Author Archives: Elisabeth

2018

For those who have been keeping up with us, you’ll remember that my goal for 2018 was to keep going.

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One of my biggest efforts in the new year was to keep getting out of bed before the kids, to sit in my blue chair to think and pray. This didn’t happen every day in 2018, but it happened more consistently than it has in years.

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In those times I saw many beautiful sunrises. Some days I saw darkness and just the faint hint of the lines of the mountains in the distance. Sometimes the sunrises reflected my mood or circumstances. Sometimes it provided hope in sadness or a reminder of the darkness that is still with us even when we feel light and free. I did meet the Lord in my blue chair times, and for that I am so grateful.

In 2018, I also wanted to keep going in my effort to build more empathy into our family interactions. Although we are far from perfect, I do think my own self-awareness and attempts at acknowledgement and compassion, are creating a ripple effect among these people I love so much. I look forward to seeing this continue in 2019.

On a practical level, my role in the last year has mainly been a supportive one–to help Jason and the kids keep going as they go out into the world. I’ve planned and packed for trips, thought ahead for activities in the afternoons and on weekends, organized play dates, and made many meals. I’ve organized for holidays and celebrations. And I’ve tried to make our home a warm place to come home to.

One of the very best parts of all this busy work is the fact that I felt more healthy and energized in 2018 than I have in years. I could not only keep up with our goings on, but be intentional about what we are doing and why we’re doing it. This profound change is thanks to my sleep apnea diagnosis and CPAP therapy. At first I felt a bit sheepish about being in my 30s going to bed with a mask and tubing on my face every night. That embarrassment went away pretty fast when I felt ten years younger!

For the kids, keeping going has meant Ian continued on at Ridgecrest Elementary this year. Imogen joined him as a first grader and Beatrice started Pre-K at Westgate Chapel. Ian was not excited about the lack of change, Imogen was excitedly curious, and Bebo just sucked her thumb a lot which kept her from telling us how she felt about preschool. Just as you would with the last born, we are assuming she’s fine with it.

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Many of you know it has been hard for me to see my people head out the door, and all at once. I do miss homeschooling, and the kids being around more. I have cried many tears this year about the change, and wondered if we made the “right” choice. Jason has had to tell me “Let’s just keep going with this and see where it leads.” This has been difficult and comforting to hear, all at the same time.

Jason kept going on his journey through a Masters in Finance at Seattle University. Wait, what am I saying, we kept going, because getting a graduate degree is truly a family affair! He has been gone many evenings and sometimes I forget that the kids haven’t seen him for two or three days straight. They have all been troopers, and all things considered, the program has actually turned out to be less rigorous than we expected.

Jason continued his job at McMillen-Jacobs, moving from a contract to full-time position in May. The job is a great fit, a mix of building massive spreadsheets while managing and working with great people. He feels valued and valuable to the company. If you have known Jason and our family for any length of time, right now your heart is burning with an enthusiastic AMEN to all of this. It has been a long, difficult (and sometimes dramatic) journey to this point in Jason’s career. We all want it to keep going!

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All set up to commute to work in Seattle rain

Of course we kept our epic summer vacation adventures going this year. Jason and Ian did a road trip that included Crater Lake, horseback riding in southern Idaho, and visiting the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. At the same time Imogen and I went to Minnesota again, Beatrice went to Grandma T’s, and we all met up near Glacier for a Kiemele family reunion.

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I’m so glad Jason didn’t get mauled by a bear, despite his efforts to get as close as possible to one.

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Immy and I’s Minnesota adventures

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Reunited as a fam in Whitefish and Glacier National Park

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Summer 2018 also included some glorious bike rides. Jason and I both got new bikes in the spring and by July I found myself riding the Grand Rounds in Minneapolis, country roads around Whitefish Lake, and of course the Centennial Trail in Coeur d’Alene. In those moments keeping going literally meant keeping the wheels turning over the next hill or on to the next viewpoint.

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Jason kept up his culinary adventures this year, focusing mainly on cooking meat and making cocktails (I haven’t minded either endeavor!). He added a sous vide, a smoker, and a sizeable bar setup to his collection of cooking paraphernalia. By the end of the year I was getting kind of tired of perfectly cooked ribs, which goes to show how much of a luxurious culinary lifestyle I live.

I think both Jason and I would agree we worked at keeping going together in 2018. We spent some lovely Sunday afternoons at Ridgecrest Pub, planning our budget, dreaming about future travels, catching each other up on our internal worlds. We rode our new bikes together and went on weekend walks with and without the kids.

Together we made some big, important decisions for our family in 2018, and I couldn’t be prouder of how we have worked as a team–with prayer and intention. It has been a hard road for us the last few years, but I can see how God has used our individual strengths and our uniqueness as a couple. It makes me want to keep going.

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We ended our year with an exciting addition to our family–an Australian Shepherd/Border Collie named Ruby.

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If you’ve never surprised children with a puppy, you really should.

