well but the age difference was quite evident. Her LOL doll watched the girls do gymnastics. On Thursday I dropped off the boys to gymnastics then headed to Goodwill to search through their books. I love when there are new books that exactly fill in missing books in series I am collecting. Yay! 

The James family is here to visit us this weekend! They arrived after 10:00 pm on Friday. We cleaned the house then settled in to watch the new Mulan movie. The movie was sooooo good. Charity brought along their dog Molly, Vader was very excited about that. He's sniffed every inch of Molly several times over. We finally got everyone settled in a sleeping space before midnight. 

Saturday Charity showed off an old home video of Cousin Shawn before he passed away back in 2002. Justin was teary eyed watching his cousin talking and walking. Evelyn busted out her makeup to give Charity makeovers. We spent a lovely afternoon at Arrowrock Reservoir. The water was a good 50 feet lower that the first time we visited. The space we found had a lovely strip of mud to play in. The kids lathered themselves in mud just for the heck of it. Mia said it was a lovely spa treatment. The mud turned Everett into a pond monster. We made the trek across the lake to the opposite shore. The water level drop revealed a stair-step bank. The soft sand was really fun to play in, crumbling the sand down to the lower levels. Everett showed off his Angry Squirrel belly flop! Mason and the boys played in the raft for a long while. We also had Clare Palmer with us for the day. We packed up when Evelyn started to get hangry. I've heard Boise Fry Company is a must-try in Idaho so we gave it a try. Their burgers were the best we've tried. The fries fresh and homemade, the sauces were especially creative but too fancy for most of our group. Mia and Clare loved the blueberry ketchup, I thought the jalapeno sauce and aioli were delish. I felt quite gritty after this dip in the swampy lake...everyone got a nice shower before bed. 

We had a lovely sacrament meeting for church at home today. We had a testimony meeting then watched President Nelson's talk Hear Him. After church I showed Reagan and Mason how to make sushi. The rice turned out all mushy and gross but we used it up anyhow. 

02 September 2020

Phillip is 11


Phillip. He is a strange breed of dinosaur. He is all 11-year old boy! Starting to reek of pits and stanky feet. Those aside this kid is so snuggly. His hugs are the best in our family. His smile will bring you out of the darkest days. Phillip is learning to be helpful and kind, especially to his little sisters. I love the bond Phillip and Everett share, they are close friends. 

If you catch a side-glance of Phillip you might see a T-Rex Pterodactly mix winging by. He still sleeps with his feet resting on his cheek. He can put his feet over his head! Phillip is now wearing a size 12-14 for girth but a 10 for length. He loves to play with his Legos, Pokemon, and stuffed animals. He is growing his love of reading. We are reading the Fablehaven series out loud right now. I love discussing the books with the boys after reading. Their theories are wild and amusing. Ambree reports he eats paper and dirt. Maybe his brain cells haven't kicked in yet. Maybe he is craving trace minerals. Phillip astounds me with his spiritual depth. He has Justin's intuition for spiritual things. 

At his well child the 31 August 2020 Phillip weighed 104.8 lbs 90th percentile and 56.6" 49.5th percentile. He just started methylphenidate (Ritalin) for his ADHD. He is taking the non-extended drug because the extended version was way too expensive. I like that option since he only really needs it in the mornings. I suspect he will grow a couple inches before Halloween!  

Phillip (11) Evelyn (7) 2020 Birthday Edition

Last week was stressful, STRESSFUL. Hobbled in from vacation after 10 pm on Monday. Tuesday morning was our "first day" of homeschool. It was actually Monday...guess we worked on PE as we hiked up the hill dozens of times. Second day of school was Phillip's birthday! He was very excited to finally turn 11. I cannot believe he will be passing the sacrament in January. Justin had the day off work so we mostly just tried our best to get something done educationally. I tasked the kids to finished their Jr Ranger badges for Yellowstone park, watch a documentary about the park, and read some books. That was our first day of school. The park will mail them badges since that service is closed per COVID. All day long parents reported on the Tech Trep FB page about all the websites shutting down due to overload. I'm glad we skirted that issue. Phillip opened his gifts, nicely arranged by Evelyn on the coffee table. Phillip got a mini drone, RC car, awesome scooter, 5-minute Marvel card game, and a new Lego. He was disappointed over the volume. It's hard to want only the expensive toys! Phillip grew a couple inches this summer, he is gearing up for another spurt. He is a bit fluffy right now but only because his body is going to grow a few inches in height. Phillip requested homemade spaghetti for dinner. I used garden fresh tomatoes to make the sauce, so yum! I took a couple hours to shop for Evelyn's gifts, get a cart for our school supplies, and pick up Phillip's cheesecake(s). We invited over the neighbors for happy birthday cheesecake. We've all had the chance to play 5-minute Marvel, it is a really fun game cousin Everett introduced the boys to. 

