Saturday, July 31, 2010

Cabin day five...

We went hiking on the Hemlock Hollow Trail today. It was a perfect little guy hike - 1.5 miles of beautiful forest with rocks, bridges and trees with character. It was also the scene of one of life's real triumphs for Bryan - a truly glorious scene for a little brother.

The boys piled up dead branches to make some sort of building. It was really David and Jacob's game with Bryan bouncing around the periphery.

Bryan: Guys, guys, which one do I get?
David: (Trying to humor Bryan and keep him out of the way, points to a small standing tree that's a few inches in diameter) Ummm, get that over there.

The tree is apparently dead and barely attached to the ground. Bryan pulls it from the ground.

David: Woah! Bryan, how did you do that???
Jacob: Wow Bryan, you're so strong.
Bryan: Mommy, I fink you need to change my name to Superman.

At the end of the day, David and I sat on the deck together while the little guys slept - beautiful time.
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Friday, July 30, 2010

Cabin day four...

Today was more of the same - biking, swimming, reading, playing,...

Plus, Chris surprised the boys with a visit

and we had blueberry pancakes for dinner. David had 7 and Rand had two. I'm going to add a paypal button for donations toward food when they're teenagers.

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Cabin day three...

David had a spectacular bike crash. He did a somersault with his bike and apparently rolled over a tick village. He had five or six crawling on him. There's nothing like an army of parasites to take your mind off a traumatic bike crash.

I had a pretty lame bike wreck. The babies didn't even notice. David saved us from losing our way in the woods. He noticed that the trail looked unfamiliar. We had passed our turn about 100 yards back.

We found an even better swimming spot.

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Cabin day two...

Ate Frosted Flakes because "they make you better at soccer" according to Jacob.

Found a skeleton in the woods - freaky

Ran down a hill screaming again and again and again

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Cabin day one...

Rode our bikes through the woods to the river.

Built cities for bugs in the woods.

I sat down to read a chapter of My Father's Dragon to the boys and wound up reading the whole thing. At the end of each chapter: "One more, please one more."

Saturday, July 24, 2010

War and peace...

I'm about halfway through War and Peace, and I love it.  It will definitely make my top ten all time favorite books.  (Before you read on, please take a moment to be very impressed that I am reading this book.)  I love the way Tolstoy paints characters.  He sees human nature with a penetrating eye.  One of the characters, Pierre Bezukhov, is painfully familiar.  He is compassionate, open-hearted and has the best intentions and principles.  But when it is time to make a difficult decision or act on those principles, he never chooses the hard, right thing.  He always takes the easy path.  He has difficulty detecting when someone around him is flattering him.  He assumes that they are sincere.  At first glance it seems that he makes this assumption because he is a kind-hearted man with a generous spirit.  That is not the real reason, though.  The real reason is arrogance.  It just doesn't appear to be arrogance because he truly is kind.  Here are a couple of quotes about him that were uncomfortable to read:

Volume I, Part III, Chapter I
"It seemed so natural to Pierre that he should be liked by one and all, and it would have seemed so unnatural if anyone had not liked him, that he couldn't help believing in the sincerity of everyone around him."

Volume II, Part V, Chapter I
Pierre has slipped back into the indulgent lifestyle of an idol rich man.
"It took him a very long time to become reconciled to the idea that he was the very model of a retired Moscow gentleman-in-waiting, a type he had found so profoundly repellend seven years ago. 

Sometimes he consoled himself with the idea that it didn't matter - this was only a passing phase - only to be struck by the horrifying thought that plenty of others had gone through the same 'passing phase', embarking on this kind of life and joining this club with all their teeth and hair and leaving when they were toothless and bald."

This reminds me of visiting a church a few years ago.  There was a 60-ish year old woman in the row in front of me.  She looked angry and dissatisfied - not in the moment but in life.  It just hit me that I will be that age, and probably sooner rather than later.  At the time there were things I knew the Lord wanted me to do - simple but hard things for me.  It didn't feel like I was deciding to disobey.  it felt like I was waiting until later.  I have this underlying assumption that I will eventually live in obedience to God.  Looking at this older woman - who may well have been a wonderful, gracious, Godly woman but for some reason represented bitter wasted time to me - revealed the foolishness of that assumption.  The thing is, I always could have stated with absolute sincerity that in things of God, "not yet" equals "no".  It is in my religion but often not in my economics.*  I think C.S. Lewis describes that phenomenon in The Screwtape Letters.  It is very dangerous to genuinely believe a truth and be unable to see the way you habitually live in defiance of it.