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Keeping going with Ruby has meant taking her out to go potty again and again, even if it’s dark and rainy, it’s 7am, and I’m in my bathrobe. But she’s so stinkin’ cute the inconvenience is worth it.

As for 2019, the theme for this year is this:

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As we walked through Advent in December the word “waiting” came up again and again. Initially I was hesitant to put the words “Just Wait” on my wall, where I walk by it again and again every day. Patience–ugh!

But I am trying to remember it is a hopeful cause, filled with expectation. It is an invitation to trust God in the places that feel unfinished and unknown. It is a reminder to be patient with others and with myself, knowing that God is up to something in our hearts, and we will see glimpses of His orchestration and movement as time goes on.

On a practical level, I am waiting for graduate school to be complete (March 2020!) and for more family time together. Every day I’m preparing for Jason and the kids to come home. I’m waiting to see what we decide about the kids’ education next year, and wondering what my role will look like in our home and in the world. We are waiting to see if maybe this is the year we move on remodeling our house.

God’s gentle whisper says, “Just Wait.” I think it is coupled with a playful wink.

Here’s to waiting–and a whole lot of keeping going while we wait–in 2019!

*Beautiful handwritten lettering by my dear friend Lauren, of Ink and Eben.

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2017

I don’t usually set resolutions for the new year, but as 2016 moved toward 2017 I kept hearing this word come up in a variety of situations, conversations and readings.

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To abide, to stay with, to be present, was my aim for 2017. I wanted to get better at abiding with God of course, and I thought a lot about 1 John 4 over the summer months. I spent time sitting with God, offering nothing, just trying to be with Him. It’s not an easy thing to do.

What I didn’t anticipate in 2017 was how much I would learn about abiding with others, particularly Jason and the kids.

I feel good about the figurative (and sometimes literal) blood, sweat and tears, I put into loving God and loving others in 2017. I also feel humbled and blessed by the work God did in me and in those around me.

Related or unrelated, here are some other things I accomplished, experienced, was blessed by, learned, received, saw God do, got wrapped up in, yada yada yada, in 2017.

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I finally completed a two-year project, a collection of photos that displays our Haggard-ness. It was a lot of work sorting through images, printing, organizing, matting, framing and hanging. I am a perfectionist, but Jason obliged and did lots of precise measuring and grunt work.

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I started going to bed at a reasonable hour. I have battled with trying to get on a better schedule for years, and it’s been a source of tension between Jason and I. Now I go to bed around 10:30pm most nights, and am working on moving that up even earlier to have some quiet time before the kids get up. A book that helped me with this was Laying Down the Rails for Yourself.

I hosted an incredible outdoor dinner party. Jason made the food I requested–soft pretzels, waldorf salad, smoked salmon, lots of dipping sauces, Kentucky mules and flourless chocolate cake. The people were the best part. The ambience was pretty great, too.

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I started kindergarten with Imogen.

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We put Ian into traditional school in October. That was hard, and it was something I would never have anticipated doing at the turn of 2017. It was totally the right thing to do, for a myriad of reasons which I could go on ad nauseam about, but I won’t right now.

I identified some people I really want to develop deeper connections with in 2018. I wish I could teleport AND clone myself because some of these people live across the country!

I ate one of the best, happiest meals of my life. The food was amazing (poke, lau lau, wasabi chicken), but so were the location (Kauai) and the company (Jason).

With Jason’s support and the encouragement of my in-laws, I created an Airbnb space in our MIL apartment. A few months later we had to put it on long-term hold when other things came up, but it was an interesting and fun experience.

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I filled up another journal. I asked a lot of questions, made observations, wrote prayers and processed in my private writing.

I read aloud to my kids, which I love to do. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, Hinds Feet in High Places, A Cricket in Times Square, Twenty-One Balloons and a gazillion picture books and bible stories.

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Jason and I completed the Love & Logic parenting course, with Josh and Sheree as our coaches. It was really helpful in practical ways, but it also served as a springboard for lots of thoughts and prayers and experiments in what it means to abide with my children.  There’s that word again.

Imogen and I went on our first mother-daughter trip. It was delightful to travel to Minnesota with her, to sleep in a bed next to her, and to see her so excited to be with family. She finally got to play in Nana’s Cupcake Cottage. And I learned more about her in those few days than I had in a year!

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I shed a lot of tears, but then again, I am a cryer. Each drop was purposeful.

I rode my bike up and down, on urban trails and country roads, through a coulee, past wineries, alongside mountain lakes and the Mississippi River. Sometimes it was in solitude, other times with Jason.

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I hiked the rocks and cliffs on the southeast side of Kauai. That was a glorious day.

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I had more heartfelt, intimate, encouraging, and earnest conversations with great people than I can count or remember in detail. This is the milk and honey of life!

I bought a Roomba, which has totally changed my life. Jason named him Bubba, but because he’s like another member of the family to me I get confused and call him Bubbo on a regular basis (a melding of Bebo and Bubba). I find that amusing since Beatrice barely does any chores (we’re working on that).