Wednesday was a disaster. All the kids were tired, cranky, and resistant to everything I asked them to accomplish. Amelia was having difficulties with her anchor classes, the 8th graders were not connected to the schoology accounts all the other high school students are using. We finally discovered on Friday that the class syllabus' were linked in the course description webpage. Stupid. Once we printed those off she had something to work on. Poor kid had to create 3 schoology accounts as the teachers figured out the best way to get the 8th graders into the system. Communication was slow due to the amount of students with issues and the ratio of teachers working on the problems. I think we are finally getting things figured out. I just need to remember this is new for us all and we will figure it out as time moves on. I was able to identify several gaping holes in my plan of attack that I am working on filling this week. This week I discovered several other gaping holes that I also need to fix. This is a work in progress. This year we have Amelia in 9th/8th grade. Mia wants to be a mom-tographer. Phillip is in 5th grade (taking 4th grade math), Everett is in 4th grade, Evelyn is in 1st grade, and Josie is preschool. 

This is our basic schedule:
Monday: math, ELA, reading (Call it Courage)
Tuesday: girl's gymnastics, math, reading, journals, piano lessons
Wednesday: math, ELA, reading, journals, science
Thursday: boy's gymnastics, math, reading, journals
Friday: Social Studies, journal presentations, reading 
M-F: 20 minutes of Josie time, the kids rotate turns teaching Josie preschool skills

The kids are taking some science and social studies through Tech Trep, so they will meet the basic PLG's by the end of the year. I can then focus on what I want for those subjects. We are studying nature as we explore our state and for SS learning about the US Constitution and the Voting Process! Amelia is pretty much doing her own thing. She does join us for family reading time. After school I found Josie carefully shaving Styrofoam on an air vent, the little balls were floating around on the air current! She was making snow! She was happy to clean up her mess with the vacuum. I pulled out a hand towel, pair of undies, and a shirt from the vacuum canister after she finished cleaning! Everett and Ambree built a fantastic multi-roomed fort in the backyard. They quickly tore it down when the rain came, which lasted only 3 minutes. Both kids were upset the tent came down for only 3 minutes of rain. They rebuilt the next day...only to have it rain again for 5 minutes. 

Thursday was Evelyn's birthday! She woke up at the BCoD excited for her day. Justin worked from home so she was able to open gifts here and there throughout the day. She opened her first gift a, Rainbowcorn...the heart was a spicy pepper! We were all amazed the toy manufactures knew about her spicy personality. She named it Stripes. She requested cupcakes for her birthday treat. We made yogurt cupcakes with buttercream frosting. For dinner we celebrated the kid's birthdays with a restaurant dinner at Jalapenos. Justin chided the kids to refrain from eating the chips and salsa like animals, no such luck. I was happy for a break from making dinner. The stress was eating away at my soul. My neighbor came over for a quick minute to answer some questions I had about the semester learning plans (due that night) and the reporting on learning goals. I was in over my head, she recreated my mountain into a tiny hill. Evelyn opened the rest of her gifts outside on the lawn so her friend Ellie could join us. Justin helped the girls to bed that night so I could focus on getting the semester plans done for 4 kids. I made the deadline with an hour to spare! The boys and Josie had their first gymnastics lessons earlier in the day. I was not happy about making 3 trips so had the gym place Josie in the 5+ homeschool class with Evelyn on Tuesday. Now I have a girl day and a boy day. 

By Friday we had no food in the fridge, a mountain of laundry, the car top carrier still installed, the lawn a mess, and a house rated level 4 disaster. BUT we got school squeezed in each for a couple hours each day. Success. Over the weekend I was able to work on trip photos and tidying the house with the family's help. The kids earned some extra money cleaning the van and garage. 

Sunday I got a calling! Hooray! I am one of 3 ladies over the Activity Day Girls! I get to be the instigator and help the program actually start bi-monthly classes. YAY! I'm a bit overwhelmed at the moment but in a week or so things should settle down into a pattern.  