*There is a quote in the introduction to Freakonomics (I think) that says something like "If you want to understand a culture's ideals, study their religion.  If you want to understand what they actually do, study their economics."

**All of the War and Peace quotes are from the Anthony Briggs translation here.

***I'm trying to do book posts on Saturdays.  Check out Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books.

Friday, July 23, 2010

I will not forget you...

But Zion said, "The LORD has forsaken me,
       the Lord has forgotten me."
 "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
       and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
       Though she may forget,
       I will not forget you!
 See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
       your walls are ever before me.
Isaiah 49:14-16
This passage was like water to my soul when we lost our babies.  It struck me in a new way when we brought David home and I adjusted to life with a nursing baby.  Suddenly even getting to the grocery store was complicated.  I had to plan my day with his needs in mind.  I couldn't be separated from him for more than two or three hours without significant planning.  In fact, as a nursing mother, it was physically painful to be away from him for more than a few hours.  Physically, I could not forget him.

A few months ago I wrote down everything I did for Rand in a day to more fully appreciate these words.

6:20  Feed and change Rand
6:40  Hold Rand
6:55  Put Rand on floor with toys
7:07  Hold Rand and do chores
7:15  Put Rand down to play
7:25  Fix Rand breaksfast
7:40  Put Rand in exersaucer
8:00 Hold Rand
8:15  Put Rand down for a nap
11:00 Feed Rand
11:15 Change Rand's diaper
11:20 Load Rand in car seat
11:45 Carry Rand in ergo for grocery store
12:40 Load Rand in car seat
1:00  Hold Rand
1:15 Rand in exersaucer
1:25 Hold Rand
1:35 Rock Rand and put him down for nap
3:30 Nurse Rand
3:45 Change Rand's diaper
3:50 Load Rand in car seat
4:00 Put Rand in exersaucer
4:30 Hold Rand
4:40 Put Rand in baby ergo for chores
5:20 Put Rand in car seat for errands
6:30 Nurse Rand
6:45 Fix Rand's dinner
6:50 Feed Rand dinner
7:10 Nurse Rand
7:20 Change Rand's diaper
7:25 Rock Rand and put him to bed

"Though she may forget, I will not forget you!"

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Cheerios, strep and big boys...

Five of us are on amoxicillin for strep.  Last night two of my boys were really whiny and one said it hurt to swallow.  Chris and Rand had strep a couple weeks ago, so I was suspicious.  I hate taking them to the doctor for sick visits.  I worry that they won't really be sick but will just catch something there.  I also hate to risk letting it go when we're about to travel.  They woke up saying they felt fine.  I took them in.  The nurse took each of their temperatures - nothing.  I'm starting to feel "les incompetents."*  Then Bryan said, "I'm not even feeling like sick,"  and I start feeling like worse.  Then the test results come back and the nurse says, "They're all positive for strep."  A wiser woman would have felt sorry for her children or upset that the next few days might be rough.  I, however, felt like singing the hallelujah chorus.  YES - trip to the doctor justified.  Now I feel redeemed for the time I took Jacob in because I thought he had staff infection on his leg - there were black flecks around a bug bite.  The doctor said, "Hmmm, let's see what happens when I dab it."  It turns out that it was just dirt.  That's kind of okay to do when you have only one VERY young child.  As a mother of four, it was really humiliating.  The doctor was very gracious, but I know she was laughing at me on the inside.  


This is why youngest children live in their parents' basements when they're forty.  He started feeding himself Cheerios.  Then his brothers thought it was cute, and a bit of an adrenaline rush to feed him (he has two teeth).  Now he just whines until someone walks by his highchair and feeds him a Cheerio.  I know I should shut it down, but it's just so cute - which is another reason...