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I went grain-free and mostly sugar-free with Jason for a couple months, and it has overall changed my eating habits and outlook on care for my body.

I bought an incredible faux fur coat that looks like I skinned a snow leopard (I didn’t–snow leopards are one of my fav wild animals). Ironically, I purchased it at Goodwill for $20, but I feel (and look) way more luxurious than Macklemore did in his music video.

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I listened to my dad talk about his childhood and share stories I had not heard before. It was delightful. It was not planned, or I would’ve recorded it.

I slept in a yurt complete with a croaking frog outside, a gazillion stars overhead, and a vineyard out my door.

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I celebrated ten years of marriage to Jason and 11 years of knowing him. One small little line of words written out, yet so much encapsulated in all that time.

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I said an emphatic “yes” to Jason starting grad school in 2018.

I listened to lots of Sandra McCracken, NeedtoBreathe, and Nathan Partain‘s A Lovely Wait. The latter had a profound effect on my abiding with the Lord.

One of the greatest epiphanies I had this year was realizing that laughter in the midst of sadness is not an offense to pain, but it’s friend, ready to bless and comfort.

I showed my kids Montana. There’s so much more to see, but we’ll do that Summer 2018.

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I watched Jason walk through one of the hardest years of his life. I fumbled as I was given opportunities to abide with Jason, but I saw God help me many times along the way. I suppose time will tell where the fruit grows. I’m grateful there is grace to fill in the gaps.

What’s next in 2018? I don’t know, but this is my theme:

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Beautiful lettering done by my friend, Lauren of Ink & Eben.

 

Summer vacation, Montana

Summer is coming to a close and back-to-school busyness is already flooding in (it’s the first week of homeschooling at our house). I recognize that I’m only halfway through my summer vacation report extravaganza.

Lots of big things have happened since July, the shining star of it all being Jason and Ian’s trip-of-a-lifetime to Africa. Our family trip to Idaho and Montana can’t really top seeing a solitary leopard saunter out of her den five feet away from you with an impala head in her mouth. In the WILD, people–no fences, no glass, just a beautiful African skyline cast out before you (or at least that’s how I imagine it).

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She got tired, dropped the skull and sprawled herself in the road, right in front of the truck Jason and Ian were sitting in.

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I would’ve just about DIED. My mouth is actually still hanging open from the retelling of that story.

The one very special thing that Africa did not have was all of us together. Our family vacation obviously had a lot of that. My guess is in a few short weeks when I’m worn down from the intense teaching and parenting that school brings, I’ll want to look back fondly on lovely memories and remind myself why I like my people so much. (To be honest, I’ll probably also look at the leopard because it is AMAZING.)

So, I continue on with my report–for anyone who is reading, and mainly for my future self.

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With our 4th of July celebration in Coeur d’Alene complete, we packed up and left for Great Falls. Our goal was to toodle along, both there and back, since it was only about 300 miles and half of that was on the interstate.

The weather was hot and sunny and it continued that way into Montana. Not a cloud in the sky and blue, blue, blue. Memories came back for me as we drove over 4th of July pass, made our way over Lookout Pass, and entered into a place that holds a quite a few memories for me.

Lots of summers, lots of road trips, lots of visiting relatives, lots of passing through. I’ve seen a lot of Montana and that’s saying a lot because it is BIG. In fact, I’ve seen more of it than the states I’ve lived in.

I hadn’t been to Montana in a long time, and this was first time I was going to this beautiful state with ma fam. I was happy.

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We only had one stop on our agenda before Great Falls, and that was several hours ahead. I did insist that we turn off at 50,000 Silver Dollars (it was a mere 10,000 when I was a kid).

It was just as I remember it–packed to the brim with souvenirs and tourists. We were the loudest people there (we like to remain consistent wherever we go). When I was young you could buy handicrafts made my Native Americans there. I’d like to think these items were reasonably priced. Somewhere in the depths of my memorabilia I’ve got to have a beautiful beaded leather coin purse I bought there.

In 2017, $50k Silver Dollars has mostly cheap crap with expensive price tags. Still, I insisted each kid pick out something under $5 to take home, for my own sense of well-being and nostalgia. Let’s just say none of it was the product of Native American creativity.

Our next stop was the REI in Missoula. I had been on the hunt for the perfect sun hat and hadn’t found one in Coeur d’Alene. We had some fun in the store while our children ran around hiding in clothing racks while mostly understanding clerks loomed nearby.

Three hats are pictured in the photo below. We bought two; you can take a guess which one didn’t make the cut.

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About that time we got onto The Lonesome Highway (200) and headed toward our one on-the-agenda-from-the-beginning stop. It was an hour plus before we hit gravel road and found ourselves at the trailhead that would take us to Garnet Ghost Town.

Recommended by Bill and Becky, this place was definitely worth seeing (but just once with small kids). There’s a short hike down into a dip in the hills where we had a great view of the skeleton of what was (for a very short time) a thriving western pop-up at the turn of the 20th century.

