Midweek through our trip Alysee had a life long dream fulfilled of getting to go to her bestie Hannah Ralphs' house for a couple of days in Pocatello. When I presented her the option of staying with us in Utah and doing fun stuff as a family or going to Hannah's house for two days it took her about fifteen seconds to loudly yell "Hannah's house." You couldn't have seen two giddier girls than these two when we met up to do the exchange.
Hannah moved from our home town about three years ago and ever sense the two have been faithful pen-pals. Alysee and Hannah made a list of thirty things they just HAD to do over their two days together. They accomplished each one -- boy did they pack it in! The two had so much fun making jewelry together.
Both girls love to catch bugs -- check out the butterfly on Alysee's finger. Alysee had the time of her life. I love to watch these two little girls pick up on their friendship just where it left off. I can totally see them as college roommates in a few years. The whole family stayed Friday night at the Ralphs' house and enjoyed visiting and a tasty breakfast in the morning.
Our next stop was Missoula, MT. We drove by our old house (that sounds much more grand than it was -- cinder-block concrete family housing at the University of Montana). Then we picked up some lunch and went to Carr's park, the home of the famous carousel. Chloe was so excited she could hardly finish two chicken nuggets before riding.
Alysee + an animal=a slice of heaven
Cool artsy shot that Birch took of Nate
Before leaving Missoula we wanted to go see baby Sara Elizabeth's grave. We have only been back once in the past eleven years.
Her grave-site was a little unkempt so we all dusted it off and pulled up long grass around it before each person had a chance to place a flower on her grave. The kids talk regularly of Sara Elizabeth. They often ask questions like, "How old would she be now if she were alive?" "Would you have had Tyler if she hadn't died?" "I can't wait to die so I can see her."
It was strange for me the emotions that arose from being at Sara Elizabeth's grave. It's been a long time since her passing but the feelings and memories still seemed quite raw and vivid in my mind. Birch and I had a moment to hug and reflect back on what we have learned since that time. We also still have such gratitude for those people in our lives during this tough time that cared for our family. It was a time in our lives where we were very independent from our extended family, had no money (that is not an understatement), worked endlessly to keep our family afloat through odd jobs and hard work at grad school, learned by fire how to parent, and went through some REALLY tough trials. Even as all the memories of that time came rushing back into my mind, the heartache and stress, I still wouldn't trade that time in our lives for an easier road. Birch and I grew close together and we learned that we can do hard things! It is also a time period where I felt so alone and at the same time where I felt the closest to God. Not that I want a repeat...but I am thankful for the lessons learned.
After leaving Missoula we drove the finally leg of the day to Spokane. Emily and Ryan had pulled out every blanket they own to make us all a nice place to bed down for the night. We were all so excited to see Mila and Sage in the morning. Neither of the girls let us down -- we all got big hugs in the morning from each of them. It was so fun to see Emi and Ryan's new home in Spokane and be able to better visualize where they are now living.
Mila is a favorite at our house -- I think she has us each twisted around her little finger. Although she is talking so much more our favorite word that she says is "Birchy." She says it with such passion and excitement!
We went to church with the Andersen's and then delivered half of our kids to various cousin's houses for the week before returning home.
Even though our trek back from Utah was a long one we packed it full of memorable stops, hours of the Brady Bunch and Dr. Quinn- Medicine Woman, and tons of good treats. Oh yeah, I need to share the best idea ever. Before leaving for Utah my friend shared this idea which was a real hit with everyone. I packaged one item for every hour of the trip in a lunch bag and then each hour the kids could pick out whatever they wanted. The contents ranged from stickers, a small toy, bagel, apple, package of gum, and lots of treats. It was fun to see what the kids picked to eat first and sure made the hours zoom by a little faster.
What a wonderful trip!