Bryan has the really annoying habit of pouring out the last few drops of a drink onto the table.  I'm mostly okay with purposeful messes (forts, pretend stores, etc), but random and senseless acts of destruction DRIVE ME INSANE.  Bryan poured out a few drops of a drink.  Because I'm his mother, I know that Bryan is vulnerable in the area of being considered little.  So as he is on his way to timeout, I said, "Oh, I thought you were big, Bryan, but you must be little."  Bryan responds in his speaker of truth tone, "I am big Mommy, just sometimes I act wittle."  Then I laughed and hugged  him because except on my very worst days, I'm only mean in snippets.

*From Home Alone - "You're what the French call 'les incompetents.'"

Monday, July 19, 2010

Love in the time of Pollyanna...

A few months ago I read Love in the Time of Cholera and was reminded why Chris and I are MFEO.*  I hated the book.  The hero is a starving artist desperately in love - so in love that he drinks his beloved's perfume and eats flowers that smell like her.  He also follows her around and writes a lot of poetry.  My deep in the soul response was ANNOYANCE and NAUSEA.  Get a job, a dog, a hobby, something.  I rediscovered what I've always known - I prefer a man who makes me laugh.**

So Saturday we watched Pollyanna with the boys.  Pollyanna plays the Glad Game where she tries to find the good in any situation, no matter how bleak.  The game originated when she ordered a doll from a charity and got crutches instead.  SPOILER ALERT.  At the end of the movie, Pollyanna falls and her legs are paralyzed.  Her aunt and friends try to pull her out of despondency by suggesting she find some reason to be glad that she's paralyzed.  The boys are tearing up - very worried, and Chris whispers to me, "I know - she can be glad she can finally use those crutches."  Ba ha ha ha ha.***

* MFEO - made for each other, Sleepless in Seattle
** Chris, when you read this, I love you, you make me laugh, but this does not release you from flowers, chocolate or haikus.
*** I really don't mean to make light of what it is to be handicapped.  I think it's okay to mock a movie that presents "The Glad Game" as a prerequisite for successful surgery to cure paralyzed legs.****
**** I still like Pollyanna even if it's dumb.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Histories...

I feel like I need some kind of degree for having finished this book.  It took me about four months.  Here are a few thoughts and favorite excerpts...

It sucked to be a woman in ancient times.
1.196  Herodotus describes an auction of all the marriageable Babylonian girls.  The girls are sorted by attractiveness.  Each of the pretty girls goes to the highest bidder, and the money is pooled and used to bribe men to marry the ugly girls.  There is a reverse auction for the ugly girls.  The ugliest stands up first and is married off to the man who will marry her for the least amount of money.  This continues for the rest of the ugly girls.
1.199  "The most disgraceful Babylonian custom is that at some point in her life every woman of the land is required to sit in a sanctuary of Aphrodite and have sex with a strange man...A woman sitting in the sanctuary is not allowed to return home until one of the strangers has thrown money into her lap and had sex with her...It can be any amount of money:  by religious law she is not allowed to refuse it...Women who are attractive and tall get to go home quickly, while the ugly ones wait for a long time without being able to do their duty.  In fact, some of them wait three or four years."

People do horrible things to one another (also see excerpts above).
Old Testament law was revolutionary.  It seems so obvious because our law is based on Judeo-Christian law, but for the ancient world, it was revolutionary.
Pagan religion is just another version of working out your own salvation.
7.114 (Speaking of Xerxes' entourage)  "When they learnt that the name of the place was Nine Ways, they buried alive nine local boys and girls in the ground there."

Xerxes was a psycho.  Reading the book Esther, I never understood why Esther was so scared to speak with Xerxes without being summoned.  It seemed melodramatic and suspect.  Now, I ABSOLUTELY believe in the reasonableness of Esther's misgivings.  Xerxes was a freaking PSYCHO!!!
7.35  The newly completed bridge across the Hellespont was destroyed in a violent storm.  "This news made Xerxes furious.  he ordered his men to give the Hellespont three hundred lashes and to sink a pair of shackles into the sea...So the sea was punished at his orders, and he had the supervisors of the bridging of the Hellespont beheaded."
7.38  When Xerxes' friend, Pythia, asked that the eldest of his five sons be allowed to stay back from war, Xerxes had the young man cut in two.  The Persian army marched in between the two halves of his body.