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The place was small enough that we went into most of the structures before the kids got bored and/or wily.

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One of the forest service volunteers was kind enough to take our picture right up at the bar. In the Wild West there is no drinking age!

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I honestly don’t remember where else we stopped, but we didn’t pull into Jared and Rosheila’s driveway in Great Falls until about 6pm. As it was in Idaho, it was dry, hot and sunny at their house. People in these parts of the woods also have air-conditioning–something strange and lovely to those of us from Western Washington.

The next day we headed to Malmstrom Air Force Base. Master Sergeant Haggard/Aunt Rosheila had thoughtfully scheduled a tour for us of a C-130. As you can see we had a fancy escort.

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Future flight engineer, perhaps?

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Better keep your eyes on those instruments, ladies.

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We went inside a couple of hangars and managed not to break anything. The military makes things pretty sturdy, but you’d be surprised what the Haggard kids can destroy–intentionally or unintentionally.

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Here’s the gang–the grown-ups lookin’ good and the kiddos lookin’ cute! Notice the Bebo from Seattle who can’t handle the sun (that or she doesn’t know how to salute, I can’t tell).

We spent the next couple of days enjoying being with Jared, Rosheila, Aiden, Amaya, and Adessa. Things are pretty low-key around their house. So, not surprisingly we brought noise with us, but hopefully not too much chaos. Aiden showed Ian around the Wii, and the girls played together on the swing set. Honestly, I’m not sure what else they did, they were just off being busy and happy together.

Jason and Jared took the kids to Flippin’ Family Fun after visiting Malmstrom. It is–you guessed it–flippin’ fun, or so our kids say. Trampolines galore, and a foam pit. Calories were burned with the bouncing and then put back in in the form of frozen lemonade cups. I took myself on a solitary date to a nearby Target, which was fabulous.

While we were at Jared and Rosheila’s a timely package showed up from Tiffany, filled with items for both sets of kids. As you can see, some of them were matchy and mermaid-themed.

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The two youngest, Beatrice and Adessa. The girls all got miniature mermaid tails to fit their dolls. All handmade, of course, by Aunt Tiffany.

The other exciting day trip we made was to Electric City Water Park. Part of the Great Fall’s Parks and Rec department, it was very inexpensive and way better than any city pool I’ve been too. It had an Olympic size pool, a couple slides, a nice kiddy pool/splash pad, a lazy river (my personal fav) and a body-boarding ride (Jason biffed it).

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I think we all got in for about $30 total. You gotta love Montana being cheap! Well, everything is cheap compared to Seattle.

The final evening our family grabbed teriyaki and went to Giant Springs State Park, just past the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center (that’s for next time).

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Jason and beautiful, happy Imogen.

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Me and crabby Bebo. She refused to eat delicious teriyaki. So sad for her.

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Me and my eldest. We’re clearly headed toward adolescence.

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Giant Springs State Park has bragging rights for having the world’s shortest river. But what it should really brag about is the beautiful, green, wooded park, and the big bubbles of the natural spring that flows into the Missouri a few hundred feet later.

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It took us a few tries to get a good pic. And then we ended up with one of the best of all-time, in my humble opinion.

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Recently discovered records from Lewis and Clark’s stop at Giant Springs are surprisingly fitting:

“After a long day of travel, Lewis was pleased to reach the Missouri and delighted by the Giant Springs his (her) troop discovered there . . . Clark was clearly unimpressed.” (Wink.)

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The morning we left for Coeur d’Alene, we go a few cute pics of all the cousins together. Next time this happens they will probably look like giants in comparison.

As we cruised along Highway 200 heading west, we decided to stop at some of the historical signs, mainly marking pioneer trade routes and Native American happenings of old. The kids mostly humored us.

Soon it got to be lunchtime and we started looking for a good spot to picnic. We stumbled upon a fantastic place in little Lincoln, Montana, of which I am still quite amazed by.

It’s Blackfoot Pathways: Sculpture in the Wild, and it’s a privately-funded and maintained sculpture art park made filled with the products of Montana artists and inspired by the region. Super random–I still can’t get over that part of it.

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I wish I would’ve taken more pics of the art and our explorations, but all I’ve got is a teepee. Visit the website to see more of what we saw.

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As we got closer to Missoula Imogen insisted that we stop and skip some rocks she had collected back in Great Falls.

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So idyllic. Think River Runs Through It–but with three small children. The epitome of Montana wild, with some Haggard wild thrown in. And we all know Jason is just as handsome as a young Brad Pitt.

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I wished we had put our suits on and dipped in, but I was nervous about the current. The river was just begging us!

There was something else we needed to do that was very important, and that important thing was ice cream. Yelp had told us to go to The Big Dipper in Missoula.

I have a lot of thoughts about ice cream and the places where people should eat it. My thoughts on The Big Dipper are this: It was worth the outside line and the 20 minute wait. They had lots of flavors–including black licorice–which surprised and delighted me, and which of course I ordered and consumed.