Evelyn threw some epic tantrums this week. Wednesday she ripped up a shoelace tying learning tool I got to help her. I asked her to wait until I could help her out...no...that kid ripped up the cardboard and cut the ties to shreds all while screaming like a banshee. Seems like everyday she threw major tantrums, hitting, spitting, pushing, and tearing things to pieces. It hurts my heart to watch her deal with her anger in such a destructive manner. The best way to defuse her is alone time in her room, hugs, and remove her from the home (take a walk). Justin read an article that kids with ADHD often experience drastic/short mood swings. Depression/bipolar swings are long and even. Any tips are appreciated. 

01 September 2020

Island Park Vacation

Vacations are a lot of work...and a lot of fun! Monday the 17th was incredibly busy! We spent the morning returning some items to the Lakeshore Learning Store, picking up Mia's new Ukuele, AND picking up the kid's new computers. I was impressed with the "Computers for Kids" operation. They thought of the small details as well...like making sure all the kids had the same towers, monitors, etc so fights would not break out! I literally laughed when the secretary mentioned that. Once at home we set everything up asap. It was all quite exciting. I moved around the computers desks because it seemed like a better idea to have Phillip at his own station. Everett and Evelyn are together where Everett can help her with the small needs. Amelia is stationed down in the office with Justin. Personal space will not be a buzz word much this year. Learn to share. Tuesday and Wednesday I focused on laundry, grocery shopping, and packing for our trip. 

We wanted to attend a Tech Trep pool party at Lava Hot Springs before heading up to Island Park, that meant the van needed to be packed and ready to go Wednesday night. That feat was quite impossible because we couldn't pack the van until the cooler was ready. We tried hard to leave early but did not get out of the house until 9 am. Still a decent departure time for a large family. Justin plotted a route on google maps to pass by Craters of the Moon National Park. Sometimes Google steers you wrong. There was some delay on a faster route so the maps steered us on a strange round-about over dirt roads and through a military installation! We still made it back to civilization and the freeway. Phillip had a bout of nausea within the first 30 minutes of our trip. Justin quickly stopped before Phillip yakked in the van. He was quite green about the gills until we stopped traveling. Can't travel without barf in this family. He might have had a reaction to his new medication and traveling at the same time. 

The drive from Nampa to Craters of the Moon went through desolate landscapes. We made it to the park around lunchtime. All the kids complained about eating meat or PB/J sandwiches. Josie wouldn't eat because I forgot the nutella. Go ahead and starve you pampered humans. We stopped at a picnic table for our miserable lunch. Everett got stuck climbing a large rock. The girls and Phillip climbed all over a fun tree with low branches. Amelia took herself and Octavius for a walk to admire the black volcanic landscape. We found a lost iPhone that looked like a 13 year old owned it, took it back to the ranger station just as an SUV was entering the park...guess what? It was the lost iPhone folks returning to look with a sobbing 13 year old. That felt good, we just passed the device through the ranger's outpost to the owners. Thankfully the weather was quite mild, with the stiff breeze we could bear the arid landscape. We stopped off to walk around Devil's Orchard. The kids learned about how the landscape developed, witches broom, and the strange vegetation. Amelia needed space, she walked alone 1/2 mile ahead of us! Felt like we were "at the mall" kind of a situation, too cool for our school. The best part was Inferno Cone. The hike up was quite steep up cinder rocks to a killer overview of the area. It was very windy up on top! Very. Windy. Most of the view was obscured by a thick layer of smoke from wild-fires raging in California and Idaho and Colorado....and all around. The rocks were breath-taking. The volcano heat created lovely pumice stones with mica rainbow colors. My hair was standing straight up from the wind. We were all quite parched from the wind and heat. We stopped for drinks at a gas station in Arco City. The mountain was plastered with numbers, turns out each graduating class since 1920 has painted their numbers on the hill! Jana was delayed as well, so we took our time grabbing a couple extra items at Walmart in Rexburg before heading up to the cabin. We took care of dinner the first night. Justin rallied the kids to help him start a fire to roast hot dogs and make s'mores. The cabin is really fun. Some interesting features are: totem pole, really steep stairs, bathrooms only on main level, freaky taxidermy in the dining room, separate game house with extra beds. Josie was terrified of the taxidermy in the cabin, she never relented her fear of the "freaky animals." To reach the bathrooms one HAD to pass through the dining room. One bathroom had a moose toilet paper holder...with demon eyes (according to Josie). Justin and I had dinner all ready to eat when the Suapaia's arrived. Yay! Let the cousin fest begin. I set up the hammocks for everyone to enjoy. After Jana and Rudy chose their sleeping arrangements the rest of us found spots to sack out. I slept in the game cabin with the little girls and Phillip. Phillip was scared that first night of bears, bears coming in to eat him while sleeping. I'm happy to report we made it through the night alive and well. 

