Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Montana and Wyoming: Granite Ghost Town

While we were planning our summer trip to Montana and Wyoming we had a huge list of places we wanted to visit: Glacier National Park, Banff National Park, Yellowstone, The Grand Tetons, Jackson Hole, Butte, Bozeman...and ghost towns. We narrowed it down to Yellowstone and The Grand Tetons, because they are so close together, but we did manage to stop at Granite Ghost Town outside of Philipsburg, Montana. Granite was the richest silver mine on earth, and to this day it continues to hold that record.

The rough dirt road up to the mine is narrow and it's on a cliff. You climb 1,280 feet in only four miles. It's sketchy. Like if a car was coming around a corner you'd probably drive off the cliff sketchy. But that first glimpse of the crumbling mine across a canyon of evergreen trees was unbelievably breathtaking. When we first got out of the car a deer ran across the road in front of us. It's also quiet...eerily silent. These pictures don't begin to show the enormity of these buildings, or the beauty of their ruins.

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There are some more well known ghost towns in Montana, with easier roads, gift shops and people wandering around in 19th century costumes. But there was something absolutely haunting about the stillness and silence at Granite. Like a cemetery for old buildings that were once filled with life.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Life in the Garden

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Early July is always the best time in our garden. Tiny pole bean vines wind themselves around twine, green tomatoes form under bright yellow flowers, and white snap pea blossoms list gently in the summer breeze. Cucumbers begin life as tiny starfish-like buds, peppers ripen under the hot sun, and the first zucchini is found nestled amongst giant green leaves. I don't think I'll ever get tired of seeing our garden come to life.

Friday, June 27, 2014

You'll Be My American Girl...Doll

A few years ago we received an American Girl catalogue in the mail. I'm not sure why, but there it was. Avery was only 2 1/2 at the time and she loved it. After that we would receive them fairly regularly, and every time a new catalogue arrived Avery would shriek with joy. I began collecting the books for her at thrift stores, and we'd check out the movies from the library. But her favorite thing about American Girl was the dolls.

I'm an American Girl fan. I had all the books growing up, and I wanted the Molly doll so bad when I was in elementary school. I never got the doll, but I did name my dog Molly after the American Girl character (I'm serious). When Avery started asking for a doll my first reaction was No. Way. I mean, those dolls are expensive. But Avery didn't let up. Erik and I finally told her a year ago that if she earned half of the money doing chores that she could get one. At the time I figured she'd get bored of the idea. Not Avery. She plastered a picture of an American Girl doll next to her chore chart and got to work earning 10 cents at a time. 12 months later she'd earned her half. So last weekend we headed to the American Girl store in Seattle with a Toy Story wallet full of dollar bills.

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The only problem was Avery couldn't decide what doll she wanted. First she wanted Molly (because that was the doll I wanted), but Molly was retired last year. Then she wanted Rebecca, and for a short time she wanted Kit. But mostly she wanted a Just Like You doll with light brown hair and hazel eyes (just like her). We encouraged her to wait until she saw them in person before deciding. Once we were at the store the most amazing sales assistant, Briana, took Avery around, showed her every doll, and explained all of their stories to her. I think Avery knew she wanted the Just Like You doll, but Briana told her to pick out her favorite three dolls, and together they discussed each one until Avery was sure of the one she wanted. (Seriously, Briana was amazing. I just followed them around taking pictures.)

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Avery had enough money leftover to get some earrings for her doll, and they gave her and her doll matching shopping bags. It was kind of adorable. The best part was how proud she was when she told Briana that she'd earned the money for her doll by doing chores. Briana told the other sales clerks, and they all gave her high fives, and asked her what her favorite and least favorite chores were.

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It was a very special day for a very special girl. In the end I think it meant more to her because it wasn't just a birthday present. She saw something she wanted and she worked hard for it. A pretty good life lesson for a 6-year-old...or for anyone, really.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Last Day of Kindergarten

Our little girl just finished her last day of kindergarten. At the bottom of her report card it said she was officially a first grader. A first grader. I'm sitting here trying not to cry about it, but I'm torturing myself by looking at her first and last day of school pictures from this year. Can anyone tell me why she looks so old? It's unacceptable.

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We couldn't be more proud of this girl. She's been hoarding school awards since September, and she collected even more at the last awards assembly of the year. She earned the Most Improved Student of the Year award for reading, another Continuing Self Manager Award, and her teacher gave her the Dynamic Detailed Drawing Award for her art and illustrations. The best part was when Mrs. A. said the award was for the best, most detailed drawings and Avery's whole class started shouting "Avery! It's for Avery!" before Mrs. A. could even announce who it was for. It was the sweetest.

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After my first year working as a paraeducator (at Avery's school!), Avery and I are both ready for summer break. We have a lot of big plans for the next few months, but for now we're going to relax, decompress, and enjoy these beautiful sunny days. Happy summer!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Playhouse Makeover

For Avery's 4th birthday Erik built her a playhouse. It sits under a large cherry tree, surrounded by daylilies, and it has a view of the garden. Avery loves the playhouse...all the neighbor kids love it, all her school friends love it, in fact, everyone loves it! For two years it's been the highlight of our backyard, and Avery never misses a chance to tell people that her dad built it for her.

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Over the last year we've been talking about redoing the interior of the playhouse. Well, mostly I've been talking about it. The wood inside was fine, but it was a little dark. Here is what it looked like before:

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I finally convinced Erik that we should paint the walls bright white. Convincing Avery was a different story. She wanted purple walls, then she wanted bright pinks walls, then turquoise walls. We finally settled on a pale lavender. Then I convinced Erik to create a built in bench that Avery could also use as a little bed. Here's how it turned out:

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I made some curtains for the windows back when the playhouse was first built, and Avery wanted to keep them. So we headed to JoAnn's and found some fabrics that matched. I bought some foam to make a pad for the bench, and then we bought a couple storage bins for her toys. We kept her kitchen, brought out her big pink reading cushion, and I whipped up a couple of throw pillows. And that was that. It's so bright and cheery now, and Avery loves it!

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(By the way, I found that purple chair at The Salvation Army for $4!) I also made a fabric garland for Avery's birthday party, and intentionally added some of the leftover cushion fabric so I could hang it in the playhouse. It's really fun with the lavender walls.

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And no playhouse post would be complete without a picture of Erik and Avery...just look at them, two peas in a pod. I'm one lucky girl.

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(You can see all of the playhouse posts here, here and here.)