Also, if you go there you can sit among hip liberal locals wearing Kavu shirts and Chacos on their feet (WAY before they were cool . . . again). It’s not a leopard with an impala head in its mouth, but it’s a particular brand of wild only found in western Montana.

Once we curbed our sugar craving in Missoula, we got on I-90 and booked it home (as in Coeur d’Alene, our landing place). A week of doing whatever was waiting for us.

Also, it must be noted there is SO much more we need to see of Montana–Glacier, Flathead Lake, Whitefish, Bozeman, Yellowstone, Havre, Hot Springs. For next time.

You can catch up with our fun in Part 1: Cave B and Part 2: 4th of July.

Happy trails to US!!!

 

Summer vacation, 4th of July

First, let me start with this.

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THAT is the epitome of a Haggard kids’ summer trip to Grandma T’s. It’s their version of magical, and it’s called the WAVE CRASHER. My mom says it’s the best 40 bucks she spends on our kids each year (not surprisingly, it needs to replaced regularly).

This is what the trio did over and over and over again while we were at Cave B. They were probably also eating lots of sugar and watching TV and living the good life. When I say “good life” I  mean themed goody bags, because that’s how Grandma rolls. (Who’s ever turned down a really good goody bag? NO ONE).

When Jason and I reunited with the kids, I noticed I felt refreshed and ready to parent, and in particular to co-parent with Jason. I had a different tone with our kids, and I had the energy to work on “seeing” each one of them. I noticed Jason doing this, too.

My heart felt like it was saying, “Ahhh, this is what it’s supposed to be like. I’ve missed this!” The “this” isn’t that everyone behaves and gets along, but that we are living life together, investing in and seeking to know one another, not just get by. Kids thrive on that. Heck, everyone thrives on that! Like I’ve mentioned, my soul didn’t realize how hungry for connection it really was.

For the next few days we savored 4th of July weekend in small town Coeur d’Alene.

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First, we visited the new carousel (which is actually really old and has a cool story), had a picnic in the park, and caught a live show at the bandshell.

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Lots of older people were sitting out in their folding lawn chairs listening to the music of their era (50s and 60s). Imogen and Beatrice jumped right in with the few that were dancing and made some new friends.

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Next stop was Joy’s pool. We do this every summer visit, and Joy is so gracious every time when we show up, get wet and make lots of noise.

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It was so great to have Jason with us this time.

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Ian probably burned 6,000 calories in the pool that day. I spent a lot of time watching my back, as he’d sneak up on me from underwater; I reciprocated. We had a lot of fun.

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It wasn’t fifteen minutes of pool time and Imogen was confidently jumping off the diving board.

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Joy’s pool is a beautiful color; it feels like dipping into a lake bath, not a chlorinated pool. Horses from her stables graze nearby and a few cats and dogs meander around. Ian gets to pick apples from the orchard (pictured to the right of the pool house). It’s magical.

Next up was the actual 4th celebrations. This will be our second year of hitting the downtown parade, and we have our usual spot, which is both close to the start of the parade and a short walk to the local ice cream joint. Both factors are important in having a pleasant parade experience.

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Grandma is really into holiday outfits, and for some reason every year we end up with at least two 4th of July outfits for each child, if not more. I can’t fit enough time into the season to them wear them all. As you can see they also received accessories this year.

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Imogen got a photo with Mudgie the Moose–he’s a famous character in that neck of the woods. Jason made a point of cheering for my high school’s rival cheerleading squad, just to annoy me. But he also bought me iced coffee, which helped the situation.

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That evening we had burgers, as much corn on the cob as we could eat, and banana splits. Well, Ian ate a banana split since he’s the only one who will eat fruit. We let him go to town, as you can see. There are rewards for having a well-rounded diet.

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Since we were avoiding the crowds, big fireworks, and late night, we picked up a few little sparkly things from the fireworks stand. Ian was proud of himself that he got to light up the “big” ones and Beatrice took hold of a sparkler for the first time.

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The neighbors were probably hugely impressed by our display, and happy our show only lasted about 20 minutes and was over at 8:30pm.

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I don’t have pictures, but Jason and I also got the chance to do some more bike riding. Since the Ironman came to Coeur d’Alene about ten years ago, the city has created and connected so many paved bike trails, so you can ride out in the country, by the lake, in the mountains. It’s amazing . . . and magical.

Second leg of our family vacation complete! Next up is road trippin’ it across Montana to Great Falls for a visit with cousins.

One last goodie–a signature move gone wrong on the WAVE CRASHER!!!

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Summer vacation, Cave B

Well, some changes have been afoot for the Haggards. It’s been a year since the last time I wrote here and since we’re all about the drama, we packed a lot into twelve months. But I’m just going to focus on the last few.

In June, Jason’s job ended somewhat abruptly, and because it had taken up a lot of his physical and emotional energy for quite some time, he needed some major down time–to the tune of at least a month, probably two. With him freed up the summer months suddenly seemed like a world of opportunity for us!