Friday morning Rudy had a chance to sleep in until he got up. We ate some breakfast then went on a walk around the area. Hannah and my girls collected wild flowers to make a giant bouquet for Jana. Phillip found a "weather rock" set up along the road. After lunch we packed up some snacks and drinks for a fun afternoon floating the river. Jana rented a boat and 4 inner tubes for our group. The drive to the drop-off point was not very far away from Mack's Inn, made the river ride seem short. The estimate of 3-4 hours was quite accurate. Rachel was not a fan of the boat, the inner tubes, her life jacket, etc. She was not a fan. Snacks and juice helped tame the beast for a little while. The first hour was so fun! We discovered the inner tubes went in circles because we only got one paddle instead of double paddles. Making progress meant lots and lots of rowing. The river banks were breathtakingly beautiful. Amelia spotted a moose. We saw lots of fish and river plants. Most of the kids made the plunge at the river swing area. Josie won an award for traveling the furthest. Rudy lost his flip flops in the river plants. Hannah fell off the boat once. Amelia had the right idea towards the end, hitching a ride with a can of soda in her other hand. Towards the middle we asked how much longer we had, a guy said we were barely halfway. We scoffed....until we realized that indeed we were still only half way! Coast guard come save us! Our boat navigation was terrible. Too many paddles helping us row. We hobbled back to the Inn around 5 pm. We survived the pioneer level river trip of 2020. Rudy prepared delicious pepper smoked shredded beef for dinner. Jana whipped out 4 different salads for side dishes. Everett challenged Rudy to an epic ping pong ball battle, no one won. We all ate then collapsed on the couches for a night of TV...and a handful of homemade oreos (thanks Jana, I'll never forgive you). 

Saturday morning we lazed about enjoying the cabin and all the comforts of relaxing in "nature." We explored Johhny Sack's cabin. The actual cabin was closed but Rangers were present to tell stories about the man and the cabin. Rachel found a nice dirt pile to nuzzle into. On the walk back a group of older folks spotted two Moose (meese?) ranging about in eye distance. The size of those animals was quite disarming. We drove a bit further to see Mesa Falls. The kids needed a snack before walking the circuit. The hangry adults needed a snack too. Everett met his best Angry Squirrel friend chittering at us from his tree. A few adrenaline junkies were jumping over the railings to scale down the cliffs with kayaks on their shoulders. All to catch a high kayaking down the rapids. Maybe they should've tried the falls first! I thought they had a better chance of chucking the kayaks off the viewing platform then scrambling down the cliffs to the river. The little ones were worried about the guys having an accident. Masks were required outside at Mesa Falls. Several folks of the elderly variety were quite vocal about our lack of manners and masks. Justin wanted to joke about our recent trip to China. Phillip finally made friends with baby Rachel. She allowed him to carry her about. He had her laughing with his wide range of strange noises. I think Uncle Rudy thought Phillip was short a few marbles! Phillip always had a strange look on his face and t-rex arms...it's just 10-11 year old boys that are quite strange. The falls were magnificent. The falls were fronted with the side of a hill so all the mist created a mini-biome with ferns, brilliant mosses, and green shrubs. Josie had to use the restroom so my visit was cut a little short. We further tortured the kids with an extended hike through the back woods towards the lower falls. Josie's new shoes tore her tender skin so she went half the hike barefoot. Thank goodness the trail was smoothed dirt. Amelia turned photographer to capture some of the gorgeous berries and flowers. We turned back for our cars once the whining reached capitulation. That was a fun death march. I introduced Jana's family to walking tacos. Salad in a bag! Washing up all the kids took the rest of our evening along with watching "Leap!" 