What it means to be free...
5.78  "Now the advantages of everyone having a voice in the political procedure are not restricted just to single instances, but are plain to see wherever one looks.  For instance, while the Athenians were ruled by tyrants, they were no better at warfare than any of their neighbours, but once they had got rid of the tyrants, they became vastly superior.  This goes to show that while they were under an oppressive regime they fought below their best because they were working for a master, whereas  as free men each individual wanted to achieve something for himself."

The problem with tyranny...
3.80  "How can monarchy be an orderly affair, when a monarch has the licence to do whatever he wants, without being accountable to anyone?  Make a man a monarch, and even if he is the most moral person in the world, he well leave his customary ways of thinking."
5.92  [Periander, tyrant of Corinth]  "He sent an agent to Thrasybulus to ask what was the safest kind of government for him to establish, which would allow him to manage the state best...Every time he [Thrasybulus] saw an ear of grain standing higher than the rest, he broke it off and threw it away, and he went on doing this until he had destroyed the choicest, tallest stems in the crop...[Periander] He realized that he [Thrasybulus] had been advising him to kill outstanding citizens, and from then on he treated his people with unremitting brutality."

Crucifixion was a big deal.
3.125  "Once he had killed him - in a way which does not bear mentioning - Oroertes crucified the corpse."

Many fantasy writers get inspiration from the ancients.  
I see shades of the Lacedaemonians (Spartans, but since I finished this gargantuan book, I want to use the hoity-toity name) in Robert Jordan's Aiel and the Seanchan remind me of the Persians.

And a big hit in my house...
2.162  "When Apries found out what was going on, he sent as a herald to Amasis an eminent Egyptian who was loyal to him, whose name was Patarbemis, with instructions to escort Amasis back to him alive.  Patarbemis approached Amasis and issued the king's command, but Amasis, who happened to be on horseback at the time, lifted himself up in the saddle, farted, and told him to take that back to Apries."

* Here's a link to the translation I used.  All of the above quotes are from this version.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The lonely dragon...

The Lonely Dragon
Theresa Heine

A dragon is sad
Because everyone thinks
A dragon is fierce and brave,
And roars out flames,
And eats everybody,
Whoever comes near his cave.

But a dragon likes people,
A dragon needs friends,
A dragon is lonely and sad,
If anyone knows 
Of a friend for a dragon,
A dragon would be very glad.

This poem makes me think of one of my boys.  He's a rough and tumble guy.  He needs a bow and arrow and a slingshot, but you just can't do that in the burbs.  He's also more sensitive than he seems.  A few months ago he got in a lot of trouble for hurting one of his brothers.  At the time he gave no outward sign of emotion or contrition.  His apparent lack of remorse really concerned me.  Had I been in his position, I would have worked HARD to restore myself to everyone's good graces.  A few months later, the subject of "worst day ever" came up.  He unequivocally stated that this day he had hurt his brother was his worst ever.  I had no idea it had even gotten to him.

After I read the poem to David and Jacob...
Jacob:   If I saw that dragon I would DEFINITELY go help him and be his friend.
David:  (Wearing cowboy hat, ninja mask, pipe gun and Batman suit - see picture above)  If I was a real guy with all this stuff, I would be on the dragon's team.  And then if he tricked me and breathed fire on me, I would shoot him.
That is so representative of their personalities.  One greets the world as if it is full of people who love him and can't wait to be friends.  The other would love to be friends, but he's going to pack heat just in case.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day...