We didn’t go anywhere particularly amazing. In fact, I guess you could technically say we just went to Coeur d’Alene, but really it served as our main hub, from which we did mini-trips or day outings. But here’s the best, greatest part of the whole thing– we were together, all of us. I didn’t realize how much I was starving for family time until we planned, and I waited with anticipation.

On June 29th, the kids were up at the butt crack of dawn, also eager with anticipation. Of course, it was several hours before we left because every year we need to outdo ourselves by packing more gear. This year we added a topper, hitch and 5-bike rack to achieve this goal.

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We eventually pulled out of the driveway and headed east toward Grandma’s–the wind in our hair, the sun shining, and our lovely itinerary before us. First on the agenda was stopping off at the Columbia River Gorge. We met Grams at the interstate and caravaned down to the river. We had a picnic at Frenchman’s Coulee, all the while trying to shield ourselves from the sun, which we hadn’t seen much of at this point in the summer.

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After lunch we drove just a few minutes to Cave B Inn & Winery, where Mom took the kids, headed back to her house and left Jason and I for a couple days. We booked a yurt at the inn, which I can say now by experience is a fantastic place to lay your head at night if you’re in the middle of nowhere.

Cave B is magical. I think I’ll probably use that word a lot to describe a lot of this trip. The  whole dang thing was just so what I needed, in so many ways.

Jason and I spent three days in or near our yurt eating cheese, prosciutto, fresh fruit, wine and chocolate. In between that we meandered through grape vines, dipped into the pool, hiked, drove alongside orchards, and went on a long bike ride together.

Here’s some pics.

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Yes, it’s that magical.

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Here’s us on the first night, sitting outside our yurt filling our bellies and listening to the birds. I totally nailed the cheese selections this time–I’m still bragging to myself about it.

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Eating again, this time at South, along Wentachee’s riverfront. Those stuffed jalapeños were really hot. I kept torturing myself because they were the vehicle for the melted cheese, which was amazing. I am noticing cheese is becoming a theme here. The margarita was also excellent.

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View from the pool, but sparing you images of our skin, which was still pasty white at this point on the trip.

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View out the top of our yurt. Not a cloud in the sky the whole time.

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Of course I have to include bunnies, if I saw them, which I did. What I didn’t get a picture of was the frog who lived outside our yurt and croaked incessantly starting at exactly 10:30pm each night. I was so happy that even he was a bit magical to me. I still went outside and stomped around with a stick to scare him, though. It did not work.

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Hiking trails below the winery. Finally learned about the stinging part of stinging nettles.

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The bike ride down into Frenchman’s Coulee was the piece de resistance of Cave B for me. It was my first big ride of the season and what a place to have it!

Jason took me down a long hill and I swore up and down to him I wasn’t going to make it back up. But I did, and it was great. And I felt exhilarated and confident when it was all over. It really got me itching to do more rides over the course of the trip.

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We do a lot of “best of”s in our family. So as we headed toward Coeur d’Alene, the kids and Grandma, I asked Jason what the best part of Cave B was for him. He said it was during our ride when I told him, “You know I’m really glad I’m doing this with you. Not just this ride, but everything.”

We needed that time together, that little slice of Creation to enjoy, and that hot, hot sun. And the cheese.

There’s more vacation story to tell, because this was an epic one. I’ll continue that in the next installment.

Ten weeks into home school

We have just completed our tenth week of our new and improved home school.

The best way to describe what we’ve been up to is to share some thoughts about how each one of us has fared through the last weeks–from my perspective. So, here goes.

Things I am learning about Ian

  • He really likes “couch time.” This is together time, where we sit down and do our main Sonlight stuff–Bible, World History, Geography and reading novels. He especially likes the Usborne Time Traveler and World History books we go through, which are packed with lots of great illustrations and encyclopedic information.
  • The boy needs structure and consistency. It has been helpful for him to see a list each day on the fridge that tells him what will be expected of him in both school and family life. His fits and whining have dramatically decreased.
  • He has a knack for a lot of things–things that surprised me. He has pretty quickly picked up novice piano reading and playing skills, and I didn’t realize he could spell as well as he does. His ability to communicate in writing has improved, too. I think it’s all the reading he’s doing, and the varied subjects that the Sonlight Readers give him.
  • Despite his bad attitude about going to church, he enjoys reading the Bible with me, listening to me explain meaning behind stories, and engaging in conversation. I think he thinks about these things later, at least I know he remembers them. Maybe this is a better way for him to do it than Awana, which we discontinued after last year.

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We’ve been spending many mornings doing couch time in front of a fire. Our woodpile may not last us through the winter.

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Portraying desk work worse than it actually is.

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Piano practice.

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Archeological dig.

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Smaller, indoor archeological dig that ended up bearing more fruit than its outdoor counterpart.

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Ian’s budding rock and treasure collection.

