Tag Archives: Idaho

Counting Our Blessings

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This Thanksgiving was untraditional in a lot of ways. As a family we are navigating some uniquely stressful and triggering challenges that we are unable to share with others for the time being. This Thanksgiving was reflective of that. We were not in a position that traveling to visit family was an option. The fact that Molly was unable to come home for the holiday, Grace was now a married woman, and Ozzie was only being given a 24 hour home pass meant that Thanksgiving would be different this year.

Rather than mourn the loss of what couldn’t be, or focus on the struggles of this season, we chose to embrace the weekend in an untraditional way, with new traditions this year.

Our holiday weekend began when we picked up Ozzie on Wednesday night. Because he would only be home for one night, we decided to make the most of his time at home and fit in as much fun as possible. We began with a trip to the movies.

Ozzie’s “gotcha day” falls on November 22nd. This is the anniversary of his adoption day, and like the other two boys, we celebrate “gotcha days” by allowing the adoptee to pick an activity that allows us to celebrate this special day in our family’s story. Ozzie was not at home this year on his “gotcha day” so we delayed his celebration a week and celebrated Wednesday night with a trip to the movies.

We went to see Ford vs Ferrari. 

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This movie has been on Ozzie’s wish list ever since seeing the ads for it. Anyone who knows Oz knows that he is obsessed with all things car and NASCAR related, so this movie was right up his alley! Needless to say, he was thrilled when he found out the plans for the evening. I knew Ozzie would love the movie but was surprised how much the rest of us enjoyed it. It was an amazing movie!

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Ozzie declared it the best movie he had ever seen.

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The following morning we woke up and began Thanksgiving preparations. Zach picked up Braden and Tyler for some Turkey Bowl football fun with the guys from church. Toby headed out for a morning of metal detecting at our local park, and Ozzie and Rusty stayed behind with me to help bake while we watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

This year we weren’t eating Thanksgiving dinner with family or at home. Instead we were joining forces with Gracie’s in-laws and others for a Thanksgiving celebration at church. This ended up being a great blessing. The complete diversion from our traditional celebration made the situation bearable and even blessed. The food was wonderful (There was so much of it!) and the company even better! We were so busy feasting, fellowshipping and playing board games that I never captured a photo of the festivities…

A sure sign everyone was enjoying themselves.

At the end of the meal Toby and I made the five-hour, round trip trek to return Ozzie to his RTF and ourselves back home to bed.

Molly was also experiencing a different sort of Thanksgiving. Since a plane trip home for a long weekend wasn’t realistic, she was invited to spend Thanksgiving with a roommate’s family. Katrina is one of Molly’s eight roommates and her “bestie” out in Idaho. She invited Molly to join her family in Utah for Thanksgiving and Molly gratefully accepted. We were glad that Molly had someplace to spend the holiday and we were so thankful to Katrina’s family for being Molly’s holiday parents in our absence.

Molly had a wonderful Thanksgiving and sent us photos of her adventures in Utah, including:

A Thanksgiving 5K run,

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Baking pies with Katrina,

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A snowy trip to the temple,

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A BYU basketball game,

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And lots of fun, family/friend time!

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It was tough having Molly away for Thanksgiving but good preparation for the next adventure that is in store for Miss Molly. She has prayerfully decided to take a sabbatical from school and serve a mission for the Lord that will take her far from home for 18 months. She sent us this screen shot of her completed application and now we wait and see where the Lord will send our sweet girl.

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Oh, there is so much happening in and to our family and I find myself reeling a bit from the whiplash of so many changes occurring at once. I have to remind myself to keep on breathing and trusting God’s hand and plan in our life story.

We may not know how this chapter will end but we know how our story will end…

He had already penned the final paragraph,

and with God as the divine author, it promises to be a perfect ending.

 

 

 

Miss Molly

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Well, it has been 3 weeks since we bid Miss Molly good-bye and left her 2000 miles away to launch into adulthood…

And she has taken flight beautifully.

She is loving college life, loving Idaho, loving her roommates, classes, and the multitude of college activities offered at BYU-I. As parents we couldn’t be happier to see her so happy. She is thriving in every sense of the word. Here are some photos of our sweet girl and her Idaho adventures:

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The first Sunday in Idaho as Molly and her roommates head off to church.

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While Molly was working at the tutoring center a kind lady was handing out cookies. It made her day!

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Molly has been blessed with eight awesome roommates. Katrina, a fellow freshman at the house, is Molly’s closest friend.