  • I went to the doctor, and they forgot about me.  I had to wait an hour and a half.
  • Rand was with me and he lasts a maximum of 45 minutes in this situation.  It was ugly.
  • I had to feed the kids gas station food in the car on the way to VBS.  I chose poorly, and now my van is a crumbly blueberry muffin mess.
  • When we got to VBS, I realized that Jacob was only wearing boxer briefs - WITH NO PANTS.  *&%$  
Why I'm not moving to Australia yet...
  • I hit the sweet spot on the disorganization curve.  Had I been less disorganized, I would have been stuck with a child with no pants and no mildewed swimsuit on hand to put on him.  Had I been less disorganized I would have wasted valuable time searching at home for the boys' water bottles.  As it turned out, they left them at VBS yesterday, so I could just refill and use them today.  On the other hand, had I been more disorganized, I would have left one of the children at the gas station.
  • Bryan saw a port-a-potty on the back of a truck on the way home.  It completely cracked him up.  He laughed that laugh of his that I love, and it brought me back.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


 Jacob and my niece, Maggie, both 5 years old, had their faces painted at day camp.  That evening I scrubbed Jacob's face to get everything off.  After bath time, my sister-in-law, Amy, and I sat on the couch with the kids.  I noticed that Maggie's face was clean, too.

Me:  I had a hard time getting all that paint off Jacob's face.  Did you really have to scrub Maggie?
Amy:  Oh, Maggie did you wash your face paint off?
Maggie:  When I got out of the shower, it was still on my face, so I got some more soap and washed it off.
Me:  (Pause.  Quizzical look.)  This is a phenomenon I have never experienced.

My boys' philosophy is that if it doesn't come off when the water sprays you, it was meant to stay.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Nastiness pureed and regurgitated...

Two years ago I made brussel sprouts for dinner.  They were disgusting.  Really.  They were soggy little balls of nastiness.  The wastefulness of edible, thrown-out food, especially if I had to prepare it, really irritates me. I just couldn't hold the usual "Clean your plate before you get any more food" line this time.  They were so gross.  We all threw them away.  Fast forward two years.  The boys saw brussel sprouts in the produce aisle, and the little green balls captured their imaginations.  How can you tell your kids "No, we can't get brussel sprouts.  They're gross."  I think that gets you some kind of mommy demerit.  Plus last time they were frozen.  Maybe fresh brussel sprouts are completely different.

So we bought them.  I took the first bite.  Initially it tasted like cabbage with a little pop of salt and pepper.  I had just enough time to briefly meditate on what an awesome mom I am for raising kids who will eat brussel sprouts and mentally draw up a plan for buying brussel sprouts every other week for my extremely healthy family.  Then the aftertaste got me like a dog who walks by nonchalantly and then turns and bites you on the ankle for no reason, and I realized that brussel sprouts are always, always gross.

The cheapskate in me decided to puree them and foist them off on the defenseless baby, and now I know that there is something grosser than brussel sprouts - pureed brussel sprouts.  (He loved them - flapped his little arms and legs begging for more.)  Thirty minutes later I discovered that it gets grosser still - pureed brussel sprout spit-up.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Miss Summer, God loves you...

Yesterday was good for me.  I feel refreshed.  I need that day to focus on grieving for Caleb and Ellie and to remember the way God has provided for me.  John says that July 8 is like the bitter herbs of Passover.  

I read through all the cards, letters and emails from that time.  Some were well spoken and heartfelt.  Some were awkward and heartfelt.  There were pictures from children and notes in the shaky handwriting of the elderly.  It was and is balm for my wounded soul.  It reminds me of the way God cared for us through His people.

In the cards from children, there were three themes:  God loves Miss Summer, God loves Caleb and Ellie, and I love you.  When I was in the deepest pit of grief, that is exactly what I heard from God:  I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Missing him...

My first son, Caleb, was born and died ten years ago today. Ten years - that's hard to believe. We didn't know if we would have another child and have since been blessed with four. That makes me smile every time I think about it. God has been open-handed with me.

But I still miss my son. It isn't constant as it was in those early days, but there are times when the longing for him is physically painful. It feels like the air has been removed from my chest, and the reality that my son is not with me overwhelms me.

I miss him.
Photo embroidery by my good friend crewelwhorled.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Failed photo op...