Things I’m learning about Imogen

  • She’s picking up a lot of what Ian is learning–the things that pique her interest. She likes the Bible memory verse songs and the Geography songs. She likes to move to them as she learns.
  • She LOVES Aesop’s Fables. Honestly, many of them can be perplexing and the lessons can be difficult to explain to children. She loves the animals, the older, unique writing style, and the pictures. So we’re going with it.
  • She is excited about learning and I don’t want to dismiss that because I’m busy doing stuff with Ian. She wants to be read to and to have her own library books to look at. She often says, “When I read I’m going to . . .” She’s memorized a Sandra Boynton book she reads to Beatrice.
  • She loves art. Love, love, loves it. I have a love/hate relationship with her doing it because it’s messy. But she feels so loved and inspired when we engage in art activities. I’m excited for her to enroll in the Art class at the HEE next year. I’m ordering her some drawing books to work on for now.
  • She plays well with Beatrice when I’m teaching Ian things she’s not interested in. I am very thankful for that.
  • She loves swimming, and I’m so glad we got her into lessons. She gets to shine, doing her own thing.
  • She’s still doing ballet, but I’m not sure that will be a long-run activity.
  • Doing Pre-K was a good choice for her. I don’t hear her talk a lot about it, but I also don’t hear her complain about going. I think she feels confident in her class. She gets some one-on-one time with her teacher developing skills as one of the oldest in her class.

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We found a great toy store called Toys that Teach. They have a fantastic book collection that clearly Imogen was intrigued by (not to mention I drooled over so many good titles). I’m thinking I may need to create her a quiet corner with a comfy chair.

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Things I’m learning about Beatrice

  • She’s definitely moved into that 2.5-3.5 year-old difficult phase. Hitting, calling names, yelling, throwing fits, being sassy. It’s not so bad yet, but as the youngest she is definitely getting away with more.
  • She talks like she’s a ten-year-old sometimes, complete with attitude and hand gestures. We think it’s cute, but I’m not sure we should encourage it all that much.
  • She really likes being at the HEE. She’s found a favorite toy (a pull along puppy) that she drags all over the place. Don’t tell her, but she’s getting one for Christmas.
  • She doesn’t put caps on markers and it drives me CRAZY.
  • She has picked up French words with more enthusiasm and ease than the other two.
  • She has memorized the Middle East geography song we worked on in our first weeks, and can sing the Alphabet. It’s amazing what little ones can learn through song and the influence of their siblings.
  • She can start doing more household chores, I just need to make an effort to include her and hold her accountable.
  • She was a fantastic potty trainer!

Things I’m learning in this process

  • This gig is like a job. No, it is a job. Depending upon how much one invests in it, it can be part-time or full-time. I like it, but I didn’t think about how it would change my schedule and my relationships with others. I am missing some of my friends and fun activities, and need to consider how to fit those things into our lifestyle.
  • I really love learning, particularly when it comes to history and literature. This isn’t a revelation, but a rediscovery. There’s a reason I got a liberal arts degree in English Literature (I also strongly considered History). Ten years after leaving formal education I am seeing it bear fruit in the parenting and education of my kids. I know this is not for everyone, but I am having fun right now. You can ask me later how I feel when higher-level math and science come onto the scene.
  • I can see that this current endeavor could equip me for something else down the line, though I have no idea what. I like sharing what I know and engaging kids in good conversations. I can ask good questions appropriate to their level and then listen for their answers and personal views. I don’t think is just my kids; this has come naturally to me in nannying and other teaching scenarios.
  • I really love reading out loud. The more I do it, the better I get at it, and the more fun it is for all of us. It’s a bit of acting, of finessing words, and of creating the atmosphere I think the author is intending.
  • I can become a slave to the schedule and the checklist. I’m starting to feel that pressure to keep us on track with what is assigned each day and week. It’s wearing on me. Other Sonlight parents in the Facebook group I’m in warned of this. It is certainly not the intent of the Instructor’s Guide to encourage this. It’s just us Type A types.
  • In light of this, I am going to pick up Teaching from Rest, which has been sitting at my nightstand, waiting for me to come around to it. I’m interested to learn more about schole, the intentional slowing down of learning. This will be a challenge for me, but I think it will prove beneficial to my kids in the long run.
  • I can see myself living vicariously through my kids. Biggest example: I want to teach Ian Grammar (probably too early) because I learned very little when I was a kid. I turned out to be a good writer anyway, but I wonder if it hindered my foreign language learning. I am insecure about it. On the other hand, I don’t want to focus too much focus on Grammar in a way that hinders him from writing freely and outside of the box. Yes, these are the things that home school moms stress about and that I used to roll my eyes at.
  • I am tempted to choose the school stuff over the character building and discipline work. It’s just easier, folks. I’m trying to switch priorities.
  • I’m still hesitant to pick up French because I don’t have a set curriculum or lesson plan. I obviously don’t have the immersion option. With Ian going to Botswana in July it is more motivation to move forward, but this will be a real challenge for my personality. I’m hoping to focus on teaching him essential phrases for his travel experience and not venture too far out from that for now.
  • I’m still a homebody. Getting my kids outside for play is another weak point for me. I am glad they have the HEE and preschool two days a week.