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Molly has enjoyed documenting her Idaho adventures with beautiful photos and thoughtful reflection on her Instagram account:  tripping_over_gods_blessings. 

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While grocery shopping, the girls decided the house needed a house “pet.” They brought home this flora mascot instead.

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Molly has loved living so close to a temple…something that is a rare treat when you were raised on the east coast. Determined to soak up the sweet spirit so readily accessible, she has set a goal of visiting the temple three times a week.

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Enjoying a fun night out at a local soda shop.

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The beauty found in the ordinary…as seen through Molly’s lens.

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Molly at I-night…the weekend of social and service activities for the new freshman.

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Enjoying the social side of college life.

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Molly making friends at weekly devotional 😉 

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Dinner time!

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Molly and her roommates making Sunday dinner together.

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Molly and her roommates making homemade bread to deliver to their landlord and other friends.

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One night Molly and her roommates bonded over hair dye as they all colored each others hair. Here is Molly’s new look.

One week until we get Molly home for the wedding festivities. It is wonderful to see her doing so well in Idaho, but I’m looking forward to loving on her in person!

Grand Tetons

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Our Saturday at Yellowstone was cut short as we hurried south in hopes of fitting in a visit to Grand Teton National Park before the sun set.

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Grand Teton sits just south of Yellowstone National Park by only a few miles. I have always found it astounding  how different the terrain is between these two National Parks that in are such close proximity.

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“The areas around the Grand Teton mountain range and its lakes were established as a national park in 1929 in order to protect the land from commercial exploitation. The protected area was extended into the surrounding valley in 1950. Grand Teton National Park currently covers more than 310,000 acres and is located only 10 miles from Yellowstone National Park.

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Located high above sea level at elevations from elevations from 6,320 to 13,770 feet, Grand Teton National Park is a diverse ecosystem with terrain ranging from summertime wildflower meadows to rushing whitewater streams. There are also numerous serene lakes with deep blue pools, echoing the stillness and color of the glaciers that shaped them. The wild and winding Snake River descends through the park in a rush of water and the dense forests blanketing the mountainsides provide habitat for a vast array of fauna and flora, with some species dating back to the prehistoric era.

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Opportunities for viewing wildlife abound inside the park. It is often possible to see both grizzly and black bears, gray wolves, coyotes, bison and bald eagles. Other common sightings include pronghorns, elk and a variety of smaller mammals such as the Uinta ground squirrel.”

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We arrived in the park just as the sun was sinking behind the mountains.

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It left us with little time to enjoy the park, but we did fit in a quick hike to String Lake and captured some photos of this stunning National Park before the sky grew dark…

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Yellowstone Beauty

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Well, we are back home from taking Molly out to school.

It has been an eventful 10 days, beginning with Braden’s temple sealing two Saturdays ago and ending with three weary travelers stumbling through the door yesterday afternoon. Our cross country trip took us on a journey of 4000 miles, through 10 states, with stops at  historical sites, national parks, and roadside treasures across America…

Allowing Braden to capture some of the wonder experienced three years ago on our cross country bus trip.

After dropping off Miss Molly at BYU-Idaho, and bidding her farewell on Friday night, we began our long sojourn home. It lacked some of the spark we enjoyed on the trip westward, without Molly’s light and cheerful spirit with us. Determined to shake off the feelings of loss and gloom that had settled upon my boys, I planned some special stops on the way home for my two big boys to enjoy together.

I thought this was an opportunity for some special connection between Rusty and Braden, without Molly nearby. Both boys are especially close to Molly and tend to draw close to both their sisters, rather than each other. I think much of this is a natural effect of male interactions, but some of it stems from laziness. In their interactions with their sisters, no work or effort is required on their part. The girls naturally carry the burden of connection and conversation, allowing the boys in the family to be passive partakers of the enjoyed connection. My hope on this trip was that without Molly there to act as a facilitator of connection, the boys might find their own friendship aside from the ones they share together with the girls, so we made plans to make some memories on our way back home to the rest of the family. Our first stop was Yellowstone.

We arrived at the Western entrance of Yellowstone on Saturday morning. Down one explorer, it was just Braden, Rusty and I exploring this national park.

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Both boys were excited about this stop. Being one of the more well-known national parks, Braden had a bit of an idea of what to expect here. He knew he would be seeing geysers and watching Old Faithful erupt, but had no idea all the other unique sites we would be seeing at Yellowstone.