Sunday we had a lovely breakfast of amish breakfast casserole. The guys conducted a sacrament meeting for us. We listened to a conference talk, sang songs, and watched a video of the week's lesson. We packed up the cooler with picnic food and snacks. All the smoke in the air lent a hazy spell over Yellowstone. In our van we listened to several fun podcasts about the park, one was about Truman Everts who got lost for 37 days in the park back in the 1800s. Our first stop was a picnic along the shores of Madison River. Everett took a spell to sit and listen to the beauty around him, I spotted him quietly admiring the river. This picnic went better since I brought chips along with sandwiches. Next we saw Lower Geyser Basin. All the kids were impressed with the sulfurous fumes. Next stop was the Grand Prismatic Pool. Amelia ditched us to race around the plank walkway all by her lonesome. It felt like being ditched at the mall because we were not cool enough. Josie saw a visor floating on a hot bacterial mat, she exclaimed, " Oh no! That man got died by the hot water, only his hat, boo-hoo!"  To prove it was 2020 we also spotted a lonely face mask littering one of the pools. Everett spent his time trying to catch Amelia. She evaded capture by hiding behind a tree until he left to find the group. Our last stop was Old Faithful, Phillip renamed it "Old Unreliable" since it only erupted every few hours. It's not reliable to a kid when the eruptions are not constant. Justin and Rudy dropped us off since the parking lot was full. Phillip hopped onto a branch another group was sitting on, the branch wiggled a bit. One guy flipped out yelling at Phillip to keep his distance and keep 6 feet away. Another group claimed the other side of the branch, same guy flipped out when they got too close. Such is the world today. I'd like to think his wife was sick and wanted to tour the park while she could. Still a little courtesy goes a long way. The geyser erupted just a few minutes after we were settled. The guys missed the show. Jana and her family left for the cabin to get dinner finished. My clan walked around the Old Faithful loop. I've never done that hike before! It was a really cool loop with lots of pools, geysers, hot pots, and springs. My shoes were not made to walk a great distance in, the backs of my heels were a bleeding mess before we got back to the van.  Justin took a pass around Firehole, he spotted a geyser erupting, he felt quite vindicated after missing Old Faithful's eruption. I was quite impressed with the growth in the park over the years! The last time I visited the burned trees were quite prominent, this time all we could see was green. A wild fire raged to the south of Old Faithful while we were visiting, it added to the hazy smoke in the air. 

Monday Jana was up and ready to leave when we were just waking up. We got to squeeze them before they headed home. Everett attached himself to Rudy: "how can I get my muscles as big as yours so I can beat my brother?" Soon Everett was soliciting an exercise from Rudy. He's faithfully worked on his plan everyday since returning from vacation. Rudy has a new man-crush! Everett gave Rudy 50 hugs that morning. Such a good time with family. We loved baby Rachel. She has awesome dance moves, is a normal 20 month old tantrums and all! Hannah and the girls had a lovely time. We busted out the walkie talkies so the kids could play in the woods around the cabin. Amelia organized the kids into groups and played a fun game with them. I was able to take a mental break from the stress of getting homeschool up and started. Two miles outside of Island Park Josie barfed up her morning breakfast. Gross. Everett followed suit...outside the van this time. I opened the car top carrier to clean up the mess with a swim towel. I forgot to close the car top carrier before we took off. The wind carried away Josie's puddle jumper and the bag of pool towels. The water shoes and fans survived. Justin took a detour to Parker, ID just north of Rexburg to visit the Crapo graves and home. It was sad to see Grandma Crapo's lovely garden taken over with weeds and bugs. Amelia and I took a couple Hen-n-chicks to keep growing in Nampa, took a piece of memory with us. My good friend Michelle met us for lunch at T-Rex burgers in Rexburg. Everett spilled a container of fry sauce on my birks/feet. I spotted a hose to clean off my foot. I smelled terrible for a few hours. So fun to visit with Michelle Rognon, we were in Sidney for a few years together. Sister Leavitt offered an open invitation for anyone to join her at Steadman Ranch for a day of fun at the water slides. We passed near the slides on our drive home, stopped for a few hours of water fun. The slides were quite epic! One slide was 500' the other slide was 700'! Tubes were provided for hours of racing up and down the hill and slides. The Ostlers were there so we got to play with friends, bonus! We tried every configuration we could imagine to race down the slide. The kids loved every minute. Josie loved the collection of play houses scattered around the property. I think a family reunion there next year is a possibility. After dinner we did not get back home until after 10 pm! Home, sweet home.