Other things I’m excited about

  • Ian’s piano lessons with Miss Jane. I am thoroughly impressed with her skill and her thoughtfulness in considering the interests and needs of her student. Ian respects her tight ship. At the same time, he’s impressed when he requests songs like the Imperial March and Miss Jane practices it to perform for him at their next lesson. Sometimes I wish I could be a fly on the wall when they work together.
  • Usborne books. I’m not a fan of buying anything at full price, but I’ve gotten sucked into these fantastic materials. I’m particularly excited about some of the books I’ve ordered for Imogen that will help her transition into and get started in Kindergarten. (Side note: I have a book lady named Jessie, if you are interested in Usborne, and she did help me get some good deals.) I’ve also gotten a lot of used encyclopedic books from Goodwill I plan to dole out. I will be cracking them open myself in my *mass* of free time.
  • Putting together a centrally located bookshelf of good stuff that the kids will visit regularly (the one in their basement bedroom doesn’t get frequented).
  • How fun the HEE community continues to be, and how helpful and kind the staff is there.
  • Setting goals. I usually hate doing that. It’s like creating a mission statement–you forget it, move on and then feel guilty about how much you clearly didn’t care that much about it in the first place. That being said, the curriculum specialist at the HEE encouraged me to come up with some benchmarks for the school year. That way, I can put possible new endeavors through the checklist and see if they fit into what we are trying to achieve with our kids. This includes not just formal education, but also character traits we want to encourage, and our kids assimilation into being contributing members of our household and society. I really did feel relieved after putting my thoughts on paper, and I look forward to getting Jason’s feedback, so we can hone in on what we’re doing with these kiddos.

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Archeological dig in the backyard.

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First day in our new workspace. It was clean then, but now it’s a mess of scribbled scrap paper, uncapped markers and really dirty carpet. But, we’re making our way through that shelf of books!

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Members of the HEE family (at our new location). These three aren’t official students yet, but they enjoy the space, the people, the regular refills of popcorn, and the lollipops that are given out by the generous Ms. Trudi.

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Weekly preschool carpool with this bunch

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Preschool pumpkin patch visit

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Trick-or-treaters who mean business

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Future homeschooler? Yet to be seen.

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On a sunny day at the HEE, watching the big kids with their remote-controlled truck.

*For those who are interested in the details of our curriculum and materials, Ian is using Sonlight’s Core B&C World History curriculum, Math Mammoth, and Spelling Power. I can’t seem to commit to more Language Arts materials, but we have been trying out Shurley English and Winning with Writing. I’m thinking about starting Rosetta Stone for French.

Imogen is a part of our Sonlight Bible, History and Reading time when she wants to be, she’s doing a few pages a week of a Scholastic Pre-K workbook I got at Costco, and I’m trying to get her books at the library that interest her. She attends Westgate Preschool two days a week and does ballet.

Portraits with Jessica Ribera

Hi.

On a note unrelated to more intimate writing and daily life-sharing, I am excited to talk about about a couple creative opportunities that have come my way. One involves my amateur photography skills (below) and the other is a possible job doing copy for a creative business a friend is starting up.

Both are 1) low pressure, 2) working with people I really like, 3) testing waters of a new hobby (photography) and 4) dipping my toes back into an older side job (website writing).

I’m also excited for these projects because I think I can pull them off and still have time for our daily grind of homeschooling and generally keeping everything and everyone here at the Haggard Haus in optimum condition (including myself, which, if you know me, is a BIGGIE).

The first project was portraits I took of Jessica, who needed head shots for her budding writing career. You may recall I did birth photos for her last summer.

Jessica is used to being in front of a camera due to her previous job as professional ballet dancer. She also just generally likes being in front of people, sharing herself, and getting attention. I think that’s obvious from what you find here. It also gave me an immediate and helpful advantage come picture-taking time.

Here’s my favorites. The last two made the final cut.

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I am a perfectionist, but I am pleased, and I’m really pleased that Jessica is happy with the end results.

What I wish I would’ve gotten during our time together were some of her great facial expressions in conversation. When she’s talking about something she cares about or telling one of her funny stories from daily life, her face is all over the map, in the best of ways.

This time, being a beginner photographer, I was so busy thinking about light, background, and settings that I wasn’t able to create good conversation. It would’ve been nice to have an extra friend there to talk with her and get her going down some rabbit trail.

I know that really wasn’t the goal of this project, but I think that would’ve rounded out this session. It could’ve given Jessica some more personal photos her family and friends could enjoy–the essence of Jesky Ribera.

Oh well, another time.

Read Jessica’s writing on her blog, and maybe you’ll see her words (and her picture) on some high-faluten website or in a publication one of these days.

Note: Photos were taken with a Nikon D60, 50mm lens, aperture priority setting at mostly 4.5. I have no experience with Photoshop or Lightroom; some very easy editing was done with iPhoto.