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We began our tour of Yellowstone at the Lower Geyser Basin, working our way around the park. The two things that struck me as we worked our way around the park was the sheer vastness of Yellowstone and the great diversity of the land and animals in the different areas of the park.

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“Yellowstone National Park is America’s first and foremost National Park, drawing over three million visitors yearly. Established in 1872 by the United States Congress “for the preservation of” its many wonders and “for the enjoyment of the people,” and now encompassing 2.2 million acres.

The Park has five entrances and some 370 miles of paved roadway. Situated in the northwest corner of the Wyoming frontier, Yellowstone is a treasure that inspires awe in travelers from around the world, boasting more geysers (about 250 active geysers from amidst 10,000 total thermal features) than anywhere else on the globe.

Yellowstone is home to thousands of active thermal features, including the world renowned Old Faithful Geyser.”

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One of our first adventures was to enjoy Artists’ Paintpots hike:

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 “Along this short walk you will see very good examples of most types of thermal features found in Yellowstone. These features include some very pretty hot pools, steaming fumaroles, erupting geysers and probably the best easily accessed mudpots in the park. The area is highly active and at least one geyser is usually erupting here at all times.”

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We also made stops at…

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Grand Prismatic Springs:

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“Temperature 147-188°F Dimensions 250×380 feet. Grand Prismatic is the largest hot spring in Yellowstone, and is considered to be the third largest in the world-New Zealand has the two largest springs. Grand Prismatic sits upon a wide, spreading mound where water flows evenly on all sides forming a series of small, stair-step terraces. The Hayden Expedition in 1871 named this spring because of its beautiful coloration, and artist Thomas Moran made water-color sketches depicting its rainbow-like colors. The sketches seemed exaggerations and geologist A.C. Peale returned in 1878 to verify the colors. The colors begin with a deep blue center followed by pale blue. Green algae forms beyond the shallow edge. Outside the scalloped rim a band of yellow fades into orange. Red then marks the outer border. Steam often shrouds the spring which reflects the brilliant colors. Grand Prismatic discharges an estimated 560 gallons per minute.”

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Old Faithful to watch its ever famous eruption:

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“No visit to Yellowstone is complete without experiencing at least one eruption of Old Faithful. Old Faithful erupts more frequently than any of the other big geysers, although it is not the largest or most regular geyser in the park. Its average interval between eruptions is about 91 minutes, varying from 65 – 92 minutes. An eruption lasts 1 1/2 to 5 minutes, expels 3,700 – 8,400 gallons (14,000 – 32,000 liters) of boiling water, and reaches heights of 106 – 184 feet (30 – 55m). It was named for its consistent performance by members of the Washburn Expedition in 1870. Although its average interval has lengthened through the years (due to earthquakes and vandalism), Old Faithful is still as spectacular and predictable as it was a century ago.”

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While at Old Faithful we strolled over to Old Faithful Inn:

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Old Faithful Inn is the most popular hotel in the park.  Built during the winter of 1903-04, the Old Faithful Inn was designed by Robert C. Reamer, who wanted the asymmetry of the building to reflect the chaos of nature. The lobby of the hotel features a 65-foot ceiling, a massive rhyolite fireplace, and railings made of contorted lodgepole pine. Wings were added to the hotel in 1915 and 1927, and today there are 327 rooms available to guests in this National Historic Landmark.

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It was stunning. We had fun walking around the lobby and introducing Braden to the inn’s famous huckleberry ice cream…Rusty’s favorite!

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As we explored Yellowstone we were in awe and understood why, upon seeing this magnificent place, Theodore Roosevelt designated it the first National Monument in the United States. 

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And it remains one of the most diversely stunning places in America today. We are so glad we got to share this magnificent place with Braden!

 

 

BYU-I Good-byes

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After a week-long trek across the United States, the day had finally arrived. It was time to get Molly settled into her new home and take our leave. We couldn’t delay the inevitable any longer!

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We woke on Friday morning with the mix of emotions evident on each and every face. As we prepared for the day ahead of us I tried to keep things light and focus on the fun and adventure of this new experience, but my efforts were overshadowed by palpable anxiety and the weight of grief. As hard as this day would be for Rusty, Molly and I, it was nothing to the overwhelming feelings of loss Braden was battling.