I tried to get the boys' pictures taken today. I like to get a naked baby shot of each of mine when they can push themselves up but can't quite crawl. That I called it off when Rand was obviously not going to smile/stare neutrally ahead/do anything but cry is a sign that I have matured alot in seven years. Once I have decided to do something it is almost physically painful to me to have to change plans. I usually just wing it and push through, as evidenced by David's atrocious seven month old pictures that I actually paid money for just because I had decided that it would be done. That I thought Rand felt hot and was exceptionally cranky BEFORE I bathed and dressed four boys and rushed out the door to the studio, is a sign that I'm definitely a work in progress.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Pilgrim's progress...

My favorite day of our Colorado trip was the day Chris, Amy, Blake and I hiked on our own (shout out to my awesome in-laws for keeping the kids). We took a ten mile hike up to the tree line and back. It was overwhelming - beyond words, definitely beyond pictures. You look at a mountain and it looks like trees and rock. It doesn't look like it could hold creeks, pools, rapids, meadows, lakes and waterfalls.

Our first destination was Alberta Falls, a spectacular waterfall at 9300 ft. elevation. It is difficult to wrap your mind around that much water that high up a mountain. It was fairly crowded there. It's a popular spot. We could have been satisfied staying there.

We hiked on through glades of aspens and along a ridge to Mills Lake. The idea of a lake on a mountain fascinates me. It's so unexpected. The air and the crowd was thinner there at almost 10,000 ft.

The last section of the hike was my favorite. We walked alongside a creek twisting through meadows, gently pooling in some places and crashing over and around rocks in others. There were log bridges laid end to end across a swampy meadow. I felt like a little girl, walking across those bridges with the sun on my face and the wind in my hair. There were rocks to scramble over in the woods. We met only a few people here. At the end we had to trudge through snow. We met a woman who turned back at the snow. She had about 200 yards to go. We made it through the snow and the creek, jumping from rock to rock to make it to Black Lake. The name doesn't fit - Anne Shirley would be ashamed. It's a stark and fiercely beautiful lake 10,630 feet up - right at the tree line. We were the only people there. I wanted to go on higher but we had to start down to make it back before the afternoon storms.

There are some spiritual observations that I can't resist. I think they've all been said before.

On a hike, you need all kinds of people - someone to remind you to keep going, that there's more on the trail ahead; someone to tell you not to go wandering into the woods alone no matter how enamored you are with them; someone to make you stop and look at the view; and someone to run to the edge of every precipice just because it's there.

Sometimes the water is roaring. Sometimes it's gently trickling. Sometimes you can only hear it. Even when you can't hear it, it's always there.

A tree can grow out of a rock.

God can redeem our mistakes, but we still miss things when we don't walk faithfully.

We're satisfied with so much less than God is willing to show us.

Peace. Amen.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Colorado day seven...

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, July 2, 2010

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, even when I hate it and it sucks...

Inadvertently, I did a high ropes course today. I thought we signed up for a ropes course. That word "high" is actually key. We walked up to the course area, and there were harnesses laid out. I thought, "That's weird. We're doing the zip line at the end. Why do we have to put on harnesses now? Whatever." The instructor was going over the safety instructions. I was paying him a little more attention than I would a flight attendant, but not much. Then I caught the phrase, "thirty-five feet above the ground.". Internal monologue:
"Did he just say thirty-five feet above the ground. Holy crap. I thought this was the trust fall thing. What is he saying - clip, flip, screw, squeeze. That sounds like a porno. Who is going to be checking this when I'm up in a freaking tree."
Externally, "Chris, didn't you think it was odd that I agreed to this with no protests? What were you thinking?" Chris assured me that I didn't have to do it, but the student in me could not walk away from a class without completing the assignment. Plus the zip line looked fun.

First I had to climb the tree. That wasn't so bad. You can feel the safety rope pulling you up. It doesn't feel like it's all on you. Then I stepped onto the little platform. Things started to spin. I had to let go with both hands to get things set up - bad, but not the worst. The worst part was taking the first step from the platform to the line. I seriously nearly had a heart attack. Midway through I almost fell. I started reciting, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, even when I hate it and it sucks." That got me across two lines and safely to the zip line, which rocked.

I have now experienced a high ropes course and will not be participating in that insanity again.

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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Colorado day six...

The most spectacular hike I've taken...

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