Despite reassurances that Molly would only be gone until Christmas and then we would get her home for four months until she returned for her spring semester, he still struggled. For him, as illogical as it may seem, this was just another loss in a long line of losing people he loves. It has been his experience that once you open your heart to someone, they will leave you… either to drugs, death, prison, or by simply being pulled from your life by the very system that is there to protect and preserve. Even though this experience was nothing like the losses of his past, the emotions felt all too similar, thus triggering thoughts of previous losses that were all too final.

It was with much prayer, compassion, and tenderness that we moved into the day.

Our first stop of the day was Molly’s new home. Rather than stay in a more traditional apartment style dorm, she opted to rent a room in a cute bungalow just six minutes from campus center.

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She would be sharing this charming home with eight roommates, many of whom we met as we unloaded her gear from the car.

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The boys were a big help as we toted in all Molly’s clothes, books and decorations.

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Molly’s room is a single. For a slightly higher monthly payment Molly opted to pay to have the room to herself. She felt this would be the best for her first semester. This way she can enjoy the comradery of shared living spaces with her eight roommates, but also would have a private space to escape to when she needs to be alone.

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Her room was generously large…far bigger than it seemed in the photos…

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And we soon set to work unpacking her boxes and turning her room into a home, with pictures and personal touches.

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The end result was nothing short of charming!!

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She has a large closet, a dresser, an elevated bed with storage below, a bookcase, and a desk area for studying.

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It is so cute and homey.

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Our next stop was Walmart to stock her kitchen cabinets until she gets into a routine of weekly grocery shopping. We arrived at Walmart to find every parking spot filled with new students and their families. I am not exaggerating when I say it was like Black Friday inside, with aisles filled to capacity and every register manned by a frazzled looking clerk.

We loaded up her cart with student-friendly food and made our way to the other side of the store to pick up a plastic storage tote and a footstool for climbing into bed.

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Then we navigated our way to the front where an employee was guiding customers through a maze of caution tape to the next open line. I am not kidding when I say it was like Black Friday shopping!

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We made it out alive and headed back to her apartment where we unloaded her groceries into her assigned kitchen cabinets…

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Then we headed over to campus to take care of some student tasks.

Our first stop was to check her in at the “Get Connected” tent where she was assigned her student mentors that would guide her through the next two days of activities. Here she also received her welcome booklet that spelled out all the fun being offered over the weekend.

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Then we began working our way through the “to-do” list for new freshman, including getting her student ID and picking up her preordered books from the bookstore.

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Then we split ways for a few hours as she joined up with her mentoring team for some new student activities like a welcome from the university president, a campus tour, meeting with the heads of each department, etc.

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While Molly was busy with the other freshman, Braden, Rusty and I grabbed lunch, perused the University Bookstore, and took advantage of a college tour. One of the primary reasons the boys accompanied Molly and I on this road trip was so they could tour the school and see if they might be interested in attending BYU-I themselves.

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By the time we were done with our campus tour, Molly was done with her scheduled activities. We met up in the Student Commons to get in line for the parent/student luau.

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The plan was to take our leave after a fun luau dinner with Miss Molly. It was a popular event, with the line to get in wrapping all around the commons.

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When it was our turn to go through the buffet line we were blown away by the spread of delicious Hawaiian fare.

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We were then seated in the ballroom to enjoy our meal,

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While being entertained by Polynesian dancers who were AMAZING!!

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At the end of the luau Molly walked with us back to the car to say her good-byes. I thought I was doing a superb job of holding it together until Braden started to cry, a lifetime of past losses written on his face as he had to say good-bye to another person he loves…

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Not quite believing she will return home again.

Oh, how my heart ached as my kids’ faces were dampened with tears. As hard as it was to say good-bye, I couldn’t help but marvel at the great blessing evident in those tears. Those tears are evidence of loving attachment and connection between family members that were strangers just a year ago.

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This is what every adoptive parent prays for, especially when adopting a child with a history of trauma and previous displacements. You open your heart and home hoping one day they will feel safe enough to open their heart to the love you offer. It is a day by day journey toward connection and attachment, and moments like this (as heartbreaking as they are) tell me we are finding some measure of success.

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We took our leave, reminding ourselves that we will see Molly in a month for Gracie’s wedding, and headed back to our hotel room.

After a week’s worth of travel we were out of clean clothes, so I left the boys at the hotel to numb themselves in front of the TV, while I headed to the laundromat down the street.

I didn’t indulge in the luxury of being present in my own grief until that moment. I was far too invested in the well-being of my kids, making sure everyone was successfully navigating their own hard emotions. It wasn’t until I found myself alone that the reality of it all hit and the tears bubbled up.

For two hours I sat alone in a coin operated laundromat, finding solace in the isolation…

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Finally able to reflect on the last week…

And the last 19 years that led up to this day.

This is what we raise them for.

As parents we strive to first give them roots…deep, deep roots that will hold them upright through the most turbulent and trying seasons of life.

And then we strive to give them wings…wings strong, and nimble, and capable of flight, so that when they finally take that leap, out of the protective nest we built for them, we can enjoy the breath-stealing sight of watching them soar.

Soar, Miss Molly!

Your are a magnificent sight to behold!

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Soaking in Hot Springs

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After a busy Labor Day weekend spent at Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks, the promise of a laid back, catch-up day sounded wonderful.

On Monday morning we left our campsite in West Yellowstone and made the two hour drive to Rexburg, Idaho. What brings us to Rexburg, Idaho, you might ask? A college tour!

Grace spent much of the summer touring colleges near home since she is now entering her senior year and will soon have to begin applying to the colleges that she is interested in. Since we were headed west we added a few college tours to our itinerary, knowing we wouldn’t be passing this way again for a long time.

Rexburg, Idaho just happens to be home to BYU Idaho, one of the colleges Grace is considering. We had a college tour scheduled for 9:00 am Tuesday morning for her and Molly and Rusty to tour this prospective college.

Monday, however, was wide open.

We arrived at our campground, Wakeside Lake RV Park, by noon on Monday and were pleased to discover we had been blessed with more great RV neighbors. These neighbors happened to be traveling a similar site-seeing loop, only moving in the opposite direction we are. We were able to share some pointers of our experiences east of there and they were able to share some must see stops that we would encounter as we headed west.

Once the RV was parked and hooked up we began making lunch. Everyone was still chilled from our frosty wake-up of 34 degrees, so everyone requested Raman Noodles for lunch. While not my top meal choice, I must admit it hit the spot and warmed us all up.

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We decided to take advantage of our “down day” and get caught up on chores around the bus.

Toby tinkered with the bus, refilling fluids, while the kids and I did a deep clean of the inside. Everyone has daily cleaning chores that maintain the general cleanliness of the bus and keep things in good order, but we decided to take a little time to do a deeper cleaning of inside cabinets and under chairs.

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I am loving living a simpler life in a smaller space. We deep cleaned our entire “home” in under 30 minutes!

We also took advantage of the campground laundry facilities and got caught up on all our laundry. We were down to our last outfits so the timing couldn’t have been better.

Each person has a bin that hold 6 outfits in addition to the outfit they are wearing. This means we can get away with doing laundry weekly.

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Everyone pitched in and helped.

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While we waited for clothes to dry everyone was sent to the showers for a good scrubbing.

By the time dinner rolled around we had full bins of clean clothes, a scrubbed bus, and shinny, spiffy kids.

The reward for all our effort was an evening at the Hot Springs.

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We decided to take the kids to Green Canyon Hot Springs, a local hot springs, to experience the unique pleasure of soaking in natural hot springs.

When we arrived I was delighted with this quirky, kitschy place. In business since 1906, and built upon in the 1940s, it had an old fashioned, worn down charm.

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Green Canyon Hot Springs is comprised of two different pools, fed by a 115 degree spring.

There is a large indoor spring fed pool that is a steady 96 degrees

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and an outdoor spring fed hot tub that is 105 degrees.

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We found ourselves alternating between the hot tub and the pool.

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Both felt wonderful!

Outside there was also a cold dipping pool that boasted a bone-chilling temperature of  55 degrees.

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The kids like dipping in the cold pool and then racing back into the hot tub.

We stayed until our skin was shriveled and the little boys were sufficiently worn out.

Then it was a race to the bus, through the chilly parking lot in wet swim suits, to see who got to change into their warm PJs in the bathroom first.

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We turned on the bus heater and hung the wet towels from magnetic hooks on the ceiling to dry during our 30 minute ride back to the campground.

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The next morning the three big kids and I were dropped off at BYU Idaho campus for our 9:00 am tour. We were so impressed with the school. Our tour guide was wonderful and it was, by far, the best college tour experience we have had so far. All three kids loved the school and the tour,

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and they even walked away with fun goodies like drawstring bags, water bottles and t-shirts.

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BYU Idaho is a beautiful school!

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Then we were on the road again, heading south into Utah.

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Next stop: Salt Lake City, Utah